Tag Archives: National Trust

Behind the scenes at The Lost Carnival, Dunham Massey

Throughout August The Lost Carnival has pitched up just south of Manchester, in the gardens of National Trust property, Dunham Massey in Cheshire. We went along to find out more about the carnival and to explore the beautiful gardens at Dunham Massey.

This is the third year The Lost Carnival has been in town, having previously been located in Bury and Crewe. The carnival is the brainchild of Wild Rumpus, the arts company specialising in unique outdoor productions which both children and adults can enjoy, such as the famous Just So Festival.

Behind the scenes at The Lost Carnival at Dunham Massey

This interactive circus carnival almost seamlessly ties in with the current exhibition in the house, Dunham’s Lost Years – A Victorian Tale of Love and Abandonment. The exhibition uncovers the controversial marriage of daring circus performer and beauty Catharine Cox to Dunham’s young heir, George Harry. The link is that the performers from The Lost Carnival will be rehearsing across the summer at Dunham “under the invitation” of Catharine Cox.

We arrived at Dunham Massey and parked in the vast car park (£6, free to National Trust members) and made our way to the visitors reception and picked up our tickets to the garden (adults £8.60, children £4.30, free to National Trust members). The Lost Carnival itself is free, but you need to buy a ticket to enter the garden area).

Behind the scenes at The Lost Carnival at Dunham Massey

When you enter the garden (if you’re lucky like we were, you might spy some of the deer roaming the park) you are handed a Lost Carnival map which helpfully gives you some background to what’s going on and highlights the carnival areas for you to locate. Naturally we put our six year old in charge of the map and he guided us through the gardens expertly.

The Lost Carnival attractions are nicely spaced out around the gardens. I recommend you first head to the “Chant” area, where a carnival performer will teach you the chant, the actions and give you some clues about what you need to do while you’re there. From there we moved on to explore Popou’s Caravan. This is a gorgeous caravan filled with trinkets, maps and clues for kids to explore. It was very busy so we only managed a quick look inside. When my son emerged he only had one word – “wow”!

Part of the fun is spying carnival attractions through the trees and discovering secrets and clues in the gardens. I was enchanted by the zoetrope, one of those devices where you turn the handle and watch through the slats to see a horse galloping and an acrobat performing stunts on its back. 

Wandering through the gardens to the “Dressing Room” we met a glamorous carnival seamstress who whispered secrets about the missing star-crossed lovers Sergei Bird and Popou Ingenue. She asked us to help her out finishing a beautiful costume. We sewed a bright button onto a wedding dress (I wonder who that is for) and had the chance to try on some of the carnival costumes.

Behind the scenes at The Lost Carnival at Dunham Massey

Further down the gardens in The Orangery we stopped to write a letter to the heads of the rival carnivals (and those star-crossed lovers) Sergei Bird and Popou Ingenue, imploring them to return to the carnival. After we’d had a little sit down while he wrote his letter, we wandered through the gardens to find hula hoopers hooping, so the boys had a little go.

Behind the scenes at The Lost Carnival at Dunham Massey

There was enough carnival activity to make things interesting for my son; but not too much that it overwhelmed the tranquility and beauty of the gardens. Apart from the carnival itself, we had a great time exploring the extensive gardens which have formal and informal areas. We were lucky that the weather was so sunny and kind to us. The gardens are equally fine on rainy days. There are plenty of sheltered spots under the trees if it’s really pouring.

Immerse yourself in the world of the two of the greatest carnival families, the Birds and the Ingenues and see if you can help them bring the heads of the rival carnivals Sergei Bird and Popou Ingenue back to their families again.

Behind the scenes at The Lost Carnival at Dunham Massey

The Lost Carnival is on until 30 August, from 10.30am – 4.30pm daily at Dunham Massey. Parking and entrance to the garden is free to National Trust members. For non-members a charge applies – visit the website for more information.

We were invited guests of The National Trust. We were given complimentary tickets and parking in exchange for this write up. All images and opinions are our own.

Days Out: Rockpooling in North Devon

Earlier this week my husband and son went rockpooling in North Devon with the National Trust. They returned rosy-cheeked and brimming with enthusiasm for what they’d found and experienced. In a rare guest post, my husband shares their wonderful morning in Woolacombe. Over to Matthew…

A few weeks before we came down to Devon on holiday, I was beginning to keep an eye out for things to do. I saw a link somebody had shared on Facebook about guided rockpooling with the National Trust in Woolacombe. The “Rockpool Rambles” looked quite interesting and I thought that both me and the lad could learn something.

Days Out: Rockpooling in North Devon

We holiday in Devon quite a lot and we tend to plan ahead a little bit, but also take each day as it comes especially with the weather. On one of the days the rockpooling was scheduled it was going to be mixed weather, so we decided to hop in the car, head to Woolacombe and take our chances.

Days Out: Rockpooling in North Devon

When we arrived, the heavens opened. Undeterred, the lad and I put on our waterproofs and sandals and headed down to the Combesgate part of the beach. Here, our guides, Ed and Dave met us and our fellow rockpoolers and gave us our nets and buckets and a short briefing about what to look for and a couple of things not to do such as climbing on the rocks covered with barnacles as they’re very rough and feel like a cheese grater if you happen to slip on them.

Off exploring we went and we quickly came across some sea lettuce, followed by our first starfish of the day. Ed and Dave pointed out that the barnacles make a snap, crackle and pop noise, so we listened out for that too. Around the corner there were starfish aplenty; along with beadlet anemones and small hermit crabs, as well as limpets and mussels.

Days Out: Rockpooling in North Devon

There were excited cries from the group as small fish were seen darting for cover in the pools. Rockpool prawns were seen, captured and temporarily put in buckets while we examined them. The lad did very well to find a secluded rockpool and a snakelocks anemone in the water. We lifted a stone and out popped a five bearded rockling. By the end of the session, the clouds parted and the sun came out. The best was saved till last when a little red octopus was spotted swimming across one of the larger pools. It was a wonderful sight and one we will remember for a long time.

The guided rock pooling is a fantastic way to spend an hour and half. It costs just £1 per person, and it probably can’t be bettered.

Days Out: Rockpooling in North Devon

The little red thing you can see in the photo above is a little octopus. What a find!

For more information about Rockpooling in North Devon and the Rockpool Rambles run by the National Trust, visit the NT website.

Preview: Halloween with The Witches at Tatton Park

This October half term, get into the Halloween spirit with a week of witchy fun and mischief – part of Roald Dahl’s Tremendous Adventures. Meet The Witches at Tatton Park, part of a year-long programme of events celebrating 100 years since the author’s birth.  

From Saturday 22 to Sunday 30 October, The Old Hall – the park’s oldest building – will be transformed into Hotel Magnificent (the scene of most of the action in Roald Dahl’s famous book) where visitors are invited to a Spooktacular Halloween Party and are invited to dress up, or not if you don’t want to.

The Witches at Tatton Park

This Witch Spotting Checklist will help you spot The Witches at Tatton Park….

  • They always wear gloves

o    Witches don’t have normal fingernails, they have thin claws, like cats – which is why they wear gloves ALL THE TIME, even indoors.

  • They are bald as a boiled egg

o    But many choose to wear very realistic wigs –don’t be fooled!

  • They have large nose holes

o    Real witches have an amazing sense of smell due to their very large nose holes – they can smell a child from across the street. And the cleaner the child, the easier they are to smell.

  • Their eyes change colour

o    If you look carefully at a real witch’s eye, you will notice the pupil changes colour – it will send shivers down your spine.

  • They have no toes

o    Real witches have feet with square ends – but they try to hide this by squeezing their feet into pretty shoes. Watch out for them limping!

  • They have blue spit

o    Real witches have spit so blue they can even use it to write with it.

Whilst you’re at Tatton Park,  head to The Farm and collect your conker from the Witches’ Tree. The whole family can join in a creepy and chilling conker challenge.  To top off the fun at the Farm there’s gazillions of fun to be had taking part in the Fantastic Mr Fox Farm trail.

Tatton Park is is bringing Roald Dahl’s imagination to life, with a host of children’s trails and events for all the family. Join Danny the Champion of the World in the gardens, Fantastic Mr Fox at the farm and Matilda in the mansion and you’ve got to be careful of The Enormous Crocodile out in the parkland!

The Witches at Tatton Park

This October half term is the perfect time for an autumnal visit to Tatton Park to catch the Roald Dahl themed activities and exhibitions. What better way of celebrating Halloween but by visiting The Witches at Tatton Park!

Get a Totally Tatton Twit Ticket and enjoy discounted entry to 3 of the Roald Dahl attractions. Family £27.50, Adult £11, Child £5.50. Car entry £6.

Days Out: Finding Fantastic Mr Fox at the Farm

This year Tatton Park in Cheshire have a full programme of events to celebrate 100 years since the birth of Roald Dahl. Being epic Roald Dahl fans, we hot footed it down to the farm at Tatton Park to see if we could find our friend, The Fantastic Mr Fox.

Fantastic Mr Fox

The farm is a short walk from the main car park at Tatton Park. I have some mobility problems, but it was a virtually flat walk on a good tarmac road and I found it fine, even  in the rain.

At the farm you pay to get in (£6 per adult and £4 per child) and you’re free to explore the farm. We had a good wander around and found cows, pigs and piglets, chickens, ducks, chicks, rabbits, orphan lambs, goats (lots of cheeky goats), horses and much more. There are a large number of permanent displays and things to do at the farm which make it good value to visit anyway. 

This year they’ve added a few fabulous features to fit in the Fantastic Mr Fox theme. When you enter the farm you’re given a map to help you explore and find Fantastic Mr Fox’s Den. Dotted in and around the farm are a few key features from the famous Roald Dahl story. Can you find Farmer Bunce’s Duck & Goose Shed? Farmer Bean’s Secret Cider Cellar or Farmer Boggis’s Kitchen? There’s also a craft room where you can shelter from the rain and design an invitation to Mr Fox’s scrumdiddlyumptous feast.

Fantastic Mr Fox

After you’ve explored the farm and (spoiler alert) failed to find the den, there’s only one more place to look, and that’s the Woodland Playground. The Woodland Playground is a great little spot to let the kids run wild. There’s a storytelling circle, an insect hotel, a den building corner and an adventure playground to explore and conquer. The small boy loved it and set to work building a den of his own. 

We managed to spot a fox’s tail hanging from a tree and following the signs found Fantastic Mr Fox’s Den. You could clamber inside and have a little sit down if you wanted, but the boy wasn’t keen, there was too much adventure going on elsewhere!

Fantastic Mr Fox

We had gone to Tatton Park wanting to explore a few of the Roald Dahl attractions, but we had far too much fun at the farm and didn’t have time to look at anything else – a treat we’ll save for another day.

To our shame we’d not read any of the Roald Dahl stories to the small boy (now aged 5), so we picked up a copy of Fantastic Mr Fox from the farm shop, took it home and began reading it together that night. We all loved it. It was nice to re-visit a story I’ve not read for *coughs* 30 years, and it was even nicer to read it to my boy who loved it as much as we did. 

The farm at Tatton Park is great, but it does have one failing – there’s no cafe so you can’t get a hot drink and have a sit down. You can buy crisps and biscuits etc from the farm shop, but it was a cold wet day and I was desperate for a hot mug of tea. So maybe take a flask if you’re just visiting the farm.

The small boy does enjoy a visit to the farm and this was even more special because we were looking for Fantastic Mr Fox. I think this is a marvellous addition and a real must for Roald Dahl fans. We are really looking forward to going back and exploring what else Tatton Park has to offer Roald Dahl fans this year.

What’s On: Roald Dahl’s Tremendous Adventures at Tatton Park

Growing up I was an avid reader, I’d devour book after book and my favourite author was most definitely Roald Dahl. His books always filled my head with extraordinary tales, and as he wrote in James and the Giant Peach – “a  little magic can take you a long way”. This year to celebrate 100 years since the birth of Roald Dahl, Tatton Park in Cheshire are embarking on a magical journey to celebrate his works.

From Easter until the end of 2016, Tatton Park is is bringing Roald Dahl’s imagination to life, with a host of children’s trails and events for all the family. Join Danny the Champion of the World in the gardens, Fantastic Mr Fox at the farm and Matilda in the mansion and you’ve got to be careful of The Enormous Crocodile out in the parkland!

Tatton Park

I can’t wait to take my son to explore and discover the world of Roald Dahl, we’ll be visiting next weekend so do keep an eye out for our review. In the meantime here’s a run down of what’s going on at Tatton Park this year.

Roald Dahl at Tatton Park Events include –

Cover to Cover: Roald Dahl around the World  Sat 19 Mar – Sun 30 Oct
A fascinating mansion exhibition displaying illustrations of Roald Dahl book jackets from across the world and throughout time.

Phiz Whizzing Trails: Fri 25 Mar – Sun 2 Oct
Danny the Champion of the World in the Gardens
Fantastic Mr Fox at the Farm
Matilda in the Mansion
The Enormous Crocodile in the Parkland

Fantastic Mr Fox Activities at the Farm Tue 26 Jul – Fri 26 Aug
Mr Fox invites you to spend the most marvellous summer day joining him in a farmyard packed with fun. Go on a journey to find the den, get creative in the writing hut, be entertained, listen in to storytelling and enjoy one of your best days ever!

Danny the Champion of the World Outdoor Theatre at the Old Hall *Sat Aug 27
Enjoy this thrilling family performance of Danny the Champion of the World as he masterminds the most incredible and exciting plot to save his Dad from danger.

Roald Dahl Big Picnic Day Sun Sep 11
Pack a picnic and come and celebrate the month Roald Dahl, the world’s best storyteller, was born. Bags of activities to make for a splendiferous time.

Willy Wonka Outdoor Cinema* Sun Sep 11
A late summer screening of  Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory starring the legendary Gene Wilder as Wonka. Grab your golden ticket and bring a picnic.*

A Frightsome Halloween Sat 22 – Sun 30 Oct
“Witches are easily the most dangerous of all the living creatures on earth.” This half -term be spooktaculary entertained by a park full of Roald Dahl witchy mischief….and plenty of mice!

A Gloriumptious Christmas Mansion* late November – December
“Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it”. Step into the Christmas mansion and into Roald Dahl’s magical world as his extraordinary storytelling weaves itself through the grand staterooms and into the bustling servants’ quarters.

It looks like it’s going to be a jam-packed whizzpopping year of all things Roald Dahl – I can’t wait to explore and reminisce and I’m looking forward to taking the small boy on some fictional adventures and into a world of pure imagination. 
Tatton Park

A woodland adventure in Lyme Park

In Manchester we’re a bit spoilt for National Trust properties. Our favourites are Dunham Massey, Lyme Park and Quarry Bank Mill (where the TV series The Mill is set). They’re all within a 30 minute drive of our home, so on Saturday we hopped in the car for an afternoon at Lyme Park (famous for featuring in the film Pride and Prejudice).

We went for two reasons, the first was to run off a bit of steam and get a dose of fresh air and exercise, the second was to give my camera a bit of a workout. I’m still getting to grips with photography, but I enjoyed myself which I think is the main thing.

Lyme Park

It was bitterly cold, but he headed towards the Timber Yard which is just past the large duck pond and it is home to a cafe and the shop. However we got distracted by a half melted snowman and went galloping up a nearby hill in search of adventure. Whilst we didn’t find actual adventure up the hill, it did bring us to the gate leading to Crow Wood, an “unsupervised play area” tucked away behind the Timber Yard.

Despite visiting Lyme Park on a regular basis for the past five years, this is the first time we’d discovered Crow Wood. It’s a lovely area with a variety of trees, a babbling stream, lots of fallen logs and half collapsed walls. It was beautiful in winter, I expect every season brings its own beauty. There were so many lovely shadows, shapes and textures, I had to try and capture some of it.

Lyme Park

We scrabbled around the woods, exploring, hiding, searching for bear caves and bears as well as keeping our eye out for the Gruffalo. We didn’t find him, but the search did allow us to work up an appetite, so off to the cafe we went for a pot of tea and a massive slice of cake.

The temperature was dropping fast, so we decided it was time to head home. We stopped by the duck pond on the way past, the sun was just starting to dip behind the trees. It’s not a great picture but you can see the ice on the pond and maybe get a sense of how cold it was.

Lyme Park

We had a lovely afternoon out. We loved exploring the woods, wrapped up against the elements, searching for bears, using our imaginations, playing hide and seek. It’s always lovely going out with the boy and seeing what he’s remembered from last time and the new things he’s learnt (like ice melts and becomes water).

He’s growing so fast. We were reminiscing as we were walking along that we visited Lyme Park the day I found out I was pregnant. That day I was walking around like I’d break if I bumped into anything, I’d never been pregnant before, I didn’t know how to be. I was pregnant with the baby I never thought we’d have and I was so happy and terrified for the little life inside me. I guess that day is one of the reasons why Lyme Park is so special to me, and to us.

I’ve digressed there, I’m sorry *wipes away tear*. Anyway, Lyme Park is lovely and well worth a visit, it’s a huge (really huge) estate so you could spend a whole day exploring the house, gardens and woodland etc. We’ll be back again in the spring to explore Crow Wood and see what springtime delights are hidden in the woods. Don’t forget your wellies!

Blowing the cobwebs away at Dunham Massey

It’s fast becoming a family tradition to spend a post-Christmas frosty afternoon at our nearest National Trust property, Dunham Massey. We like Dunham because it’s great for “family” walks, meaning it’s flat and well paved, perfect for bikes, scooters and the wobbly legs of small children. They also make an excellent cup of tea. Add to that we’re National Trust members so it’s free entry, what’s not to like?

We went on 30th December, it was largely a dry, windy, very cold day, but that didn’t put us off and Dunham Massey seemed quite busy with families out for a walk, or testing out new bikes and scooters. We went obstensively to see the deer, but they were hiding somewhere in the woods, so we walked the paths instead. We found a little den someone had built, a “stick house” which we explored, much to his delight.

Dunham Massey

There were also some small patches of snow left over, enough for a few little snowballs and a well ordered snowball fight (I lost). Although we couldn’t find the deer, we did spot lots of deer poo which the boy found quite interesting.

The small boy was beginning to tire, so we headed back to the big house via the duck pond, the low winter sun was shining on the pond and the light was incredible. I wish I’d taken my proper camera with me. Winter skies are so special, the clouds all fluffy and a little bit moody. I love this picture.

Dunham Massey

It was a short but lovely jaunt to Dunham Massey, he’s not great at walking distances and I do miss going on a long winter walk, all wrapped up against the elements. But a winter walk with a small child is full of different types of joy. Small details; clouds that look like dragons, stick houses, deer poo, tiny snowballs, conversations with the ducks, splishy sploshy muddy puddles. I love it.

Dunham blew some of our Christmas cobwebs away. I adore a winter walk, all that bracing fresh air and country views makes the tea and cake afterwards all the more enjoyable. You know me, there’s always tea and cake.

Winter Walk at Attingham Park

Our National Trust membership runs out at the end of this month, it’s an expense we can regrettably no longer justify, so we’re squeezing every last ounce of value out of it while we can. Today we decided to go further afield, so we hopped in the car for a little family road trip. We were Shrewsbury bound and heading off to Attingham Park for an adventure.

We didn’t really know what to expect, we knew there was a lovely house to explore, a deer park, some woodlands; we should’ve probably read up a bit before we went, but we knew National Trust properties are generally really accessible and everything is well signposted, so we took a chance.

We arrived at lunchtime and we were pretty hungry, so our first stop was the Carriage House Cafe which served simple food, there were a few different places to eat and drink, but we chose this as it was nearest. We shared soup and pasties, which warmed us all up and fortified us for our wintery walk.

Opposite the cafe, which is located in the large courtyard, is the shop and the old stables. For the 1914 WW1 Centenary they have a small but very interesting exhibition about Attingham Park in the stables. The small boy loved exploring the stables, he’s a wannabe farmer and took great care “feeding” the wooden horses hay. He loved the horses (pictured) but at £1500 they were just a teeny bit out of our price range.

Attingham Park

After exploring the stables we wandered down to the orchard, walled garden and then on to the vast playground. The orchard was over three acres and contained 160 apple trees, but being the start of January there wasn’t much to get excited about, we thought it would be an impressive sight in spring with the trees covered in apple blossom. Next to the orchard was the impressive walled garden which has been lovingly restored over the last ten or so years, it’s now producing organic fruit and vegetables and supplies the various cafes and tea rooms at Attingham Park, in season you can also buy fresh produce to take home.

The playground was a bit of a revelation, it was huge and wasn’t your normal play area. It’s been created to encourage adventurous play, so there were dens and stone circles, small hillocks, willow tunnels as well as your standard swings and roundabouts. Good fun, but I wanted to explore a bit more before darkness fell, so I left the boys and struck out by myself.

Although the mansion house was closed for winter, the cafe was open and I knew I’d be able to walk around the exterior of the house. It was as you’d expect pretty vast, a beautiful stately home and I’d love to have been able to spend a bit more time exploring. I managed to take a few snaps, but the light was starting to fade and I’d promised to meet the boys for a warming brew before we headed home.

Attingham Park

As you can see it really is a stunning house, but for me it’s always the smaller details, the intricate ironwork and the almost hidden ceiling roses. There were so many beautiful stone carvings and flourishes everywhere. It was stunning and the views from the building were breathtaking. I didn’t realise just how beautiful that part of the world was.

The cold was running through our bones  and despite being well wrapped up the small boy was beginning to shiver, so we met up at the Carriage House Cafe for tea and cake, then set off home as the moon rose in the sky and the sun tucked itself up for the night. We agreed that getting out of Manchester for the day had put a spring back in our step, blown a few cobwebs away and it had been another grand adventure.

We’ll be back to Attingham Park again. It’s famous for its walks so I’d like to do a bit more of that. It’ll be nice to see it in different seasons, it’s a shame it’s not closer, it’s a real gem and a great family day out.

Attingham Park