Tag Archives: walks

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: Etherow Country Park, Stockport

Last week, one particularly sunny day we hopped in the car and went to Etherow Country Park, located on the far flung edges of Stockport. We’d not been before but we’d heard that it was well worth a visit for a walk, and if we went on a weekend there was a high chance we’d get to see the boating lake in action.

We arrived just before lunch and parked (pay and display, but not ruinously expensive). The boy and I wandered over to the lake to check out the local bird life, there was the usual selection of Canada geese, ducks, some swans and a few more colourful interlopers. There were also three little model yachts pootling about on the lake which were quite fun to watch.

etherow country park

We watched the birds and the boats for a while, there were lots of small children throwing bread for the ducks, but proper duck food is available from the little garden centre near the cafe if you forget your own.

We decided to walk down the path to the weir and back around the lake. For the most part the path is tarmac or firm ground and is accessible. The path runs along a small waterway so you can watch the wildlife and waterlife as you walk. There are lots of ancient ferns, undergrowth and interesting bushes and trees all around and it’s clearly a popular spot for local families and dog walkers alike.

Walking up to the weir you pass a few reminders of the industrial heritage of the site, Etherow Country Park was once a thriving cotton mill and various bits of machinery and gears remain. You can hear the weir from some distance away, the roar of the water is something to behold and I can’t help but think Stockport Council are missing out on a trick here, not making use of the water power at the weir. 

Etherow Country Park

Walking back to the car park we decided to skirt around the other side of the lake, by that time a few yachts were out catching the wind. The lake is surrounded by beautiful views all around and even in bleak but sunny February it was breathtaking, you’d never know you were so close to civilisation!

By the time we’d got back to where we’d started, the boys were hungry, so whilst I went to the garden centre to pick up some plants, they popped into the busy cafe for coffee and sandwiches.

We’d enjoyed our morning out, the walk is a good length for a five year old, with enough to interest them along the way. The walk we did was not long, but you can walk up beyond the weir and explore the woodland further up if you want. We’ll be returning later on in the spring for another walk up to the weir.

Etherow Country Park & Local Nature Reserve, George St, Compstall, Stockport. SK6 5JD 

Pond dipping at Abney Hall

Abney Hall is one of my favourite places to visit and it’s virtually on our doorstep. It’s just outside Cheadle village and is less than ten minutes in the car from our house. It has everything a little adventurer and his fairly exhausted parents need to while away a couple of hours. We went over the weekend with the promise of some pond dipping and an ice cream, what more could a small boy want?

Abney Hall

We parked up and walked round to the pond. The pond was looking incredibly healthy, with water lilies in bud and lots of ducks and birds in and around the water. Last year the pond suddenly developed a sink hole and all the water drained away, so it was good to see it looking in such fine fettle.

We found a suitable spot and tried pond dripping. There wasn’t much to be found, but the small boy enjoys the process of pond dipping as much as catching something, and every good fisherman knows they can’t catch something every time. His Dad however did catch some tin cans and other rubbish, which we put in our bucket and took away to a bin. I wish people were more considerate!

Abney Hall

Having no luck at the pond, we walked up and around near the Hall and then down the steps to the stream. As a child I used to paddle in the stream which always looks clear and cool and it’s quite shallow so it’s great for (supervised) little ones to play in. Plus there’s the stunning backdrop of Abney Hall to admire!

Abney Hall

The boys didn’t manage to catch anything in the stream either, so we decided it was time for some ice cream. I’d already managed to cross the stream (without getting my feet wet) so the boys had to follow. The small boy was a little nervous, but managed it by holding on tight to Daddy’s hand. Later he had to cross some stepping stones over slightly deeper water, which he did all by himself.

Abney Hall

We walked round to the cafe, spotting a heron, cows, a squirrel and several different kinds of birds along the way. We had a lovely few hours, a nice walk and a bit of an adventure. Not bad for a Sunday afternoon!

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.