Newest Review: ... possessions over the years to pay for the upkeep of the property, or as it went out of fashion. One nice aspect was that, where possible... more
Dunham massey is a great place to visit
Dunham Massey (Manchester)
Member Name: jillycat
Dunham Massey (Manchester)
Advantages: Wonderful gardens interesting property friendly deers
Disadvantages: can be expensive if not a member of the NT
Following a recent trip to Chester we decide to stop off at Dunham Massey on the way home. As we are members of the National Trust we often try to break up our journeys on holiday with a National Trust visit as these are much more pleasant to stop in than motorway cafes. Whilst I believe the property has a Mill we didn't visit this area so is not included in this review.
The property is 3 miles south-west of Altrincham off A56. Our route finder map took us straight there with no problems. When you enter the park you drive up and pass an entrance gate/ kiosk where you have to pay your parking fee so make sure you have your money or National Trust cards ready to show as queues seem to build up quickly. The parking is all in tree line parking bays and which are about a 5-10 minute walk from the entrance of the property. According to the National Trust website there is a bus that drops you off near by.
The Hall was initially built in 1616 by Sir George Booth, the Hall has undergone several remodelling including by John Norris for George, Earl of Stamford and Warrington between 1732 and 1740; by John Hope towards the end of the 18th century and by Joseph Compton Hall between 1905 and 1908. The hall itself includes a stables carriage house and are all Grade I listed buildings. The Hall is moated and lies immediately west of the village of Dunham, with the deer park lying to the south. The hall was donated to the National Trust by the last Earl of Stamford, in 1976. The hall has been used in the past as a military hospital during the First World War.
The walk from the car park to the property started off a magical visit for us as a family as my 3 year old was very quickly transfixed by the sight of two beautiful swans and their 3 cygnets we all watched these majestic birds gliding on the moat area as people feed them. To our left we spotted a small fountain down a hill and a squirrel that was running up to people for food. Now the squirrel was a grey but it still delighted my son. Be warned though this is a short distance to walk as the path is busy with people admiring swans and the view it takes a while to navigate. You then pass through a double gated entrance and are meet by the sight of the deer's in the deer park I can honestly say I have never seen such tame and friendly deer's they just walk right past you and on the occasion we were there the deer's just laid there sunbathing by the side of the buildings. Again my son couldn't believe how close we were to these animals and was just transfixed by them and I am sure any animal mad youngest would love this property. But you do have to be careful as these deer's do what comes naturally a lot and there is as my son delighted in telling everyone lots of deer poo around so watch your step.
You then need to go to the stable block entrance to get a white ticket to gain admittance to the gardens or the house; the park is free with the parking so it can be a cheap trip if you live close by.
We choose to go around the house first and wandered up the steps now this may have been a mistake as son was so full of beans we did the house at break neck speed so were only able to enjoy some of the highlights of it. The house is set out so that you follow as certain way around. We were asked if we want to leave our bag in the cloakroom and we took this offer up and were given a token with a number on to collect it on our return. The lady who took our bag was very helpful making sure we had our camera out of our bag if we wanted to take photos as this is possible in the house without the use of a flash.
The house is a Georgina in period and has many beautiful things in it to admire but there are a few living exhibits as it were in the hall. This included the dining room this was moved and recreated in around 1906. This work involved removal of internal wall and the floor lowering to lengthen the windows, creating a small bay overlooking the moat to let in the light. The table was set with a pristine white cloths and highly polished silver ware and there was a man dressed as a butler preparing the room for the lunch who was answering questions on the room. The butler whilst not looking fierce was enough to make my son go shy so we didn't get to linger long here.
The kitchen area was also staffed with a cook and her attendants with its high ceilings and numerous windows to gave maximum ventilation it seemed quite an airy room however I am sure it would have been very hot and steamy when in full use. Interestingly Lord Warrington had added a gallery so they could inspect the kitchen without having to set foot downstairs. There is also a chef's room and butlers pantry fully laid out with meat safes and bell boards all of which was fascinating to me and my son.
The other room that we spent some time in rather than having a whistle stop tour was the gallery area which has a piano you can play and it also a card table set out with some card games for you to play and a wonderful snakes and ladders game my son and I enjoy a quick game of this in between tinkling on the piano.
Recollecting our bags at the end was simple to do and the whole process was nice and easy and gave my shoulder a break.
When we ready to visit the gardens we went through the entrance and were given the chance to buy some chicken food to feed the chickens that are clearing a section of the garden to make way for a rose garden. You can also borrow a croquet set if you choose but having learnt that large wooden mallets and my son don't go as yet we declined this offer but got some chicken food for 50 pence. You can also borrow a map of the gardens as you enter and I would definitely recommend doing so as the gardens are extensive and to avoid missing bits a map was certainly helpful to us.
One of the most unusual features of this garden is the winter garden which contains almost 700 different plant species and a further 1,600 shrubs to be included in the winter garden they have at least two of the following characteristics of interest: winter bark, flower, fruit, autumn color or scent and sound. Now we visited in the summer and I am all for a return visit in the winter to enjoy this delight as I have never been around a garden designed for this season before. I think the snowdrop walk in particular with over 12,000 of these beautiful flowers sounds a fabulous idea and to smell some winter honeysuckle I think would be enchanting.
The garden is large with lots of colorful Rhododendrons, shrubs, and when we went the giant lilies we just coming to the end of their bloom and looked a bit bedraggled in the main but some were still spectacular to look at and avid gardeners seem to be taking a lot of photos.
There are also some historic features such as a Victorian Bark House this has a well to the rear and is definitely worth a look. There is an18th century Orangery complete with plants that puts Mister Everest orangeries to shame as it so wonderful to look at and well constructed
Various paths and a bridge will lead you to different parts of the garden where you will see more stunning plants and trees and I would definitely advocate looking out for the dog graves as this avenue in which they are buried gives you a wonderful view across the moat of Dunham Massey Hall and if you are lucky like we were on this occasion the swans will have come out of the moat to give themselves a groom and you can pick up a swan feather.
There is also an opportunity to have a guided tour of the garden and the meeting point for this is at the entrance gate to the garden.
There is a lot of wildlife around the gardens such as birds, dragonflies dancing across the moat and several well fed rabbits.
The rose garden at present is being cleared and is home to some rescued battery chickens as well as some rare breed chickens. These are kept free range as it were behind some chicken wire, but these plump chickens know when some one comes near them it is feeding time and they generally cluck and cause a commotion to get the most grain. My son enjoyed feeding them and popping the grain through the holes in the chicken wire. Older children were throwing it over the top. The idea is these birds will clear the ground of weeds and fertilize the coil ready for the garden to be replanted.
The other child friendly area in the garden was the inclusion of some vegetable border gardens that had tubs of water and watering cans by them for people to water the gardens and my son spent a happy 10 minutes watering to his hearts content.
To really enjoy the gardens and the tranquil space there I would allow yourself a couple of hours really.
The café at Dunham Massey is in one of the old stable blocks and is up stairs there is a lift for buggies and wheelchairs so there is no problem getting access to it. There is the usual assortment that most Trust properties seem to have of sandwiches a selection of hot meals and cakes and desserts. On this occasion we choose a beef and a chicken salad sandwiches, a child's lunch box that includes five items including a drink the choice of items is up to you and included on the day we visited sandwiches jelly, fruit yoghurt gingerbread men. We also selected a trifle that looked too delicious to resist as it seemed jam packed with fresh fruit in the jelly. This with a drink came to just over £18 so it's not a cheap dining experience. The queuing was straight forward with not a long wait to be served unlike some National Trust properties I have been too. There was a family zone which is were we elected to sit in and this was well catered for the younger visitors with highchairs, low chairs and a child size table with games there were some bead puzzles to play with, and some colouring things all of which meant we could relax and enjoy our meal with out worrying that our lively son was disturbing other diners as everyone in this area was in a similar position. If you are reheating bottles or baby food I also noticed there was a microwave and a bottle warmer that could be used here. The food we selected was lovely and fresh and we had no complaints about the quality of the food. We took with us part of my sons lunch box as he hadn't finished this for enjoying on our walk around the grounds.
As with a lot of national Trust properties they are designed with family visits in mind. The café is very family friendly as mentioned above. There is a baby changing facility in the stable block we didn't use this but I popped in to have a look and it was clean and well catered. You can borrow baby slings and hip seats in the house to go around whilst you leave you buggies and prams in the cloak room nice and safe and there is no charge for this. The family friendly areas in the garden include games trails to find things and watering cans to water the plants. During the school holidays they have events on for children to attend.
You can arrange a transfer from the car park to the Hall and grounds if you have any disability problems. The property has disabled toilets both downstairs and up in the stable block by the restaurant. Parts of the house are not accessible to wheelchairs due to stairs but a ramp can be used at the front of the house to gain some access to some areas. As the stable area has some cobbles getting a wheelchair over these could be hard work but if you have a motorised wheelchair/ scooter then you should be ok. When we were going around the gardens a fellow visitor in a mobility scooter was negotiating the gardens and the grounds with no problems across the path and grass in fact she was going so fast she nearly ran us down.
We had a fabulous day at this property and will certainly be returning again to visit and perhaps in the late autumn and winter to see the winter garden in its finery. There is a lot to do from gentle strolls around the garden to a more substantial walk around the deer park. The park has wide open paths and we spotted lots of families taking children on bike rides in the park. The house is a typical Georgian property but with some amusing games to play and guides dressed up to tell you about the house that gives it a lot of sparkle. On our next visit I think we will do the gardens first so that we can enjoy the house at a more leisurely place.
Altrincham, Cheshire WA14 4SJ
Telephone: 0161 941 1025
Prices and opening times for 2011
House and garden: adult £10 child £5.
Garden: adult £7 child £3.50
Estate entry - cars £5.
All the above is free if you are a member of the National Trust
26th Feb -30th Oct 11-5pm Mon-Wed Saturday and Sunday
1st Jan-25th Feb 11-4 seven days a week
26th Feb-30th Oct 11-5.30pm seven days a week
31st Oct-31st Dec 11-4pm Seven days a week
Park all year round 9-5
Summary: A great national trust property with lots of friendly deer and wonderful gardens with wildlife