It’s worth spending a little time mooching around the heart of the affluent town of Knutsford. The Cranford of Mrs Gaskell’s novels, it has a wealth of antique and crafts shops and countless tearooms. It is also studded by a remarkable series of extravagant, even bizarre houses and villas built by the eccentric Edwardian Richard Harding Watt, a leather industry millionaire. Described by the renowned architectural commentator Nicolas Pevsner as “The maddest sequence of villas in all England”, they starred in Steven Spielberg’s Empire of the Sun.
In at the deep end
At the north end of the High Street, near the eye-catching buildings of Drury Lane, an imposing lodge and gates mark the entrance to the 1,000-acre deer park, which cushions Tatton Hall from the outside world.
Walks and driveways flow through the estate past the huge lake of Tatton Mere, created largely by damming the local brook after which Knutsford – ‘Cnut’s Ford’ – was possibly named when King Canute dallied here after a battle early in the 11th century.
The parkland is owned by the National Trust and managed by East Cheshire Countryside and is open from 10am (11am in winter). There are endless opportunities for exploration, beginning with the elegant neo-classical Georgian mansion itself, with breathtaking furnishings and artworks including works by Canaletto, Van Dyck and furniture from Gillow.
The Old Hall, an understated and haunted Tudor treasure, is also worth a visit, as are the magnificent suite of formal gardens surrounding the former home of the Egerton family.
The spectacular Italian and Japanese Gardens, a maze, rose garden, topiary garden and a fernery spread over 50 acres – little wonder that the estate hosts the famous Royal Horticultural Society North Show each July.
Tucked away in a quiet corner of the parkland is The Farm, a 1930s estate farm complete with period equipment, rare breeds and a children’s corner complete with pigs, goats and hens.
Out and about
If you’re feeling active, you can wander through the vast undulating parkland created by Joseph Paxton and Humphrey Repton, exploring the plantations, woods and beech avenues, viewing the fearless herds of fallow and red deer or taking to two wheels to make the most of the peaceful tracks and estate roads threading past the meres.
There’s an immense sense of space here and ample opportunity to picnic, fly a kite, stroll, fish or just relax, indulging in distant views to the Peak District.
You can also search out art installations spread throughout the estate during the summer – look out for ice sculptures and a giant wooden horse.
HOW TO GET THERE
Tatton Park is signposted from J7 of the M56 and J19 of the M6. The entrance to the park is approximately half a mile from Knutsford Railway Station.
Knutsford WA16 6QN
Open daily Apr-Sept. Attractions are closed every Mon (except bank holidays), but the park is open. Park free; attractions: adults £4.50, children £2.50 for each site or £7 for all three. Car park £5.
Courtyard Coffee House
92 King Street, Knutsford
A cosy courtyard setting, eat alfresco or indoors amid a
Tatton Hall, Knutsford
Feast on produce sourced from the estate and nearby suppliers.
The Dog Inn
Wellbank Lane, Over Peover, Knutsford WA16 8UP
This enchanting country inn offers great food, local beers and comfy en-suites from £60.
Jodrell Bank Observatory
Goostrey SK11 9DL