WALK – DUNHAM MASSEY COUNTRY PARK – ALTRINCHAM
One of the most beautiful of all North West National Trust owned and managed country parks, where every tree seems vibrantly alive and magical. I went with my friend Tom Clark in mid-September, as he knows the park well.
A short bus journey from Altrincham, though even the driver seemed unsure of the route or where to drop us. We got off just outside the park gates, with their mysterious iron carvings, which we eventually identified as boar’s heads.
Our first stop was the Lavender Tea Rooms, and souvenir shop, which offered a lovely light breakfast. In the grounds they had several large rabbit hutches, which they sell. We watched the rabbits running round in their veritable adventure playgrounds.
We now walked round to visit the famous Dunham Massey microbrewery. I have sampled many of their ales, though sadly the brewery was closed on the day of our visit – they are often open to the public.
In the nearby village with its quaint cottage like wooden bus shelters, a large tree that had been struck by lightning, was filled with stones and metal supports to keep as much of it alive as possible, creating a very strange crippled tree in the middle of the road.
We now entered the park itself, over a styal and through the boars-head gate. There are several large ponds surrounded by tree stumps and fallen trees among the living trees. The fallen ones are often left out to decompose naturally, making them a wildlife sanctuary and natural sculptures.
The paths wind round, and in an area protected by large fencing, an elderly looking wood-elf and a young fairy maiden have been carved from the trees.
Deer can be seen throughout the park, and were first recorded as being present in the 14th century. The earliest Massey Hall dates from this period to though the current magnificent property dates from 1610.
Historically, Dunham belonged to the Saxon king, Aelfward, and it gets mentioned in the Domesday Book. It was made property of the Massey barons until the 14th century.
The Water-Mill was in operation from the medieval period, and this may also be the time when the slaughterhouse was also opened. This was actually not an abattoir, but a butcher’s shop. Deer would be killed in the wild and hung in the room over the shop (now an open prison-cell like room with winching tackle to one side). As customers ordered the meat, it would be brought down and prepared.
As you approach the house, its moat and water-wheel, the deer become increasingly present and often simply walk up to people, nudging them for attention and food.
The house and inner garden is almost a separate park, and you can pay to tour either or both, (with the outer park being free at all times). I did the garden walk, taking in the orangary, a mysterious old well house, and acres of fabulous gardens. The house itself is superbly kept, with a stunning display of paintings, many depicting Charles 1st and other Civil War figures. There are paintings by Sir Joshua Reynolds and many other notable artists.
We went across the Little Bollington River over a narrow footbridge, and into Dunham Village, to a lovely pub called The Swan With Two Nicks, for a very good pub meal and some Dunham Massey Ale before walking back to Altrincham via the local golf course, which has footpaths running by its side. From there, we caught our bus back to Manchester.
Thanks to Tom for helping make this walk possible.
DUNHAM MASSEY – NATIONAL TRUST PAGE http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunham_Massey
DUNHAM MASSEY ON WIKIPEDIA http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunham_Massey
THE ADDRESS Dunham Massey Altrincham, Cheshire WA14 4SJ
Telephone: 0161 941 1025
GOOGLE MAP OF DUNHAM MASSEY http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?hl=en&q=WA14+4SJ&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=Altrincham+WA14+4SJ&gl=uk&ei=hk-7TIHOI5XU4waSv5TVDA&sa=X&oi=geocode_result&ct=title&resnum=1&ved=0CBUQ8gEwAA
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