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Review and pictures: Abbeywood Estate and Gardens in Cheshire

Review and pictures: Abbeywood Estate and Gardens in Cheshire

We take our children to Abbeywood Estate and Gardens in Delamere

What is it?

A country house with 45 acres of gardens, a small playground and woodland trails. Also a wedding venue.

Children at Abbeywood Estate in Delamere, Cheshire

Where is it?

Between Northwich and Chester directly off the main A556 road.

What did we think?

This is a quiet, relaxing spot for a fun family walk with an excellent cafe. The gardens are beautiful.

Gardens at Abbeywood Estate in Delamere, Cheshire

Highlights

Woodland trail – The landscaped gardens are stunning but the best part for our children was the woodland trail around the perimeter of the site.

You can follow the signs around, with a few shortcuts available if you want. The walk takes around an hour.

Woodland trail through Abbeywood Estate in Delamere, Cheshire

Playground – There is a small playground in shaded woodland with a climbing frame, swings and trampoline (closed when we went due to the Coronavirus).

Play area at Abbeywood Estate in Delamere, Cheshire

Animals – You can spot different animals on your walk.

There are a few horses, goats, sheep and an enclosure with chickens and rabbits. There aren’t loads of animals like a petting zoo but they are a pleasant distraction on the walk.

Animals at Abbeywood Estate in Delamere, Cheshire

Top tips

The map you are given at the entry doesn’t show the full size of the gardens so make sure you don’t miss out on parts of the woodland trail.

You can’t take picnics so make sure you eat in the car park or use the cafe.

Gardens at Abbeywood Estate in Delamere, Cheshire

Abbeywood Estate and Gardens information

Food: There is a large, pleasant cafe with indoor and outdoor seating, selling hot meals, sandwiches, cakes, drinks and tubs of ice cream.

Opening hours: The gardens are open Wednesday to Sunday in summer between 9am and 5pm.

Cost: Adults £6 each, children free.

Best for: Ages three and above.

Time needed: 90 minutes.

Access and restrictions: The site is mainly lawned with a few gravel paths. It is fairly flat but isn’t fully accessible for wheelchair users and for prams and pushchairs.

Address: Abbeywood Gardens, Chester Rd, Delamere, Northwich, CW8 2HS.

 

New family attraction – magical woodland adventure park BeWILDerwood to open in Cheshire

New family attraction – magical woodland adventure park BeWILDerwood to open in Cheshire

A 70-acre unique woodland attraction is soon to open in South Cheshire

A family day out full of fun, imagination and adventure is set to open in time for May half-term.

BeWILDerwood Cheshire – A Curious Treehouse Adventure – is throwing open its wonky wooden gates on Saturday, May 23, 2020.

It is in a forest setting where children can ‘run wild’ and promises ‘no noisy rides, no technology and no junk food’.

Tree trails at BeWILDerwood Cheshire

It’s the second Bewilderwood site in the country – the first in Norfolk, has won a host of awards.

The sites are based on the magical children’s BeWILDerwood book series by Tom Blofeld, bringing to life a cast of captivating characters.

BeWILDerwood author and creator Tom Blofeld at BeWILDerwood Cheshire

BeWILDerwood author and creator Tom Blofeld

The Cheshire site, which has been in development for three years, will feature Curious Treehouses, Wobbly Wires (zip wires), Slippery Slopes and a variety of giant wooden play structures to navigate such as a Broken Bridge.

Slides at Tree trails at BeWILDerwood Cheshire

There will also be aerial ropewalks, climbing walls, balancing logs and mazes.

Slides at Tree trails at Swings at BeWILDerwood Cheshire

Face painting and activities like interactive storytelling shows and crafting sessions are included in the ticket price and parking is free.

It is aimed at children aged two to 2 but teenagers and adults can enjoy the equipment too as the focus is on family fun.

Grandparents having fun at BeWILDerwood Cheshire

Fun for all the family

Toddlers and children who are too small to go on the bigger bits have their own areas, Toddlewood on the Hill and Tiptoe Valley.

A todder at BeWILDerwood Cheshire

Food can be bought at the Cosy Cabin and Munch Bar and picnics are welcome.

Tickets are based on height rather than ages and can be bought online.

Grandparents having fun at Tree houses at BeWILDerwood Cheshire

Books from the BeWILDerwood series including A Boggle at BeWILDerwood, The BeWILDerbats and A BeWILDermuddle are also available to buy online.

Gate admission prices for 2020 are:

Born to BeWILD (Under 92cm): Free

Almost WILD (92-105cm): £16.50

BeWILD Now (over 105cm): £18.50

Still WILD (65 years+): £10.50

Address: BeWILDerwood Cheshire, Whitchurch Road, Bickley, Malpas, Cheshire, SY13 4JF.

We’ll be visiting to review soon and will report back!

Dunham Massey Christmas Lights 2019 – our review and guide

Dunham Massey Christmas Lights 2019 – our review and guide

The National Trust property in Cheshire hosts its popular illumination display for the third year

Thousands of visitors will be heading to Dunham Massey over the festive period to enjoy the magical light trail around the park and garden.

And we’ve had sneak preview of this fabulous Christmas display, so here is our review, top tips and all you need to know, plus watch our video below.

What is it?

Dunham Massey – a National Trust property with deer park and gardens – is hosting its third annual Christmas Light Trail.

Thousands will head to the Cheshire site for the fabulous experience, which is perfect for families.

It features dazzling light displays, music, fairground rides, food and drink.

When is it?

The illuminations run from November 22 to December 30, 2019.

Ticket start times run every 20 minutes between 4.30pm and 8pm.

How much are tickets?

Tickets are prices from £17.50 for adults, £11 for children aged three to 16 and under-threes are free. A family ticket is £54.00.

Our highlights

*Before you go into the formal gardens, the house itself is lit up at the front with a fabulous laser display.

Dunham Massey Christmas Lights house

There is also a light display when you reach the back of the house, along with rings of fire.

Dunham Massey Christmas Lights house

*There are lots of memorable features as you go around including huge glittering reindeer near the start – apt for a park which is home to lots of deer, firework lights in the trees, a laser walk and lots more.

*The large lawn area inside the gardens is lit up in a sea of lights, changing pattern, in front of a tunnel of glittering lights.

*You can toast marshmallows in fire pits in the rose garden. These can be bought at a stand in the corner of the garden – £1.50 for a large marshmallow on a stick – there are several flavours including gingerbread and caramel.

Toasting marshmallows at Dunham Massey Christmas Lights

*There is different music as you go around including songs from Christmassy films – a Frozen song at the start thrilled our daughter.

*There are a few fairground rides in the Stables Courtyard for younger children – a carousel, helter skelter, merry-go-round and swing boats.

*There are food and drink stalls selling mulled wine, hot chocolate, hot dogs, chips, pizza, churros etc.

Top tips

*You are not supposed to take your own food and drink but I did see several people with their own marshmallows (and sticks) to toast.

*Wrap up warm – it is all outdoors.

*Book a parking space in advance – even if you are a National Trust member with free parking.

*Father Christmas appears on the trail as part of a small show. There is no grotto or individual meeting.

Other questions

Is everything included in the price?

Fair rides, food and drink are extra. You buy ride tokens – £2.50 each or £10 for five if bought in advance when you book your tickets.

Some stalls accepted payment by card. There is no cash machine.

How long will it take?

The route keeps to the paths and ensures you don’t miss anything. It is around a mile long and takes around an hour and a half but you can stay as long as you like until it closes. It is wheelchair and buggy-friendly but is dimly-lit in places and can get busy.

Can you catch a glimpse of the lights if you happen to be already at Dunham Massey when it gets dark?

If you are there just before the gardens close at 3.30pm, you may see some of the lights as it starts to get dark but you will not get anywhere near the full effect.

Do National Trust members need to pay?

National Trust members pay full price, there is no discount. Parking is free for NT members, but you still have to reserve a space ahead of time as the car park gets busy.

Address

National Trust Dunham Massey, Altrincham, WA14 4SJ

For more information and to book go to the website.

Chester Zoo – our top tips to save you time and money on a family day at this hugely popular attraction for families

Chester Zoo – our top tips to save you time and money on a family day at this hugely popular attraction for families

How to guarantee a fun day out for children at the UK’s most popular zoo

Chester Zoo is the UK’s most visited zoo and one of the country’s largest. It is a favourite of ours and is home to 21,000 animals and 500 different species. Here are our top tips to get the most out of a day at Chester Zoo.

Get there early

Chester Zoo is the most popular attraction outside London and has nearly two million visitors a year, so can get busy really quickly.

To maximise your time, arrive about 20 minutes before it opens (it opens at 10am, so arrive at 9.45am at the latest).

That way you can park nearer to the entrance in the main car park rather than being ushered further away into a field. You can then hit the gates as soon as they open.

(Alternatively, if you want a short visit, you could get there two hours before closing, for the late entry discount).

painted dogs eat meat at Chester Zoo

The painted dogs enclosure at the edge of the zoo is one of the quieter areas to explore

Walk to the furthest point first

As everyone else heads straight to the elephants which are directly inside the entrance, you need to keep walking and walking.

Either turn right and head towards the rhinos and the Islands or turn left, over the bridge and towards the chimpanzee section.

Ignore everything you see until you get to the further reaches of the zoo, then work your way BACK towards the start.

If you do this you will get around 90 minutes – even on the busiest days – when it feels like your own private zoo.

The Islands boat ride

The queues can be long at peak times and your chances of actually seeing half of the animals lurking around the waters are mixed at best.

Either head straight for the Islands as soon as the zoo opens or give it a miss until nearer the end of the day.

You can easily waste an hour queuing and doing the boat ride at busy times when you would be better off seeing other attractions.

A boat at the centre of the islands development at Chester Zoo - a recreation of a tropical coastal area

The Islands at Chester Zoo

Think of the zoo as two halves

On the map, split the zoo in two using the public footpath. Do one half at the start of the day and the other after lunch if you are making a full day of it.

Use the monorail to speed up the process and give weary little feet a break – a single ride is a quick way of skipping to another part of the zoo in double quick time. And it’s fun to see everything from above.

The monorail at Chester Zoo

Use a single monorail journey to save time

Favourite picnic spots

There are loads of places to picnic and plenty of quiet corners away from the busy eating areas.

Our favourites include the benches next to the giraffes (especially when they are outside feeding), by the painted dogs enclosure at the far right corner of the zoo next to the antelopes, in the sunken garden and in the Islands section – although seating here is a bit limited for picnics.

What if it rains?

Most of the zoo is outside so it isn’t an ideal wet weather location but there are several good areas, which will take at least an hour or two to complete. The elephant enclosure and the monkey house near the entrance are good first or last stops.

The area with most undercover sections is on the far side of the zoo around the Realm of the Red Ape, which has orang-utans and snakes indoors.

It is also close to the small aquarium near the penguin enclosure, the Tropical Realm with birds and small crocodiles and the Spirit of the Jaguar.

Another good way of staying dry and seeing the zoo is to do the monorail, you can stay on and do a lap of the park. The Islands boat ride is also an undercover ride.

Chester Zoo membership

If you pay to be a member of Chester Zoo, you can visit as often as you like for free, plus you get other benefits. Children under three are free.

In conclusion

Our children love Chester Zoo and it always feels clean and spacious for the animals. But it is an expensive day out so maximise your time and take a picnic.

Top tip

*Head for the farthest point of the zoo as soon as you get in and work backwards. There are fewer crowds and more time to see the animals up close.

Chester Zoo Information

Address: Chester Zoo, Moston Rd, Upton-by-Chester, Upton, Chester CH2 1EU.

Opening hours: Open daily except Christmas Day and Boxing Day from 10am. Closing depends on the time of year, 4pm in winter and 6pm in summer holidays.

Cost: On the gate, adult £26, child (3-17) £22. It is cheaper to buy online in advance with a family saving for three or more people.

Best for: Ages 2-10

Time needed: It takes a full day to see the whole zoo. Minimum time to see a good selection of animals is 2 hours.

Note: All pictures in this article are courtesy of Chester Zoo.

Tatton Park in Cheshire with children – read our review and top tips to make the most of a family visit

Tatton Park in Cheshire with children – read our review and top tips to make the most of a family visit

Read our review of all the best bits of the fabulous Tatton Park in Cheshire plus the costs for National Trust members

What is it?

Tatton Park is one of England’s largest historic estates – it has a stately home, 50 acres of landscaped gardens, 1,000 acres of parkland with deer and meres. There is also a working farm and large playground.

Where is it?

Tatton Park is near Knutsford in Cheshire a few miles from junction 19 of the M6 motorway.

What do we think?

There are so many options for children on a day out here, truly something for everyone. You can explore the parkland for just £6 a day for a family – or pay extra for the other attractions.

Our highlights

The park

The park is vast with plenty of different areas to explore.

There are two large meres where sailing takes place, woodland walks with deer to spot and places to picnic.

The wide paths through the park for cars are also popular with cyclists and supervised children on bikes and scooters.

You can park at different points inside (it is £6 per car, there is no National Trust discount for parking).

The gardens

The gardens cost extra (free for National Trust members) but can be a quieter, different and beautiful area to enjoy on busy days.

They begin with fruit and vegetable patches before expanding off a central path to some fabulous areas.

Our particular favourites are around the Japanese Gardens (you can only venture inside on a guided tour) and the bridges over the pools. There is quite a tricky maze, regular family trails to follow, a fun scarecrow hunt in February, Easter Egg hunts at Easter time and other activities all year round.

Note – you are not allowed picnics, bikes or scooters in the gardens.

colourful flowers in a Japanese garden at Tatton Park

The peaceful Japanese Garden at Tatton Park

The farm

A five-minute walk from the main car park is Tatton Park farm. Entry is £7 for adults, £5 for children (half price for NT members). It is a traditional 1930’s working farm with pigs, horses, donkey and chickens.

There are old tractors to sit on and Aunt Mary’s 1940’s cottage. In one barn you can ride on toy cars and tractors.

Next to the farm is a good adventure playground, picnic area and woodland trails.

pigs and piglets walking at a farm

Pigs are just one of the animals at Tatton’s working farm

The mansion

Home to the Egerton family, the house contains a huge library and other artefacts.

The main interest for children is exploring the large servants’ kitchen and living quarters, which are nicely done. The mansion is used for events at Easter and Christmas geared to children.

Child-friendly facilities

There is a huge playground next to the main car park which is always very busy.

There is often a small train to take children from the playground to the farm (at a cost). Burger and ice cream vans are on site too.

In the main stables courtyard near the garden’s entrance there is often a couple of carousels (£2.50 a go). There are also two restaurants – a large self-service area and the smaller Gardeners’ Cottage.

National Trust

Unlike most National Trust sites, National Trust members still have to pay to park at Tatton Park, which costs £6, unless you park in Knutsford and walk in, but it is quite a walk to the main part.

However, entry to the house and gardens is free to National Trust members and entry to the farm is half price.

Conclusion

Tatton Park is geared towards children – you can have fun here without entering any of the paid attractions but if you do choose – the farm and gardens are the best value.

Our top tips

*Enter Tatton Park from the smaller, less-used Knutsford entrance and you can drive through the park to get a feel for it and park next to Melchett Mere for a good picnic spot.

Tatton Park information

Food: Picnics are welcome, except in the gardens. There are two cafes/restaurants in the courtyard, near the garden’s entrance – a large self service area called the Stables Restaurant, perfect for children and the smaller and more formal Gardeners’ Cottage. There is also a shop selling ice creams.

Opening hours: It varies depending on the time of year and the farm is open at more limited times, check here for details.

Cost: Car parking costs £7 (even to National Trust members). A Totally Tatton family ticket to all attractions is £33. Adult ticket £7 per attraction, child (aged four to 15) £5. National Trust members – free entry to gardens and mansion, half-price entry to farm.

Best for: ages three to 10.

Time needed: Doing every attraction is a full day out. Visiting the park for a walk or bike ride can be done in 90 minutes.

Access and restrictions: All Tatton’s shops and the Stables Restaurant are fully accessible to wheelchair users. Electric buggies (gardens only) and manual wheelchairs are available for loan but can not be used to move between attractions and in the park. Book a wheelchair loan on 01625 374400.

Address: Tatton Park, Knutsford, Cheshire, WA16 6QN.

Have you been to Tatton Park? Do you like it as much as we do? Let us know in the comments.

(Pictures in this article are courtesy of National Trust Images and Tatton Park).

Is the National Trust’s Quarry Bank Mill in Cheshire a fun day for all the family?

Is the National Trust’s Quarry Bank Mill in Cheshire a fun day for all the family?

Read our review of this popular park and mill near Manchester

What is it?

Quarry Bank Mill, also known as Styal Mill, is one of the best preserved textile mills of the Industrial Revolution.

Built in 1784, it was the inspiration for Channel 4’s popular drama, The Mill.

Now it is a museum of the cotton industry where visitors can discover the story of mill workers and how the Industrial Revolution changed the word.

It is set amid lovely gardens to explore.

Where is it?

Quarry Bank Mill is in Styal, Cheshire, south of Manchester Airport, on the bank of the River Bollin, which provided water to power the waterwheels.

What did we think?

The gardens are very child friendly and the short walks and playgrounds are good too. The mill is interesting and fun but may be a bit much for younger children.

Highlights

The Gardens

Recent improvements have made the gardens far more child-friendly and accessible.

The paths are new and varied, the 43 steps down towards the river proves a popular counting challenge for our little ones.

The stroll along the River Bollin is fun with weirs and colourful trees and flowers lining the route. It is an easy, safe and manageable place to explore.

a couple stroll next to Quarry Bank Mill

There are plenty of places to stroll around

The play areas

There are two main play areas. A traditional playground with small slide, fireman’s pole and a few swings. It is small and gets packed on busy days.

There is also what they call a natural play area. This has logs to carry, tree stumps to step across and a muddy hill to scramble up.

Despite falling over and getting covered in mud, on our last visit, both areas took up an action packed 20 minutes each.

The mill

(NB The mill is closed until some time during summer 2018 for major works to install a lift).

The mill is a fun experience although best suited to those over six.

They have volunteers explaining what life was like in full costume and you can watch hand spinners at work.

The scale of the pump room and water wheel are amazing. There are good exhibits on how they made clothes in the Victorian era and many of the exhibits are hands-on.

a woman dressed in old clothes operates a cotton spinner

Hands-on exhibits take you back in time inside the mill

The water works

If you head away from the mill toward the large weir, there is another short walk around a lake.

It is not a taxing stroll, you can spot birds and fish in the lake, or take a footpath towards open fields above the site. Watching the machines control the water flow keeps little eyes interested.

Conclusion

Quarry Bank Mill is a good wet and dry weather option. On a sunny day the gardens and walks are beautiful, on a rainy day the museum is fascinating.

Our top tip

*Eat at the garden cafe and then go for a riverside stroll in the woods next to the garden.

Quarry Bank information

Food: There are two cafes on site. The main cafe has a bit of a canteen feel but the cakes are tasty.

The new garden cafe is in a much nicer location and serves all its food and drink in disposable crockery to be kind to the environment.

Opening hours: Open daily, the estate is open 8am to 6pm, attractions open from 10.30am. The Mill is closed until summer 2018 but everything else is open.

Cost: Entry costs £50.50 for a family ticket, adults £20.25, children £10. Free for National Trust members.

Best for: ages five to 12.

Time needed: At least two hours, more if you want to take in all the talks and activities in the mill.

Access and restrictions: A lift is currently being installed so that for the first time the whole mill will be accessible to everyone.

Address: Quarry Bank, Styal Rd, Styal, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 4LA.

(The pictures in this article are courtesy of National Trust Images).