Dunham Massey, near Altringham in Cheshire is only 20 minutes from Manchester city centre and yet feels a whole world away, being set amongst the leafy Cheshire countryside. A country estate with a Georgian mansion built in the 1730’s by George Booth, Earl of Warrington, the park has been home to the Grey family through generations. A lull period of approximately 50 years saw the house and grounds fall into decline when the 8th Earl ‘ran away’ with a circus entertainer. Order was restored by William, the 9th Earl during the Edwardian period when the house underwent a transformation and the estate was left to the National Trust as recently as 1976 by the 10th Earl, Roger Grey.
THE GARDENS – YEAR ROUND INTEREST
The estate can be clearly identified by the rust red paintwork on local cottages and farms in the vicinity and the house itself sits beside a lake (or half moat) amidst parkland where fallow deer roam. The formal gardens are mainly laid to lawn with sweeping trees beneath which benches have been thoughtfully placed to allow the visitor time to reflect and enjoy the tranquil surroundings. An orangery and former well-house provide interest and the herbaceous borders beside the ‘canal’ line a gravel path which in turn leads to the gated rose garden containing seemingly hundreds of species. The approach to the rose garden is a shaded, mossy area, guarded by tall beech trees. This space is actually the former rose garden which fell into a neglected state during the first world war when the gardeners were away fighting. After the war ended, the beech hedge surrounding the garden had grown so high that the roses had died, and now only moss remains beneath the high trees.
ROY LANCASTER’S WINTER GARDEN
The winter garden to the side of the property is a relatively new addition, and was planted in 2007 to a design by Roy Lancaster, making use of the existing mature trees and rhododendrons. Still only young, this garden shows the promise of a spectacular area as it matures and it’s 6 acres are planted with thoughtfully placed shrubs, trees and bulbs to give colour through the darker months. Semi circular planting stories highlight texture and form with winter colour of bark, grasses and seed heads gradually giving way to stunning bulbs, camellias, prunus and magnolias. The great drifts of narcissi lead to the bog garden which has been created beside the stream where bridges lead back to the lawns.
Head Gardener, Emily Chandler leads a team of only 6 gardeners and with the help of volunteers, they keep the gardens looking their best for the hoards of visitors welcomed each year. Last year, the expected 80,000 visitors was exceeded and the estate was host to over 300,000 people eager to enjoy the surroundings.
We very much enjoyed our visit and look forward to visiting again and seeing the winter garden mature in the coming years.