Wow, it seems like ages since we went to Trentham Gardens but other posts have just got in the way.
Trentham Estate, near Stoke on Trent is a great middle ground for me to meet up with my best friend, so we’ve been a couple of times now. Last year we visited Monkey Forest, before a quick trip to the gardens, but this time we just headed straight for Trentham Gardens instead. I’m not one for going back to the same old places, and really wanted to explore more of the estate.
On our last visit I lost N when he ran off exploring the water fountains in the formal gardens. This time en route, he decided that he wanted to wee just as we got off the motorway, and couldn’t wait 2 miles to arrive. So we had to stop in a layby for him to pee with both car doors open to protect his modesty. It seems that event has been the encouragement he needed to start weeing in toilets standing up.
We went on a Sunday and arrived around 11am. The estate is large, with Monkey Forest on one side, then the shopping village which is a great place for nice little tea rooms and cafes, and boutique-y and unique shops. I’ve not really had the chance to do any shopping there but maybe one day I will. It was a beautiful warm day although with a slight breeze, so it was busy. I was concerned when I spotted the Guide event parking, but the guides were in one large field so once we’d heard their welcome speeches over the loudspeakers, we didn’t get overrun by tweens and teenage girls.
We weren’t meeting my friend until lunchtime, so we had plenty of time to go and explore. There’s a wonderful lake walk and when we went there was a rowing competition going on, so we had something extra to watch as we walked.
Trentham also has a fairy trail. The fairies are all in different poses, and placed around the gardens. There’s a fairy trail so we grabbed a map and tried to find as many as possible.
N loved spotting them, and was intrigued to touch them and shake hands when he could get close enough. I was a little embarrassed when he sat down on a bench next to one and started groping the fairy’s breasts! Mortifyingly, all the people walking by were then watching him do it. So embarrassing (but funny!). Thankfully I managed to drag him away by distracting him with the train.
You can go on the miniature train although at £2 each for a return I wasn’t going to pay that. N didn’t seem to want to go on it, so we walked alongside so he could spot when it was coming. The turntable at the end provided an opportunity for him to ask lots of questions…not forgetting his question ‘why are there 2 men when only one is driving?’.
We watched the rowers for a bit – more questions – it’s a lovely day out sitting and watching, although we had more to see so couldn’t sit there for too long.
The walk is lovely although it was really busy, so it was a bit like walking along a street with lots of other people. We did stop for a while to look at and talk about the otter tree carving.
By the time we got back to the start our friends had arrived. She’s N’s godmother and I’m godmother to her 2.5 year old, and it’s so funny to see them together. N talks an ongoing commentary about what we’re doing and what O was up to. I think N gets a bit confused sometimes on the unpredictability of a younger friend, but it’s good that he has to learn that not everyone will do what he says.
We headed for the formal gardens to sit near the main water fountain so we could have our picnic. It’s always lovely to be able to sit outside and eat, and quite often is a lot easier when you’ve got children. It doesn’t matter if food goes everywhere.
We then wandered through the gardens to head to the sandpits and adventure playground.
Trentham’s great for the play area. There’s a tots area with sandpits, ride on vehicles round a track, and smaller wooden play equipment and obstacles. Then there’s an area for bigger children with various climbing equipment, swings, zip wires etc.
It’s always busy, but there’s still plenty to do and the boys were quite happy pottering in the sand for a bit. N still wanted to go on the ride on cars even though he’s really a bit big for them now.
One of the reasons we wanted to get to Trentham Gardens again was to have a go on the barefoot walk. It’s a free walk, suitable for all ages. It’s just a case of removing shoes and socks, rolling up trousers and setting off on the walk over the different textured path. N was striding off and in his element, not really faltering until we got to the 3rd lot of sharper gravel or bark. Then he decided to take the easy option and walk on the grass alongside for those stages (sensible child). Some textures were certainly a bit sharp on the feet – mind over matter doesn’t always work although I did walk over all textures to try it…until we reached the muddy gloopy water stage.
Under the guise of taking photos, I avoided going in at all, although my friend took N in for about 2 steps before he climbed out. He’s never been keen on getting mucky with paint or the like so I wasn’t surprised. A bit ridiculous for a child who’s happiest out on the farm in all weathers. The water was particularly grim – smelling slightly stagnant and coating feet and ankles until it dried in the sun and provided a crusty feel to the feet. ‘Hobbit feet’ was our preferred term for the look.
We did get to walk through a lovely mini stream, and once back to the start we were able to clean off feet with the taps and driers. It was good fun, and something different to try – I’d never come across a barefoot walk elsewhere.
Next on our list was to try the maze. This is a laurel maze, and every so often you come across sound pipes – so you can talk into them and see if there’s anyone at the other end.
We couldn’t work out which ones joined up, but it seemed that when you reached the centre and top of the maze, you could then tell people at the other end of the pipes which direction to go in. Good fun, and of course, it was much quicker getting out than finding the centre in the first place.
Mazes creep me out a bit, I think because I’ve watched too many creepy films with people trying to escape in mazes, but with children it’s certainly a different experience. They have no sense of direction so I’m sure you end up taking a lot longer, than if you were in control!
We had a little time left so we wanted to have a look at the display gardens. These are like a mini Chelsea Flower Show, with different designs for each garden. The boys loved the sensory garden, although none of the sounds seemed to be working.
There was a winter wildlife garden which was a great idea, although we didn’t see any evidence of bugs in it.
There was even a secret garden complete with door to go through to find it.
The flowers throughout were beautiful, and there were some lovely unusual touches to the place. I’m not really a gardener but I do enjoy seeing what others can do with gardens, and find them really interesting to photograph.
I’m not sure if that’s a sign of getting old and a bit boring, or just being able to appreciate things a lot more.
We’d not had as long as Trentham Gardens as we’d have liked, but it was a jam packed visit and good to catch up with friends we don’t get to see often enough.
Even the walk back to the car can be interesting on the estate – more gardens, the old Trentham House and church ruins, and more water fountains and fairies galore.
There’s certainly some interesting artwork and I could have spent more time taking photos.
N wanted to take some photos himself, but I remembered I’d got my gorillapod, so set that up for us to have a photo of the 4 of us. I don’t know why I’ve not discovered camera self-timers before – great invention. It’s now a mission going forward that whenever we meet up we’ll get a photo of the 4 of us (and maybe the OHs if they’re with us).
Quick goodbyes and big bags of N’s handmedown clothes to O, before we headed off home. N was asleep almost before we’d reached the motorway.
While I prefer to explore new places, Trentham’s definitely a great meeting place for friends and families.
Do you like to find out gardens? Have you ever been on a barefoot walk?