Take our Myths and Legends route and discover five top Cheshire gardens and 10 other mysterious sites that each have a different story to tell.
They also have much in common. They allow you to experience familiar places – or destinations you would never have thought to visit – in a way that will feed your imagination. Some locations are amongst the best and most famous attractions in the United Kingdom, others are more unusual and less well-known. But all will give you memories that will last long after you have returned home!
Our heritage is highly valued in Cheshire, especially our inheritance of gardens that bring with them centuries of history and tradition. This is not to say that their development is complete – they still embrace change and are no doubt creating the myths and legends of the future.
This Myths and Legends trail is a new and different way at looking at parks and gardens, through the personal histories of all those who created the horticultural masterpieces we see today. We owe our wonderful gardens, not only to the owners, garden designers and architects of the past but also to the gardeners, servants, and tradesmen who helped in the running of the great houses and their grounds. They designed, built and maintained the gardens and have stamped their personalities on them.
Myths and legends reflect the way these personalities have interacted with the gardens and other places around us. While they may have their basis in fact, the stories have evolved in the retelling, creating the fantastic tales we hear today. They involve all manner of folk, from the peasant to the Peer, and from the highwayman to the monk. They interest people of all ages and backgrounds.
Each year Tatton Park holds a Halloween event for children. Combermere Abbey’s history includes ghostly goings on from the 19th Century. Dunham Massey, located within Cheshire’s historical borders, is one of the finest gardens in the North West of England and has links to some of England’s most turbulent events. Lyme Park is set in the high moorland of the Peak District and has one of the longest and most colourful histories of any gardens in Cheshire. Gawsworth Hall is linked to the ‘Dark Lady’ of Shakespeare’s sonnets as well as to the court of Elizabeth I.
The other 10 sites selected are further places in Cheshire with a fascinating tale to tell. These include Roman Chester, which, with a history dating back 2,000 years, has more than its fair share of mysteries. Knutsford and Nantwich are fascinating and beautiful towns with much to offer the visitor in search of the unexpected. Other destinations are smaller but no less interesting – theatres, hotels, landmarks and landscapes are all included – to give the visitor to Cheshire a trip to remember.
The route is designed to have as wide an appeal as possible. You may choose to visit just one or two sites – or you could explore all of them. However you use this website you will see that there is much to be enjoyed and discovered in this mysterious and intriguing corner of England.
The county also borders the vibrant and cosmopolitan urban areas of Liverpool and Manchester to the north, as well as the traditional industrial areas of the Potteries to the south. Other key destinations in England’s Northwest, such as the Lake District, are just two hours drive away.
Home to 670,000 people and host to several million visitors a year, the county is largely rural but is also home to many modern and highly successful service sector and industrial businesses.
Cheshire is well known for its attractive towns and picturesque villages. These include the world famous Roman city of Chester with a population of over 80,000 and other key destinations including Crewe (68,000 people), nearby Nantwich with its attractive half timbered buildings and Macclesfield (51,000), famous for its silk industry. In mid Cheshire the town of Northwich (40,000) is literally built on salt, which has been mined in Cheshire since Roman times. Here you can visit Britain’s only salt museum, or ride on a rare, fully restored canal Boat Lift.
Cheshire’s countryside is gently rolling, especially in the west, and is famous for its dairy farming. The Dee Estuary and the Mersey Estuary are of international importance for their ecological value. About 15 miles to the west, the central Sandstone Ridge provides some of area’s most outstanding landscapes, with tree clothed hills and magical views across the surrounding Plain. Further to the east is the Peak District National Park, which spreads into the county – providing a much more dramatic experience of bleakly romantic hills, stone walls and secluded hamlets.
Cheshire is an ancient county. Traditionally it has been larger than it is now and once incorporated the Wirral Peninsula to the west and the areas on the fringes of Manchester to the east. However, despite successive boundary changes the county is proud of a history that dates back to the very roots of England as a nation.
This has been and still is a highly prosperous area, much sought after, not only by people wanting to set up home or business here – but also by those who want to visit and experience all it has to offer. This reflects the quality of the natural environment and also the close proximity of major urban areas providing additional employment opportunities.
Cheshire is well connected to the transport network, with superb motorway access; links to the Inter City rail system (London is only two hours away); and has Manchester International Airport and Liverpool John Lennon Airport on its borders.
The high number of world-class parks and gardens, attractive market towns such as Knutsford, Neston and Sandbach, and an excellent cultural offering all add to Cheshire’s enviable quality of life.
Tourism is a major industry in Cheshire earning the county around £800 million a year. Chester is a major destination for tourists from across the world, while other visitors come to enjoy walking, cycling and riding in the delightful countryside; to visit the numerous historic homes and museums; or to pamper themselves in luxury hotels or high quality farmhouse accommodation.
On this website our two Regional Routes let you explore aspects of Cheshire’s environmental, social, economic and historic heritage in new and exciting ways.
The importance of unspoiled countryside and high quality landscaping are now being recognised as contributing to local quality of life – and gardens are increasingly being recognised as making a vital contribution to this feel-good factor.
Cheshire is blessed with a wealth of gardens. Indeed it has been known as the ‘Garden County’ of England. There is a wide range of places to visit, such as the magnificent, extensive gardens at Tatton Park, which are of national significance. There are also many more gardens which, although smaller, are exceptional and unique in their own right – such as Hare Hill near Alderley Edge, or the newly created Mount Pleasant Gardens at Kelsall.
Cheshire also boasts some of Europe’s biggest garden centres and other world-class tourist destinations – including Britain’s largest zoo. Most gardens in the county are close to where people live – and within easy travelling distance of each other. This makes them remarkably accessible – accounting for the fact that one in eight of all UK garden visits take place here!
It is also important to remember that our gardens don’t exist in isolation – they have been created by and exist together with the wider community and countryside. Those in the west reflect the local rolling, gentle and wooded landscapes in their extensive parklands or in the choice of garden planting. While destinations in the east may be tucked into hidden valleys in the rugged Peak District countryside.
If you have not until now visited gardens or had an interest in our horticultural heritage – read on. Our Myths and Legends Route introduces you to a new way of viewing these beautiful, tranquil and timeless places. You will discover how many of our garden attractions and other destinations close to them are entwined with local folklore – making a fascinating starting point for your discovery of the gardens of Cheshire!
For more detail on the county and what it has to offer visit these websites:
Cheshire and Warrington Tourism Board – www.visitchester.com/garden
Tatton Park – www.tattonpark.org.uk