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Sunday, April 24, 2016

Trentham Gardens Trip

Another sunny Saturday, so an outing was definitely in order. Carol mentioned going to somewhere called Trentham Gardens, but as I wasn't aware of this place, I was more than intrigued to find out more about it. Instead of driving up the M1 and then to the M6 we went north up the A5. It might have taken longer and we would almost certainly have avoided any roadworks, which seem to have been going on for years (see earlier posts on this blog to see how many times we've been along the M1 going north and had to spend time waiting in the coned-off section of the Motorway, held up in queues of stationary traffic, or whatever.) It took a good two-and-a-half hours to get to Trentham Gardens, which is near Stoke-On-Trent, in Staffordshire. I have never heard of this place before Carol mentioned it, but she discovered the place when she was searching for something else on the internet. I think it was when she was searching for an outlet shopping village near Matlock and then we went to Masson Mills.  The place was something of a disappointment, to be honest. We had come across another outlet shopping village somewhere near Matlock a few years ago when we, presumably, came back from a holiday in Yorkshire, but we've never been able to find where that was exactly so we could re-visit.Perhaps we'll find it again if we search on the internet. It's surprising how many places we've found, quite by accident, when we've least expected. Such as the amazing Fanny's Farm, when we were driving south when we came off the motorway when we were travelling to Worthing for a weekend away a few years ago. Which is when we came across Trentham Gardens. We had intended driving there a few weeks ago when Carol was on Easter holiday, but the weather was so bad we abandoned the journey and landed up somewhere else. How the weather can put paid to outings, holidays or other things we've so carefully planned!

On arrival in the car park, we were surprised how well laidout it all was. There certainly looked as if there was plenty to see and do. Beautifully designed wooden buildings along one side which housed the main entrance and also lead into a shopping area, small-scale, chalet-style buildings along each side of an arcade. Some of the shops bore familiar names, such as The Works (discount books) whilst others sold clothes, food and a wide range of other goods. We were in need of a recuperating cup of coffee and possibly a roll or sandwich, and there was an exceptionally good range to choose from, so we went into Cadwalader's Café and chose hot chocolates and bacon rolls, very well presented and brought to our table by proactive staff. Unlike some places, where the staff can be rude and unfriendly and the food not always up to standard. This was certainly not the case here. We wandered through the shopping village and as we did so, there seemed to be more and more people arriving. It appears to be a very popular place. Also, a good deal more friendly than Bicester Village, which we visited the other week, and the prices a good deal cheaper, which has a sort of snobby feel to it.

We paid at the entrance to go into the gardens. On walking through we were surprised how large it was. Good paths with firm surfaces (important if you have someone in a wheelchair or a child in a pushchair or buggy. We saw plenty of these as we walked around.) My wife was intrigued by the fairies that were dotted around the gardens, beautifully sculpted from wire. We did take some photographs of some of these, but it was quite difficult as they were very fine and didn't stand out particularly well against the sky or background scenery. We also noticed that dogs were allowed, provided they were well behaved and on leads. They were even allowed into the shops and restaurants.

We walked through the Italian Garden, which had beautifully laid-out beds and in the middle of some were fountains. We walked on and came to a raised, terraced area with a viewing platform. From up there you could see down the middle of the Italian Garden towards an expansive lake. It would appear that the mansion, that once was so central to Trentham Gardens, was in a derelict state and from notice this was hopefully going to be restored and to be made into a 5-star hotel. In its current state it doesn't look very promising, but, having seen various television programmes where buildings are restored from being in extremely derelict conditions and what it's possible to achieve, I could see this happening and being a very fine hotel.

We walked on and past some interesting sculptures and to an area where there some show gardens, many having won prestigious awards at the Chelsea Flower Show, and some gave us good ideas of how our garden could be transformed. Then we came to the lake and had some extremely nice ice cream and this gave us a chance to stop and sit and relax. We saw that there was a boat on the lake and it turned out that you could go on board and cruise the lake, which is what we did. A good hour or so, eventually reaching the furthest point of the lake and stopping to take aboard new passengers and then  return, with the pilot giving a running commentary and history of Trentham Gardens.
On returning to the landing stage and leaving the boat we went out to the shopping mall and bought cheese in one shop and food in another which sold artisan food, a fine meat pie along with potatoes and other vegetables for our evening meal when we got home.

Today (Sunday) Trentham Gardens features on the BBC1 television programme "Antiques Roadshow." As I write this it is being broadcast, but I have set up our Sky+ box to record it and we will watch it tomorrow evening.

A good day out and well worth a further visit because there is still a lot left to explore and enjoy.
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