Victorian novelists, Danish kings and red deer – Monty visits Knutsford
Hello, travel lovers. Today, as requested by Attlee, my editor-in-chief, I’m going to take you on a whistle-stop tour of Knutsford in Cheshire, which is my local town when I’m in the UK.
Knutsford is a little market town with a lot of history. Its most famous resident (after ME, of course) is probably Elizabeth Gaskell, who wrote Cranford, and several other novels that were later made into films featuring Dame Judi Dench wearing petticoats. In fact, the fictional town of Cranford is based on Knutsford, and you can follow the Elizabeth Gaskell trail by looking at the blue plaques on the buildings. I’ve never bothered with this, as they’re too high up and I can’t read, but I’m told it’s worthwhile.
The name ‘Knutsford’ is thought to come from the Danish king Canute, who supposedly forded the nearby river Lily in 1016. This seems a little unfair – I ford rivers all the time, and nobody’s naming any towns after me. The pavements in Knutsford are very narrow, and a bit difficult for dogs if there are lots of people around. Sara thinks she’s heard a story that the narrowness of the pavements was deliberate, as a prudish Lady Egerton (more on the Egertons later) didn’t like courting couples to be able to walk arm-in-arm. However, my extensive researches have failed to turn up any substance to this, so she probably made it up.
Knutsford is full of restaurants, cafes and tea shops, but my top foodie tip is this: if you go and see the VERY nice man on the fish counter in Booths supermarket, he will give you a bag of fish skin and off-cuts for FREE! (Sara likes this, as she is very mean, and doesn’t buy me as much fish as I clearly deserve). Take the fish bits home, and have your human slave put them on a baking tray, drizzle them with a little oil and roast them for ten minutes. Yummy scrummy in my furry tummy! Spoilt, moi?
Now, as far as I’m concerned, the best thing in the whole town is Tatton Park, which is right next to the main street. I’ve been coming here since I was a little fluffball of a puppy, and it’s great. There are 1,000 acres of parkland, including lots of woods and mud-holes, and two meres (lakes) for swimming in. We dogs are allowed off the lead all over the place, as long as we stay under control, which of course I always do. The only slight drawback is that at certain times of year there are flocks of sheep and herds of red and fallow deer grazing in MY park, and I have to tiptoe around them, like they’ve got as much right to be there as I have! GRRRR!
When it’s hot, I like to walk up the shady avenue of trees to the main house, a Neo-Classical mansion built in the mid-eighteenth century by the Egerton family. Now owned by the National Trust, I’m told it’s very impressive inside, with servants’ quarters and domestic offices and Gillow’s furniture, whatever that is, but it’s one of the few places I’m not allowed to go, even with my impeccable pedigree and breeding. GRRR again!
However, I am totally welcome in the courtyard of the Stables tea rooms, and there’s even a special tap labelled ‘Dog Water only’. Quite right too – I wouldn’t want to share my water with any unhygienic humans.
Whilst you’re up at the house, don’t forget to check out the Housekeeper’s Stores, a shop where they sell venison burgers and SAUSAGES, made from the Tatton deer. Ha – not so full of yourselves now, are you, my antlered friends, even if you have supposedly been in the park since 1290?
There are also some impressive formal gardens, which I’ve had a look at over the fence – including an orangery, Japanese Gardens and kitchen gardens. Tatton Park hosts the RHS Flower Show every July, and that is not a good time to come and visit if you’re a dog – everywhere’s very busy, and they rope a bit of MY park off.
After refreshments, I generally complete my outing by strolling back down alongside the big mere, and possibly having a little swim.
If you make it to the Park someday, don’t forget to look out for me – I’ll be the one wearing dark glasses and surrounded by my entourage.
Phileas Phact Box: Knutsford and Tatton Park
- For more information about the town of Knutsford, see www.virtual-knutsford.co.uk. Knutsford has its own train station, which is easily accessible from Manchester, and it’s close to Junction 7 of the M56 and Junction 19 of the M6.
- Opening times for Tatton Park, Knutsford, Cheshire, WA16 6QN, vary according to the season, so check www.tattonpark.org.uk before you visit. Prices are £5 per car to get into the park, and £5.50 per adult, £3.50 for children, to visit the mansion. If you just want to walk, park in Knutsford and walk into the park for free.
- This year’s RHS Tatton Flower Show is 18th – 22nd July. For more information see the RHS website at www.rhs.org.uk.
- Booths Supermarket, Stanley Road, Knutsford, Cheshire, WA16 0BS is open from 7am to 9pm Monday to Saturday, and 9.30am to 4pm on Sundays. Telephone 01565 652522.