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Trust Flora: Dunham Massey – A student-friendly Northern National Trust travel guide

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Featured image: VisitCheshire

Flora Jackson showcases the beauty found in National Trust sites around the North and gives ideas for the perfect day out for students and visitors alike in the second edition of Trust Flora

A short trip from Manchester, though wildly removed from the metropolis – this week we are visiting Dunham Massey.

Dunham Massey is a green oasis nestled between the vibrant city of Manchester and the rural tranquillity of Cheshire. Having more than 59,931 hashtags on Instagram, it is a popular spot for those looking for the perfect photo opportunity. It was beaten in online engagement by Corfe Castle in Wareham, Dorset which has 72,556 hashtags, but it’s no wonder that Dunham Massey came in at second.

Dunham is home to a beautiful country house and gardens that also boasts a large deer park. The green gardens and protected parklands encircle the property for miles, and make for a beautiful and scenic walk, providing ample photo opportunities – with the odd deer if you’re lucky! In the spring and summer months, the gardens are also blanketed with bluebells and wildflowers. 

The park and garden are the ideal places to enjoy the ever-changing landscape and you can discover hundreds of years of history inside the house and servants’ courtyard. Built in the early 17th Century and home to two great families, the Booths and the Greys, the history of Dunham Massey is intimately tied to the empire; fortunate marriage to an East India trading heiress saved the property at the beginning of the 18th century.

A ramble around the park will reveal a range of architectural oddities and views of the house complete with Dunham’s resident herd of fallow deer. You may also catch a glimpse of other wildlife including owls and woodpeckers. Enjoy a guided walk of the deer park, or take the chance to wrap up warm and wander freely amongst groves of ancient trees.

Dunham is also home to one of Britain’s finest winter gardens, with plenty of scent and colour to delight the senses throughout the year. Unwind on one of the accessible circular walks before warming up with a hearty homemade meal at the Stables Restaurant and find local Cheshire produce and an extensive garden section complete with plants grown at Dunham Massey.

Getting There

Altrincham, Greater Manchester, WA14 4SJ

By Train: Altrincham Train Station – 3 miles away. Hale Train Station – 3 miles away.

By Car: off the A56: M6 exit 19; M56 exit 7.

By Bus: Bus available from Altrincham Interchange and Warrington, stops half a mile from the nearest park entrance.

Travelling from University:  Starting at Manchester Piccadilly, catch the MetroLink Purple Line Tram towards Altrincham, then take the Little Gem 287 bus towards Bowdon Vale from Altrincham Interchange, walk 1 mile following the signs until you reach Dunham Massey.

Total time: 1 hour 15 minutes approximately.

The Route

Less than an hour after boarding a train at Manchester Piccadilly station, you can be standing in a secluded patch of woodland surrounded by grazing fallow deer. With its beautiful old trees, astonishing silver collection, croquet lawn and chickens which you can play on and feed respectively; Dunham Massey provides a quick and total escape from city life.

The Trans Pennine Trail, Bridgewater Canal and Altrincham Interchange offer easy access to those looking to arrive on foot or bike, with cycle racks available in the car park. Search on the map below to see transport routes to Dunham from your destination.

Walks & Trails

The Park Land & Deer Garden

•Difficulty: Leisurely.

•Time: 1 hour.

•Distance: 2.5 miles.

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On a walk through Dunham you’ll see ancient trees, roaming deer and open grassland. Set on the grounds of the 18th-century house, the Deer Garden at Dunham Massey is home to a herd of more than 150 fallow deer. It is also a great plantsman’s garden with interesting historic features such as the Orangery, Pump House, Victorian Bark House and the remains of an Elizabethan Mount. The varied site provides a wide range of unusual shade and colourful plants including Giant Chinese Lilies and rare late flowering azaleas, all set amongst manicured lawns. You can join the daily walks at 1.30 pm to discover more about Dunham’s history and wildlife.

Dog Walk Trail

•Difficulty: Easy.

•Time: 2 hours.

•Distance: 3.7 km.

Enjoy some fantastic walks with your four-legged friend on the circular dog-friendly walk around Dunham Massey park; there are over 300 acres of beautiful ancient parkland to explore. Dogs are welcomed to Dunham on a short lead in the deer park and gardens – but only after noon. If you’d prefer to get the full experience on offer at Dunham Massey and take your dog off lead, you can head to the North Park which provides beautiful views for humans and excellent walks for puppies. 

Ancient Tree Walk & Wild Trail

•Difficulty: Expert.

•Time: 1 hour.

•Distance: 5 miles maximum.

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This walk is mainly on gentle gradients but includes steps, stiles, unsurfaced paths or longer distances; walking boots and waterproof clothing may be useful. To access the Ancient Tree Trail from the Clock Tower, walk down the grass path towards the service road, turning left when you reach the service road itself.

Dunham Massey is regarded as one of the best sites for the variety of its veteran trees. These types of trees are very important for the habitats they provide for animals, insects and fungi. 

Although the parkland we see has been designed, many of the ancient elements were incorporated into the design, creating layers of history going back a thousand years. You’ll see many trees with lots of dead branches and hollow trunks. These trees are going through a natural process. It is said that oaks grow for three hundred years, rest for three hundred years and slowly die for another three hundred years. The decay of heartwood in old trees is now thought to be beneficial for the tree. Fungi decay the wood allowing the tree to reabsorb nutrients which have been stored there for hundreds of years.

Additional Walks: Continue under the Clock Tower, turning right to the car park. In the fenced area adjacent to the Stallion Pound is one of the oldest oak trees on the estate, at around 500 years old it predates the formal planting of the parkland.

For more places to visit, read more of Trust Flora

For more information, check out Dunham Massey via the National Trust website.

About the author / 

Flora Jackson

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