15 December 2014

Cheshire walks: Tatton Park

Fancy a walk? Okay, get your boots on and rug up warm. It's only 2 degrees Celsius outside so you'll need a couple of jumpers and a cosy jacket, a warm woolly scarf and hat, and don't forget your gloves. Ready? Then, let's go ...

We're going for a stroll through Tatton Park, on the edge of the charming little town of Knutsford. There are 1000 acres of parkland for Joe public to enjoy so we won't see everything but I can promise you lots of beautiful old trees, some large expanses of water, rolling farmland and almost certainly a variety of wildlife.

You can see we've had a heavy frost overnight – I reckon we hit minus 2. No snow yet, but Jack Frost still paints a pretty picture. I particularly like the grasses when they're coated in ice like this.

It's crunchy underfoot but that just makes it easier to walk over the muddiness caused by all that rain last week. Watch you don't slide on the icy patches though. And if you're still a kid at heart like me, no doubt you'll want to crack some of the sheets of ice on the puddles.

You can see we're not the only ones out enjoying the bracing air and clear, crisp morning. With Tatton Park being so close to the town centre, it's a popular place for the more serious power walkers and joggers, as well as those just wanting a gentle stroll or taking their dogs for a walk.

You can see how cold it must have been in the wee hours – one end of Tatton Mere has iced over. It would be amazing to see the whole lake frozen over and to have people skating on it, though I’m not sure that ever happens  -- it’s such a big expanse of water – and it wouldn’t be so good for the birds that live on it. Whenever I’ve visited, there have always been lots of ducks and coots about.

Even Joe Crow has been doing a spot of fishing in the lake today and either he caught himself a juicy fish or, more likely, he pinched it from someone else.

Oh look, deer! Tatton Park has been a deer park since 1290 and large herds of red and fallow deer roam the wide open spaces with us walkers. You can usually get quite close to them, though there are certain times of year when it’s best to stay well away – when the stags are roaring and when the fawns are very young. These are red deer and I’m sure we’ll see some fallow deer as we stroll on.

Yes, there are the fallow deer. You can see their spots quite easily and they look a little smaller than the red deer though I’m certainly no expert.

Don't you just love to see the resident swans gliding so elegantly on the mere. There were cygnets here in the summer too – I’m not sure if they’re still about. And aren’t the reeds looking lovely? They’re such a rich amber brown at this time of year.

If you look over the fields to your left, you can see the magnificent mansion. We won’t visit today but if you remember, I visited the house when I was here in the summer. It’s simply splendid inside so you really should go for a wander around.

Now, there's some birdlife I'm not familiar with. They're the size of geese but those markings are certainly unusual. Do you know them?

[When I got home I looked them up. These are Egyptian Geese, an introduced wildfowl species that escaped its domesticity and is now breeding successfully in the wild. I'm not sure if these are resident at Tatton Park or are just visiting for the winter.]

There are some more deer on the hilltop. You can see how close walkers can get to them.

And look over there at the huge swan on the bank of the mere. You don't realise what big birds they are until they're out of the water like that.

Well, it's beginning to cloud up and I've worked up an appetite from all this walking. Let's head back to Knutsford and have some lunch in one of the good range of cafes and restaurants they have in town. I hope you've enjoyed your stroll. I know I have! And thanks for your company. We must do this again soon.