‘And above all watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you, because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.
Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.’ The Minions, Roald Dahl.
Tatton Park may not be the most unlikely of places as it’s a beautiful place for a day out, but there’s definitely lots of secrets hidden around the house and grounds this summer as part of its Roald Dahl-themed events programme to celebrate the author’s centenary year.
We spent a day there last week and there was so much to see and do that a day just wasn’t long enough – we’re definitely going back to check out the things we missed. Sadly, the day we chose to go it poured down with rain (I was over-optimistic with the weather forecast) so most of the activities in the gardens were off-limits.
Still, we spent a lot of time in the mansion house, the farm and the play area despite the weather and had a really good day. As Sam reminded me, you don’t need to have sunshine to have a good time! Kids don’t really mind what the weather’s like anyway, do they?
I was asked to be an ambassador for the Roald Dahl Tremendous Adventures installation and was only too happy to say yes. We all love his books and Sam and I are working through all the titles at the moment so it was perfect timing for us. Florence is still too young to know the stories but loved seeing all the characters and exploring alongside us.
We started down at the farm, where the Fantastic Mr Fox things are hiding.
‘Boggis, Bunce and Bean, one fat, one short, one lean. Those horrible crooks so different in looks are nonetheless equally mean.’
The homes of the three farmers are recreated in the barns around the farm, our favourite being that of Boggis, who was of course sat at his kitchen table tucking into his dinner. You could walk into his house and have a look round, even peeking in at his washing hanging on a line in the front room.
We also loved the home of Farmer Bean, the one who brews his own strong cider which can be seen stacked on shelves inside.
As well as sneaking into their houses, we joined in with a story time session in a hut central to the farm. There was a fabulous storyteller all dressed up like a farmer with fox accessories, and she really captivated the children as she told a tale of animals being stuck in the mud.
Using puppets to bring the stories alive, each of the children were given one each to hold so they all had a part to play in the story. There were only five little ones in our session, making it a really engaging and intimate experience.
While at the farm, we had the chance to see lots of the big pigs and cute little piglets, and we even held some chicks in the hatchery.
Walking up to the mansion, we passed a model of the great glass elevator, walked under a sign for Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, and saw a huge cut out of the BFG. We stopped in the courtyard for an ice lolly and a cup of tea (there was a tiny break in the rain) before going to the house for the Matilda installation.
Taking a toddler into a stately home may not be the easiest thing to do, as I found when Flo snuck under the red rope and made herself comfortable on a chaise longue! It’s quite something walking through the house though, and most rooms have something from a Roald Dahl story in to find. We liked seeing the chocolate cake eaten by Augustus Gloop and trying on some blonde wigs with long plaits that made us look just like Matilda’s Amanda Thripp. Sam looked the best in these!
We spent some time at the top of the house, where there were desks set out with different activities on like unscrambling character name anagrams and doing sums, there was a dressing up box and mirror, and even a tall thin chokey cupboard to go in. Luckily, Miss Trunchball wasn’t around to really lock us in!
Next time we visit we will definitely be spending our time outdoors, as I’ve heard good things about Danny the Champion of the World in the Gardens and The Enormous Crocodile in the Parkland.
There is also the How to Spot a Witch Manual, where visitors can step inside an interactive ‘book’ and explore objects and artworks on the witch-spotting theme.
If you’re lucky enough to make it to the RHS Flower Show this year, watch out for the Tatton Park show garden which is BFG-themed.
My friend Andy is also exhibiting for the NSPCC so go and check out his space too!
The Roald Dahl Tremendous Adventures installation is on all summer but see the Tatton Park website for the exact dates of each section.