Born in Yorkshire, raised in Shropshire, travelled the world, and now living Adelaide. Love travel, ancient history, horses, cello playing, the unusual and obscure, and pottering in my own back yard. Visit my website www.wadders.co.uk
Published September 28th 2013
My dream country residence
This splendid National Trust property, situated in Atcham, a small village just outside Shrewsbury, has a little bit of something for everyone; enjoy walking through extensive grounds, kids will love the various activities and the adventure playground, you can nosey inside and see the finery of how the other half lived, or to simply meet in one of the eateries for coffee, lunch or afternoon tea.
The gated entrance is typically grand for a mansion house, and the long sweeping drive would've given your guests arriving by carriage plenty of time to be impressed by the extensive parkland before being met at the magnificent house. Now you are treated with a tantalising glimpse of the house, and instead of being dropped off at the front door, the road winds round to the car park at the back of the building complex. The entrance to the main complex is through the converted stables (56 horses could be stabled here) which surround a large courtyard. Here there is a large tea shop in the converted carriage house and at the other end, there is a great second hand book shop spread over several rooms where the grooms used to live.
There are several different entrance fees depending on what you want to see. The cheapest entrance fee is for the grounds only, and they increase depending on what else you want to see. The interior of the house is stunning and worth a visit if you enjoy regency splendour and having a nosey round boudoirs to see how ladies of a certain gentry lived. You can also explore life 'below' and see the kitchens and servants' areas.
The house was built in 1785 for the first Lord Berwick and you can learn about the family's love affairs, fortunes and misfortunes from the volunteer guides in each room. There is also a tea shop in the mansion (you can access this from the grounds), where you can enjoy food made with produce grown in the house's walled garden. Ladies (and gentlemen) may also enjoy a traditional afternoon tea in the elegant settings of 'Lady Berwick's' – this genteel experience can be had in the Outer Library on the West Colonnade.
The grounds are extensive and there are lots of walks to choose from. Attingham Park is a haven for wildlife, and it attracts a variety of species to its different habitats. The river and pools attract birds such as swans and ducks as well as being home to otters and dragonflies. Buzzards, barn owls and bats also grace the airways, and there is a huge array of flowers and trees. Plus as well as fallow deer, there are pedigree Jersey and Longhorn cattle grazing the parkland.
Much of the wildlife can be seen on the circular walk around the estate. This walk takes you past the historic listed Bee House, and you can see the old-fashioned straw skeps too. Detour slightly off the path to see the simply stunning the walled garden. I felt like I should be wearing a long dress and be carrying a parasol when we strolled through this part of the grounds. Watch out for the pigs and chickens too.
After the orchard there is the new adventure playground. Here kids will have a field day running in the massive field, exploring the tunnels and climbing on the log structures. There are also swings and table tennis tables or rounders equipment are also available to borrow. Families could easily spend a couple of hours or so here sitting in the picnic areas while the kids burn off some excess energy.
You can re-join the circular walk by following the 'Dear Park Walk' signs, and head into the woodland. This has delights of its own, and you'll intermittently see artistic structures and carvings, as well as little pools peeping through the variety of trees. An unusual rope bridge will also take you over the River Tern. At the edge of the woodland there is also the majestic Repton Oak. Thought to date from Kind Edward III reign (1327 – 1377), it is a mere 650 years old, and probably marked the boundary between Wroxeter and Atcham parishes.
Out of the woodland you can walk through the deer park (the deer here are fallow deer) and turn to the left and see how the Park was used in the war years. In WWI it was used as a training base and during WWII, an airfield was built to the east of the park.
Eventually you'll end up crossing the lovely stone bridge with a weir as you head back to the mansion, but be sure to take a look inside the ice house just after the bridge. From the outside it looks like a mound of earth, but inside there is a wheel pump and a couple of cool, damp rooms for storage in the days before refrigeration.
The vast front lawn forms a shallow natural arena and it frequently plays host to concerts and outdoor theatre productions. I've had several very enjoyable evening watching Jools Holland when he used to play here. Plus the park has even hosted camps for Venture Scout and Ranger Girl Guide groups in the past.
Themed and seasonal activities and events take place throughout the year in Attingham, including snowdrop and bluebell walks, Christmas, Spring and Harvest Fairs and a 1940s weekend in July. Generally the park is open 9am – 7pm in the summer and closes earlier in the winter. Check the website for activities, opening times of the park and house, visitor costs and while dogs are allowed in the park, please adhere to the dog policy which can also be downloaded from the website.