I don’t know if Trentham Gardens has a slogan, but it should, and that slogan should be, “Keep ON the grass”. These gorgeous extensive gardens in Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire fairly thrum with life from the visitors enjoying the grounds. You don’t simply wander round admiring the plants — although I always find this restorative and relaxing.
But here you find children tearing around in high spirits, rambunctiously kicking footballs, clambering up the slide and around the Adventure Playground. Couples and families eat at the cafe overlooking the mile-long, Capability Brown-designed lake. You can take out rowboats or enjoy an outing on the electric 42-seat catamaran or a ride on the miniature train. You can seek out all the fairies that are dotted around.
Alan Titchmarsh has called it “one of UK’s must-see gardens” and we have to agree. The formal Italian gardens set in English parkland have won a host of awards. The revival of the Italian Gardens was led by multi-Chelsea gold-medal winner Tom Stuart-Smith (“I worship him,” says my sister-in-law, a head gardener on an English estate). It can get busy and bustling, yet still not feel overrun.
From pleasure park to derelict estate and back
The Gardens are part of the Trentham Estate, which dates back to 1068 when it was recorded in the Domesday Book. It was owned for more than 400 years until 1979 by the Dukes of Sunderland and was a successful pleasure park and gardens. In the 1970s and ’80s it fell into decline, but in 2003 St. Modwen Properties PLC bought it in derelict condition and began regenation of the entire estate, including a Bicester Village-style shopping and dining area just outside the garden entrance.
What kids will love about Trentham Gardens
There are fascinating small show gardens — a potager, a sound garden, an allotment garden, a Jurassic garden full of plants that have been around for millions of year, and more. We got lost in the Maze even though, at Easter, there was no foliage on the branches. The two 12-year-olds in attendance were fascinated by the Barefoot Walk, where you actually remove your shoes and experience the texture of mud, bark, water, grass and pebbles. (Prepare to get messy — we saw kids with mud up to the knees afterward, rinsing off the provided foot showers.)
And through it all, the attitude pervades that this is a park that should be enjoyed in a dynamic, even occasionally boisterous way. Couples touch heads, posing for romantic selfies. A girl demonstrates cartwheels to her rapt brother. Dogs (yes, they are welcome) scamper. Rather than the kids needling you about when it’s time for ice cream, they’ll be making those “awwww” sounds when you tell them it’s time to go home.
Our top 5 things to do in the gardens:
- Get lost in the Maze, where you can really get lost
- Get your feet muddy on the Barefoot Walk (Easter-October)
- Spot the fairy sculptures, dotted around the garden
- Admire the Italian Garden
- Race around the Adventure Playground (especially great for younger kids)
Do several activities at a discounted price
Enjoy Staffordshire’s Family Fun Packages provide up to 62% discounts on hotels and attractions, including Trentham Gardens, Trentham Monkey Forest, the Snowdome and more. From £160 a family of four can take part in any 3 of 10 adventure activities and get overnight accommodation in a family room plus breakfast at a choice of family-friendly hotels and inns. These breaks are valid for children under the age of 12 years old. Find out more about Enjoy Staffordshire’s Family Fun Packages here.
Stone Road, Trentham
Stoke-on-Trent ST4 8AX
Jenography received complimentary tickets to visit Trentham Gardens via a Family Fun Package. All opinions are my own.