Three things to know about Cholmondeley Castle:
1) It’s pronounced “chum-ley.”
2) The times that you will want to visit are not the times that it is open.
3) You can’t visit the castle, but the gardens are more than enough for a day out.
We took a visit during their second open week of the season at the beginning of the current, delightful spell of spring sunshine and warmth. It’s the type of place that makes me wish I had a dog, and a car, though the trip on a motorcycle with TMM wasn’t terrible either.
Cholmondeley isn’t the sort of place I would usually visit, but I have seen this advertisement every Monday morning and Friday afternoon for ages now at the Crewe Rail Station and it seemed a pity to miss out on a daffodil spectacular, what with the flowers blooming like mad everywhere else! We had hoped to go on a Saturday, but see #2, so instead we visited on Sunday, their only weekend open day.
It is nice drive along some lovely country roads to get to the estate, with the usual long gravel drive. We passed a lake and large lawn where you can have picnics; people were flying kites too, which was lovely. Since we had the motorcycle, we were able to park on the special gravel coach parking area instead of grass (which we shared with some classic cars that TMM was much more interested in that me. One was red.). Right away we entered the Temple Water Garden, Cholmondeley’s centerpiece display.
The garden is absolutely gorgeous, I don’t think we could have picked a better time of year to go as the cherry blossoms were out and created a gorgeous framing of the path around the lake. We spent quite a bit of time here as TMM was playing with our “new-to-you” DSLR (thanks poppy!). I had a good time with my little Canon, and dogling the pensioners and their pups. Unfortunately, the sort of crowd in the gardens while we were there didn’t seem to be too friendly, so I didn’t get to say hello to the Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Shi-Tzus, Beagle or the two long-haired miniature Dachshunds. Sigh.
We had a little fun in the Rose Garden, trying to figure out the time on the sundial, but the garden itself was still in a winter planting, so very “branchy.” We traipsed across the lawn to the Duckery, which felt slightly illicit, but I couldn’t see any other path, so went for it. There were no ducks, but there was sunshine to enjoy. I also appreciate the word “duckery,” I think that class of names for housing ending in -ery is really underutilized. The sun was out in full force at this point, and it was at this point that the downside of riding around on a motorcycle manifested. In the movies, they don’t tell you that no matter how cool you look, you’ve still got to carry around 15 lbs of helmet and gear at your destination.
We made a tactical error in not bringing a picnic, so much like a hungry and tired small child, TMM appeased me by taking me to the farm animals. The Cholmondeley website advertises an aviary, and I had something in mind like the one at Harewood House. It was more like a few chicken coops in front of the stables. The rare breeds, including very hairy ginger pigs were cool to see and scratch. The paddock of Common English Llamas was a little bizarre, but perhaps the farm was just branching away from pygmy goats?
Facing a long walk back to the bike, we opted not to look at the family’s chapel or the walk up to Tower Hill, which I hope to come back for and try during the summer. We looked for, but didn’t see the Mosaic on the way up to ogle the castle, and unfortunately the daffodil meadow which had me so stoked about our visit, was not in evidence. The castle itself isn’t anything to write home about. The stone looks very clean and smooth, so I suppose there are commendations in order for the Marquess and family for keeping it in good condition and out of the hands of the National Trust.
It was a good day out. Admission wasn’t overpriced at £5, and I appreciated that they didn’t charge on top of that for parking. The tea room was busy, but still had enough seating, and we saw plenty of children and dogs, which, (together), are always the sign for me of a good place to visit.
And on the way out, I did see some daffodils.