Yesterday, Tom and I visited Lyme Park. We don’t have a car, and there aren’t many National Trust properties that you can get to easily on public transport, but luckily, Lyme is only about an hour away on the train (with one or two changes) and is close to the train station at Disley.
It is definitely walkable, but I’m not sure if we’d walk to whole way to the house and gardens again. We found the entrance fairly easily, but we didn’t anticipate the endless journey from the entrance to Lyme hall itself. The sign at the admissions hut said it was a mile, but it was for sure longer… the sign lied. I can’t knock Lyme though, as they do actually provide a shuttle bus service for those on foot. Tom persuaded me to walk as he didn’t want to wait around the bus, and I didn’t think a one mile walk sounded too bad at all, so we went for it.
The road snaked through the impressive landscape (very impressive for what is technically a front garden!). Much of it resembled the hills and moors of Lancashire that I’ve grown accustom to since living in Bolton, but there were clusters of trees here and there. We didn’t get a glimpse of Lyme Hall for what felt like hours. It was probably only fifteen or twenty minutes, but in the midday sun and when we had no real idea how long the walk was going to take us, we were more than ready to reach our destination.
If I had to give the National Trust one piece of criticism, I would say that they don’t cater enough for visitors who come on foot. (This is probably the most middle class thing I’ve ever written!) Yes, there was the shuttle bus, but for those crazy people like us who do decided to walk all the way up to the house and gardens, there were no signs other than at the admissions hut, and there wasn’t a pavement.
On the plus side (hope I haven’t sounded like a negative Nancy!), the walk was worth it, as the gardens were beautiful. Lots of people were sunbathing by the lake and making the most of the sunshine. In more secluded, shady corners, families had set up camp for the day and were enjoying games of Frisbee and picnic. If we weren’t going for a drink in Manchester on our way home, I probably would have brought a picnic blanket and my book and got comfy for a couple of hours.
Some areas of the garden reminded Tom and me of a magical fantasy setting. A crystal clear stream ran over and through rocks and was shaded by tall, umbrella type plants that almost looked prehistoric. The scene was softened by the occasional sprinkling of delicate, bright flowers… it was like an enchanted wood. I enjoy exploring these higgledy-piggledy spots of National Trust gardens more than the manicured, formal areas. There are beautiful too of course, but the rambling paths are, to me, more romantic. Plus, they were much better for games of hide and seek when I was a child. (Although I wouldn’t turn down a game of hide and seek at a National Trust place as a twenty two year old… who am I kidding?)
Before we left, Tom and I did get to play a game – giant Jenga was set up on a little patch of grass next to the main house. Of course, we had to have a go. I also managed to sneak in a mooch around the gift shop, as you simply can not visit a National Trust property without having a look at the shop… it’s the rules. After that, we went off to try and find the shuttle bus.
The walk back down to the entrance would probably have been easier than the walk up, seeing as we knew the distance this time and the return journey was gently downhill, but I’m very glad we decided to make use of the free lift… Not only did I get my first ever ride in a golf buggy, but the driver of the mini bus (which took us all the way back to admissions, the golf buggy only gave us a short lift) pointed out a large group of deer, hiding from the sun beneath a copse of trees. I don’t think we would have noticed them if he hadn’t said anything… they were like ghosts – so still and quiet, only their antlers visible against the blue sky.
(Also, we kind of felt like VIPs being driven around for free.)
If you get the chance, go to Lyme and enjoy the gorgeous gardens this summer… but if you’re on foot, make use of the shuttle bus!