Green space in the urban jungle can be hard to find – so we’ve rounded up some of our favourite secret gardens, city parks and patches of outdoor space in Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield and beyond. Go green: read our parks posts below.
Here are our picks
Lyme Park, Disley, Stockport, Cheshire, SK12 2NR - Visit now
Lyme Park is a grand country house, gardens and estate close to Stockport – and something of a National Trust beauty. The Grade I-listed house dates back (in parts) to the 16th century, the formal gardens offer a pleasant meander, while the sprawling grounds include a 15-acre deer park and an odd tower-on-the-hill (called the Cage; it was once a hunting lodge but has also served as a prison). We recommend the courtyard cafe and, if you have kids, the excellent Crow Wood adventure playground. Two cafes and two shops round out the offer.
Walkden Gardens, Derbyshire Road, Sale, Greater Manchester, M33 3EL - Visit now
Set apart from the Manchester suburb of Sale’s more obvious distractions is a garden whose very unexpectedness is part of its charm. Known locally as The Secret Garden, Walkden Gardens echoes its counterparts in children’s novels: happened upon for the first time, it can feel at once too extensive and too unreal to be hidden by nondescript suburban streets. Fittingly, the gardens are a gift. Harry Walkden, a noted hybridist of golden rod and orchids, left them as a bequest to Sale Borough Council, with the stipulation that they be put to use for the public good. The current – entirely voluntary – Friends of Walkden Gardens and their predecessors have honoured this stipulation in ground and vision.
Heaton Park, Middleton Road, Higher Blackley, Manchester, Greater Manchester, M25 2SW - Visit now
Heaton Park’s Temple – a small circular structure with a breast-esque dome and Tuscan columns, designed in 1800 – was built on the highest point in Manchester. Scale the hill it sits on and you can see (and be seen) for quite a distance. It gives a unique view of the green fells that surround the city, as well as being an iconic spot: Heaton’s Temple was featured in none other than the 1981 TV series, Brideshead Revisited.
Sheffield Botanical Gardens, Clarkehouse Road, Sheffield, Yorkshire, S10 2LN - Visit now
Once an escape from the industrial smog of the city, Sheffield Botanical Gardens now offer a quiet retreat from the chaos of everyday life. Find a secluded spot to read a book, take a group of friends for a picnic – however you choose to visit, the Gardens’ 19 acres offer plenty of space to unwind. There’s also a 90-metre-long glass roofed pavilion, humid with exotic plants, and a lesser-spotted bear pit tucked away in one corner. Two live bears used to live here – now, a lone bronze statue stands in their stead; shinier, more moral and less likely to bite.
Dunham Massey, Altrincham, Greater Manchester, WA14 4SJ - Visit now
For a slice of the country that’s close to home. The National Trust’s most popular property, Dunham Massey, is just a few miles outside Altrincham, set in beautiful parkland, and close to favourite pub The Swan with Two Nicks.