I think you would struggle to find someone who lives in the Stoke on Trent area who hasn’t visited Trentham Gardens at some point in their lives. It is a place that has transformed in the last 15 years into a visitor attraction encompassing a lake, formal gardens, garden centre and shopping village.
My husband’s family talk about the days when there was an open air swimming pool there and travelling on the miniature railway to get to the pool. Halcyon days when the gardens were packed with families enjoying an escape from their every day lives. The swimming pool was built in 1935 and at the height of its popularity in the 1960s there was seating around it for 1000 people. Sadly the pool closed in 1974 and went into a state of disrepair in the 1980s before being demolished in 1986.
Others remember Teddy’s nightclub at the gardens and it being a location for many concerts and musical events hosting some big names in the 1970s.
My own Trentham Gardens memories begin in 2005, the year that my eldest daughter was born. St Mowden Properties bought the estate in 1996 and the transformation into the place it is today began in 2003/4. Back in 2005 it was still free to walk around the lake and I along with many other pram pushing mums and dog walkers would spend many a morning walking around the lake hoping that my baby girl would have a sleep whilst I got some exercise and had a chance to talk to other mums. It became a regular meeting place for me and the mum friends I had made at baby groups. We would often have a walk and a coffee afterwards. It really was a lovely place to get together and even better that it was free! I remember there being quite an uproar and very disgruntled letters being written to the local newspaper when the decision was made that a fee of £5 was going to be charged for the lakeside walk. It was the cause of lots of discussions and I think as a group of mums we all decided to boycott the gardens for a while but it wasn’t long before many of us were queuing up to buy our annual passes with our Tesco clubcard points! (in the days before Aldi when I used to earn clubcard points).
As our family grew we made good use of the passes and watched as the gardens transformed year on year with more and more features restored and new attractions added such as the play area, barefoot walk , maze and sandpits. Of course the sculptured fairies to spot were a big hit!
When my eldest daughter started school I met and made friends with a wonderful like minded mum who also had passes for Trentham Gardens. As soon as the weather was good enough and the gardens stayed open later in the evenings we would head straight from school pick up on a Friday afternoon. We would walk around the lake without the children even realising they were doing some exercise and then end up at the play area where they could enjoy themselves whilst Kate and I had a good catch up over a coffee from the cafe. We would often take a picnic so that there was no rush to get home and it was so quiet the girls would more often than not have the play park to themselves. It was such a great way to start the weekend and those times are now some of my happiest memories from my eldest girls’ primary school days. I also have lovely memories of taking my youngest daughter when the older ones were at school and she would spend hours in the sandpit or riding around on the mini tractors.
At one point a couple of years ago we decided that we felt that we had exhausted our use of the gardens and decided not to renew our passes so I had not visited for some time when I was invited to the unveiling of the ‘Taking Flight’ art installation. I was keen to see what I had been missing at the gardens but was also going with some trepidation as heartbreakingly my friend Kate had passed away in January a year after her cancer diagnosis. Trentham had very much been ‘our place’ and was filled with memories of wonderful times spent with her not only the visits with the children and our coffee catch ups but also her fabulous 40th birthday party that was held in the gardens. That night was magical for her to have the place exclusively for her family and friends to celebrate.
Kate would have thought the butterflies were incredible just as I did and I am sure she would have been one of the first in the queue to purchase one of them not only because they are raising money for such a great cause but also just because she loved that sort of thing for her garden. I miss my beautiful friend terribly but being at the gardens that day brought back some wonderful memories. I am going to go along this week and get myself an annual pass, initially I am going to just do this for myself rather than for the whole family. I think I will use the gardens in a different way than I have used them before – as a time for reflection and also to enjoy the flowers and plants rather than simply thinking of entertaining the children. I think this is why Trentham Gardens are so loved by not just us locals but those who come from far and wide to visit. There is some thing for everyone and we can all take something different from a visit. I’m just hoping that summer makes an appearance soon so that I can make the most of that pass!
‘Taking Flight’ is a new art installation at Trentham Gardens. A stunning piece of work made up of 5,000 ceramic butterflies. It has been put together to raise for The Donna Louise Hospice for children and young people. This is an incredible local hospice providing invaluable support to families with sick children. Each individual ceramic butterfly has been made locally by Johnson Tiles and Wade Ceramics and can be purchased with 100% of the profits going to The Donna Louise to enable the charity to fulfil their objective of continuing to help young people beyond the age of 19 years old. The butterflies can be viewed in the Italian Gardens at Trentham Gardens from the 25th May 2019 until 3rd November 2019. If you would like further information on the project or would like to purchase your own butterfly please find further information by visiting www.butterflies.org.uk