We first heard about the Garden House in summer 2016. Situated near the Roman Lakes in Marple, it was gaining popularity via social media and word of mouth. We visited for the first time in September 2016 and since then, we have had lots of happy times there. It is a great place for small children to roam freely, and the owners consistently develop and grow the offering so there’s always something new to explore.
As I’ve mentioned before, our children are happiest when they have lots of space to explore without too much intervention from us, and the Garden House is perfect for this. Here are some of our favourite things about the Garden House.
Meeting the animals
Over the past two years, the owners of the Garden House have added more animals, and there have even been lots of babies born! There is a small animals section with rabbits and guinea pigs. There are farm animals like pigs and ponies, and there are some unexpected creatures like alpacas and goats. The latter sometimes roam around the adventure play area, causing lots of excitement among the small children!
Our children love meeting the animals and exploring what’s new. On our most recent visit, we saw some tiny piglets that Aurora and I were both enamoured with. It’s great to talk with the kids about how the animals live, what they eat, and how they might spend their days.
The owners have recently developed part of the land at the Garden House and turned it into an adventure play area, complete with zip line (not open during our visits this summer). It’s rustic, constructed from natural materials, and can be muddy on wet days – and our children love it! There are ‘stepping stones’ made from logs, a giant climbing frame, and ‘bridges’. I really like this area, because it reminds me of the amazing parks we’ve found during our travels in Europe.
Aurora could spend hours on the swing in the adventure play area, she’s a big swing aficionado. It’s a beautiful setting with views of the river and surrounded by tall trees. Our kids like to pause at the butterfly house to see whether there are any new cocoons. There’s also a collection of large plastic vehicles that the children can race down the hill – look our for muddy puddles at the bottom!
Some of my favourite childhood memories involve woodland walks with my parents in Northumberland and County Durham. We’ve been on some lovely walks with our three, although they aren’t fans of the actual walking part so we usually choose short trails (I hope this changes as they get older). The riverside walk at the Garden House is perfect: it takes around 10 minutes but feels secluded and like you’re in the middle of a forest. You can even paddle in the river if you’re brave enough (or splash in wellies and waterproofs).
The main play area is expansive and my children really enjoy exploring the swings, climbing frames, slides, and tunnels. You can see most of the equipment from the various seating areas, which means I actually have the chance to sit down while they play! There’s a covered area with a sandpit and picnic tables and a chicken pen alongside the play area. The equipment seems well-maintained and is recommended for children aged six and under. Look out for the ‘well’ – our kids love making a wish here.
For me, the best thing about the Garden House is its donation-based entry. This means that even when taking our three children, we don’t have to spend a huge amount on a day out, which is very unusual! There is a suggested donation of £2 per person, with donation buckets around the property. You can spend as much or as little as you’d like: we often take a picnic but there are two hatches serving sandwiches, snacks, and ice creams.