When the devoutly Catholic Norris family built this magnificent Tudor timber-framed manor house over 400 years ago, they would never have imagined groups of children buying ice creams from a van in their garden, and running along the coastal path to watch aeroplanes land at John Lennon Airport next door. It’s certainly a strange contrast!
It was a blazing hot day when we visited with friends, so we wanted to make the most of being outside. The kids, ranging in age from three to ten, spent the first hour tearing between the playground and the adjacent maze – created in 2011 by one of the world’s leading maze designers. Meanwhile, mums and dads set up camp on blankets between the two, and were occasionally disturbed by rosy-faced children demanding a drink or snack.
At lunch-time we headed for a little bit of shade, armed with our picnic, but there’s a café on site if you’ve come unprepared.
With suncream reapplied, we ambled along the cool coastal path lined with blackberry bushes, perfect on a late summer’s day. From here we looked on at a few Boeings coming in to land, and beyond to the glistening panoramic views of the River Mersey and North Wales. The track circled us back through woods, past a large pond, to the foot of a splendid lawn in front of the house. With plenty of space, and lots of sporty kids, we took it upon ourselves to have a ball-throwing competition. Embarrassingly, only a three-year-old threw a shorter distance than me!
We ventured into the house, which proved to be a hit! Armed with clipboards and pencils we hunted for an eavesdropper and spy holes, played on the billiard table, admired the William Morris wallpaper, dressed up as maids, and listened in raptures to tales of ghosts and priest holes from the amazing jovial and informative staff.
With time marching on we just had time to stroll through the grounds where we found borders pulsating with colour, scent and bees; a kitchen garden; an orchard and a fragrant rose garden.
Speke Hall is a really beautiful place to visit, to have fun wandering back through the ages.Check website for up-to-date information on seasonal dates, opening times and prices. Speke Hall, Speke, Liverpool L24 1XD Tel: 0151 427 7231 nationaltrust.org.uk