Cheshire Wandering (3) Quarry Bank

After the girls had, two days ago, overdosed on retail therapy, and I had walked my pins to stumps exploring the River Weaver, it was time to absorb some more Cheshire history. And so off we set, into previously uncharted territory. Our destination, Quarry Bank Mill.

Quarry Bank Mill (Styal Mill)

Quarry Bank Mill (also known as Styal Mill) in Styal, Cheshire, is apparently, one of the best preserved textile mills of the Industrial Revolution. Built in 1784, it is now a museum of the cotton industry. The mill was established by Samuel Greg and was notable for the innovative approach to labour relations. This was largely as a result of the work of Greg’s wife, Hannah Lightbody.

On entry to the mill you are guided through the wool/cotton making process, entering on the ground floor. The various informational boards lead you, initially, up to the top floor. This is probably a good thing as by the end of the tour, on weary legs, you exit at ground level, not far from the cafe. Thankfully there is a lift to get you to the top.

As one explores there are plenty of information boards which enable you to understand the environmental and the social changes that were happening at the time. Lots of examples of the typical “contracts of employment” and apprentice indentures. The mill employed men, women and children. Men, then as now, were typically paid more than women doing the same jobs. Nothing changes.

Perhaps, one of the most significant events of the time was Peterloo …..

The Peterloo Massacre took place at St Peter’s Field, Manchester, England, on 16 August 1819, when cavalry charged into a crowd of 60,000–80,000 who had gathered to demand the reform of parliamentary representation.

The end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 had resulted in periods of famine and chronic unemployment, exacerbated by the introduction of the first of the Corn Laws. By the beginning of 1819, the pressure generated by poor economic conditions, coupled with the relative lack of suffrage in Northern England, had enhanced the appeal of political radicalism. In response, the Manchester Patriotic Union, a group agitating for parliamentary reform, organised a demonstration to be addressed by the well-known radical orator Henry Hunt.

Shortly after the meeting began, local magistrates called on the Manchester and Salford Yeomanry to arrest Hunt and several others on the hustings with him. The Yeomanry charged into the crowd, knocking down a woman and killing a child, and finally apprehending Hunt. The 15th Hussars were then summoned by the magistrate, Mr Hulton, to disperse the crowd. They charged with sabres drawn, and in the ensuing confusion, 18 people were killed and 400–700 were injured. The massacre was given the name Peterloo in an ironic comparison to the Battle of Waterloo, which had taken place four years earlier.

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Cheshire Wandering (2) Acton Bridge and Dutton Locks

After the epic tour of Tatton Park, the girls decided that they needed some retail therapy. As this is definitely not my thing, I dropped them off at the Cheshire Oaks retail park and took off to explore a little.

My original plan was to visit the canal and quayside at Preston Brook. Unfortunately, there didn’t appear to be anywhere for me to park, legally. So, I had to wander a little further afield.

Which is how I found myself visiting Acton Bridge.

Acton Bridge

Acton Bridge, Cheshire

The Acton Swing Bridge spans the River Weaver in the village of Acton Bridge in north Cheshire, England. First operated in 1933, it carries the A49 trunk road.

From the Acton Swing Bridge I decided to walk along the river to Dutton Locks, a distance of about 1.3 miles. According to Google it would take approximately 25 minutes. Of course that doesn’t allow for someone carrying a camera and prone to many stops to capture that essential shot. Or to listen to the birds singing. And there were a lot of birds singing.

After a very enjoyable stroll I reached the area of the locks.

Dutton Locks

A pair of locks, dating from around 1874. Built for the Weaver Navigation Co. The locks are large enough to take sea going ships and have semaphore signals to control entry.

Close to the locks is a sunken boat, the ‘Chica’. Apparently, in its prime, it used to be a hotel boat.

After a pleasant chat with a representative of the Canal and River Trust it was time to head back to my car and go to pick up the girls. As I hadn’t taken any water with me I was gagging for a drink. So I picked them up and we headed home for, in my opinion, a well earned cup of tea.

Cheshire Wandering (1) Tatton Park

Last week my wife and I took a trip up to the Wirral, to visit the outlaws. My wifes sister, our niece and her daughter. As we always do on such visits, we like to do the touristy thing and go on days out, to visit some stately pile, gardens or perhaps country views.

On this occasion, our first trip out, was to Tatton Park.

The Mansion at Tatton Park

Tatton Park is an historic estate in Cheshire, England, north of the town of Knutsford. It contains a mansion – Tatton Hall, a medieval manor house – Tatton Old Hall, Tatton Park Gardens, a farm and a deer park of some 2,000 acres.

On our arrival we came across these vehicles. Apparently there was to be a fair in the park over the weekend. These were just some of the support trucks for the various fairground rides.

These are the heavy haulers that I used to see on the roads when I was a kid.

There is a lot of ground to cover at Tatton Park. Before exploring we popped into The Stables for a bite to eat. The weather, being kind, allowed us to eat al fresco. Although that was a dubious honour as we were kept under constant observation by the resident Jackdaws.

These guys were not shy. It wasn’t quite like a scene from Hitchcocks “The Birds” but they certainly had plans for us, or rather our food. It wasn’t long before one of our observers made a high speed run and stole a chip from our plate whilst we were still eating. I noticed that they were selective too. They had no interest in the salad stuff left on an adjacent table. They did inspect it, but then went back to trying to intimidate us into leaving our sausage and chips.

Suitably fuelled up we headed out into the grounds, looking for the Japanese and Italian gardens. En-route we passed through this tranquil lawned area.

Still en-route, the signs lead us down to the Golden Brook Pits area. Tranquil waters surrounded by Rhodedendrons and Azaleas.

Eventually we did reach the Japanese Garden, very peaceful and beautiful…

Strolling round the grounds is very relaxing and ones senses are overwhelmed with the sights, scents and the sounds of bird song that greet you round every turn.

But there is more to Tatton than just the great outdoors. Heading back up to the mansion we wander into the Orangery, Fernery and the Victorian Glasshouses. Here there are actually Oranges, Lemons, various varieties of Grapes and Strawberries ready for picking.

From these fabulous structures we headed over to the Italian Gardens. To be honest we found them to be a little disappointing. Maybe it was the wrong season or, maybe, the scale seemed out of keeping with the rest of the grounds.

As is typical of our wanderings, we were too late to enter the mansion. This ensures that we will have to return to complete our tour. If you are ever in the vicinity I would recommend that you spare the time to visit. Having said that, we spent nearly five hours here and still failed to see it all.

To finish off our visit, we had a cream tea in the Gardeners Cottage Tea Rooms.

Lovely !!!

Sculpture Park Pleasure

Last Saturday we spent a fabulous few hours, with friends, exploring this sculpture park at Churt in Surrey.

The park comprises some 650 modern and contemporary sculptures displayed throughout ten acres of arboretum and water gardens. To do it justice you really need to have 360 degree vision as you explore the various trails. Not only that, but you also have to remember to look up into the trees as the owners of the park have done a marvelous job, secreting many of the exhibits above ones head or within the shrubs and bushes.

The following photos reflect just a subset of the exhibits on view. Where possible, I have added the name of the piece and that of its creator.


As you can see there is a huge variety of styles. Many of the sculptures are totally surreal and many are just beautiful. All provoke thought and some, even with the aid of the guide book, are just plain confusing. Sometimes you need to look behind an exhibit to understand what is going on. They are not always what they seem ….

The following is my own particular favourite …… beautiful.

Paraiso (Paradise) by Rafael Miranda San Juan

Paraiso (Paradise)

Throughout the park there was a recurring humorous theme …… these guys kept popping up, putting a smile on our faces even when theirs were looking a little manic.

And finally, whatever else is said about this park, it’s certainly larger than life.

Oh, and remember, many of these pieces are available to buy…… get your wallets out.

BBC News: Shamima Begum: IS bride set to be granted legal aid

BBC News – Shamima Begum: IS bride set to be granted legal aid

Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

The moment Miss Begum chose the terrorist life, she gave up her rights to any legal help from this country.

She chose to support a group of people who took away the rights of hundreds and thousands of innocent people.

Why should we grant her any rights ?

Is Soldier F getting legal aid ?

Samaria Gorge & Other Stuff

I have recently been sorting through some old photos and, as a result, reliving some past vacations. I thought I should share with you, an insight into our visit to the island of Crete and, in particular, the Samaria Gorge.


Samaria Gorge


So, a few years ago, my wife Gerry was made redundant. We decided to splurge her redundancy money on a holiday and settled on a trip to Crete. Our chosen resort was Malia. It seems Malia has (had?) a bit of a reputation. To be fair, our travel rep did warn us that Malia could be noisy. She also said that due to us going outside of the full holiday season it shouldn’t be too bad.

Indeed, the year after our visit, there was a television documentary about the place. Thankfully our planned trip was just out of season, so we missed the drunken teenage bodies in the gutters and flower beds.

In fact the town was relatively quiet. It is not really our kind of place, what with the main street containing mainly bars and clubs. The restaurants offering “traditional English breakfast”, “traditional Sunday Roast”, well, you get the picture. Finding traditional local cuisine isn’t that difficult if you want to avoid the “Brits Abroad” fare.

Samaria Gorge

Probably the place that left the lasting impression on us was the Samaria Gorge. Not necessarily for the right reasons.

From Wikipedia …….

The Samariá Gorge (Greek: Φαράγγι Σαμαριάς or just Φάραγγας) is a National Park of Greece since 1962 on the island of Crete – a major tourist attraction of the island – and a World’s Biosphere Reserve.

The gorge is in southwest Crete in the regional unit of Chania. It was created by a small river running between the White Mountains (Lefká Óri) and Mt. Volakias. There are a number of other gorges in the White Mountains. While some say that the gorge is 18 km long, this distance refers to the distance between the settlement of Omalos on the northern side of the plateau and the village of Agia Roumeli. In fact, the gorge is 16 km long, starting at an altitude of 1,250 m at the northern entrance, and ending at the shores of the Libyan Sea in Agia Roumeli. The walk through Samaria National Park is 13 km long, but one has to walk another three kilometers to Agia Roumeli from the park exit, making the hike 16 km long. The most famous part of the gorge is the stretch known as the Gates (or, albeit incorrectly, as “Iron Gates”), where the sides of the gorge close in to a width of only four meters and soar up to a height of almost 300 meters (980 feet).

So, we paid our dues and signed up for the trip…

Based, as we were, at Malia our journey started at around 05:00 in the morning. Bleary eyed, in the darkness, we clambered aboard the coach. Part way along our route we stopped to grab breakfast at a roadside cafe. As dawn was breaking, the bus appeared to be starting to list to one side and it wasn’t long before we pulled into a lay-by. The driver crawled under the coach and back out again with much scratching of his head. It soon became apparent that our coach wasn’t going any further. Well, not soon anyway.


Broken Down

After a period of time we were informed that we were to join other coaches that were en route to the Samaria Gorge. What we weren’t informed was that we would be standing, or “strap-hanging” as our designated coaches wound their way up the mountain sides. Gerry and I found ourselves on a coach full of German tourists. They were friendly enough but due to language difficulties the conversation was understandably stilted.

Part way up to the Omalos Plateau, we were ejected from our coaches, at the village of Fournes.


Waiting at Fournes

Here we sat, opposite a large Greek-Orthodox church.


Greek-Orthadox Church – Fournes

We were informed that the coach company had been in touch by radio, that a new coach was on its way and would be picking us up, to continue our journey to the top of the gorge.

I think in all we were waiting at the roadside for between forty-five minutes and an hour. The clocks on the church show different times. On the left it says about 09:25 (or 21:25) while the one on the right shows 05:40 (or 17:40). What I do recall is that a coach did arrive and it carried us up to the top of the gorge. We arrived at around 11:00.

The time is important. At the time we hadn’t appreciated the significance. Remember, we set out from Malia around 05:00 and had only had a roadside snack.

What you don’t know is that this trip was sold to us as a gentle days walk. Descend into the gorge. Walk down through the gorge. Arrive at the lower end where we could go for a swim, laze on the beach and have a relaxing meal in a tavern. All this before enjoying the ferry ride along the coast to Chora Sfakion, where we would board our coach for the return journey back to Malia.

The walk takes between five and eight hours dependent on your pace and ability.


Gerry – Minutes Before Our Descent

And so, like lambs to the slaughter, we headed over the brink to begin the grand descent. At the start there were quite a few steps cut into the cliff face and it was quite steep. On either sides, above and below, there are cyprus and pine trees.


Head of Samaria Gorge

Once down at the foot of the gorge the ground varies from smooth footpaths to boulder strewn dry river beds.

At about the half-way point we stopped for our lunch in the village of Samaria. Here we were also able top up our bottle with water from the spring. Lunch, by the way, was a couple of cheese rolls that we had made for ourselves back at the hotel. Not sure of the time but it would have been way past midday.


Samaria Gorge, Crete

From here on down the ground got a bit tougher. Gerry was wearing espadrills and I was wearing deck shoes. No ankle support and no real shock absorption or padding for the soles of the feet. We carried on towards the exit, not really knowing how far we had to go, or even how long.  We were being lured ever onward by the thought of the relaxing meal and cold drinks.

Our feet and our legs were complaining as we, at last, reached the point convergence of the gorge walls. This place is sometimes referred to as the “Iron Gates” as the walls close to within four meters and climb to a height of almost 300 meters (980 feet). We began to think that we were approaching the end of our torturous trail.

The rough ground gave way to a tarmac path and we exited thru the man-made gates demarcating the boundary of the park. What we didn’t realise was that there was still a further thirty minutes or so of walking before we had arrived.

However, there was no time for swimming, relaxing or eating. There was a loud blast of a ships horn, indicating that the ferry was already heading into shore. We just had time to buy our tickets and to grab a beer before climbing aboard the ferry.


View of Agia Roumeli, Crete

You can see in the following picture that Gerry did not even have time to cool her feet off in the sea. Her legs still have the white dust from our trek.


Gerry, Looking Dejected – On the ferry after walking the Samaria Gorge

It should be noted that the ferry is not designed for passengers. It is very similar to those used to ferry vehicles between Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight. Basically a roll on, roll off ferry,  with ramps at each end. No comfy seats.

By the time we arrived at Chora Sfakion and found our coach the light was beginning to fade. We joined a long convoy of coaches snaking their way up the mountainside. Riding our coach, experiencing endless hairpin bends in the dark, was not a very relaxing journey. The further on into the mountains we travelled, the more I became aware that our coach was not one hundred percent. Eventually, as we ground our way out of a small village, the beast came to a complete standstill. Imagine the sinking feeling knowing your coach has just broken down, especially when your coach at the beginning of the day had also broken down.

In this instance the driver not only clambered underneath but also took up the floor boards inside the coach. With much banging and muttering all was declared well. Floor boards replaced and the coach was back underway.

We did, eventually, arrive back in Malia, at around 23:30. We were tired, hungry and thirsty.

Gerry and I headed over to our hotel where after a quick cup of tea we crashed into bed.

Other Stuff

This post probably makes it seem like all we did was the gorge. And, of course, that isn’t true. We did all the usual touristy things too.

We did a coach trip to Knossos and the associated museum in Heraklion.

We did a boat trip from Agios Nikolaos to Spinalonga.

We hired a car, visited Vai beach which features the largest natural palm forest in Europe. Is called the “Bounty Beach” as it is said that this is where the famous Bounty bar adverts were filmed. Needless to say it was quite disappointing, commercialised and crowded. There are counter claims as to where the filming actually took place.

While we had the car we also toured the Lasithi Plateau, a trip which gave spectacular views out over the island and, as I recall, gave us the cheapest meal of the holiday. A greek salad, a bowl of some kind of meat stew and a beer. All in for around £5 for two.

Sorry about the photo quality. I can’t remember what camera I had at the time. Certainly it was pre-digital and may even have been in my pre-SLR days.