30th September 2018

Happy Birthday, Linda!

Rona and Stephen had never been into the centre of Manchester before, and today afforded us the opportunity to make a visit, since it is a fairly short distance from our accommodation in Wilmslow. Being a Sunday, access was much easier than had we made the visit on a week day. As he works there, our host Andrew is quite familiar with the inner city and welcomed the chance to be our tour guide for the day.

Our train from Wilmslow to Manchester, then a Metrolink light rail tram, took us to St Peters Square where Andrew, who is the CEO of Bridgewater Hall, gave us a personal behind-the-scenes tour of his workplace. He then continued to impress us by shouting us a drink at Mrs Coopers Bar at the Midland Hotel, the place where Charles Rolls first met Henry Royce in May 1904 and went on to form the manufacturing company of the most prestigious motor vehicles in the world - Rolls Royce.

Re-living the meeting of Messrs Rolls and Royce at the Midland Hotel

Mrs Coopers Bar, Midland Hotel

The grand old hotel escaped bombing by the Germans during World War II because it was the place Hitler had chosen as his headquarters were he to have conquered England. It was right over the road from what was then Manchester's Central Station. Both buildings face onto St Peter's Square. The hotel was designed by Charles Trubshaw in a highly individualistic Edwardian Baroque style. This a Grade II listed building and was opened in September 1903.

Midland Hotel

One of Manchester's main railway terminals between 1880 and 1969, the former Manchester Central railway station has been converted into an exhibition and conference centre named Manchester Central. Built by the Midland Railway to serve the station, it is the northern terminus for its rail services to London St. Pancras. The structure is also a Grade II listed building.

Manchester Central Library

Facing St Peters Square are more of Greater Manchester's 236 Grade II listed buildings, most of which date from the Victorian and Edwardian periods. Manchester Central Library faces St Peter's Square. The form of the building, a columned portico attached to a rotunda domed structure, is loosely derived from the Pantheon, Rome.


Our next light rail stop was MediaCityUK, so named because the BBC, Granada Television and ITV, among others, have re-located to this area. This fairly recent development, on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal around Salford Quays, is part of a joint tourism initiative encompassing The Quays, Trafford Wharf and parts of Old Trafford. MediaCityUK has a similar vibe to Melbourne's Docklands, both of which lack the warmth and welcoming feel of some recent urban renewal projects.

Trafford Wharf

The opening swing footbridge at Salford Quays links MediaCityUK with Trafford Wharf on the southern bank of the ship canal, which holds far more items of interest to the visitor or day tripper. The Lowry Arts Centre dominates the area, alongside it is the Imperial War Museum North. The ITV production centre has also been built on nearby Trafford Wharf.

Lowry Centre

The Salford Docks are part of the Manchester Ship Canal, a 58km man-made inland waterway linking Manchester to the Irish Sea near Liverpool, and was the centrepiece of an ambitious but only partly successful attempt by private enterprise to turn what is an inland industrial city into a port in the 1890s. Several sets of locks lift vessels about 18 metres up to Manchester, where the canal's terminus was built. Major landmarks along its route include the Barton Swing Aqueduct, the only swing aqueduct in the world, and Trafford Park, the world's first planned industrial estate and still the largest in Europe.

Salford Quays

When the ship canal opened in January 1894 it was the largest river navigation canal in the world, and enabled the newly created Port of Manchester to become Britain's third busiest port despite the city being so far inland. Changes to shipping methods and the growth of containerisation during the 1970s and 80s meant that many ships were now too big to use the canal and traffic declined, resulting in the closure of the terminal docks at Salford.

On the road near Bury

1st October 2018

It was a cold start as we said goodbye to our hosts and left Wilmslow, on a day in which the tempersture crept slowly to a chilly 9 degrees maximum. Grateful for the fact that most of the day would be spent travelling in our warm car, we stopped off for morning tea in the market town of Bury, before heading north across country into familiar territory - Yorkshire - the stomping ground of Debbie's and Stephen's ancestors. The journey for most of the way was down narrow roads with green fields, rolling hils and dry stone walls.

The market town of Skipton in Wharfedale was one of the first destinations to make it onto our list of places to go in the early stages of planning our trip. Stephen and Rona had been there previously - one of Stephen's earliest memories is of going there with his family when he was about 6 or 7 years of age. Debbie and Steve were therefore looking forward to visiting what has to be one of the quintessential English country towns, and they weren't disappointed. Miraculously (for England!), as we drove into town we came across a parking spot just off the main street right where we wanted to be. Not only that, it was free - miracles still happen.

Skipton. Where have all the cars gone? (Nowhere, we just had to wait 5 minutes for a break in traffic)

Skipton's markets have won many awards, and are held every Monday, Wednesday and Friday in the main street. They draw visitors from far and wide. On the short walk back to the car after a quick wander through the markets, we came across Stanforth Butchers, that is not only famed for its locally sourced meats, but also its range of pies (it claims to be the best pork pie shop in Yorkshire).

There was the traditional pork pie available in three sizes, plus some interesting variations, like pork and apple, pork and black pudding, chilli pork, as well as peppered steak, lamb and mint and others. It's not hard to guess what we had for lunch. For Debbie and Steve, it was their first taste of an English pork pie, and both gave them the thumbs up.

Our next stop was Bolton Abbey, the beautiful old ruins of the 12th-century Augustinian monastery now known as Bolton Priory. The abbey enjoys a tranquil setting beside the River Wharfe surrounded by trees, open fields, flowers - stunning! This is one of the many Catholic abbeys that Henry VIII destroyed as part of his attempt to wipe out the Roman Catholic Church in England. So much senseless destruction! What a jerk he was, commented Debbie. The estate is open to visitors, and includes many miles of all-weather walking routes.
Bolton Abbey

The nave of the abbey church has been in use as a parish church from about 1170 onwards, and survived the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Most of the remaining church is in the Gothic style of architecture, but more work was done in the Victorian era, including windows by August Pugin. It is still a working priory today, holding services on Sundays and religious holidays. It is open to visitors on most days; we went in and were moved by the sense of peace and tranquility there.

Kirkby Malzeard

On to the tiny and somewhat-isolated village of Kirkby Malzeard, which, in the book on Debbie's family history, is mentioned in the earliest record of a member of Debbie's family line in the area. We had hoped that a visit to the village cemetery may have turned up an Appleby grave or two - it didn't, but we did find lots of gravestones from the 17 and 1800s, and four curious goats who followed us around. We found Kirkby Malzeard to be a quaint village of mainly stone cottages with beautiful gardens, located high on the moors.

Steve goes grave hunting again while being followed by some admirers

On the outskirts of the village we came across the Kirkby Malzeard dairy of Wensleydale Creameries, which produces one of Stephen's favourite cheeses. It was about 5 minutes to 5, and he was hoping there was a shop or visitors centre, but there wasn't, as one of the workers who had just knocked off for the day explained. He then proceeded to give Stephen a run down on the dairy, which is the town's main employer. Fortunately, it was Stephen and not anyone else who heard this discourse, as it was delivered in a broad Yorkshire accent that only he would have been able to interpret and understand.

Our final stop - our destination for the night - was Beverley, where we are staying for three nights, at the home of Stephen's cousin, Brenda, and her husband Brian Sherratt. Their home is the old Beverley Vicarage, built in 1703, in what was then the grounds of Beverley Minster.

Beverley Minster is a massive place of worship, similar in size and style to Westminster Abbey which was built around the same time by the same people. We entered Beverley via a road that comes alongside the Minster. Not being fully aware of the size of the place before she actually saw it, the sight of the Minster suddenly towering over us was a jaw-dropping experience for Debbie, her only response to it being "WOW!" She found it truly awesome being so close to this grand old building.

The view of Beverley Minster from our front door

We are staying within a stone's throw of it, in what used to be the Carriage House of the Vicarage, where coaches and the horses were stabled. Rona slept in Stable 1 with pink sheets, Stephen slept in Stable 2 with blue sheets; Steve and Debbie slept upstairs in the hay loft. What a unique experience!

Stephen Yarrow and Debbie Hall

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