We spent a week end with friends on the outskirts of Manchester and visited attractions in the nearby area.
by catsholiday on February 21, 2012
THEMILLThis is HUGE. Despite its enormous size it cannot be seen until you are almost right there as it is in a wooded valley and surrounded by trees and of course the gardens too. It looks very like the Arkwright mills we have in Derbyshire, large and imposing and quite familiar to us so I wasn’t really surprise at what it looked like more by the way it was so well hidden.Be prepared for a long walk and it takes a while to get through so if it is near a meal time then think about whether you need a drink or food before going in. I would suggest that a visit of two hours is a visit done at speed and really three hours is needed to do it justice.This mill is probably the best preserved example of an industrial revolution textile factory and is now a Grade II listed building. The mill was originally founded in 1784 by a Mr Samuel Greg. The mill was powered by an enormous water wheel.Today the mill is home to the most powerful working waterwheel in Europe and this one was designed by the apprentice of the designer of the original water wheel. As you go round the mill you can see this huge beast still working powering the looms.The factory built as a cotton spinning factory and by the time Samuel Greg retired in 1832 this was the largest cotton spinning factory in the UK. You really get an excellent idea of what a working mill was like as many of the machines still work. The NT volunteers wear noise protectors on their ears and it is loud. It is really loud with one or two of the machines going so I was imaging how noisy it must have been with all of them going all day long. You could see where the little children had to crawl along to fill the bobbins and clean the floor. Seeing the machines working was so much more impressive than reading about them in books or just seeing silent machines.The water-powered Georgian mill still produces cotton calico and also linen and they sell the linen glass cloths in the shop but they are not cheap. The ones you buy from Matalan or similar are much cheaper and these are the simple plain cream linen cloths with a stripe down each side and nothing exciting! In the mill building there are more traditional museum exhibits as well as the huge machinery areas; indeed there are twelve galleries so as I said be prepared to walk. These galleries tell the story of cotton from the plantations through to the processing. Once again this part of the museum encourages you to touch and do things and children are able to run from one thing to the next without being told off. There is a mountain of information on printed boards as well as all the touchy feely stuff so you can take in as much as you feel able to. All aspects are covered from social history of clothes, food, housing and so on through to the technological revolution and developments in machinery that was taking place throughout this industrial revolution time.THE SHOPThis has items specific to this NT property as well as the similar things you find in other NTshops. We visited in December and the shop was pretty full of Christmas decorations and gifts made up for Christmas giving.THE CAFE/RESTAURANT This was a large building and offered full hot meals, sandwiches and rolls, coffee tea and other drinks as well as a good range of tasty looking cakes. It was pretty crowded but there were quite a few tables so we managed to sit but together as a group of eight. The food was pretty good and those that had hot food were very happy with their meals. TOILETSThese were clean and there were baby changing facilities. At busy times I suspect there would be a queue as there were not many, two or three from memory.OTHER FACILITIESThe paths in the ground were all wheel chair and push chair friendly but you were not able to take pushchairs into the factory. They did loan you baby carriers and looked after the pram for you. Now I am not sure what happens for wheel chair users and I would suggest a phone call prior to the visit. If you have difficulty walking then think twice as the factory is really big and there are lots of stairs on the route they take you through. There us a lot of walking involved which is fine for any able bodied person but would be difficult for someone with any mobility problems.SUMMARYThis is a really big site and there is so much to see. If you lived close by it would best to do one thing at a time like the gardens one visit, the Apprentice house on another and the factory on a different visit as there is quite a lot to take in and we did rather rush our visit because of time constraints on the day which was a shame and I felt a bit cheated when we left.
Quarry Bank Mill and Styal EstateStyal, Wilmslow, SK9 4LATelephone: 01625 527468We are National Trust members and so whenever we go somewhere in the UK we always check to see if there are any NT properties we can visit. We spent a long week end near Manchester recently with some friends who are also NT members so we decided to visit this property on the Sunday.Quarry Bank Mill is located 2 miles south of Manchester Airport, Junctions 5 or 6 of the M56 and very close to the airport. In fact we sort of circumnavigated the airport on our way there.OPENING TIMES AND PRICESAs NT members we got in free but there are so many variants of prices that are available depending if you want to gift aid your entry fee (usually £1 extra) or only visit the mill, or garden or combinations of mill garden and Apprentice house. However if you want to visit the Mill, Apprentice House, garden the cost will be: Adult: £13.10 Child: £6.55 Family: £32.75 Group: £13.00I would suggest if you are planning a visit that you check for opening times as they seem to vary week by week but Monday and Tuesday seem to be closed. Sometimes the mill is open and the garden closed so you do really need to check.OUR VISITThere were four couples and I don’t know whether you have ever noticed nut whenever a group gets to a certain size decisions seem to take four times longer and everything takes more time too. We had breakfast late and then by the time we gathered everyone together again and driven to the property it was already 11.30.We learned that there was going to be a guided visit to the ‘Apprentice House in the next ten minutes so quickly made the decision to go grab tickets ( numbers are limited) and make our way there first.The owner of the mill, Samuel Greg built an entire community for his workers, which became known as Styal, he built a church and school, as well as terraced housing and cottages for the families. And of course the Apprentice House which was built in 1790 and was home to about one hundred young children who made up a large percentage of his work force and only cost him food and board. THE APPRENTICE HOUSEThis was where the young children, orphans or paupers who worked in the factory were housed and educated. Having read a lot of Dickens, studied the industrial revolution and living in one of the main areas of Industrial revolution factories I did have a pretty good idea of child labour but visiting this place was still an eye opening.We were met outside by a lady in costume who took us into the school room. This was pretty much as you would see in any Victorian school room, stark, benches, ink pots with quills and slates. The guide was very good and told us a lot about the lives of these little indentured workers. Apparently they came in as young as nine or ten and signed an agreement to stay until they were about eighteen; not that they had a lot of choice really at that age.I think these children were some of the luckier ones as they were given a basic education; basically taught to read so they could read the bible and not a lot more. They did this studying after their work at the mill. They did shifts of at least eight hours, sometimes longer, they also worked in the garden and on Sunday they still had chores and also had to walk to church twice a day and the church was four miles away.They had beds in large dormitories girls separate from boys. The beds were pallets strung with a sort of sacking and then they had straw mattresses which had fresh straw about once or if lucky twice a year. There were a few rather thin looking blankets and apparently a fire was very unlikely up in the bedrooms. Washing was done with water in a bowl and the pot was under the bed which needed emptying. The toilets were earth closets out in the garden. It was the height of luxury for paupers but my goodness, thank the lord I didn’t have to live through that time.What I liked about this tour is that it was very "hands-on" and you are encouraged to touch the objects, and you can even pump water from a well in the yard! You could sit on the beds and I thought that made it very real. We didn’t have any children with us but as a former teacher I could see great potential for a school visit or bringing my own children to give them an idea of this aspect of our history in a very real way.The young workers went to the mill at about 6.30am in the morning without breakfast; this was brought up to them at the mill. It was almost solid porridge as it could be spooned directly into their hands. This warmed the hands, filled the belly and needed no washing up. They could have as much of this gloop as they wanted so they were never hungry. Lunch was, you’ve guessed it, more solid porridge and again in the evening they had another portion of porridge. Very occasionally there were some vegetables from the garden or gravy to add a bit of variety.Quarry Bank Mill’s last unpaid child apprentice was indentured in 1841 and the child labour system ended in 1847l. The owners of Styal Mill employed Peter Holland as mill doctor and he was responsible for the health of the children and other workers. This was the first family to employ a doctor in such a capacity. Interestingly this doctor was the uncle of Elizabeth Gaskell, the author which I was interesting in learning being a fan of her work.The children spent long hours working in the mill and this was often very dangerous, many lost fingers and sadly some did die. However, these children were better off working in the mill than the alternative which was life at a workhouse.
by catsholiday on December 17, 2011
Dilli Restaurant60 Stamford New RoadAltrincham WA14 1EE"Dilli - the restaurant that dared to serve authentic regional dishes from the heart of India."When we were booked into the hotel in Altrincham we looked around for things to do and places we where could eat and my husband found this place which was only a twenty minutes walk from the hotel so no-one had to be nominated driver as we could walk there and enjoy a drink or two as well as the meal.There was a bit of a mix up in our communication about booking the restaurant and as a result we hadn’t booked so when we walked passed on our way back from the train station we popped into ask if they could do a table for eight at eight o’ clock and we were told that was no trouble at all.THE WEBSITETheir website is very busy and at the present time there are snowmen falling down on the page which I find a bit distracting but seasonal I suppose. They boast that they were one of the first places to cook and serve authentic Indian food not the watered down version of Indian food that is cooked to appeal to English pallets.It is a very comprehensive site with different pages for special offers, cookery classes, event catering and so on. We did print of a voucher for 20% off our bill which they happily honoured when we went along. We did tell them that we had the voucher when we booked though just in case.If we lived closer I might well come and have a try at their cooking classes but I won’t be driving all that way I am afraid. They do sound good and I would love to learn to cook curry with an authentic Indian chef.OPENING TIMES:They are open every day, Lunch is 12.00 noon to 3pm and dinner is from 5.30pm to 11pm daily except Saturday when they close at 10pm. On Saturday and Sundays they offer a buffet but we didn’t have that so I can’t comment on the food quality in the buffet.THE DÉCOR AND ATMOSPHEREThe place is nicely decorated with Indian pictures and artifacts on muted coffee coloured walls. There were sandalwood carved panels in places on the walls to break up the expanse of plain wall. The tables and chairs were all dark wood and heavy too when you tried to get out by pushing the chair back.The tables were without cloths but had nice crisp white serviettes and heavy cutlery. The dishes were all white crockery but were various shapes and sizes depending on the food on the dish.By the time we arrived at eight o’ clock it was pretty busy and it stayed that way until about 10.30 and we were the last to leave the restaurant as we were chatting away but at no time did we feel that we were being rushed out.There was a slight problem with the bill as they charged us for one round of drinks twice but when we pointed that out they apologized and explained it was because two different members of staff had served us and both had written it down. They took a very generous 20% off the total bill so we were more than happy.MENUSThere are several different menus on offer, the lunch one is different from the evening one. There is a take away menu, a party menu and at the moment there is also a Christmas menu. They offer different deals depending on the tomes too. There is a lunch menu for £11.95 and another for £14.95 so it is quite complicated and if you choose to go it might be an idea to suss it out on the website before you go to see what is on offer.THE FOODAs always when you have a large group it I hard to decide what to eat so we opted for the banquet meal for four twice and then we could share it all and try lots of different things.We started with poppadoms and different sauces which we didn’t have to order they just came. The menu is huge, the starters offered vary in price from £6 to £8, some vegetarian ones are around the £5 mark.In our banquet we had about a few small bits each, My favourite was a lovely piece of chicken called ‘Chicken65’ which was a fried boneless chicken marinated with ginger, garlic, yoghurt and spices which is a speciality from state of Andhra in India. It was delicious. There was also a chicken wing and a lamb kebab and a tiny lamb chop as well as an onion bhajia from north India.The main courses seemed to just keep coming, I really can’t remember them all as there seemed to be so many. I do remember we had a couple of different types of rice including a biryani and two type of naan including my favourite Peshawari naan which I love.On the a la carte menu there was a section for Indian street food and these looked really tasty and they varied from £9 to £12 but sadly they were not on our banquet menu so that is my choice if we go again My favourite main dish that we had was "Kozi Chettinad" which was a Madras Chicken curry with onion tomatoes and crushed pepper corn finished with lemon juice and fresh coriander which is a specialty of the Tamil Nadu region.. It was hot but very tasty.Other said the Saag Gosht was delicious but I am not a great fan of lamb in curries so I didn’t try it which was lucky as everyone else loved it and there was nothing left in the end.The dessert went down well the others but as kheer is my husband’s favourite and I was so full I donated mine to him. There was no choice on our menu for other more sickly sweet deserts or kulfi which are more to my taste sadly.TOILETSThese were upstairs and through another dining area which I assume they use when busy and for private parties. The toilets were okay, nothing special but clean and worked. They were upstairs and I didn’t see any others for disabled use so once again I can’t comment on what was available for people with mobility issues.WHAT DID WE THINK?We found the service was very efficient, too efficient at times like when two waiters wrote down our round of drinks on the bill. They were all very pleasant and quite willing to repeat the dish name when we asked as they brought so many it was hard to remember what they all were and I like to know what I am eating.They were very patient with us when we were the last to leave. The waiters and family were eating their food at the table near the kitchen while we were still finishing off our food. We were a bit held up as we were told there was a dessert and nothing came for a while and it was only when we asked that they brought the dessert so it was partly their fault.Anyway they took off the 20% discount plus some so we were happy. I would thoroughly recommend the food as it was freshly cooked in the kitchens that we could see from our table and that is always a good sign. So, yes if you are in this area or live nearby and you like good curry then head on down to Dilli.Thanks for reading. This review may be posted on other sites under my same user name.©Catsholiday
by catsholiday on December 8, 2011
Imperial War Museum, Salford QuaysDuring our weekend away with friends in Altringham we spent the day in Salford Quays visiting this museum and the Lowry centre. We arrived at the Quays by train which cost us £10 for four adults from Altringham for a day rover ticket which we thought was brilliant value. If you come by car then there are plenty of parking spaces but I suspect it probably isn’t cheap.Like the London Imperial War Museum this one is free to enter. From the outside it looks very modern and sleek. It is built to represent different shards of the world breaking apart as the result of conflict and war. Inside the feeling is one of space and the displays are just so well set out and displayed in such a wide variety of ways.The very first exhibit we came across was a Harrier Jump Jet and I was quite surprised at how small they are. It is a full sized aircraft and standing beside or under it I felt quite small but I still thought they might actually be bigger than this one was.The next display was just a window with an object to represent every conflict the UK had been involved in during the 20th century. It was interesting how such simple things like a letter or some ones’ hat could be so poignant.Exhibits varied from the large ones such as a blown up car from Iraq or the large piece of metal from the Twin Towers through to the tubes with smells from inside an air raid shelter that you could lift and sniff in order to guess what it might be.I was specially moved by the recordings of real people in some of the areas. One woman described how as a young girl in Berlin one day she had gone out and looked up into a tree to see what looked like bit of rubbish that turned out to be bits of a British pilot blown out of his plane. She never felt the same about war since.The section on women in the war was also very inspiring. How women who had previously been housewives were able to turn their hand to farm work, munitions factory work and even complex aircraft manufacture. Then when the men returned they had to return to being housewives once again.At specific time in the main exhibition area all the lights are dimmed and there is a film show with lights and sound telling about life in the cities in WWII. There was a mixture of archive film and interviews with people who had lived through the war; the whole thing was very well done, inspiring and moving too. This was followed by a performance by a lady acting the role of a lady who worked in a munitions factory who had sent her children away to be evacuated. She was excellent, very convincing and she even sang an old wartime song.I was impressed with the many and varied exhibits. One was like a huge filing cabinet and some of the ‘drawers’ opened. It was a drawer that represented a person; just a normal everyday person who had lived through the wartime. There were a few of their personal passions which helped to tell a bit about them and their role or life in that time. Some of the people had died and some survived but it was all quite emotional seeing these very personal passions telling their stories.THE RESTAURANTWe decided that we needed a coffee so made our way out towards the coffee shop. This is also a pretty large area with great views over the canal towards the Lowry building. The place was clean and very modern with large tables and plenty of chairs. You could have had a selection of hot meals from fish pie to lasagne through to shepherd’s pie and similar dishes. Also on offer were a number of different cakes, chocolate and biscuits as well as coffee, tea and hot chocolate and cold drinks too.THE TOILETSThese were downstairs and there were quite a number so we had no queue even in the ladies. They were clean and there were also disables ones just nearby too. On this same level was the inevitable shop.THE SHOPThis did have items that were typical of every gift shop, pencil, rubbers, and magnets etc. There were lots of war memorabilia in the form of replica ration books, gas masks, model aircraft and many, many books about the war, recipe books using recipes from the time and a lot of really interesting items to bring the war time to this generation.WOULD I RECOMMEND?Yes indeed. It is many years since I have been to the Imperial War museum in London so i won’t try and compare them but I was very impressed with the presentation of the exhibits and how very family friendly they had made the place. There were many hands on exhibits and the way the other items were presented really made them feel real. One exhibit had a stuffed toy dog made from an army blanket. It was made by a soldier for his superior officer’s daughter so that he could have some time off. I bet he never thought it would be see all these years later in a museum.The museum is huge and in reality you could spend an entire day exploring the different exhibits but we spent about three hours in there and saw but a small part of it. There was a special exhibition on war correspondents and some of our friends stayed and explored that rather than going over to the Lowry Building. They said it was one of the best exhibitions they have seen and it was a very moving experience.rThis would be a perfect place to take a class of children learning about any war time during the 20th century. I would say that if your child is interested or is learning about any of these periods in history a visit to this museum will certainly make it more real to them through the many different exhibits
I discovered a great deal that Mercure hotels were offering for £140 per couple we got two nights bed and breakfast, one three course evening meal with a bottle of wine and then we could stay the third night free but if we wanted breakfast we had to pay.Part of our bargain deal was one three course evening meal with a bottle of wine and then breakfast on two mornings. The food was very good and this is what we experienced. DINING IN STYLEWe went to the bar at our pre arranged time and enjoyed a pleasant drink in the comfortable seats near the front door. At around 8pm we moved to the dining area and were shown to our table for eight. We were asked what sort of wine we wanted and so opted for two red and two whites to share between us. We were then brought the menus which were pretty comprehensive considering it was a £19.95 for three courses deal. This was our included meal, part of our £140 per couple deal. I chose a really good prawn and crayfish cocktail; there were other options such as fish cakes which got a few votes from our party, a nice soup and some pate as well as others which I forget. The mains included a lamb dish, a pork chops dish which a few of our group had and said it was very tasty, I had a really tasty sea bream which came beautifully presented and cooked as I like it . I am struggling to remember all the choices as we hadn’t seen each other for a while and were chatting so much I forgot to study the food properly. However we were all pretty happy with the food and we all do eat out quite a lot. My favourite was a really delicious crème brulee which was perfect as my desert. Others enjoyed chocolate brownies, cheese cake and an ice cream selection which also got the thumbs up from those eating them. Some of the group then went on to enjoy coffees but I find that coffee that late at night means I do not sleep so I didn’t share that pleasure but did enjoy the chocolate brought with the bill for drinks.BREAKFAST:We agree to meet at a given time for breakfast but as there were no tables for eight we split into two groups of four. There was a pretty good choice of food available. Four fruit juices plus a selection of tea bags or filter coffee from a jug were the drink choices. As it was all buffet style presentation you could return to top up drinks o food when you needed to. The table with fruit and cereals, muesli and yogurt had a pretty varied selection and got most of my personal attention. The hot selection looked good too with scrambles and fried eggs, fried bread and hash browns, grilled tomatoes, mushrooms, bacon and sausages so others were happy too. We were brought a selection of white and brown toast for the table as well as tiny packs of butter and jams too.The verdict from our group was that it was a pretty good breakfast but I am not sure whether anyone of us paid for the breakfast on the final morning when it wasn’t part of the deal as it was £13.50 a head and I don’t think I got that value from my choice of breakfast bits.We were very impressed with all the food we had and found the service at the evening meal very good. Breakfast was a buffet but staff were around and did clear away dirty crockery and would fill up any empty food containers when needed.All in all we were pleased with our bargain deal.
I discovered a great deal that Mercure hotels were offering for £140 per couple we got two nights bed and breakfast, one three course evening meal with a bottle of wine and then we could stay the third night free but if we wanted breakfast we had to pay. I phoned and booked four rooms just to make sure they could fit us all in, I gave them my credit cards details and the names of all those coming. I could have done it on line but as there we going to be four rooms needed for the same nights I just wanted to check it was going to be available.About three days later I received a letter of confirmation and the credit card slip through the mail. That was a few months ago but we finally got our week end away at the end of November. Well I can hear you are all very keen to know if this was a good deal or if it was a dump!CHECKING IN:We were not the first to arrive; in fact we were the third couple as we were childminding until 4pm so couldn’t leave home till then. There had been no problems and I think these first two couples got the best rooms judging by our conversations later. The first to arrive had booked our dinner for 8pm and we and agreed to meet in the bar at 7pm so having been welcomed by the lady at reception, we got our key and made our way to our room.First impressions of the hotel entrance area and the Reception was good. The bar area was to the left as you came through the door and was modern, clean and comfortable. The restaurant was to the right as you entered the hotel and looked a good size and was light and airy, just inside the door was a settee and chairs where you could sit while waiting for your table, or just sit and read as there was a book shelf there too.OUR ROOMFirstly it was a very strange journey to get there as we had to go up a flight of stairs, across a bit of a landing then down another very dingy looking set of stairs and along a long dark corridor. Almost at the end, next to the cleaning equipment room was our door. We were not hoping for a lot as we opened the door as our journey down was a little odd. However the key card worked and in we went.It was small, clean and the bed looked nicely made up. The window at the end of the room took up the whole width of the wall and overlooked a large flat roof which was not the best view we had ever had but not the worst either. The room was virtually filled by the double bed; there was a small wardrobe and desk with a tiny drawer. The drawer had no storage space as the Gideon’ bible and the hair dryer(which was firmly fixed) were in there. There was a comfortable tub arm chair and an upright chair which tucked under the desk unit but as it stuck out quite a bit we moved it around to near the other chair. The bed had really great reading lights and a small bedside shelf on both sides of the bed which pleased me. I love reading in bed and hate it when I can’t because the one reading light is NOT on my side of the bed! The light had an upper bright light and an angled sort of pointing light which was perfect for me.The bed was very comfortable but the pillows were small and hard and not great at all. I struggled with the pillows and they gave me neck ache.BATHROOM Once again this was very clean very small but did have a shower over the bath which pleased me as I do love my bath and had taken some Lush bath bombs to enjoy. The water was always good and hot and the bath filled quickly as it was pretty small. We were given soap, shampoo and shower gel as complimentary bath goodies. These were okay, nothing exciting but they did the job. Luckily I had taken shampoo and a conditioner with me so my hair didn’t suffer too much but stupidly I thought the hairdryer would be okay but sadly it was pretty naff and ineffective.So the room was okay, not great but as we were not planning on being in the room much we thought it would do. We were just saying that when a loud hum started and the room almost vibrated. We looked at each other trying to decide whether to laugh or get angry. My husband phoned Reception and said this loud buzzing was filling our room and she calmly replied’, That will be the Jacuzzi!!’ We asked to change rooms but were told there were none but that the Jacuzzi went off at 9pm. We decided that there was not a lot we could do and as we were going to be out most of the time it was not worth spoiling our week end by causing a fuss. The couple to arrive last in our group shared the Jacuzzi pleasure as they were next to us!WOULD I RECOMMEND?The hotel is in a perfect location as you can walk into Altrincham or Hale in less than 15 minutes and find any number of different restaurants and shops. This also takes you to the train station in Altrincham where we bought day rover tickets for £10 for four of us which took us to Salford Quays for the day. We thought that was brilliant value at £2.50 per person for the day’s travel.The rooms were pretty tiny but clean and did the job. The bathroom the same and if you could ignore the sound of the Jacuzzi or go out for the day then it allowed us to explore the joys of Salford Quays and Style Mill on the next day. At the price we paid we certainly would not complain. The food, particularly at dinner was excellent. The staff were all delightful and very helpful and really apart from the Jacuzzi vibration and location and size of our room we couldn’t complain.We didn’t use the pool but those who arrived early did go and have a swim and said it was very pleasant, warm water in the pool and the Jacuzzi was on a timer so went whenever regardless of whether anyone was in there or not.So yes if you get a bargain like we did go for it as this is a great area to explore and this hotel with plenty of free parking provides a great base. I am not sure about facilities for disabled people as our room would have been impossible. If you need to know I would suggest phoning to enquire first as some parts are certainly not going to be suitable.
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