Exploring Manchester, and beyond


Tatton Park Gardens  Media City

As a teacher of international students, I’m often embarrassed to realise they’ve seen more of my own country than I have.  So, I’ve decided to make more of an effort to see as much as I can, and not just explore abroad.  With that in mind, I went to Manchester with my brother for a couple of days this week.

Manchester is easily accessible by train from London; the Virgin trains are comfortable, and the tilting around corners is cool!  Our hotel was only a ten minute walk from Manchester Piccadilly station, and we emerged into a busy Monday afternoon, with shoppers buzzing past us as we made our way to our temporary home.  Having checked in, we went out to explore the city centre, which I have to admit didn’t look too great on a cloudy afternoon, and the crowds were considerable.  However, if you love shopping, you’ll be quite happy working your way through all the high street shops along the main high street, the large shopping centre, and the quieter, cobbled streets nearby with the more exclusive boutiques.

There’s a lot of regeneration going on in the centre at the moment, with half-demolished or built buildings and cranes everywhere you look, creating new apartments, hotels and eateries which will really add to Manchester’s appeal.  So, give it a year or so and I think it will be much better to walk around.  There are little quiet pockets, with fountains and water cascading down alongside seating areas, which offer a respite from the noise of the central shopping district.

On our second day, we ventured out into the surrounding countryside to Tatton Park, Visit England’s Large Visitor Attraction of the Year 2014, and a 1,000-acre parkland, with a neo-classical Mansion, 50 acres of gardens and a farm.  It’s easy to get there via Manchester Piccadilly on the Northern Line and takes just under 40 minutes to Knutsford, which is the closest station to Tatton; from there it’s roughly a ten minute walk through the small village to the edge of the park.  Now, if you love waking, as I do, then it’s no problem, but it took myself and my brother about 40 minutes to walk to the Mansion.  You can drive through the Park, and many were, but I suggest a good pair of shoes, something to nibble on, a camera and enjoy the view as you walk past magnificent trees, sailing lakes and deer relaxing in the sun.  By the time you get there, you’ll be ready for one of the scones or cakes for sale in the café.  Later, after you’ve explored the beautiful gardens and Mansion, you can have lunch there, or take your own and sit and admire the view back across the park.  You’ll need to rest and refuel before the walk back!  Trust me, it’s worth it though, and we didn’t even walk the whole of the parkland, we didn’t have time.

Our third day was ‘museum day’ for us and the sun was shining, making the city all the more pleasing to look at.  There’s some interesting architecture there, if you look up above the shop fronts.  We started the day with a visit to the Museum of Science and Industry, a fascinating exploration of trains, planes and automobiles, computers, the cotton industry (obviously significant in Manchester’s history), various forms of energy, from electricity to nuclear power, and all within five listed historic buildings.  There were quite a few school parties there during our visit, and there’s certainly plenty to get children engaged.  However, as big kids, my brother and I were happily amused too.  I really recommend a visit here.

After lunch we took a tram out to Media City to visit the Imperial War Museum of the North, the Lowry and Media City itself, as I’m a big fan of radio and one of my favourite programmes is broadcast from there, so I wanted to see what the presenters often talk about as they can look out onto a paved seating area in front of the studio.  Now, I have to admit, the Imperial War Museum wasn’t quite what we had expected, it’s mostly interactive exhibitions, with various videos being projected onto the high walls above you.  It’s primarily a large, open space which has been divided up into various sections, and is by no means uninteresting but didn’t quite grab my attention.  However, like the MOSI, children loved it, and were running around exploring all they could, and that was great to see.  The museum itself is free to enter, but for just over £1, you can take the lift up the tower, which provides far-reaching views, but be warned if you’re afraid of heights as you can see straight down between the steel beneath your feet!  The Media City area is quiet and peaceful, and as it was early afternoon, we joined workers having their lunch and walked along the canal, enjoying the warm weather.

We only spent two whole days in the city, and I was quite pleased to return to my quiet little home the next day.  I love visiting cities but only for a few days because the noise really gets to me after a while; I guess that’s because I grew up, and still live in, a small-ish seaside town.  On the whole though, I would recommend Manchester, especially if you’re a shopaholic, but also for the surrounding countryside and interesting museums it has to offer.

Now, where shall I go next?

Photographs and text ©vcuzzell2015

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