A tour guide’s all-time favourite UK places.
This September, Visit Britain, the marketing arm of the British tourist industry, is launching its ‘Great British Staycation Campaign’ to encourage people to holiday in the UK.
Soul City Wanderer (aka Frank Molloy) is one of the UK’s most accredited and experienced tour guides. Over three decades he has visited nearly every part of the country, touring many of the places that Great Britain and Ireland has to offer.
In a new blog series, he will list his all-time favourite five places by area (spiralling out from London*). These are personal choices, some obvious, some obscure.
This week, the Welsh-English Borders.
The county of Cheshire is in the north west of England has many borders. It adjoins Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Derbyshire, Staffordshire, Shropshire, Flintshire, Wrexham, and the Irish sea. It is largely rural and ispopulated with villages and towns, rather than cities, which gives the county a certain charm.
Canals are a feature of the Cheshire countryside, being as it is, surrounded by these major centres of industry. The Bridgewater Canal loops through Cheshire. It was commissioned in 1761 by Francis Egerton to transport coal from mines to his factory. The impressive Anderton Boat Lift, near the village of Anderton, was built in 1875. Two water tanks carry boats of up to 20 tons up or down in a lift, with the Trent & Mersey canal above, and the river Weaver below.
Cheshire is of course, famous for its traditional cheese. You can make any cheese from milk, but the type of cheese depends on many factors, such as pasture, soil, the fat in the milk and how the curd is cut. Cheshire’s pastures are naturally rich and lush with a salty soil. In the 19th century, a scientific experiment saw the soil enriched with fertiliser made from the phosphates of pasture animal bone dust, known as bone meal. Cows are grazed and milked on these farmed pastures. The resultant full fat milk produces a thick curd which is first broken up by hand, then gently milled and moulded. It is bound in cloth and matured for up to six months in cellar for flavour. By 1900, Cheshire had become the centre of the UK’s dairy trade, with over 500 local producers making over 30,000 tons annually. Bourne’s farm near Malpas, has been making Cheshire Cheese for over 200 years. You can try Bourne’s cheese at the Cheese Shop at 116 Northgate Street in Chester. Cheshire Cheese is especially enjoyed with a good beer, and it interesting that there are more pubs named after Cheshire Cheese than any other variety.
Cheshire is also famous for the production of salt. The Cheshire brine wells hare have been a source of salt for millennia. We know that salt was used by the Roman garrisons at Chester as a preservative and a condiment. The name ‘wich’ denotes a source of salt production and can be found in many Cheshire town names such as Nantwich, Northwich and Middlewich. Some of the dug-out sections of the famous Cheshire salt mines are now used as a storage facility.
Nantwich is a classic Cheshire market town believed to have been a salt-producing centre since at least the 10th century. The salt-industry decline in the 17th century has been a major factor in preserving the town’s historic architecture. It has a high number of listed buildings, mainly clustered around the town centre. Of particular antiquity are Sweetbriar Hall and Churche’s Mansion, both timber-framed Elizabethan mansion houses. Nantwich also contains many fine examples of Georgian and Victorian architecture.
Little Moreton Hall is a moated medieval half-timbered manor house four miles southwest of Congleton, Cheshire. Originally built for the Cheshire landowner William Moreton over 500 years ago, it is one of the finest examples of timber-framed domestic architecture in England. There is hardly a correct right-angle or flat surface in sight. It was built to be quirky. By the 19th century the house had fallen into ruinous condition. However, a preservation effort in the early 20th century was boosted when ownership was transferred to the National Trust in 1938. Highlights include the Great Hall, Withdrawing Room and Chapel. Three pieces of the house’s original furniture are on display: a cupboard, a dining table, and a great round table. Outside is an Elizabethan knot garden with a clover pattern matching the design of the house. Little Moreton Hall reminds many of old granny’s crooked house straight from a romantic fairy tale. Indeed, ‘an old grey lady’ is said to haunt the Long Gallery.
Because of its own history, the walled city of Chester deserves its own space and will be covered in the next instalment in this series.
The county of Cheshire will make you grin like its famous cat. Say cheese!
Note: All sites mentioned were operating pre-lockdown. Please check relevant websites before embarking on any potential visit. Another recommendation will appear tomorrow.
For the very best in guided private tours of the UK visit www.yourlondontours.com
*Operators in the UK tour industry often separate the areas of the country according to what touring can be achieved in a region in one day. As a London-based operator, my ‘map’ spirals outwards from the capital and is separated thus:
- Northern Home Counties (Beds/Herts/Cambs)
- Eastern Home Counties (Essex/Suffolk)
- Southern Home Counties (Kent, Surrey, Sussex)
- Western Home Counties (Ox/Berks/Bucks)
- South coast (Hants/Dorset)
- Western England (Somerset/Gloucs/Wilts)
- South West England (Devon & Cornwall)
- Wales (north & south)
- Welsh Borders (Worcestershire/Herefordshire/Shropshire/Cheshire)
- Western Midlands (Brum/Warks/Staffs)
- Eastern Midlands (Northants/Leics/Rutland/Hunts)
- Northern Midlands (Notts/Derbys)
- East coast (Norfolk/Lincs)
- Yorks (all ridings)
- North West (Manchester/Merseyside/Lancs/Lakes/Cumbria)
- North East (Durham/Tyne & Wear/Northumberland)
- Southern Scotland (Borders/Lowlands)
- Northern Scotland (Highlands/Islands)
- Ireland (Northern/Southern)