A weekend in Liverpool

Geoff Lewry, group travel organiser for the National Trust Orpington & Chislehurst Centre, reports back from a late spring visit to Liverpool.

‘Our journey started close to Orpington on 25th May at 8.30am where we met our driver, Billy, from Skinners of Oxted. Having completed our pick-ups we were off to our first visit of the weekend – the home of Mr and Mrs Lucy at Charlecote Park. The park and house overlook the River Avon in a corner of rural Warwickshire and has been the Lucys’ home for 900 years and, although now owned by the National Trust, they still occupy one private wing.

I would describe the house as symmetrical with two side wings and the main house in the middle. The area open to the public is quite dark – to protect the hanging pictures and tapestries – but it has a variety of interesting artefacts. There was also an exhibition to commemorate the Lucy family’s involvement in the First World War and the impact it had on Charlecote.  Montgomerie Fairfax-Lucy was presented with his Military Cross on the 29th March 1918 at Charlecote. One area that was very interesting was the Pantry and the Servants Hall, especially as demonstrators were making bread and cakes, which I was asked to sample and what could I do but oblige! Having had lunch in the tearoom it was time to move on.

We arrived at our hotel a little later than anticipated due to extremely heavy traffic but, once in the Marriott Liverpool City Hotel, there was just time for a quick freshen up and down to dinner. The hotel was situated just across the road from Lime Street Railway Station and very centrally located for many of the attractions.

I hadn’t been to Liverpool for about 24 years and goodness me what a change, new buildings, old buildings that have been cleaned and the restored Albert Dock and Waterfront. The primary object of the visit was to see the ‘Terracotta Warriors’ Exhibition (closing 28th October 2018) at the World Museum, but we also coincided with the gathering of Tall Ships in the Albert Dock and along the Waterfront as well as the arrival of HMS Somerset, a Royal Navy Frigate.

The China’s First Emperor and the Terracotta Warriors Exhibition was superb, it was so hard to believe these statues and artefacts standing before us were over 2,000 years old. The most amazing fact for me was that the Emperor’s Mausoleum has now been estimated to be around 56 square kilometres. The actual tomb has not been excavated as yet but the mausoleum has been divided into inner and outer cities. The excavation is expected to take many years to complete with new armies being found as well horses and a variety of other animals. The exhibition is well worth a visit.

Having completed our visit to the Terracotta Warriors the rest of the day was free, with so much to see and do within the city the choices were varied and we all split to different areas. My little group choose the Albert Dock and the Waterfront.

Albert Dock was just a short walk and many of you will remember when the morning magazine/news programme presented by Richard and Judy came from there with the floating weather map. The area has under gone a massive renovation project with the old dock warehouses now desirable dwellings, restaurants, museums and shops. As a result of the Tall Ships being in dock and the fact it was bank holiday weekend, the whole area was busy, and people were queuing to get on board the ships, buy ice creams and restaurants. I must say that if I had gone to Liverpool just for the Tall Ships I think I would have been disappointed as there were only five actual Tall Ships – they were very interesting and good to look over but I would have expected a few more.

Moving down the harbour from Albert Dock to the Waterfront area, this is very modern with hotels and a water sports complex where there were a large number of young adults and children playing water polo whilst in a canoe, it looked very energetic but they were having great fun.

After a drink we moved in-land and the next targets were the two cathedrals, set high on the hills and just a short distance apart. The weather now was becoming very warm, one could even say hot, so we had a short stop off for some sustenance in an Italian Restaurant – which I must say looked as though it served some wonderful food. However, we settled for a scone with cream and jam and a nice cup of tea. Suitably refreshed, we continued our climb to the first cathedral, being the Liverpool Cathedral. This is the Anglian Church and is reported to be the world’s eighth largest church building. Sir John Betjeman called it “one of the great buildings of the world”.

Once inside we were greeted by the seven metre diameter ‘Museum of the Moon’ installation by Luke Jerram, and it allows people to observe and contemplate cultural similarities and differences around the world where we all live under the same moon. The building, the largest Cathedral in the UK, was completed in 1978 having taken 74 years. It had survived two world wars and is now a place of great beauty, whether you have religion or not I still find it amazing how these large buildings were erected with little or no mechanical assistance!

We continued our walk to the Metropolitan Cathedral – the Roman Catholic Cathedral – and the largest Catholic cathedral in England. The design was created as a result of a competition with one criterion, that being that every member of the congregation could see the altar. It has been described as iconic, controversial and is affectionally known as “Paddy’s Wigwam”. The designer, Frederick Gibbard achieved the effect by building it in the round and it was opened in 1967. The use of coloured glass and light creates a truly magnificent effect especially the Great Lantern at the top designed by John Piper. The whole cathedral gives the effect of being ultra-modern but is in fact older than Liverpool Cathedral.

It was now time to return to the hotel – walking through part of the city centre and in particular the shopping area, which was now completely full of Liverpool football supporters. The atmosphere was electric with the build-up to the evening kick-off of the Champion’s League Final in Kiev against Real Madrid. The mood was happy and very fluid with large quantities of alcohol being consumed, but I must say we didn’t see any problems at all. Unfortunately, Liverpool lost 3 – 1.

On Sunday, after a good breakfast, we met our guide Jean, from Brilliant Liverpool Tours. We initially had planned to go directly to see the Anthony Gormley’s, “Another Place” in Crosby. However, due to a high spring tide this had to be put back. Jean gave us a Beatle themed tour of the City pointing out the relevant places, then venturing out of the city centre to pass by John Lennon’s home, now owned by the National Trust.

We also went to the church of St Peter’s, in Woolton, where there is a graveyard with a headstone containing the name of Eleanor Rigby – also one with the name of John McKenzie. The story of the 1966 record apparently is that Paul McCartney and John Lennon would meet up and sit on the wall of the graveyard smoking, drinking and playing their music in 1957. Paul believes that is was his subconscious that came into to play seeing the names Eleanor Rigby and John McKenzie on the gravestones over a period of time. Another thought was that he was going to use his father’s name of John McCartney but didn’t rhythm in the song. Whatever the reason it produced a very successful song.

Having completed our Beatles tour we made our way to Crosby with a hope the tide had gone out sufficiently. Happily, it had and we could see one or two of the one hundred sculptures which stretch along the beach for two miles. We only had a short time here, which was a shame as by now it was very hot and the afternoon by the beach would have been wonderful.

Having got back to the hotel and still a couple of hours before getting ready for dinner, we decided to go for a walk and ventured to the Cavern Club in Mathew Street. I am so glad we did, it was fantastic, a group played Beatles music in the main room and a soloist was singing in the Cavern Lounge. It cost £2.50 to get in but was well worth the visit.

Bank Holiday Monday saw a 9am start for our journey home, and we made our final stop at the Waterperry Gardens just outside Oxford. Most of us made our way directly to the tearoom which was extremely busy. After lunch, there was just enough time to visit the museum and a very swift trip around a small section of the garden. I would really recommend a visit to this garden and will be suggesting the Centre does a day trip perhaps next year.

We all arrived home safely at around 5.15pm having had a very good and, for me, pleasantly surprising weekend in Liverpool.’