We have been talking about getting National Trust membership for a few years now and for one reason or another never got round to it. But when my friend Claire suggested we meet up for a family day out at Quarry Bank in Cheshire we finally bit the bullet and bought a family membership. Or rather my parents did – thanks for the early Christmas present!
Quarry Bank is 2 miles from the M56 and Manchester Airport and it was very easy to get to. We arrived about lunch time and there was still plenty of parking available. Our first stop was one of the picnic areas where we ate the packed lunch we had taken with us. There are two cafes and a take away pantry at Quarry Bank but lunch for four can be expensive so we like to take sandwiches on our days out and save our money for a cake later in the day.
Exploring Quarry Bank Mill
Quarry Bank Mill is ‘one of Britain’s greatest industrial heritage sites’. There is not only the cotton mill, but also the mill owner’s house, the Apprentice House (where children who worked in the mill lived), as well as large gardens and Styal village where the workers lived. There is so much to see at Quarry Bank that there was no way we could fit it all in one day.
After lunch the boys had a little play on the play ground and then it was time to explore the mill. The first part of the mill looks at the history of the cotton industry with some very old looms and spinning wheels. You then move into a large room full of mechanical looms – when we went in they were all operating a full pelt and it was very noisy! Gabe wasn’t a fan of the noise – it’s definitely something to be aware of with little ones.
We moved upstairs where the boys were all given some unspun cotton and then one of the staff was demonstrating the machine that then spun it into thread. I have to say I didn’t get to see an awful lot of the mill as Gabe was constantly dragging me off but the older boys were enjoying themselves and found it interesting.
The next part of the mill was all about the workers. There was lots to look at and a little film that Toby enjoyed watching too.
After this we headed back outside to have a look at the water wheel, and then into an area where the children could try out their own engineering skills making paper aeroplanes, lolly stick bridges and working with cogs. Again the older boys really enjoyed this part but Gabe was getting fed up so him and I headed back to the car to drop our lunch boxes off and met the others a bit later for our tour of the Apprentice House.
The Apprentice House
There are guided tours of the Apprentice House throughout the day. These are free but you do have to get tickets for a specific time slot at the information centre at the entrance to Quarry Bank. The tour of the Apprentice House, where children aged from 8 to 18 used to live while they worked in the mill, was really interesting. We saw the bedroom where up to 60 girls would sleep two to a bed, we learned about the medicine they used (including looking at some live leeches!), and we learned about the chores they would have to do to keep the house running.
The only slight problem was that the lady taking the tour was pretending the children were actually apprentices of the mill and I think all our boys were a bit scared of her! They were worried we were actually going to leave them there! Although they were a bit reluctant at first the boys soon got stuck in to ‘working’ in the kitchen. Gabe loved doing some scrubbing and Toby had a go at beating a rag rug outside!
After our tour we went to the Garden Cafe for a cake and a brew. It’s only quite small but there is a bigger cafe at the mill itself. It wasn’t too expensive either – two coffees, an apple juice, three pieces of cake and an ice cream came to just over £15. Us adults even managed to get a drink in peace as the boys ran around on the grass outside where we could keep an eye on them through the glass wall of the cafe.
It was lovely to see the boys all playing together especially as they don’t get to see each other that often any more. Look how big Toby is though – he’s only 3 months older than the twins!
After all that we left Quarry Bank just before 4pm for the hour drive home. We had a lovely day but there was definitely lots we didn’t get to see. I guess that’s the beauty of National Trust membership though – we could easily go back for another day and not feel like we were wasting money on visiting the same place again.
There are a few more National Trust properties closer to home so we’ll definitely be exploring those soon. And there are lots in the Lake District too where we visit quite regularly so I’m sure there’ll be lots more NT posts coming on the blog over the next year.
If you have any favourite National Trust properties in the north west I’d love to hear about them. I’m sure we’ll get to some down south at some point to but for now I think we’re probably going to stick a bit closer to home!