The north west of England includes the five counties of
Cumbria, Lancashire, Greater Manchester, Merseyside, and Cheshire.
The mountains, valleys and lakeside of Cumbria are as beautiful
and awe inspiring today as they were in the early 19th century, when Wordsworth wondered through them “lonely as a cloud”.
The poet’s spirit and genius live on in his homes: Grasmere’s
Dove Cottage and nearby Rydal
Mount. Wordsworth’s homes are now places of pilgrimage for admirers from all over the world. So also is
the home of the Lake District’s other famous writer,
Potter, who contributed to the
popularity of the north west. She created Peter Rabbit,
Jemima Puddle-Duck and all her other much loved animal
characters at her stone farmhouse, Hill Top, near
An exhibition of her fantasy world can be seen at
Brockhole, near Windermere, the headquarters of the Lake District National Park.
Centuries earlier, the Roman legions left their traces at the fort
below Hardknott Pass. During the Middle Ages, monks settled at St Bees
and Furness and barons controlled the turbulent Border region from
castles at Appleby, Carlisle and Sizergh.
Victorian Technology can be admired at Windermere
Steamboat Museum, while modern nuclear power production is
explained at the Exhibition Centre at Sellafield.
The Lancashire plain spreads westwards from the Forest of Bowland, a desolate and rugged
fringe of the Pennines where there are magnificent views across
the plain from Beacon Fell Park.
Some of Britain’s finest stately homes dot the attractive
countryside of the north west; some, like Astley Hall, built of
local stone and others such as the lovely Rufford Old Hall, superb example of “black and white” timber framed
Lancashire has a great industrial tradition which first grew on cotton, a tradition kept alive by
the Helmshore Textile Museum, the Lewis Museum of Textile Machinery and the
preserved mill district called Weavers’ Triangle.
Industry though has not totally consumed Lancashire; there are
still large areas of unspoiled countryside ranging from the marshland nature reserves at Leighton Moss and Martin Mere, to the
country parks at Wycoller, Witton and Jumbles and the parklands
and gardens of Lever Park.
Cotton created Manchester. In the 14th century Flemish
weavers came to Britain and set up their trade in such places as Uppermill where, in the Saddleworth
Museum, their primitive looms can still be seen.
Four centuries later their trade was revolutionised by men like Samuel Crompton, Richard Arkwright and James Hargreaves.
Crompton’s spinning mile, Arkwright spinning frame and Hargreave’s
spinning jenny are among the exhibits at Crompton’s home at Hall-i’th’-Wood is much as it was when he lived there.
Progress brought prosperity to the north west, resulting in great
houses such as Dunham Massey, Heaton Hall and Platt Hall. Progress
also brought the need for transport, soon provided by canals and railways.
At Castlefield a station of the Liverpool and Manchester Railway is today part of a heritage park.
The Railways carried coal from the pits, vividly recreated at the
Salford Mining Museum, which unfortunately closed down in
2009 due to financial impediments.
So, too, did the canal barges, often loading at
Wigan where Wigan
Pier is now a heritage centre recreating life in the 1900s.
The heart of Merseyside is Liverpool, the small fishing village that grew to become one of the world’s largest
ports.Today much of the bustle of shipping which used to animate 7 miles of
waterfront is stilled, but Liverpool’s dockland has been
reborn, with a wide range of other exhibition centres forming a living village around the Albert Dock complex. If the maritime theme predominates, modern art and the culture
of the Beatles also have honoured places.
But there is more to Merseyside than Liverpool alone. The surrounding countryside offers a choice
of open air attractions, including the beautiful Wirral Country
Park, with its teeming native wildlife and Knowsley Safari
Park, where more exotic species roam.
On the banks of the Mersey stands Port Sunlight Village,
built by the soap tycoon Lord Leverhulme to provide ideal homes for
his staff, while for those seeking out of the ordinary attractions, there are museums of glass making and clock
making and an expressively titled Large Objects Collection,
the only one in the north west.
Salt and silk were the foundations of Cheshire’s industrial wealth
and their stories are recalled in museums across the county. The Industrial
Revolution, which led to the building of Quarry Bank Mill
and its pioneering model village for mill workers, also saw the development of the county’s canals, which are the
theme of the National Waterways Museum at
The Cheshire plain has for centuries been rich dairy farming country. Wealth from the land built a
profusion of country houses and Gawsworth and Little Moreton Hall show how the traditional half timbering used for cottages
was equally successful for mansions.Their
owners, unlike those of Tatton Park and Capesthorne, resisted the urge to rebuild in the grander styles of later
centuries. The plain offered few natural defensive sites for castles and those at Chester and Beeston are rare
survivors from Medieval times.
The Blackpool Illuminations have been wowing visitors young and old for well over a
century and continue to do so in the autumn, every year in Blackpool.
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