Colin Crosby Heritage Tours

Worthwhile Visit to Liverpool and St. Helens

I recently went on what is known as a "fam" (familiarisation visit) to Liverpool and St. Helens.

This was organised by "Group Leisure" magazine in conjunction with the Mersey Partnership.

Having checked in at the Atlantic Tower by Thistle hotel, close to the waterfront, and started to get to know each other (my old friend Mark Smith, who runs Coach Trips from the West Midlands, was one of the party), we made our way down to the Pier Head.

Our guide for the day was Paul, a local Blue Badge Guide who was therefore very good, and representing "Group Leisure" was Carrie Martindale.

We rode on the famous Mersey Ferry, giving fantastic views along the river and of Liverpool`s fabulous waterfront.

Then we were taken by coach to Speke Hall, a beautiful timber framed 16th century house with Victorian additions and lovely gardens. We had coffee and sandwiches here.

From there we were taken to Albert Dock, to pay a visit to The Beatles Story, where it was nice to meet Charlie again. This is now even better than the last time I visited. There is so much detail about the band and their separate careers after the breakup that it is possible to have a cursory look or a detailed one.

We had a little time in Albert Dock after that, so I had a quick look in the Tate Liverpool, where there was an exhibition conected with the Liverpool Biennial.

Back at the hotel, there was a reception, before we went for dinner at Blake`s Restaurant (named after the artist Sir Peter Blake, probably most famous for designing the Sergeant Pepper album cover) at the recently opened Hard Day`s Night hotel.

Some of the group decided to visit The Cavern afterwards for dancing etc, but I went back to my excellent room with its superb view over the Mersey.

In the morning, after a good breakfast, we boarded our coach and were whisked off to St. Helens. There we paid a vist to the first class World of Glass, centred on the Pilkingtons factory. After coffee and biscuits and a talk about the attraction and its history, we were shown around, and this included a demonstration of glass blowing.

From there we went to Inglenook Lavender Farm at Rainford, where every angle connected with lavender is impressively covered.

The next stop was Crank, where we had a good lunch at the Fairways Restaurant at Houghwood Golf Course. I shall remember this particularly, because for the first time since I was a little boy I was stung by a wasp, immediately after we had had a group photograph taken.

On we went to Haydock Park Racecourse, where we were given an idea of what groups can expect when going to the races.

Our final stop was at Sutton Manor, where we walked to the top of the hill to see Dream, the extraordinary sculpture created by the Catalan artist Jaume Plansa. This is the giant head of a little girl on the verge of sleeping and dreaming, and is well worth a visit.

We then all made our various ways home, some of us from Lime Street Station, having had a most enjoyable and interesting couple of days.