Tag: UK travel

How to spend a Great British seaside weekend in Southport, Merseyside

To Southport, the Paris of Merseyside for my contribution from the Northwest to a summer series from Telegraph Travel about British seaside towns.

Here’s my take on Southport, including a visit to Southport Market [pictured above].

Southport feels like a resort waiting for something — and preferably not another Poundland.

“But exploring the backstreets offers its reward.

Personally, I could happily spend an afternoon mooching around the Victorian arcades with the twin-level Wayfarers Arcade, built in 1898, a study in wrought iron and glass.

Cambridge Arcade has been restored to its 1850s glory with a glass canopy now shielding local businesses, such as Mersey micropub, the Tap and Bottle.

A craft ale bar and bottle shop, the sign outside proclaims it ‘good enough for John Cooper Clarke and the guy from Countryfile (not John Craven)’.”

Read the full story via Telegraph Travel: Southport feels like a resort waiting for something to happen.

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What the HS2 decision means next for Crewe’s fledgling tourism industry

 

What does the HS2 decision mean for rail-heritage-central Crewe?

That’s the question posed by this article, a postcard from East Cheshire for Telegraph Travel.

The story went live today but behind the paywall, so here’s my full, unedited draft, including an interview with former railwayman Brian Bailey [pictured above].

Please post your comments below.

And read the story via Telegraph Travel: How Crewe went from railway hub to an HS2 ghost town.

Coming soon to Crewe: Ruby Wax, a night of Halloween ghost stories and a tribute to Rod Stewart. That’s according to the posters outside the town’s charming Lyceum Theatre, where the red-velour interior and cherub-adorned balcony evoke the theatre’s Edwardian heyday.

But a far bigger name is no longer coming to Crewe. The headline act? HS2.

The decision last week to scrap to second phase of the high-speed railway line from Birmingham to Manchester enraged Mancunians awaiting news outside the Conservative Party Conference. The Prime Minister offered funding for northern rail but made no mention of Crewe, the East Cheshire town synonymous with railways ever since the first train arrived in July 1837.

Crewe had been earmarked as a major interchange between HS2 and the existing rail system yet, in a heartbeat, the rail gateway to the Northwest of England was erased from the high-speed tourist map.

The project would have acted, according to Cheshire East Council, as a huge catalyst for regeneration, providing a £750m economic boost to the town. Crewe has lost out, it says, on 5,000 new jobs, 4,500 new homes and a major upgrade to the Grade II-listed railway station, dating from 1867.

The Department for Transport subsequently pledged to improve the station for the existing network.

So, what now? I’ve come to Crewe on a warm October afternoon to seek out the town’s hidden heritage, its 33 listed buildings and proud tradition of working-class history often lost amid the boarded-up shops.

I start by crossing Memorial Square with its statue of Britannia to visit the Grade II-listed Crewe Market Hall, a former cheese market and cattle auction now reborn as the in-vogue venue for street food, craft ales and evening live events. I find Ruth Jackson, barista at Mini Bean Coffee, still pondering the implications of the HS2 decision.

“There’s a huge amount of disappointment across town,” says Ruth, who swapped Frappuccinos at the Crewe branch of Starbucks for a plucky coffee independent.

“The irony that Crewe is famous for its railway heritage is not lost on us.”

Indeed. It was the Grand Junction Railway Company that first established Crewe at the height of the Victorian railway boom. The Crewe Works, opened to build and repair locomotives, completed its first train, Columbine, in 1843. The new town grew up around the works and Crewe went on to produce over 8,000 locomotives for Britain’s railways until 1991.

By the 1870s, the town’s population had swelled to more than 43,000 steam-loving locals, while King George V and Queen Mary came to inspect the new Royal Train in April 1931.

The former Crewe Works is now the Crewe Heritage Centre, a family attraction celebrating 185 years of rail heritage with an exhibition hall and behind-the-scenes visits to trainspotter heaven — the 1938 North Junction Signal Box.

“I spent my childhood standing at my local level crossing outside Crewe, watching the steam engines.”

So says Heritage Centre Trustee Brian Bailey, who started his railway career as a 15-year-old apprentice and served 34 years on the railways.

“Crewe would have built the new bogeys for HS2, the work invigorating the town. Now,” he sighs, the thunder of trains on the Westcoast Mainline just beyond the viewing platform, “it’s all gone.”

Despite the setback, however, there are green shoots around the town centre. A new History Centre is earmarked for 2025, incorporating the new Cheshire Archives Service. There are two new self-guided heritage trails around town and, at Betley Street, a row of railworkers’ cottages from the mid 1800s have been lovingly saved, the neat rows with pea-green doors and hanging baskets arranged around a courtyard of autumn-colour beach trees.

New independent businesses are also moving back into the town centre with The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) recently championing the Crewe Beer Crawl, five independent craft-beer pubs within staggering distance.

“We need to get more people, such as beer nerds, to get off the train here,” says Sean Ayling, head brewer at Tom’s Tap and Brewhouse on Thomas Street.

“Going forward, I’d like to see more independent places to eat, such as the Holy Bun on Ruskin Road, and shuttle bus connections between the different parts of the town.”

I finish my exploration with an autumnal stroll through Queens Park, the Victorian public space designed by the landscape architect Edward Kemp and gifted to the town by its wealthy railway owning benefactors.

The boating lake and bowling green hark back to a more genteel period in Crewe’s history, while the iron gates feature the town’s original coat of arms with ‘Never behind’. The revised coat of arms of 1955 has the unintentionally ironic motto of ‘Semper Contendo’ or ‘Ever pressing forward’.

Back at the Lyceum Theatre, meanwhile, I learn that Charlie Chaplin and Stan Laurel are amongst the famous acts to have trodden the boards. Today there are Phantom of the Opera-style tales of backstage hauntings and former X-Factor winner Matt Terry leading the cast in this year’s pantomime, Cinderella.

Crewe, however, is still waiting to go the ball, thwarted by those ugly HS2 sisters, and the Fairy Godmother is stuck in a railway siding. The renaissance remains a work in progress, yet Crewe still believes one day its prince will come.

Visit the Crewe Heritage Centre (adult/child £7/5; open weekends until end October; www.crewehc.co.uk). More from: Visit Chester and Cheshire (www.visitcheshire.com).

 

A slow-travel journey along the North Wales Way reveals hidden gems

 

 

A summer assignment for Wanderlust Magazine took me on a slow-travel odyssey along the North Wales Way.

It’s one of three new routes devised by Visit Wales to look afresh at regions most people think they already know.

In terms of North Wales, visitors often drive from the North Wales border outside Chester to the tip of Anglesey in a day. But they’re missing out.

Here’s a flavour of my feature:

Unesco-listed castles and picture-postcard villages; stone-skimming beaches and ancient Celtic sites; plus, some of the best in local produce from independent food champions proud of their region’s natural bounty. It’s time to look afresh at North Wales.

The journey took in the new interpretation at Caernarfon Castle [pictured above], Plas Newydd on Anglesey and Beddglert before heading onto Conwy and Llandudno.

My trip ended with a preview of Skyflier, the much-anticipated new attraction in Rhyl from the Zip World group.

Over coffee pre departure. founder Sean Taylor enthused:

“Rhyl is a sleeping giant. It was the bucket-and-spade seaside town of my childhood but could become North Wales’ answer to New Zealand’s South Island.”

Read the full feature, Waking a Sleeping Giant, in the new issue of Wanderlust Magazine here.

How to spend a weekend in football-loving Wrexham like a true A-list Hollywood star

Image: Telegraph Travel

Amazing scenes in Wrexham this week.

They inspired this feature about the Hollywood glamour of the formerly workaday town in Northeast Wales for Telegraph Travel.

Here’s a taster of the article.

The streets of the former industrial town in Northeast Wales were packed last night with fans from across the world cheering on the open-top bus parade from the Racecourse ground, home of Wrexham AFC.

It marked the Wrexham team securing promotion back to the English Football League after 15 years and consisted of three buses, featuring the men’s side and women’s side, which also clinched promotion.

The club’s Hollywood co-owners Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney [pictured above] completed the line-up, having bought the club in 2020 and transformed its fortunes.

It’s a story worthy of a Hollywood epic for the third oldest professional football club in the world, dating from 1864, and compensates for Wrexham narrowly losing out to Bradford to host the UK City of Culture 2025 last year.

Jim Jones, CEO of North Wales Tourism, says:

“You can’t put a value on the recent exposure. Wrexham is the gateway to North Wales and the whole world now wants to know the story of Wrexham and the region.”

Read the full feature via Telegraph Travel  The A-lister guide to Wrexham