The Final Countdown: Europe, North America travel blog

Tony and Margaret had company while we waited to tour the Aprentice's...

Spinning cotton,Quarry Bank, Styal Estate

Weaving cotton,Quarry Bank, Styal Estate

That is a big waterwheel, powers the weaving machines

"Art" at Quarry Bank

Gardens at Quarry Bank

Gardens at Quarry Bank

Quarry Bank

Steam exhaust from the steam powered engines at Quarry Bank


Saturday 27th October

We turn up early for our 9am bus to Manchester, but find we have a bit further to walk as the stop for Manchester buses is not where we were dropped off a couple of days ago. It is a bit further along the road, past the café, outside the railway station building. It is a cool morning, and we are joined by a couple of others that stayed at the same place last night. We wait at the sign that says the bus leaves from here, but have to pick up our gear and run after it as it carries on past to a stop outside the café instead. Bugger, we miss our good seats at the front, the ones with the leg room!

A couple of hours later we are in Preston for a two hour stopover. There is no cold wind blowing today, the bus station still looks rubbish, but it feels nicer. Tony goes for a walk and finds a huge market in progress, there are so many stalls here selling all kinds of things. Cynthea was wanting some wool to fix the button holes on her new cardigan, so Tony goes back and tells her there is someone with knitting gear there who might have what she needs. Unfortunately not, but is it a lovely time out in the glorious sunshine.

We are in Manchester by 3pm, Tony asks Cynthea for the local bus timetable he gave her but she insists she doesn’t have it. Buses and trams all leave from near Piccadilly Gardens so we make our way there and pick up a new timetable.

We have just missed the bus, and the next will be in about an hour. Cynthea guards the bags and Tony goes to the mall to see if WH Smith can help with the Kobo ereader. He explains to the staff member that he has been getting the run around, and is just so frustrated that no one can help. He tells her that he is getting a bus to the airport in half an hour, and that he is leaving the UK to return home. She goes to talk to her manager who agrees to swap it over, third time lucky we hope!

The bus to the airport pulls up and Tony tries to board, but is not allowed on just yet. This isn’t the right stop, and it eventually moves on one whole bus length (sigh). Tony asks about a multi trip ticket, but is told there aren’t any, it is the same fare to get the bus to the airport on Monday. No, the driver doesn’t know where Pymgate Lodge is, and Tony calls the B&B for instructions. There is a stop right outside the Lodge, and it is near the old folks home. A lot of residents use it, so the driver should know where it is, but he is still none the wiser. We have the GPS on Cynthea’s phone and will use that to keep an eye on things. It takes us about an hour to get there, and by now it is dark.

The B&B is very nice, we have a huge room on the ground floor, and we order a full breakfast for the last morning. £89 for two nights, and wi-fi is available so we can keep an eye on the flight to Iceland.

Tony goes for walk in search of something for tea, Cynthea fancies chips. A couple of kilometres later, and there is no sign of a shopping centre, so Tony turns around and heads for the one we saw on the way in, but he is not quite sure how far it is. It is a cool night, with a full moon, so it is well lit. It is a concern that the footpath disappears under a large hedge on one corner, forcing Tony to walk on the road. Tony smells the chippie before he sees it, and also spots a Tesco, that will be handy for tomorrow when we stock up for Iceland. He keeps in touch with Cynthea by text, letting her know where he is and that tea is now ordered. The chips help keep him warm on the way home!

Tony has been looking for a replacement charger for the laptop. There was little point looking in the UK, but he found one through Amazon, Canada. He will order it and get it sent to Carol and Don’s. But the delivery is 2-3 weeks, so he does a bit more searching, and sees the company is based right here in Manchester. The charger is branded for the laptop, and very, very cheap, about CA$16 including postage.

We get a text from Margaret saying that if she is late in the morning it is because we have not put our clocks back, daylight savings finishes tonight.

Sunday 28th October

While we wait for Margaret Tony calls the company about the charger, he hopes he can buy and pick up today, but they say they are dispatch only. Tony asks if they have another option for sending, and they say no to that as well. He questions the 2-3 week delivery, and they say it is only to cover delays, it should be there within a week. Tony goes back to the Amazon website and orders one.

Margaret Carr picks us up after breakfast, and we head to Quarry Bank cotton mill and the Styal Estate, a well preserved mill that is now a museum, and a National Trust property, so our Heritage NZ membership gets us free entry. The mill was started in 1784 by the Greg family. It is a cool, overcast day, and we are hoping that the rain will hold off until we done, at least with the outside tours! The pathway down to the ticket office shows signs of Halloween, with carved pumpkins, spiders and their webs, and witches hats along the way to keep the kids amused.

We get timed entry tickets to see the Apprentice house, a short walk up the hill past the mill buildings. We wait in a shelter for our turn to visit, which will be signalled by a bell. Two friendly cats join us as we wait, obviously having been fed by past visitors. A staff member in period costume guides us through the house where the (unpaid) child apprentice boys and girls lived, and while we would be appalled at the conditions today, they were relatively well treated back then. Most children came from workhouses, however most were willing to work in the mill, despite the dangerous conditions, because life at a workhouse would be worse. The children would work long days, after coming back from the mill there was school work and gardening (they had a huge garden to grow their own food). The owner of the mill treated them fairly because he believed that if they were healthy and happy they'd work better. The use of unpaid children continued until 1847. Greg also employed a mill doctor who was responsible for the health of the children and other workers. This was the first doctor to be employed in such a capacity.

In the main part of the mill wee see a exhibition of Lord Snowdon’s photos, followed by the mill itself. A lot of the machinery is in full working condition, we see cotton cleaned and carded and ready to be spun, and a massive water wheel powers looms that weave teatowels to be sold in the gift shop for a fiver each. Not everything is water powered, we also see the steam engines that the mill used because they could work all year around (the water wheel stopped if the river ran dry in summer).

We head to Knutsford to meet up with Wayne, and walk to the Angel for a late lunch/early tea. Margaret takes us back to the Pymgate for our last night in the UK. We are really grateful to Margaret for all the help she gave us to make this trip possible, helping us cut through a lot of the nonsense we came across and letting us use the address as “home” for the last 16 months.

Tony checks our US Visa application, we have not heard back about it yet. Another check of the website shows they expect you to keep checking back, and we are relieved to see we are accepted, but still subject to immigration checks when we arrive.

There was not a lot left to do except pack, and have a last minute check of the flight on line. And the tickets, we checked them too, twice.

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