Maldon U3A - Maritime Holiday in Liverpool

Maritime Group Holiday in Liverpool to see the three Cunard Queens - May 2015

Sunday 24th May

We set off from a dull Maldon just after 8 o'clock looking forward to visiting Liverpool and the 'Three Queens Experience' and much more. Barrie our coach driver explained all the facilities on board Our first place to visit was going to be the Shugborough Estate, Staffordshire. It was planned for us to arrive at 12.30 and have 'an all areas ticket 'so people could have lunch in the tea room then decide what they would like to visit, leaving about at 4.15. The Shugborough Estate is the ancestral home of the Earls of Lichfield and is now owned by the National Trust. The private apartments of the late photographer, Patrick Lichfield were open. There were many personal objects, photographs and memorabilia relating to him. The Georgian Mansion has lovely views of the riverside garden and a stunning collection of porcelain. There was also costumed characters in the servants' quarters and farmstead: doing laundry, cheese making, milling, brewing and baking. It also has a walled garden and many follies in the parkland. The journey from Shugborough to our hotel, The Best Western Premier Queen Hotel in Chester seem to go very smoothly, travelling through lovely rolling green countryside, we arrived just after 6 o'clock and it didn't take long for us to be given our keys and get settled in our rooms. The Best Western Premier Queen Hotel is located opposite Chester rail station. It has an interesting history, The Queens Hotel was opened in 1860. It was the first grand railway hotel to be built in the U.K. and became the model for other transport hotels over the next 50 years. As no other hotels of this type existed they employed a person who had experience designing prisons. This did not reflex adversely on its design.

Monday 25th May

It was a dull, chilly day. Everyone was wearing sensible walking shoes and warm clothing, ready for a very exciting day. We arrived at the water front just after 10 o'clock. There is a lot of places to visit in this area, Tate Liverpool, The Museum of Liverpool, The Merseyside Maritime Museum, The International Slavery Museum and The Beatles Story and some have free entry. Malcolm and Barrie our driver had warned us it would be very busy at the Liverpool Quayside. So armed with several maps, liner timetable, boat trip ticket and strict instructions to be at the Pier Head by 4.45 for our boat trip at 5.15. The Queen Mary 2(QM2) was already at the Cruise Terminal and leaving at 10.45 to join her sister ships in the mouth of the River Mersey. They would then sail in formation up the River Mersey to the Albert Dock. From here the QM2 would leave and the Queen Elizabeth would dock at the Cruise Terminal, the Queen Victoria would anchor in the middle of the river. Later that evening the Queen Elizabeth would leave and the Queen Victoria dock at the Cruise Terminal. Soon after we arrived the QM2 siren sounded to let us know she was leaving the Cruise Terminal. As I have never been on a cruise ship I was very surprised to see the ship floating sideways from the dock side, without any help from a tug boat. (Later Malcolm gave us a detailed explanation of how this was possible). The people around us seemed very friendly, asking us where we were from and gave us extra details of what was happening. I was impressed with how proud local people were of the Cunard ships and how much they meant to them. It seemed to take a long time for the three liners to reappear in line but it was very impressive and they looked so big. Each liner turned simultaneously 180 degrees so they were now facing down river. Everyone on the dockside cheered. As soon as this manoeuvre had been completed the Red Arrows flew over head. We then all met up at the Mersey Ferries terminal where it was very busy, ready for our boat trip; they were running a bit late but everyone was there and enjoyed seeing the Queen Victoria and Elizabeth at close quarters. When our boat trip was over we all made our way quickly back to our coach agreeing it had been a really wonderful day.

Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth
Queen Mary 2

Tues 26th May

We left our hotel a bit later on Tuesday. First we visited the National Waterway Museum at Ellesmere Port. It was started by a group of enthusiasts to preserve a vanishing way of life. There is a collection of boats and other items such as traditional clothing, painted canal ware and tools. The Victorian buildings, which house the museum's displays, sit amidst locks and moorings. After our short guided walk we then boarded a canal boat for short guided canal trip which informed us about the factories that stood beside the canal and its wildlife. The next place we visited was Port Sunlight Museum and Garden Village. Port Sunlight was built at the end of the 19th Century, this garden village was originally built as a home for workers of the nearby Lever factory. The model village is the work of over 30 architects, and the variety of architecture is unique in the area. We had slightly less than an hour to visit the Port Sunlight Museum or Lady Lever Art Gallery before our conducted tour of the garden village by coach. Our guide for the coach tour of the village lived in the village and it was obvious she really enjoyed sharing her knowledge of its history. Our last visit of the day was to an exhibition called the U-Boat story in Birkenhead, on the side of the River Mersey, opposite The Pier Head, Liverpool, where the Mersey Ferry docks. On May 5th 1945 U-534 was heading north towards Norway, when it was attacked by a UK aircraft which dropped depth charges by it. U534 began to sink. Forty-nine of her fifty-two crew survived, including four who escaped via the torpedo hatch. The vessel lay forgotten on the sea bed for over 40 years. In 1993 the wreckage was raised from the seabed in the hope of finding hidden treasure aboard. Nothing was found. The U-boat had been cut into sections, with explanations of what you were looking at. There were very interesting descriptions of what life was like to sail in such a vessel. It was planned for us to depart from the museum at 5 o'clock. As we were nearly opposite The Cruise Terminal and the liner Queen Victoria was due to depart at 5'o clock we were hoping to see this happen. We were in luck, we watched the liner slowly pull away from the dockside, complete a 360; give several hoots of her siren then majestically sail down the River Mersey. This completed another great day.

Canal Lock
Port Sunlight

Wed 27th May

This morning we had a 'do as you please' time till 12.30 when we were to depart. As our hotel was a little way from Chester city centre most people chose to visit the picturesque city centre, walk the city walls, visit the cathedral or have a trip on the city tour bus. We arrived back in Maldon at 7 o'clock having had two stops and some rerouting due to traffic hold ups on the A12.

A big thank you goes to Malcolm Case and Alan Buck along with their understanding wives for arranging such an interesting trip.

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Last revised 6th June 2015