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A lovely day in Styal at Quarry Bank Mill
Quarry Bank Mill & Styal Country Park (Manchester)
Member Name: northernlovely
Quarry Bank Mill & Styal Country Park (Manchester)
Advantages: Lots to do and see
Disadvantages: The high prices
Quarry Bank Mill was a place that my husband and I found quite by accident, which made it all the better at the time! We fancied a nice walk on a sunny Sunday afternoon, so we drove to Styal park (parking is free, and there is room for about 30 cars) to make our way through the forest path.
It was a lovely walk, made all the better by the resident ice-cream man in the car park which meant we set off each with a 99 in hand (shame they don't cost 99p any more but I digress). The walk is down a well maintained path through lush trees, past fields, wetland with ducks and a fishing pond in the middle. It's very popular with ramblers, dog walkers, families and people of all ages.
After about 20 minutes walk, I could hear rushing water. How amazing that Styal Country Park, which leads on to the Quarry Bank Mill estate, has a large and ferocious waterfall!
We had a look at the waterfall, and the surrounding well-kept grounds, which include a large lawn area for picnickers, a wooden play area, seating area with tables and gardens. All are very, very well kept, as this is a National Trust estate.
Quarry Bank Mill comprises of the main mill, which has been converted from it's original use as a working cotton mill established in 1939 to a visitor attraction, a gift shop, a restaurant, and some loos. It is very well visited, as when we went on a sunny but otherwise unremarkable Sunday, it was quite busy. The opening hours are 11 - 4 for all attractions other than the garden which is open 11 - 5.
I can't deny it's a beautiful place to visit, but I have to admit that I was very disappointed to find how very expensive the attraction actually is. It's £14.20 to visit the mill, apprentice house and garden, which is £28.40 for myself and my husband. It's £35.40 for a family. The full price breakdown is as follows:
Mill, Apprentice House and garden: adult £14.20 child £7.05 family £35.40 Mill and Apprentice House or garden: adult £10.50 child £5.25 family £25.20 Mill only: adult £7.35 child £3.90 family £18.60
Garden only: adult £5 child £2.50 family £12.50
Garden upgrade: adult £3.50 child £1.75 family £8.75
Estate: Cars £4, motorcycles £2, coaches £15.
Luckily, we managed to dodge the car parking fee on the estate as we parked on the other side of the park, but I do personally think these prices are far too high. Almost £30 for two, three hours entertainment at most? We are supposed to be encouraging our families to spend time together, get some fresh air, learn something. But these prices are not within the reach of many people, and the only option is to join the National Trust itself, which is £36 for 12 months and allows free parking and entry to all visitors attractions it maintains. It's an initial outlay which seems a lot but if you want to spend your summer visiting places like this, then it is worth it.
So, once the initial shock of the price is over, what's the Mill like? Well, very nice, and well worth a visit especially if you are a member of the National Trust. It covers how cotton was made in the early 1900s and really does go into some depth, which is very interesting, and would appeal to a wide range of visitors. You can expect to spend around 90 minutes, possibly more in there, so it does have a lot to give.
The restaurant is large, with plenty of seating and a wide range of mostly English choices, and it's a welcome place for a drink and snack after spending some time on the estate. Again, expect to pay a premium in here, with a can of soft drink at a ridiculous £1, so if you can, pack a lunch, take a flask of tea or at the very least take some drinks because sandwiches, snacks and a drink for a family of four would leave little change out of £20.
The loos, in a break from tradition, are free to use, are fairly clean and well kept, if a little poorly stocked for tissues. They are handy though.
The gift shop is a nice place to visit, it's fully accessible too, with a stairlift for pushchairs and wheelchairs. The shop sells a range of food goods, natural health and beauty items, toys, National Trust branded items (binoculars, bags, paperweights etc) and so on. It's a lovely place to look around and no doubt if you're looking for a hiking book as a gift or something special for your mum or gran, then you'd be able to find it in here. But generally it's a bit expensive (£5 for a bookmark!?).
Overall, my husband and I had a lovely day at Styal Country Park and Quarry Bank Mill, especially as we found it quite by accident! There is plenty to keep you entertained and educated and you can easily spend a full day there, though you would be better going when the weather is dry if not sunny, as there is so much to see and do out of doors as well as indoors.
The only reason I'm docking the one star is the prices. I have learnt my lesson and will be joining with my husband to the National Trust membership scheme, as I don't think there is any real justification to have a National Trust site, or any historical or natural beauty site cost as much to visit as Alton Towers or Lego Land (which, when push comes to shove, kids would much prefer to visit, let's face it). About £7 I would have been happy with, and they would get a lot more visitors that way too.
If you would like to visit Quarry Bank Mill and Styal Country Park, I would, to summarise:
- Park in Styal Park's car park, as it is free, and the walk to the mill is lovely
- Take a packed lunch and some drinks if you can
- If you plan to visit more than one National Trust site in the next 12 months, join their membership scheme on their site. It costs £36 for the year, all National Trust sites and parking is free with it, and you get a pair of binoculars when you join. If you join up the same day, you get a printable membership card so you can reap the benefits immediately.
Overall, I'd absolutely recommend you visit, as it's amazing - a waterfall, a beautiful park and a wonderful historical attraction. A lovely way to spend a day and I'll be sure to go back in the future.
Summary: A beautiful place
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