The Boundless social group enjoy trips and short breaks all year round – experience one holiday with 2000-year-old Terracotta Warriors and a journey through Liverpool's industrial heritage
Explore Liverpool's World Museum and a cruise through 120 years of industrial heritage including Salford Quays, Liverpool's docklands and Latchford Locks.
Bill is facing down a ninja. The latter may have spent some 2,000 years underground, and it’s built of stone, but it still manages to look pretty handy with its fists.
“Each one of these statues has its own character, whether it’s a facial expression or the stance,” says Bill. “They feel alive to me.”
Bill Brook, a retired materials manager from Lancashire with an eye for logistics, is one of the organisers of the Boundless Social Breaks and Holidays Group. The committee, run by mainly retired volunteers, arranges around 25 short breaks each year and Bill has been busy as the co-organiser behind this trip to Liverpool.
The city has a rich heritage and cultural scene but the highlight for many is a chance to get up close and personal with the visiting Terracotta Warriors exhibition at the World Museum. The underground army of life-sized warriors was discovered in Qin Shi Huangdi’s tomb, Xian, in 1974 and this blockbuster exhibition, featuring many objects never seen before in the UK, has been drawing the crowds since it opened.
“It’s the scale of it that amazes me,” observes Bill as he moves through a series of exhibits, from an opening film through to the collection of iconic figures with cold, stone stares. “It’s amazing to think that some 700,000 labourers were employed at any one time on the tomb,” he adds.
A chance to make friends
Later, Bill reveals that the Liverpool trip, attended by 73 members from all around the UK, could have easily sold out several times. The itinerary comprises Sunday arrival, free time on Monday followed by a visit to the World Museum, and a cruise on the Manchester Ship Canal on Tuesday. Members are based at The Liner Hotel, located close to Liverpool’s Lime Street train station – in fact, a third of the members have joined the trip by train.
“We’re doing things that have been on my bucket list for years,” says Jacqui Wilson, a cheery civil servant from Manchester. “Having lived in Liverpool in the ’70s, I jumped at this trip for the combination of memories and an opportunity to see how the city has evolved.”
Looking around the exhibition, Jacqui is intrigued by the way it draws comparisons between the timelines of the Chinese and Roman civilisations. But for her, the highlight of these trips is the way that people come together over shared experiences. “The secret formula is the way everyone is made to feel welcome,” she smiles. “I love the family atmosphere.”
Retired civil servant Iain Robertson, who travelled up from Hastings with his wife, Dorothy, agrees. “We like the itineraries – but there’s an added dimension for us as well,” he explains. “We meet up with people from previous trips, so it always feels like an extended family gathering.”
A cruise through history
The next morning, the group gathers for a cruise run by Mersey Ferries on the Manchester Ship Canal. A mile-long sweep of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Liverpool waterfront stretches out before us. On one side is the Albert Dock, where Tate Liverpool has been hosting world-class exhibitions since the regeneration of the docklands in the late ’80s. On the other are Liverpool’s Three Graces, namely the Royal Liver Building, the Cunard Building and the Port of Liverpool Building – symbols of Liverpool’s seafaring heyday.
The cruise is a 35-mile jaunt through 120 years of industrial heritage that propelled north-west England to the forefront of the industrial age. According to the informative commentary that accompanies the cruise, some 54 million cubic yards of material were excavated over the six years it took to construct the ship canal, and the cost of the project soared above £15m. By the time Queen Victoria performed the official opening ceremony on 21 May 1894, it had become the largest river navigation canal in the world.
Cruising at a steady 4mph on a sunny morning, the group is soon captivated by the first of many great feats of Victorian engineering still visible along the canal, as the iron hulks of the twin road and rail bridges at Runcorn, marking the first crossing point for the Mersey, loom majestically into view.
The cruise then continues eastwards towards Warrington, where Latchford Locks provides the next engineering landmark. When the boat comes to a rest and the lock keepers go to work, releasing the sluices and letting water gush in to achieve a rise of 12ft 6in, the trip’s co-organiser, Paul Bache, is looking on admiringly.
“This trip offers a better understanding of the importance of north-west England to global trade, and the contribution the region made to British shipping history,” he smiles, sipping a mug of coffee. “Seeing first-hand the regeneration of the region has changed my whole perception of the north-west,” he adds, before the boat makes its final approach to Salford Quays, home to the Imperial War Museum North.
Back on dry land
After learning how the arrival of the railways in the 19th century sounded the death knell for the canal network, and about the important work of the Inland Waterways Association, the group returns to dry land and heads back to the hotel. Later, the farewell dinner offers a chance to swap the personal stories that motivated group members to travel to Liverpool and see the city through fresh eyes. For Bill, the brush with the Terracotta Warriors is still the pivotal moment of his time here.
“My wife said there was a real presence in that room,” he smiles. “It was something unique – a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
The Social Breaks and Holidays Group
Find out more about the excellent range of short breaks organised by the Social Breaks and Holidays Group or request a copy of the Group’s 2019 brochure from Member Services on 0800 669944. Trips coming up in 2019 include a three-night break in the Cotswold Water Park, two nights in Lincoln, and three nights exploring Ironbridge and the Severn Valley Railway.