Before the world turned to shit, I unwittingly made the most of the freedom. Unaware that lockdown would have the UK on its knees in a few days time, I followed on from my Scottish adventure with a few days of UK travel to entertain my little Czech friends Tereza and Jakub.
In retrospect, I can’t believe how much I was moaning about having so much to do throughout February and March!
It was like the universe was telling me to cram everything in before Corona lockdown…
Tereza is originally from the Czech Republic and lived in Birmingham for a good few years (which is where we met for a blogging event way-back-when). Moving back to Prague, we now see each other at least once a year either whenever we can afford to hop on a plane.
During their few days in the UK with me, I wanted to plan some things they hadn’t explored before. Obviously Tereza knows the UK relatively well from living here. My challenge was to plan things that would be a bit more interesting than visiting the same old stomping grounds.
As I’d planned the itinerary I realised that actually, this might make for some good travel blog content for other people to explore (when we are finally allowed back out again!). I am guilty of overlooking the regular places I go and not writing about them, as I take them a little for granted!
Over four days I mapped out four areas to visit that I felt were of most interest.
The four locations (in order) are Manchester, Cheshire, Nottingham and the Peak District.
But let’s start with the closest place to home and how we spent 24 hours in Cheshire.
Being in Staffordshire actually turns out to be quite handy when you’re entertaining, as everything seems within an hours drive from home. Cheshire starts a mere 15 minutes from where I live, so we frequent it pretty often (well, I do work there).
Rode Hall Farmers Market
Up bright and early for the first location of the Cheshire adventure day, we visited my favourite Monthly attraction: Rode Hall Farmers Market.
Taking place on the first Saturday of every month throughout the year, Rode Hall Farmers Market can get quite busy! Especially during the summer. We always make sure we get there earlier so we can try and see as much as we can.
Mainly a food market, there are a variety of different vendors there selling everything from handmade art to candles. There are always regular stalls. They sell some brilliant pies, scotch eggs (two of the black pudding ones for us, please!), GIANT arancini balls and fruit and veg sellers with a wide variety of lovely fresh produce to take home (we always get mushrooms as well, but I do not eat them regardless of how instagram worthy they are).
I was a little bit nervous about taking Tereza and Jakub. In Prague there is a fantastic farmers market by the river (mentioned in this post) that they go to regularly. When I went to that one I was blown away at how amazing everything was! Tereza did say that she thought Rode Hall was better… but maybe they’re both equal and we have a case of ‘grass is greener’ just because we’re visiting from across the pond each time?! Either way, both v. good farmers markets regardless of whether you’re the UK or Czech Republic.
Dagfields Antique Emporium
One place I had to take Tereza was to Dagfields Antiques Emporium. Nestled just outside of Nantwich, it is a massive haven of all things vintage and old. Her favourite. Especially when it comes to weird pictures of dead people (she has an instagram account dedicated to them).
There is a total of seven massive spaces with over 250 antiques dealers. I remember taking my friend Victoria once before her train home. She thought 45minutes would be TOO long and we’d have to really take our time around… in 45 minutes I think we’d only covered one of the emporiums.
With this in mind, I knew we had to designate a good few hours to exploring Dagfields, Especially with Tereza and Jakubs keen eye for something old and weird.
Whilst there are many really good antiques stalls, there are a few that sell, well… There’s literally someone selling DIY tools you’d get from B&M. But for every crap stall there are 5 decent ones I’d say! The prices can be really reasonable as well. It’s not like vintage/antiques shops in Camden or Knustford (examples off the top of my head) where I’ve seen things being sold for a highly inflated price. Prices are Dagfields reflect the competition of the surroundings and the fact that true collectors will frequent the location.
My only criticism of Dagfields is the food side of things. There is a cafe but it’s quite expensive and not the best food. It’s a bit of a shame really as it can be a proper full day out when you’ve got nothing else on the agenda! If you do go fill your belly beforehand or plan for some lunch at a pub close by.
Tereza did find her own unique treasure in a vintage Sooty puppet (which now lives back in the Czech Republic with her).
Hack Green Nuclear Bunker
If you’ve ever driven through Cheshire you will have undoubtedly have seen the signs for the ‘Secret Bunker’. If you’re hilarious you would have also made a lol-tastic joke about how it’s not-so-secret if there’s a sign for it… To which no one will laugh because it’s been said a thousand times before.
This rather eerie attraction is a 35,000 square foot underground bunker was fully equipped in case a nuclear war was ever to break out. Putting the fear of God into you at every corner, there are hundreds of posters, leaflets, guides and instructions for the protocol in case any such disaster was to happen.
This former government-owned site is now decommissioned and run as a cold war museum.
Now it is owned by a family who clearly has a passion for the history behind it. The bunker was purchased by Rodney Siebert in 1995; simply because of his own love of the site. The family soon worked together to make it into the museum it is today. Which has now been taken over by his daughter following his retirement.
As you walk through the bunker, it is somehow reminiscent of those outdoor education sites you’d visit at school. The light blue floortiles and a familiar smell that makes you think you’re heading to the canteen for custard and vanilla traybake. It’s hard to describe unless you’ve ever experienced such a place.
I suppose that makes it even more strange, the familiar sights and smells for a bunker which would be your saving grace in a nuclear disaster.
Walking through the rooms and experiencing what life could have been like if disaster did ever strike leaves you with a mix of emotions. One is that we are very lucky that the government does not feel the need for this type of bunker anymore and two how f*cked most of the country would have been if we did, as the capacity and locations of such are nowhere near enough to accommodate everyone.
For £10 we also had re-entry for the rest of the year. Which is a decent price for something which is clearly such a passion project for all involved. Find out more here.
For some reason, Cheshire is awash with Smokehouse style restaurants. Usually, we opt for Hickorys Smokehouse in Gresty Green or Reubans in Congleton. Both are high up there on the BBQ meat scale. For a change though, we went for Deadwood Smokehouse in Nantwich, as it was closer to the other places we’d visited that day.
To be honest, it’s hard to go wrong with most of the smokehouses in Cheshire. I can’t, off the top of my head, think of a particularly bad meal I’ve had at any.
Deadwood seem to have a more streamlined menu than most, yet its still packed with choice. This actually works out better when you’re completely indecisive like I am. Which was demonstrated with my choice actually, as I went for 3 starters as a main course. I just like to try a bit of everything, okay?
The mac and cheese with burnt ends was a particular highlight for me. And I think its safe to say that everyone enjoyed the food. Especially Jakub who went for the gigantic Deadwood’s Monster burger, which came with pretty much most things on the menu sandwiched between two buns.
After a day packed full of exploring Cheshire and bellies satisfactorily full, we headed home…
Where we harassed the cats and played the Jaws board game until our eyes couldn’t stay open any longer. We also needed a bit of sleep before the next big day of adventuring where we went to Nottingham!