Visitors to Liverpool are offered an endless array of Beatles tours and activities. Some are predictable; others tacky. But Strawberry Field provides an imaginative and memorable experience within its cafe and garden. Within these grounds, you can sit in the tree where John Lennon used to ruminate, or stand by the iconic red gates which, although a replica of the originals, are still profoundly evocative for those who visit this magical place.

When we arrive, there are people quietly walking around the garden, slowly reading John Lennon quotes, Beatles lyrics and Biblical verses which knit together the long history of this location, from the Christian roots of the Salvation Army children’s home that once stood here, to the peaceful, nostalgic energy that inspired one of John Lennon’s most loved songs.

Strawberry Fields Forever continues to communicate with intergenerational fans. My son and daughter , aged 12 and 10, are enchanted by the place which, since opening to the public in September 2019, has also provided somewhere vulnerable young people and adults can find work and community.


Situated within the Liverpool suburb of Woolton, the grand Victorian Strawberry Field mansion was acquired by the Salvation Army in 1934 to provide a refuge for vulnerable children. During the 1950s, it became a kind of “paradise” for John Lennon while he was living nearby with his Aunt Mimi. Lennon endured more than his share of trauma during his childhood and early teens and for him, Strawberry Field became a magical place to escape, play with the children who lived there and get lost in the depths of his vivid imagination.

Lennon began to reflect on his childhood here when writing what he would come to regard as his best work, Strawberry Fields Forever. Lennon’s musical genius was to capture the tranquillity of the place by summoning a sense of nostalgia steeped in his post-war childhood experience in Woolton.

The walnut-finished Steinway model Z piano on which Lennon composed Imagine can also be viewed at the Strawberry Field exhibition. When in October 2000 the late George Michael bought the piano for £1.45 million, it set a record for the highest sum ever fetched by a single piece of musical memorabilia.


Michael’s intention was that the piano end up in Lennon’s home city of Liverpool and in October 2020, marking what would have been Lennon’s 80th birthday, Major Kathy Versfeld, Mission Director of Strawberry Field, welcomed the piano to its new home, saying: “At a time when there was so much fear and uncertainty around Covid-19, it was a beacon of hope, light at a dark time”.

Unlike other exhibitions in Liverpool city centre, where you can feel hurried with people in front and ahead of you at every stage, this isn’t the kind of place you want to rush around. We stop here for a restorative lunch after a long drive from Midlothian. Later, after leaving Strawberry Field, we pause for a moment by the house John Lennon shared with his Aunt Mimi and Uncle George at 251 Menlove Avenue. Lennon lived here from 1946 until 1963, when he left aged 22 shortly before the release of the album, With The Beatles.

Our abode for the night is the Leonardo Hotel, formerly Jury’s Inn near Albert Dock. We are welcomed by friendly staff and the on-site restaurant proves an ideal place to relax with family after a day of travelling. The spacious and tasteful family rooms also provide a space to unwind after a long day.

The following morning, we enjoy a cooked breakfast before heading around the city centre. Just outside the hotel there is a peace monument gifted to Liverpool by the Global Peace Initiative on the occasion of Lennon’s 70th birthday, unveiled by the musician’s first wife Cynthia and eldest son Julian.

The hotel is situated directly across from M&S Bank Arena, and less than a minute away from The Beatles Story, which is billed as “the world’s largest permanent exhibition purely devoted to telling the story of the lives and times” of the Fab Four. The museum provides an immersive child-friendly experience. During our visit, Ryan and Christina are invited onto a replica Cavern stage, where they can dress up in Beatles outfits and bash along to She Loves You. They especially enjoy the animated Yellow Submarine observation deck where they take much delight looking through the periscope to find the animated Heinz Edelman version of Beatles which featured on the 1968 film and 1969 album sleeve alongside the words “Nothing Is Real” from Strawberry Fields. There is also an opportunity to dress up in the colourful Sgt Pepper costumes.

A short walk away on the pier head is a statue of the Fab Four in all their iconic mop-top glory. A crowd of tourists wait in line to have their picture taken with the giant statues. Across the road from the statues is The Ultimate History of British Rock and Pop in the Cunard Building.

You’d be hard-pushed to find a more dedicated rock n’ roll museum than the British Music Experience, which covers the period from the post-war era to the present day. The staff has plenty of time and they enjoy nothing more than talking about the vast collection of memorabilia, stage costumes and instruments.

The collection includes Noel Gallagher’s Union Jack Epiphone Sheraton guitar and Mani’s (The Stone Roses) paint-spattered Rickenbacker bass, a beautiful work of art in itself. A nice touch is the addition of tickets from the band’s classic era including their seminal gig at Glasgow Green in June 1990 as well as others from their 1989 Alexandria Palace gig in North London and the infamous Spike Island open-air concert of 1990.

For punk fans, there’s also a Rickenbacker bass played by Glen Matlock from his time with the Sex Pistols along with original copies of the fanzine Sniffin’ Glue and an original “Anarchy Flag” as sold in Vivienne Westwood’s Kings Road boutique. Some of the store’s other provocative and still controversial merchandise also features, including an image of a menacing-looking Johnny Rotten wearing the Destroy T-shirt designed by Vivienne Westwood and Malcolm McLaren.

Once again the interactive element proves a draw for Ryan and Christina, who enjoy bashing away on drums and guitars in the Gibson Interactive Studio which includes some very fine Les Paul, SG, and 335 guitars as well as Roland drums, synthesisers and keyboards.

On Matthew Street, opposite The Cavern, we come across a statue of John Lennon I remember visiting in my teens. Today, however, Lennon’s slicked-back Teddy Boy haircut has been replaced with a mop top, perhaps to appear more recognisable to tourists. A few steps down the street there is a statue of The Cavern’s former cloakroom attendant Cilla Black who scored a top-10 hit with the Lennon-McCartney composition It’s For You in 1964.

Then it’s time to the Beatles Red and Blue compilations albums into the CD player, as a soundtrack for our journey back up the road. If you do decide to visit Liverpool, in the words of John Lennon: “A splendid time is guaranteed for all.”


For more information on Strawberry Fields visit: To book at Leonardo hotels please visit: Imagine This by Julia Baird is available on her website