The Northern Explorer

This past week I have been in the North West of England visiting friends and rediscovering where I was born and brought up.

We stayed in Bollington village, which is crammed with little terraced cottages originally built to house mill workers. The walks are delightful, particularly the one to White Nancy, a grade II listed landmark standing on the top of Kerridge Hill overlooking Bollington and Rainow. And, we were blessed with glorious weather when we walked up there with our lovely freinds Sandra and George.

Wonderful rolling hills of patchwork fields and spectacular views of Manchester and Jodrell Bank in the distance!

In addition to the walks we took a trip to the Albert Dock in Liverpool, the RHS flower show at Tatton Park and Chatsworth House in Derbyshire.

On our way to Chatsworth we stopped at Eyam for breakfast – and on the way back came across Morris Dancers from the USA performing at the local Eyam pub! The village of Eyam is noted for an outbreak of bubonic plague which occurred there in 1665, in which the villagers chose to isolate themselves rather than let the infection spread.

I also managed to fit in a visit to Altrincham to enjoy lunch with a lovely friend that I have kept in touch with since I moved from the area 30 years ago. It was great to see Altrincham beginning to rise above its previous decline – long may it continue

My home town of Stockport also featured during this trip. I haven’t been back for years and it was the hat museum that drew me back but the whole day was filled when I found so many other things to explore!

The hat works is housed in Wellington Mill, an early fireproof cotton spinning mill. Hatting was one of Stockport’s primary employers in the 19th century and along with Denton was a leading national centre. The First World War cut off overseas markets, which established local industries and eroded Stockport’s eminence. Even so, in 1932 more than 3000 people worked in the industry, making it the third biggest employer after textiles and engineering. The depression of the 1930s and changes in fashion greatly reduced the demand for hats, and the demand that existed was met by cheaper wool products made elsewhere.

Following the hat museum, which was fascinating, we visited the Stockport Air raid shelters – which I never knew existed. They accomodated 6,000 people during the war so someone must have known they were there!

This map was found in Berlin after the war had ended. It shows the places in Stockport that the Germans had earmarked for bombing!

And this recipe demonstrates the creativity required when food is in short supply

The Stockport Story museum was fascinating with an exhibition about Strawberry Studios and a tour of Staircase house which was built in the 15th century. It is is famous for its rare Jacobean cage-newel staircase.

Strawberry Studios
is famous for the rock stars that used it. It was originally called Inter-City Studios and located above a music store in the town centre. In early 1968 it was bought by Peter Tattersall, a former road manager for Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas. Tattersall invited Eric Stewart, then lead guitarist and singer of the Mindbenders and later a member of 10cc, to join him as a partner in July 1968. The pair moved to larger premises at No. 3 Waterloo Road in October, with Stewart choosing the studio’s new name in honour of his favourite Beatles song, “Strawberry Fields Forever”

It was also interesting to find that the artist LS Lowry often visited Stockport and some of his paintings feature local landmarks in the town.

And Fred Perry was born in Stockport. Perry won three consecutive Wimbledon Championships from 1934 to 1936 and was World Amateur number one tennis player during those three years. Prior, to Andy Murray in 2013, Perry was the last British player to win the men’s Wimbledon championship, in 1936 and the last British player to win a men’s singles Grand Slam title, until Andy Murray won the 2012 US Open.

I was also keen to visit the market whilst in town as I used to visit it regularly with my mother . The recently restored ‘Glass Umbrella’ Covered Market Hall dominates the area and dates from the 1860s. It used to be buzzing with stalls inside and outside along the streets and Friday and Saturday were the busiest days. Sadly, that is not the case now. There were some stalls open in the market hall and only one or two outside. Like Altrincham market hall it is destined to become a foody centre in the future.

A sign of the time and a sign that we are becoming a vintage generation – the 20th Century shop.

A real find in the marketplace was the heritage centre which is based in St Marys chucrh. And, in the heritage centre I found a school photograph in which I featured!

Last stop in the Stockport tour was to drop by the house where I grew up (Sandy Lane, Heaton Norris) and where my Grandfathers haulage company was based

We passed my grandparents former home on Reddish Road and dropped by St Joseph’s primary school in Reddish, which was my first school.

Last stop a quick visit to Houldsworth Mill, which used to be owned by John Myers Catalogues and where I once has a Saturday job!