“No frills, handy for the hills…”
Lyrical genius Nigel Blackwell immortalised the Derbyshire town in the Half Man Half Biscuit song ‘The Light at the End of the Tunnel (Is the Light of an Oncoming Train)’ with the above statement. For many people living in Greater Manchester, it is only a short distance away – and a bus ride from Stockport and Marple. By rail, you’ve got two stations from Manchester Piccadilly trains to choose from.
For many people, New Mills, and nearby Hayfield, are popular starting points for exploring the Dark Peak, such as Kinder Scout, the spa town of Buxton and the Victorian market town of Glossop. New Mills itself offers the casual visitor good opportunities for a leisurely walk or two, a quick browse around its town centre or a trip to its heritage.
New Mills itself is clearly defined by two parts: the town centre itself, and Newtown. The latter place includes the Peak Forest Canal, where visitors alighting from New Mills Newtown station are treated to the olfactory sensation that is Swizzels Matlow’s sweet factory nearby.
Further down along the Albion Road, Union Road leads to the main shopping centre, where a gentle gradient, via one of two bridges straddling the River Goyt. Besides being the home of Swizzels Matlow, New Mills is also home to the Plain English Society. Launched in 1979, they are ‘an anti-gobbledegook’ group focused on improving brevity in printed and online media.
Industrial Heritage and the Torrs
In 1810, New Mills had nine cotton spinning mills. Much of the industrial activity was centred around the River Goyt and the River Sett. In later years, cotton bleaching took over, continuing to the latter part of the 20th century. The best place for exploring New Mills’ industrial heritage is their excellent Heritage Centre. It includes historical displays, a little shop and a café. It is open from 11.00am to 4.00pm on weekdays (except Mondays), and 10.30am to 4.30pm on weekends (closing at 4.00pm in winter). Weekday opening times apply on Bank Holidays.
From the heritage centre, you are perfectly placed to explore New Mills further by foot. You can either head towards the Torrs Millennium Walkway, which I fully recommend or the Torrs Riverside Park. As well as being an enjoyable escape from the rat race, is also the starting point of the Sett Valley Trail. On walking by the River Goyt and the River Sett, it meets up with the former branch line to Hayfield, which closed in 1970. Now the Sett Valley Trail, its 2.5 miles is ideal for anyone from persons with limited mobility to power walking dog owners.
Anyone hoping to find a TESCO or a wealth of multiple stores will be disappointed as New Mills boast a wealth of independent shops. Exceptions to this include banks, a Cooperative store halfway between New Mills centre and Newtown and a Spar supermarket off Market Street. There is also a small market hall and an open market (Fridays and Saturdays). Early closing day is Wednesday.
The chances of going hungry in New Mills is minimal with locally owned bakeries, cafés and takeaways available. If the worst comes to the worst, there’s always a plastic wrapped butty from Spar or the Co-op.
Getting there by bus:
If you possess a System One Adult Buscard, you’ll be happy to find that New Mills is within the boundary. However, holders of an iGo pass may have to their concessionary fare in the Greater Manchester area and possibly the adult fare for the journey up to New Mills (from Disley or Strines).
The 199 from Manchester Airport and Stockport to Buxton (High Peak/Centrebus) is ideal for Newtown, and operates every half hour on Monday to Saturday daytimes (once hourly evenings, Sundays and Bank Holidays).
Also from Stockport, though better for the centre of New Mills itself is the 358 to Hayfield, via Offerton and Marple (Stagecoach in Manchester). Again, this is another full time service, though with an hourly frequency.
If Glossop is more convenient for you, the 61/61A operates every hour during the day from Glossop to Buxton (Bowers/Centrebus) seven days a week.
- 236/237 from Ashton-under-Lyne, Stalybridge, Hollingworth to Glossop (Stagecoach in Manchester) then 61/61A to New Mills (Bowers/Centrebus);
- 7/317/330 from Ashton-under-Lyne, Hyde and Woodley to Stockport (Stagecoach in Manchester) then 358 (Stagecoach in Manchester) to New Mills, or 199 to Newtown (High Peak/Centrebus).
From Oldham and Rochdale: 409 to Ashton-under-Lyne (First Manchester) then 236/237 (Stagecoach in Manchester) from there to Glossop and 61 to New Mills (Bowers/Centrebus).
- (From Woodley, Romiley, Offerton): 383/384 to Marple then 358 to New Mills (Stagecoach in Manchester);
- (From Marple): 358 to New Mills (Stagecoach in Manchester);
- (From Reddish): 7/203/317 to Stockport (Stagecoach in Manchester) then 199 (High Peak/Centrebus) to Newtown or 358 (Stagecoach in Manchester) to New Mills.
Getting there by rail:
New Mills has two stations with hourly services from each one. Both of which use Manchester Piccadilly railway station.
- New Mills Central: services from Belle Vue, Ryder Brow, Reddish North, Brinnington, Bredbury, Romiley, Marple and Strines stations continuing to Sheffield Midland;
- New Mills Newtown: services from Stockport Edgeley, Davenport, Woodsmoor, Hazel Grove, Middlewood and Disley continuing to Buxton.
Any other ideas:
If you’ve visited New Mills or live there, feel free to add your own recommendations.
S.V., 11 March 2012.