An alternative way of visiting the Cheshire town
Mention Stalybridge, and the first two things which spring to most people’s minds are the station’s buffet bar (no bad thing in my book!) or Staly Vegas. If they’re of a sporting persuasion, it is none other than the Mighty Stalybridge Celtic. Then there’s the town’s place in the Guinness Book of Records for having the shortest and longest pub names.
For some, it is easy to notice the betting shops, one’s inability to park in the town centre and burnt out shops on Armentieres Square. Oh, and the Huddersfield Narrow Canal alongside TESCO. All around, Stalybridge has a scenic backdrop with the hills framing the town centre. What’s more, they are all accessible on public transport. For example, the 236/237 will take you to Mottram Rise with Wild Bank a short walk from Matley. Hough Hill is a short walk from the Wharf Tavern via Gorse Hall Park, or Cheetham’s Park.
Stalybridge is very much a product of the Industrial Revolution, and its buildings reflect the Victorian prosperity it had thanks to the cotton industry. At one time, the River Tame was a constitutional boundary as well as a physical one: whereas the railway station was in Lancashire, Victoria Market and Grosvenor Street were in Cheshire. This continued till 1889 when the whole of Stalybridge became part of Cheshire.
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Handy for the Hills
From Armentieres Square, Wild Bank is right in front of you. Whilst you wait for your Manchester train, you can also see Hough Hill in the distance. Its hills make for good walking territory, with paths leading to Mossley, Hollingworth, Dukinfield and Saddleworth. For details of walking trails, Tameside MBC’s website has a good selection of leaflets, available for downloading (link: http://www.tameside.gov.uk/countryside/walksandtrails).
i. Hough Hill:
Hough Hill can be accessed from Hough Hill Road and Range Road, or Cheetham’s Park. On the border of Dukinfield, there are superb views of Ashton-under-Lyne, Manchester, Dukinfield and Oldham. Close by is Gorse Hall Park, which is of great interest to anyone fascinated by the George Harry Storrs stabbing or the formative years of Beatrix Potter. Recent archeological digs have since revealed the foundations of the old and new Gorse Halls.
ii. Wild Bank/Hobson Moor:
From Stalybridge town centre, take the 236, 237 or 387 bus up to The Waggon pub, then approach Wild Bank via Gallowsclough Road. Since 2004, Wild Bank has been declared Open Access land for willing walkers, though that part of the moors remains in the care of Stamford Estates.
There is another, more easier way of approaching Wild Bank from Stalybridge. Instead, catch the 217/218, 343 or 348 bus up to Millbrook Post Office. Then approach Wild Bank via Besom Lane. From there, Stalybridge Country Park is a few yards away. Half a mile later, you can see Walkerwood Reservoir. From there, you may wish to turn right towards Wild Bank itself, or walk along the side of Walkerwood Reservoir, and continue towards Swineshaw Reservoir and open moorland.
Along Wild Bank, it is possible to see Hough Hill, Harrop Edge and Werneth Low as well as Manchester and the other Tameside towns. Stockport can also be seen on a clear day.
iii. Harridge Pike:
From Walkerwood Reservoir, you may wish to continue northwards towards Mossley. Harridge Pike offers superb views of Mossley and Heyrod towards the west, with stunning views of Stalybridge and Hyde in the south westerly direction. Northerly, Greenfield, Top Mossley, Roughtown and Buckton Castle can be seen.
iv. Carrbrook village
Within minutes from Harridge Pike, Carrbrook is close by, and the village itself isn’t without its charms. There are fine examples of stone terraced housing. Walkers may wish to commence their walk along Harridge Pike from Carrbrook Village or return to Stalybridge town centre, by getting a 343 (no link to village on Sundays and Evenings) or 348.
As well as its stone built houses, there is a little nature reserve and a duck pond along South View. This in pleasant weather makes for a good place to enjoy one’s sandwiches or a rest.
v. Buckton Castle and Moorgate
Just north of Carrbrook village is Buckton Castle. Though that part of Carrbrook is dominated by the quarry, access to the castle is possible from Moor Edge Road. Tucked away behind Carrbrook is the picturesque hamlet of Moorgate, which seems to be stuck in a pre-Industrial Revolution era.
Along Moor Edge Road, you walk along Alphin Pike. From there, Greenfield, Friezland and Dovestones Reservoir are a short walk away.
vi. Ridge Hill
The best way to approach Ridge Hill is via Arlies Lane, by means of boarding the 353/354 services, or (from Springs Lane) the 387 or 389 bus routes. Arlies Lane continues towards Luzley Road, taking you into Luzley and Mossley Cross. From there, you may continue your walk to Hartshead Pike. There are spectacular views of Wild Bank, Harridge Pike, Buckton Castle and Alphin Pike.
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Cheetham’s Park: Stalybridge’s Treasure
Left in the will of John Frederick Cheetham to the people of Stalybridge, Cheetham’s Park was opened in 1932. It was originally the grounds of their family home, Eastwood. Unlike the manicured Stamford and Dukinfield parks, Cheetham’s Park is informally landscaped with woodland scenery and Acres Brook dominant. The Eastwood Nature Reserve is based at the south eastern part of the park and backs onto Bower Fold, home of Stalybridge Celtic AFC.
The park is also an ideal base for continuing to Hough Hill via Early Bank Road, or the town centre.
Art in Stalybridge
The two main galleries in Stalybridge are now The People’s Gallery and Gallery 23, both of which on Melbourne Street. The former is on three floors whereas the latter has two floors with emphasis on photography. Prior to Tameside MBC cutbacks, the Astley Cheetham Art Gallery was Stalybridge’s main one. Since 2010, its opening hours have been drastically cut back, opening only in August. On the outskirts of the centre, in the former Hare and Hounds pub is the Hawthorn Gallery (buses: 236/237 and 387).
The Huddersfield Narrow Canal
From Clarence Street to Scout Tunnel, Stalybridge’s section of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal takes in a good variety of industrial and rural views. Its focal piazza along Armentieres Square is a popular place for the Farmers’ Market or for watching the world go by.
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The centre has suffered from a loss of multiple retailers over the last 20 years, but recent years have seen a great many independent businesses maintain or open new businesses. Recent additions have included I Love Cupcakes on Corporation Street and Five A Day on Melbourne Street. For lovers of discount shops, Town Shopper and Yu and Me fulfils these needs effectively.
Charity Shopaholics will love the Willow Wood Hospice shops on Grosvenor Street and Water Street. Their newest one – ‘Purchase and Donate’ – is so called owing to its previous use as the Pad night club.
Food and Drink
I could be lazy by suggesting TESCO’s café or The Society Rooms, but I shan’t as the centre has more to offer. For affordable breakfasts and brews, the Riverside and Village cafés on Melbourne Street are worth considering, as is No. 57 on Grosvenor Street. For sandwiches, The Tripe and Sandwich Shop on Melbourne Street offers – without a doubt – the finest butties in the centre along with its bleached bovine abdominal product in honeycomb and cord forms. The Chicken Barbecue next door is worth trying for its baked potatoes and pies.
For bacon and sausage sandwiches, Market Street has The Crusty Cob and The Chilli Tree – ideal if you need to grab something before your bus or train arrives. Furthermore, Market Street is well represented in the takeaway stakes, with the Spicy Kitchen and British Raj offering fine Indian food. Lovers of Chinese food should ignore Blue Ginger at their peril. If you prefer to eat in, Phoenix City on Castle Street is worth a visit.
Without question, Stalybridge is famed for its pubs. As well as the Staly Vegas circuit lagerboy dens, there are still enough traditional public houses to suit your taste. The Wharf Tavern, owned by the same family for almost 70 years is a straightforward down-to-earth local pub which is always welcoming. It is popular with community groups and has in recent months introduced a changeable trio of cask conditioned ales.
Also worth considering, for the quality of its Robinson’s ales, is The Old Hunters’ Tavern on Acres Lane. The same is true further up Caroline Street with the CAMRA Good Beer Guide rated White House. Ideal for bus and taxi connections (Cavalier Radio Cabs’ office is opposite), it has at least six real ales on and a guest cider.
Nearby is the internationally famous Stalybridge Station Buffet Bar. Now owned by the same people as the West Riding Refreshment Rooms in Dewsbury, it has maintained its position of selling affordable Northern food and real ales (10 at any one time now). As well as offering traditional Northern fare, their all day breakfast – also served with tea or coffee – is priceless.
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Stalybridge is well connected by rail with three trains per hour to Manchester Victoria (two per hour Saturdays, once hourly on Sundays) and a hourly service to Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Oxford Road stations. There are two trains per hour to Huddersfield with a once hourly all stations service between Stalybridge and Huddersfield (calling at Mossley, Greenfield, Marsden and Slaithwaite in between).
From Ashton-under-Lyne: 217, 218, 236, 237, 348, 353, 354, 387, 389.
From Dukinfield: 217/218, 343, 389.
From Glossop: 236, 237.
From Hyde: 343, 387, 389.
From Manchester (Shudehill Interchange): 217, 218.
From Mossley: 217/218, 343.
From Oldham: 343, 408.
From Uppermill: 353, 354.
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S.V., 01 February 2013.