East of the M60’s Seven Bus Route Wonders of the Greater Manchester area
It is fitting that East of the M60’s Seven Bus Route Wonders of the Greater Manchester area should begin with the 343, a scenic route which singlehandedly sparked this fellow’s interest in public transport. This is the first of a set of posts written to commemorate Catch The Bus Week.
The 343 route was originally two separate bus routes prior to the 20 July 1980. Between Oldham and Mossley (Brookbottom), there was the 416. From Mossley (Brookbottom) to Hyde was the 343. Its sister route was the 344 which continued to Gee Cross. The former was originally SHMD’s 4A route, created in the 1950s to serve the then new Winterford Road estate in Micklehurst. The latter was the 4 route, which traversed Staley Road. The 416 was originally the Oldham Corporation Transport and SHMD Joint Board joint routes E and 16.
In its heyday, it was an important route for mill workers. Today, it is a lifeline for the communities served along the way. Recently, its Monday – Saturday daytime route has changed, serving Roaches, Friezland and Hey Farm. The route travels between Oldham and Hyde via Lees, Grotton, Mossley, Stalybridge and Dukinfield.
Besides its socially important function, the views aboard its 16 mile route are stunning, particularly between Stalybridge and Grotton. From Stalybridge to Micklehurst, you are afforded views of the Pennine foothills on one side, plus Heyrod and Top Mossley on the other. It is an excellent route for walkers.
The 343 has three operators, with Stott’s of Oldham operating the weekday daytime service, and JPT Travel running the Saturday daytime service. Its evening, Sunday and Bank Holiday service has a slightly different route and is operated by First Greater Manchester.
Basic Frequency: once hourly, seven days a week.
- Real Ale: The Ashton Arms in Oldham, The Britannia Inn and the Dysarts Arms in Mossley, and The White House in Stalybridge, along the 343 route are in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide. Of short walking distance from the route, Hyde has The Queens and The Cheshire Ring, whereas Stalybridge has The Old Hunters’ Tavern and the legendary Buffet Bar nearby.
- Industrial Heritage: The Mossley Industrial Heritage Centre and Emmaus is worth a visit. Or, you could travel one way on the 343 from Hyde to Roaches Lock, and walk the return journey alongside the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. Furthermore, most 343s also serve Carrbrook Village, which expanded thanks to the (now long closed) Calico Printers’ Association works.
- Fine Arts and Performing Arts: Gallery Oldham and Astley Cheetham Art Gallery are along the 343 route in Oldham and Stalybridge. Also in Stalybridge, Gallery 23 and The People’s Gallery is only a short walk. The Oldham Coliseum and George Lawton Hall are also on the 343 route. A short walk away from its Hyde terminus is the Festival Theatre.
- Charity Shops and Farmers’ Markets: on the second Sunday of the month, Stalybridge has a regular Farmers’ Market. The success of which has led to craft markets and the like. Along the 343 route, charity shop fanatics will be spoilt for choice with Willow Wood Hospice’s Pad Shop behind the White House. Mossley has the excellent Emmaus Charity Superstore, and Lees also has charity shops for the RSPCA and Kershaw’s Hospice.
- Rural Walks: the Stalybridge Country Park is a must for anyone wishing to explore Wild Bank, Buckton Castle and Hobson Moor. Walkerwood and Swineshaw Reservoirs are a short walk away from the 343’s bus stop by Millbrook Post Office. Take the camera!
Best Value Fares: System One’s Any Bus DaySaver at £5.00 (or £5.60 before 0930 on weekdays) permits travel on all routes throughout Greater Manchester as well as the 343. After 1900 hours, First Greater Manchester’s FirstDay ticket at £4.00 is a better bet, even for a modest return journey between Stalybridge and Mossley.
Travel Tips: if there’s a double decker on your 343, the front seat upstairs offers you the finest views of the route. Though often seen on JPT Travel’s Saturday journeys, the 1820 Oldham to Hyde journey operated by First Greater Manchester usually has a double decker vehicle.
S.V., 29 April 2013