A possible approach to the Stalybridge Heritage Walk

In our previous article entitled The Million Pound Question: Stalybridge’s Historical Quarter, we looked at the story behind Tameside MBC’s successful bid. We also looked at how the heritage walk should form part of a greater scheme. In other words, how the Heritage Walk should be accompanied by prospective private and public sector development.

In this article, we look at how the Heritage Walk could be part of a central core of footpaths. Further to the main trail, one of four possible trails which use existing infrastructure. There is also a fifth possible trail, which could be part of a redevelopment scheme. The Heritage Walk (and its four – or five – sister ‘lines’) could be part of a walking and cycling network that to certain parts of Stalybridge and other parts of Tameside.

The Stalybridge Heritage Walk

As seen below, any good description of walking and cycling routes, must be accompanied by a map (click image for bigger version in Adobe PDF format). This incorporates the most recent version of the Stalybridge Ale Trail. Each trail is annotated with key locations of architectural and historical interest and (as you would expect on the Stalybridge Ale Trail) pubs.

The main route – the Historic Quarter Heritage Walk – takes in the route as depicted in Tameside MBC’s successful bid. It is likely to take in the full length of Market Street, then Trinity Street up to Armentieres Square. Then, the pedestrian or cyclist would have the choice of reaching Melbourne Street via the footbridge (as seen in the map) or Corporation Street.

The Historic Quarter reflects much of Stalybridge’s commercial centre. Its Melbourne Street section is shared with the Stalybridge Ale Trail route (in orange). At Armentieres Square, interchange is available with the Huddersfield Narrow Canal towpath. From the Town Hall Remains, a detour towards Waterloo Road can be made. Cocker Hill being reached via the easterly section of Market Street.

Furthermore, the Historic Quarter Heritage Walk would offer some interchange with a possible Phase 2 Heritage Walk.

Potential branches of the Stalybridge Heritage Walk

In our previous piece, we have looked at the idea of potential branches. For ease of reference, we shall refer to some of them as ‘lines’. This could allow for the creation of a Metro-style map which could be used in print and online publicity materials.

The Stalybridge Ale Trail

The Stalybridge Ale Trail in its present form has been in use since 2016. Its basic route includes a diversion along Caroline Street to the Wharf Tavern, as well as the main route to Melbourne Street. Whether walking from Bridge Beers or the Wharf Tavern, you meet up at Grosvenor Square. Thereafter, the route continues up to Acres Lane, finishing at The Old Hunters’ Tavern.

The Sandhills Line

Much of this possible branch takes in the central section of the Huddersfield Narrow Canal towpath. Our suggested route begins at Stanley Square, outside the bus stop for the (solitary) 220, 343 and 389 routes. Pedestrians may join the canal from the steps or ramp by High Street. Thereafter, the Sandhills Line follows the towpath up to Mottram Road.

Pedestrians can leave the towpath and transfer onto the 343 bus for Brushes, Millbrook, and Carrbrook. If desired, pedestrians and cyclists may continue along the Huddersfield Narrow Canal.

The Park Line

The clue with this possible route lies in the question: a walking route between Stalybridge’s two parks. From Stamford Park, the route could either begin outside the boathouse off Darnton Road, or the John Nield Conservatory. Thereafter, pedestrians and cyclists could reach Cheetham’s Park via Stamford Street, Rassbottom Street, Market Street, Melbourne Street, Armentieres Square, Trinity Street, and Acres Lane.

From there, Cheetham’s Park could be reached via Park Street, or Hough Hill Lane and Forester Drive. In Cheetham’s Park, the pedestrian or cyclist may continue to Early Bank Road or Bower Fold.

The Arlies Line

Again, using existing footpaths, the Arlies Line could be the ‘central zone’ of Arlies Lane and Gorse Hall Road. The Arlies Line could begin at the section of Arlies Lane off Ridge Hill Lane and Springs Lane junction. The trail could reach the centre of Stalybridge via Cocker Hill and the eastern section of Market Street. There could be a diversion along Stamford Street and the King Street steps.

Thereafter, the trail could reach Gorse Hall Road via Caroline Street and Albert Square. The Arlies Line could ‘end’ at Tennyson Avenue, Dukinfield, ideally outside the Broadbent Fold bus stop (for interchange with the 41 route to Ashton-under-Lyne).

Heritage Walk Phase Two?

Should there be a second route of the Historic Quarter Heritage Walk, its second route should serve two purposes. Firstly, to boost Stalybridge’s role as a commercial centre. Secondly, to reinstate the riverside walk leading to Old Street – and the bridge that gave Stalybridge its name. Thirdly, and finally, to boost the attractiveness of Stalybridge town centre for its residents and visitors.

Stalybridge West

For the most part of four decades, a parcel of land known as ‘Stalybridge West’ has lain undeveloped. It was previously used by IMI Range and Bostock and Bramley. Countless ideas have been floated for its redevelopment which have included housing and a new ground for Stalybridge Celtic Football Club.

For housing development, the site has been deemed as unsuitable due to its proximity to the Stepan UK chemical works. As a possible site for Stalybridge Celtic Football Club, snubbed due to a lack of expansion space. Not least the possibility of stray footballs landing in the River Tame or – worse – near the chemical works.

Had Stalybridge Celtic Football Club favoured the move, this could have been a good location for corporate hospitality. Especially given its proximity to the railway station. With this in mind, the site south west of Tully Street, Harrop Street and Chapel Street could be good for a Son of SIDS. In other words, an indoor sports arena that is suitable for exhibitions, wedding dos and antiques fairs.

From Tully Street, Heritage Walk Phase Two could follow the bend of the River Tame (behind Son of SIDS). Thereafter, a new footbridge over the River Tame could lead to Caroline Street and Castle Street. On the other side of the river, spare land beside Caroline Street could be landscaped. Possibly as part of a new focal piazza named after a famous Stalybridge figure (i.e.: Arthur Wharton, Samuel Laycock, etc).

Towards Staley Bridge

Returning to the original premise, Heritage Walk Phase Two could reach the town centre via Castle Street, Melbourne Street, and Market Street up to the war memorial. Thereafter, the walking and cycling route to Old Street and Staley Bridge could be reinstated.

Before Stalybridge Clinic moved to its present location, the clinic used to overlook the River Tame. On the very very rare occasions I had popped in, the top floor (accessed from street level adjacent to the Town Hall), had superb views of the river. The kind of views that estate agencies or restauranteurs would die for.

The long vacant site has great potential for commercial space – particularly low rise (no taller than three storeys) office space for small to medium sized businesses. Better still, for use as a hackspace or artists’ studios. Ideally, the structure should be of similar architectural leanings to the long-demolished clinic, making good use of natural light. A restrained form of modernist architecture.

A few yards on, Heritage Walk Phase Two could finish at Old Street, outside Staley Bridge itself. Instead, it could continue towards the Huddersfield Narrow Canal with ‘interchange’ between the Arlies and Sandhills lines.

Supporting infrastructure

Besides the obvious street furniture (signposts and information displays), the Stalybridge Historic Quarter Heritage Walk and its sister routes should be supported by the following enhancements:

  1. A London Underground style map detailing each of the lines within the ‘Stalybridge Central Zone’. These could be published online or in paper form.
  2. A number key for each point of interest as depicted on our map. These should correspond with information displays, whether wall-mounted or freestanding.
  3. Details of each ‘line’ on bus stop flags: Greater Manchester Transport used to have a ‘Wayfarer’ label on its bus stop flags to depict which bus stop linked up with any of its ‘Wayfarer Walks’ (leaflets were available from Information points at GMT bus stations and staffed British Rail stations).
  4. Water refill points: some parts of Tameside have water refilling stations, where walkers, health conscious or frugal types could refill their water bottles free of charge.
  5. Bicycle Sheds: there is already a bicycle shed on Armentieres Square with another one on Stalybridge station.
  6. Public Toilets: whether you take the Stalybridge Heritage Walk on foot or bike, or just happen to be in popping in for some milk in ALDI, public toilets are a must. Alternatively, Tameside MBC should consider looking at the Community Toilet Scheme (see Stockport MBC’s page).

Before I go…

This piece elaborates on some of the points made in the previous article. If you have read the previous piece or found this one by accident, feel free to comment.

S.V., 19 September 2019.

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