EXCLUSIVE: Multi-Million Private Sector capital scheme to transform Mossley and Saddleworth
The pandemic has been disastrous for our hospitality industry. Pubs have been closed for over a year with some facing depubification. With Brexit in full swing and many countries off limits to Britons thanks to COVID-19, the British tourism industry have changed the definition of Stay At Home. Instead of taking that holiday in Portugal, Spain or Turkey, they have chosen to Big-Up Britain.
Instead of Lanzarote, tourism chiefs would rather you stay in Llandudno. Or Mablethorpe instead of the Maldives. As for the Seychelles, you could stick them up the proverbial for Skegness. Today, in a world exclusive report on East of the M60, we would like to ask you if you prefer Alphin Pike to the Alps. Or the nursery slopes near Le Chateau Buckton to Switzerland.
On East of the M60, we can reveal that Micklehurst, Hey Farm Estate, Greenfield, and the Chew valley will be part of a new multi-million scheme to turn Mossley and Saddleworth into the next Innsbruck. The new resort will be known as Alphin Loofer.
Luxury Five Star Accommodation
With a distinct lack of super-luxury hotels in Tameside, the key to Alphin Loofer’s success with discerning skiers will be a significantly upgraded George Hotel. The commodious car park will be ‘covered’ by a twenty-storey tower block behind the public house. It will give residents unrivalled views of Top and Bottom Mossley, Heyrod and (on a clear day) Stalybridge.
The Dysarts Arms will be expanded to include a casino, carvery restaurant, a 500-seat conference room (or 1,500 without social distancing measures). There will also be a new accommodation block with space for 360 double rooms.
Significant Transport Upgrades
Mossley and Saddleworth have had more than their fair share of cuts to bus and train services in the last five years. The Alphin Loofer development will make far reaching changes to local bus and train routes. Outside The Dysarts Arms, there will be a bus and rail interchange, where passengers can switch from a 343 or 350 bus to ride on the Alphin Loofer Mountain Railway.
The Alphin Loofer Mountain Railway will ferry tourists from Mossley railway station to Chew Reservoir. The railway itself will be linked to Network Rail metals with dedicated services starting from Stalybridge. From Mossley, the line will continue along Manchester Road with a non-stop service to the George Hotel. Its next stop will be The Dysarts Arms, where through-ticketing with buses will be available. Thereafter, its next stop will be Hey Top, handy for walkers wishing to go to Dove Stone, Yeoman Hey and Greenfield reservoirs. Then it would follow the present path to Chew Reservoir, opposite Chew Road before taking a 1:4 gradient up to Chew Reservoir.
At Chew station, there will be a Starbucks Coffee shop, a restaurant with views towards what was the UK’s highest reservoir, and a viewing platform for smokers or sunbathers.
Skiers wishing to stay in self-catering accommodation in Top Mossley also have an easy way of getting to the resort. From Stamford Road, outside Brookfields, there will be a cable car service to Manchester Road, close to the junction with Mill Lane and Three Counties Road. Known as the Mossley Skytrain, there will also be through-ticketing with Stott’s Tours’ and Stagecoach Greater Manchester’s 343 route. That too will be upgraded from its present hourly frequency in daytimes to every 20 minutes along the full route. (Every 10 minutes from Hyde to Top Mossley and every 5 minutes from Stalybridge to Hyde). Evening and Sunday journeys will be half hourly – much better than the GMT and SELNEC era.
Passengers entering the resort from Oldham wouldn’t miss out: the 180 will see the restoration of its half-hourly frequency and direct route to Manchester city centre. That will be made into an express route with the newly reintroduced 427 calling at all stops up to Hollinwood, before being a limited-stop route down to Piccadilly Gardens. The 356 Saddleworth Rambler route will see Nexus Move’s dinky minibuses offering a half-hourly service along the full route via Denshaw. On Sundays and Bank Holidays, this will be hourly.
On The Piste Or On The…
Alphin Loofer will be unique among European ski resorts in the length and breadth of activities that it will offer. If you have tried to watch a brass band on Sunday nights in Wagrain, you might have struggled. Not so at Alphin Loofer, where additional funding will improve the acoustics at Friezland Bowling Club and Boarshurst Band Club. Another unique selling point of the ski resort is its nearby pubs. As well as the substantially upgraded George Hotel, the pubs will remain unspoilt on Chew Valley Road, especially The Wellington, Clarence Hotel and The King William IV.
As we head towards Dove Stone, parking prices beside the reservoir will be raised to ‘market rates’ of £14.00 per day. The car park will be manned and all monies will go to Saddleworth Mountain Rescue, and all the Saddleworth villages’ Whit Friday Brass Band Contest funds. Instead of driving to the Chew Valley, it is hoped that the £14.00 charge will make cycling and walking more attractive. With the Alphin Loofah Mountain Railway running a seven-day-a-week service with trams every twenty minutes from 5am to 11pm, there should be no excuse to drive to Dove Stone reservoir – or risk drink-driving after too many pints of Donkeystone’s Cotton Clouds.
There will be other ways of eating to help out the Saddleworth economy besides public houses. A PFI project with Saddleworth Parish Council and Oldham Council will see the construction of a new Public Library in Greenfield, funded by a new ALDI store off Greenbridge Lane. The Road End Library will also have a new Post Office and – that all-important addition to any local economy – a cash machine. The Golden House will extend into one of the terraced houses, thus creating an indoor dining area.
On the Isle of Skye Road, Snoopy’s will reopen with a socially distanced outdoor dining area. There will be space for 36 households (with each table seating up to six people). Instead of the beat-up caravan that used to mark the Greater Manchester/West Yorkshire boundary, the second version of Snoopy’s will be serving artisan bacon butties from an Airstream caravan. To keep it real, this will have a chalkboard and a couple of Piccadilly Radio stickers.
It is envisaged that skiing will take place on the side of Charnel Clough and Indian’s Head (nursery slopes). With the multi-million pound development, it augurs well for Yorkshire’s Olympic Bid for the 2040 Olympic Games.
Le Chateau Buckton
Also key to the success of Alphin Loofer as Europe’s fastest growing ski resort is Le Chateau Buckton. Whereas the night life will be concentrated around Greenfield, Mossley and Uppermill, Le Chateau Buckton will be aimed at families. This will include timeshare self catering accommodation and a science museum off South View (with emphasis on the Calico Printers’ Association, Chemstar, and Stalybridge’s reservoirs). Further self-catering holiday homes will be situated on Brushes Estate.
There will also be a circular narrow gauge railway that will run across the side of Cowbury Dale, Swineshaw, Brushes and Walkerwood Reservoirs. A purpose-built station will be erected behind Millbrook Post Office. Tickets will be available online or from The Hare and Hounds public house on Huddersfield Road.
Beside the Swineshaw Reservoirs, there will be an adventure playground, a picnic area and a chicken shop. A former pump house on the banks of Walkerwood Reservoir will become a micro pub known as (you’ve guessed it!) The Pump House.
The plan has had a mixed response across Stalybridge, Mossley and Saddleworth. According to a Zoom chat with the Stalybridge Culture and Arts Massive, Ernest Studbuckle said, “Alphin Loofer will put the Pennine Fringe area on the same footing as Austria. Who needs a blue passport when you’ve got a concessionary pass and the 343 route?”
Janice Copley, again in the same Zoom chat said: “Alphin Loofer will be bad for Stalybridge. There will be people pootling around on little trains around our reservoirs, throwing their chicken bones into Lower Swineshaw Reservoir.” She added that “Stalybridge and Mossley have enough problems with antisocial behaviour as it is with thousands of people descending on our moorlands.”
Rhydian Hill, leader of the Ambleside Residents’ Social Enterprise said, “It will bring much-needed jobs to our locality. We have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, and our freedom of movement from Ashton to Hyde has been compromised by cuts to the 389 route.” He added that: “If they get the 389 bus running to Marple again, Alphin Loofer has my full backing.”
Whereas Stalybridge people have been enthusiastic about the plans, the people of Greenfield were a bit more sceptical. Maxton G Power, a euphonium player said, “It will turn Saddleworth into a tacky version of Aviemore. When they build a retail park on the site of Fletcher’s Paper Mill, I shall be leaving the West Riding of Yorkshire for New Islington.”
Louise Leadsom, landlord of the George Hotel said “I cannot wait to see the reinvention of Saddleworth as a select holiday resort. Our newly expanded pub will be The West Riding of Yorkshire’s most sought-after cabaret venue since the Batley Frontier.”
There was more positive reaction from the people of Mossley. After standing outside the Co-op on Waterton Lane, many of them were happy with the transport improvements. Mike Flammel, local DJ for Quickedge Radio nipped in for four pints of milk and a share-size bag of Doritos and said: “Alphin Loofer will make Mossley a better place to live – especially with much-needed improvements to our bus routes.” Wendy Birtwistle said, “The cable car would be a boon for our residents, especially as the 350 bus is a shadow of its former self.”
Trevor Michaelmas, local public transport fanatic and photographer had other ideas. He said: “A cable tramway from Top Mossley, outside the Market Place to Micklehurst would be more effective.” The route that Michaelmas suggested was via Arundel Street, Stamford Road, Manchester Road, Waggon Road and Station Road, terminating outside Raja Brothers’ shop on Cheshire Street.
Frequently Asked Questions about Alphin Loofer
- When will Alphin Loofer be welcoming its first visitors? The first visitors will be holidaying in Alphin Loofer by 2030.
- Why does Tameside and Saddleworth need Alphin Loofer? Thanks to our love of the English countryside, English tourism will be big business. The extra paperwork needed to go to France (an issue that hasn’t existed since New Year’s Eve 1972) will mean more holidaymakers shall be taking staycations. Tameside and Saddleworth are only a short drive from central Manchester.
- Will there be more people going to Dove Stone Reservoir than usual? Hopefully not, due to the proposed £14.00 day rate for parking by the reservoir. Strictly speaking, this decision should favour cyclists, pedestrians and passengers taking the Alphin Loofer Mountain Railway.
- What is the Alphin Loofer Mountain Railway? It is a newly proposed standard gauge tramway from Mossley to Chew Reservoir via Hey Farm Estate. Special services will whisk passengers from Stalybridge and Mossley stations to Chew Reservoir, using refurbished Class 142 Pacer units.
- How long will it be before Ed Sheeran has a residency at the George Hotel? Hopefully as of New Year’s Day 2030. Future acts at the newly upgraded hotel will include Michael McIntyre, Blossoms, Blyth Power, Lee Ashley, and Mick Ferry.
- What about The Dysarts Arms casino? There will be tribute acts including Curious Orange (Hebden Bridge’s finest tribute to The Fall), State of Quo (guess whose tunes they play), and Fuggles (a beer-bellied take on Trevor Horn’s Buggles).
- When with Le Chateau Buckton open? 01 March 2035, at about the same time as the Swineshaw Steam Railway and the Carrbrook Science Museum.
- What is the Swineshaw Steam Railway? A forthcoming narrow gauge railway that will link up with Cowbury Vale, Swineshaw, Brushes and Walkerwood reservoirs. Its main station will be at the back of the shopping parade on Huddersfield Road (behind the Post Office). The circular route will offer an invigorating way of exploring Stalybridge’s moorland scenery without the legwork.
- Who’s going to be running Snoopy’s caravan on the Isle of Skye Road? David Van Day, with effect from the 01 April 2022.
- Why are both Oldham and Tameside councils backing the plan, despite its absence from the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework? With dwindling revenues having an effect on council coffers, both Metropolitan Borough Councils have had to find inventive ways of raising revenue without the threat of surcharging by central government.
- Will there be a Wetherspoons in Carrbrook? No. Not unless Raja Bros sells the former Buckton Castle unit which is highly unlikely. If Tim Martin is looking for a suitable name, The Calico Arms might be a good bet.
- Why would I want to take a cable car from Top Mossley to Bottom Mossley? Have you seen the state of Mossley’s bus routes? In four years, the 350 has gone from six per hour to every half hour in the daytime. If you cannot walk from Top to Bottom Mossley, four buses an hour (counting the 343 and 356 routes) isn’t very good. A cable car from the Brookfields end of Stamford Road down to Manchester Road (Mill Lane junction) would take two minutes, with a potential frequency of every five minutes. On Manchester Road, a derelict brick building will be renovated and become Bottom Mossley Skytrain Station.
What do you think of the plans? Is this the biggest shot in the arm for British tourism post-Brexit? Would it be enough to convince HM Government to electrify the Standedge Line in full? Could you imagine yourself enjoying a Starbucks Coffee with Black Hill in the distance? Would you happily take the Mossley Skytrain from Stamford Road to Manchester Road? Feel free to comment.
S.V., 01 April 2021.