On the day of HM Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee, I cycled around Ashton under Lyne in search of landmarks of her sixty year reign.
Today, on the day of her funeral, I set out for a walk around Stockport, to record a town largely closed for business. Overcast but far from downcast, I defied the almost persistent fine rain and these are the pictures that I took.
Many of the subjects are products of her time on the throne.
The traffic was much lighter, there were few pedestrians, a couple of cafés were open and two men watched the funeral service on the Sky TV stand in the precinct.
Once a rare sight on our roads the ubiquitous SUV reigns supreme on our suburban streets – the level of UK car debt currently stands at £73 Billion.
We weaved in and out of the highways and byways of South Reddish.
Through Unity Park where the goals are lower than low.
The hoops are higher.
And the bowls are rolling.
Past the perfect Platonic bungalow.
Taking the well worn path betwixt and between the houses.
Crossing open country.
Encountering exotic planting worthy of the French Riviera.
Noting the voguish transition of the local semi-detached housing from white to grey and the now familiar sight of the Range Rover in the former front garden.
The reverse of a roadside sign can often be far more interesting and attractive than the obverse face.
Reddish South Station sustained by the once a week parliamentary train, on the Stockport to Stalybridge Line, coincidentally the only time, as a goods guard, I ever worked a passenger train, was along here, one Christmas long ago.
We stopped at Denton, a request stop, the seasonally boozy passenger gave me a fifty pence tip.
George’s – where I bought a bag of chips on the way back, great chips, friendly and safe service with a smile.
Houldsworth Working Mens Clubdesigned by Abraham Henthorn Stott forming part of the model community developed by the late-C19 industrialist Sir William Houldsworth, which included cotton mills, workers’ housing, school, church and a park.
Church of St Elisabeth 1882-3, by Alfred Waterhouse one of the finest Victorian churches in the country – both of the buildings are Grade II Listed.
Over the way the former Victoria Mill, converted into apartments.
With adjoining new build.
We faithfully followed the signs, noting a change from blue to green.
Somewhere or other we went wrong, our luck and the signs ran out, we instinctively headed north, ever onwards!
Traversing the Great Wall.
Mistakenly assuming that the route ended or began at Reddish North Station that’s where we landed.
Back tracking intrepidly along the road we found the source of the Fred Perry Way.
In the North Reddish Park – where tennis can still be played today albeit with a somewhat functionalist net, on an unsympathetic surface.
To forget, you little fool, to forget!
You think there’s no limit to what a man can bear?
Having started in the middle, let’s fast forward to the end – the beginning will have to wait.
We take up our walk along Fred’s Way once more by Mirrlees Fields.
Following the brook along the narrow shallow valley, betwixt and between houses.
Briefly opening out into green open space.
Crossing the road and entering the detached world of the detached house.
No two the same or your money back!
Diving feet first into Happy Valley, home to the Lady Brook stream.
And quickly out again.
Emerging once again into the space between spaces.
The suburban idyll of the Dairyground Estate home to very few semi-skilled and unskilled manual workers; those on state benefit/unemployed, and lowest grade workers.
But home to an interesting array of Post War housing.
Including examples of the style de jour, à la mode conversions and updates extended and rendered, black, white and grey symbols of success or extensive extended credit facilities.
Though the more traditional fairy tale variant still has a space and place, in the corner of some well behaved cul de sac.
Under the railway – through a low tunnel darkly.
We struck oil, black gold, Texas Tea – Tate Oil.
The area of Little Australia – so called as all the roads are named after towns in Australia, is bordered by the West Coast Main Line to the north, the Bramhall oil terminal to the east, Bramhall village centre to the west and Moorend Golf Club to the south.
We emerged into a warren of obfuscation, dead ends and conflicting signs, having made enquiries of the passing populace, we realigned with the new bypass.
Passing over the conveniently placed footbridge over the bypass and beyond.
Emerging amongst faux beams and real Monkey Puzzles.
It was at this point that, unbeknownst to us, we followed a twisted sign, misdirecting us along an overgrown path – to Handforth.
We failed, in the end we failed to arrive to arrive at the end.
Heading west like headless chickens towards the Turkey Farm.
Making our way mistakenly to Handforth Dean Retail Park – rear of.
Crossing slip roads with no pedestrian access and the forbidden territory of an industrial sized gymnasium car park.
Woodford will just have to wait, another day another dolorous excursion.
Almost opposite the entrance to the museum, now set in shrubbery, are the foundations, laid in September 1860, of what was to be a forty metre high Observatory Tower. Despite a series of attempts, funds for the tower could not be raised and the ‘Amalgamated Friendly Societies of Stockport’ eventually had to abandon the idea.
Out east and passing alongside the running track.
Lush meadows now occupy the former football field, twixt inter-war semis and the woodland beyond.
Out into the savage streets of Offerton where we find a Buick Skylark, incongruously ensconced in a front garden.
The only too human imperative to laugh in the face of naturalism.
We have crossed over Marple Road and are deep in the suburban jungle of mutually exclusive modified bungalows.
Off now into the wide open spaces of the Offerton Estate – the right to buy refuge of the socially mobile, former social housing owning public.
People living on Offerton Estate have been filmed for a programme entitled ‘Mean Streets’ which aims to highlight anti-social behaviour in local communities.
Baby it happens when you’re close to me My heart starts beating – hey a strong beat. Oh I can’t leave you alone Can’t leave you alone
I walk over the Little Orme and there you are so well behaved – trimmed topped and tailed polished window washed windswept so sub-urbane.
Nothing ever happens here or does it?
The highly popular singing duo Anne Ziegler and Webster Booth retired to a small bungalow in Penrhyn Bay.
It provided a location for an episode of Hetty Wainthropp Investigates.
Originally a small farming community, Penrhyn Bay came to rely heavily on the employment opportunities of the limestone quarry operating since the mid-19th century, and served by its own narrow gauge railway, but quarrying ceased in 1936.
However, Penrhyn Bay expanded rapidly in the 20th century to become a desirable suburb of Llandudno – my you’re a hot property.
Almost half a million pounds and counting as the ever mounting mountain of retiring and retired knock upon your over ornate uPVC doors.
So here we are, as the rain clears and the sun almost breaks – your carefully rendered and stone clad walls, not quite awash with a golden midday glow.
Just like Arnie and General McArthur I’ll be back – I shall return.
Betwixt and between the two world wars, the shortage of housing for the homeless, hopeless and dispossessed lead to an acceleration in the building of an informal architecture – the so-called Plotlands.
One such area and precious survivor from the last century is the Humberston Fitties – situated to south of Cleethorpes, preserved in time by the happy homesteaders.
Though under threat from Local Authority negligence or intervention, three hundred and twenty chalets prevail – against the incursion of planning regulations, building specs and a lack of respect.
I feel a real affinity for all Plotlands, having spent many summers in the converted Pagham railway carriage, belonging to my Aunty Alice and Uncle Arthur. They relocated to the south coast seeking cleaner air for Arthur’s ailing, industrialised northern lungs, thus prolonging his life.
Tamarisk – Pagham
So here are the photographs I took on a visit to The Fitties in July 2008, I walked the home made roads, amazed by the vigour and variety of shape, size, personal affectation and practical pragmatism, of this all too human architecture.
This is a particular form of independent minded Modernism – hand-forged from the vernacular.
It is better to have your head in the clouds, and know where you are, than to breathe the clearer atmosphere below them, and think that you are in paradise.
There is some far-flung corner for Wales, that is forever California.
As the clippers and steamers left the Mersey Estuary for the New World, cram packed with emigres some centuries ago, would they expect on their return, some centuries later, to find this architectural cultural exchange, located sedately on Penrhyn Bay?
This is a typology with a limited vocabulary, but spoken in a lilt, with an ever so slight, polite Mid-Atlantic drawl.
Lightly clad, stone-faced, light and almost expansive the seaside bungalow.