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We Northerners Like Our Pies
I can’t remember when I fell out of love with my hometown of Stockport. Perhaps it was so gradual that I didn’t notice. For now I won’t rant on and on here about social, political and economical issues. There's no denying that the economic downturn in recent years has had a devastating effect on Stockport. There can be, at times, a depressing air to the town.
The truth is I can’t remember when I last walked around town to browse the shops or drink in the pubs and cafes. I’ve skirted around the town with my camera always finding more visually pleasing and interesting places to photograph - the pull of the big city or the tranquility of the beautiful countryside over in Cheshire or Derbyshire You won’t have missed any of my blog posts on Stockport because they don’t exist. I know I'm not alone with my thoughts.
In recent weeks there's been a shift in my view of Stockport. The more I immerse myself in writing and photographing around the north-west of England the more I've come to realise that every town and village has a story to tell and Stockport is no exception. There is beauty to be found here and I'd love to share my journey of exploration on my blog over the coming year. I know there's a rich history and a story to be told.
We northerners like our pies! My eldest son gifted me a delicious pie - a pie filled with cheese and onions in a sauce. It would be classified as a gourmet pie. It was beautifully wrapped in greased proof paper with a trendy vintage-style label. No photos of the said pie because I was so desperate to eat it! He’d been rabbeting on for a long time about a shop called Lord of the Pies in Stockport and I’d taken little notice. All that changed when I tasted the pie.
I craved more pie and was intrigued by the name Lord of the Pies. I checked out the company was struck by the forward thinking business venture established here in Stockport. Beautifully presented and marketed with innovative pie fillings. I thought... if only more businesses could open like this in Stockport then the town would become great place to visit. The crowds would return and the boarded up shops revitalised. I think of the Northern Quarter in Manchester and how that used to be so dilapidated but has revitalised to become a vibrant 'must visit' area. I think creatives have an important role in regeneration too. By chance I came across an advert for a monthly vintage market and so this drew me into Stockport one Sunday afternoon.
The historic market place here dates back to the 15th century. In days gone by it was vibrant and bustling. I remember as a child hanging on to my mum's hand in fear of getting separated and lost in the crowd. This was a Sunday so I wouldn't expect it to be as busy as, say, on a Saturday, but I have heard that visitor numbers are dismally way down. Ironically I spotted the online grocery delivery van from ASDA taking a short cut through the market place. For sure online shopping has contributed to the decline of town centres.
I think my earliest memory of Stockport Market is visiting the Produce Hall on a Saturday morning. My cheese addiction started here. People visited from miles around to buy their Cheshire cheese, butter and eggs from here. The highlight of the morning for me was the free sample of cheese cut from massive cheese truckles.
A sign outside pointed up to a vintage sale in the room above the Produce Hall. A fantastic mix of artwork, old books and vinyl records plus a lovely cafe - the place had an exciting buzz to it and well worth a visit.
Across the old stone cobbled street stands the traditional market hall - a beautiful ornate Victorian structure. I was drawn inside to a fabulous array of vintage stalls. All sorts of goodies on offer to suit every era, taste and budget.
Who remembers playing vinyl on a record player like this? Remember the wobbly stacks of records and how they dropped down with a clunk onto the turntable? My mum still has hers in the loft together with a collection of 78s.
I still have my vinyl record collection stashed away high in a cupboard. I couldn't bear to ever part with them. They all hold memories of one kind or another. Do you remember the first record you ever bought? Age 11 mine was "Devil Gate Drive' by Suzi Quatro in 1974 - I recall my mum wasn't impressed with my purchase!
One of the stallholders had an impressive collection of cameras and gadgets and very reasonably priced. It took great willpower to resist a purchase.
Earlier I'd been browsing a vintage clothes stall when a man in a fine hat negotiated the purchase of polystyrene head. The head was part of the stallholder's display and wasn't for sale! He wanted it for his own hat. I chuckled when I saw him later with the head in a bag.
Around the edge of the marketplace I spotted these beauties at the entrance of Seven Miles Art Cafe. Obviously they drew me inside and I was delighted to see a crowd supporting the Tea & Cake &Rock & Roll event - I witnessed some impressive powerful and energetic slam poetry - take a look at the link here for more info on this. It's interesting and creative spaces like this that play an important part in regeneration, in getting locals and those from further afield back into the town.
Further along the street and still on the marketplace I came across the Bakers Vaults. This historic building has been standing here and quenching the thirst of market goers since 1861. It closed for business suddenly at Christmas 2014 but thankfully has been revitalised by local brewers Robinsons and three blokes who run trendy bars in the Northern Quarter in Manchester - the place I mentioned earlier. This is such a positive step in the right direction for Stockport. Shall we sample the local ales and gourmet hotdogs?
As I made my way around the marketplace I came across all sorts of little vintage shops and cafes - a real hive of activity. I spotted this old Servis machine outside a vintage shop.
Heading back out of town I walked across the old bridge and stopped a while to take in the view. Stockport is built on two levels with the market place standing at the top of a small hill. As you look downyou can see the historic clock and mechanical figures of Winters the Jewellers. In years gone by this was a bustling area of town. You can glimpse the empty shops. This is a prime historic area ripe for regeneration.
I like to look over rooftops and to observe the rich mix of architecture over the ages.
In the distance is the local brewery Robinsons or Robbies as we affectionately call it. My ancestors would've likely supped Robbies in the local hostelry!
Old brick stairways lead down to the lower levels of Stockport. I'm keen to explore there soon. Just before I was born, when my mum was around 7 months pregnant, one of the stairways collapsed minutes after she'd walked down them. This was a close shave - the thought still makes her shudder to this day. To think… had she been minutes later I may not be here ...
I think a town can fall down and down but at some point there has to be a turn in fortunes. These things come in cycles. I'd love to think that Stockport will turn that corner sooner rather than later. People need to come back to Stockport.
Stockport is rich in history and my plan is to reveal this via my photo walks. I hope also to capture optimism for the future.
And now for something totally different …
I've been experimenting with Podcasting together with two creative friends Jessica and Viv. It's been a huge technical and personal challenge and I'd love for you to take a listen and let me know what you think! There are still some technical issues to resolve but I hope you like the spirit of the broadcast. As my youngest son so wisely said to me " you can't expect BBC broadcasting quality on your first attempt" A valid point!
Click here for the link to our new Podcast Pull Up A Chair. If all goes to plan future episodes will be available via iTunes twice a month.
I loved this tour of your own town. I guess I never realized that you had never showcased where you actually live. I know how fortunate I am to have the downtown that we have. As I travel I see so many city centers in decline and ruin. So sad. And so exciting to see when they start to breath life again.
Thank you so much for the tour, Helen. Visiting Stockport with you was lovely. Your conversational tone and wonderful photos made me almost feel like I was right there with you.
I've listened to the podcast already. In fact, after doing so, I had to track down your website and Viv's. Jessica and I have been in cahoots for awhile, so I'm already familiar with her stuff. The conversation among the three of you was very enjoyable (technical issues and all), and I found myself nodding in agreement at much of what was said.
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