Return to the North

This week I made the second and last of my 'farewell' excursions, to see my sister in her new home in Hale, south of Manchester.  Despite living in MCR for a couple of years I rarely explored beyond the city limits except for work, and even then I wasn't exactly getting a real sense of the place while waitressing at Tatton Park.  My sister is a real enthusiast for local history and living in the countryside has put her in her element: small towns and villages with long-held traditions, plenty of walks through the Cheshire landscape, and of course decent pub grub. We started off in my domain, Manchester, at the annual food and drink festival where we grabbed some Thai food and a couple of beers.  I always find myself slightly disappointed by the narrow range of options at the festival but I had to concede that maybe I'm just spoilt, having lived in the city centre so close to every cuisine imaginable.  The chicken green curry I grabbed was very good anyway.

Hale itself is a pretty average suburb, leafy and wealthy but with little history to speak of, so it was nearby Knutsford that captured our imaginations.  Knutsford is the town that provided inspiration for Elizabeth Gaskell's Cranford in the 19th century, and there is still a strong sense of community today.  The Heritage Centre holds an impressive tapestry, embroidered by local schoolchildren and the townspeople themselves depicting their own homes and the public buildings of Knutsford.  It spans three panels and was created for the milennium, and is a real labour of love.  I can't imagine anyone taking the time to make such a thing in my hometown.

The main high street of Knutsford is littered with little boutiques that all sell the usual fare of pretty little household things, as well as several decent restaurants.  We got drinks in Gusto, an Italian restaurant whose menu made me want to stick around, and found a happy hour at a bar called The Old Sessions House (2 for 1 from 5-7pm).  A particularly pleasant spot was The Courtyard Coffee House and penny farthing museum, which has several of the old bicycle adorning the interior as part of the decor and museum exhibits, as well as one you can clamber on outside.  I can't actually ride a bike but I'll be damned if that ever stops me posing for pictures.

On my third and final day we decided to go for a country walk, typically picking the one day where it was going to rain.  It turned out to be alright in the end, and anyway someone like my sister relishes a bit of light rain (how very English).  We took the route from a guidebook of railway walks in the area - another pretty one is from Hale to Mobberley, taking the train back, but since my sister had done that one, we decided to head to Ashley instead.  Ashley is a tiny town with a very good pub, The Greyhound, where I had a fantastic steak and ale pie, and congratulated myself on not getting a burger.

One of the things I keep impressing upon myself lately has been to appreciate all my favourite things about London, or things that are quintessentially English, that I am bound to miss while I'm Down Under.  Even in France I wanted to really take note of the aspects of European life that I don't doubt I will become homesick for, as well as the huge geographical differences I'm excited to see.  I expect Australia to be culturally quite similar to the UK but just in case I've been patriotic in my (food) choices this month past.  And Cheshire, a county I'm not particularly familiar with, turned out to be a wonderfully quaint little excursion to make the most of autumn before I head to another hemisphere, and another season.

No comments:

Post a Comment