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Things to See Round Manchester

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From its situation in the extreme south of Lancashire, Manchester holds a key position to three other bordering counties. Well within a half-hour the motorist can be in Yorkshire, Cheshire or Derbyshire; or, if he prefers, he can traverse the congeries of manufacturing towns, with their dense population and their thousands of mills, in the industrial region of Lancashire itself. In any case he will have interest and variety; indeed, the diversity of scenes becomes almost startling by the contrasts offered. The traveller may find himself sweeping over the smooth, far-stretching plains of Cheshire or amid the wildly rugged Peakland regions of Derbyshire; he may course down the long lanes and beside the gentle trout-laden streams of the Charles Cotton country, or he may strike into the desolate moorland regions over which the fancies of the Brontes brooded.

He may find himself amid glorious old Tudor and Stuart relics, and linger near Lyme Hall, with its souvenirs of Charles I; Moreton Hall, that splendid specimen in black and white where perchance Queen Elizabeth danced in the Long Gallery; and Bramhall, that picturesque place which appealed to the romantic temperament of Harrison Ainsworth. Or he may make his way (Route 675) from Bolton, over lovely Belmont and past Riving-ton Pike until he reaches "Proud Preston," famous through the ages for its guilds and pageantries, and, having taken a glance at its imposing public buildings of quite an exceptional architectural quality, and at the birthplace of Francis Thompson, he has the choice of good roads to the seaside, and can make for those favourite watering - places - Lytham St. Anne's and Blackpool. Keeping inland, he could proceed towards Lancaster; but if new sensations were desired, his better plan would be to turn towards what at first appears an unpromising area dominated by Blackburn and Rochdale (Route 56). But what a rich reward will wait him! He is in the real Pendle Hill region, with its haunting memories of witchcraft and tragedy, and the "broad, bare back upheaved into the sky" is but one of the commanding features in a picture wholly wonderful and awesome. From Burnley valley the Claviger locality is reached, with its astonishing mixture of huge grey bluffs, fantastic rocks, precipitous pathways, protruding crags, huge green bowls which are the joy of the botanist, and thick clusters of woodland.

Within easy access is Ribchester, with its sixteen centuries of history made visible by the huge and ever-increasing store of Roman remains; and the towers of Turton, the spires of classic Stonyhurst College, and the ruins of ancient Whalley Abbey will all invite the traveller to a region which has been described by an enthusiast as " unmatched by any other English county, and one upon which the eye, the memory and the imagination rest with equal delight." All this is within the range of the motorist from Manchester in a couple of hours. The Nature-lover, the antiquary and the student of history, as well as the sightseer, will find a veritable feast awaiting him in this region.

The only disappointing route out of Manchester is that which leads through Oldham towards Leeds (Route 62), though the run to Harrogate is popular, and, of course, there are abundant compensations for the dreary initial stages of the journey if the objective is the Yorkshire coast. But for short, agreeable and profitable tours the Lancashire uplands, the pleasaunces of Cheshire and the hills and dales of Derbyshire are incomparable in their way. It is possible on three, or at most four, successive days to map out brief tours wholly different one from the other, and on returning from each the motorist will feel little in realizing that on no occasion has he been more than thirty or forty miles from Manchester. To those who are not familiar with the North, and who associate the cotton towns with grimy buildings and smoke-laden skies, the experience will be delightful.

Only southern Lancashire is industrial. Nature has been very bountiful in these parts, and has expressed herself in many moods. The whole region throbs with historical associations, and the Roman, the Saxon, the Dane, have left their indubitable and conspicuous traces upon the land they occupied.

Take, for example, the road over lofty Blackstone Edge (reached from Littleborough, Route 58); it is unique in its construction, and is an amazing demonstration of the skill and resource of the makers. The pavement, sixteen feet wide, is composed of square blocks of sandstone grit, those in the middle being much larger than those at the sides, forming a groove or trough to facilitate the traffic down the steep incline. After seventeen centuries this road presents a wondrous fresh and even surface. Between Manchester and Ribchester in the north and Manchester and numerous "wiches" and "ports" in the south there was a continuous chain of Roman fortifications, and these constitute an attraction in themselves to the motoring tourist who finds himself drawn to some of the most picturesque of the old-world places where the relics exist.

One other general remark may be made: there are certain areas, such as the Ribble valley, the Rough of Bowland, and Windmill Land (in Lancashire), the valleys of the Dove and Lathkill, and the dales (in Derbyshire), and the halls and villages of the plain (in Cheshire), which, as their special designations imply, suggest a visit within defined limits for their individual charm and character; and these are all within easy reach from Manchester by roads of the first class. It will be seen, from this general survey, that Manchester provides an admirable starting-point for journeys which offer a profusion of attractions.

The principal places in Lancashire within a short distance of Manchester have been indicated in these preliminary observations, and more detailed attention can now be devoted to those in Cheshire and Derbyshire. There is a fine run, and one of the most popular, from Manchester to Chester (Routes 56, 556), taking Knutsford and Northwich by the way. The latter, the famous salt-town with its houses all awry, is of somewhat dismal appearance; but Knutsford, the "Cranford" of Mrs. Gaskell, is a literary shrine and a genuine bit of old England. Despite the attempt of a- modern architect to introduce the Moorish style of building, Knutsford retains that Georgian or early Victorian aspect which befits so well the stories of our great-grandparents.

Here may be seen the typical county hotel with its ballroom; here is the narrow, cobbled street with its dwarfish shops, out of the windows of which a Miss Mattie might be wistfully peering; here is the stately town house of the local aristocrat - surely the Hon. Mrs. Jenkinson's abode; and here are the heavily-towered church and the sturdy little Unitarian chapel where the Gaskells sleep, and with its watch-tower where, musket in hand, a faithful member kept guard in olden times while his fellows worshipped in peace. It is all very quaint, all deeply interesting, and Knutsford is a place by no means to be missed.

The picturesqueness of the district is continued through Chelford, with its woods, and the tourist should now make his way (Route 526) to Congleton, and explore the territory between that town, with its black-and-white timbered houses and its curious inns, and Macclesfield. By a detour he can reach Gawsworth, a perfect picture of the medieval age, the old hall and rectory and the church, the tilting ground and the lake conjuring up the past with a vividness and a charm not to be surpassed. In the church itself are the curious and almost grotesque monuments of the Fytton family, the Mary of which has been, probably with scant warrant, identified with the Dark Lady of Shakespeare's Sonnets. But it is the place itself which has a magic all its own; it is a poet's dream of the antique in all its beauty of design, and unspoiled by time.

For those who seek exhilaration there is a steep, hilly ride past the Wizard inn and so on to Alderley Edge, the small town lying under the rocky ridge which rises abruptly 650 feet and commands a superb view of the Cheshire plains dotted with hamlets amid the long sweep of pastures. There are strange legends of the Wizard and his cave, but more important are the extremely interesting relics found from time to time of the ancient races who once occupied this commanding site.

A pleasant run onwards brings the tourist to Wilmslow, where the church, dating from the fourteenth century, with its monuments of the Traffords and Newtons, deserves a visit. The last stages of the journey, through the busy but not particularly interesting hat-manufacturing town of Stockport, are apt to be rendered irksome by the granite setts; but the final run through the residential suburbs of Didsbury and Withington will prove not .unattractive and will give the tourist an idea of Manchester's fashionable outskirts.

The tour thus sketched is comparatively brief, and intended only for a short day; but it must be remembered that the Chester road is the gateway to Wales, or by continuing towards Whitchurch it enables the county of Shropshire to be traversed. Short trips, a little off the main route, may be suggested. One is to Lymm, a quaint, old-fashioned town not far from Warrington, where the market cross, stocks and other antiquities are displayed.

Another is to Prestbury, originally a parish in Saxon times. Here, on the site of a Saxon edifice, a Norman chapel was erected, and the doorway is one of the most beautiful examples in the country. The church dates back to the twelfth century, and was in possession of the monks of S. Werburgh up to the time of the Reformation. It is rich in historic slabs, the earliest of which is dated 1482. The village itself, with its black-and-white structures, especially "The Old Priests' House," and its famous inns, one commemorating Admiral Rodney, the other belonging to the sixteenth century, is a place of popular resort, and Adlington Hall, which underwent a fierce siege during the Civil War, is one of the show-places of the county. Cheshire is, indeed, so rich in stately homes, in religious houses, and in memorials of a remote past, that wherever the traveller turns he will find objects worthy of his contemplation and enjoyment.

The lover of adventure and of high altitudes will find that the Derbyshire routes from Manchester fulfil every desire. Let him take the road to Glossop (Route 57) and he is speedily in Peak-land. A glorious panorama is outspread for him. The hills, gaunt and lonely, are all around; the villages, of brown stone to withstand wind and storm, have an aspect cold and grim; there are the lovely dales, peerless sanctuaries of Nature, watered by dimpling streams, and there are woodland spaces amid which peep the towers of famous and romantic mansions. No wonder Derbyshire abounds in legends as well as in stirring history.

The county of Peveril, and, it is said, of Robin Hood and Little John, supplies the colour and environment for such dramas as theirs; whilst the valleys of the Derwent and the Dove make a paradise for the naturalist, the angler and the artist. Whoever has seen the Derbyshire woodlands at any season, but perchance when autumn has tipped them with his "fiery finger" most of all, has seen a riot and gorgeousness of tints never to be forgotten. No marvel that the motorist is drawn by the spell, and that the Buxton road (Route 6) by way of Whaley Bridge and on to Hartington and to Ashbourne, beloved of Dr. Johnson and Tom Moore, has an irresistible lure for him. He may go by way of the mountain path past the Cat and Fiddle, and feel the thrill of the keen air at a height of 1,690 feet. Wherever he goes there will be beauty, and not infrequently there will be awe and mystery. At Castleton, the capital of the Peak, where Peveril in the twelfth century built his formidable castle on the crag and defied his foes, yawns a cavern which extends 2,250 feet into the rock. Or the traveller may like to sojourn awhile at Chapel-en-le-Frith, part of the ancient deer forest of the king, and take a peep at Dickie's Farm at Tunstead, where a skull is preserved lest disaster descend upon the household.

At Hathersage the Little John memorial will be viewed and speculated upon, with the usual baffling result, and at Bakewell (one of the best centres for exploring the whole county) there are the Saxon stones with their runic inscriptions to examine in the church. But now we come to the most fascinating of romances, that of Dorothy Vernon, who eloped and brought that gem of architecture, Haddon Hall, into the Manners family. A mile or two across the meadows stands stately Chatsworth, in its glorious park, and Rowsley village, with its Dickens-like Peacock inn, is at the junction of roads leading to the halls and to Darley Dale. The locality teems with interest and with beauty of the rarest quality.

These scenes are on main roads from Manchester and are easily visited in the course of a day. The motorist, however, who wishes to do justice to Derbyshire must not be content to drive only, but to do some walking among the hills and dales from convenient starting-points. He will not, for instance, desire to rush by Dovedale, the crowning glory of the valley watered by the angler's favourite stream, the Dove, with (as a recent writer has described it) its "towering grey rocks, green turf, wooded hill-sides, crystal clean water flowing between long tresses of emerald-green weed and, at the crown of the year, white blossom and the glory of the flowering plants."

What more could be compressed within the compass of one dale to make it wholly and satisfyingly delightful? Yet it is typical of so many others in this county, and Manchester, strange as it may at first seem, is the best of starting-places to these domains of scenic enchantment.

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