Route: 391/392, Stockport – Macclesfield (we get off at Higher Poynton)
Operator: Selwyns Travel
Frequency: Alternates every hour (Mon-Sat); earlier finish Sat; no Sunday service
Time: ~40 mins (90 mins full distance)
Cost: Part of £5.60 All Buses System One Day Ticket
Date Of Trip: 30/6/18
This is definitely no day to be gallivanting around the place on buses. It’s getting on for 30°C, so me and Eleanor are off for a walk down the Middlewood Way to Bollington. We’ve still got to catch a bus there, mind you, and the 10:50am 391 service from Stockport fits the bill perfectly
Opened in 1981, the town’s bus station has Stockport Viaduct as an arch-tastic backdrop. Supposedly the largest brick structure in the UK and still one of the biggest in the world, its 27 spans were constructed in a feverish spell of activity between 1839/40, with the stipulation that any of these new-fangled locomotives which crossed it had to stop at Stockport railway station. It was a nifty piece of negotiating, and opened up the local mills and milliners to hitherto distant nationwide markets.
The Stockport Hat Works looms over it, too, with ‘HAT MUSEUM’ painted in surely the largest typeface ever to grace a chimney. I’ve always wanted to daub a ‘T’ above the ‘H’, but as that’d mean scaling something higher than two rungs of a ladder, I’ll leave it for some other daredevil. One who isn’t so prone to dizziness at extreme altitudes of more 3 feet.
Surrounded by history, the bus station is soon to be history itself. Nobody will miss it. A set of dank, glass sided tunnels, it has been marinating in almost four decades of effluence from the scallies who give people pause for thought before heading down here after dark. It’s passable in daytime, but it’s not a place for a people-watching picnic, especially today when it feels and smells like a pissy greenhouse.
Man’s Not Hot
Despite the oppressive temperature, we must give full marks to the teenager who strides along one of the walkways in jeans and a bulky black hoodie up over his head. It’s his look, and he’s not gonna change it for the mercury-tipping whims of Mother Nature.
On the other hand, I resort to leaning forward in my bus seat so as to avoid generating a sweaty t-shirt. My excessively hairy back stopped me getting on Love Island this year, so while perspiration is bound pop up later on, I don’t really want to inflict a melted human ice lolly on the chair’s next occupant.
We wind around the town centre and are soon heading south along the A6, past the wheezing husk of what used to be the Grand Central complex, as well as a kebab shop called Laika. It presumably has a meaning beyond being the first dog in space, as its signage is lacking a canine cosmonaut, but if there’s not a Yuri Gagarin themed restaurant somewhere on the planet, I’m going to try and open one.
(Update: panic over, there’s one in Berlin.)
We pass a pub in Heaviley where it’s impossible to see what it’s called as they’ve hung the most enormous Union Jack I’ve ever seen across the front elevation. It’s huge to the extent that its patrons will have to duck under it to order a pint come opening time, but I suppose in this weather, it’ll act as a giant blind and keep everyone a degree or two cooler.
Clippers & Snippers
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the short time writing this blog, it’s that dog grooming parlours usually have brilliant names.
Bark ‘N’ Mad over in Castleton last week is succeeded by Grooming Marvellous in Great Moor this time. There are other magnificent examples in the area called Shampoochie, Hair Off The Dog and – the best of the lot – Posh & Barks. There seems to be a bottomless well of inspiration among the North West’s dog clippers and snippers.
Hairdressers have a habit of coming up with punny names, too (Curl Up & Dye, etc.), and as giving Fido a shampoo and trim isn’t too different from Sharon’s monthly cut and blow, I expect that most dog groomers are former stylists who prefer asking dogs about their holiday plans instead.
The egg-frying heat has kept the traffic on this normally hectic arterial road to a bare minimum, so we make speedy progress down to Hazel Grove. The route of this particular bus changed a few weeks back, and now makes a sideways dart by the Horse & Jockey. It has a poster outside saying “Hello, is it beer you’re looking for?”, but no matter how much they try to channel Lionel Richie, the answer would appear to be ‘no’, as the pub is up for let.
I must confess that I’m not too fussed about pubs closing. CAMRA say that 18 of them serve last order for the final time each week, and while it’s absolutely a huge shame if the last pub in a village shuts its doors, not to mention being rotten for the landlords, pubcos have only got themselves to blame.
The whole tied house business is a massive sham. Long story short, as well as paying thousands of pounds upfront to get their feet under the table, prospective landlords have to buy their beer from the company which owns the pub, typically at massively inflated prices compared to the market rate. Oh, and they can’t buy whatever they want because the pubco will have a limited range, and an even more strangled selection for new tenants who have to ‘prove themselves’ first.
You’ve just hit your target? Great! The pubco will then up it for the following period, and if you miss a few of these on the spin, you’re out on your ear. The landlords are trapped, working unholy hours for a fraction of what they should be earning.
We flirted with the idea of running a pub a few years back, but left the meeting with the nice man from the pubco with our eyes wide open and our wallets firmly shut.
The smoking ban and cheap beer in supermarkets are pretty much red herrings, as evidenced by the surge in micro-bars; it’s these pubco bloodsuckers that are the problem. Casinos would be closed en masse if they rigged the rules so comprehensively against the punter, and ultimately, free houses will not just survive, but they’ll thrive.
I’ve gone off on one again, haven’t I?
A Man Of Mystery
We pick up a late-middle aged fella at the last stop inside Stockport’s boundary; he’s lugging a rucksack so voluminous that he has to parallel park into his seat. We’re not familiar at all with Higher Poynton, where we are due to get off, but as he’s definitely a local off on an adventure of his own, I lean over to ask him for a nudge when we’re at the right stop.
“You’ll want The Boar’s Head for the Middlewood Way.” he booms, “Where are you going?”
“Bollington.” I reply, “We’re gonna have our dinner and a couple of pints at The Vale. How about you?”
“I’m walking over to Kerridge and back,” which is about a mile further on than Bollington. “I’m going over the hills though. Doctor’s orders, I’ve got to lose weight.”
“Well, you’ll definitely lose weight with that backpack, it’s massive.”
He just stares back.
“Errr, what’s in it?” I prod cautiously.
He mulls over the answer before focusing his gaze on the middle distance. “Supplies…”
I do a single reverse nod and retreat.
A Very Long Lap Of A Very Small Place
Poynton isn’t very big at all, but the 391 and 392 cover every inch of its tarmac.
Starting at Woodford Lane, it heads past the train station and into the centre (where we finally get to visit the excellent Vine Hop later on), before skirting around the winding roads of suburbia. We eventually emerge 10 minutes later outside the Waitrose, just a couple of hundred yards up the street from the mini roundabout at the heart of the village.
In that time, nobody gets on or off, but this is the only bus which visits Poynton these days. Apart from on Sundays, of course, when Poynton, Bollington and the communities in between don’t have any bus service whatsoever. That’s around 25,000 people who either have to rely on cars, or roll a dice as to whether their train is going to show up this time. Bollington hasn’t had a train station for 50 years, so they might be in for a bit of a wait. Full marks to the council for that.
We fork left up Middlewood Road, under a canopy of shady trees, and past a row of around a dozen pristine whitewashed cottages, all with immaculate gardens and a charm quotient which breaks the scale. Eleanor swoons again seconds later when she sees a brown sign for the Anson Engine Museum, which further research shows has the largest operating Crossley Atmospheric Engine ever made. I know!
We’re soon out from under cover and into Higher Poynton, which as well as being in a loftier position over the Cheshire Plain than the main settlement below, also boasts houses with slightly bigger lawns. There doesn’t seem to be anything else here whatsoever apart from The Boar’s Head, so you’re knackered if you want a pint of milk, but we get our requested nudge from Supplies Man and we’re off over there to Bollington.
Here are some of my less rubbish photos of it, all made small so that they don’t look as good.