Skip to main content
A Magazine for
The view from Stamford Road
Liam Barker

Next stop for Now Then is Mossley—where houses are built on hills and old county borders meet.

I exit the station. The rain begins to pour like fine winter and everywhere’s a steep road. I’ve made it to Mossley—a town whose residents must be experts in finding cars’ biting points, and where wind bites any unprotected point on the body. I imagine hill-starts are hard to master round here, but walking the streets isn’t exactly a picnic either. It pays to be fit when tackling the inclines—and tough too, as Mossley’s so exposed.

Five minutes in and I’m soaked, red-faced. And wherever I go the Pennines loom in the background like a glowering god, furiously filling the gaps between houses. Manchester might as well be a million miles away; knowing it’s only nine does nothing to stop the words West Yorkshire from dancing on my lips—an energetic little routine that would transform into an audible utterance had I any company to hear it. Or maybe it’s just my chattering teeth.

Being alone here has its perks, though. In fact, I decide it’s preferable on a day so viscerally autumnal. A lack of a companion and the wet weather combine, pulling the town’s austere architecture into a sharp focus that can’t be ignored. Beauty exists here, it’s just rough-hewn, hard, and uncompromising like the landscape around it.

Bridge near Mossley Station

Bridge near Mossley Station

Liam Barker

Lancashire, Cheshire, and Yorkshire meet in Mossley. Their historic borders are papered over with the town’s modern-day residency in Tameside, but rips in this thin fabric are seen and felt everywhere. The town effectively plays host to a tussle between distinct regional cultures; it’s an epicentre of jostling boundaries hemmed in by hills. Perhaps, then, it’s little wonder it strikes me as a curious blend of Slaithwaite and Rawtenstall, with overtones of Holmfirth and Hadfield. Yet despite its apparent credentials as a melting pot, an ineffable essence of West Yorkshire prevails—something in the stonework, steepness, atmosphere.

The view from Mossley Road

The view from Mossley Road

Liam Barker

With all the charisma of a self-conscious Situationist experiencing a caffeine rush, I ‘drift’ (with a shivering, darting gait) to a spot where people gather, finding myself outside Emmaus—a lone, bustling second-hand shop on Queen Street. This appears to be, so far, the only area in which people are moving without the use of cars. I wonder why other pavements are so pedestrian-free. It must be due to the absence of Emmaus, not to mention the presence of unrelenting, wind-fuelled rain. Between bitter gusts I hear snippets of strong Mancunian accents. So, Manchester’s weighty influence does dwell here, after all—I just had to switch from sight to sound.

Feeling conspicuous, I slide down Queen Street’s glistening cobbles and under the dripping canopy of some trees. I fancy this is the beginning of a rural footpath, but quickly find myself in a forlorn car park bordered by tussocky grass and derelict factory buildings. This won’t be the last time Mossley surprises me; residential streets end in footpaths when you least expect it, whilst the promise of green, leafy spaces leads to lonely, industrial-looking forecourts. That said, I’m not entirely shocked to stumble on these areas of neglect; Britain doesn’t really manufacture much anymore, and besides, most of the world’s vehicles appear to be in a hurry on Manchester Road, or else parked chock-a-block on every back street, lane, and cul-de-sac.

Queen Street, Mossley

Queen Street, Mossley

Liam Barker

I use my new-found expectation of the unexpected as a way to locate the high street. Perhaps it starts down the side of a ginnel. A high street usually reveals the working heart of a town, showcasing local commerce, characters, and culture in no uncertain terms. Mossley fuses unpretentious simplicity with elemental sublimity—I’m keen to see if its high street reflects this potent blend.

As a Glossopian, I’m accustomed to a pretty lively high street—an artery running through Glossop’s centre, lined with a multitude of busy shops on both sides of the road. But I can’t find anything equivalent here, despite some determined searching. Besides a smattering of shops on Manchester Road near the station, and a peppering on Stamford Street and Arundel Street, there doesn’t seem to be an obvious point around which the town gravitates; it’s more a series of interlinking roads populated with independent stores, fast food takeaways, and quirky pubs, but mainly just houses.

Rows and rows of just houses: living without too many frills is a laudable aim. And the town’s hibernating on a day like this. Fair enough. As the afternoon darkens, windows become yellow boxes and the Pennines intensify their one long bellow. Life’s largely happening in living rooms and bedrooms as outside walls glisten, wet with the season. Life thrives here—it’s just shaped by a landscape that doesn’t take prisoners. The clouds' autumnal offerings are mercilessly battering my (youthful) looks. Two learned friends assure me (after the fact) that Mossley’s different in summer. I’ll return. Rowdy football fans, unbothered by rain, gather at the station; my train back to Manchester arrives.

Football fans at Mossley Station

Football fans at Mossley Station

Liam Barker
Filed under: 

Next from Knowing Manchester Outside In

Ramsbottom

Now Then in the Valley of the Ram―a brief exploration of the past in the present.

More Knowing Manchester Outside In

More News & Views

Hike for Our Right to Roam

90 years to the day from the infamous Kinder mass trespass widely credited with furthering the Right to Roam movement, our group retraced the route.

More News & Views