Cheshire 7 - Knutsford, in search of King Canute/Mrs Gaskell and her tower/Cranford and a unitarian church

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January 29th 2017
Published: February 1st 2017
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Suzy the motorhome still has not moved. I wonder if she will start when we eventually fire her up. She finally has some hardcore in front of her wheels but not enough for her to get off her driveway. Her new gate is up and slowly but surely we head towards getting her off the drive. Next job to build a ramp. and then her next stop will be new tyres and her habitation check . January is finally blowing out and we are around 88 days from our holidays. The weather seems stuck between misty days, rainy days and frost. The Gulf Stream is holding the weather down and it just won't move . We have had snow . A slight sprinkling on the Pennines and the Cat and Fiddle and those pretty leaf like patterns are becoming a familiar sight in the frost on the car windscreen. Our day today was going to be spent on travelling home to North Wales for a much needed haircut and a clear up of the family graves .

It was not a pleasant drive as the mist shrouded our world. A whiteness covered everything and the dampness was palpable. We drove down the lanes and faced our first obstacle of the day - a road closure. Not a long diversion but enough to add ten to fifteen minutes to our journey and our appointment time of 10.15. Just for a change our diversion took us through the Chatsworth Estate . Not the Chatsworth estate of Shameless fame, of drug dealing and prison sentences , of belly rolling laughter but the Chatsworth of the Dukes of Devonshire; of pristine fields and hedgerows, of regimented stone cottages of service and servitude and of deers roaming the fields. In the early morning we saw a few of them as they made their way back into the woods. Up to Buxton. Grey, cold and damp. We pondered on what it might be like to live in this spa town . Known to be the wettest town in England. It looked dirty today and uninviting. Across the Pennines and the Cat and Fiddle pass. The greyness swept on mile after mile. No chance to see the Cheshire Plain beneath us or Jodrell Bank pointing skywards. Even the pub the imaginatively named Cat and Fiddle was closed . The gates locked to the car park and the To Let sign hanging forlornly.

Passing over the desolate pass our roads took us past isolated farmsteads, sheep in the fields, the roadside brown where the heather and the bilberres have gone over. In the Autumn it will be pretty again coloured purple from the flowering heather but today it felt a lonely place. We cross the border between Derbyshire and Cheshire and down into industrial Macclesfield which is very different to its affluent spa town neighbour . Silk Mills - it is the end of the Silk Road. Reminders are there for all to see - we travel along the Silk Road past the huge mills . The museum signs tell us we can visit and see the process. Perhaps another day. We still have to get to Wales and the time stands still for no man. Our next problem is the M6, clogged up and at a standstill. At least we can divert easily through Northwich the town of Roberts bakery. As we pass we see the loaves on a conveyor belt winding their way up the building to the packaging plants . It looks quite odd . Through Tarvin and the outskirts of Chester and we
The Old Town Hall The Old Town Hall The Old Town Hall

A gem of a building
finally arrive at our destination in plenty of time.

On the way back we have decided to stop off at Knutsford . A town we pass through and ignore every time we go back to Wales . In my head it is the town of WAGS, rich people, footballers and their wives, the home of Mrs Gaskell. A town where it is obligatory to drive a 4 x 4, own a horse or two and a large house which costs almost as much as in London. Parking was fairly easy on the car park of the local supermarket Booths . £1.80 for two hours - no change given. The inhabitants of the town probably are not bothered with that dirty stuff change. I lost 20p as the machine does not give change and I thought to myself about the value of money. 20p in 2017 buys virtually nothing . In the 1960's 4/= bought me 32 trips to my local town. It bought me fish and chips almost three times. Puts it into perspective doesn't it? . Leaving the car pondering the value of money we walked in search of a toilet . I thought I found one but instead the sign said To Let - and was attached to the bus station. Funny how one letter missing makes a whole new meaning. The town is small - two main streets. First thoughts - there is not a lot to see . Second thoughts - the shop all exude money. None of the bigger stores - a small chemist Boots, a tiny Waitrose express and any number of independents selling goods far above what I would want or could afford . No Tesco - the town wouldn't have it . It would mean too many cars and too many people. I am not warming to the place .

Knutsford - a town in Cheshire which falls 14 miles south-west of that metropolis Manchester and 9 miles north-west of Macclesfield . The population of the town at the 2011 Census was 13,191. It is located in what is affectionately called Cheshires Golden Triangle and lies on the Cheshire Plain between the Peak District and the welsh mountains. It is noted that the properties are some of the most expensive outside of London . How the other half live? Knutsford's main town centre streets, Princess Street (also known locally as Top Street) and King Street lower down (also known as Bottom Street), form the hub of the town. We walked down both . At one end of the narrow King Street is an entrance to Tatton Park which was the home of the Egerton Family. We must not have walked far enough up the street to see the entrance. Knutsford was recorded in the Domesday Book as Cunetesford or Canutes Ford . Canute was the king of England (1016–1035) and later king of Denmark, Norway and parts of Sweden as well. Local tradition says that King Canute blessed a wedding that was taking place and forded the River Lily which was said to be dangerous. As walked from the car park we pondered on Knutsfords claim to fame . George Osbourne MP for the town. We shall gloss over that one. Knutsford was the place in which General George S Patton shortly after the Normandy Invasion delivered his critical speech about the Soviets . It is the town of the disgraced MP Neil Hamilton and the town which put up the Independent MP Martin Bell affectionately known as the man in white as he wore white suits.

To our right as we crossed the road was the town hall with its classical columns , the church of St John the Baptist which was built in a neo classical style in brick with a slate roof. Its graveyard is pretty with old memorial stones still in situ. Some leaning at jaunty angles. In the spring the graveyard is full of crocus. We should have gone inside but I had forgotten to research what the inside was like and time was pressing. We needed lunch . We were still in search of the elusive convenience.

As we crossed the road we spied an altogether prettier building. Built of red brick in a Victorian Gothic style it was seriously impressive. All fanciful and inspired by medieval architecture, turrets and towers we later found out it was the Old Town Hall built by the Victorian master of Gothic the architect Alfred Waterhouse, 1870-72, in his characteristic Gothic style.

Lunch was taken in the Cross Keys pub on the main street. A modern simple and chic interior it proved an interesting diversion from the cold weather outside . The place was empty apart from us and we wondered how they managed to make a profit on our meagre spend. The staff costs alone would not be paid for with our two drinks , a piri piri chicken meal and a cod in batter with chips.

Once fed and watered we headed back to the car. We passed by what we had come to see . The Gaskell Memorial tower and Kings Coffee House Originally built to house the council offices , the coffee house and the memorial to local novelist Elizabeth Gaskell stands rather oddly right int the middle of the street. Italianate in design it was designed by Richard Harding Watt and built of a grey ashlar stone. Niches up the wall hold busts of the celebrated writer who produced gritty northern novels such as Cranford and North and South. The square tower is 21 metres (69 ft) high, and 3 metres (10 ft) on each side. It has recessed bow windows on three sides around the bottom. Looking up there are windows and around the top a parapet and turrets. To say it was unusual is to underestimate its charm. We had planned to visit Brook Street chapel a Unitarian Chapel on the outskirts of the town and visit Mrs Gaskells grave but the weather turned on us and the visitor centre was firmly shut on a Monday .

Our journey home was less eventful than our journey down. On arrival home our ACSI book had arrived . Not the first one which had never been sent . Nor was the second one that has been paid for and seems stuck in Holland . This the third attempt was purchased from a local bookseller who specialises in anything motorhome related . Ordered , paid for and delivered within two days . The afternoon was spent looking at the campsites. New ones added . Some old ones removed . It felt good to have it in our hands and to be able to plan properly.

As we we read it and turned its pages we could not help but smile at the pleasure it brought to us and to realise as Lao Tzu said that "Contentment is the greatest treasure ".


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