Manchester carries on far beyond its big, handsome heart. In 1974, the metropolitan county of Greater Manchester was created, giving the city a suburban and rural hinterland.
I took a short train journey to its very edges, to the mill town of Stalybridge which used to be in Cheshire. And then the little rural town of Greenfield which sits in the shadow of mighty Saddleworth Moor and still has Lancashire in its postal addresses.
With tranquil canals, post-industrial grit, hill views and stone cottages, this was a long way from Manchester’s bright lights.
Whoever said that Manchester and its sister city of Salford are grey and rain-sodden might like to reconsider. If you take a dusk stroll by the waterways at Salford Quays by the end of the Manchester Ship Canal, you may be treated with a fantastic spectacle. The sunsets here are rich and golden and the modern buildings glint in the light.
I used my new lightweight Fuji X100T for these photographs. It performed nicely, although the fixed lens and lack of zoom means the legs have to do some extra work to nail down that desired frame.
The ancient city of Dubrovnik needs little introduction. It’s Croatia’s coastal gem and provides some of the backdrop for TV fantasy drama Game of Thrones. There is a lot crammed into a relatively small space – rambling orange rooftops, grand churches and sleepy back streets.
Good weather brings the crowds to this infinitely explorable place, so my advice is to start out early to walk the old ramparts, and climb up away from the main thoroughfares. But it’s a visitor magnet, so be prepared for the throngs. You should also see the city’s port area, just a bus ride away from the old town. It’s very easy to get snap happy in Dubrovnik, but if you can, take a step back and just enjoy this wonder.
This memorable day trip started with a train from Manchester to Liverpool and then my first ride on the ‘Scouse Metro’ which takes you beneath the Mersey to Birkenhead and deeper into the Wirral peninsula. At the end of the line is the town of West Kirby.
It sits on the estuary of the River Dee as it flows into the Irish Sea, with the north Wales coast across the water. But for much of the day there’s little water as the tide is out, creating a vast expanse of open sand. This was a day of rain and leaden skies, making the sense of space even greater.
West Kirby also has a marine lake circled by a road – a natural place for walks. It adds to the sense of place in this distant part of a great northern peninsula.
I went to the very outskirts of Greater Manchester looking for old mills, green hills and waterways. This was an unexpected bonus, found along the canal near the town of Stalybridge. An electricity substation bristles with pylons – there’s even one that straddles the canal. I’ve never been so close to one before.
They scared and fascinated me as a child with their different shapes and command of the countryside. They may be blots on the landscape, but this close encounter made me appreciate their intricate form and structure. But always keep your distance and never be tempted to clamber up.