Stockport & the Cheshire Panhandle

Surrounded by lovely countryside and rich in industrial heritage, Marple is also on the Cheshire Ring route, so ideal for canal lovers.

Some might feel that ‘Stockport and the Cheshire Panhandle’ has no place in a 21st-century guide to Cheshire, the whole of the area within it having been parcelled up and hived off to neighbouring counties more than four decades ago now. But the Cheshire roots here stretch back centuries rather than mere decades, so we quickly dismissed the idea of leaving it out. To anyone who remembers Cheshire pre-1974, the shape of the new county looks all wrong without the ‘panhandle’, the distinctive little spur that used to reach up between Derbyshire, Lancashire and Yorkshire.

You can see the logic to the border reorganisation. The wild moorland region of the far northeast somehow feels better suited to its new addresses of Derbyshire and Yorkshire, and there’s an obvious affinity between the old Cheshire mill towns on one side of the Tame and their once-Lancashire equivalents on the other, which came together to form the newly created Tameside. Yet even now many residents of the region retain Cheshire as their postal address and, especially in the south and west, still feel that Cheshire is where their allegiances lie.

But enough of arbitrary administrative borders. The important thing is that there’s plenty for a Slow traveller to enjoy here. The impressive industrial heritage of towns such as Stockport might be expected, along with their big old mills and factories, towering over terraces of tiny workers’ cottages. Few realise, however, that exploring this varied area also leads you to some beautiful churches and glorious country views; to one of England’s finest black-and-white mansions and one of its steepest flights of canal locks. As you journey around, you’ll also come across unlikely connections to such famous cultural figures as L S Lowry, Agatha Christie and Christopher Isherwood.

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