7 places in Greater Manchester to visit after lockdown
PUBLISHED: 09:01 01 July 2020
As lockdown restrictions ease, it’s time to explore Manchester and the surrounding areas.
Few towns have as much going for them as Bolton. From the architectural splendour of the town centre to the rural beauty of the Pennine hills, there are things to admire at every turn.
A walk through the town centre will reveal some beautiful architecture – the impressive Town Hall is just one of 700 listed buildings around the town – and a great range of shops, some of them now starting to re-open.
But if you’re after open spaces, Bolton has plenty to offer. Leverhulme Park and Queen’s Park are pleasant places to walk and there’s a network of paths around Rivington Pike, the huge hill which overlooks the town, which offer far reaching views. The roads around Bolton and the surrounding countryside are perfect for a motoring tour, too. There’s lots of fascinating historical sites to take in, some awe-inspiring views to enjoy and no shortage of great picnic spots to choose from.
2020 should have been a bumper time for Bury which was supposed to be celebrating its year as Greater Manchester’s first Town of Culture. A boom in visitor numbers was predicted and they would have been able to experience a wide range of artistic and cultural events at Bury’s brilliant museums and galleries, and at venues around the town.
Of course, those plans have been ruined by the Coronavirus outbreak, and shops, restaurants and attractions have been closed, but there are still plenty of reasons to plan a day out here. One relatively recent addition to the town that has proved instantly popular is the seven foot tall statue of Victoria Wood, one of Bury’s most famous daughters. It was sculpted by Graham Ibbeson and stands in Library Gardens: the same library she once gave a cheque for £100 to pay for unreturned books.
Clarence Park has been a favourite for rather longer. It opened in 1888 and is now the largest urban park in part of Lancashire, making it ideal for socially-distanced walks with people in your bubble.
It has been eerie at times to see the streets around one of the world’s great cities quiet and the usually-thronging squares and attractions empty. But as businesses start to re-open, visitors have re-appeared and have taken advantage of the less busy city to enjoy urban explorations.
The city centre has been transformed over the years but there’s still plenty of evidence of Manchester’s history and development. Walks by the canals and past the railways that helped make this the world’s first industrial city – and the original Northern Powerhouse – are a great way to explore parts of the city you may be less familiar with. And visiting those parts of the city you are used to seeing swarming with people at a time when the crowds are staying away gives a new perspective on a place you perhaps thought you knew very well.
As the lockdown has been eased, the city’s parks and waterways have attracted walkers, cyclists and families eager for a dose of fresh air, and although some paths have been a little busy, it is still possible to keep two metres apart in most places.
Chadderton Hall Park and Tandle HIll Country Park are two of the biggest and best green space sto enjoy near Oldham, with woodland, grassland and scores of walking routes offering big views towards Manchester and the Pennines.
Back in the town centre, you’ll find scores of historic sites and beautiful buildings and a range of shops, cafes and bars, as well the Coliseum Theatre – which played a huge role in the careers of many famous stars of stage and screen
And Gallery Oldham which has created a brilliant Lockdown Museum online at galleryoldham.org.uk.
The town – affectionately known as Rammy – sits among beautiful hills and moorland and it’s popular with tourists and day-trippers who want a good dose of fresh air on the hills and moors and to see the artworks along the Irwell Sculpture Trail, a remarkable collection of over 70 artworks across more than 30 miles from Bacup to Salford.
Rammy has a well-deserved reputation for the quality of its cafes, bars and restaurants and there is also a lovely range of shops here, mostly along Bridge Street and Bolton Street which are now starting to re-open.
But if you’re looking for a rural escape, take a walk up to the 128 foot Peel Tower on Holcombe Hill which looks down on the town was built in 1852. It commemorates the Victorian politician Sir Robert Peel who was born in Bury, who was twice British Prime Minister and founded the modern police force.
One of the good things to come out of the Coronavirus pandemic and resultant lockdown has been the surge in community spirit. And nowhere would that be more appreciated than in Rochdale, the home of co-operation.
The Co-op was founded here in 1884 – the Co-op Museum is well worth a visit when it re-opens – and there’s lots more history to explore around the town, including the spectacular town hall which was apparently so admired by Adolf Hitler that he planned, had he won the war, to dismantle it and take it to Germany.
A tour of the town centre can take in these important sites and plenty more examples of impressive architecture, while a short drive will reveal beautiful countryside and stunning scenery. Among the most popular places to visit is Hollingworth Lake where the footpath around the water is operating a one-way system so it’s easier to keep a two-metre distance from others.
Once a byword for mining and grime – there used to be 1000 pits within five miles of Wigan town centre – it is now one of the greenest towns around. Many former mines have been transformed into beautiful havens for wildlife and there are some lovely walking and cycling routes to explore. The industrial landscape of pit heads and slag heaps has been replaced by trees, meadows and wetlands which are home to an internationally-important range of plants and animals.
The Flashes – the series of eight shallow ponds created by subsidence caused by the mines – are now part of a nature reserve owned by the Lancashire Wildlife Trust with about 10km of paths which are ideal for socially-distanced walks.
Wigan has some lovely parks too, with Mesnes Park and Haigh Woodland Park particular favourites and the town centre is an interesting place to explore as well, with wide pedestrianised areas making it easy to keep that two metre gap.