The people putting Bolton on the map
PUBLISHED: 00:00 13 May 2019
Bolton is full of remarkable characters and we spent a day in this fine town meeting people who make it tick.
There's not a lot of discipline going on when it comes to feeding the meerkats at Smithills Open farm, run by Louise Blundell and partner, Carl Grimshaw.
'No, as soon as they see the dish of mealworms appear, it's a free for all. They sometimes even plonk themselves in the dish itself, although that does defeat the purpose of lunch,' laughs Carl, whose family has run the working farm for decades.
They have a herd of 100 Holsteins and recently began a milk delivery service, using recyclable glass bottles. Animal lovers of all ages visit and see a variety of creatures great and small including wallabies, snakes and llamas. Regulars include Mikey North, Coronation Street's Gary Windass, who brings his son.
'We have petting corners for little ones but the most common question they ask is what happens to all the poo? It's not a bad question actually, as we recycle the lot by using it as fertiliser,' says Louise.
Animals come from various places, including the public. 'Some people buy teapot piglets, believing they are miniatures but no pig is a miniature pig. They grow, the owners panic and then donate them to us,' says Louise who, no matter how hectic life becomes, always finds the presence of animals calming.
Sticking with success
The girls of Bolton School lacrosse teams have been helping to put Bolton on the map – the under 12s and 13s are Champions of the North.
They both had nail-biting final matches, although Andrea Donaghy, the teacher in charge of lacrosse, can't help thinking that nerves are always that bit worse for spectators. She should know, as she is an ex-England player.
'On the side-lines, your eyes keep sliding to the clock. It can be tense,' says Andrea who believes that the ladies' game is becoming increasingly popular.
'It's exciting to watch, demanding high levels of skill and agility. Bolton School is recognised as a centre of excellence for the game, with teams and individual players gaining really good reputations. Who knows, we may have some household names of the future right here?'
She believes a fair helping of bravery is also essential for those who play the sport, which involves catching, passing and shooting a ball from a netted stick. It is thought to have been developed by the native American Iroquois tribe.
Shaun Hesmondhalgh is no stranger to bravery. He was an RAF police dog handler for many years, is a trained teacher and specialises as an expert witness in cases involving dangerous dogs. In 2012, he established The Way of the Dog, a behaviour and training consultancy.
'I'm always up to date with my jabs – bites are a hazard but I'm never afraid of a dog. People come to me for many reasons; vet recommendations or a predatory dog that gives chase.
'I teach people how to handle their own dog,' explains Shaun who has worked with RAF dogs which have reached the rank of sergeant and been rewarded with smart coats displaying their stripes.
'Some people try a reward system but it is better to address behaviour. One couple were terrorised by their German Shepherd, who didn't like them going out.
'They would throw sausages on the floor to distract him and then dash to the door. But dogs aren't silly and he soon realised what was going on, so he would stop them reaching the door and then, when they'd given up, turn his attention to the sausages,' laughs Shaun who solved the problem by instilling discipline through play.
Gurgling not grizzling
An oasis of calm is what Emma King, of Empathy Holistics, offers. Bolton University trained Emma, who has appeared on television and radio, makes her own aromatherapy products to use in her relaxation massage classes.
'We can all do with relaxation – even babies.
Massage calms them and strengthens the mother and baby bond. I teach using a doll, mums follow what I do and before long, all you can hear is gurgling, not grizzling,' laughs Emma.
She also massages mums-to-be and teaches peer massage in schools, as well as offering family and group relaxation classes. She is frequently invited into businesses to calm frazzled corporate brains.
'I'm not going to say which is easier – business people or babies! I've worked with hen parties and they can be an excitable bunch so, if it can calm them, then it will calm anyone,' laughs Emma, who reports that massaging her own baby meant that she escaped – for the most part – the black eye rings that are a badge of new parenthood.
A memorable date
One of Kate Greenhalgh's most special possessions is her 2018 Bolton Start Up Business of the Year award, which she won for Year of Dates.
'It began when my romantic husband, John, surprised me with a gorgeous jar full of envelopes containing date ideas for each week – anything from doing a jigsaw puzzle together to trying a new restaurant. It was a pretty successful Date Jar as, by the seventh date, I was pregnant with our daughter, Phoebe,' laughs Kate, 37, who, when on maternity leave, realised that the Jar of Dates could be a sound commercial idea.
One of the date ideas had been to buy each other a gift for £10 and John bought Kate the website domain name 'Year of Dates' with his £10. Since then, he has joined the business full time and now hundreds of jars and boxes are being sent out each month all over Europe.
It's rumoured that footballer Theo Walcott recently bought one. The range is constantly expanding with new additions such as, Dates for New Parents, Anniversary Dates and 30 Things to Do When Turning 30.
'The cards can be interpreted broadly, so “Enjoy a walk” could be a hike or a stroll,' says Kate who keeps the original jar in her bedroom as a talisman.
Nice coat of paint
Painting relaxes Robert Cox, brother of radio presenter, Sara Cox, who has just produced an autobiography about her childhood growing up in Bolton.
'We were brought up on a farm not far away from my studio but when I'm painting neither she nor my wife are allowed in although they both love my work. Sara has several pieces on her walls. My cats aren't allowed in either but they ignore me and then spread paint paw marks on the patio outside the studio,' laughs Robert who was an engineer and a management consultant before taking the plunge and doing what he loves.
He's never regretted it. His work is now in private collections as far away as Australia and he has been chosen to provide paintings for business boardrooms, as well as painting a mural for a local hospice.
Robert, who usually works in oils and sometimes experimental materials such as melted glass, is best known for his Poppy series and he also enjoys private commissions.
'It's the chance to meet people and talk about what they like – many have been coming to me for years. I undertake most things, although I tend to draw the line at pets,' says Robert, who only changes his work coat when it is stiff with paint. 'It tells my painting story and that's pretty special to me.'