Sunday 4 January 2015

Ashton-in-Makerfield, Greater Manchester

To be honest, Ashton-in-Makerfield isn’t top of my list for a day out in the North West.  However, it’s good sometimes to go somewhere you’ve never been before.  Ashton-in Makerfield is one of those places located between Wigan and St Helen’s just off the East Lancs Road (A580) near the M6 junction 23.

Getting there is supposed to be easy, but I managed to miss the turn off as it was badly signed and had to turn around at Haydock industrial estate to get back to the junction.  I never knew the road to Ashton-in-Makerfield (A49) went past HaydockRacecourse.
Parking in Ashton-in-Makerfield is fairly straightforward as there is the Gerard Centre at the back of the main shops.  You have to practically drive out of the town centre to get to it, but the bonus is that it’s free.

I hadn’t any idea what Ashton-in-Makerfield would be like and on first impression it appears to be a solid working class town.  Midway between Manchester and Liverpool, it is no doubt a commuter town with affordable housing.  Not exactly exciting, but I’m sure it benefits from the nearby proximity to Haydock Racecourse.

At the rear of the main road shops is an open air market.  The stalls aren’t the most aesthetically pleasing as they are old shipping containers which have been adapted for market life.  I guess they are good for the market stall holders as they are secure and provide shelter, but they do look grim.  Maybe if they had some graffiti art on them it would make them look more appealing.  However, I did like the fact there was also a mini car boot sale going on as you never know what you will find. 

Nearby there appeared to be an indoor market called the Greensway Centre, but it wasn’t like your traditional indoor market as it’s more like a shopping arcade.  It’s comprised of a warren of little shops with French style windows, selling all kinds of stuff – sweets to mobile phone repairs.  Eventually you find your way to the unassuming entrance on the main street.  You really would not expect to find this unless you knew about it, or like us, accidentally stumble upon it.

Gerard Street appears to be the main shopping street in Ashton-in-Makerfield and was teaming with traffic passing through.  The street has lots of traditional style shops and cheap discount stores.  It’s one of those functional towns where you can do you day-to-day business and pick up bits and bobs between the weekly trips to the supermarket.  In these towns I always look out for the tattoo parlour to see what terrible pun they use as a name and thankfully Ashton’s didn’t disappoint – “Inkjections”. 

One of the most interesting looking places was “Blend ‘n’Shake”, an American style milkshake bar and cafĂ©.  If we hadn’t eaten at the nearby KFC (btw very efficient service), we would have ended up in here as it looked interesting. 

I was amused to find there was a dog parlour called “Shampoodles”, which was next to “Fairy Tails Doggy Daycare”.  I wouldn’t have expected much demand for this kind of service in Ashton, but they must love their dogs here.

It wasn’t a particularly busy Saturday, but I did notice a lot of drunk men wobbling down the street.  It turned out these drunk men were waiting for their coach to pick them up and return them back to Birmingham.  Some had gone to the local off-licence to buy more beer for the journey back.  There are lots of traditional looking Victorian pubs in the town, so they must benefit from visitors to Haydock who decide to make a night of it.  After looking at this group of blokes, I reckon it could be a hairy night out here.

There are quite a few charity shops in Ashton-in-Makerfield and it would have been rude not to explore them.  Neil picked up a couple of albums in the shops and I liked the YMCA shop that did a good line in furniture.  It’s in places like these off the beaten track you can find interesting stuff – I was tempted by a cross stitch cat, but managed to resist.  Neil caused a stir in one shop as he was taking a picture of the front of the shop.  They didn’t realise it was because Neil is a grammar pedant and found some dodgy punctuation usage on one of their posters.

Admittedly it wasn’t an exciting trip and we weren’t here long, but Ashton-in-Makerfield was livelier than Newton-Le-Willows, a nearby well-to-do area but extremely quiet, and Golborne which had shut up shop for the afternoon. It’s the sort of place, if I was passing through again, I would stop to check out the charity shops.  However it’s not a place I would go to as a destination unless I was going to nearby Haydock for the races.

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