It was the greyest of gray days in Stockport on a Thursday afternoon, but there was still much to smile about in this great Greater Manchester town.
As I stomped down Wellington Road into Mersey Square there were shoppers milling about, and schoolchildren coming home with their parents.
The familiar mixed with the bizarre when one vehicle bumped into another at the lights.
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Having nudged the back of a delivery driver’s van, a woman motorist got out wearing a fancy dress red cape and crown, as if the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland had turned up on Wellington Road.
And with a little bit of everyday magic, instead of kicking off at each other, the two drivers laughed it off and got on with their day.
Apart from the passers-by, there are lots of other things going on in the town that didn’t just make me smile – but will cheer Stopfordians in the days, weeks, and months to come.
The town center is becoming more attractive as regeneration of the area continues, with street art bringing color to the streets.
Four pieces form part of the Rediscovering the Underbanks initiative funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.
The Jimi Hendrix mural by Otto Schade, located on the site of the former caretakers flat at Merseyway, is the first I stumbled upon. It pays homage to the gig at the Sinking Ship Club in 1967 where Hendrix played.
There are also the Shop Small, Love Local murals by Emily Flanagan, located in the window arches under St.Petersgate Bridge, and Mural Life by Russ Meehan aka Qubek, opposite the Cracked Actor.
This piece includes fish and flowers to signify the Tin Brook that runs below, as well as other objects synonymous with the Underbanks area.
Then there’s the eye-grabbing moth mural by Paintsmiths in collaboration with Cheshire Wildlife Trust, on Lower Hillgate opposite Robinson’s Brewery.
Then there are all the small businesses popping up in the Underbanks – dubbed Stockport’s answer to Soho.
Walking along the cobbled streets and the higgledy-piggledy walkways feels like a bit of an adventure, transporting you back to another time. Vibrant independents are breathing life into old, disused spaces.
I’d walked up Mealhouse Brow to the top of Market Place and spotted a new opening on the corner, with its exterior painted in bold olive green.
A sign written on the window of Still Life Story, set to be a homeware, flowers, and gift store, said ‘coming soon!’
Outside was a large planter with blooming daffodils, which put the spring in my step.
What I love about visiting certain areas of Greater Manchester is the unique landmarks you come across that let you know you’ve arrived.
For a drizzly afternoon in Stockport, it was clocking the tall chimney poking through the clouds of Hat Works that made me smile. The museum is housed in a grade II listed Victorian Mill.
But the interesting skyline doesn’t end there as just in the distance I could see the gorgeous Edwardian Town Hall. This building is famous for its striking baroque facade of white Portland Stone, earning it the nickname of the ‘Wedding Cake Town Hall’.
The Art Deco gem of the Plaza is also hard to miss, and the detailed frontage of the historic Produce Hall.
And then there’s St Mary’s presiding over the marketplace, the 14th-century gothic church with rare stained glass.
Once I’d reached the historic marketplace there was barely anyone about. Until I opened the doors to the Victorian Market Hall.
The building is phenomenal and is home to more than 30 traders, offering all sorts from beer to buttons.
By the time I’d arrived, people were packing up, but I hovered around customers enticed by the Polish Artisan Bakery, with its brightly colored cream slices.
It made me smile to see so many traders all working together under one roof.
Walking downhill from the market square, I landed along the main high street in the outdoor area of Merseyway Shopping Centre.
It was quite busy for a Thursday afternoon, and is most times I walk down it.
Often, you can hear the delights of a busker, usually singers with great voices, adding something a bit special to your shopping trip.
This time it was a gentleman in a trilby singing Handbags and Gladrags by Stereophonics, and a small crowd had gathered around him to get a better listen, with one woman filming his performance.
Seeing him enjoying himself made me smile, and he made a lasting impression, as the lyrics are still stuck in my head.
What makes you smile in Stockport? Let us know in the comments.
Read more about Stockport here: Readers unconvinced by ‘most dangerous road in UK’ claim over Bredbury’s M60 junction
Read about an iconic Stockport route here: ‘Free Creme Eggs’ and the smell of McVities: Why the 192 bus is a Greater Mancunian adventure
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.