On the edge of Stockport the River Tame meanders through a huge stretch of woodland, sheltering a waterfall and even an inner-city farm. The Reddish Vale Country Park spans 161 hectares, a green corridor connecting the surrounding areas of Denton and Woodley.
The famous Reddish Vale Viaduct provides a unique backdrop to the park’s fishing pond below, where plenty of wildfowl can be spotted. It’s a slice of paradise on a sunny day, but will the tranquility wear off as more and more people flock to the beauty spot after discovering it during lockdown?
Also to the north of the country park is Reddish Vale Farm and horse riding school, which serves teas and coffees at the weekend from its tearooms there. Further down past the golf course you’ll come across the small waterfall, which provides the opportunity for a paddle or an ideal stop-off for a picnic.
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Unlike most other green spaces in Greater Manchester, Reddish Vale boasts a varied terrain, with some hilly parts. People even live inside the country park, with a row of cottages located at the entrance down the road from Reddish Vale High School.
Residents here have a gorgeous front row view of horses in fields, but with it comes the sight of many visitors. One retired renter says it’s like living in the countryside – but in the middle of Stockport. However he and his wife de el are looking to move on now after increased footfall, eyeing up Todmorden in West Yorkshire, just over the border from Rochdale.
Gary Clear, 69, has lived in a two-bedroom cottage on Reddish Vale Road for eight years, and pays £570 per month. He was drawn to the area for the peace and quiet.
“We used to come down here when the kids were young and we always said if ever there was a house available, we’d move here,” Gary said. “It’s like being in the countryside in the middle of Stockport.
“Now it’s busier than what we remember it as. A lot busier.” As he spoke from his doorstep, he had to raise his voice as a few cars passed, along with a noise digger – as anti-erosion work continues on the viaduct.
He points out the opposite farm, which has an adventure park to the back of it bringing in visitors, describing it as “an attraction”. It has its own carpark before the row of cottages, however there are signs in some of the residents’ windows that warn about parking in front of their homes.
There is also another car park further down by the fishing pond at the visitor centre. “You wouldn’t see cars before,” Gary continued. “But since Covid, a lot more people have realized it’s here, there has been a lot more people coming down and a lot of noise now.”
He added: “One day when my wife was working, it took her 25 minutes to get home from the top of the road. People tend to drive down the middle, if you’re careful you can pass both ways.”
Noeleen Parker, a few doors down, has no intention of moving. The 68-year-old relocated to the area 11-years ago with her daughter de ella, now 30, from Audenshaw after going on a walk there one day-but before then she did not know the park existed.
“It’s a lovely place to live,” she said. “In summer I heard a woman on the front say to her friend de ella, ‘wouldn’t you like to live here?’ and she said ‘no, it’s like Blackpool front, it’s so busy.’
“I said ‘sorry it’s not.’ It can be when it’s sunny, when there is really hot weather. But when it turns about 6pm you can hear a pin drop, it’s so peaceful.”
Noeleen, also retired, has asthma and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) so despite country walks being on her doorstep, she doesn’t go far. When her daughter de ella, who now lives with her partner de ella, visits, she helps her mum walk down the road to the pond.
“I can see all the horses from my window, and I like to sit in my back garden,” she added. “I would be lost without my car as it’s cut off from where any shops are.”
The cottages are mostly two-bedroomed, with a three-bed on the end of the stretch that recently sold for £270,000. Two cottages have also been knocked together to form one large home.
Jill Dillon, who owns Reddish Vale Farm, agrees that since lockdown, her business has ballooned. Her family de ella moved to the farm for a lifestyle change 27-years ago, back when it was a derelict dairy farm.
Her riding school now has a waiting list, the farm has been busy offering school visits, and since April, they’ve started parties for kids, which are fully booked until the summer. Jill, who employs 50 people, says the aim of the farm is to educate children about farm animals and how to look after them.
She was inspired to open in 2003 after her son visited Stockley Farm with his school, where some of his classmates hadn’t seen sheep before. “During Covid we had to shut down, but people then found Reddish Vale Country Park, lots of people started to walk then get a coffee,” Jill said, who restricts her tearooms, which opened in 1999, to opening on weekends only.
“I think people have a different outlook on life, once Saturdays were for shopping, now Saturdays are for doing things with children.”
Addressing the noise complaints, the businesswoman said: “It’s not a negative that a business is getting busier unless you’re jealous. It’s their choice to live here. My customers don’t go near them, I have a car park before the cottages.”
Jill added: “Covid has changed things a lot, for the better from my point of view.”
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