Saturday, August 30, 2008

Three Good Hiding Places

I love the Monty Python sketch "Hide And Seek Olympic Finals" where the hider can hide anywhere in the world and it takes years for the seeker to find him.

I mention this because I've been visiting some pretty obscure places in Northern England with Mrs Stan over the last few days and it occurs to me that these would make excellent hiding places. No-one would ever think of looking for you in any one of these hidden gems. Except if you opened a cafe that actually made a decent cup of coffee. Then you'd stick out a mile - each of these towns contains very attractive tea-rooms serving weak tea, instant coffee and plastic scones. Bring sandwiches.

(1) Bakewell, Derbyshire : this town is the inspiration for the Bakewell Tart; not a well known prostitute but a sort of cake. Like the cake, jam runs down the middle of the town, there is a thin layer of icing on all the roads and a glace cherry sits atop the church tower. Well, in a perfect world it would.

It's an attractive bustling place with all kinds of nice-smelling knick-knack shops and you must try the Bakewell Pudding which is unrecognisable from the muck that Mr Kipling puts into tin foil.

(2) Frodsham, Cheshire : an identikit Market Town, except one where the market has been taken over by Scousers selling forged brand-name sweets and CDs of uncertain provenance. On the bright side it has even more nice-smelling knick-knack shops than Bakewell, is the start of the "Sandstone Way" long distance path and has a name that I never tire of repeating in a variety of comedy voices.

I recommend the first section of the Sandstone Way - it takes you up to an amazing vantage point high above the Thelwall Viadiact where you can see Liverpool and even Mount Snowdon in the distance. If you squint you can pretend that Warrington and Runcorn aren't there.

(3) Whitchurch, Shropshire : the other end of the Sandstone Way After a few days of Market Towns it was all getting a bit same-y. We tried the last section of the Sandstone Way which goes along the canal to the three-level lock system at Grindley Brook. I wasn't well-disposed to the idea of a narrowboat holiday before, but after seeing a few families in action I'm even more anti now. It is basically caravaning (but without the glamour and style). It was amusing to watch as every single boat making their laborious way through the locks seemed to have a cross and bored teenaged boy on board who would get the honour of doing whatever the heck it is you do with the windy-thing.

Trivia : A native of Shropshire is traditionally called a Salopian. Their children are NOT called Salopettes.

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