Why you should move to Saddleworth
- Credit: Kirsty Thompson
A lovely collection of villages set against a dramatic backdrop and known for their pubs, traditions and appreciation of all things cultural
There are roads signs pointing the way to Saddleworth but, confusingly, you won’t find anywhere called Saddleworth. It’s a collective term for the villages to the east of Oldham that cluster around Saddleworth Moor. The moor, forming a boundary with West Yorkshire, is pretty dramatic: it wouldn’t be surprising to see Cathy and Heathcliff striding across it.
There have been settlements here since earliest times and the story is told in Saddleworth Museum in Uppermill, the largest of the villages. It’s a bright, airy building that also tells the tales of notable residents, including the world’s first supermodel, May Kenworthy and a wealthy Victorian forger, George Shaw. His house is now the library, complete with an apparently genuine bedhead which belonged to Henry VII. Surrounded by gardens, it’s a good place to sit and watch the world go by.
Uppermill, in particular, is full of independent boutiques and galleries with a pretty canal home to colourful barges. All the villages have something of their own character to offer as well as interesting shops and historic buildings: for example, Dobcross is exceptionally quaint and Delph has The Millgate-a busy Arts Centre.
Saddleworth is a place where the arts thrive so much that it has, in recent years, acquired a reputation as the place where hipsters come. There are more than a dozen choirs and arts societies, with plenty of exhibitions and festivals, such as Uppermill Summer Music Festival, The Diggle Blues Festival and the Marsden Jazz Festival. There’s also an annual Yanks Festival, celebrating the film of the same name, starring Richard Gere; some of which was filmed in Dobcross.
There’s no shortage of places to eat, from bistros to gorgeous coffee shops. There are heaps of historic pubs too, including The Church Inn which has its own brewery and The Ram’s Head at Denshaw, a gastro pub with fabulous views and a wine and farm shop onsite.
Surrounded by the moor, there are many established walks, bridleways and cycle paths. Dove Stone Reservoir at Greenfield Village is a wonderful spot to explore and you can also go climbing, bouldering and sailing there too. If you fancy solitude, there's plenty of woodland planting which provides that. The museum stocks leaflets on great places to walk including, for the less energetic, village strolls.
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Housing in Saddleworth is varied, with weavers’ cottages, modern homes and farms, with apartments in converted industrial buildings. The great transport links, wonderful scenery and growing artistic community means that prices are among the fastest rising in the North West.
Blowing their own trumpets
Keeping tradition and history alive is important here, especially when it comes to brass bands. Eleven of the 13 villages have their own band, some of them world class and the Whit Band Contest is when things get exciting. Established in 1884 and described as ‘The Greatest Free Show on Earth’, all the events take place outdoors, with hundreds of brass bands from all over the world taking part.
The ancient Rushcart Festival is held every August. The cart is filled with rushes, a Morris Dancer is placed on top and the whole lot is pulled by Saddleworth Morris Men through the villages before reaching St Chad’s church. It harks back to a time when rushes were used to keep out the cold. The spectacle is full of fun and accompanied by dancing, singing and general merriment.
A local’s view
Linda Edwards moved here from Stockport 30 years ago and now just can’t imagine living anywhere else. An award winning and established artist who exhibits widely, she appreciates the inspiration that Saddleworth provides.
‘Much of my work features its landscapes and traditions. A recent painting-The Jockey-portrayed an affectionate look at a Saddleworth Morris Man. They loved it in Manchester, where it was nominated for a HOME award. I could keep painting for ever just on what this amazing area provides,’ says Linda, who has noticed a steady influx of creatives and new families into the area.
‘There is a fabulous buzz about the place, which when added to the strong sense of community, traditions and festivals, makes it one of the best places to live,’ says Linda who is being supported by the community in her early plans to form an artistic hub.