Here is a view of the street outside Flowery Field railway station:
You know what are conspicuous by their absence? ANY FLOWERY FIELDS. I assume this was some sort of con perpetuated by the local transport executive. "We could call it 'that bit of Manchester just down the road from Hyde, but if we call it Flowery Field more people might use it!" Other names suggested were 'Lovely Place', 'Really Pretty' and 'Honest, It's Absolutely Gorgeous, Just Jump Off The Train And See For Yourself.'
It shouldn't exist anyway. Hyde North is within spitting distance, at the point where the Hyde branch breaks off from the Hadfield line. The sensible place to put the Hadfield platforms would have been alongside the non-electrified ones to create a nice big interchange station, but instead, they built Flowery Field. There's a sort of suggestion that maybe they should get round to putting those platforms in sometime, but as with most railway projects in Manchester, it's very far down the list. They've got their trams to play with.
I pushed through Flowery Field's defiantly non-flowery streets. There was a brief moment of old world charm, where the George and Dragon pub and a farm shop combined with a cobbled square to form an almost rural scene; this was immediately ruined by the cars parked haphazardly all over it and the nasty font on the pub.
The edges softened the further on I walked; the countryside made a valiant attempt to break in. The houses distanced themselves from one another and the streets seemed to breathe again. A recreation ground seemed to stretch right the way to the Pennines.
I passed over the railway tracks at a busy crossroads and descended down the steep Commercial Brow. The railway remained at the same level though, slowly rising up above me on a viaduct behind one of the side streets.
Sadly "Free Off Licence" doesn't mean you can just wander in and help yourself to a bottle of Jack Daniels. I did check.
I turned towards the station, past a small homeware store with a parade of fountains spurting outside. The proprietress paced back and forth, no doubt trying to find something to occupy a boring afternoon, but in the process creating an less than welcoming image. I hurried past to the station with an almost apologetic nod of the head for not being interested in her shop.
Newton for Hyde (the last couple of words were added to differentiate from a station in Scotland - you see, Network Rail, you can do it when you try) has a tiny stone station building clinging to the embankment. I'd resigned myself to it being another boarded up mess like Guide Bridge, and as I rounded the corner, it did seem to be similarly closed and shuttered. There was nice metalwork but no sign of it being active.
Round the corner, however, I got a pleasant surprise. There was a wide side entrance to the ticket office, barred only by a gate, and I got a great view of a charming tiled waiting room, with a red stone floor and a fireplace. It was closed - the station is only staffed until lunchtime on a Saturday - but it was lovely to see.
Meanwhile the underpass carried the same tilework, only here - sigh - the Purple Gang had been at work. A wide band of corporate colours had been painted along both sides. I mean, can you just not sometimes, Northern? Lamp posts and woodwork and shutters and benches - all fine. Gorgeous, historic tilework that's sat there unmolested for a hundred years? No. It's just wrong. My only prayer is that it will easily come off if someone decides to restore the underpass (or, more likely, a different franchisee wants to impose their corporate identity on the station).
The tilework continued up the stairs to the platforms, beneath a pretty buttress. The Manchester platform has a pointed roof and stone entrance; on the Hadfield platform though, there was a flat roof. I wondered where its stonework had gone.
One very quick train ride later and I reached Godley (no Creme required). After the architectural joys of Newton for Hyde we were back to a couple of platforms and a shelter. It seemed completely uninteresting.
I had something of a shock when I trekked down the stairs to the street and realised I was on top of a huge and very impressive brick viaduct. The high trees and embankments at track level made it seem quite ordinary but from below it became something special.
Also unusual was the station sign. Transport for Greater Manchester - or GMPTE as it was - has gone through so many different corporate identities over the years it must have a graphic design firm on a permanent retainer. This sign still had the orange logo, which I believe was two logos ago - maybe three.
Manchester was really reaching its limits now. The Mottram Road was wide and empty, with fields and trees either side. Houses hid in hollows behind wooden fences and walls. A new entrance to the Kerry Foods factory stopped me from fully believing it was a rural idyll, but it was still pretty pleasant.
New homes began to appear. The steep hills proved difficult to tame for the housebuilders; they'd ended up putting in huge blank walls as foundations, a compromise that reminded me of SimCity when the computer can't cope with the idea of sloping gardens. Terraces spring up across the hillsides, making your town look like a paddy field.
Wheezing a little - when will I learn to do the hilly stations first? - I turned into Hattersley. It was built in the Sixties as a Manchester overspill estate, and a lot of the houses are still from that era. Privatisation of the stock has meant that a lot are now being either demolished or refurbished; there used to be tower blocks, but these were demolished a decade ago.
To me, it seemed like a clean, well-kept post war estate. I sensed that it probably had its problems, but it didn't seem like a bad place to live. A bit of research beforehand would have told me that this was where Myra Hindley lived, and where she and Ian Brady had killed their last two victims (the house has since been demolished); I'm glad I didn't know about that beforehand, because I would have prejudged it. Hattersley was also home to Shayne Ward; again, it's lucky I didn't know that prior to visiting either.
I'd reached the centre of the estate, a pub and some shops. It was clear that the new parade had replaced an underused precinct - you could practically smell the paint in the supermarket - but it was clean and bright, and a new block of sheltered housing had been erected next door. The Harehill Tavern, meanwhile, wasn't actually one of Jon Dryden Taylor's Flat Roofed Pubs (FRPs) but you felt that it was definitely a cousin. It wasn't a place for a casual pint and a G&T with the chaps round the corner; it was a place to get drunk in, possibly followed by a fight, probably followed by vomiting.
I bought another bottle of water and a packet of Doritos from the shop - I hadn't actually eaten since breakfast, and I was feeling a bit light headed after all that walking - and pushed on along the road. Perhaps I was only seeing the good side of Hattersley but it seemed a decent place to live to me. There was a good mix of housing - old people's bungalows, low blocks of flats, semis and terraces. I could see fields and even horses at the end of some of the roads. Wide expanses of verge, patches of grass to enjoy instead of places to park 4x4s, made the streets feel casual and relaxed. And then, just in the distance, the raw beauty of the moors.
As if to prove my point two boys, about ten, emerged from the copse of trees to my left. They were picking at bits of grass and had that laid back look about them that hits all outdoorsy children about the third week of the summer holiday. I imagined they'd spent the afternoon building a base in the woods, using twigs to make a hideout, dug for worms and spiders. In all probability they'd actually been sniffing glue, but I'll try not to think about that.
Hattersley station was at the base of the hill, at the point where the road and the railway line just kissed before parting again. Another reason to live here: a fast, frequent service into the city. The car park was undergoing refurbishment so I picked around the fencing to reach the ticket hall.
Not quite in the same league as Newton for Hyde. It was covered in brightly covered posters done by local schoolchildren, which I've slowly grown more and more cynical about the more I've explored Northern Rail. At first they seemed like a delightful idea to involve the local community, but the more I travel round, the more they seem to be the only idea to involve the local community. And they all look the same - too many clashing colours, too much weirdly angled writing, too many squished up faces.
It was all quiet. I used a futuristic feeling hexagonal walkway - the kind of walkway that you felt could quite easily fit in a space station, if it wasn't painted bleeding purple - to reach the island platform. It was pleasingly symmetrical. A canopy ran straight along the centre, simple but practical. It was built out of cheap metal rather than the elegant concrete you'd expect on, say, the Underground, but it would be enough to cover you from the rain, which is all you need.
Part of me wanted to carry on to Broadbottom, not least because of the comedy name. I'd run short of time though and besides, the final triangle at the end of the line deserved more attention than I could give it. I took a seat - avoiding the carton of red wine kindly left by a previous passenger - and started on my Doritos.