Despite modern appearances, Chorley is an ancient market town and, unlike many of its neighbours, still retains the original manorial park and house (although these days Chorley is probably best known for its housing estates and ridiculously high number of roundabouts).
I spent the first nine years of my life in Chorley living on a 1970s estate on the fringes of Astley Park. I have many happy memories of the grounds and the renaissance-style house. Returning so many years later, I was prepared for it to be a pale imitation of my recollections, but instead I was pleasantly surprised to find it much improved.
The walled gardens were just a shell in my day but now there is a thriving orchard, kitchen and herb garden with a gorgeous rose path. There are signs around the garden with clear emphasis on interactive education for kids. This is teamed with the Ghastly Astley series of workshops for schools entitled Plague, Potions and Pestilence which sounds fascinating, and I’m wondering if there might be room for an adult version. I would certainly attend.
The stable block next to the walled garden has been upgraded to Café Ambio, a far classier affair than the basic café of my youth. Although I’ll admit part of me was disappointed at the lack of Wall’s ice cream sandwiches and plastic drink pots of Vimto where you stabbed a straw through the lid. Part of the same stable block now houses the Chorley Remembers Experience, an exhibition charting the people of Chorley’s involvement in military conflict over the years. Complimenting this is the fascinating Evaders’ Garden, transplanted to Chorley in all its quiet solemnity from the 2015 Chelsea Flower Show. There is also a Family Research Centre and art gallery situated in the farmhouse within the park grounds.
Growing up I must have visited Astley Hall hundreds of times, but I don’t think I ever realised what a rare treasure the house is. Now in the final stages of renovation, it has been rejuvenated to give us a glimpse of its former glory. The ceilings alone are worth a visit with their part stucco creations resembling some fabulously ostentatious wedding cake icing. The great hall at the entrance is still impressively grand with the ornate carved staircase and painted panels. Meanwhile, the carved wooden fireplaces and rooms are just as beautiful as I remember and I can see now why I decided I wanted to live there when I was five.
The grounds have been revamped since my day too, with a Royalist Retreat for the kids and a toddlers’ play area next to the sports pavilion. In my youth, it was rounders in extremely soggy grass or a game of frisbee if we were lucky. There is still pets’ corner but I suspect that feeding the ducks on the lake is frowned upon these days. As a kid, there was the Chorley carnival in the park and a large bonfire with fireworks on Bonfire night. But now it seems there are events all year round such as Theatre in the Park and Chorley Flower Show.
One part of the park which I am relieved to say seems largely unchanged is the woodland. This was my playground as a child and it still retains its ancient charm. I was also pleased to see wild flower meadows dotted about which I’m sure will be worth revisiting in a month or two. All in all, Astley Park is something to be very proud of in these austere times. It would be easy to allow gems like the hall to fall into wrack and ruin but instead Chorley Council and, I’m guessing, an army of dedicated volunteers have turned it into something very special and well worth the trip.
I’m the first to admit that I know very little about ships.Read the full story..
“We tried to make it look like your mum putting on a celebratory show in her living room cabinet,” says Alexandra Cropper, curator of Chess in Shorts – Table Tennis and Growing Up in Jewish Manchester.Read the full story..
Purring – Sport of The People explores the lost histories of clog fighting. The artist Anna FC Smith writes for Northern Soul about the genesis of the show (currently at The Whitaker in Rossendale) and what visitors can expect.Read the full story..
In an unassuming Manchester suburb there’s a living room with a piece of furniture you’re unlikely to find anywhere else. It’s a lamp made from a Greenham Common section of fencing. It belongs to lifelong equality activist and peace campaigner, Betty Tebbs.Read the full story..
The Old Low Light sits on the spot where North Shields began many centuries ago. It is the oldest surviving, occupied building on the Fish Quay and started life as a lighthouse, leading mariners safely into the River Tyne. Centre manager Pearl Saddington writes for Northern Soul about its transformation into a thriving heritage centre and there’s a gorgeous photo gallery by our North East Photographer, Phil Pounder.Read the full story..
- Photo Gallery: Farne Islands, Northumberland
- “Maybe there will be some sort of renewal to come out of this.” Polyp, founder of the Peterloo Memorial Campaign, talks to Northern Soul
- Power Up: Gaming history at Manchester’s Science and Industry Museum
- Let’s Not Die a Young Man’s Death: Northern Soul talks to Roger McGough
The Northern Soul Awards 2018
The Northern Soul Awards 2018 took place at the stunning Manchester Cathedral on November 15. Here’s our list of winners, along with the Highly Commended and Special Mentions for each category. Congratulations!
Sign up for Northern Soul newsletter
The Northern Soul Poll
Recent Tweets for @Northern_Soul_
Northern Soul's North East photographer, Phil Pounder snaps gorgeous images of the Farne Islands. @Glasses502 #FarneIslands @VisitNland Click the link to view the full gallery: northernsoul.me.uk/photo-gall… pic.twitter.com/O4Ok7OiEuP