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Cheetham Park

Introduction

Cheetham Park is a green and peaceful oasis, just a few minutes walk from the bustling commercial centre of Stalybridge.

The park is surrounded by residential properties and so provides an essential and valuable leisure and recreational resource for the local community.

The towns’ bus and train stations are within easy walk of the park and there is parking available at the Park Street entrance.

The park has a popular enclosed play area for the younger visitors as well as equipment for older children situated on an adjacent elevated spot.

Eastwood Bird Sanctuary, which is managed by Cheshire Wildlife, has a small stream running through it that feeds the former mill reservoir that is now home to Fox Angling Club. The quiet walks within the sanctuary are popular with families as well as bird watchers.

Privately run tennis and archery clubs are situated at the Mottram Road entrance to the park.

History of Cheetham Park

John Frederick Cheetham, the eldest son of John Cheetham, was born in Stalybridge in 1835 into a family made prosperous by the cotton manufacturing industry. The family business had been started by George Cheetham at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution and was based in mills on Castle Street, Stalybridge.

John Frederick Cheetham generously supported the town throughout his life and this generosity continued upon his death in 1916, when he left his home, Eastwood House, to the town along with the extensive grounds and gardens that surrounded the property. He also bequeathed his remarkable art collection, known as The Astley Cheetham Collection, to the town of Stalybridge. All these passed into public ownership in 1932 on the death of his sister Agnes, and Cheetham Park was opened soon after.

John Frederick Cheetham was ahead of his time in his concern for the environment. He directed that the woodland on either side of the stream, which fed the mill reservoir, should become a nature reserve, one of the earliest in Britain, and he left enduring legacies to the common society and the National Trust.

This area, bisected by Acres Brook, is now known as Eastwood Reserve and the Fox Angling Club occupies the former mill reservoir.

Cheetham Park has seen many changes since it first opened to the public in 1932, arguably the most significant being the loss to The Priory shortly after the park was opened, demolished as a result of dry rot, and the demolition of Eastwood Hall House in 1950 after numerous attempts to put it to good use had failed.

During the 1960’s an educational walk was created through the park. This walk was known as The Cheetham Park Trail and took visitors past various points of interest, including rare and unusual plant and tree species that could be found in the park at the time.

A booklet was produced detailing how to identify each species by its leaves, fruit or flowers and gave readers information on its origin as well how to grow and care for it.

This booklet also set out a code of acceptable conduct that visitors to the park should be aware of and were expected to adhere to.

Accessing Cheetham Park

The borough of Tameside lies to the east of Manchester and came into being as a local Authority in 1974. Tameside shares boundaries with Manchester, Oldham, Stockport and the Derbyshire Borough of High Peak. Stalybridge is situated in the north of the borough.

Cheetham Park has three main entrances: Mottram Road, Park Street and Forester Drive. Parking is available at the Park Street entrance.

The park is within easy walk of both bus and rail links and has adequate connections to the local road network. The park is within short walking distance of four local schools: Stalyhill Juniors and Infants, St Peter’s Catholic Primary School, St Paul’s Church of England Primary School and Gorse Hall Primary School.

The Play Area

One of the more popular attractions in the park is the children’s play area. The play area was installed in 2005 following extensive consultation and at a cost more than £132,000. There are two distinct and separate areas of play equipment. The enclosed area alongside the main pathway through the park is equipment for children aged up to 5 years old and the equipment for children aged 5-14 is ranged up a small hillside giving views over the park and towards Stalybridge town centre. There are picnic benches inside and overlooking the enclosed play area to cater for parents.

Sculpture Trail

In July 2008 we commissioned renowned North West sculptor, Thompson Dagnall, to create a timber owl for display in the park. The owls basic outline was created using a chain saw, with hand tools used to created the finer details. As the feature proved so popular we added further sculptures that depict a grass snake, a pair of badgers and a nuthatch. The sculptures form part of a heritage and nature trail that runs through the park.

The timber owl sculpture

The Time Line

Recently a time line has been created, funded jointly by Stalybridge District Assembly and the Heritage Lottery Fund, that tells the park visitors of the rich history surrounding the industrial heritage of Stalybridge. The piece was commissioned by Groundwork Tameside on behalf of the Stalybridge District Assembly and was designed following extensive research by local school children. These children, from Copley High School, visited local libraries and museums to come up with unusual and interesting facts about the town. The 6 foot tall stone obelisk was placed atop a small grassy mound and ramped pathways were created using natural stone materials ensuring easy access. The area has been surrounded with attractive shrubs and plants that are suited to its woodland dell setting.

The timeline feature

Priory Tennis Club

Priory Tennis Club offers a facility for anyone with an interest in tennis, whatever their ability. The club is situated adjacent to the parks Mottram Road entrance.

Priory Tennis Club has been based in Cheetham Park since 1921 and has four professionally maintained artificial grass courts, all with floodlights, that provide some of the best facilities in Tameside for all year round tennis.

Priory is affiliated to The Lawn Tennis Association and has four teams playing in the North East Cheshire Summer League and three in the Winter League. The tennis club is currently working to obtaining “Tennis Clubmark” the Lawn Tennis Association’s quality accreditation endorsement for clubs.

Stalybridge Archery Club

Stalybridge Archery Club was founded in 1958 and became an affiliated member of the Cheshire Archery Association in 1960.

It is a well respected and a well established club and boasts a membership that includes County, Regional and National Champions, County, Regional and National record holders, and has even had members who have competed at the Olympic games. The club also has within its membership a National Judge and several County officials.

The clubs principle discipline is target archery and it caters for all levels of archers. The club runs several of its own competitions throughout the year as well as entering tournaments spanning the length and breadth of the country.

Herbaceous Border

In 2009 we removed a row of mature Leylandii that shaded the picnic area. A low natural stone wall was built around the newly cleared area to retain a raised herbaceous border. The bed was designed in the style of renowned Dutch plantsman Piet Oudolf who pioneered prairie planting style. The bed comprises of bold drifts of herbaceous perennials such as, Asters, Echinacea, Inula and Rudbeckia. Local schoolchildren spent a day in the park learning about their environment and assisting with the planting.

The raised herbaceous border

Eastwood Nature Reserve

Eastwood Nature Reserve was gifted to the people of Stalybridge by John Frederick Cheetham and was one of the first nature reserves to be established in Britain. He also left enduring legacies to the Commons Society and the National Trust to ensure the long term future of the reserve.

Cheshire Wildlife Trust, who manage the reserve, is a charity dedicated to preserving Cheshire’s plants, animals and wild places for all to enjoy, both now and in the future.

The reserve can be accessed from the main pathway near to the parks Mottram Road entrance and is home to numerous bird and mammal species in its steep-sided broadleaved woodland. Acres Brook goes on to feed a number of ponds and a reservoir that formerly serviced mills belonging to the Cheetham family. This reservoir is now home to the Fox Angling Club.

Cheetham Park Trail

A new addition to Cheetham Park is our heritage and nature trail. The trail is a measured one-mile walk which takes in horticultural and historical features. The trail is well signposted and has been designed to encourage residents of all ages to discover more about the history, flora and fauna of the park. The trail includes all the main features of Cheetham Park and is used as an outdoors classroom by local schools. The floor murals that mark the trail have been designed by a local artist and posts along the trail can be used to take rubbings.

Community Orchard

In 2009 we installed an orchard at the former Priory House site. The orchard, comprising of 30 fruit trees, includes apple, pear, plum and cherry varieties. The orchard helps to support a wealth of wildlife and insects in the park, particularly bees, which are active early in the season. Drifts of wildflowers underplant the fruit trees to further encourage pollinating insects. The orchard is available as a teaching resource or for any park visitor to harvest and enjoy an item of fruit as they wander around the park.

Buggy Fit

Cheetham Park boasts some unique opportunities for those seeking outdoors exercise. One of those opportunities, Buggyfit has been in operation for 12 months and invites parents with young children into Cheetham Park for a gentle stroll around the grounds with their buggy or pushchair. The Buggyfit experience is unique to Cheetham Park and offers a combination of exercise and social interaction, with a route through the park that can be altered to make the most of how seasonal changes affect its’ flora and fauna. Contact details for Buggyfit are available on the park noticeboards.

Page last updated: 17 May 2012