Heald Green Village Days Out

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By Margaret Burns

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First Published 30/7/2021
Last Updated 17/1/2022

 

What a great idea! A day out with all our neighbours and friends from Heald Green.... but how, where, when?

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Fig. 1 First Charter Train arrives 1979
© Ratepayers' Association
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Heald Green Ratepayers' Association was asked if they could arrange something like that for all the Village. So, in 1979, yes more than 30 years ago, Norman Humphreys, David Newbold and John Harrison, from the Ratepayers' committee organised a Charter Train from British Rail for a day out in London. So began a Village tradition which flourished into something even bigger after a few years.
 

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Fig. 2 All Aboard! 1979
© Ratepayers' Association
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There are many residents who must remember the Heald Green train trips to London. It was exclusively for Heald Green residents and their families. Departing from Heald Green station at 8am and arriving, non stop in Euston, London at 10.30am. For many young families it was the first time visiting the capital and excitement mounted on the station platform equally for children and adults alike. There were 400 passengers aboard on that first train in 1979 as it left Heald Green. It was fortunate that Heald Green had a platform long enough to accommodate the number of coaches necessary for the trip. The British Rail manager told Norman that there was only a 4 minutes slot for everyone to board, to fit into the regular timetable for other trains. Heald Green was like a ghost town on “Train Day”.
 

It was a corridor train and often community groups filled the carriages or families from particular roads. Many had brought their own refreshments and snacks and these were generously shared as if it was a mobile picnic. Before the train arrived at Heald Green, Grants, the newsagent across the road from the station, was inundated with families buying snacks, drinks, newsapapers, magazines etc for the trip. Mrs Grant was run off her feet and asked for prior notice for the next year's trip as she needed to bring in extra staff for the half hour before the train's departure at 8am!
 

It was easy to move along the train's corridor and visit other neighbours and groups and the feeling of community fellowship was palpable and many new friendships grew from the trip. The inevitable raffle took place during the journey with prizes distributed on the return journey that evening. That first trip was in  was in early May, it was a sunny day and the patchwork fields of green and yellow along the journey south made magical memories.
 

Once in London, families could follow their own itineraries, with some making their way onto River Thames boats, some visiting Greenwich, some taking an open-top tour bus around the most famous landmarks, some shopping but suddenly seeing someone else from Heald Green in London made for an exciting chance meeting.
 

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Fig. 3 London Eye & River Boats 2021
© London Eye
 

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Fig. 4 Greenwich
© Visit Greenwich
 

Fortunately, everyone made their way back to Euston Station in time for 8pm and the train arrived back in Heald Green at 10.30pm, full of tired but happy Heald Greeners, all wanting to do it again the next year! All this for £8 per adult, £5 per child and free for children under 5. What a bargain for a day in London for a family of four at £26.  Even at this price, Ratepayers were able to make a profit, including the raffle of £770.02, for St Ann's Hospice. This was gratefully received by the Hospice Matron who had turned out in the morning to wave off the train. Did you spot her on the earlier photograph? (Ed: bottom left, Fig 2.)
 

Well, Ratepayers now had a challenge but, ever open for this, the organisers, now including Roger Hartley and Paul Gill, arranged similar London Charter Train trips for the village to London each year until 1990 with up to 500 residents. By this time British Rail had ceased trading directly with groups like ours and pointed us to another company called Train Tours Ltd, of St Helens. It was this company that made a special “Heald Green Special “plaque for the front of “our” train announcing Heald Green to other train users along the way.  Norman says that the number of dead insects stuck on the plaque by the time we returned to Heald Green took lots of elbow grease to remove, ready for the next trip.

Inevitably, prices  for the train had increased,  and subsequently so had the ticket prices but each year, different charities benefitted from the train trips, including Heald Green Youth Club, the Mayor's Charity Canal Boat for people with a  disability, St John's Ambulance service, Premature Baby Unit at Withington, Kidney Unit at MRI, Cheadle Royal Hospital bus for  patients, Leonard Cheshire Homes, senior citizens' parties in Heald Green and  Walthew House, Stockport, for people with hearing and visual impairments.

 

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Fig. 5 HG Charter Train with Plaque, Euston Station 1980s
© Peter Ford
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Spreading our Wings
 
The London trips had been a great success, forging many new friendships and shared experiences for families. However, Norman and David were asked if we could go somewhere else next.
 
In 1997, it was suggested that a trip to the Edinburgh Tattoo might interest some residents and so Ratepayers' valiant group arranged for a Saturday coach trip to the Tattoo, arriving back in the early hours of Sunday. Obviously, this meant that fewer people could go than had been the case on the trains. However, those who went to the Tattoo asked for another trip the following year.
 

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Fig. 6 The Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo
© Edinburgh Tattoo
 

The next trip became a weekend away to Cardiff, involving more organisation with hotels, meals, travel insurance etc. The Cardiff week-end was much appreciated by the coachful of residents and the following year a mini -weekend in London was arranged by Sylvia and Norman Humphreys as well as David Newbold. On the return trip there were many exchanges of stories of visits to the London Eye, Windsor, shopping and the Millenium Dome.
 

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These Ratepayers' coach trips became annual events with all profits going to local events and charities and the next trip was across the water by ferry to Dublin. That wasn't far enough for some residents, so flying for a few days in Bruges, Paris, Prague, and Jersey were also arranged in subsequent years. Altogether, the Ratepayers' group organised Heald Green trips to London, all the other UK capitals and finally flying to Europe and the Channel Islands over a period of 30 years. Over that time £10,000 was raised by the Ratepayers' trips, for local charities and Heald Green amenities. Thanks to those few people who organised them all and thank you to those residents who supported them and made them worthwhile experiences.

What memories were made!

Ed: Click
here for more pictures of the charter trains and Heald Green station.

 

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