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Your dose of Sunday escapism
Seven long-reads to take you elsewhere
Dear Millers — happy Sunday (or perhaps not so happy, given last night’s result). Anyone who still has an appetite for watching football should be heading down to the Etihad for the Manchester Women’s Derby. But for the rest of us — we probably want to think about something else for a while, or let ourselves be transported to somewhere else entirely.
This newsletter is inspired by North Country: An anthology of landscape and nature, a new collection of the North’s best nature writing. One of our very own features is included, alongside writing by the likes of Charles Dickens, the Brontë sisters, Simon Armitage and Lemn Sissay.
We’re sending a free copy of North Country (worth £14.99) and a personal Christmas card from the team to anyone who either buys an annual gift subscription or buys an annual membership by Thursday (December 15th).
If you’re buying a gift sub, your friend will get a year of high-quality journalism and you will get something too: a copy of this lovely book in time (postal strikes allowing) for Christmas, along with a personalised Christmas card from
the team. You can schedule your gift sub to be emailed to the recipient on Christmas Day.
If you’re a new member buying an annual sub, you will get the book and a card welcoming you to our community. Just click here to join now.
For your Sunday reading, we’ve gathered our seven favourite long-reads covering the landscape and nature of Greater Manchester. From the search for the secret garden that inspired the secret garden, to the man trying to save an endangered species of bird in post-industrial Wigan; these pieces beautifully evoke the importance of our local natural world, and tell the stories of those who seek solace in it, strive to protect it, and call it home.
As climate change, pollution and the steroidal development of Greater Manchester put our green spaces at risk, writing that engages with and celebrates these landscapes becomes more important. But we wouldn’t be able to do this work without the support of our paying subscribers. If you aren’t already a member but would like to support the future of independent journalism in Greater Manchester, do consider signing up today.
This piece, featured in North Country, delves into the history of Bordsdane Wood, scarce ancient woodland that straddles the boroughs of Wigan and Bolton. “Ancient woodlands like Borsdane — which has 26 species of mammals and 176 species of birds — are incredibly rich with flora and fauna, and are habitats for rare and threatened species.”
“The Secret Garden is normally pulled from my bookshelf by the beginning of March. It is a children’s book but it’s also a potent antidepressant and a reminder of the joy of the Northern countryside.” The classic children’s book was apparently inspired by an overgrown garden in Salford. We set off to see if we could find it.
The Manchester Hunt Saboteurs descend on South Staffordshire to disrupt a group of fox hunters. “It’s decided that we should sneak through privately-owned land, but are caught in the act by a man who spies us from his farmhouse window. He rushes out, shouting “Get off my fucking land!”
Two writers look at the first park to open in Manchester city centre in 100 years. One looks to the future, the other to the past: “I do like a bit of industrial dereliction. It probably goes back to my childhood when bomb sites and former brickworks promised improvised adventure.”
In post-industrial Wigan — where the ground subsides and the trees stoop — a tiny and endangered bird has found sanctuary, but will it be enough? We meet the man striving to save the willow tit from extinction.
Beside the rattle and roar of the M62 is an angling pond, where a group of veterans meet in search of solace.
“We walk away from the concrete and the caravans, towards a stretch of grass on the edge of the site, where horses graze amongst the wildflowers. ‘We’re all proud to be Gypsies,’ he says. “But we didn’t choose to be Gypsies. That was God’s way.” The horses come closer and we stroke their manes. Bella, a pretty black and white one, looks at me with deep, soulful eyes.”