As we prepare to welcome 2022 (with very open arms, might I add), we have compiled a list of the five most-read stories from the past year.
2021 has been a strange one, what with the endless Covid announcements, the numerous Downing Street scandals and, of course, England’s brush with a possible win in the belated Euros 2020 tournament.
But now, as the New Year looms, we decided to take a look back on the five stories from 2021 that were read the most by you.
So, without any further ado, here are the stories that captivated Manchester the most throughout the duration of the year…
When pubs reopen the ‘substantial meal’ with drinks rule is set to be scrapped
Remember when you had to order a full on meal with your pint?
On February 5th, the government announced that the now infamous ‘substantial meal’ rule enforced in all bars and pubs would be scrapped when venues were allowed to reopen.
The rule caused a lot of confusion at the time of its announcement, with ministers scrambling to explain what actually constituted a ‘substantial meal’. This eventually led to an amusing debate as to whether a scotch egg counted after Environment Secretary George Eustice claimed the snack – a boiled egg wrapped deep fried in sausage meat and bread crumbs – could be served under the rule.
Read the full story here.
The UK is getting a four-day Bank Holiday weekend to celebrate the Queen’s jubilee
There was finally a bit of good news in 2021…
On March 12th, the nation was delighted to hear that a four-day bank holiday was on the cards to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
In June 2022, the Queen will have been on the throne for seventy years, making her the longest reigning monarch in British history. And to commemorate the occasion, the May Bank Holiday will be moved to Thursday June 2nd while an additional new Bank Holiday on Friday June 3rd will see four days of celebrations.
Read the full story here.
There’s a new bottomless Chinese brunch with gin fizz cocktails, bao buns and dumplings
A slight change of tone but who doesn’t love bottomless Chinese brunch?
On April 17th, we brought you the very important news that a Chinese restaurant here in Manchester had launched the revolutionary Chinese bottomless brunch complete with gin fizz cocktails and dumplings.
Altrincham’s WowYauChow completely transformed the bottomless brunch scene with their £23 deal, which allows guests to build their own ‘lunch basket’, choosing a dish from three sections: dumplings, bao buns and rice/noodle bowls. There’s also a selection of tofu, pork & chive and buffalo chicken dumplings, as well as bao buns filled with the likes of char siu pork and crispy chilli chicken.
On the drinks front there’s a selection of cocktails, wines and beers, including gin fizz, blushing dragon, prosecco and Tsing Tao.
Read the full story here.
The tragic story of the ‘dream home’ next to Hollingworth Lake that’s never been lived in
A tragic story of a structural disaster caught a lot of attention…
On May 26th, we published the story of 15 Lake Side, an abandoned bungalow situated next to Hollingworth Lake in Rochdale with a tragic history.
The property was built in 1998 by pensioners Dr. Stephen Watkins and his wife Elizabeth, who wanted somewhere to relax after stressful working lives. However, the house was never completed, and the dismal reason why has since been cited at Westminster as an example of what can go wrong for people who build their own homes.
To put it simply, the Watkins were unsatisfied with the quality of their home and were embroiled in vicious legal disputes for two decades, before the building was eventually demolished.
Read the full story here.
People who kill children will face mandatory life sentences under new Arthur’s Law
A bitter sweet story to end the year.
On December 7th, the Prime Minister backed a proposed law that will ensure child murderers will never leave prison in the wake of the death of six-year-old Arthur Labinjo-Hughes. Boris Johnson said in a statement: “Anyone who plans then carries out the murder of a child should never be released from prison. So we’re toughening the law to make whole-life orders the starting point for such abhorrent crimes.”
Arthur’s stepmother Emma Tustin was jailed at the start of the month for at least twenty-nine years for the little boy’s murder, while his father Thomas Hughes was sentenced to twenty-one years for manslaughter.
Read the full story here.
Thousands of teachers take to the streets of Manchester in mass strike action
‘We have a massive retention crisis because people are quitting teaching within five years out of extreme stress.’
Thousands of teachers gathered on a blustery, grey-skied and rainy afternoon in Manchester city centre to march through the streets as part of a national day of mass scale strikes across the country.
Dubbed ‘Walk-out Wednesday’, February 1st has seen huge disruption to services all over the UK as workers take ‘last resort’ action over pay, conditions and budgets.
The National Education Union (NEU) is one of seven unions on strike today. Around 500,000 workers are expected to walk out, including university staff who are members of the University and College union (UCU), such as those at the University of Manchester. Also on strike are rail workers and border control.
Many classrooms across the region are closed for the day while NEU members strike, with some year groups told to stay at home. Students with upcoming exams and vulnerable children have been prioritised for a limited place inside their school today, following guidance from the Department for Education (DfE).
The NEU says today’s action follows a series of real-terms pay cuts over the past decade, while this year’s pay rise offer of 5% falls well below inflation. The union insists that pay and conditions are seeing significant numbers of teachers quit the profession.
Talks took place earlier this week between the NEU and the DfE in an attempt to avert today’s strike action but proved unsuccessful, as the union claim education secretary Gillian Keegan had ‘squandered’ the opportunity. The DfE says today’s strike action is ‘highly damaging to children’s education’ especially following the pandemic.
Still going ahead, crowds flocked to a very wet St Peter’s Square, with the meet-up time of 12.30pm. In typical teacher fashion, the city centre was already bustling with those working in education, as they showed up early to ensure a prompt start and express their passion for their jobs, their rights, and the rights of their pupils.
Also with them were union representatives, some children and general supporters of their cause. Horns were sounding, drums were banging and cheers could be heard just about everywhere. In contrast to the miserable weather, many teaching staff wore bright colours including knitted hats and bold coats, and were seemingly cheerful. Upon speaking to them, it became clear that they’d had enough and that it was time to take a stand.
Amongst the noise and sea of people, Cath D, a primary school teacher spoke about why she felt she had to take strike action, saying: “I really did not want to be here today, I really wanted to be in my classroom having a normal day with my kids. But, things have become so difficult recently. It’s not just that we want more money, education is under-funded massively.”
Cath attended the rally with a group of teachers from her school based in Salford. She went on to describe how school funding cuts had affected the classroom: “The poor children. I’ve literally seen children fighting over pencils, can you believe that in 2023?
“I wish I could say ‘here’s 100 pencils, it doesn’t matter’, but this is where we are at the moment. We are doing this for us; our wages have come down in real terms over the years, but I’ll leave all the statistics for the unions.”
On why changes were also necessary for children in education, she said: “For some children, school is the one constant that they have in their life and we’ve got to come in refreshed and remunerated. For some children, we’re the one constant that they have, and we need to be there for them.”
After speakers talked to the crowds and people cheered in agreement, they started off on their march around the city. Among the marchers, a retired GMB union member stomped the streets in solidarity, he said: “We support the TA’s, the kitchen staff and all the support staff, managers and office workers around Tameside.
“We’re here to show we support the lowering of the pensionable age and to pay workers a proper wage that they need.”
Three English teachers from a school in Cheetham Hill spoke about the reasons they took strike action today, as one said: “It feels like the last resort, where we’ve had to come together and join all these people to make a point that we’ve been trying to for years and years, but no one’s listening.”
Another said: “Our children will not get the results that they need and deserve and want, if we have to put up with these conditions.” The third added: “It’s not just about our salaries, it’s all of the funding and resources that have been cut too.”
A Greater Manchester teacher for children with English as their second language, called Ali, said: “I’m striking because of the unacceptable situation that teachers and the education system are being put under.
“We have a massive retention crisis because people are quitting teaching within five years out of extreme stress.
“What we need are more teachers and better pay. And, we can do that if we tax the people with more money, rather than what this government has been doing, which is tax rates for the rich and spending money in very unwise and corrupt ways.”
Despite what workers and unions are asking, the Education minister Gillian Keegan told the BBC that the government would not budge, and that giving in to demands for large wage increases would only fuel inflation.
“What we cannot do is give inflation-busting pay rises to one part of the workforce and make inflation worse for everybody. That’s not an economically sensible thing to do,” she said.
The best winter walks near Manchester
Something to blow away those cobwebs…
Christmas is for spending time with loved ones, giving gifts and, most importantly, eating copious amounts of food and drinking an unholy amount.
Most Mancunians will have completely smashed the latter so, today, could possibly be feeling a little worse for wear.
But luckily for them, Manchester is within close proximity to a number of beautiful nature spots and walking trails, all of which are ideal for blowing away the cobwebs and shifting some of the calories gained from all those roast potatoes.
Here are some of our favourite spots…
The crossing between Glossop and Sheffield across the Peaks is mostly open moorland but, on one side of Snake Road, walkers will find stunning pine forest that makes for the perfect winter stroll.
The Snake Wood Circular is an extremely picturesque walk ideal for all the family, and boasts a magical river, moss-lined undergrowth and creeks with forty-foot high pines.
This trail is pet friendly, and offers the perfect opportunity to escape from the city and reconnect with nature – though it is worth noting it will be closed in the event of icy weather.
Found in the south of Disley in the Peak District is Lyme Park, a sprawling 1,400 acre National Trust estate boasting stunning landscapes and an abundance of wildlife.
The estate – once home to the Legh family – offers a number of fantastic walks at the Rose Garden, Ravine Garden or the reflecting lake, where Mr. Darcy met Miss Bennet in the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice adaptation.
Guests can even head inside the historic mansion to step back in time to the Regency era.
The large Y-shaped body of water with giant ‘plugholes’ that most Mancunians will recognise is the Ladybower Reservoir, and it makes for the most scenic of winter walks.
Around an hour’s drive from Manchester city centre, it was built due to the large demand for water from nearby industrial towns and was officially opened by King George VI on September 24th 1945.
The reservoir itself is nestled within some stunning countryside, and the breathtaking views of water, woodland and moorland have long been a big draw for outdoor-enthusiasts – you’ll find loads of circular walking and cycling routes in the area, plus viewpoints.
Located near Buxton, Lud’s Church is a deep chasm full of history, myths and lots of greenery, with stone steps leading into another world.
The eighteen-metre deep chasm was created by a huge landslip, and has consequently been covered in moss and other plant-life over the years. It’s only 100-metres long, but you walkers can spend days taking in the outstanding natural wonders in all its nooks and crannies.
Lud’s Church became a secret worship place for people who faced persecution in the 15th Century. It was used as a church by the ‘Lollards’, followers of the reformer and ‘heretic’ John Wycliffe.
Lancashire’s Japanese Lake
Tucked away around halfway up Rivington Pike is one of Britain’s lost gardens, according to Countryfile in 2014.
The Japanese Lake is part of the Rivington Terraced Gardens, and was built by the founder of the former Lever Brothers company – now known as Unilever – Lord Leverhulme, inspired by one of his many trips to Japan.
Thor’s Cave, also known as Thor’s House Cavern and Thyrsis’s Cave, is a gigantic natural cavern found in the Manifold Valley of the White Peak in Staffordshire, and it offers some dazzling views.
The cave entrance comprises a huge symmetrical arch 7.5 metres wide and 10 metres high, and can be seen from the valley bottom around 80 metres below.
Walkers can reach the cave via an easy stepped path from the Manifold Way, with a 7.5km circular walk from Wetton village taking them along the River Manifold before passing by Thor’s Cave and other caverns.
The Manchester charity pairing young people with the elderly to combat loneliness at Christmas
Manchester Cares is doubling down its efforts to prevent loneliness among communities over the festive period
For most, Christmas is a time for family and friends, but for others it is instead a time of isolation and loneliness.
According to the Campaign to End Loneliness, around 45% of adults in the UK experience some form of loneliness, a feeling that intensifies over the festive period.
So this is why local charity Manchester Cares is doubling down on its efforts to combat the issue of loneliness among communities across Manchester this Christmas.
Founded five years ago, Manchester Cares brings younger and older generations together through group activities and one-on-one friendships, giving them the opportunity to build genuine and meaningful connections.
Manchester Cares hosts and organises a whole variety of Social Clubs for its community members to enjoy together, including pub quizzes, wine tasting, documentary clubs and even trips to Manchester Art Gallery.
All free for those wanting to join them in their mission of bringing younger and older people together to build community and connection across our wonderful city.
The charity relies heavily on the help of its members and volunteers to keep loneliness and isolation at bay. But as the cost-of-living crisis plunges the UK further into a loneliness epidemic, Manchester Cares needs your help more than ever before.
Manchester Cares’ Head of Programmes Vicky Harrold says the charity will be organising and hosting a whole array of neighbour meet-ups and activity sessions for those struggling with both loneliness and financial pressures this Christmas.
Vicky told Proper Manchester: “This Christmas we will be continuing to do what we do best, curate spaces that bring younger and older people together to share time, stories, and laughter. We want to be the place that provides emotional respite to all the challenging things that are happening in the world right now.”
Vicky also said that the charity will also be extending the length of its clubs this winter in order for neighbours to have somewhere warm to spend their time at no extra cost.
She added: “We’ll be offering food and refreshments along with festive films, parties, wreath making and most importantly the opportunity to have a chat with someone you wouldn’t ordinarily meet.”
In addition to the Festive Clubs, Manchester Cares members will also be paying visits to anyone who they think will be spending the Christmas period alone in the week leading up to the big day.
Vicky explained: “Initially, we would give out little gifts, but we now recognise that it’s sharing time that means the most.”
But Manchester Cares recognises that community and connection don’t just matter at Christmas; they matter all year round.
That’s why the charity is always welcoming new members to join its community network in its fight against loneliness in Manchester, regardless of the time of year.
People are now being urged to sign up through the Manchester Cares website and come along to one of its general inductions. Vicky stressed that there’s no expectation for anyone to get involved, and that it’s simply an opportunity to hear a bit more about what Manchester Cares does and how people can get involved.
Offering a final bit of advice for anyone struggling with any of these issues, Vicky said: “Try stepping away from social media and investing that time into creating meaningful interactions every day.
“This can be anything from making that call to a friend you’ve been meaning to for a while, to saying hello to the bus driver on your way to work.
“And if you’re lucky enough to still have older family members, we really encourage you to go and chat to them, pick up the phone or have a brew – we hear the best stories every day just from starting that conversation.
“And finally, there are so many amazing charities like ours doing such great work- volunteering your time can be such a fun and rewarding way to meet new people.
“We’ve seen over our first five years, sharing time is the best gift you can ever give.”
From November 29th to December 6th 2022, Manchester Cares is taking part in The Big Give Christmas Challenge to help bring our neighbours together to stay warm, active and connected. Donations made during that week are doubled, meaning your gift will make twice the difference this winter. Find out how you can support here.
Manchester Cares is always on the look out for new volunteers, community members and neighbours to join them in their fight against loneliness.
People can join the community, or can alternatively make a referral for anyone over 65 they think will benefit from the clubs and programmes.
All of this can be done via the Manchester Cares website.