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The scenic fairy woodland miniature railway which only costs £2.50

‘People ask us what we sell at Brookside and I say we sell smiles.’

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@brookside_miniature_railway / Instagram

A cute miniature railway station close to Greater Manchester has been a popular attraction amongst families for the past 40 years — and its station manager is a TV star.

Brookside Miniature Railway in Poynton now looks even better after a team of volunteers saved it from risk of closure five years ago — giving it the TLC it deserves and a much needed glow-up. A team of railway enthusiasts look after the mini station, tending to the steam trains and tracks, paint it and keep it looking picture perfect for when it opens to welcome visitors every week.

The Cheshire-based attraction is open to the public every Thursday to Sunday and costs just £2.50 to take a ride on the tiny train. The little loco heads out to do its half mile loop of the Brookside Garden Centre where it takes in scenic river views along its route, weaving through tunnels and even passes an original 100-year-old signal box.

The owners have created a fairy garden and kingdom through the woodland to add some extra magic and imagination to the journey, along with a colony of garden gnomes donated by local residents.

Brookside Miniature Railway

The train navigates its way across the Nory Brook as it goes along the Stockport and Cheshire border. And there’s even a local celebrity who is the station manager — band lead Andy Prior who had his own entertainment show on the BBC in the 1990s, called The Andy Prior Big Band.

Speaking to the Manchester Evening News, retired police officer Chris Mackenzie MBE and Lee Oxley joined forces as the directors of the railway back in 2018. Chris, 62, says: “I’ve always been a railway enthusiast so I always knew about it here, and when we had a young son he loved it, and of course we were there every weekend.

“When we heard it was closing down, there was a public outcry. We decided it was too good to close down, so we formed a local company, a lot of us got together and here’s where we are now a few years later.

“We didn’t realise how run down it was, so a lot of work has gone into it and without the volunteers we wouldn’t be where we are now.”

Brookside Miniature Railway

During lockdown the team took the opportunity to repaint it all, while the garden centre, now owned by Klondyke & Strikes, helped in providing materials too. Chris said: “The general community here have been brilliant. It’s how to run a railway, with a lot of volunteers and not much money and a community behind you.

“One of the things we created to make it interesting all the way around was a magical fairy wood. People donated gnomes, we got a load of fairies and spent a lot of time making it. Wives will come along and ‘donate’ their husbands to help out!

“Only a couple of months ago a widow donated a shed to us, so we transformed that into a signal box and painted it in red and cream it looks lovely now.” Dozens of volunteers help out to maintain the railway and man the trains and generally make it a lovely time for all involved.”

Brookside Miniature Railway

Local celebrity and station manager, Andy Prior, gamely dresses up for the themed events at the railway, which include special Santa trains at Christmas and an Easter egg hunt over Easter.

He told The Manchester Evening News: “People ask us what we sell at Brookside and I say we sell smiles. It’s aimed at families and that’s why we have the fairy wood and pirates and that sort of thing, just to make it that bit more magical.

“It was in a pretty derelict state when we took it on, I’ve always been involved in railways and trains all my life. A lot of kids know me as Andy the train manager now. I train all the drivers. Sometimes I’ll be driving, sometimes I’m train guard taking the platform tickets — I’m pretty hands on.”

Brookside Miniature Railway

The sit-in carriages are each named after volunteer’s family members and even Chris’ beloved pet dog that sadly died called Daisy. They’ve also just invested in a new loco called Graeme — for which the naming ceremony is set to take place in the next few weeks.

The station also features a gift shop, which includes a range of Thomas the Tank Engine toys and ice creams. There’s also an original signal box that came from Aughton Road near Southport. Staff have worked hard to repair and restore the historic building, although little of the signal works in the top floor survives. 

The railway is open weekly from Thursday to Sunday, and also on bank holidays. Opening times are 10.30am to 4pm.

Tickets are £2.50 for adults and children aged over two. You can also buy 10 rides for £25.00 and get an extra two rides for free. You can find out more on the Brookside Miniature Railway website.

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A sausage dog cafe with hundreds of cute dachshund puppies is coming to Manchester

How cute!

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Pup Up Cafe

An adorable sausage dog ‘pup-up’ cafe is returning to Manchester city centre due to popular demand.

The cafe is especially for dachshund puppies and will invite hundreds of the tiny cuties to get together and have a ‘pawty’ in Parsonage Gardens, Piccadilly, on May 14th. The little fellas and lasses can come along with their owners and enjoy free ‘puppuccinos’ and unlimited dog treats throughout the session.

Photographers will also be on hand to capture the cute moments whilst your pet pooch mingles with —around 50 — other fur babies. The photos and video will be available on the event’s social media pages with competitions going on throughout the sessions. 

Pup Up Cafe

As well as all that, the room will be filled with ball-pits, tunnels, toys and other fun things for the pint-sized pets to enjoy — with dachshund related trade stands on site for you to buy goodies for your little angel.

The Facebook event reads: “Get ready for a super special day with all of the usual Pup-Up Cafe fun, plus some extra photo ops for ’23! 

“We have the whole of the amazing Revolution Parsonage Gardens venue all to ourselves for pups to mingle in a safe, secure space! Better be quick with tickets on this one as Manchester is always a sell out event!”

Pup Up Cafe

The space will be safe and securely staffed so the doggos can enjoy some ‘off lead time’. The event will be taking place at Manchester’s Revolution at Parsonage Gardens on Sunday May 14th.

Tickets cost £9.50 for sausage dog owners, and £15 for those who simply want to mingle with a load of long boys for an hour or so. Dogs and children under the age of eight get to party for free.

Space is available on a first come first served basis – get booked in here.

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Elmer the elephant art trail coming to Blackpool with 30 sculptures to find

‘Elmer was yellow and orange and red and pink and purple and blue and green and black and white’

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Wild in Art

Blackpool is to play host to an Elmer the Patchwork Elephant art trail, inspired by author David McKee’s popular children’s book character.

The epic trail, happening next spring, will see 30 patchwork elephant sculptures as part an event from Wild in Art. The elephant sculptures are expected to attract thousands of visitors in a bid to raise funds to support a children’s hospice

Each large sculpture will be uniquely decorated by established and up and coming artists, creating a parade through the northern seaside town that will be enjoyed by visitors and locals for its eight-week stay.

A herd of smaller Elmers will accompany the trail, decorated by local children and young people through schools and youth organisations. The smaller elephant sculptures will be displayed inside some of the town’s tourist, cultural and leisure locations.

Brian House

Brian House — the Fylde coast’s only children’s hospice — has announced Blackpool’s first major public art trail in partnership with Wild in Art and Andersen Press. They’ll be sponsored by businesses and organisations and be placed around key landmarks, streets, and open spaces across Blackpool, with visitors encouraged to visit as many as possible.

After the trail, the sculptures will go up for auction to raise vital funds to support Brian House’s specialist care to patients and their families. The Elmer trail arrives for spring 2024 — but there’s already a lot of excitement about the anticipated event.

Much-loved by children across the world, Elmer books have sold more than 10 million and been translated into more than 50 languages since the elephant’s first appearance in 1989. Linzi Warburton, head of fundraising at Brian House, said: “We have kept this a secret for a long time and now we are so excited to share this news with everyone.

Wild in Art

“Elmer is a much-loved character and represents kindness, differences, acceptance, and friendship. There’s no other beloved character like him which celebrates the differences that make our children so very special.

“Elmer’s Big Blackpool Parade is the largest event we have ever organised, and we are delighted to be partnering with Wild in Art and Andersen Press with their expertise and advice.

“We hope people from Blackpool and beyond are as excited as we are and join us in celebrating this incredible character and how he represents the children we are privileged to care for. Not only will this art trail do great things for our community, but it will raise vital funds and awareness for our incredible children’s hospice which is a lifeline for local families.”

Wild in Art

Charlie Langhorne, managing director and co-founder of Wild in Art, said: “Elmer will bring colour and creativity to Blackpool next year and we are thrilled to be teaming up with Brian House and Andersen Press on this exciting art trail.

“Our events are designed to bring the enjoyment of public art to everyone while offering new ways for people to explore their local area and we hope that, through the trail, we can inspire businesses, the creative sector and the wider community to come together to create something very special which will have significant impact.”

Paul Black, PR and brand director at Andersen Press, said: “Everyone at Andersen Press is delighted to be working with Brian House and Wild in Art to bring Elmer to the seaside. These events are hugely special, community-driven spectaculars which can bring people together with something fun and engaging for everyone.

“I look forward to seeing the creativity of Blackpool come to life with the help of Elmer the Patchwork Elephant next year.”

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The Black Friar hosting HUGE Easter egg hunt to raise money for kid’s cancer charity

This looks eggcellent!

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Manchester's Finest Group & The Black Friar

The Black Friar is hosting an Easter ‘Eggstravaganza’ family-fun day with plenty of child friendly activities and a spring menu for all to enjoy.

The Black Friar pub in Salford will be holding an Easter ‘Eggstravaganza’ family-fun day next month in their award-winning spring garden.

The jam-packed, fun-filled day will take place on Saturday April 8th between 10am and 2pm, with two time slots available to book at the historic landmark, located on the corner of Blackfriars Road.

The day will be in support of Kidscan, a local children’s cancer research charity, also based in Salford. Kidscan invests in research dedicated to either improving existing treatments for childhood cancers, developing new drug delivery systems, or finding the next generation of targeted treatments. 

The Black Friar

The Black Friar wrote: “We’re extremely grateful and excited to be working with this wonderful charity – we hope your support will aid and raise more awareness of their work.”

The event will include a chocolate Easter egg hunt, kids’ DJ, charity tombola, bubble blowing, arts and crafts table, face painting and more, all aimed to keep your little ones entertained while you enjoy the (hopefully) sunny weather in the Black Friar’s lovely spring garden. 

The outdoor kitchen and bar will be open serving freshly made flatbreads, breakfast rolls, juices and coffee as well as alcoholic beverages — in case you feel like treating yourself to a little tipple over the long weekend.

The Black Friar

Bookings are also available for lunch if you want to make a day of it and enjoy the spring a la carte menu.

Dishes on the seasonal menu will include crispy pork belly with pineapple, slaw and commit fat chips,  braised octopus, black eyed bean and chorizo feijoada and pimiento, and spinach and seitan cannelloni with salsa verde, and a pine nut, lemon and herb crumb – plus its famous pies.

There’s also a ‘little tuckers’ kids’ menu with favourites like mac and cheese, chipolatas, nachos and chocolatey desserts. The Black Friar wrote: “Bring your bunnies down for a hopping good time at our jam-packed family-fun day!”

Book your tickets here.

Date: Saturday 8 April

Venue: The Black Friar Salford

Times: Either 10am-12pm or 12pm-2pm

Price: £3 adults, £2 kids

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