Knutsford gets on its bike (with audio)

PUBLISHED: 11:19 07 June 2010 | UPDATED: 17:07 20 February 2013

Enormous lily pads on Tatton Mere, like this proposal by Steve Messam, is just one  example of several extraordinary artworks envisioned for the Tatton Park Biennial 2010. A collapsing tree house and a giant doll’s house are also planned for the event this summer.

Enormous lily pads on Tatton Mere, like this proposal by Steve Messam, is just one example of several extraordinary artworks envisioned for the Tatton Park Biennial 2010. A collapsing tree house and a giant doll’s house are also planned for the event this summer.

We visit Knutsford. It's a forward-looking Cheshire town but it's always ready to celebrate its past

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You wait years for one penny farthing to come by but then every decade hundreds arrive at once. Since 1980 enthusiasts in Knutsford have jumped onto the iconic bicycles, donned deerstalker hats and whizzed around Knutsford in the hope of completing the most circuits in the three-hour race.

To say the Knutsford Great Race is dangerous is a gross understatement. There have been explosions, bikes falling apart and a few crashes. But none of this has dampened the passion of enthusiasts and organisers for this fast and competitive event.

The race was founded by Glynn Stockdale 30 years ago when it first ran with 18 teams. It began when Glynn and a friend decided to use a race to settle an argument over the sale of a penny farthing bike.

People turned up from miles around to watch and take part. Since then, more and more people have got involved and it has even attracted celebrity attention. American actor David Soul, started the race one year.

This years race on September 5th is already full with more than 50 teams taking part in the continuous race around a 1km circuit of Knutsford Moor. Riders are travelling from New Zealand, Australia, America, Germany, Ireland and the Czech Republic. The start will be marked with the firing of a cannon used at Waterloo and organisers hope to raise 25,000 for the disaster relief charity, ShelterBox.

The main event will be preceded by the Hobby Horse Challenge that will feature original Dandy Horse and Boneshaker bicycles. A local businessman has lodged a 100 guinea stake and wagered that no-one will beat 73-year-old Nick Clayton in the hobby horse race. It is thought to be the first race on these kinds of machines for 190 years.
Glynn said: We cannot wait for the day now. Were so pleased at the amount of people who want to take part.

Well also have a celebrity to start the race. Its very competitive and everyone wants to win but its all good fun and the race with Nick will be good fun.
A more regular but equally exciting sight can be found in the skies above Knutsford. Look up every so often and you could catch a glimpse of a flock of kites and vultures swooping and diving. They will have been released by the expert handlers at the Gauntlet Bird of Prey Centre, in Manchester Road, set up by Graham Bessant in 1996.
The centre, soon to open its own bird hospital, has around 110 birds from bald eagles to different breeds of owls, kites, hawks and buzzards. Some 16,000 visitors a year watch everything from spectacular aerial displays and feeding times. The centre has provided birds for television commercials and music videos.

Graham, who runs the centre with partner Lisa, said: There used to be a 60 million vulture population and in the last ten years that has gone down by 95 per cent. People assume they are a bad creature but they are fascinating.

Another Knutsford resident has already started to travel the world. Alex McLaughlin, 25 and a photography student at Mid-Cheshire College, has documented world records by taking photographs of the development of the worlds fastest road-legal car.

The 350,000 Keating TKR was built by Lancastrian Anthony Keating but it was Alex who was chosen to catalogue the development of this supercar. Alex recently spent time out in California photographing the car in all its glory including when it achieved a speed of 260.1mph on the salt flats of El Mirage.

He said: It was a fantastic experience and I enjoyed every minute of it. Im very lucky to have been able to be involved with a project as exciting as this. Were hoping to go to the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah in the future to break 300mph.

Like Alex, another couple have recently had cause to travel away from Cheshire. Camilla and Chris Langrick decided to up sticks and move to Monaco in 2008. They became accustomed to watching beautiful cars pull up outside the famous Casino of Monte Carlo as well as glimpsing celebrities and royalty including Prince Albert of Monaco, Shirley Bassey, Sir Roger Moore and Cheshires own Paula Radcliffe. But late last year they returned to Knutsford to be closer to family and set up an accountancy business. They are also offering advice to people contemplating a move abroad.

Chris said: To start with Monaco was fantastic. We spent a lot of time on the beach with our daughter Henrietta, we experienced the thrill around the Grand Prix and just got to see what life was like out there. But we wanted to move back. I used to go out running along the coast but now I can go to Tatton Park. It has just as beautiful views as those across the Mediterranean.

A mother and daughter may not be near the sea at Monaco but they are making a splash in a different way. Former paediatric nurse Delia Cooper first set up a dog grooming company before daughter Sam Vigrass joined the family business. They both also run the Cheshire Canine Hydrotherapy Centre in Ollerton. Dogs are treated to a dip in the pooch pool where they can enjoy a swim before relaxing in the spa. It is all designed to keep canines fit and healthy as well as nursing them back to health after surgery.

Its like a dog spa, said Sam. The dogs have some of the water therapy and then they can have their hair done in the grooming parlour. But this kind of treatment has meant that dogs who were going to be put down have had a massive health improvement. They have gone to live for years more. This is a great place to be based too.

Knutsford news

The second Tatton Park Biennial runs from May 8th to September 26th. Over 20 artists and writers have developed new works to examine the site as a living and evolving subject rather than an historical keepsake. One of the commissions includes work by a local artist Austin Holdsworth from Congleton. For more information visit

This year is the Elizabeth Gaskell Bi-Centennial. A year-long series of events will mark the 200th anniversary of the British novelists birth. Elizabeth, spent her childhood in the town, was married there and is buried in the graveyard of the Brook Street Chapel. This month there are several events planned by The Gaskell Society as part of the Bi-Centennial including a Flower Festival and Victorian Victuals event at the Brook Street Chapel on May 14th and 15th as well as a meeting of the Alliance of Literary Societies. For more information visit

Preparations are now well underway for the Cheshire County Show in 2010. This show, which celebrates the sights, character and flavour of Cheshire, takes place on June 22nd and 23rd. Guests include Charles Collingwood and Julie Bennett from The Archers. For details visit

Members of the Northern Section of the Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts Club gathered to celebrate the life of Mary Royce, mother to Henry Royce of the world famous car brand. The group, who found her memorial stone at Tabley Cemetery, held a ceremony to mark the completion of the restoration they had completed. Michael Willison, the great great grandson of Mary Royce, unveiled a commemorative plaque at the occasion. Mary, who lived in Chelford Road, in the Knutsford home of her son, Henry, in Legh Road. Henry went on to meet Charles Rolls who together formed Rolls-Royce.

Where is it? Knutsford is just off the junction of the M6 motorway, not far from Wilmslow and Alderley Edge. Type WA16 6DT into your Satnav.
What to do? Take a walk in the picturesque Knutsford Moor, drink in the history strolling around the town, shop until you drop or relax in one of the wine bars, restaurants or pubs.
Where to park? There is plenty of limited time on-street parking. But you will probably want to spend a little longer in this beautiful town. There are several pay and display car parks including on Tatton Street and off King Street, the main thoroughfare.

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