No Farmers in this Dell

The Easter long weekend was surprisingly sunny and people flocked outdoors to spend some time in the rare sun rays. On Good Friday, I headed with my friend, Jon, to Healy Dell – a forested area a 40 minute drive north of Manchester. On Thursday, we had decided to go on an adventure outside of Manchester and a simple Google search for “Day trip from Manchester” saw Healey Dell had pop up. The weather was great, the location not too far away and the website advertised tea rooms. Done.

Healey Dell is an interesting mix of nature and industry. Remains of cotton, wool and corn mills sit along the edge of the River Spodden that winds through a leafy nature reserve. You can also walk along the top of a viaduct that used to be part of the North’s industrial activities. What would have once been a loud and dirty area, it is now a quiet and peaceful area to go for a stroll. There were plenty of locals out and about with their families and dogs, enjoying the good weather and the chance to be outdoors.

Healey Dell

Healey Dell

While walking through the dell, I couldn’t help but wonder what exactly a ‘dell’ is and why the farmer is in it. Since returning home, I have looked up a dictionary definition and found “A small valley, usually among trees.” which is certainly what this was. But then why isn’t it a valley? To further complicate matters, apparently the word is closely associated with ‘dale’ which is also another sort of valley. British landscapes are complex things.

After going for a walk along the river, we headed to the tea rooms to enjoy a cup of tea. The Healey Dell Heritage Centre and Tea Rooms are run by volunteers and on Friday they were struggling to keep up with the demand. The tearooms spread over two floors of an old mill building, plus customers were making the most of the outdoor tables. The poor tea ladies were running around like mad, trying to keep up with orders. They did a fantastic job but looked like they could do with a bit of a rest.

The food that was coming out of the kitchen looked rather good and I wished I hadn’t eaten lunch before coming. I made up for this by ordering a creamed tea – a tasty fruit scone served with jam, clotted cream and butter, plus a pot of tea. There’s something wonderful about drinking tea out of a china teacup. Perhaps it is because I feel like the Queen whenever I do it, but it just makes the tea taste better somehow. The scone was a tad crumbly and had what I think were dried cherries in it. I prefer my scones plain but the fruit wasn’t too overpowering. As per usual, the clotted cream made everything taste amazing. That stuff is gold.

Scones, jam and clotted cream.

Scone, jam and clotted cream.

The tea rooms were decorated in an intriguing mix of new and vintage – so much to look at and none of it really matching. But it created that ‘homely’ feeling that English tearooms tend to have. Definitely a great day out and so remarkably close to the not so nice suburbs of northern Manchester.

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