The beautiful villages of Saddleworth in Oldham are pulling out all the stops for Christmas this year, and making the sometimes-stressful process of doing the Big Shop a whole lot more magical.
The independent businesses that are based in villages including Greenfield, Uppermill and Delph will be selling everything from beer to veg to tea to trees.
Promising to tick off all those fiddly trimmings on your festive to-do list, the local shops, delis and breweries are poised and ready for Christmas.
Once you’ve ordered your main event from Meat in the Middle at Tommyfield Market, or from the award-winning butchers at Albion Farm Shop in Delph, it’s over to the likes of Weaver & Wilde’s Groceries and Provisions.
Here, Cal Rowson-Codd and his husband Thomas can finish off your Christmas Day dinner with the finest sides, including veg boxes starting at £20 which can be collected fresh during Christmas week.
Cal says: “It has everything you need from a veg aspect then we have a massive range of really cool little bits that are special and make a difference to your dish and your party.
“We do pickled pears, wild garlic bulbs, we’ve got all your cured meats, cheeses and chutneys – everything you want so you can gorge and go over the top.”
Weaver & Wilde’s Groceries and Provisions opened in Greenfield in June after great success selling produce from their coffee shop in Uppermill during the pandemic.
Cal continues: “It kept the doors open and people needed it, plus they didn’t have to queue for an hour to get into Tesco – and the more we did it, the more we realised the demand in Greenfield was buoyant because people missed Stanford’s greengrocers.
“We had lost that commercial amenity in the village and [when that happens] it starts to lose its soul, so it was important for us to [preserve] that.”
As well as providing a local service, Cal and Thomas pride themselves on supporting homegrown brands, like Saddleworth Honey and loose-leaf teas from Oldham-based The Tea Keepers in Uppermill, and small suppliers from as far as way as Cheshire and North Yorkshire in Greenfield, all perfect for Christmas week.
Cal says: “We focus on quality products and ethics, we know our farmers are getting paid the right price to sustain their crop, we employ people that live in the area because it pays for their kids’ school uniforms.
“It’s part of what moulds community – if there weren’t small local producers, villages like ours would lose their identity and because we partner with a lot of local suppliers, it helps keep the small cottage industries alive.”
The Greenfield shop will also sell low needle-drop Christmas trees from mid-November. He hopes that after a tough couple of years, people will choose quality over convenience.
“People are returning to normal-ish life so it’s an online shop and a supermarket drop at your door – for smaller indies, it’s a big financial impact,” Cal says.
“We want to be here long-term and want people to have the quality and flavour of the Christmas dinner they grew up with, which you don’t get from the big commercials.”
Just a stone’s throw from the greengrocer’s is the Old Cobblers, a one-stop community shop selling award-winning coffee, natural wine, craft beer and locally produced gifts.
“We do as much as we can in terms of getting produce in from the area,” says owner Dave Bell, who opened the store two years ago.
“Our coffee is from six miles away, we have lots of beer from breweries in Manchester, our gifts are from very local makers – the more local the better.”
Dave’s shop is packed from floor to ceiling with stocking fillers and delicious eats from nearby suppliers, such as baked goods from Little Saddleworth Pie Company and Saddleworth Brownies, and chilli jam for the charcuterie board from Oldham maker Jam Hot.
Nearby Donkeystone brewery has a huge selection of artisan ales and IPAs, with a 26-strong line of products brewed at their Wellington Road unit, which is also home to a 200-capacity taproom and on-site shop, Palate.
They moved in last June after outgrowing a previous site in Greenfield when they diversified from supplying pubs with kegs to canning their own products.
“We jumped at the chance for the new site, and we’ve been building up the business,” says founder, Stephen James. “There’s a good tradition of decent beers being made in Oldham over the centuries, so we wanted to carry that on.
“It’s proper craft beer that’s been produced on a small scale, but we’ve got a massive range and we try to suit every taste. And in our shop, we don’t just sell beer, we have a range of artisan products that we try to keep as local as possible.”
As well as a taproom and shop open seven days a week, Stephen and his team hope to resurrect production at their gin distillery Grail, which they paused during the pandemic, and are soon to open a dedicated bakery on-site to produce the bread they’ve recently started making and selling.
These little independent businesses are what breathe life into local communities, but they rely heavily on regular custom from the communities they serve.
Cal from Weaver & Wilde said: “Probably the best reason to shop local this year is that if you really like anyone that is trading, go and help them because this winter they’re going to need it.
“It doesn’t matter if they’ve been there 30 years or three, any small purchase will make the difference.”
Steph Houghton interview: the Manchester derby ‘means absolutely everything to the fans’
Ahead of the Women’s Super League Manchester derby on 11 December, we had the pleasure of speaking to Manchester City captain, Steph Houghton MBE.
The 34-year-old City defender and England international has been a stalwart for the side since 2014 and with the Blues in touching distance of United in the table, manager Gareth Taylor will be looking for a statement performance.
Leading by example, Houghton knows exactly what derby day means for the club and the fans.
Here’s what she had to say ahead of the big fixture.
What does the Manchester derby mean to you?
“It means absolutely everything. I think from the moment I stepped into this club, and even prior to joining, I knew the Manchester derby means absolutely everything to the fans.
“For us as players to pull on the shirt, it’s not just about the game itself, it’s the bragging rights after and just that pride of playing for Manchester and this football club.
“We know it’s going to be an absolutely massive game, the last time we played at the Etihad it was such an amazing occasion. It’s only good when you do win, so for us as players it’s about taking the atmosphere in and knowing that there are going to be a lot more City fans than there is United.
“Hopefully, put on a great performance, get those three points that we need and Manchester will be blue.”
What are your memories of the last derby at the Etihad Stadium in 2019?
“I think for us we obviously knew there were a lot of tickets sold [a WSL record of 31,213, in fact]. We all went over to the stadium a couple of days before to get some familiarity with where we’d be on matchday.
“You then as a player start thinking about what will happen. But then that moment when you’re warming up and the crowd are cheering you and shouting your name, and then the moment when Caz Weir scored, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a noise like it.
“I think when you play in those games it’s about making the most of it. It’s going to be a great occasion, it’s been a long time coming since we played at the Etihad so it’s just about going and enjoying it and embracing it.”
Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw is averaging over a goal a game at the minute, what makes her so special?
“I think for me, in terms of the chances she’s getting at the moment, she just seems to be putting every single one away. When you have strikers in that form you just have to keep on giving her the ball because she will create something.
“You saw against Everton it’s not just her scoring, she’s producing goals for other people as well. In terms of training, to play against her and mark her is so difficult because of that physicality and she’s starting to show that on the pitch now.
“It was her first season last year, so it takes a while for people to get used to how we play but come this second season she’s started so well and let’s hope that continues.”
City also have a 100% home record against United. How much do you think that will play into the result?
“Not just against United, our home record is pretty impressive. When we play at the Academy Stadium but especially against United, we want to win so badly, and I think it’s finding that balance of wanting to win but also sticking to what we do.
“I think over the previous seasons we’ve managed to do that and take the occasion out of it and treat it like a normal game. We have to give United respect, at the moment they’re in great form so, for us, it’s just about concentrating on ourselves and producing a performance we’re all going to be proud of.”
Manchester bar Banyan is serving martini trees, pigs in blankets and cocktail baubles this Christmas
Cocktails in a bauble – have we got your attention now? Because Banyan is pulling out all the stops for us in Manchester this Christmas.
The gorgeous bar brand, which has sites in both Spinningfields and at the Corn Exchange, is delivery festive cheer like never before, with an amazing selection of offers.
First, let’s talk cocktails.
Banyan is already known and loved for its wide selection of boozy concoctions, with 2-for-1 deals aplenty with seemingly endless sweet, sour and fresh to choose from. But now, there’s a whole host of new festive specials to take full advantage of to add to the list.
We’re talking Orange Espresso Martini served by the tree and Bauble Trays full of exciting gin combinations served inside its namesake- both are ideal for sharing this winter.
If you’re looking for a bottomless option, there’s also plenty of scope to taste test the best of Banyan with free-flowing fizz this Christmas. The festive bottomless brunch menu serves up a combination of unlimited Prosecco, Bloody Mary cocktails, Aperol Spritz, Orange Blush Spritz, pints of Coors- and the limited edition Berry Crumble Spritz.
All this booze certainly needs some delicious foodie options to soak it all up, and there’s a mouthwatering festive feast that’ll trump your mum’s turkey dinner any day.
Served to a minimum of eight people at a time, take on a selection of Banyan classics like the Bang Bang chicken skewers and mini versions of the gourmet burgers, or stay true to the seasons with generous helpings of pigs in blankets, all served as a buffet-style dinner. This one’s perfect for Christmas office lunches, festive gatherings with friends or even just a wintry weekend get together with the family.
Naturally, those looking for a feast with their nearest and dearest might want an added level of privacy for a game or to disclose Secret Santa gifts, so Banyan is offering a range of private dining experiences in addition to all of these fantastic food and drink options.
If you love to celebrate the changing of the seasons with a carefully curated menu of festive flavours like brie, bacon or a good old fashioned Christmas pud, there’s also a host of treats awaiting at any of the Banyan restaurants.
Tis the season to make the most of porcini mushroom arancini oozing with cheese and roasted cod with creamy lobster sauce, and there’s plenty to go around. Banyan burgers have also had a festive makeover with a limited edition Christmas burger with all the trimmings, and you can grab one no matter whether you’re a meat-eater, vegetarian or vegan- there’s even a meat-free Festive Beyond Burger with a plant-based ‘pig’ in blanket on the menu.
To book your next visit to Manchester’s worst kept Christmas secret, visit the Banyan Bar website.