From the North, With Love: Congleton

East Cheshire is quite a nice place to live. Pleasant. So everyone keeps saying, so it must be true. Certainly nicer than Stoke, which is agreed by more than just those in Cheshire.

Say ‘Congleton’ to people, and those who know will make comments about the silk mills. At one time, apparently, this was where the best English silk was made, while tariffs made imported silk prohibitively expensive.

This town reminds me of my home town of Tiverton. There’s the canal, the fabric mills, the river, and the train station (though Tiverton’s was moved to a nearby village at some point). A reasonably pleasant market town.

What Congleton has which Tiverton hasn’t is a bear. Or had. Back in the day when there was bear-baiting and the like, Congleton had a town bear. According to all the town websites, this bear was so beloved that, when it died, the townspeople decided that the money they had raised for a new Bible would be better spent on a new bear. So they bought a new bear. And the church made do with the old Bible. And the town was thereafter known as Bear-town.

In honour of the bear, in 2011, the townspeople created a walk around the town, marked out by giant, brightly coloured bears, each one sponsored by a local business. So far, I’ve only found two of these bears, although I haven’t really looked very hard. Hopefully I’ll find them all while I’m here.


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