What’s the point of going around big cities? It’s much more interesting to explore the English countryside, see how people live in villages and small towns.
In my May trip, I didn’t spend too much time on intermediate stops, visiting two places. The first place is the rural town of Irlam with a population of 18,000, located between Liverpool and Manchester. The second place is the medium-sized town of Wigan with a population of 100,000, situated northeast of Liverpool on the way to the Scottish city of Glasgow.
So, what is England in general? For me, it’s endless yellow fields — rapeseed blooms everywhere. It’s a plant used to produce rapeseed oil, margarine, soap, animal feed, and biodiesel.
Railway stations in rural areas, although rundown and old, are still clean and well-maintained.
It is unlikely to find a station without a brick house for staff, without electronic or paper schedules, without a roof overhead, benches, or lighting.
The electric train running between Liverpool and Manchester is hardly inferior to intercity trains. The interior is bright and spacious, the seats are comfortable, there are automatic doors, tables, shelves for belongings, toilets, and power outlets. Here it should be said that although Russian commuter trains are rusty wrecks with horrible conditions in every aspect, suitable perhaps only for transporting coal, the most unimaginable horror in them is the doors between the vestibule and the car. Even in new models like Aeroexpress, the doors are left swinging in different directions, constantly rattling and hitting body parts. When someone tries to pass with bags into the car, they open the left door with their hand, hold it with their foot, carry the bags, and try to enter themselves — bang! They get hit on the right side of the head! The passenger pushes the right door away, and the train tilts back — bang! It hits them with the left door. The designer of these doors was knocked out by his own doors.
Not the most pleasant place. It’s like a town with low-rise buildings, more like a village. It is greeted by some dirty fence.
The first street that came up as I got off the train.
A house. Nowhere in Western and English countries are there solid fences like in Russia. Fences only enclose the back part of the house, where there’s a private garden or lawn. The front, facing the street, is either enclosed by a low fence or not enclosed at all. As far as I know, this is mandated by law. It is, of course, a “stick” approach, but a stick that is exceptionally useful: the streets appear open, clean, and not closed off and neglected.
Main street. It seems like people park here wherever they want.
More residential houses and streets. Someone has installed solar panels on their roof.
Store “Everything for the dacha”.
Hotel “The Ship”.
Pub “The White Horse”.
Watch and jewelry repair.
Hair salon “The Village Barbers”.
Old road sign.
Even in such small semi-rural areas, signs are posted reminding dog owners to clean up after their pets.
Is it good to live here? Is it safe? Not really. There is a sign on the pole that says “Thieves beware.”
Right near the station, there is a completely wrecked car in the parking lot. A police report has been filed underneath the windshield wiper.
There is a fairly large college in Irlam. I attempted to enter it. Can you imagine who they thought I was? At the reception, they stared at me, a twenty-year-old unshaven Russian guy in ripped jeans with a huge camera around my neck, with wide eyes and asked, “Sir, what can I do for you?” I honestly said that I was just passing by and decided to take a look — can I go inside? After that conversation, I noticed the children. Children were studying at the college. Realizing that it wouldn’t be appropriate to barge into a children’s college in such a state with a camera hanging around my neck, I apologized and quickly left.
Irlam is divided by a railway, beneath which there is a narrow, damp, and musty crossing. Every day, college students walk from one part of the city to the other through this crossing.
Shortly after my visit, the classes ended, and I saw children walking home in a huge crowd. A police officer was standing near the station, at the crossing, and monitoring this procession.
I didn’t take photos of any of the children, neither individually nor in a crowd. They only accidentally appeared in the frame in the photo with the broken car. My visit to the college made me somewhat uneasy — one never knows what people might think or what measures could be taken. We have all heard about the extreme paranoia in England and the USA regarding children and schools.
I think I had a reason to be on edge. Children can be dangerous. They understand things better than adults, and what’s more, they can skillfully exploit it. It so happened that one of the groups of children caught up with me when I was already walking in another part of the city. Children around ten years old, upon seeing my camera, started joking, insulting each other, and asking to be photographed. Very insistently:
“Take a picture of me!”
“Hey, where are you from?”
“Where are you going?”
“Just take a photo! Take a photo!”
I didn’t respond at all. Then one of them blurted out:
“Hey, wanna photograph me naked?”
He said it completely seriously. Everyone laughed and continued joking about taking naked photos. Just in case, I quickened my pace, distanced myself from them, and then saw a police station on my way.
To this day, I remember that incident with bewilderment. What was that little brat planning? To provoke me into taking his photo and then create a scene near the police station? Judging by his jokes, he very well could have. Considering my strange visit to the college, I could have easily gotten caught up in an incident.
Wigan North East Station is a transit point between Liverpool and Glasgow. I had a layover here. In an hour, it’s possible to explore the city center of Wigan.
Wigan is a very charming and cozy city. Here is one of the central streets. On the left, you can see the town cathedral with the English flag.
In some places, it resembles Germany.
It seems to be in the Victorian style as well, although it insanely resembles German houses.
The frame captures all the street details: a lamppost, bike parking, a trash bin, a crossing, and sidewalk lighting.
The second railway station in the city is Wigan Wallgate.