I mostly grew up in Castleton, Rochdale.
(c) Gene Hunt
I lived at the top end of that picture until I was about 9, then moved to the bottom end of the picture until I was around 17. My mum and dad moved there because the town was 'up-and-coming'; full of friends, a vibrant social life and the central point for visiting extended families. But the town didn't come up, it went down. Most pubs are closed now, there's more bookies - you know the drill. This is where the Woolworths head office was based until the company dissolved in 2008. My mum suddenly lost her job of 30 years.
I drove through again at Christmas and was thrilled to see the local independent bakers (Smiths) is still there. My mum would give us a pound a day in the school holidays to buy a cheese'n'onion pie and an apple slice.
Just behind the right row of shops is the Rochdale canal and several disused mills. The canal regeneration sadly seemed to skip Castleton, however this is where my rose-tinted childhood memories come from. Summers exploring canal paths and finding winding lanes... you'd enter the lane with trepidation - never knowing where you'd come out (although all lanes seemed to lead to Springfield Park). Walking home from school in the summer, instead of catching the bus. Tying our white shirts to the midrif with a knot and picking flowers. Yet the place looks so desolate when I return now.
We moved up in the world when I was 17 and moved to my mum's hometown, Littleborough, on the Pennine/ Yorkshire border. Again, it was all canals but this time there were sandstone terraces instead of redbrick. We even had a huge lake round the corner. I took this picture of Hollingworth Lake when I went back at Christmas:
At 18 I left for uni and I'm now approaching the point where half of my life has been spent away from Lancashire. Yet my family still ask me when I'm moving home. I do sometimes feel homesick pangs when I see a canal or a row of sandstone terraces on a hillside, but I feel like I 'belong' to SE London a lot more.