2 August 2018

A Day on the Cobbles

I've been watching Coronation Street for as long as I can remember. I'd come home from school, have my tea, snuggle up on the sofa with my Mum and watch the latest episode before I went to bed. Sometimes, when it was a double bill, she'd let me stay up late (I know, such a rebel). As the years have gone on I've continued to watch, getting engrossed in the stories and the characters. Call me an 80-year-old woman, but it's the highlight of my weeknights. 

If you read my 21st Birthday post then you'll know that for my birthday, my Mum very kindly booked us on a trip to the Coronation Street set at Salford Quays. I was beyond excited. My Mum and Dad had visited the old set many years ago and they tried to take me to see it when I was younger but it had closed down. Since then, it's been a life ambition. 

The set is based at Media City in Salford which is the brand new home of Coronation Street. It was originally based at Granada Studios but has moved, upgraded and opened up to the public for the very first time. The 80-minute walking tour will take you round the exterior sets of Weatherfield taking in Coronation Street, Rosamund Street and the never before seen Victoria Street. 

We booked our trip via David Ogden Coaches who very kindly organised a day excursion to the set and some free time around Salford Quays. The coach was due to pick us up at 7:20 so as you can imagine, we were up pretty early. We got to the pick-up point ten minutes before our given time only for our coach driver to forget to pick us up and leave us waiting for an hour before he realised he was missing some passengers. He couldn't have been more apologetic and he still managed to get us to the tour on time. 

The tour itself is very easily accessible and there are so many different ways to travel. You can reach the cobbles via car (there are plenty of places to park), tram and bus. More information on travel can be found here.

 Seeing ITV studios was surreal in itself. 
As we entered the building to check in for our tour, we saw where they film Jeremy Kyle, Countdown, The Voice and Blue Peter. We arrived earlier than expected and as we were the first tour of the day, we had some time browse around souvenir shop, have a coffee and see which celebrity height we matched on the celebrity post. If I can remember correctly, I'm just a little bit smaller than Gary Barlow.

We met our tour guide, Johnny, at the 'Lego Rovers' which is self-explanatory - it's the Rovers Return made out of lego (pretty cool, if you ask me). He gave us all our special backstage passes and then we walked over the bridge to the Coronation Street set. 

One thing I will point out is that the tour involves a lot of walking. It's a walk from the ITV building and then an 80-minute walking tour of the cobbles so if you're bad on your feet or can't walk very far then this might not be the tour for you. We were very lucky that the weather was beautiful but if you're going in Autumn/Winter time then make sure you wrap up warm and take a brolly. 

Our guide, Johnny was an absolute credit to the tour. He was lovely, full of information and was able to answer every question we asked. He was also asking us questions along the way and was very impressed when I told him all the characters who died in the tram crash. 

We walked in via the entrance that the actors use and were shown the Corrie buildings where they write scripts, do makeup, run through lines and film some of the interior scenes. If you ever see a scene in a car park, it's actually filmed on the staff car park and the Corrie building doubles up as Weatherfield Hospital. It's bizarre! 

As we looked at the buildings I couldn't help but think that it's a place I'd love to be able to call my workplace. Behind those walls is where they come up with the ideas for the amazing stories and characters who grace our television screens three nights a week. I remember thinking to myself, 'one day, I'll be writing scripts for Corrie.' 

When we first set foot on the cobbles I was starstruck. 
This was the actual real-life set. The street where I'd watched some of the most iconic moments in television take place. It didn't feel real. You see it on the telly and it's almost like a figment of your imagination but it's actually there in real life. Coronation Street exists and it's the most surreal feeling to be able to walk down the most iconic street in television. 

Our tour started at the bottom of Coronation Street where the Viaduct Bistro, D&S Alahans and The Kabin are located. They look exactly the same in real life as they do on the telly. I don't know why I expected any different but it's like the minute you step foot on the cobbles, you're immersed in the street - it's almost like you live there. 

The thing that fascinated me the most was the small intricate details that go unnoticed when you watch the show on the telly. A prime example of this is the brickwork above the Bistro, sounds like nothing, right? Well if you look carefully you'll notice that the brickwork is a combination of both old and new bricks. Why is this so brilliant? Because the new bricks cover where the tram crashed. It's little details like this that make the experience so worthwhile - you'll walk around and notice all the things that you overlook on the telly. 

We turned the corner and we were stood on the steps of Underworld. As you can see, my Mum is doing a great impression of Sally Webster protesting on the steps because apparently, that's what they do in Underworld. We also saw Kevin's Garage and Rita's flat. Most people tried to look through the letterboxes and I'm sorry to disappoint you, but there's absolutely nothing inside the houses.

One of my personal highlights was being able to visit the houses of my favourite characters. I knocked on the door of the Plait's and rang the bell at Tim & Sally's but no one answered (I only wanted a brew!). Absolutely nothing is off limits on the tour - you can see every single part of the set and take as many photos as you like. Expect your camera roll to be bursting with photos of the street - I think I took a selfie with every single character door we walked past. You can ask as many questions as you please and if you get Johnny as your tour guide, you're in for a real treat.  

Then came the big moment. The Rover's Return. 
Potentially the most iconic pub in television history. 
As part of the tour, you're entitled to a free professional photograph in front of the pub and if I were you, I'd definitely take advantage of this. It's at this point that you can wander around the street and take photos with other buildings/signs whilst the people in your group queue up for their photo taken. 

The funniest thing happened when we were about to go up for our photograph. In typical Goodier style, we were at the back of the queue and stood next to the door of Ken Barlow's house. Next thing we know, the door opens and everyone gasps in anticipation to see which character had come to surprise us on the tour. Sadly, to our disappointment, it was just the security guard. I don't think I've ever been so excited and then been so let down.

As I said, absolutely nothing is off limits on the tour. Whilst we waited for the photos in front of the Rovers to be taken, we went and explored the back alleys of Coronation Street. It was so lovely to see the smoking area of the Rovers and the memorial to Maddie (something I'd forgotten even existed). I don't think it'll ever sink in that I've actually seen the Corrie set in real life. I know I keep saying this but it's so surreal!

Then we made our way on to Rosamund Street where we saw Preston's Petals (with the cute little bike parked outside) and Street Cars. They even have a taxi that you can have a photo taken with and it's exactly the same as it looks on the telly. The set in Prima Donner is one of the only interior sets that you can see on the tour and it's where the scenes in the kebab shop are filmed. Although the meat isn't real - thank goodness! 

It was highlight after highlight for me. 
Getting to stand outside Roy's Rolls and have my photo taken was a childhood dream come true. Roy is one of my favourite characters and when I was little, I was always telling my Mum how much I'd love to go and have my tea in Roy's cafĂ©. They even have a little board outside telling you the specials - I need to look if this specials board changes from episode to episode! 

Just around the corner is Victoria Court where some of the younger residents live. I know I said that the attention to detail on set is immaculate but even the buzzers to the flats have the resident's names next to them. It's things like this that go unnoticed but make all the difference when you walk on the cobbles. Believe me, they'll never go unnoticed again because people will be bored to death of you telling them the same information over and over (I know my Dad is!). 

The part of the tour I was most excited to see was the brand new, and never before seen, Victoria Street. This is the new expansion of Coronation Street featuring a Costa, Co-Op and a train station. The Costa Coffee is exactly the same as one you'd see on the outside and in true 'Corrie fan' style, we had our photo taken outside. 

I'll be honest, I wasn't expecting to like Victoria Street as much as I did. It was lovely and added such a modern twist to the street. I know it's had some criticism from the press because if it isn't broken then don't fix it, but I think the street needed an update. It also included a memorial garden to the 22 people killed in the Manchester Arena bombings which added such a lovely, meaningful touch. I was impressed and I can't wait to see more of Victoria Street on our screens in the next year.

Just like that, the tour was over.
 I'd say we had longer than 80 minutes on the cobbles, especially with the number of questions we were asking poor Johnny (a St Helens crowd can seriously talk). We waved one last goodbye to the street and Johnny took us back over to ITV towers where we collected our Rovers Return photos and had one last look around the gift shop. 

Then the rest of the afternoon was ours to enjoy. The sun was cracking the flags and it was a beautiful day to sit and appreciate Media City in all its glory. Mum and I walked past the Imperial War Museum and over to the Lowrey Outlet Mall to hunt out some bargains (sadly the only thing we bought was a Subway for our dinner). Then we sat by the Quays for a while before discovering the Blue Peter Gardens. 

The grass was covered in blankets, cushions and deck chairs as people sat laughing, chatting and listening to music. There was a small beach hut selling drinks so Mum and I decided to spend the rest of our afternoon sunbathing on deck chairs with a glass of Fanta lemon in hand. It was a really lovely afternoon and incredibly chilled out - just what we both needed. Salford Quays is SO underrated and I know that it's somewhere we'll be returning to because there's so much going on. It's full of cute little bars and restaurants - perfect for a chilled night with the girls.

Sadly, all good things must come to an end. We hopped on the coach back home to St Helens (yep, he remembered to pick us up this time) after what can only be described as a day that I'll remember for the rest of my life. 

If you'd like to go and explore the cobbles for yourself then you can find more information and book your tickets here. It really is the most fascinating day out and I'd like to say a massive thanks to Johnny the tour guide for making the day as enjoyable as it was. I highly recommend booking an early tour and spending some time around Salford Quays/Media City too. 

You never know, one day I might be writing scripts for Corrie! 

Lots of Love,
Meg
xxx








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