Cycled over to Ashton on Mersey for a spot of canvassing in one of our targeted wards. Getting to know Ashton on Mersey a bit better these days. I have a long relationship with the town without regularly visiting it. As a kid I looked out over a playing field at the side of the then ‘new’ motorway. Beyond that was the River Mersey and beyond that, Ashton. There was no bridge, so Ashton was very much out of reach in those days.
Ashton lay on the Cheshire bank of the Mersey. The River Mersey has long been a border river, once the border between Mercia and Northumbria and for a millenium the border of Cheshire. I’ve always been proud to be a Lancastrian and whilst we were cycling on different routes to Cheshire places like Lymm and Manchester Airport as quite young kids, I’ve never lost that attachment to Ashton as the border town that you could see but couldn’t get to.
I’m quite proud to be a ‘Manc’ as well as Lancastrian and the two identities have never been odds with each other. The fact that Lancashire County Cricket Club is head-quartered in our patch of M32, only has meaning in the context of that Lancastrian identity and I think it’s something to keep hold of. Political administrative boundaries come and go, wards are redrawn, combined authorities created and abandoned, even northern powerhouses. But there seems something reassuringly permanent about the old counties even if they have no governance function. It’s probably the solidity of the geographical boundaries that reinforces but it also feels that there’s something important to our identity that is often missed or even dismissed.
I celebrate the fact that people self identify with the historic counties in their addresses whether it be Bolton, Lancs or Sale, Cheshire. I would love to see more more county boundary signs nationally but particularly within Trafford. Some of this is irrational, some might say absurd, but our multiple identities matter and have value, let’s keep those county lines.