Tuesday, 25 August 2015

2015 - Day Out 06: Coronation Street

Date: Sunday 23 August 2015

With the main summer period over and after Mr UKBuses and myself having a break with our families, it is time to continue with the year of the coach trips, so we go back to Greenline Coaches and head off on a tour of Coronation Street at the old Granada TV Studios in Manchester, and perhaps sample a pint in The Rovers Return.

The famous cobbles.
With the pick up point closest to us being in Stourbridge (Birmingham Street, opposite the tip) and no buses available on a Sunday morning, we meet up at half distance between ourselves and Stourbridge, so after an early alarm call, I make my way to Mary Stevens Park, but I do divert along the way to pick up some "fresh air" and a lottery ticket, which results in me being late as the shop have trouble logging into Camelot! After it is sorted, a quick walk is taken towards Mary Stevens Park, and I as I finally enter the park, I get a text from Mr UKBuses asking me where I am, I reply with a pantomime text and say that "I'm behind you" as I can see him in front of me - now that's a first that Mr UKBuses is at the checking in point before me! After saying hello to Stan Ogden, sorry Mr UKBuses, we make our way along Worcester Street towards Stourbridge and finally arrive at the pickup point at 07.45am  (with our Greenline coach already there - even though they contacted me in the week to say we don't need to be there until 8am). After a fresh air break before setting off we greet the driver, Mike, who looks like Norris Cole from The Kabin, we board.

So just before 08.00am (everyone turned up early), we make our way to the rest of the pick ups, we make our way through Lye and pass Hanson's depot before arriving in Cradley Heath for our first pickup, followed by Old Hill, Quinton, Rowley Regis and Dudley. With everyone on board we make our way to Manchester making our way towards Wolverhampton so we can get onto the M6 and pick up speed to get us to our destination. After an hour we have a pit stop, having a rest at the motorway services where, after a "fresh air" break we head inside and have time to grab some food. We go to Burger King and are unsure if they are still serving breakfast, luckily they have finished and order a Chicken Royale meal and take a seat to consume our food. After food is taken a quick visit to the bladder stop before some "fresh air" and we board our coach again and head back onto the M6 to continue our journey.

The Granada TV Studios
We are nearing Manchester and we leave the motorway and are on the outskirts of the city centre. As we make our way to the City Centre, we pass Old Trafford so we are near the new set of Coronation Street now based at MediaCity UK. We are now in the main City Centre and we get dropped off on Quay Street, just a normal looking City Centre Street, we are told by our coach driver "Norris" where we are going to be picked up and are told after alighting to walk around the next corner and up the street. We alight the coach and "Norris" drives away (he has to cover the lunchtime shift for Rita in The Kabin), and make our way around the corner and up Atherton Street, where we display our tickets upon entering the old Granada TV Studios, see picture right, and get handed a lanyard. We have just over 30 minutes before we get to go on our guided tour, so we head inside the café on site and enjoy a beer before looking at history of an iconic television programme.

Cheers! From The Granada TV Studios
Drinks finished, see picture left, we head back out and after a quick bladder break, we wait in the queue for our tour. We are handed our backstage pass to put on our lanyard and we move forward to the starting point of our tour, the entrance to Studio 1 at the Granada Studios, which also doubles up as the old entrance to Carla Connor's flats at "The Drapers Mill" Apartments. After the introduction, we enter "Carla's flat" and our first stop is in the Green Room. After our green room visit, we make our way down past the old dressing rooms passing a few pictures of Mr UKBuses, sorry Stan Ogden, along the way. After the dressing rooms, we head into the wardrobe apartment where we see the characters costumes and learn that Roy Croppers bag is actually his own, he takes it home with him and is his own late mother's bag. Once the wardrobe department is over we head towards the main studios, first of all we stop to see a video of story lines past and then it's onto then main studio sets.

The sexiest barman in Wetherfield!
The first set we come across is Carla's old flat at The Drapers Mill, and then we head towards the set of The Platt's, where we discover that the actors have to hide away at the top of the stairs when filming as there is nowhere else to go once they reach the top! Our next set is The Rovers Return, exterior is just a wooden wall and then we head through the famous doors and actually stand on the set of the famous public house. This is the only part of the interior studios tour where we can have a photograph taken, see picture right, and whilst everybody hangs off the beer pump, I actually recreate the correct pose pretending to hold a glass under the pump! We sadly have to leave The Rovers, and we head out via the toilet door excepting to pop out into the front room of Ken Barlow, sadly we don't and we come out onto a props display where we see Hayley and Fred Elliot's coffins and other props such as Deirdre's glasses. We carry on the interior set tour stopping off at the knickers factory, Underworld (where Mike Baldwin's voice can be heard) and come across the set of what was once The Duckworth's house, now owned by Tyrone and Fiz. We carry on past the barge that was once used as a setting for one of Ken's affairs before arriving at our last set, which is The Kabin. With no sign of our coach driver or Rita, we are about to leave the Studios. I must admit I was shocked at how small the sets are, especially The Rovers Return. We make our way through the Post Production rooms and the tour is nearly over and as we stand by a doorway, our tour guide opens the door and with the theme tune blasting away, we are then led out onto the famous cobbles and we leave "Nick's Bistro" and set foot onto the street.

We are now left to our own devices and we can spend as much time and go where we like on the exterior set. First stop is The Kabin and after looking at the sweets in the window which are mouldy I go to complain, but cannot find our coach driver! We then carry on our tour having a look at Kevin's Garage and Underworld and then we have a look at The Platt's back garden. We head back out onto The Street and stay on the same side, going past Audrey's hair salon, we are directly opposite The Rovers Return, but as there is still a lot of activity we decide to carry on our tour and come back later. We head into Rosamund Street and we don't see Steve hanging outside the Streetcars Taxi Office, so we head to Dev's Kebab Shop, "Prima Doner". This is one of the sets that was actually used for filming using the interior, so we are allowed to have a look indoors. The Doner Meat looked a bit rubbery, so we decided to go next door for grub, but Roy's Rolls was closed, we then walked past what was Fred Elliot's butcher shop and then Carla's new flats, Victoria Court, also home to Nick Tilsley. We now head onto the main street again and to get their we have to go past The Builders Yard and Barlow's Buys.

Time to visit The Rovers!
With the interior tour still going on, The Rovers Return has quietened down, so whilst we have the chance a picture is taken of the famous pub and also a picture of me is taken outside the door, see picture left, but I can not get in as the doors are locked. We decide to have a look around the back of the houses, so we head back onto Rosamund Street to enter the "Ginnel", we have to walk by the viaduct and because of the backdrop being held up against a wall, the picture is so overpowering that it does make your eyes go funny, so we head straight to The Ginnel and we are behind The Rovers. I decide it is time to take a "Fresh Air" break, so I might as well sit in The Rovers smoking shelter as used previously by Steve and Lloyd. Before we leave The Rovers Backyard, I can see that the key lock has been taken out of the pub door and can see right into The Rovers, which is just an empty shell! The tour along the Ginnel restarts and we try and guess which backyard is whose, and we finally get to the last one which was once home to Mr UKBuses, sorry, Stan and Hilda Ogden. We make our way to the front passing alongside the Corner Shop Flat entrance and Dev's shop itself.

We are feeling a bit peckish now and notice that there is a little catering van, so decide to have a portion of chips. The chips were lovely and some of them still had the potato skins on which added to the taste. Once food is consumed, we decide to walk back up to the street and visit the souvenir shop, which was also home to The Medical Centre as could be told when we entered, with the internal set still the same. We decide to get our pictures from behind the bar at The Rovers from the shop, which can be seen on the screens, so all we had to do was tell the staff our ID number. Mr UKBuses gets his first and the staff must have realised we were together and charged us for the special 2-For-1 price (even though they were different pictures!) and Mr UKBuses is happy as he has saved his wallet from having to pay out an extra £2.50. I also see that a tour guide is available at £10 and as this is a one in a lifetime chance of being on the street, I do decide to get one. With the tour over, we have a bit of time to spare, so we head back down Coronation Street for a final time and out back into the streets of Manchester, before we leave the studios, we do spot a replica frontage of The Rovers Return, which was used as the staff bar when ITV ran the studios before moving to MediaCity UK, we couldn't get close to it as it was barriered off, but a picture of it can be seen here.

We leave the studios behind and head through St John's Gardens and back onto Quay Street, where we see a stop for the Manchester Free Shuttle, which will take us into the main Manchester City Centre, or so we thought as we see a bus coming which then turns left before the stop. We decide to walk down the street to see if we have the right stop and as we do, another bus heads towards us, so a mad dash back up to the bus stop is required. We board and as we make our way into the City Centre, we keep a look out for what could have been the building in which another 80's Granada soap, "Albion Market", but as we arrive at Manchester Piccadilly Station, we can't see anything that resembles the "Market" and we alight and decide to have a walk into the railway station. We still have a bit of time to kill, so we decide to rest our feet and Mr UKBuses finds a bar, "The Hourglass", he decides on what to drink and then finds a table which must have meant that I had to get the round and it was an expensive one too, the total being £8.70, no wonder he made a quick search for a table! We decide to drink slowly to make sure we have a good taste of the expensive drinks and as we are looking over the station, a storm is brewing outside as we can hear the teeming rain bouncing off the roof. Luckily the rain dies down and after Mr UKBuses makes a visit to the toilet, costing him 30p, we make our way to the bus stop outside the station and make our way back to Quay Street.

We board our free shuttle bus and it soon gets to full status and we make our way back through the city centre, trying to peek out onto the streets to see if we can see the "Albion Market". We are concentrating too much as Mr UKBuses realises we are at our stop and we luckily squeeze past all of the standees and alight at Quay Street. We can see that Norris has finished covering for Rita and is back and parked up ready to pick up the passengers, even though there is just over half an hour before departure time, we decide to board and rest our feet waiting for the other passengers. It is nearly time for departure, so I use the remaining time to alight and have some "fresh air" and spot the Marriott "Victoria and Albert" Hotel. Upon research following our trip, if we had walked around the back of this hotel, we would have seen "Albion Market", so after searching the city, we were sitting literally a few minutes away from the filming location! Just shy of 4.30pm and our coach is ready to go, so we head out of the city, where we pass a cortege of historic vehicles coming in the opposite direction and as we leave the City, we head back onto the M6.

We are halfway back to the West Midlands, and we stop off at the motorway services and feeling peckish again, Mr UKBuses sniffs out to have a meal from KFC. I'm not too hungry so I settle for a small portion of popcorn chicken and it was a tiny portion! Food over a quick "fresh air" break is had before we head back onto the coach and back to the Midlands. We arrive back at Dudley and after our first drop off we find out that we are going to be the last drop off after another mini tour of the Black Country. We arrive back in Stourbridge just after 8.30pm and have just missed our National Express West Midlands 276, so we decide to grab a taxi, Mr UKBuses asks to be dropped off first, but our taxi driver drops me off first at Graham's Place where I decide to have a pint, before heading up to The Unicorn for a nightcap before heading home and resting my feet after a fantastic day out up North and on the cobbles.

Today was a brilliant day, apart from the bed weather, even though we was undercover, totally enjoyed being a part of television history, I will never be able to see a television show properly again, let alone Coronation Street now that I know some inside secrets, talking about inside secrets, did you know that Mr UKBuses has a bald spot, here is one and a half of them today: 

Bald Spot 1

Bald Spot 1: The bald spot tries to hide outside The Platts!

Bald Spot 2

Bald Spot 2: The sight of knickers makes the bald spot make an appearance!