Let's not beat around the bush here - A Grand Day Out is merely a jolly good excuse for Motel correspondents to go out gallivanting and report back on it. The word 'day' is a misnomer, as Catherine and compadres prove much fun can be had after dark...
More of a grand evening out than a day, a trip to the dogs is highly recommended for some “good honest working-class fun” as my pal Andy would put it. The concept of a good night here is pretty simple. Mates + little dogs running dead quick + a cheeky flutter + a beer = much fun had by all.
For those of you who have never ventured too far from the tranquil haven of central or south Manchester, this trip gives you the opportunity to see the far flung corners of this fair city, travelling out to the not-too-salubrious location of Belle Vue. Don’t be mistaken by the fancy French name. This place is only put on the map by the presence of the dogs. (Oh and a giant paint warehouse and a bingo hall). However, snide comments aside, it really isn’t too far and I think after four years in the city, it was a long overdue trip.
You get to Belle Vue on the 204 bus to Hyde from the city centre (use the bus stop just by the Bierkeller on Piccadilly). We weren’t too sure where to get off as it’s not too obvious from the road, but it’s the stop by the Showcase cinema and past the big paint warehouse. You might also know the bus stop by the five scallies that were climbing up onto its roof, but they might not be there when you go.
Some of us had bought tickets in advance from the website www.lovethedogs.com, which had given us a decent little package of entry, free beer and a free £2 bet all for £6. On the door, it’s £5.50 without the trimmings, or you could take your chances with the Del Boy geezer outside selling entry and a bet for £4. It worked for us, but it might not always be the most kosher option of getting in.
Once inside, you have different options of where you watch the little hairy fellas run round the track. You can stay in the smoky, working mens’ atmosphere of the bar, head up to the optimistically named ‘Grandstand’ which has the bonus of seats and a roof, or head trackside. As we were pretty sure we were going to be pros at this betting malarkey, we headed trackside to see the dogs up close and personal.
Armed with our form guide, we launched ourselves into the betting. If you’ve been to or betted on the horses, you’ll have an advantage. I spent most of the time ignoring the form guide as I couldn’t decipher the bugger. If you don’t want to rely on their previous form you can always check them out in the flesh, as, ten minutes before each race, the dogs are paraded so you can pick your own winner. I started off with the “if it goes for a poo whilst on parade, it’s a definite winner as it’ll be lighter” tactic, but after race one, I decided my logic was flawed.
There are six dogs in each race, so in an evening of fourteen races you have a good chance of picking a winner at some point and not going home humiliated. You can bet from as little as 50p, but the returns on most races (for a £2 bet) were often under a fiver. I only won once, but did manage to win big, earning myself £16 and covering my whole night’s costs. There’s a bar and fast food and plenty of places to sit if you’re not hardcore enough to brave the chilly Manchester evenings trackside.
The atmosphere is really good fun, with friendly staff who help you with the betting system if you’re a pleb like me, and a big mix of people, from middle-aged hen nights to pipe-smoking regulars. Definitely a grand evening out to enjoy with a few mates, and even if you haven’t got much money, you could still have a good night on just over a tenner.
where: Belle Vue Greyhound Stadium, Kirkmanshulme Lane, Gorton, Manchester
when: Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays
travel: 204 bus to Hyde or 203 to Stockport (£3 Dayrider)
cost: £5.50 Tues/Thurs, £6 Fri/Sat (can save money if booked in advance)
words: Catherine Bolsover