Thanks for all the comment guys, and for making a newbie feel welcome.
Trebz: it was your rockhopper thread that came up while searching google images for them that led me to this site.
Stumpjumper1990: thanks for posting the 88 catalogue - nice to see what it would have originally looked like when new.
I wouldn't have had the foggiest whether it was Exage or Deore that it would have originally been fitted with - i presume you're talking about the gear change mechanism, i don't know what the correct term is for it.
I'm i little nervous about getting stuck into this as it's not something i've done before but i'm sure i'll be ok once i get going!
The frame seems to be more covered in like an oily, greasy dirty residue rather than just dirt. I have some water based Jizer degreasent that i'm thinking of using on it, would this be ok? I don't really want to risk damaging paintwork or decals. The paint has got a fair few small rust spots here and there, but from what i can tell it should look a lot better with just a clean and a polish up - from what i've been reading on here "patina" is the term from the worn, weathered, well-used look??
I guess as it looks like it's been stood for so long, i'd be best to strip out and regrease things like the crank, headrace / steering bearings, wheel bearings and the like as well as oiling control cables.
I guess it would really benefit from a full re-spray but i don't want to go that far at the moment, just get it clean and rideable. Not sure exactly when i'm gonna start yet, and it'll probably be slow going, but I will post pics as i go along, and any advice would always be welcome.
Been having a good nose round the site over the past few days - and seen some lovely bikes (not that i have a clue what most of them are! not really having much knowledge at all on MTB's) and really clued up people who know their stuff!