Archive for July, 2009

In which they stand in the middle of a reservoir

By Marie

It was a drizzly Sunday afternoon, ideal weather for standing in the middle of a reservoir. Our destination, as regular readers will know, was this:


We should perhaps say at this point that we didn’t know whether it was possible to get there, and google earthing beforehand is anathema to us. Liam disapproves of all pre-zedding research where I quite like it. On this occasion we met each other half way, metaphorically speaking, in Fairfield. When we were checking our route I discovered it would take us to a ye olde worlde weird religious community, and I likes Religious Communities.

We had a technical hitch when we got to the Whizzgo car. The thingmajig that reads the electric card dodad that lets us into the car had fallen off the windscreen leaving it lying on its back like a dying bug with it’s suction cups flailing in the air, millimetres too far away to register the magic be-beep. We rang them and they let us use the other little car. Presumably it had to be reattached, did someone from Whizzgo get to leave the call centre and come to the the northern quarter just to lick some suckers?

So we got to the Fairfield Moravian Community and parked up. Allow us to provide a quote for your edification:

Fairfield …was opened in 1785. It was planned and built by its own people. The village was self-contained and self-governed, with its inn, shop, bakery, farm, laundry, fire-engine, night-watchman, inspector of weights and measures, an overseer of roads, and even its own physician. There were community houses for sisters and brethren, who applied themselves to the varied work of the settlement.

The place was a hive of industrious and religious activity. The Single Brethren had a bakehouse, and every week-day a Single Brother rode out on horseback delivering bread. The Single Sisters had a farm and a laundry, did beautiful needlework and sent some to Queen Adelaide, pleasing her so much that she ordered more. In all this was a two-fold purpose. On the one hand they were supporting the community; on the other they had they had a definite religious mission; and even the inn was considered a place where gospel tracts might fitly be left. The little village was the home of law and order, peace and quiet.

Nowadays where there were once sleeping fields, pirates have moved in:

pirates on the moravian fields

The village was a sweet, sleepy leftover from another age. It actually looked like a model village, I kinda wanted to live there as I am excessively pleased by sash windows. However, one of the things I really like about zedding is when we get to discover some of the city’s story, some of the variety and humanity that makes Manchester what it is, and I love the bits where history seems to lurk in wait for us, showing us a brief picture of a bygone time. I wanted to go to Fairfield because the story of these people, building their own utopian dream, really appealed to me: a community of people who got to live and work with those who shared their values. But being there and standing where they stood didn’t show me anything, whatever powers smile on zedders had nothing for us in Fairfield and so we moved on.

old post box plaque nice terrace moravian college cross on the pavement moravian church church plaque terrace old house old lampost church

Now we thought that the only connection between our two destinations was that they were in the same direction but our post zedding research yielded fruit for us. Let us introduce you to our new friend John Frederick La Trobe Bateman:
Good beard.

It turns out that Mr La Trobe Bateman was, as grandson of the Reverend Benjamin La Trobe, the former Moravian minister at Fairfield, an old boy of the Settlement school, and appears to have been involved in building every reservoir for 50 miles – including our destination today. According to our source, ‘The reservoirs are still in use, and at the time were the largest constructed in the world, and a model for other water conservation schemes. The reservoirs boast that they have never run dry.’ Reservoirs that not only look weird in the A to Z, but boast as well! Wonders never cease.

So on to the boastful Audenshaw Reservoirs. Liam got distracted on the way by this sign:
bending centre
Liam is confident that the humour in this will be apparent to anyone who was a little boy in the eighties. Nothing like a bit of retro homophobia to make a grown man giggle. But seriously, what do they do in there?

The reason that we were driving around looking at bending centres was that there was no obvious way to access the reservoir. We got out of the car in a rather lovely neighbourhood, the sort with nice gardens and nice net curtains a-twitching at us. Oh yes, we like to start our trespassing in a neighbourhood watch area, darlings, it just makes it more fun. Liam thought a little old lady may be on the phone reporting us as potential terrorists. “Yes officer they were taking photos of the reservoir, we’ll all be poisoned, poisoned we will”. I say even old ladies know terrorists don’t wear pink shoes.

So we traipsed up a back alley, past some smart garages and through a playing field. When we realised there was still a railway line between us and the reservoir, words were had between us as Liam sought to suggest that I, being the one carrying the map, might have noticed this beforehand. We began to feel this might be our first failed zedding expedition.

But we persisted – it helped that we found a bridge – and eventually found that, despite spiky fences and concrete barriers, enterprising trespassers had found a way:
liam by a gap
Just behind Liam, there, is a squeezable-through gap! Some graffiti artists had left a slightly vague and confused warning –
Do not...
-but we didn’t let that stand in our way.

We marched along the side of the reservoir, proud of our little trespassing selves, only to find that others had got there first. We first spotted a man with a plastic bag and a camera. Trespassing is less exciting when other people are doing it.

And we always keep our clothes on when trespassing, so we felt completely outclassed when we got to the join between two of the reservoirs, and noticed that teenage girls were swimming topless in there. Liam is now disappointed that so few of our zedding trips have involved women in states of undress, but for obvious reasons we didn’t get any photographic evidence. The moody-looking teenage lads fishing further up the reservoir appeared to be connected to the skinny dippers in some way, and we didn’t want to upset them either.

Anyway, this collection of three reservoirs does look pretty much as weird in realings as it did in the A to Z – like roads across the sea – and it is possible to stand in the middle. Result!
a lot of water me in the middle of a reservoir from the middle

And it does look rather odd on Google Earth too:
Picture 1

I need some caffeine and cannot drink over pooter, so I’ll hand you over to Liam:

Marie was charmed by these inscrutable bits of reservoir-related industrialness, which look like prototype Daleks:
early daleks
When you’ve invested many hours in knitting a Dalek, apparently they start to look cute.

We felt sorry for the nice reservoirs. Not only because they have no names other than ‘number 1’, ‘number 2’ and ‘number 3’. But also because four whole squares of A to Z – four nice, pretty, peaceful squares – are off limits to everyone except enterprising psychogeographers, skinny dippers, moody boys and men with carrier bags. Oh, and older teenage boys smoking pot, who gave us a mean stare as we were leaving.

We found out afterwards that good old Numbers 1, 2 and 3 are not even being used for the purposes for which they were intended – unless of course Mr La Trobe Bateman was a fan of naturism. They’re actually closed off so that a sailing club can be built here. Shame. Interestingly, the A to Z currently shows a sailing club on the far side of the motorway from the reservoirs. We had images of people waiting for a quiet moment to drag their yachts across, until we realised there’s another reservoir over that way.

Back at the car, we encountered this enigmatic message on a bin:
Mind that child
Is that a maximum speed for the bin? Its capacity for holding children? Enquiring minds want to know. If children are racing wheelie bins through the streets of Audenshaw, we want to witness it.

Lastly, we decided we had to go here and see what it was all about:

Disappointingly, it turns out that when they say ‘The City’, what they mean is ‘dull suburban street overlooked by a stack of cargo containers’:
"The city"
You live and learn. So we headed back to the real city for fish and chips.

Vital statistics

Location: Fairfield and Audenshaw
Date zedded: 12 July 2009
A to Z: Page 98 square F5, page 112 squares D2, D3, C3, C2, D5
Getting there: We cheated and took a Whizzgo car, but you could easily get a train to Fairfield station. It’s also not far from the end of the Fallowfield Loop cycleway.
Squares this expedition: 6
Running total: 111

July 22, 2009 at 9:34 pm 3 comments

Forthcoming attractions

by Marie

On browsing the a to z, as we do from time to time, I developed an overwhelming desire to stand there:
Watch out for the next episode soon.

July 15, 2009 at 9:12 pm 1 comment

Running Total

135 squares

Follow the Manchester Zedders


July 2009