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We don’t mean by this title that we have begun to swagger like scallies while wearing anoraks and showing off our Northern Quarter haircuts. Oh no. We decided that we should walk the route of the A57(M), the Mancunian Way, which runs along the bottom of the city centre.
This is either a sincere tribute or blatant plagiarism of John Davies, the vicar who introduced me to the concept of psychogeography. John took a sabbatical to walk the length of the M62, from coast to coast. He blogged about it and published it as a book. So we set out to follow in his footsteps, in quest of our own nearest motorway, all 3.02 miles of it.
I hoped to do an interesting psychogeographical map for this, turning Manchester city centre into a face with the Mancunian Way as its mouth. Interestingly, this just didn’t work, but I am convinced that the Mancunian Way is where Manchester’s smile would be if it had one.
We do realise that walking under flyovers in the city centre is not how most people would choose to spend a bank holiday. But we’re the Manchester Zedders and we make our own entertainment.
So we met up at Piccadilly and walked through some grim old industrial areas, in the process spotting another gate to hell:
On the way to the start of the motorway, we found some extremely dangerous buttercups:
It was nice to discover that some other people had thought a motorway was worth making a fuss about. What a party this day must have been:
We spent some time getting ourselves to places no sane person would normally try to walk to, and looking at the bottom of the motorway. I bet you didn’t know that motorways are just made out of great big floorboards.
And I doubt many people have had this view while on foot:
Then we found that getting out of these places proved somewhat more of a challenge. Marie, the Trespasser Extraordinaire, spotted an arrow and insisted that we risk life and limb to cross the sliproad and follow it:
We disappeared into some bushes and found ourselves in the grounds of some university building. Not expecting people to come in off the motorway, the authorities had not seen fit to provide an easy way out of the grounds, so we wandered randomly for some time before escaping over a fence.
At some point in the wanderings, I realised that a quite staggering amount of my field of vision was filled with concrete. You know when something is so titanically ugly that it becomes kind of beautiful? Well, this didn’t quite get there.
Concrete experts are rightly very pleased with the Mancunian Way:
Marie wishes to know more about the Concrete Society. Do they have some legal responsibility or are they just enthusiasts?
Our fellow Manc blogger Lost in Manchester has also recently blogged about concrete and the Mancunian Way. Great minds… Lost also mentioned this – the blind slip road that goes nowhere:
I really really wanted to get up there but I’m not quite that stupid. And we didn’t have a ladder. We love things that go nowhere. Roads, stairways, old railways, pointless walks. If it’s better to travel than to arrive, this sliproad is damn near perfect. Perhaps it goes to all the Manchesters that could have been but never were.
There were various points of interest during our illicit university visit:
From this point, we entered into a period of criss-crossing back and forth under flyovers and through scary underpasses, trying to follow the line of the motorway and being repulsed as unworthy due to our lack of vehicles.
It was quite noticeable that there were far fewer quirky and whimsical things happening around the motorway than in most of the bits of Manchester we’ve drifted through. For obvious reasons, people really aren’t encouraged to hang around there, so it’s all a bit barren and empty. Another reason was brought home to us when Marie asked ‘Can you hear thunder?’ and I pointed out that no, we were just standing 15 feet below a busy motorway.
Someone’s decided, though, that while the underneath of a motorway might be no place for proper people, it’s good enough for skateboarding and footballing teenagers.
Marie liked to see that lush, verdant Astroturf sticking out here like a sore thumb, and think of people determinedly using this space, against all the odds. I just worried about their poor wee lungs and eardrums.
We also spotted this:
Handy to have somewhere to put your students for the summer, but I’d be worried about folding my little brother down to put him in one those boxes.
Some charming architect had decided that the ‘grim concrete’ ambience of the whole area would be complemented perfectly by a deliberately rusty building:
There was more life as we crossed the Oxford Road, where there was a nice second-hand book sale going on. We challenged each other to buy appropriate books. I got a very academic book about Victorian cities, but Marie won by buying a book that looked so boring it became a work of art. The second-hand book man asked if we were History students. We said no. He looked confused. (Marie has spent most of the time while I’ve been writing this reading me choice excerpts from her book. I think we should both get out more.)
We calculated afterwards that the bookstall was in the 100th square we have zedded, so we have retrospectively declared this a centenary celebration.
As we got further out, into Hulme where people have to live near the motorway, it got a bit more interesting:
We walked over a pretty footbridge
and saw some pretty lights that made a shape like a flower.
There was a good view from the footbridge, with proper Manchester landmarks: the G-Mex and the Beetham Tower. Our friend Bazza could tell you exactly how many bricks there are in the G-Mex if you were interested.
Finally, we found the end of the motorway:
This one will be the cover of our book when some insightful and forward-looking publisher discovers us.
We did wonder, though, what bike had left this mess:
Then we headed back to the Oxford Road, where normal people were doing sensible bank holiday things and attending a music festival. We got to see the Lithuanian Tori Amos and everything. But we digress. On the way we saw an impressive old bit of canal:
and some baby gooses:
They wouldn’t let us get past so we had to take an alternative route, where we saw a building that appeared to have regurgitated its insides onto the pavement like last night’s old kebab:
Which was a nice contrast with the sign below. I’m not sure a tree-lined street is really such a new thing for Manchester, but I’m all in favour of having more of them.
And we will close with a quote about the state of Lancashire’s roads:
‘Our wayes are gulphs of duste and mire, which none Scarce ever passe in summer without moane.’
This was Richard James of Oxford in the seventeenth century, and we stole it from Marie’s book, Lancashire by JJ Bagley (Batsford, 1972). Things have changed a little since then.
Location: The Mancunian Way
Date zedded: 25 May 2009
A to Z: page 95 squares F5, G6, F6, E6; page 94 squares D6, C6, B6, C5, D5
Getting there: A short walk from Piccadilly station
Squares this expedition: 9
Running total: 105
We weren’t really zedding when this happened but we thought you would enjoy it, dear readers.
I always feel strange leaving the Lowry. It is the job of theatres and cinemas to transport you to other worlds and I always get a little jolt when I return to the normality of the busy streets. The Lowry, itself looking like it has landed from space, spits you out onto Salford Quays, a weird slightly sterile environment with futuristic buildings and few signs of human habitation. It’s a place that that has been designed but not yet lived in.
We walked over the ship bridge, remarking that the lower decks would be a great place to launch a remote controlled boat. Ship bridge? I hear you ask. Well this isn’t the point of the story but it is a pleasing diversion: The Detroit Bridge’s original home and function was to allow rail access to Trafford Park but was moved to it’s present location 1988. The move required its flotation down the canal by pontoons and this required its registration as a ship. This enables me to to be factually correct when I tell people, “this bridge, it’s a ship, this bridge is” and it pleases me to do so.
We arrived at the tram stop with time to think about running for the tram but didn’t (as my knee is still sore from last week’s urban adventure). It was going to Special, anyway and we couldn’t decide if we wanted to go to special. Many trams in the city centre are going to special these days which is fair enough but didn’t help my feeling that I wasn’t quite back in my own world yet.
Waiting on the tram platform, I saw a small dark shape scampering across the road, I pointed. “An animal of some sort, a rabbit or a rat or something”
“Rabbit!” Liam scoffed “far more likely to be a rat”
“Suppose” I said shrugging, What’s the statistic, never more than 10 feet from a rat in the city “…still there tho, see that dark shape”
“Shall I sneak up on it?” Liam wondered. I encouraged this and kept watch for the tram.
Moments later Liam is back pointing and gesturing enthusiastically. “did you see that, did you see that?”
I hesitate, not wanting to admit I’d been too busy thinking how sad the play was, to watch him sneak up on a rodent.
“Wabbit!” he announces incredulously. “A wabbit! What’s it doing round here? it was quite a nonchalant rabbit, let me get quite close but then ran off. Wabbit”
We sit and wait for the tram discussing where our furry friend might be living in the urban moonscape that is Salford Quays. “They like sandy soil to burrow in, there’s nowhere round here that’s rabbit friendly. What on earth made you think it was a rabbit from first glance?”
“it just had a.. dunno..sort of… wabbitty.. way of moving.” I finish feebly before jumping up. “there it is!”
We both creep away from the tram stop, me trying to get my cameraphone to come back on. Night mode, cameraphone, don’t make me laugh. Can’t take a pic of a rabbit when it is sat a metre away from you, twitching its ears, nonchalantly eating the grass that grows between tram tracks. Eating the grass that grows in between tram tracks! is there no better place for you to live, my furry friend? Our wabbit scampers off under a gate and sits beside a fence watching us watching it for quite a while. We worry in case our wabbit is someone’s escaped pet but we conclude that from it small size and leanness it looks less like a hutch dwelling wabbit and more like an urban – live by its wits – sort of a wabbit. Eventually it disappears into some wastleland – wasteland we had already observed someone had gone to trouble of fencing in and putting electric wiring on the top of the fence. Maybe it’s just really important we leave the rabbits alone.
We sit and discuss whether wabbits normally live in urban areas and whether anyone will believe us. Liam says he is going to google “urban rabbit” when he gets in. “You are going to find a myspace account belonging to hairy young men making nasty noises with guitars, I fear” Some lights appear. “Here’s our twam” announces Liam and I wonder how long before the bunnification of our speech patterns will wear off.
Back on the internet. I’m no wiser about whether it’s common for rabbits to live in urban areas, except they do hang about by the Arc de Triomphe, they live on roundabouts in Gloucestershire and they burrow under bookshops in inverness
I think you will agree, this is not the most bunny friendly sort of place:
The events in this post take place on page 93. Bunnies can be spotted and trams caught from square F5, the lowry can be visited in square E6