Posts filed under ‘zedding trip’

In which they walk on jam

By Marie

On the first Sunday in October the Manchester Zedders were pleased to join the LRM for a loiter around Didsbury. We had already zedded the gates to hell so no new squares for us, but it was nice to do it as a group.
at gates to hell
Fletcher Moss and his haunted house were already known to us, his house had apparently had quite a reputation before he took it on. Servants refused to live in it because of noises in the night. We had heard that this was later shown to be caused by tightrope-walking rats pitter-pattering along the cords for the servants’ bells, but according to Alan, facilitator of this month’s wander, the skeptical Mr Moss found no logical explanation for the strange goings on in the haunted parsonage and concluded that his dog Gomer was freaked out by a spirit.

Alan had some info on the church nearby. In the 12th century it was recorded as having “antiquity beyond memory”. The very phrase just thrills me. Say it out loud to yourself, savour it, whisper “antiquity beyond memory”. I love it. We have good reason to think that a church this old was probably Christianising some ancient holy site. Did the ghost of some spirit, no longer given homage, return to bother poor Gomer? We will never know.
st james didsbury

We took a look around the parsonage gardens, we found this stone.
millstone
Perhaps another clue about our mill by the Mersey. We told other loiterers about our quest to find a mill which had disapeared from the A to Z between 1997 and 2005.

The parsonage gardens had a lot of yew trees, as is right and proper for a holy site with antiquity beyond memory. As we wandered, the fallen berries mixed with fallen needles to create a substance a bit like…well… jam. It stuck to the sole of our boots in a layer an inch thick and was difficult to remove. Jam Jam Jam. Walking on Jam is a weird sensation and I was glad to scrape the stuff off me and move on into Fletcher Moss Gardens, where we were looking for mushrooms and berries. In France, so I’m told, if you pick mushrooms in the wild you can go to a pharmacy and the pharmacist is required by law to tell you which are edible and which are not. We love that they take their food that seriously, it tells you something about the priorities of a nation. The Germans, bless em, have laws about beer that are older than their country. Anyone want to tell us about any endearing British laws?
fruit and sky

We found an amazing bench in Fletcher Moss Gardens.
me on bench

it had some lovely detail
bench detail bench monster chocolate i sat on more bench
Very nice. I like this because of how different it is to other memorial benches. It is a collection of someone’s favorite things, an attempt to hint at a person’s personality and in so doing keep their memory alive in those it delights.

I have a fear of having a memorial bench dedicated to me, and then the inevitable dereliction of my bench as I am forgotten.  Liam is going to endeavour to prevent any bench dedications, should he survive me. This will not help, of course, if we are both killed in some horrific zedding-related accident. What disturbs me about some memorials is that they seem to underline the reality that the person has faded from memory. As a student, I lived in William Thompson Halls of Residence and the only time I paused to wonder who Willy Tom had been, was to reflect on the irony that no one seemed to know. No benches please. Not even lovely ones.

It may also be worthy of mention that the café in Fletcher Moss Gardens was once home to the headquarters of the Plumage League. “What was the Plumage league?” we hear you cry. Founded by women in 1889, it campaigned against the slaughter of birds for feathers to be used in the millinery trade. At the time, nearby Stockport was the hat-making centre of the known world, so it is fitting that the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds should be able to trace its origins here. Plumage League tho, a better name I think than RSBP.

Having worked up a thirst, we headed to The Didsbury for refreshments.

More photos here

October 26, 2009 at 11:06 pm 2 comments

In which they do not star in The Wire

by Marie

We decided to spend our Sunday afternoon zedding. We had an invitation to go look at a brand new baby so we packed our knitted booties and fairtrade babygro, and like the guardian reading lefties we are, set off to walk there – thereby eschewing public transport and nasty cars. A pleasant stroll through some parks and… Gunchester!!! …Britain’s bronx!! The urban no go area that is Moss side!!!

Um.. sorry.. I don’t what came over me there. I seemed to think I was writing copy for a tabloid newspaper. A similar madness recently possessed Chris Grayling, the shadow home secretary, MP for… um I don’t know…somewhere leafy down south…
“Liam…could you google for me where the nice man comes from?”
“Epsom, Surrey” I’m blogging this in real time, Liam is reading me stuff about how many posh schools there are there. So to be fair, poor Chris must have felt uneasy coming this far north at all. For those of you not keeping track of Manchester news. The zedders were amused that Mr Grayling had recently suggested that there was an “urban war” going on in Moss side. It is “The world of the drama series The Wire”. This excited Liam, Liam loves The Wire, and now it is on his very own doorstep.
I haven’t got into The Wire, “What is about Liam?”
It’s set among gangland violence in Baltimore, a city with a murder rate the same as that of Manchester.. and Glasgow …and Liverpool… and Sheffield… and Epsom added together.
“What else happens Liam?”
“Sometimes opportunistic politicians exploit disadvantaged communities for political gain”
Nothing like Moss side then. Let’s go take a look…

There was an interesting religion sandwich on the A to Z: Church – Temple – Church. There was a Gurdwara, between a Polish church and an nice red brick church, a smiling family in pretty clothes were going to worship there. Polish church polish church gragoyle
red church


There’s a lot of religion in Moss side,

IMGP0026 sunflower by church

we saw some pretty stuff outside a mosque.
pretty thing outside a mosque hand and moon
Hare Krishnas later in Whalley range as well. Seventh Day adventists and then we saw the Brotherhood of the Cross and Star. Aim: Love one another. Nothing to argue about there.
church with practical aim

We are all in favour of people having the religious freedom to love one another. “I’m gonna find them on the ninterweb when we get home” said I. Liam said that he didnt think they looked like they would be keyed in to the the web 2.0 generation. But no, The brotherhood of the cross and star are sooo on the internet. You can go read about how His Holiness Olumba Olumba Obu has been revealed (to himself) to be the reincarnation of Jesus. But you probably don’t want to.*

We wandered up to the brewery and back, are those towers full of beer?
beer towers brewery
M


abandoned truck


Liam wanted to show me these historic houses as he knew I’d like them, I do like them and can’t find out what they were. If you goggle the street name you can find lots of opportunities to help the police with their enquiries. What can I say to you? It felt like a nice stroll out on a Sunday afternoon, at no point did I feel like I would end up helping the police with their enquires.
pretty historic houses

A big yellow community/youth facility has been built on Raby Road. We liked that. We like big yellow buildings.
church and powerhouse


powerhouse
Then we went into the grid of smart little terraces. They were the next model up in terraced houses from the one I grew up in. They had pretty tiles in their porches. Historically Moss side was a bit more well to do than more working class Hulme. The first Afro Caribbean immigrants to the city settled here. We were looking for Steve street, because we thought that was quite a funny name for a street. We couldn’t find it tho, a friendly man asked us if we needed directions, which we politely declined, I just couldn’t face explaining. Liam says he remembers noticing how ethnically diverse the area was. People of all colours were out on the streets, unlike similar areas of Birmingham where sometimes I notice that I am the only white person in the street. Interestingly, when I first moved from Birmingham to Manchester I remember noticing how the people in the city centre were mainly white, which gave me a sense of unease for a while, like a significant proportion of the population had just disappeared.

back streets

So we saw some boys on bicycles, according to myth, they should be drug running. If it was The Wire, Liam knowledgablely informs me, they would be called hoppers. They could of course, have just been boys on bicycles. They didn’t do anything to suggest they weren’t. We did however, find evidence of a crime problem in Moss side:

IMGP0029

We can’t wait for the episode of The Wire about that.

We wandered, admiring the hanging baskets, we saw this:

a story

“I like the way that the streets around here smell of hops”. And it does, Ms Finch is quite right. This is another story-fragment the city has given us. This and no more, we don’t know who Ms Finch is or why her delight in the smell of hops has been immortalised in street art. I love that it has tho. I hope she is a Moss side local.

We saw an ice cream van but it was too fast for us. Having heard the chimes, like Pavlovs dogs, we went into a shop a bought ice cream and sat on a grass verge to eat it. Liam’s ice cream fell off its stick which isn’t very interesting for you but upset him at the time.

ice cream van

Before we leave Moss side, I guess this is the place to say it, what we saw was that people cared enough about their houses to put hanging baskets outside, that they were willing to give directions to lost looking strangers, that ice cream was for sale and two Guardian readers can wander around taking photos without fearing for their lives. We don’t mean to be glib about the drug and gun problems which must have destroyed the lives of so many mothers’ sons; each one is a tragedy. What we do want to illustrate is that sometimes fear is much worse than the thing you fear. The people of Moss side have had to put up with being their area being talked about all over the national media as a scary place to be, yet they have been growing flowers and buying ice cream and falling in love and having babies and doing all the beautiful ordinary things of life. I went to Moss side. I saw flowers.

IMGP0028

We walked through Alexandra Park. Its park keeper’s cottage is all boarded up, it must have been a nice house once when this gnarly tree was young.

park keeper's cottage

gnarled

The peaceful air was punctuated by the loud crack… of leather on willow. Yep. It is Sunday afternoon and the young men of Moss side are playing cricket. Just like they do in Epsom, eh Chris?

cricket

We saw a group of young men further up the path and, I’m ashamed to say, I put my camera in my bag out of sight as we passed them. As we walked by they showed no interest in us and carried on talking about the smell of their own farts.

Then we passed into a magical autumnal glade were golden leaves floated slowly to the ground. On that side of the park there is a wonderful promenade for the folks of Whalley Range to come out of their lovely villas and to march up and down seeing and being seen.

magical autumn glade trees

We saw a church that had been converted into flats and had it’s steeple truncated. Liam reckoned that looking at the cars he probably couldn’t afford the flats. He is looking to move if anyone wants to offer him a nice one bed flat with character in a nice area. Extra points if it has a spiral staircase or is in a converted church. Or a balcony, he says, but actually he is picky about balconies, he likes to be able to see how they are held up, sturdy buttresses only please.

church that was flats first stolen steeple

Next door was Mayfield Mansions, which I had insisted we see because it was named the Mansions. It looked like the place Poirot lives, maybe he did, it had seen better days.

the mansions

And there was St Bedes, which was gloriously excessive. It is a Catholic independent school, with some uncared for statues adorning the porch. There were carvings of things you might want to grow up to do like wearing a silly wig, or bad tights, or writing with a quill or unloading ships. There was a latin inscription that Liam attempted to translate, but some of it had fallen off, I didn’t even try, I went to a comprehensive. Doctor Who went to school here, or Colin Baker did. There were some very scary stone men watching us, I think they thought we were up to no good.
st bede's
standing there listening silly wigs sculpture ships staring peoplehere's looking at you kid

Just round the corner, where we were looking for a place to sneak into the school grounds, a sad looking little boy approached us and politely enquired where he might find a park near there. We were delighted to direct him back to Alexandra Park. We hope it cheered him up.

Then we headed to Trafford to see the baby. On the way we saw another even more truncated stepple. We didn’t get a photo but I swear we saw a sign saying “Spire hospital” obviously in great demand locally, maybe that is where the steeples have gone.

who stole the top of this church

We saw a nice sunflower

sunflower

And Lowry’s birthplace. Strange that Lowry, who was born in Trafford and lived and painted in Salford is synonymous with Manchester in the mind of the rest of the world.

lowry woz ere weird monster

We passed through another park, where we paused to write down a list of things we had seen on our travels on the back of a train ticket in case we forgot them. As we did this some boys of about 10 passed us talking about explosives. We did not report them to the department of homeland security, sorry. If there is a major terrorist incident in suburban Trafford next week you can blame us. We are not the sort of people who check our neighbour’s bins.

The list contains:

  • shrieking public toilet
  • mime getting someone to take his photo on a mobile phone
  • whining dog on bus with very prominent testicles
  • woman with purple dreadlocks on a bike
  • dog crossing a road on his own
  • tutankhamun doorknocker
  • boys talking about their farts

Google map:

Location:Moss side
Date zedded: 13 September
A to Z: Page 109 and 108 F3 E3 D3 E4 D4 C4 B4 B3 A3
Target square: G6
Getting there: Once again, one of the multitude of 42, 142 or 143 buses down the Oxford Road.
Squares this expedition: 9
Running total: 135

*Edit
We have had a correction sent in by an eagle eyed reader of our facebook feed:

One minor correction: as I read their website (this reader did want to!), His Holiness Olumba Olumba Obu was revealed as the reincarnated Jesus not by himself, but by the Brotherhood’s founder, his confusingly named father, Leader Olumba Olumba Obu, Supreme Holy Father, sole spiritual Head of the universe, and perhaps (it is both hinted and denied) none other than God the Father physically manifest on the earth plane since 1918. (And as further evidence of their web-savviness, the Brotherhood turn out to even have a facebook page!)

So, our apologies to the brotherhood. It was revealed to his Dad that he was the reincarnation of Jesus. My misunderstanding was clearly silly. Thank you Robert.

September 28, 2009 at 9:00 am 9 comments

In which they go searching for a ditch

By Liam, because Marie has been working for 125 hours and isn’t up to typing

Running across a big stretch of South Manchester is a very, very long ditch. Legend (and Wikipedia) has it that the Nico Ditch, or Mickle Ditch, was dug in one night, by men who were forced to dig it at swordpoint. They were protecting Manchester from the Danes, who apparently lived in Stockport. South of Manchester. Vikings. Don’t ask us, it’s a legend. Each man had to dig a ditch and build a wall his own height. Marie reckons this must have made the wall pretty wonky in places. Then they had a whacking big fight, which apparently gave the areas of Gorton and Reddish their names (Gore-town and Red-ditch, geddit?)

Spoilsports – sorry, archaeologists – suggest that it’s highly unlikely that it was built in one night, given that Manchester didn’t have so many people in it then and it’s a very long ditch. And Gorton means ‘dirty farmstead’ and Reddish means ‘reedy ditch’, nothing to do with blood or killing. And the ditch isn’t V-shaped like a fortification, but U-shaped like a boundary ditch. Which still begs the question – why did they need such a definite six-mile boundary? They must really not have liked those Stockport Vikings.

We have become so knowledgeable about ditches, fighting and etymology because at the Word of Mouth storytelling event recently, Marie heard the story of the ditch. So obviously, she came back and asked me if I wanted to go looking for a really old ditch. And obviously, I agreed.

Some of the ditch is now under our old friends the Audenshaw Reservoirs. Some of it runs through Denton golf course, which might have been a bit of fun trespassing but a bit dull otherwise. So we decided to visit the bit that’s in Platt Fields Park.

Now, I’ve gone running in Platt Fields Park in all weathers, and never seen anything resembling a millennium-old ditch. Admittedly I hadn’t been searching for one, but still. So we set off to explore the park as thoroughly as we could.

We realise that this is a bit cheaty, since the ditch actually isn’t shown in the A to Z – although we knew it had to be in squares G5 or G6 on page 109. We did a bit of soul-searching about whether this was a proper zedding, and decided that we’re the Manchester Zedders, dammit, the trespassers extraordinaire, and we make the rules.

We did intent to navigate the park using the A to Z – it shows the paths and the lake and everything. But when we got there, we found the park had such abundant signage and mappage that we didn’t need the A to Z at all. Naughty!

The first thing we saw was some roses and a fountain that belonged to the Queen. Something to do with the Jubilee. The Queen doesn’t seem to care about her fountain much, as it’s run dry. The roses were nice though:

The Queen's roses

Then I insisted that we go and see the ‘Veterans’ Pavilion’. We imagined this would be some phallic war memorial thing. Instead, it was a grubby hut/church hall which appeared to have lost its bowling green. Dusty, neglected and locked up. With plaques on the wall inside proclaiming former victories of the bowling club.

I have to say this confirmed my pacifism. I don’t want to risk my life for Queen and country if that’s all you get when you get home.

I’m afraid we didn’t get any photos of the Pavilion because there were some boys smoking just outside and we didn’t want to make them nervous. Or angry or violent. We do seem to spend a certain amount of our zedding time worrying about the risk of violence from teenage boys. Probably unnecessarily.

After the Pavilion we found a load of strange berries. I had a vague recollection of doing something gross with similar berries as a child, and felt compelled to investigate them. We can report that whatever these berries are, they do burst almost exactly like zits. Eewwwww.

weird disgusting berries

Then there was a pretty avenue. Very Victorian/Edwardian feeling. We wanted to promenade down it wearing bustles and top hats.

nice avenue

As we progressed, we found a series of bright yellow arrows. They were very cheerful and they were clearly encouraging us to go somewhere, but we weren’t sure how. Or where.

arrow Where? more confusing arrows
The mind is willing, but the flesh is earthbound.

Later on, we discovered that the arrows were indeed cheerful and inspirational. They mark the Sri Chinmoy Peace Mile. Later research establishes that Sri Chinmoy was a guru who died in 2007, and he was a dude. As well as preaching world peace and spiritual enlightenment, he lifted light aeroplanes, and practised long-distance running as a form of meditation. One of his followers went up and down Mount Fujiyama on a pogo-stick (and up and down, and up and down). So there are Peace Miles in his memory for people to run or walk on, in cities all over the world. We walked most of this one in our search for the elusive ditch.

peace mile

There were signs telling us not to feed the geese and ducks, because then they would poo too much and algae would make the lake all disgusting and poisonous. But we were more concerned about the frankly terrifying goose in the sign:

sinister goose

We are a bit afraid of geese.

Beyond the lake there was a nice, but sadly neglected, eco-garden for kids. This was a good excuse for me to arse about a bit:

the sensory gardens scary bird garden a nice path Marie on a sofa mini beasties

We particularly liked Wigglit the Worm:

wigglit the worm wigglit

There was a well-intentioned oven meant for baking pizzas. It had, of course, been used to burn Pepsi cans and crisp packets:

an oven for making pizza in

This plant had spikes on its spikes:

liam contemplates a spikey thing spikey thing

Next. we went off on a side-quest. We saw a sign saying that somewhere, we should be able to find a ‘teenage village’. I was keen to see what this could mean, although Marie insisted it would be like something out of Lord of the Flies. It turned out that the clever park people had noticed how teenagers like to hang around kids’ playgrounds in the evenings, perching on the roundabouts and drinking cider and copping off with one another. So they’d built the teenagers their own special climbing frame thingy, with little huts to gossip and flirt in, and platforms to show off on and impress girls.

Ironically, when we got there, the only user of the teenage village was a dad, playing on it with a little toddler. A kind of revenge/reversal?

Then, finally, we located the Mickle Ditch. Hurray! The bit in Platt Fields is not only a very old hole in the ground. Oh no. It’s a Scheduled Ancient Monument:

Mickle Ditch

It was fenced in, and I was all geared up for some trespassing. But then we found there was a gate to get in, and it was unlocked! This was a bit disappointing, but I dived in regardless. And got a nasty surprise. While Marie tried to photograph me standing in the old ditch, I discovered I was sinking rather rapidly, and had to scramble free in a rather blurry fashion:

the ditch Liam in the ditch

I can report that thousand-year-old ditches are full of really sticky mud:

ditch mud on Liam's shoes.
This never happens to Doctor Who when he wears these shoes.

Next, we went to the Shakespearean gardens, where there were some boys smoking weed:

shakespeare

Not sure why these gardens are Shakespearean rather than Elizabethan. Maybe something dramatic happened here. Actually, according to the A to Z, there should have been a bowling green here. Perhaps there was some high drama or tragedy involving the gardens, the veterans and their pavilion?

Just past the gardens was something described by the signs as a ‘cathedral arch’. It was indeed impressive:

mystery arch

We liked the fact that we couldn’t get past the fence to go through the arch, so whatever lies beyond remains a mystery. Even more of a mystery because the little sign, that should have told us what a cathedral arch is doing in the middle of a park, had been pretty comprehensively burned and vandalised. Post-zedding web searches haven’t helped a great deal, but it appears some wealthy toff pinched or bought a spare bit of Manchester Cathedral, perhaps in the 1870s, to display as a folly on his land.

Before leaving, we had hoped to drop in on the squatters who occupied Platt Chapel earlier this year, and see what leftfield/anarchist/artistic stuff might be going on. Unfortunately, it appears they’ve moved on or been evicted, taking their T-shirt factory with them:

neglected squat out of business

There was a last, dry, bit of Mickle Ditch for me to stand in, though, so I was happy:

Liam in a ditch

Vital statistics
Map:

Location: Platt Fields Park, Fallowfield

Date zedded: 12 August 2009

A to Z: Page 109 squares F5, G5, F6, G6, H6

Target square: G6

Getting there: Catch one of the multitude of 42, 142 or 143 buses down the Oxford Road. But be prepared for a long, bumpy, slow ride down the Curry Mile.

Squares this expedition: 5

Running total: 126

September 10, 2009 at 9:37 pm 1 comment

In which they discover some sandcastles, a hammer and a cheese bridge in Eccles

By Liam

Marie has long harboured a rather unusual desire to visit Eccles. A group rather charmingly called Freccles have erected a sign at Eccles station saying ‘Discover Eccles past, present and future’. This goads and challenges her every time she goes through on the train. I think she was spurred on further by the discovery that Dr Christopher Eccleston himself unveiled the sign.

So. We set off to discover Eccles in all three tenses. After a false start due to all the trams being cancelled for a month, we grudgingly got the bus. We were expecting Eccles to be the kind of place you should get to by tram. Freccles, of course, would tell us we should have got the train.

The first thing that struck us as we got off the bus was the ubiquitous smell of baking bread. Assiduous Googling has failed to uncover any explanation for why Eccles smells of yeast, so it must remain a mystery. Unless someone wants to tell us – answers on a postcard please.

Despite the enticing smell and the lovely invitation from Freccles, Eccles past, present and future was playing a bit hard to get. Nothing grabbed us immediately as we wandered around the shops.

Pub: Eccles past

Pub: Eccles past

Library past and future

We saw a cross with a plaque and hoped it might have some historical interest. But the plaque had been written by someone with a greater concern for pinpoint geographical accuracy than local history or folklore:

This cross used to be somewhere else

Well, that’s good to know. Just a shame we hadn’t brought a compass, or we could have gone and looked at the spot where the cross used to be but now wasn’t.

Shortly after the cross, we were distracted by a loud and insistent quacking. Many people would have ignored this, but we pursued it to its source. Which turned out to be a CCTV camera. We tried to video this so that we could demonstrate the quacking to you, but it didn’t work so you’ll have to take our word for it. Quacking. We can only assume it was unhappy about something, but we couldn’t work out what, so we left it to its quacking and pressed on.

Quacking camera

Being a little unsure what delights Eccles would have to offer us, we had assembled a shopping list of sites to visit, including a couple of requests. We like requests, and we haven’t had a proper one since Liz and page 39, so this was very exciting. If you have a curiosity in your district and no one else cares, and if you can find us, maybe you could invite us to come and look at it then burble whimsically about it.

Number one request came from Marie’s friend Julie from Knit Club. (Knit Club rule no 1: We do not talk about Knit Club. Or I don’t, anyway.) Julie passes two things every day on her way to work which appear to be giant sandcastles. She wished an explanation.

It took us some time to find them, but zedders cannot be foiled so easily. Here they are:

Sandcastles

Some mild trespassing into a church car park established that these are not, in fact, huge sandcastles. No, they are a grotto to the Virgin Mary in a priest’s garden!

Grotto

I’m not sure whether or not this is stranger than the giant sandcastles theory. We were particularly fascinated by the weird white figure or object at Mary’s feet. From this distance, it looked vaguely like a piglet. Clearly some obscure bit of church lore neither of us had come across before. I should note at this point that I restrained Marie from scaling the spiky fence to get a better photo. I’m getting better at trespassing, but raiding priests’ gardens in broad daylight is still a step too far for me.

On the way to our second request, we were distracted by some local points of interest:

Dolphin Stairlifts
For the dolphin who has everything…

Yay for chains!
These children are clearly saying ‘Yay for chains!’

Police station flats
I’d feel a bit strange living here, no matter that it’s now posh flats.

Chimney
Beautifully Lancashire skyline. That’s what we expected from Eccles.

Request number two also came from Knit Club. The knitter in question wanted to know why a large, and apparently historically significant, piece of machinery was displayed on the edge of a lorry park up a side street in suburban Eccles.

Well, we found the machine, and it is impressive:

Steam hammer

Post-zedding research established that it’s actually an example of the world’s first ever steam hammer, invented by Mr James Nasmyth.

Mr Nasmyth was challenged, a bit like us. Some people are challenged to find sandcastles, some people are challenged to invent big hammers that power Industrial Revolutions. We all have our contributions to make.

He invented his hammer so that they could forge the bits to make the SS Great Britain in the 1830s and 40s. Apparently, none of the existing hammers could lift up high enough to bash what needed bashing. Enter Mr Nasmyth. And for his pains, he now has several streets named after him in Eccles, and his machine displayed on the edge of a lorry park.

Well done, Mr Nasmyth!

Our final destination was also somewhat industrial. We had to walk down a canal to get there, which turned out to be the prettiest bit of Eccles so far:

Canal Narrowboat

We walked past a lot of men and boys fishing on the towpath. This prompted some discussion about hobbies. I have a friend who goes scuba-diving, and I always tell him I don’t like hobbies where the phrase ‘You might die’ must be used when describing them. I have now added  a second undesirable hobby-phrase: ‘You have to carry a box of maggots’.

Zedding. You probably won’t die, and it doesn’t involve any maggots.

After the canal, we struck off the beaten track in search of our destination. We saw these mysterious runes on the stones of a bridge:

Runes

I reckon Dwarves built it.

Then we got lost in what appeared to be a mangrove swamp. A mangrove swamp full of shopping trolleys, with a man drinking super-strength lager in a little grotto at the end. Perhaps he was a lager pixie.

Trolley Liam and trolley

Eventually, we got sight of our target: the cheese bridge. Otherwise known as the Barton Swing Aqueduct. This was designed by James Brindley, beloved of Birmngham. (I was very disappointed to learn on researching this blog that Mr Brindley wasn’t a Brummie at all.) When a Parliamentary Committee asked James some awkward questions about his plans for how two canals would cross over, he didn’t hesitate. He just called for a cheese and built a working model there and then.

It’s very clever. It closes in all the water with doors at each end, then swivels the big box of water around to make room for tall ships to go past. It is, however, not used very much now, and very very difficult to get to.

We got a nice glimpse of it from the road bridge further down the road – and also of the M60 crossing the Ship Canal in the other direction.

M60 bridge

We then had to scramble up a dirty alleyway to a derelict house, into a dead end, and round a corner, before finally emerging near the bridge.

Derelict house

Someone had obviously thought it would be nice to put a pretty pagoda and a picnic spot by this marvel of engineering. But that’s all gone the way of so many well-intentioned regeneration projects, and become a place for teenagers to drink cheap cider and break glass stuff:

Pagoda

The bridge was still there, though – complete with cranes to lower its special doors into place – and we even saw a barge go over it:

Swing Aqueduct

Swing Aqueduct

Door for Swing Aqueduct

Boat on bridge

While scrabbling around the scary alleys, we’d bumped into a man who turned out to be, not a murderous drug addict, but a bridge enthusiast with a very posh camera. So we got to share this sight with someone else. It doesn’t seem to be a sight many people are bothered with any more. Poor James and his cheese.

On the way back, we nearly got the chance to trespass into this impressive tower:

Tower

A workman left the gate open, but we chickened out of going in because he might have shouted at us. Shame on us!

So we made our way back to the shops, and went in search of a baker that would sell us Eccles cake, because it would seem wrong not to eat some as long as we were here.

During our search, we found a shop that sold a range of astonishingly tacky Catholic iconography – and cookers and fans:

Our Lady of the cookers

Jesus with a jewel in his cross

Cyber Last Supper and giant rosaries

It may not be clear from the scale of the photo, but those are the Biggest Rosaries In The World. They’re probably only ever bought by giant mutant nuns.

We also found a battered old mural. It’s called ‘Eccles Wakes!’ but I think it may have gone back to sleep:

Eccles Wakes

Alas, we had left it too late to buy Eccles cakes from the baker, and they’d sold out. So we went to Morrisons and bought them there instead. Doesn’t feel quite the same somehow. We brought them home and ate them while writing this. I can report that an Eccles cake is very like a pasty filled with Christmas pudding. Genius.

Vital statistics

Map:

Location: Eccles past, present and future (but mainly present)

Date zedded: 4 August 2009

A to Z: Page 91 squares H3, H4, G3, G4, F3, F4. E4, E3, E5, F5

Target square: F5

Getting there: There should be a tram but there wasn’t. We caught the number 33 bus from Piccadilly Gardens instead. Or you could go via Eccles railway station and look at Christopher Eccleston’s lovely mural. Freccles would like that.

Squares this expedition: 10

Running total: 121

August 5, 2009 at 11:06 pm 7 comments

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:

sc0005d0d4

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:
bateman3
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:
sc00285041

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
Map: 

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

In which they walk the Mancunian way

By Liam

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:

another gate to hell? suffering face

On the way to the start of the motorway, we found some extremely dangerous buttercups:

drowning in the buttercups risk of drowning

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:

what a party that 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.

under the A57(M)

underneath under

And I doubt many people have had this view while on foot:

in the A57(M)

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:

this way

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.

benches

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.

grim building

Concrete experts are rightly very pleased with the Mancunian Way:

IMGP0042

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:

flyover to 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:

Pedestrians rule! a slogan for Zedders,
conductor family odd sculptures made of old industrial stuff,

killer mickey Killer Mickey,

serious fire escape and the biggest fire escape ever.

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.

cropped by motorway tunnel

IMGP0045 IMGP0048 underneath with frill of rubbish

very tall chimney This chimney is small but that hotel is far away.

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.

footie pitch

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:

store your student

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:

rusty

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.)
Photo 1

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:

smile The subway smiled at us.

canoe There was half a canoe full of plants next to an astoundingly overgrown community garden.

no people We weren’t sure what this sign was telling us. Walk out onto the motorway? Don’t walk out onto the motorway? Look out for idiots walking out onto the motorway?

bridge We walked over a pretty footbridge

daisy lights and saw some pretty  lights that made a shape like a flower.

manchester from the motoway 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.

is this a footpath? We followed some men with a dog along here, which only felt slightly dangerous, and enabled us to see this incongruous picture:
more buttercups

Finally, we found the end of the motorway:

motorway finish

And an amazing photo opportunity:
Manc way


Image008(2)

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:

cycle poo

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:

canal boats wasteland canal bridge

and some baby gooses:

goslings 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:

building was sick

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.

There shall be trees!

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.

Vital statistics
Map:

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

June 4, 2009 at 7:27 pm 6 comments

In which they do not see any castles

by marie

Our target for this zedding was Marie Street, not as far as I am aware, named in my honour. I had also noticed that near Marie Street there is Inghamwood Close – probably not named in honour of our friend Wood Ingham – and Symon Street – probably not named in honour of my old colleague Symon with a y. But it is enough for us that they are there, so we headed off to page 82.
IMGP0035 copy IMGP0038 IMGP0041

After failing to work how to catch a bus to Marie Street at Shudehill bus station, we wandered through the warehouses of Strangeways and Cheetham Hill. We stoped to take photos of the prison because I have heard you can be arrested for that and forced to delete them. No one stopped us but it appealed to the trespasser in me.
IMGP0005 IMGP0006 IMGP0007 IMGP0008

We found a Eastern European shop. The man who owned the building challenged us as to why were taking pictures of it, ironic when I’d gotten away with it at the prison. The shop, is apparently named “Homeland” in Russian which struck me as bad marketing, I was under the impression that the most of Eastern Europe hated the Russians like the Scots hate the English? Our Lithuanian consultant, however, says the word will understood by Slovaks, Poles, Czechs, etc, etc and maybe we don’t care about the Russian name if they sell our food.
IMGP0021

We saw some beer, some once lovely buildings and this sign…
IMGP0009 IMGP0012 IMGP0013 Image007(1)

Some enigmatic graffiti
IMGP0020

Radical feminists had infiltrated the area.
IMGP0023

Liam interrupts to add: We also saw the sign below, prohibiting the use of ladders. We were a little puzzled by this, but shortly afterwards we found the reason. An intimidating young hoodie was propped up against a ladder further down the road, drinking beer. We got the impression he might have given us a go on his ladder for a fiver, or maybe the first one would be free… Cheetham Hill has obviously decided to deal with its gangs and ladders problem by instituting a zero-tolerance policy.

IMGP0010

Just say no

Marie again: Nearer to our target we found an interesting wall. And here is the magic of zedding. The wall was there all the time, being interesting and charming and we would never have seen it had we not taken into our heads to go and look and Marie Street. The wall told stories, embedded in its bricks were stories. The first told of the Lancashire custom of Whit walks, and local memories of participating in them. The second told of the Manchester Salford wall, built so the well-to-do property owners of Manchester would not be able to see the terraced housing put up by local pawnbroker on the Salford side. A woman remembered her husband writing their initials on the wall when they were teenagers, and them remaining there till the wall was destroyed in the Blitz (Nice to know Manchester had a Berlin wall before that monstrosity in Piccadilly Gardens). Other panel told of cabbage island; which used to be on a lake nearby and was the site of some man’s cabbage patch, lit by candle light when people skated on the frozen pond. And yet another told of Broughton Zoo where there was a polar bear who climbed up a pole. In the middle of Salford, a polar bear! One thing I love about the wall is that, the with exception of the existence of Broughton zoo, these stories appear not to be googleable, they are real and local memories which are tied to their sense of place. I’m almost sorry to release them into the wild.
IMGP0029 IMGP0037

Marie Street was not as good as Purcell Street. Symon and Inghamwood were also unspectacular.
IMGP0035

There was a nice little play area near Inghamwood Close that was too small to be on the A to Z but still defiantly existing. We sat there and ate cake.
IMGP0040

We were then off to Castle Hill Viewpoint which I had spotted on page 81 square G3. I wanted to walk past the cluster of synagogues on Northumberland Avenue. As we did so Liam asked “So what do we expect to see from Castle Hill Viewpoint?”
“Castles, duh!” honestly some people, I didn’t expect to see elephants did I?
“Ah yes, how silly of me”
The synagogues themselves did not capture our attention. I was pleased to to see a little boy walking along a wall, tallit hanging out of his waistcoat, one little hand holding on his kippah, the other refusing dad’s hand but but keeping it out close just in case. Looking like he had arrived from another time, another age, but at the same time looking like little boys who have always liked to walk on walls.

Up the road we found ourselves descending into a country park. This is Weird for Liam who is used to having to leave Birmingham and go up to the Lickey hills in order to see grass and trees and Birmingham itself like a great beast at the bottom of the hill. Here, a few miles from the city centre, there are hidden pockets of the countryside.

There were sculptures…
IMGP0044 IMGP0048 Image012(1) Image011


…and a place were the river Irwell looked quite nice.
IMGP0050 IMGP0051 IMGP0052

Sorry to report, that after wandering up and down we saw no sign of either Castle Hill Viewpoint or any Castles. We did find a bit of hill, which may or may not have been Castle Hill Viewpoint, but did have a rope swing so we had a go.
IMGP0054 IMGP0055 IMGP0057

And then we went back to the former Cheetham Hill town hall for Curry.
IMGP0014 IMGP0018

As to the Castle Mystery, a crenelated house was built in the loop of the river (maybe in square F5) in 1826. and later demolished to make way for a racecourse.

Liam interrupts to add: In my book, Jabez Clegg spends a day at the races at that very racecourse. Which was very exciting for me.

IMGP0024

Vital statistics
Map:

Location: Cheetham Hill, Strangeways, Hightown, Higher Broughton, Kersal Dale
Date zedded: 12 May 2009
A to Z: page 94 squares E2, E1, D1; page 82 squares C6, B5, A4, B4; page 81 squares H4, H3, G3, G4, F4, G5
Getting there: Bus down Cheetham Hill from Victoria station (we think)
Squares this expedition: 13
Running total: 96

May 21, 2009 at 7:51 pm 4 comments

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