Posts tagged ‘food’

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:


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!


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.

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:


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:


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:


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


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 are challenged to do page 39, and discover a new food

by Liam

We haven’t been zedding for a while because of the inclement weather (except for an afternoon when we walked down some back streets and discovered what appeared to be a mysterious cult, but that’s a story for another time). But yesterday we decided to brave the weather anyway, as there were bits of sunshine in between the squalls of snow.

We had received a challenge from my friend Liz: she’d picked a page number at random and told us to ‘do’ it. It turned out that page 39 is right out in the wilds beyond the outer ring road, so we decided to cheat and go there by car. But it was a green car from Whizzgo:

A greener way to travel

It has to be said that page 39 didn’t look very inspiring, except for some rather pleasing place names like Back o’Th’Moss and Captain Fold and Hooley Bridge. (It seems that everywhere in the Rochdale area is on top o’th’ something or next to th’ something. There’s a place called Top o’th’ Dog which we’ll have to visit, but it wasn’t on page 39, alas. Another favourite is ‘Summit’. As in, ‘What’s over there?’ ‘Just summat.’

So we weren’t getting our hopes up too much, and were prepared to pay attention to minor details as we entered Heywood on page 39. Like the fact that many of the houses round there have their end wall covered in slate tiles:

Slatey wall in Heywood. Why?

Never seen this anywhere else in the UK. Anyone know why they do it?

And we were taking a picture of a picturesque derelict brewery

Phoenix Brewery in Heywood

when we had an exciting surprise. We heard a whistling noise and discovered, a bit further down the road:

East Lancashire Railway sign in Heywood

Turns out a steam railway runs right through page 39! On its way to Ramsbottom and Rawtenstall. So we got to photograph a big steam engine in amongst the industrial estates of Heywood.

Steam train at Heywood railway station Steam train at Heywood railway station Steam train at Heywood railway station

The station consisted of two Portakabins, but they’d painted them in proper period livery and put up old lamps and clocks and everything:

Portakabins meet Pullman carriage Heywood station on the East Lancashire Railway East Lancashire Railway Clock at Heywood railway station

It even had cobbles, which I found very pleasing although Marie is too Northern to be wowed by them. And also a dog on a wall, which she wasn’t too Northern to be pleased by:

Cobbles at Heywood railway station Dog on a wall at Heywood railway station

To be fair, we could have gone home then, and Liz and page 39 would still have done us proud. But we ventured on. To our first trespass. OK, Marie kind of invaded an office block that once, but it didn’t have a big sign saying ‘Keep Out’ peppered with what might have been bullet holes:

Crimble Mill warning sign

This was Crimble Mill, on the river Roch to the north of Heywood. A spectacularly grim old building with accompanying industrial wasteland:

Crimble Mill River Roch by Crimble Mill Crimble Mill Crimble Mill Crimble Mill Crimble Mill Reception

The road became so bumpy here that I feared for the little Whizzgo car, so we trespassed on foot to take some photos. Turns out it was a good thing we weren’t in a vehicle:

Warning to bikers around Crimble Mill

We liked the idea of confiscating someone’s vehicle without warning. Could be a bit surprising if they did it while you were still riding your bike. Fortunately, we didn’t come back to our little Whizzgo car to find a burly copper making off with it under his arm.

We went driving up and down country lanes after that in search of more interesting stuff. There was a nice old chapel with a pretty Easter cross at Bamford – which we mention here not because it’s interesting, but because we want to tick off the square:

Easter cross at Bamford Chapel Bamford Chapel

You may be bored by now, but wait, the best is yet to come.

We got very, very lost on the lanes. So lost that – shameful to say – WE LEFT THE A TO Z. We figure we’re still allowed to talk about this because we were just off the top of page 25. We eventually realised we were up on Ashworth Moor, where there were some impressive turbines that we’d been admiring in the distance earlier:

Turbines on Ashworth Moor

There was a pretty reservoir:

Ashworth Moor Reservoir Ashworth Moor Reservoir Ashworth Moor Ashworth Moor Reservoir

There were so many cars parked next to it that we thought we’d discovered an event – a mass ramble, a race meeting, a whippet-fanciers’ club outing, I don’t know. However, it was a traditional Lancashire burger van. Selling mysterious traditional Lancashire delicacies:

Food van by Ashworth Moor Reservoir. Black peas £1.

Now Marie lived in Lancaster for years and had never heard of black peas, and I was having disturbing visions of League-of-Gentlemen-style local food for local people. But Marie decided to live on the wild side. (She wants it to be known that she is the Trespasser Extraordinaire and the Eater of Black Peas.) There was an exciting tension in the air as we waited by the van, trying not to let on that we had no idea what exactly it was we’d just ordered, in case people realised we were foreigners. (I was watching the woman prepare them, whispering a commentary to Marie: ‘She’s putting them in the microwave… They come with a spoon…’)

As you can see, Marie ate half of a serving of this van’s renowned peas before she even stopped to photograph them:

Black peas

Googling afterwards, we found a very learned article on Wikipedia which we can report was accurate in every important detail:

Black peas are commonly found at fairgrounds and mobile food counters. They are traditionally eaten from a cup with salt and vinegar. They can be served hot or cold, the former being especially so in the winter months. At fairgrounds they are served in thick white disposable cups and are eaten with a spoon. Many people fail to re-create the same taste black peas provide when bought at a funfair.

On the way back we stopped at Heaton Park, a very pleasant country park in North Manchester, mainly because we noticed in the A to Z that it had a ‘Papal Monument’ and we wanted to know what one of those looked like. And why it was there. Turns out it’s a big rock marking where the Pope came and did some stuff once:

Liam with Papal Monument Papal Monument in Heaton Park

This was a big Mass as part of JPII’s 1982 UK tour. I didn’t see him (I believe he played Coventry), but I do remember having a commemorative Ladybird book about it.

Heaton Park also has a rather large piece of an old town hall, which the good people of Manchester loved too much to get rid of:

Old Town Hall Colonnade plaque Old Town Hall Colonnade, Heaton Park Old Town Hall Colonnade, Heaton Park

And there was a funfair, which was a little melancholy since not many people had braved the icy wind and snow:

Funfair chair swings. Zippy at the funfair, Heaton Park

Heaton Hall, at the centre of the park, was also a bit sad:

Heaton Hall. Has seen better days.

At this point, the snow became too much for us. We headed for home. As a pleasing postscript, we noticed this graffiti just up the road from where we returned the car in the Northern Quarter:

Northern Quarter graffiti poetry

And then we untipped Marie’s cow and went home for tea.

Vital statistics
Location: Heywood, Heaton Park
A to Z:
Heywood: page 39 squares G4, G1, H1, H2, E1, E2
Bamford etc: page 25 squares H6, G5, G6
Heaton Park: page 67 squares H5, page 68 squares A5, A4
Getting there: Whizzgo (or get a tram to Bury and a steam train to Heywood!)
Squares this expedition: 12
Running total: 25

March 26, 2008 at 12:51 am Leave a comment

Running Total

135 squares

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July 2020