Posts tagged ‘Ladders’
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Marie Street was not as good as Purcell Street. Symon and Inghamwood were also unspectacular.
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.
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.
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.
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