Posts tagged ‘mud’
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:
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.
Then there was a pretty avenue. Very Victorian/Edwardian feeling. We wanted to promenade down it wearing bustles and top hats.
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.
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.
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:
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:
We particularly liked Wigglit the Worm:
There was a well-intentioned oven meant for baking pizzas. It had, of course, been used to burn Pepsi cans and crisp packets:
This plant had spikes on its spikes:
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:
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:
I can report that thousand-year-old ditches are full of really sticky mud:
Next, we went to the Shakespearean gardens, where there were some boys smoking weed:
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:
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:
There was a last, dry, bit of Mickle Ditch for me to stand in, though, so I was happy:
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