Posts tagged ‘zedding’

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 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.
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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.
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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.

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

Some enigmatic graffiti

Radical feminists had infiltrated the area.

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.


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

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.

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…
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…and a place were the river Irwell looked quite nice.
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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.
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And then we went back to the former Cheetham Hill town hall for Curry.
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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.


Vital statistics

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

In which they walk halfway across Manchester in the dark

By Liam

Since we started this weird hobby, we keep discovering new and exciting psychogeographical alleys to wander up. Manchester seems to be strangely full of people doing this stuff. So the latest new adventure was Urban Earth. The idea is to have people walk across big urban areas, taking a photo every eight paces and then stitching them all together into a big video montage of the journey. The routes are planned by some clever computer algorithm thing so that they take in a representative mix of the city’s affluence and deprivation. It’s all a bit strange and we approve.

So this last weekend, a bunch of people got together at teatime on Saturday on the North edge of Manchester, and walked across the city through the night, aiming to arrive near the airport in the South at sunrise on Saturday.  We joined in, but we were both a bit too lazy to do the whole thing. Marie made it to Blackley – very near Boggart Hole Clough – and I made it to the city centre, before leaving them to it.

It was a very interesting and different experience. Our fellow walkers were all lovely. The route took us through lots of quiet residential areas and strange alleys, even less likely places to visit than we would normally choose. The demands of taking a photo every eight paces and working to a schedule meant that we were moving along very briskly, rather than drifting whimsically wherever we fancied.

The really striking thing was the way people reacted. You’d have thought it wouldn’t be that unusual for a bunch of people to wander through the city streets on an evening, carrying rucksacks and reading a map. But we attracted crowds of kids and loads of people asking what we were doing. It was fun to tell them we were heading for the airport, but I particularly enjoyed telling little kids that we were going on an adventure.

It really brought home the fact that cities expect and enforce certain, limited behaviours and routines. Do something even slightly out of the ordinary, and you attract attention and discover exciting new things.

We can’t really do our usual meandering zedding report this time, but here are some statistics we gathered for your delectation, and the best of the photos I took. (You can see all our photos on Flickr.)

Angry dogs – 6
Derelict mills – 4
Curious children – too many to count

Start of the walk at Shaw


Chimney with frill

What does an abstract building look like, and what kind of services does it need?

Manchester Sunset

Walking over the motorway requires a cage

This made everyone giggle for some reason

Wonder what was happening in these warehouses at 11pm that required such bright lights?

Manchester Fort looked eerie and empty, but my wobbly hands and camera night mode have changed it into something else altogether


While I was taking this photo, a talking lamppost warned me to beware of car thieves. Scared the bejesus out of me

Reflections in the centre of the city

They scare me. The one on the left is smuggling peanuts and the one on the right is wilting

Fire exit? Where? Is this Torchwood or something?

Check out the Urban Earth ning for photos and videos from other people who were there!

Vital statistics
Location: From Shaw& Crompton station to Deansgate
Date zedded: 18 April 2009
A to Z: (approximately) page 57 squares 1F, 1G, 1H, 2E; page 56 squares 3D, 4C, 5C, 5B, 6B, 6A; page 55 squares 6H, 6G; page 71 squares 1F, 1E; page 70 squares 1D, 2C, 3B, 4B, 4A; page 69 squares 4H, 5H, 5G, 6G, 6F; page 83 squares 1F, 2F, 3E, 4E; page 82 squares 4D, 5D, 6D, 6C; page 95 squares 1E, 2E, 3E; page 94 squares 3D, 4D
Getting there: train from Victoria station
Squares this expedition: 37!
Running total: 83

April 23, 2009 at 11:02 pm Leave a comment

In which their Zedding destination has disappeared and they rant about regeneration a bit

By Liam

Marie’s historical research has brought up loads of stuff about Ancoats. This is an area on the outskirts of the city centre which has seen heavy industry, slums, run-down estates and now a big regeneration project. It was apparently ‘the world’s first industrial suburb’. So we thought we’d go take a look.

It being the Mayday bank holiday, though, we first had to go marching with trade unionists and socialists and anarchists (and anyone else who wanted to join in). We were making known our displeasure that destitute people who come to the UK fleeing war and persecution are being expected to find the money from God-knows-where to pay for essential services from our glorious NHS.

Overheard on the march: an anarchist explaining why the communists were a bit too scary for him.


Having done our liberal do-gooding bit, we headed for Ancoats via lunch in the Northern Quarter. We had a debate over zedding philosophy – Marie had a list of historical sites to visit, but I wanted to go to Cardroom Estate in the middle and go down all the little streets called things like ‘Spinning Jenny Walk’ and ‘Bobbin Walk’ and ‘Yarn Walk’. Eventually we set off, and we knew we’d started zedding when we saw a car with antlers:


It seemed to have something to do with a film crew, so watch out for a car with antlers coming to a TV screen near you.

On Great Ancoats Street, there’s a big shiny futuristic building which used to be the offices of the Daily Express.


Marie, who has now become a walking history textbook, explained that despite appearances, it was actually built in the 1930s. If you get up close, you can see the old-school concrete and rivets. There’s an even older building opposite, which you can see in the reflection. This one used to house a night shelter for women needing ‘further care and discipline’, and rooms for servants who wished to avoid ‘the moral peril of the lodging house’. I’ve obviously been staying in the wrong lodging houses.

Further down the road, there’s a pleasing contrast between old buildings on one side and seediness opposite:

And we found some little cages for gnomes, with spotlights to shine in their faces and make them talk:

There was some nice detail on the historical buildings:

And some new flats were wrapped up waiting for yuppies to open them up and live in them:
Manchester has a good surplus of identical-looking flats, though, so unless the credit crisis ends soon, we think it may be a while before these ones get unwrapped. Nextdoor we saw what’s happened to a lot of the businesses and homes that used to be around here:
This comprehensive list of dangers has been stuck on all the derelict buildings in Ancoats as far as we could see. Bit of overkill – can they really all have asbestos, weak roofs and the rest?

We liked this example of a business that is new to Ancoats, though. It’s bye bye butty shops, hello flower arrangements carved from fruit :
And further down was this, apparently the ‘classic view’ into Ancoats:

A fine old mill has been turned into flats:
Before being renamed Royal Mills, Marie tells us, these were McConnel and Kennedy Mills. They were an important scene in the account of the Plug Strikes of 1842, protesting against pay cuts and in support of the Chartists. It ended up with 10,000 people on the streets, the Riot Act was read, and they brought in ‘six-pounder field pieces’ to pacify the crowd. Apparently the military presence was ‘restrained’ because they didn’t want a repeat of Peterloo. We wonder what would have been regarded as unrestrained… A bit different from our friendly anarchists of the morning, who were at no point chased down the Oxford Road by dragoons.

The street outside was being carefully recobbled, no doubt to retain the Northern ambience of the area for the new inhabitants. (Presumably this notion of Northernness wouldn’t include the traditions of dissent and organised resistance, which don’t sell flats so well.)


We were very excited to discover, opposite, a small porthole in a brick wall. We’d set out hoping to see some bits of an installation called The Peeps which is scattered across Ancoats. Spaces have been walled up and lit, with peepholes to look through. We’d found our first one, and it was pleasingly mysterious for what was essentially a brick cubicle with weeds growing in it:


Thanks to the artist Dan Dubowitz, who deserves a mention just for his marvellous name. Unfortunately we didn’t find any more of them, though.

There we were, spiritually engaging with the area, enjoying a playful public work of art which could have been designed for zedders, reflecting on history. We were rudely awakened on the other side of the canal:
anal wach IMGP0068.JPG
It may be relevant that this was just down the canal from Canal Street, whose signs are often defaced in a similar manner…

Further on, past a charming retail park (‘The biggest toy superstore in the world’, allegedly), we passed an eighteenth-century lock-keeper’s cottage surrounded by building sites and scaffolding. This seemed to sum up the feel of a lot of the area for us:

Wonder what they’ll catch?

Opposite there were the evocatively-named Vulcan Works, which I had formed a desire to see. These are now – guess what – a development of designer flats. We found a dandelion clock.

We don’t know what this building was, but it made Marie the history nerd unhappy:
We turned left at the big pencil
and saw some of the bits which haven’t been turned into flats yet:
Further on, a strange road crossed a barren wasteland. It had no clear markings and felt kind of like a pedestrian precinct, resulting in some hairy moments when we forgot we were standing in the middle of a road. It also had some interesting arty lampposts marked ‘New Islington’ (the rebranded Ancoats). The designer had taken to the extreme his attempt to blend in with the surroundings, so they were rusty and depressing. There was also the remains of a hospital which made Marie sadder. (Fortunately, it’s going to be restored. And turned into flats.)
The only signs of humanity were a man drinking Lucozade on a bench, and this forlorn remnant:
On the other side of the road should have been the Cardroom estate. But it wasn’t:
The redevelopers beat us to it. And they must have done it very recently, because that wasteland appears in my 2007 A to Z as a warren of little streets:

I’d heard through work that a lot of the redevelopment in Ancoats was done without consulting local people, tearing down good houses to make way for designer flats that locals won’t be able to afford. Looking at this space where a community used to be, that was easy to believe.
Opposite the desert (an estate agent might say that they benefited from expansive views) were some houses made of giant jigsaw bits:
We rejoined the canal here, and noted the spiral ramp for towhorses at the bridge. Very historical but doesn’t look so dramatic in a photo:
Then there were more mills and warehouses. Most, surprise surprise, becoming designer flats. The old Sankey’s Soap Factory is now a nightclub, though (we detected it because of the loud music and the big bus outside). Marie wishes it to be known that the sign on the tower is the original one from the 1920s, restored.
Opposite was a nice piece of graffiti (probably not from the 1920s):
run like hell
In the midst of all the building sites stands an old church of the ugly-huge-Victorian-brick variety. Marie was very keen to visit, as she’s seen slides of it being lovingly restored – it’s going to be a community centre or arts space or something, which will be a nice change. But it’s presently completely inaccessible, all the surrounding roads sealed off. Creepy.
The streets were still eerily deserted, but we spotted some little bits of interest:
Then we came upon Victoria Square, a great big nineteenth-century block of flats which was intended to house people after slum clearances. It didn’t work though, because the slum dwellers couldn’t afford the rent and had to move elsewhere. It also can’t have helped that, according to our friend Bazza, the architect ‘must have thought he was designing for an alien race – wooden skirting boards were not provided, since these might have been ripped out and burned!’

Sounds familiar. It appears that city developers learn very slowly…

Opposite Victoria Square were some smart terraces, also originally intended for working-class people but priced out of their reach. Apparently, these were originally named after the wonderful technical advances they contained. But in the 1960s, ‘Sanitary Street’ was not regarded as such an attractive name, and some letters were removed to make it ‘Anita Street’. It’s interesting that today, people are achieving the opposite effect by removing letters just down the road.
Further down, we passed another derelict church – but this one clearly has its defenders:
Researching afterwards, we found that Manchester’s Italian community have been fighting to keep the church open for years, but the Bishop’s having none of it. Marie was very upset to read the story of an ice-cream lady whose dying wish to have her funeral at the church was refused: poor Auntie Vicky. Marie feels solidarity for ice-cream people.

We finished our zedding with a pint in the Crown & Kettle, a pub which may or may not once have been a courthouse. (Even Marie’s extensive research couldn’t find a definitive answer to this one.)

Vital statistics
Location: Ancoats
Date zedded: 5 May 2008
A to Z: page 95 squares F3, G3, G4, H4, F4, H3
Getting there: Walk from city centre
Squares this expedition: 6
Running total:

May 5, 2008 at 10:04 pm 12 comments

Another psychogeographer

By Liam

Just been pointed to another blogging psychogeographer: London Cross.

This guy’s describing a walk across London in two big straight lines. Similar idea to zedding, I think. He wants to make it a book too – maybe we should be talking to publishers about this blog…

April 29, 2008 at 10:54 am Leave a comment

Zedding is an academic discipline!

By Liam

After zedding Boggart Hole Clough, we discovered that another person, oddly enough, had done a similar exploration just a few weeks before.

John Davies, a vicar from Liverpool, spent two months walking the M62 corridor and blogging about it. He’s now publishing it as a book. Like us, he spent a day fruitlessly searching for boggarts.

Now this is odd enough, but it then turns out that the guy is a supporter of CAP (who I work for). I saw him speak at an event back in February, looked him up afterwards and made the link. Then I met him again today at an event in Manchester. 

I got talking to him about boggarts and tried to explain about zedding. (Figuring that anyone crazy enough to walk the M62 corridor and turn it into a book might just get it.) And he told me that there are people who do this kind of thing and treat it as situationist art, or an academic discipline. It’s called psychogeography.

Wkipedia says psychogeography is:

‘the study of the precise laws and specific effects of the geographical environment, consciously organized or not, on the emotions and behavior of individuals’ or ‘a slightly stuffy term that’s been applied to a whole toy box full of playful, inventive strategies for exploring cities. Psychogeography includes just about anything that takes pedestrians off their predictable paths and jolts them into a new awareness of the urban landscape.’

Zedding is essentially a dérive (drift): ‘an aimless walk, probably through city streets, that follows the whim of the moment’. We are walking in the footsteps of the Dadaists, the Sitiuationists and Baudelaire! Psychogeography is also ‘an art of conversation and drunkenness’, which fits zedding pretty much perfectly.

Anyway, Manchester seems to be a pretty big centre for psychogeography. There used to be a psychogeography society here, who apparently once levitated the corn exchange. (Can’t find a live web link for that, but would love to know more…)

And this summer they’re having a psychogeography conference at the university: TRIP 2008! I am so tempted to go…

Psychogeographic Map


April 25, 2008 at 4:50 pm 1 comment

In which they find some swimming without water, a car park and a filthy swan

by Marie

With some hours to spare before sunset on a Sunday afternoon, I persuaded Liam (who had been running) to do a Little Walk with Bazza. Not a full Zedding, just a little walk with our oracle. We headed off to the Medieval Quarter (OK, the bit round the Cathedral) to our target square of D4 to look for a boggart dog bridge (honestly, a boggart dog bridge).

We saw Robert Owen who Liam thinks is “a man in a sinister cloak with a small child under it”. I think this is unfairly maligning one of the founders of socialism. I’m sure he was our sort of person. He does look a wee bit sinister here tho:

robert owen

We were in the square near the cathedral which is pretty and has fountains. It also has the Urbis which has Zedding-related interesting stuff in it:

urbis urbis roof urbis urbis fountains urbis fountain urbis cheetham

We found this message from the zedding gods, who were about to smile on us:


We heard some music. And one of the guiding principles of zedding is that one should be easily distracted. We followed our ears to a small gathering of tents in the square with a sign that said, bewilderingly enough, ‘National Swimming Championships’. We would like to point out for readers who don’t know Manchester that there was no apparent pool in the vicinity.

There was however a tent selling beer, a tent selling food and a tent for face painting. Also a stage with some lively rhythm-and-blues music and lifeguards. Just remember, kids – no venturing out into urban squares without a lifeguard. One saw my camera and was eager to pose with his horn for me.


We thought about asking about the swimming. But we didn’t.

We headed for Victoria station, where one gets trains to places like Wigan and Rainhill. When I do this I get very upset about the state it has been allowed to get in. It has some absolutely gorgeous features put in by madly hubristic Victorians who thought the age of steam would never wane. Then some nasty corporate taste vandals have plastered their nasty plastic nastiness on top of the marble and mosaic. Elsewhere Victoria has been allowed to get shabby and neglected, she has been allowed to rummage around in the bargain bin at the charity shop adorning herself in the worst the 1980’s had to offer and wearing it on top of her pearls.

victoria station 1st class ticket office victoria station classy bar victoria station newcastle map in victoria station

(I feel quite strongly about this.) I would love for someone to do to Victoria what they have done to Moor Street in Birmingham.

The MEN arena has lots of steps, I like the patterns:

steps steps

Opposite is Chetham school of Music which is 400 years older than the MEN arena and nicer looking. Marx and Engels used to chat there. It has gargoyles but once again it’s surprising just how wriggly they can be, won’t stay still to be photographed.

cheethams cheetham school

There was a gateway to hell. It is at the end of an old croft, which is a place Bazza tells us Tenterhooks were used in days of old. This probably now belongs to Northern Rail. If you are listening, Northern Rail, we would like some more info.

walkers croft

We walked along the side of the river, which has long been our desire. I was complaining that the river wasn’t utilised as a tourist attraction, the reasons why may be painfully obvious from the photos. We debated titles for these photos. Liam likes “Urban Swan” as a name for a trendy clothing boutique but I don’t think “Swan in Filth” would get so much custom. Dirty creature.

urban swan urban swan

We got confused about the boggart dog bridge and strayed into a car park which was sort of on a bridge and turned out to be the site of another railway station, ‘once connected to Victoria by the longest railway platform in europe’, fact fans. Bazza thinks this site should be redeveloped but that it would ‘need an arresting building to set it off’. You cannot argue with the man.

arch former site of exchange station

The cathedral is pretty. And we like the centuries of architecture that contrast with one another. The cathedral itself, the lovely dome of the corn exchange, the brutalist Arndale, the flimsy wheel. The portaloo.

cathedral cathedral wheel arndale years of architecture plus portaloo

Finally the boggart dog bridge. I have no pictures of the bridge itself as it was a bit unspectacular really, and I was distracted by this bit of pretty.

sign victoria

The story goes that it is a bridge on top of an old bridge, old, old. And that this part of Manchester was haunted by a boggart dog which was caught and placed under the bridge. Bazza says this is a folk memory of a building sacrifice. We’re just delighted to find another boggart.

And a building that was once known as one of the ugliest buildings in manchester, although it may be in Salford.

premier inn

Vital statistics
Location: Manchester Medieval Quarter
A to Z: page 5 (large-scale city centre insert) or page 94 square D3, page 95 square E3
Getting there: Victoria station, Victoria tram, or short walk from my house
Running total: 27

April 18, 2008 at 9:10 pm 2 comments

In which they look at a hidden church, a library and an office block

by liam

This is a slightly different zedding – we’re not sure what purists would make of it – because we went to see some sights that we’d both wanted to see for a while, and which might even be described as ‘attractions’. By some people.

Anyway. I wanted to see the John Rylands Library, Marie wanted to see a church called the Hidden Gem (largely because, well, it was hidden), and I fancied walking by the river Irwell.

So we headed for Deansgate. We found that the people who hid the Hidden Gem had obviously missed out on one or two lessons in How Not To Be Seen:

However, they started trying harder after that. We had to go up a secret passage:

secret passage

It was marked only as:


Anyone know what a private posting station is? Prize for the best answer.

The passage was named after some scientist or engineer whose name escapes us both now. But in his honour, the pipes in the passage were arranged into decorative patterns:

pipes in secret passage

Eventually we emerged by the Hidden Gem. Marie’s research informs us that it was the first purpose-built Catholic church in any English city since the Reformation. It’s not very fancy on the outside:

the hidden gem

This is because ‘Bells, steeples, and any other ornate “popeish” touches were banned until the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829, which restored people’s rights to worship as they chose.’ And their right to have popeish frills too. Nowadays, it’s also dwarfed by office blocks on all sides, which were apparently built on top of the graveyard.

By contrast, inside, one is confronted by a glorious eyeache-inducing riot of popery. Gold and icons and candles and everything, it made me quite nostalgic. We weren’t allowed to take photos inside so you’ll have to take our word for it, or look at the photo someone else took here.

The threshold between austere-lack-of-steeples and riot-of-popery was marked by writing on the ground:

ave maria

And also by a sign warning you not to give money to beggars because they clutter the place up, or words to that effect. Nice.


So, next on the list was the library. Much more our sort of cathedral. It has its own share of frills, which originally drew me to it. In fact, it looks like a high-church Hogwarts. There were more gargoyles – this could become a zedding theme for us – but it was dark and the little beggars won’t stay still so we could only get blurry photos of them. Marie is too proud to post such blurry photos so you’ll have to go and see for yourself.

The library was exciting in a way that we expect most people won’t understand at all. It is beautiful. We got lost in great long corridors with stone arches. There were quiet rooms with balconies, bookcases up to the ceiling, and leatherbound books in cages. Marie says that all places books are kept should look like cathedrals.

There was also an interactive display about design and book production. A whole room to appeal to the font nerd inside me that I’m normally not allowed to let out. (Except when I’m going to see 2-hour films about Helvetica, like I did last week, but that’s another story.) There was a great long video interview with Stephen Raw, the man who did the lettering on the maps in Lord of the Rings. That was very very exciting for some reason, even though we’d both met him in person before. Speaking about his work on Middle Earth, he said something that should have resonance for Zedders everywhere:

‘Maps hold it all together in a way thousands of words can’t. At a glance.’

Either that, or it’s an indictment of this rambling blog. Anyway, we liked it.

All in all, a book-lover’s wet dream. We didn’t get to explore it all because it was about to close, so we’ll be going back in there to find the cathedralesque reading room that we understand is in there somewhere in the labyrinthine maze of corridors.

Near some old handpresses and lead type (which also had me wiping drool form the floor), we found something almost as good. Specially signposted ‘Historic Toilets’. They weren’t kidding. Marie crept past the sign expressly forbidding photography in the toilets (cos it’s only polite) and documented these archaic bits of plumbing:

historic toilets historic plumbing

In between the Ladies and the Gents, where boys lurk if they’re waiting for someone to finish taking photographs in the Ladies, was an imposing but rather baffling statue:


We had a long conversation in front of it, trying to piece together what was going on. Is it classical? Biblical? Is he Joseph of Arimathea? Why does she want that football? What’s that chalice for? It took Google, later on, to clear things up. Apparently, that’s ‘Theology instructing the Arts and the Sciences’. Still no wiser about the football though.

Having been booted out by some polite library guards, we went in search of a river. Manchester doesn’t make much of its river, using it mainly as a way to have a clear border with Salford. Which is a bit of a shame, because it’s a nice enough river. We found it in the end. I wanted to walk along the path on the bank. But it was getting dark, and when we started down the steps form the road, we heard someone or something scuttling in the bushes. One of the main attractions of zedding being the lack of personal danger (as sports go, it’s pretty low risk – the worst we’ve faced so far is getting lost in some woods 200 yards from a housing estate), we retreated.

So we headed into Salford instead, where there was a big imposing office complex which looked like it might have access to the waterfront. I was wondering if we could find a way in past the security guards, but Marie just marched in bold as brass, looking as if she belonged there, and we had no trouble. A useful life lesson from Doctor Who. Although I always thought I’d be the Doctor, not the assistant trailing along behind looking confused.

It was a funny old office complex. It was landscaped using Astroturf and gravel.

astro turf

There were strange statues of gambolling imps, which seemed to be there mainly to mock the sterile and tedious existence of the poor office drones we saw escaping as fast as they could:

blue imp against sky blue imp blue imp2 yellow imp

Another statue seemed to depict an office worker who’d been driven mad by all the Astroturf:

office worker driven mad

The buildings had radically inappropriate names, also no doubt intended to subtly mock the inmates and drive them to despair:

cloister luxury

Unsurprisingly, the place turned out to be a dead end, with no way out except back past the security guards. So we left and searched for another way out of Salford. As, no doubt, many have before us.

Eventually, we found a bridge. One of those Millennium Bridges that everyone decided they needed to have after London built one. It was very pretty in the moonlight:

bridge in salford

Then we gathered provisions and went home. A short but fruitful zedding.

Vital statistics
Location: Central Manchester and Salford
A to Z: page 5 (large-scale city centre insert) or page 94, squares D4 and C4
Getting there: It’s within walking distance from all major stations and bus or Metro stops in Manchester city centre and Salford
Running total: 13 squares

December 9, 2007 at 12:27 am Leave a comment

In which they discover a Victorian mansion and a mill that isn’t there

by marie

I called Liam to see if he wanted to do a mini zed yesterday evening. It turned into something of a zedding, covering 7 squares in all, compared to last Sunday’s 4.

Having arrived in Didsbury first, on page 125, I did some solo zedding in square F6 down Warburton Street. Warburton Street is exceedingly charming with a wonderful independent bookshop whose door opens with a sneck.
warburton road pleasing bookshop sneck on pleasing bookshop old school

Around the corner from the pleasing school with the tower is the wool shop (0oh the yarn), where I met Liam and shared the research I had done on the bus. Our mate Bazza has an excursion to Didsbury and he mentions The Towers “perhaps the finest Victoria mansion in Manchester”. Sounds like a must see… We consulted our trusty A to Z. A search for “towers” on page 137 showed us a business park called “the towers” on our way to our target square of G4, so we set off to see if it harboured a Victorian mansion.

On the way we got distracted by the grand civic buildings of .. um.. Manchester Metropolitan University Students Union, Didsbury campus. I thought there was some sort of law that said SU buildings had to be ugly.
MMU Didsbury campus SU MMU Didsbury campus SU-2 More MMU Didsbury

We saw a gate, it lured us. It turned out to be the gates to the Parsonage Gardens of Fletcher Moss. There were palm trees and some advice which was either ecologically or hygienically suspect. Bazza says that Alderman Fletcher Moss was “eccentric but public spirited and had a late flowering passion for the bicycle”.
Old parsonage gate Old parsonage with palm trees Fletcher Moss says.. fletcher moss gardens

Then we found the business park. It was very green (the buildings not the vegetation).
even uglier green modern building Unique office space

In the midst of it, like a family heirloom at Primark, was indeed a fine Victorian mansion. It had gargoyles, they ate their tails. It had a plaque; the decision to build the Manchester Ship Canal was taken there. We thought about the decisions involving commerce which must take place there still; somehow I imagine they lack the romance of that one. Did someone turn to Daniel Adamson, who was after all a man with gargoyles on his house, and say “hey Dan! Let’s have our own river” and now they…they do what…order the staples?
the towers towers with ugly modern building the towers entrance dragon eats his tail arrow slits Tower on The Towers Daniel Adamson

Further down the Wilmslow road we learn that the inhabitants of Didsbury include schoolgirls from Malory towers, because no one plays lacrosse outside an Enid Blyton novel do they?
And just down the road the area became a little less exclusive:
people play lacrosse outside malory towers ugly junction

Just outside Cheadle we found the bridge across the Mersey. From here we knew there might or might not be a path to our target, which may or not, be there.
Cheadle bridge over the mersey

Liam’s vintage A to Z shows G4 to contain a mill on the banks of the Mersey in the shadow of junction10 of the m63. Back in this century, under junction 3 of the m60, no mill appears.
We were going to check this out, who stole the mill?

There was a hotel that smelt of potato wedges, and had rhino posts outside. We kept a ear out for any rhinos sneaking up on us, just in case, and ventured into the woods. We knew where we were going because we were looking for the weir on my map (but someone stole that too). We went through the woods in the fading light…discovered that A to Zs aren’t ideal for this sort of thing… reached the road… went back again… consulted the A to Z again…listened to the river to see if it sounded like it was coming up to a weir or had just been down one…looked at the A to Z again.
rhino post woods marie consults a to zed

Eventually we scrambled down a muddy bank to get a better view and discovered that what looked to be a big pile of sticks was the wall of the mill with the roots of a tree growing round it. Foundations of the opposite wall could be seen in the bank behind us, our muddy hollow was all that was left of the mill. Not quite time team but we were pleased with ourselves.
mill remnants where a weir used to be on the mersey mill remnants 2 roots on mill ruins

We followed the graffiti back to civilisation and caught (as Bazza would say) a “suburban train” home.
graffiti subvert  Kingsway over mersey

Back home we discovered

“By the 13th century there are records of a water mill beside the Mersey in the village, and this continued grinding corn right up to its closure in 1890. It was demolished only as recently as 1952”.

Which is why our mill is firmly on the map in 1848
didsbury corn mill
I was particularly delighted with this guide to the towers

And now for the statistics:
Map: atoz137
Location: Didsbury, Manchester
A to Z: page 125 sq F6, page 137 sq F1,F2, G2, H3, G3, G4,
Getting there: bus to East Didsbury from Piccadilly Gardens or the airport train from Picadilly Use public tranport, plan your journey
Running total: 11squares
Liam does some Further Research:
We subsequently did some more research on this one, and found out that not only did Alderman Fletcher Moss have a late-flowering passion for the bicycle, he also had a terrier called Gober and an early-flowering passion for collecting local folktales. And his parsonage was haunted, and the gates that lured us in used to be known locally as the Gates to Hell. You couldn’t make this stuff up.

October 16, 2007 at 12:39 am 1 comment

In which they do not discover a boggart

by Liam

I recently became aware that Rosie, who I used to work with, has an unusual hobby. She goes A to Zedding with her boyfriend Doug.

It appears that they invented this hobby entirely themselves, or at least no one else has a website about it. They describe it pretty well on their site:

‘A-to-Zedding is much more than just a hobby. It’s an intellectual, spiritual and deeply personal pastime. The A-to-Zedder’s dream is to visit and gain a deep understanding of every “square” in their chosen A-Z map.’

Marie and I decided to give it a go, giving us a convenient excuse to explore Manchester a bit more thoroughly. If it doesn’t turn out to be a passing fad for us, we’ll make it a proper blog of its own, but for now I’m hosting the words and she’s hosting the pictures.

So we started last Sunday, by looking through the A to Z for somewhere to visit. (Discovering in the process that my A to Z is 15 years old, and narrowly avoiding heading out in search of a mill on the Mersey that no longer exists. I now have A to Z envy, since Marie’s is both spiral bound and was made in this century.)

From a number of places chosen principally for their amusing names, we narrowed it down to Boggart Hole Clough, a park in Blackley, a northern suburb of Manchester.

Here it is:
boggart hole clough

It’s a bit of a bus ride out of town, especially on a grey Sunday. On the way, we saw:

Pigeons John Swift Conservative Club
– pigeons having a meeting on the roof of a smart old building;
– evidence that Conservatives, who must be in a bit of a minority in northern Manchester, are banding together for safety.

Clough gates
Then we found the clough, which is basically a mix of a country park with a city park. Country because it has a ravine running through it. (‘Clough’ is a local word for ravine, the helpful signs told us. They also said it was a ‘semi-wilderness’, which was stretching things somewhat.) City because it also has sports fields and a boating lake and graffiti and stuff.

Do not fail to keep a dog on a lead
We were rather alarmed by this. However, we failed to keep a dog on a lead, or to remove any faeces, at any point during our visit, and didn’t get into any trouble.

It’s very pretty and, OK, a bit wild:

Boggarty woods Fallen tree 2 Buried fence

Our mission wasn’t just to look at the pretty woods, though. We’d been charged by to take a picture of a boggart. We took the search for signs of boggarts very seriously. (That’s me inspecting a suspected boggart-proof fence up there.)

We found several bridges, which looked like potential boggart holes (”look under the bridges that’s where they hide”):

Boggarty bridge Very boggarty bridge Boggart Hole Clough stream Dark boggart bridge Bogghart's home

We looked for boggarts under the first bridge and found none. When we found the bridge on the right, though, we realised no self-respecting boggart would have lived under the first one.

More to the point, though the boggart wasn’t home, we found some boggart leavings. Clearly, boggarts share a taste in cider with tramps and students (click for a bigger picture):
Boggart leavings

Then there was some more pretty:
Red plant Autumn leaves Autumn leaves 2 Pretty tree

We walked for a while up the clough (well, along the side of it to be fair, but it sounds ruder this way). And we came to a boating lake with pointy-headed ducks on it, and a very ugly building beyond it (Marie thinks it looks like a comprehensive school, but the A to Z disagrees and the A to Z Does Not Lie (or hers doesn’t, anyway)):
Boating lake Pointy-headed duck Ugly building
We had a little rest and a smackerel of something. Bizarrely, the smackerel came wrapped in a treatise on love: Strange chocolate wrapper

And the bench we sat on triggered my inner punctuation Nazi:

“Linda”. Allegedly.

But this is an A to Zedding blog, not an excuse to join these fine people and start up a quotation marks protection society, so I shall desist. So, walking around the lake, we found a little boathouse, because finding things from the A to Z is the point.

Then came the best bit. There’s an athletics track with a big fence around it, which is clearly not a rabbit-proof fence:
Rabbits 3 Rabbit Rabbits again

There was even a little babby one!
Babby rabbit with friend
Someone had put out bits of carrot for them, and once they realised we were just going to make high-pitched cooing noises and take photos from the far side of a fence rather than eating them, they went about their business as normal.

Shortly afterwards, there were some steps that went to nowhere. Or perhaps it was an amphitheatre for boggarts:
Steps - or boggart amphitheatre?

We climbed a very steep hill, then saw some boggart boys taking the easy way down:
Extreme skateboarding

At the top was a war memorial. There were lots of very Northern names on the side of it:
War memorial names

and some rather more unexpected names:
Victor Pomfret and Plato Postlethwaite

On top was a statue:
War memorial lady 4 War memorial lady
who turned out, on closer inspection, to be very scantily clad and smuggling peanuts:
War memorial lady 5, note smuggled peanuts
Well, it was a bit nippy. Should have put a jumper on.

On the way back to the bus stop, ms_lilith decided that she wanted to live here:
Nice house
It has very steep steps to keep boggarts out.

We had a debate over whether it’s best to do some research about a Zedding destination before or after attempting it. We did it afterwards this time, and found some interesting stories about boggarts. And cloughs. And beer:

Wiki on Boggarts
Wiki on Boggart Hole Clough
Boggart Hole Clough at Mysterious Britain
Beer and Boggarts

So, that was our first Zedding trip. Watch this space to see if we can be arsed to do it again. I hope we can.

And do tell us if this is a self-indulgent ramble and we need to restrain ourselves when blogging our Zedding in future.

Location: Boggart Hole Clough, Blackley, Manchester
A to Z: page 83 squares G1, H1, G2, H2
Google Map: 
Getting there: bus numbers 17 and 118 from the rochdale road. Use public tranport, plan your journey:

October 12, 2007 at 12:40 am 2 comments

Running Total

135 squares

Follow the Manchester Zedders


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