Piccadilly Plaza And Gardens

Here we are, right at the heart of Manchester.

Anything worth looking at?

Well not a great deal, it’s 1772 and the Gardens and Plaza, are as yet undreamt of – the area was occupied by water-filled clay pits called the Daub Holes, eventually the pits were replaced by a fine ornamental pond.

In 1755 the Infirmary was built here; on what was then called Lever’s Row, in 1763 the Manchester Royal Lunatic Asylum was added.

There were grander unrealised plans.

Including an aerial asylum.

The Manchester Royal Infirmary moved to its current site on Oxford Road in 1908. The hospital buildings were completely demolished by April 1910 apart from the outpatient department, which continued to deal with minor injuries and dispense medication until the 1930s.

After several years in which the Manchester Corporation tried to decide how to develop the site, it was left and made into the largest open green space in the city centre. The Manchester Public Free Library Reference Department was housed on the site for a number of years before the move to Manchester Central Library.

The sunken garden was a remnant of the hospital’s basement.

Wikipedia

During World War II the gardens were home to air raid shelters.

The Gardens became a festival of floral abundance – in folk memory twinned with the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, but with slightly less hanging.

The area has also acted as a public transport hub.

And following post war bomb damage.

A delightful car park.

But this simply can’t carry on, keep calm and demand a Plaza!

Drawings are drawn, models are modelled.

1965 Architects: Covell Matthews + Partners

Work is commenced, post haste.

Towering cranes tower over the town, deep holes are dug with both skill and alacrity.

A Plaza begins to take shape, take a look.

Nearly done.

All we need now are tenants.

Piccadilly Plaza now contains the renovated Mercure Hotel it was formerly known as the Ramada Manchester Piccadilly and Jarvis Piccadilly Hotel; the refurbishment was completed in 2008.

The retail units famously contained Brentford Nylons.

The company was eventually sold at a knock-down price and the new owner did not think the name worth having.

The noisy upstairs neighbours were Piccadilly Radio.

The first broadcast was at 5am on April 2nd 1974, it was undertaken by Roger Day, with his first words to the Manchester audience: “It gives me great pleasure for the very first time to say a good Tuesday morning to you… Hit music for the North West…we are Piccadilly Radio” before spinning Good Vibrations.

It was the first commercial radio station to broadcast in the city, and went on to launch the careers of a host of star DJs, the likes of Gary Davies, Chris Evans, Andy Peebles, Timmy Mallett, Mike Sweeney, Pete Mitchell, James Stannage, Steve Penk and James H Reeve.

Manchester Evening News

And of course my good friend Mr Phil Griffin.

Just around the corner the Portland Bars.

Waiting for a mate who worked at Piccadilly Radio we ventured down the stairs next door to get a drink and because of our clothes/leather jackets we were chucked back up the steps. We should of stood our ground like one of my mates who was told he could stay if he turned his jacket inside out, thinking he wouldnt do it, but he did and had a drink with his red quilted lining on the outside.

MDMA

Oh and not forgetting the Golden Egg.

Bata Shoes and a Wimpy Bar.

“Food served at the table within ten minutes of ordering and with atomic age efficiency. No cutlery needed or given. Drinks served in a bottle with a straw. Condiments in pre-packaged single serving packets.”

In addition to familiar Wimpy burgers and milkshakes, the British franchise had served ham or sardine rolls called torpedoes and a cold frankfurter with pickled cucumber sandwiches called Freddies.

Even on the greyest days the Plaza was a beacon of Modernity.

Though sadly we eventually lost Bernard House.

However, City Tower still prevails as a mixed use office block, adorned east and west with big bold William Mitchell panels.

Which were to be illuminated by ever changing images, produced by photo electric cells – sadly unrealised.

So goodbye Piccadilly – farewell Leicester Square? – it’s a long, long way to the future, and we’re barely half way there.

While we’re in the vicinity take a quick trip up and down the car park ramp.

Notably the entrance to the Hotel Piccadilly was on the first floor, accessed by non-existent highways in the sky – sweet dreams.

Black and white archive photographs – Local Image Collection

Woodford Garden Village

We begin at the beginning of the end – fields full of fields

Dotted with farm buildings – then, along comes an Aerodrome.

A serious problem arose in 1924 when Avro was notified that the current airfield used by the company at Alexandra Park would be closing. After a hurried search to find an alternative location, Avro settled on New Hall Farm at Woodford and completed the move later that year.

In 1999, Woodford became part of BAE Systems as a result of the merging of British Aerospace with Marconi Electronic Systems. Plans to build the Avro RJX airliner at Woodford were shelved in 2001 which left production of the Nimrod MRA4 as the only active project at the site. Woodford Aerodrome finally closed in 2011 when the Nimrod MRA4 project was cancelled, ending almost 80 years of almost continual aircraft manufacture at the site.

Avro Heritage Museum

Which in due course became a museum.

The site was subsequently acquired by Redrow.

Redrow has started construction on the first phase of 950 homes at the 500-acre former Woodford Aerodrome site near Stockport, nearly two years after planning consent was granted.

Preparatory works are underway and sales of the houses are expected to launch in June with the opening of show homes on the site.

The redevelopment of the 500-acre site, which is being brought forward by a joint venture between Harrow Estates, part of Redrow, and Avro Heritage, will also feature a primary school, employment area, pub, shops, community facilities, and areas of open and recreational space.

Place Northwest

A 21st century development was on its way.

James Fisher 1954

However, the architectural style owes more to Baron Hardup, than Flash Gordon.

The Tudor-Bethan style of Metro-Land, that oh so very, very English pantomime tradition of the village green, merry boys and girls dancing around Maypoles clutching wicker baskets, full of plastic daffodils.

For every raw obscenity
Must have its small ‘amenity,’
Its patch of shaven green,
And hoardings look a wonder
In banks of floribunda
With floodlights in between.

John Betjeman Inexpensive Progress

This is progress realised as regression, a pastiche of a pastiche, of a pastiche, of a pastiche.

Finding some small comfort in the imitation game, hurtling along radial roads, encased in the biggest, live now pay later motors, which borrowed money can buy.

Seeking succour in the certainty of an illusory past, whilst peering through the nets and blinds, at a seriously uncertain future.

You’re as pretty as a picture, a picture torn from a yellowing scrapbook, scanned and enhanced, to remove any unseemly rough edges and/or ruffians.

This was tomorrow calling, wishing you weren’t here.

Work is still underway and the surrounding landscape feels raw, windswept and wounded.

All of the plots on this phase are now reserved, but don’t miss out on the available homes on our other phases! 

Just minutes from Wilmslow, Poynton and Bramhall, and within easy reach of Manchester for both work and leisure, Woodford is perfectly placed to offer the best of both the thriving city and the glorious Cheshire countryside. This makes it the perfect location for our high-quality Heritage Collection homes, which combine the very best of classic Arts & Crafts architecture with modern, family friendly interiors of the very highest specification.

Redrow

The Oxford, Richmond, Leamington, Lincoln and Canterbury – reassuringly reassuring you, that you are in fact – nowhere.

This is it you have arrived – a gold-star, cast iron, paper thin investment for a certain aspirational section of society.

Goodbye Woodford Garden Village.

Now if the harvest is over, and the world cold, give me the bonus of laughter, as I lose hold.

Stockport Viaduct

Stockport Viaduct, carries the West Coast Main Line across the valley of the River Mersey in Stockport, Greater Manchester, England. It is one of the largest brick structures in the United Kingdom, as well as a major pioneering structure of the early railway age.

Stockport Viaduct was designed by George Watson Buck for the Manchester and Birmingham Railway. Work began in 1839 and was completed in 1840. Roughly 11 million bricks were used in its construction; at the time of its completion, it was the world’s largest viaduct and a major feat of engineering. The viaduct is 33.85 metres high. Stockport Viaduct is a Grade II* listed structure  and remains one of the world’s biggest brick structures.

In the late 1880s, the viaduct was widened to accommodate four tracks instead of two. In the 1960s, overhead catenary lines were installed by British Rail for the West Coast Main Line electrification scheme. In the second half of the twentieth century, the M60 motorway was built, passing through two arches of the viaduct.

Wikipedia

The structure is central to the visual landscape of the town – it has been the subject of both literature and art, most notably in the work of LS Lowry.

I believe that this composite composition of a northern landscape, is firmly embedded in the psyche of Stopfordians.

A notion that we are able to apprehend the whole of the structure in one panoramic sweep.

Our present perceptions are inextricably linked to past experience, possibly an illusory past.

It even featured in a feature film – A Taste Of Honey

My photograph below, was taken before access was prohibited.

Though has this uncluttered view ever actually existed?

The area has been a constantly evolving jumble of buildings, in, under and around the viaduct.

This raises the question – when did you last see your viaduct?

I live moments away on Didsbury Road – so why not take a look, circumnavigating the site in search of an answer?

From the recently constructed pedestrian and cycleway a view south across multiple roadways.

Approaching the arches from the west.

Looking east from Wellington Road North and the newly constructed A5154 link road.

Looking along the M60.

Looking along Heaton Lane, to the left Regent House.

Looking along the River Mersey

The Lowry Steps.

The view over the soon to be redeveloped Bus Station.

The view along Daw Bank.

One of the most complete perspectives along Swaine Street.

Swaine Street and Astley Street junction.

Crossing the new bridge to Heaton Lane.

Looking back towards the Crown Inn.

The view over Kwik Fit.

Looking east along the River Mersey, beside the rear of Weir Mill.

The view between the Stagecoach Bus Depots.

Looking east along Daw Bank.

Another clear perspective along Viaduct Street.

Beside Weir Mill.

Beneath the M60.

Looking east along Travis Brow.

This is one cold day in Covid February, the traffic a little lighter, few folk on foot.

Another day would produce another series of views, the light shifts, leaves appear on trees, the regeneration of Stockport sees the built environment shift and shimmy with an alarming regularity.

The landscape formed by the second Ice Age, gouging out a glacial valley and subsequently a conjoined river, is all part of a passing parade; it is acted out over millennia, you yourself are party to but one small part, make the most of it, get out and about take a look.

All this life is but a play, be thou the joyful player.

Pedestrian In A Car Park Again

Having visited Heaton Lane yesterday, today I set my sights high above Primark on Merseyway.

I have been here before, primarily to record Alan Boyson’s screen wall.

Walking the stairwells, ramps and interlocking tiers, the curious pedestrian becomes aware of the ambition and complexity of the scheme. Often identified on local social media groups as an anachronistic eyesore, I feel that it is a thing of rare and precious beauty.

Knock most of the precinct down, free the river, but keep this wall and what is within.

Anon

Some are slaughtering imaginary white elephants, whilst others are riding white swans.

Currently under the ownership of Stockport Borough Council, changes are afoot.

Work to redevelop Adlington Walk in Stockport starts this week, as the first stage in the regeneration of the 55-year-old Merseyway shopping centre.

Place North West

As of today work is still in Covid induced abeyance, it is still possible to walk the old revamped Adlington Walk. The future of retail in particular and town centres in general is in the balance, the best of the past and the finest of the new should be the watchword.

The scheme and car park redevelopment, is managed by CBRE of Manchester.

The future shopper is looking for more than just a simple buying transaction, they want an experience, entertainment and excitement.

This is where Merseyway Shopping Centre’s future lies.

CBRE Group Inc. is an American commercial real estate services and investment firm. The abbreviation CBRE stands for Coldwell Banker Richard Ellis. It is the largest commercial real estate services company in the world.

Their net worth as of January 28th 2021 is $21.18 Billion.

It is to be hoped that these dreams of entertainment and excitement, may be realised in the not too distant future.

In the meanest of mean times, in the mean time let’s have a look around.

The future moocher is looking for more than just a simple buying transaction, they want an experience, entertainment and excitement.

Pedestrian In A Car Park

One of the great glories of cinema is that it has the power to take the mundane and make it magical. To most of us, car parks signify a world of pain, where fearsome red-and-white crash barriers dictate our fate and where finding a space is often like finding meaning in the collective works of Martin Lawrence. To others, they meant lost Saturday afternoons spent waiting for your mum to finally come out of Woolworths so you could rush home to catch Terrahawks.

Either way, car parks are grey and dull. In the movies, however, they are fantastic places, filled with high-level espionage, and high-octane chases. 

According to The Guardian

I beg to differ, the cinema and TV has helped to define our perception and misconception of the car park.

The modern day pedestrian may reclaim, redefine and realise, that far from mundane each actual exemplar is different, in so many ways. The time of day, weather, light, usage, abusage, condition, personal demeanour and mood all shape our experience of this particular, modern urban space.

To walk the wide open spaces of the upper tier, almost touching the sky.

Is a far cry from the constrained space of the lower levels.

To walk the ramps with a degree of trepidation, visceral and fun.

This is an inversion of the car-centric culture, walking the concrete kingdom with a carbon-free footprint.

I was inspired by a recent viewing of All The Presidents Men to revisit my local multi-storey on Heaton Lane Stockport.

Cinematographer Gordon Hugh Willis Jr constructs a shadow world where informer and informed meet to exchange deep secrets, ever watchful, moving in and out of artificial light, tense and alert.

Look over your shoulder- there’s nobody there, and they’re watching you.

But they have been here.

To party.

To tag.

To live.

Pay here, your time is time limited, your presence measured.

Let’s explore this demimonde together, wet underfoot, lit laterally by limited daylight, walking through the interspersed pools of glacial artificial glow.

Time’s up, check out and move on – tomorrow is another day, another car park; in a different town.

Cinema and car parks wedded forever in the collective popular cultural unconscious.

Bollards

As I was out walking on the corner one day, I spied an old bollard in the alley he lay.

To paraphrase popular protest troubadour Bob Dylan.

I was struck by the elegant symmetry and rough patinated grey aggregate.

To look up on the world from a hole in the ground,
To wait for your future like a horse that’s gone lame,
To lie in the gutter and die with no name?

I mused briefly on the very word bollards, suitable perhaps for a provincial wine bar, Regency period drama, or family run drapers – but mostly.

bollard is a sturdy, short, vertical post. The term originally referred to a post on a ship or quay used principally for mooring boats, but is now also used to refer to posts installed to control road traffic and posts designed to prevent ram-raiding and vehicle-ramming attacks.

The term is probably related to bole, meaning a tree trunk.

Wikipedia

Having so mused I began to wander a tight little island of alleys and homes, discovering three of the little fellas, each linked by typology and common ancestry, steadfastly impeding the ingress of the motor car.

Yet also presenting themselves as mini works of utilitarian art – if that’s not a contradiction in terms.

Having returned home I began another short journey into the world of bollards, where do they come from?

Townscape Products

Hostile Vehicle Mitigation

Huge range • Fast delivery • Right on price

PAS 68 approved protection for your people and property combining security, natural materials and style.

My new pals seem to be closely related to the Reigate.

Available in a mind boggling range of finishes.

Bollards can be our friends, an expression of personal freedom and security.

A pensioner says he will go to court if necessary after putting up concrete bollards in a last-ditch attempt to protect his home.

Owen Allan, 74, of Beaufort Gardens, Braintree, claims motorists treat the housing estate like a race track, driving well in excess of the 20mph speed limit, and that the railings in front of his home have regularly been damaged by vehicles leaving the road.

He was worried it would only be a matter of time before a car came careering off Marlborough Road and flying through the wall of his bungalow.

Braintree and Witham Times

Though on occasion may be perceived as an enemy of personal liberty, precipitating a head on collision with the local authority.

A furious family have been stopped from parking on their own driveway after bullyboy council officials installed concrete bollards outside their home.

We’re stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea here what the with yellow lines and the bollards.

Daily Express

I have cause to thank the humble concrete bollard, having suffered an assault on our front wall from a passing pantechnicon, I subsequently petitioned the council, requiring them to erect a substantial bollard barrier.

Which was subsequently hit by a passing pantechnicon.

They are our modernist friends, little gems of public art and should treated with due respect – think on.

You hostile vehicles.

Concrete Garages

In casual conversation with Mr Matt Rettalick, at the Manchester Modernist HQ our attention casually turned to the topic of the prefabricated concrete garage.

I thought little more of it until yesterday, I then I resolved to get to the bottom of the matter.

Joseph Monier was a gardener and his idea was to develop permanent planters at a low price. In 1867, he patented different products made of reinforced concrete.

Pre-Cast History

Precast panelled buildings were pioneered in Liverpool 1905. The process was invented by city engineer John Alexander Brodie, a creative genius who also invented the idea of the football goal net. The tram stables at Walton in Liverpool followed in 1906. The idea was not taken up extensively in Britain. However, it was adopted all over the world, particularly in Eastern Europe and Scandinavia.

Wikipedia

The first concrete kit garages appeared in 1952, manufactured by Marley, earlier models had been constructed from wood, asbestos, corrugated iron or galvanised steel.

The sunrise became a common symbol of inter war optimism.

The increase in car ownership, the growth in the DIY ethic and the lack of an integrated garage, drove the demand for a pre-cast concrete auto-haven at the end of the drive.

They became a staple of the small ads.

Easy terms built to last.

Kenkast is the name which for me resonates down through the years, though there were it seems, several other manufacturers.

Batley Garages 128 Colledge Road Holbrooks Coventry Warks

Introducing the ultra-modern sprung up and over doors.

And a slap in the face for the truth to materials merchants.

Bowmonk Garages Spring Gardens Doncaster Yorks

Built to last.

A gorgeous Profil/Stymie Bold Italic banner and the promise of the only concrete garage that doesn’t look prefabricated – the ultimate status symbol.

C&R Garages Northowram Halifax

Compton Garages Fenny Compton Leamington Spa Warks

Coombe Construction Malden Road New Malden Surrey

Cradwill Tiles Ltd Kettering Northants

The garage of the future.

Dencroft Garages Bradford Road Batley

Established 1948 and still in business.

Kencast Astley Manchester

Marley South Ockendon Romford

Still in business and responsible through time for a range of products and the development of the DIY Super Store.

Still standing.

Silver Mist Brockham Betchworth Surrey

J Thorn & Sons Brampton Road Bexleyheath Kent

Also supplying an exciting array or industrial buildings.

S Wernick & Sons still very much in business

We now live in an age of endless non-stop domestic extension, all of the above are reminders of an age when extra external domestic space was added over a weekend, with help from a friend.

Exmouth to Bridport

Another day another breakfast – reduced rations and rashers, the now inevitable hash brown and a far too common failure to recognise my preference for tinned tomatoes.

Soldier on.

Friday 31st July 2015 leaving town beneath the bright morning sun.

Following a shady lane.

Crossing a drain.

Noting one curious prefabricated concrete lean to too.

Up over the Devon Downs.

Arriving in Sidmouth

A beautiful coastal town with a regency feel which is ideal for visitors of all ages. Sat in the middle of spectacular countryside Sidmouth is home to beautiful beaches, stylish eating places and great shopping, with everything from unusual gifts, designer clothing and lifestyle goods available.

The day of my visit the Folk Festival was in full swing – I encountered hardened drunken cider drinkers, drunk in the park and more tie-dyed clothing, than you would consider it humanly possible to produce.

With a hey nonny no I left town – up a very steep hill.

At the top of the hill, I unexpectedly came upon an observatory.

The Norman Lockyer Observatory to be precise.

It is both a historical observatory and home to an active amateur astronomical society. It is a centre for amateur astronomy, meteorology, radio astronomy, and the promotion of science education.

The observatory is regularly open to the public, staffed entirely by volunteers, and each summer hosts the South West Astronomy Fair.

Norman Lockyer was a Victorian amateur astronomer, who discovered the element Helium in the Sun’s corona in 1868 and was one of the founders of the science journal Nature in 1869. He became the director of the Solar Physics Observatory at South Kensington and the first professor of astronomical physics in the Normal School of Science – now the Royal College of Science, in 1887, he was knighted in 1897.

Using one’s own skill and ingenuity it is entirely possible to deduce that one arrived at such an august hill top observatory – at exactly X o’clock!

We’re now on the road to Beer, more of which in a moment first we’re on the way to Branscombe.

The Church of St Winifred’s set in a sylvan glade.

Characteristic Saxon chiselling on stones hidden in the turret staircase suggest the probability of an earlier, 10th century, Church on the site. Saint Winifred’s is among the oldest and most architecturally significant parish churches of Devon. The 12th century square central tower is one of only four completely Norman towers in Devon.

The church contains a rare surviving example of wall painting, dated about 1450 and discovered in 1911, the couple in this fragment illustrate Lust.

Sadly much of our ecclesiastical art was removed, destroyed or over painted during the Reformation, exacerbated by Cromwell and a general disdain for pictures and such.

Lust was also to be removed, destroyed or over painted.

The reverence for royal succession was and is actively encouraged.

Well that’s quite enough of that, next stop Beer!

The beautiful picturesque village of Beer is located on the UNESCO World Heritage Jurassic Coast in Devon.  Surrounded by white chalk cliffs, the shingle beach is lined with fishing boats still bringing in their daily catches and is famous for its mackerel.

On the edge of the South West Coast Path, Beer has some of the most stunning coastal walks in the county, one of the best being from Seaton to Beer with dramatic views across the Jurassic Coastline. Beer was also named recently by Countryfile as the Top Picnic spot in the UK from Jubilee Gardens at the top of the headland, chose for its stunning view of the beach and village from the hillside.

A narrow lane leads to the bay, clogged with oversized Toytown motor cars, full of folk in search of something which they’re doing their level best to remove, destroy or over paint.

Toytown is home to Larry the Lamb,and his clever sidekick, Dennis the Dachshund. Each day a misunderstanding, often arising from a device created by the inventor, Mr. Inventor, occurs which involves Ernest the Policeman, the disgruntled Mr Growser the Grocer and the Mayor.

Delightful home compromised by the curse of the ubiquitous uPVC.

Next thing you know we’re in Seaton.

Whether you are looking for interesting attractions, wanting to explore stunning natural landscapes, experience thrilling outdoor activities, or just wanting somewhere to stay, eat or shop, you’ll find it all in Seaton.

I found a pie shop and a pastie.

I found an ironmongers with a Stymie Bold Italic/Profil fascia.

Frequented by men who tend to adopt a combative stance when confronted with displays of ironmongery.

I found the road to Lyme Regis and the Regent Cinema.

1985

The Regent Cinema opened on 11th October 1937 with Hugh Wakefield in The Limping Man. It was built for and was operated by an independent exhibitor.

Bristol based architect William Henry Watkins designed a splendid Art Deco style inside the cinema which has seating on a stadium plan, originally the seating capacity was for 560. It has a raised section at the rear, rather than an overhanging balcony. Lighting in the auditorium is of a ‘Holophane’ type, which changes colours on the ceiling. The proscenium opening is 35 feet wide. There was a cafe located on the first floor level.

In recent Years it has been operated by the independent Scott Cinemas chain. The Regent Cinema has been recently restored. From October 2000, English Heritage gave it a Grade II Listed building status.

Cinema Treasures

2016 – Following the devastating fire at the Regent Cinema on Tuesday 22nd March, we can now confirm that the auditorium block of the Regent has been damaged beyond repair, and will have to be rebuilt. Damage to front of house areas is largely cosmetic, and will be attended to as part of the wider build scheme. We have every intention to rebuild the cinema to its former glory.

2019 – The WTW-Scott Cinema group is still actively engaged in a potential rebuild scheme for the Lyme Regis cinema. We’re currently working on our fourth set of design proposals, from which we need to reach the point where the rebuild scheme is both financially and architecturally viable. At present, we have not consulted with local authorities as there is little point in wasting everybody’s time presenting a scheme design that isn’t viable. New build cinemas are architecturally very complicated, and the Lyme Regis venue being a listed building presents challenges to overcome, all of which add significantly to any build schedule. Once we have a viable, workable scheme, we look forward to working with the local authority and Historic England to progress this.

The remainder of my time in Lyme was spent desperately seeking a bed for the night, to no avail. Following multiple enquiries and dead end directions to no-go destinations, I headed out of town.

Bridport bound – where I chanced upon a Pub/B&B the magnificent Lord Nelson where the owners allowed me to store my bike in the ninepin bowling alley.

I sat in the beer garden at the Lord Nelson and boozed – chatting to a local lad that worked in the local brewery, brewing the local beer, that was served in this very same local pub.

Palmers Ales are brewed in one of Britain’s oldest and prettiest breweries and have been since 1794. The only thatched brewery in the UK, Palmers sits adjacent to the river Brit just a mile from Dorset’s Jurassic Coast. All our fine ales are brewed using water from our own naturally rising spring. 

Our Head Brewer uses only the finest Maris Otter malt and carefully selected whole leaf hops to produce ales in a way they have been made for generations. Palmers historic brewhouse has a traditional Mash Tun, an open top Copper, along with top fermentation, this is the way ale should be brewed.

I finished up somewhere else, sat outside chatting to someone else, about something else.

Wandered happily home to bed.

Night night.

Modernist Model Village

I’ve always dreamt of a Modernist Model Village.

So much so I bought a book.

Drew up a list of buildings, made plans – dream on.

The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft a-gley.

However, whilst on my 2015 cycle tour of the south west coast I arrived almost accidentally yet serendipitously outside Babbacombe Model Village.

A good place to visit as dogs are welcome and this is important to us. The models were very cleverly designed and each one is recognisable and very funny anecdotes and labels. It was much bigger than it looked but flowed easily and was fun and charming to walk around. There is also a free mini crazy golf room which makes a change to not charge for something like this and a joy to see. I really enjoyed myself and it is all so well maintained you can feel the passion of the people creating it.

I went in – how could I have done otherwise?

Many of the buildings reflect the areas’ Seaside Moderne styles, from the holiday chalets to the substantial Modernist Villa, plus all the up to the minute services and infrastructure one would expect in a modern model village.

Let’s take a look:

Other model villages are available – Bondville Bridlington and virtually in Hastings

Plymouth to Dartmouth

Wednesday 29th July 2015 – eastward ho!

Leaving the compact anonymity of my B&B for the open road!

Having been unable to sample the joys of the Quality Hotel.

The Quality Hotel closed in 2014 and was demolished two years later after the site was bought by the city council following vandalism and fires.  

The ten-storey concrete block was built in 1970 in the 350th anniversary year of The Mayflower ship setting sail from Plymouth for North America.

Gilpin Demolition

Plymouth Hoe’s fifty million pound hotel and apartments project appears to have ground to a halt with no building work happening more than a year after developers vowed it would start in 2018.

Henley Real Estate, the firm behind the plans for an 11-story hotel and a 15-floor block of flats on the demolished former Quality Hotel site, has gone silent on plans and not responded to emails and phone calls from Plymouth Live.

When we visited the site the only sign of life was some weeds growing out of the ground.

I’ll leave them to it, I’m off in search of the South West Passage

The South West Coast Path itself is 630 miles long and is the longest established National Trail in the country. Starting at Minehead in Somerset it runs along the coastline of Exmoor, continuing along the coast of North Devon into Cornwall. It follows the entire coastline of Cornwall, goes across the mouth of the River Tamar and continues into Devon. After running along the south coast of Devon it then follows the Dorset coastline before finally ending at Poole Harbour. 

However if you follow the Coastal Path you’ll miss this delightful concrete fire station training tower in Plympton.

Along with the longest corrugated iron structure in the West Country.

You’ll miss getting slightly lost and a cup of tea at the Dream Bites roadside café in Modbury.

Dream Bites café, we’re all is welcome, from cars to Biker’s to Ride outs to Puplic and to work companies even you the cyclists!

GREAT FOOD GREAT PRICE.

You’ll miss the deep hedged lanes of Devon.

Where the four x fours force you into the roadside brambles with consummate ease and regularity – even on a designated cycle route.

Respite from such trials and tribulations can be found upon siting a water tower or a deserted butchers – down at Slapton Ley.

Slapton Ley is the largest natural lake in south-west England. Although it is only separated from the sea by a narrow shingle bar, it is entirely freshwater. 

Much beloved of my old pal Harry H Potts and family.

Then it’s up a hill down a hill to Dartmouth.

I made enquiries at several sea front hotels – who upon assessing my mode of dress and transport, despatched me to a back street pub B&B, suit y’self suits me, and my pocket.

The Seale Arms was just the job.

Quick change for the artist – let’s have a look around.

It’s full of historical architectural detail.

And slightly more hysterical architectural detail.

Time for a pint – chatting in the pub to yachting types, for it is here that the sense of tradition, the sea, power and wealth traditionally resides.

A short walk home.

Night night.

Car Park Ramp – Stockport

We recently took a look around Redrock, today we visit the next door neighbour – the car park ramp.

Replacing the old Debenham’s ramp.

Linking the old world of Merseyway with the shiny new NCP.

I don’t drive no car so I have to make do with the ecologically sound and ever so affordable means of pedestrian trespass, proceeding incautiously I recorded my journey into the unknown.

Returning safely to Basecamp I investigated further, circumnavigating the drainage area.

I have to admit that I am over fond of this small sacred space, a modern impenetrable temple of Brutalism. My ambition is to stage an art/music event within, just wait and see/hear if I don’t!

Where The Gas Works Wasn’t – Stockport

1878 Gas making at Portwood commenced

1969 Old retort house demolished

1988 Gas holder number 3 dismantled

2003 Last aerial view showing the gasometers in the raised position

2019 Removal of gas holders 2 & 3

Thanks to 28 Days Later

The area was formerly a dense web of housing and industry.

With the gas works at its heart .

High speed gas once the fuel of the future is almost a thing of the past. Coal Gas produced in coke retorts long gone, North Sea Gas hissed off.

Low carbon heating will replace domestic boilers from 2025, the need for gas storage holders is minimal.

Goodnight Mr Therm.

There are currently 53 listed holders on the Historic England site.

Some have been repurposed – WilkinsonEyre has completed work on Gasholders London; a development of 145 apartments within a triplet of listed gasholder guide frames.

Little now remains of the Portwood Gas Works.

These are the rearranged remnants re-sited by Dunelm Mill – it’s curtains for our industrial heritage.

What’s left?

This is now the province of Securitas and Peel Holdings.

Your business is unique, so we don’t offer a one-size-fits-all.

Instead, we layer six Protective Services for your complete security. 

Unlock six Protective Services

One of the UK’s largest retail parks, Stockport Retail Park benefits from a strategic location on the M60 Manchester orbital motorway making it one of the city’s most accessible parks. The park forms a natural extension to the town centre, offering a wide range of uses from value convenience to fashion and home as well as a number of cafés and restaurants.

This is the post industrial landscape of consumption and its infrastructure that faces the defunct and mothballed site, whatever next?

Concrete Island – Stockport

He reached the foot of the embankment, and waved with one arm, shouting at the few cars moving along the westbound carriageway. None of the drivers could see him, let alone hear his dry-throated croak, and Maitland stopped, conserving his strength. He tried to climb the embankment, but within a few steps collapsed in a heap on the muddy slope.

Deliberately, he turned his back to the motorway and for the first time began to inspect the island.

Maitland, poor man, you’re marooned here like Crusoe – If you don’t look out you’ll be beached here for ever. He had spoken no more than the truth. This patch of abandoned ground left over at the junction of three motorway routes was literally a deserted island.

JG Ballard Concrete Island

I’m in a different place – the same but different, whilst out walking I went through an open gate, following a well worn path, for the very first time.

Leading who knows where.

The confluence of three rivers, the meeting of motorway and main road.

I ventured further – where if anywhere are we going?

This tight tree lined and paint daubed triangle offers no answers.

Tamed thirty years or so ago, with concrete and steel.

Further and further.

Into an underground world.

Through the railings and into a void – a void that had become home to the otherwise engaged, seeking solace somewhere, finding shelter from the storm. A storm of Twenty First Century austerity, man made – moving money around until those without are out, out in the open, nowhere else to go but here.

How often have I lain beneath rain on a strange roof, thinking of home. 

William C. Faulkner

Homes of Distinction – Heald Green

We begin our journey through bricks and mortar, domestic fashions and fads, time and tide in Rainham.

Ward’s Construction, along with many others throughout the country, offer the aspirational suburbanite an opportunity to own the very latest in modern design.

Large open plan rooms lit by large open glazed windows, quality cladding – mixing traditional materials with go ahead get it now design. Double fronted, remote garage, modest manageable, grassed gardens.

For those on slightly more limited means the DH2 offers affordable modernity, along with everything you would expect from a Ward’s Home.

Homes of distinction.

Fast forward to April 2020 – St Ann’s Road Heald Green Cheshire

National Cycle Route 558 brings me here – sanctioned lockdown exercise for the mobile moocher.

In the sixty or so years that have passed something has happened to those suburban dream homes.

An ever expanding middle class fuelled by bigger pay packets, low, low, lower taxation and bumper inheritance payouts, wants more.

More house, more car, more style – conspicuous consumption of everything and more – extend yourself, express yourself!

Right here in one unexceptional road is the apotheosis of today’s Homes of Distinction.

Crown Point Shopping Park – Denton

From fashion to homeware, find everything you need at Crown Point Shopping Park.

The court heard the accused had agreed to detonate a bomb at Crown Point North as a diversion before driving to their school, murdering teachers and pupils and then killing themselves.

BBC

We live in strange and troubled times, the urban landscapes we have created are often far from convivial.

Deserts possess a particular magic, since they have exhausted their own futures, and are thus free of time. Anything erected there, a city, a pyramid, a motel, stands outside time. It’s no coincidence that religious leaders emerge from the desert. Modern shopping malls have much the same function. A future Rimbaud, Van Gogh or Adolf Hitler will emerge from their timeless wastes.

JG Ballard – The Atrocity Exhibition

This condition is further exacerbated during the current State controls, constraints and closures.

The myriad opportunities for social alienation are replaced by compulsory isolation.

The vacuous amoral urban retail experience becomes desert again, the domain of singular dog walkers and itinerant snappers.

The car, cash and credit are no longer king – space is the place.

Merseyway – Alan Boyson Screen Wall

Deep in the heart of Stockport at the centre of our very own shopping centre – Merseyway.

A pierced concrete relief screen wall surrounds the former Co-op, currently Primark, car park.

The work of Alan Boyson – today the 16th of March 2020 would have been his ninetieth birthday.

I’ve even gone so far as to analyse its structure:

So I went for a walk this morning, as I have on several previous occasions, to take a look around the site – inside and out.

George Street Car Park – Hull

My previous Hull walk was was linear, along the Humber Estuary open and expansive.

This was a very different kettle of fish – spiralling out of control, rising and falling, walking the ramp, a journey into one’s inner self.

Possibly the worst multi storey I have been in for years.

Spooky, filthy, bays too small, machines remote, access tortuous.

Avoid.

So says Nick Shields

Dark, Gloomy and Rotting .

Looks a good candidate for a location for a crime watch reconstruction.

Quoth Peter Campbell

It’s a multi story multi Storey and no mistake

I couldn’t possibly pass comment, I walk can’t drive, won’t drive – though simply can’t resist exploring car parks.

Though the local paper has identified an issue of fitness to fit.

Heard the one about a city centre car park where you can’t easily park your car? It might sound like a joke but it’s no laughing matter for drivers trying to squeeze into vacant spaces at Hull City Council’s multi-storey car park in George Street. For motorists are finding it increasingly difficult to manoeuvre into its tight parking bays.

I myself navigated the bays with ease, though not without that unique sense of foreboding and unease, generated by an empty concrete carapace where car space, decay and ingress are issues.

It was designed and developed by Maurice Weston in the 1960s. He had two companies, Multidek and Dekotel, and built circular continuous ramp car parks in Hull, Nottingham, Leicester, Bristol and Bournemouth, some of them also involving circular hotels on the upper floors. In its day, the bays were easily wide enough for most cars. When I used George Street myself, it felt great to use, because you could easily reverse into the pitches and there were no tight corners to negotiate. But car widths have probably got the better of it, these days, and you can’t widen the pitches because of the position of the pillars.

The plans were very complicated to get approved because the George pub was a listed building and the car park had to be built around it. Incidentally, Maurice Weston also had an option to develop the wasteland on Ferensway in the 60s, but his hotel and entertainment centre project didn’t get past the council.

Thanks to David Sugarman

Let’s take a look.

Hull to Hessle – Humber Estuary Walk

Overcast and grey – heading headlong into the prevailing westerly.

This is just the day to walk from Hull to Hessle.

From the recently renovated early morning, empty piazzas of Hull Marina to the foot of the Humber bridge.

To the left the interminable rippling brown surface of the river, relentlessly heading out to sea.

To the right a modern melange of working docks – shipping aggregates and timber, hither and thither.

The vacant haunts of fisher folk no longer casting nets, forever and a day.

Disused and decayed warehousing, betrayed by the coming of the container, home now to the Urbex snapper and itinerate tagger.

Out of town retail parks fuelled by debt.

Dried up reed beds swaying beneath the weight of the wind.

The suspended bed of the bridge, floating high above the waters, far below.

Take a walk with me now.

Abbey Walk Car Park – Grimsby

I was in town, just looking around, just looking for modernity, just looking.

I found you by chance between the railway and the high street, so I took a good look around, fascinated by the concrete sculptural panels on your fascia columns, those facing Abbey Walk.

Research tells me that they the work of Harold Gosney – born in Sheffield, he studied at Grimsby School of Art and London’s Slade School of Fine Art.

The majority of Gosney’s early commissions were collaborations with architects and he has made a significant contribution to public art in Grimsby. He is the artist responsible for the reliefs on the Abbey Walk car park, the large Grimsby seal by the entrance to the Grimsby Central Library and the Grim and Havelok themed copper relief on the side of Wilko store in Old Market Place.

Wikipedia

The car park has been the subject of some speculative repairs and refurbishment:

In total, the scheme will cost the council £1.54 million.

The authority will borrow £1.34 million to fund the project with a further £200,000 coming from a local transport grant. But the council said that the improvements made could help increase revenue from the car park of around £34,000 a year.

Councillor Matthew Patrick, portfolio holder for transport at the council, said that the work is essential to “brighten up” the building and attract people into Grimsby.

“It’s one of the largest car parks in the town,” he said.

“It will attract more people into the town centre and help to improve the offering of the car park.”

Lincolnshire Reporter

So here we are faced with a rare, precious and beautiful example of municipal modernism, a bold and brave attempt to decorate what is often the most functional of functional structures.

Owing something to the work of both Henry Moore and Pablo Picasso the imagery is derived from automotive parts, along with it seems to me, vague intimations of figuration.

Let’s talk a look!