IRK VALLEY #TWO

Having walked and cycled twixt Victoria Station and Blackley, I returned once more to the Hexagon Tower to resume my explorations towards the source in Royton.

Beginning on Delaunays Road and onwards along Blackley New Road.

The footpath falls away from the main road to the wooded valley.

Returning to the road I was distracted by Sandyhill Court and the reliefs which I discovered there.

I was also taken with with this electrical substation.

We are encouraged to be wild about Blackley Vale a reclaimed landfill site.

Across the Victoria Avenue Bridge and down the other side.

Emerging by Sainsbury’s and picking up the path again.

Onwards under the M60 Motorway.

The M60 was developed by connecting and consolidating the existing motorway sections of the M63M62, and an extended M66. It came into existence as the M60 in 2000, with the completion of the eastern side opening in October.

The original plan called for a completely new motorway, but policy change led to the plan which created the current motorway. As soon as it opened, the motorway got close to its projected maximum volume on significant sections.

Hey look there’s Alkrington Hall!

This Palladian mansion was designed and built in 1736 by renowned architect, Giacomo Leoni, who had also been responsible for significant alterations to Lyme Hall during the same period.  

Offering an infusion of historical significance coupled with an abundance of living space throughout, Alkrington Hall East, simply must be viewed to be appreciated in full.  

During the early 1770’s, the Hall became the largest museum outside of London, when the Hall’s owner, Sir Ashton Lever, exhibited his private collection of natural objects, including live animals. Remaining as an imposing symbol of Leoni’s work, Alkrington Hall remains one of only a few surviving examples throughout England.  

In modern times, the Hall has since been carefully and sympathetically separated into 4 sections, and we are pleased to be offering for sale the largest portion of the Hall, with a total floor area comprising of over 7500 SQFT, and living accommodation spread over 4 floors.  

Sold for £825,00 in 2021 Savills

Seen here in 1870

Next thing you know you find yourself in Middleton, where the Irk sort of disappears – you sort of get lost and sort of follow the wrong track, eventually ending up back where you should have been in the first place.

Don’t follow Wince Brook – it’s so far from right that it’s wrong – right?

Take a walk up Oldham Road to see Warwick Mill instead.

1907 by G Stott of J Stott and Sons – Red brick with internal cast-iron frame.

Grade II Listed

There was and Oval Partnership planning for a retail development in 2014 which failed to materialise.

The converted building will provide a showcase for Chinese manufacturers of construction-related products looking to enter the UK and wider European markets. Products on display will include tiles, lighting, furniture, kitchenware, sanitary ware and curtains. A second phase will see the construction of a new building alongside effectively doubling the floor space. In addition the brief includes a range of restaurant, leisure, culture and entertainment facilities threaded through the building. The conversion will open up the existing building in a dramatic way, maximizing permeability and providing a strong visual connection back into the town, promoting public access through the building to the attractive south-facing waterside of the mill.

Permeability failed to be maximised, sadly.

Ambitious plans to refurbish Grade II listed Warwick Mill to create new homes and breathe life into an important building and part of Middleton’s history have been drawn up. 

Warwick Mill has recently changed ownership and the new owners, Kam Lei Fong (UK) Ltd, have been working with Rochdale Borough Council over the last nine months to develop proposals to redevelop the site.

Rochdale Council

So far so CGI good- the town eagerly awaits a surfeit of high end SUV owners.

Former clog wearing mill workers remain silent on such matters.

The Job Centre steadfastly remains a Job Centre.

The river reappears here in back of the Middleton Arena.

Proceeding in a disorderly manner.

Emerging by this substantial substation.

Across the way is Lodge Mill.

A Middleton couple has saved the oldest surviving mill in the town after a two-year renovation project.

Located on Townley Street, Lodge Mill was built in the mid-1800s and was originally a silk weaving mill. It went on to cotton weaving and cloth dying, then to a home for many different small local businesses. Sadly, in the early 2000s, it fell into disrepair and became derelict.

Martin Cove and Paula Hickey bought Lodge Mill on 1 April 2019 and immediately set about replacing and repairing the roof. They also installed a 19.4kw solar PV system so the mill became its own little power station that summer.

In August 2019, the couple opened a small ice cream shop on the ground floor of the mill – named the Ice Cream Shop at Lodge – selling locally-made ice cream from Birch Farm, Heywood.

The ice cream is made using cream from Tetlow Farm’s dairy herd at Slattocks – Martin explained.

Rochdale Online

It was £2.25 for two scoops and a flake – a welcome oasis on a warmish day.

Sadly in December 2021 there was a serious fire, work has since been done to repair the roof.

A poorly signed footpath takes you back riverside by way of assorted industrial debris.

Still very much in use the Vitafoam Mill

Founded in 1949 on £100 capital, Vitafoam started its original operation manufacturing latex foam products in Oldham, Greater Manchester.

After establishing the business, the company made a major move to its current site in Middleton, Manchester in 1955, acquiring two empty former cotton mills to cope with increased demand.

By 1963, Vitafoam had added the manufacture of polyurethane foam to its business and was providing product speciality for upholstery and bedding markets.

As Vitafoam entered the new millennium the company had made great strides in supplying external foam converters. These rely on Vitafoam to be their business partner and provide their foam needs. This trend continues to grow from strength to strength and is supplemented by our own group conversion companies.

Regaining the river at Chadderton Hall Park.

Its roots stretch back to the 13th century being the land on which Chadderton Hall once stood. It contains a large field area with a small football pitch, a playground area, several flower gardens and a small café situated next to the Park’s bowling green.

Chadderton Hall was first built in the 13th century by Geoffrey de Chadderton, this first hall was in Chadderton Fold slightly to the east of the current park. In 1629 a new hall was built at the site of the current park and was present there until the 20th century when it was demolished in 1939. It was at the end of the 19th Century that the area surrounding Chadderton Hall began to be used for public recreation. A boating lake and a menagerie, including a kangaroo and a lion, were established as part of a Pleasure Garden. These features have long since been demolished but evidence of the boating lake can be seen by the hollowed out area where the playing fields now stand.

Wikipedia

Diminishing now the river thin and shallow, as we rise into the hills on the outskirts of Greater Manchester.

Passing by Royton Cricket Club as the river disappears again.

Based in the heart of Thorpe Estate – Royton Cricket, Bowling & Running Club offers a family friendly environment whilst hosting strong, competitive cricket throughout the summer. Bowling throughout the summer along with a Running section – Royton Road Runners, who operate all year round. Along with seasonal events such as our well known firework display along with St Georges Day celebrations – with plans in the pipeline for improvements on current events as well as new exciting projects – it’s a great time to be apart of the club & community!

I have very fond memories of visiting with my dad Eddie Marland as he followed Ashton in the Central Lancashire League – both watching cricket and seeing my dad crown green bowling here.

The river has gone underground again.

To be found on Salmon Fields – in pool form.

Site of a Life for a Life Memorial Forest

These now full memorial forests were originally donated to Life for a Life by Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council. Salmon Fields meadow sits adjacent to a lovely pond that is used regularly by fishing enthusiasts and is frequently used as a breeding site for Canadian Geese.

Life for a Life planting areas are natural environments where we encourage wildlife and plantlife to flourish, as such additional items should not be added to the tree or the space around it, especially as they can cause damage to the tree. 

Please be aware that any prohibited items left on or around memorial trees will be removed. 

Although these sites are now full to the planting of new memorial trees if you have an existing memorial tree dedicated you can still upgrade memorial plaques, add additional ashes to a memorial tree, order memorial keepsakes etc.

IRK VALLEY #ONE

The first leg of a journey to the source of the River Irk beginning behind Victoria, finishing by the Hexagon Tower in Blackley.

The Irk’s name is of obscure etymology, but may be Brittonic in origin and related to the Welsh word iwrch, meaning roebuck

In medieval times, there was a mill by the Irk at which the tenants of the manor ground their corn and its fisheries were controlled by the lord of the manor. In the 16th century, throwing carrion and other offensive matter into the Irk was forbidden. Water for Manchester was drawn from the river before the Industrial Revolution. A bridge over the Irk was recorded in 1381. The river was noted for destructive floods. In 1480, the burgesses of Manchester described the highway between Manchester and Collyhurst which – the water of Irk had worn out. In 1816, of seven bridges over the Irk, six were liable to be flooded after heavy rain but the seventh, the Ducie Bridge completed in 1814 was above flood levels.

According to The New Gazetteer of Lancashire the Irk had – more mill seats upon it than any other stream of its length in the Kingdom and – the eels in this river were formerly remarkable for their fatness, which was attributed to the grease and oils expressed by the mills from the woollen cloths and mixed with the waters. 

However, by the start of the 20th century the Irk Valley between Crumpsall and Blackley had been left a neglected river – not only the blackest but the most sluggish of all rivers.

Wikipedia

The river emerges from beneath the city into an area named Scotland – a remnant of Manchester’s links with the Jacobite Rebellion.

To the left were the squalid Victorian homes of Red Bank – currently presenting as the Green Quarter.

The river briefly becomes subterranean again.

This is a river with an ignominious history – famously damned by émigré Friedrich Engels.

At the bottom flows, or rather stagnates, the Irk, a narrow, coal-black, foul-smelling stream, full of debris and refuse, which it deposits on the shallower right bank.

Mr Engels currently resides by the Medlock.

The stretch along Dantzic Street into Collyhurst Road was heavily industrialised, of which some remnants prevail.

Along with an abandoned traveller’s camp, where once the gas works had stood.

New housing is being built forming the first wave of the Victoria North masterplan.

Previous enterprises have hit the buffers beneath the railway on Bromley Street.

To the right is Dalton Street once home to the Collyhurst Cowboy.

Here are the remains of Vauxhall Street, named for Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens, built in the remains of the Collyhurst Quarry – which in turn became Sandhills.

There are current plans afoot to create a City River Park.

In addition the local authority oversees the Irk River Valley Project , along with Groundwork, United Utilities, Woodland Trust and Greggs.

To the left are St Catherine’s Steps

Immortalised by almost local lad LS Lowry

Spanning the defunct railway workings, affording a view of the brightly blooming city centre.

Leaving Collyhurst Road, we journey along Smedley Road.

Seen here in 1934.

Passing beneath Queens Road – Queens Park to the right.

Queen’s Park was one of Britain’s first municipal parks created in 1846. The park was originally arranged around Hendham Hall, home of the Houghton family however this was demolished in 1884.

Dropping down to Hendham Vale.

To the right is the Smedley Hotel.

The Smedley Hotel is a very large pub that is hidden away on a quiet back street. Once inside there were a few different rooms and I had a drink in the bar which was fairly large and seemed in need of some attention. The pub still had its old Chesters signs outside and there were three real ales on the bar. I had a drink of Chesters bitter and this was a very nice drink the other beers were Chesters mild and Boddington’s bitter.

I thought this pub would be long gone but it is still standing and I think open for business.

Alan Winfield 1994

Lost to the world are the Manchester Moderne flats of Kennet House overlooking the Irk Valley on Smedley Lane.

Hendham Way becomes a pedestrianised lane.

Taking the road up and then down, returning to the river, and following the wrong path – alongside the Hapurhey Reservoir and Ponds.

A remnant of the industrial era the reservoirs and ponds, once used by the factories as a source of water, have over the year become a thriving habitat which supports a substantial amount of wildlife.

Then cutting back and regaining the correct path.
Finally arriving at the Hexagon Tower.

Black and white photographs: Manchester Local Image Collection

Salford Quays

Manchester Docks were a series of nine docks.

They were situated in Salford, Stretford and Manchester at the east end of the Manchester Ship Canal. They formed part of the Port of Manchester from 1894 until their closure in 1982. The docks marked the upper reaches of the ship canal, and were a destination for both coastal and ocean-bound vessels carrying cargo and a limited number of passengers, often travelling to and from Canada.

Manchester Docks were divided into two sections; the larger Salford docks to the west of the Trafford Road swing bridge and Pomona docks to the east. Each section consisted of four docks in total, the largest being to the west; Dock 5 at Pomona was never fully completed. Of the eight working docks only one, Dock 1 at Pomona, was within Manchester itself. During much of 1948, Manchester Docks were Britain’s third busiest port owing to damage suffered by the Port of Hull during the Hull Blitz.

During the 1970s the docks began a rapid decline, largely due to containerisation. The increasing size of freight-carrying ships meant they could no longer navigate the ship canal and this, combined with increased trading with Europe and the east, saw use of Manchester Docks decrease. In 1982 the remaining docks closed and the area became derelict. Recognising the need to redevelop the area, Salford City Council purchased the docks in 1984 using a derelict land grant. The Salford Quays Development Plan was adopted in May 1985, proposing complete reclamation and development of the area for commercial, residential and leisure use.

Wikipedia

One of the very few school excursions we undertook way back in 1968 was to the docks – in an elegant glass topped barge.

So I thought it was about time I went to take look around – this time I arrived by tram and proceeded on foot.

Amble to Berwick upon Tweed

The final day the first sight of cloud and sea mist.

I awoke early and took an amble around Amble.

Then off on the road to Warkworth and beyond to Alnmouth – where I revisited a small group of asymmetric post-war dormer bungalows.

Stopping to view the flood plain of the River Aln, chatting perchance with the local environmental officer.

Who explained how the flood defences had been removed, as this encouraged the natural process of flooding and receding to proceed unhindered, thus preventing property from being interminably sodden.

We also discussed the decline in vernacular architecture and the fashion for all that is New England, much to the detriment of New Northumberland.

One day everywhere will look like a someone else’s vision of somewhere else.

The good folk of Craster have wisely prevented the local bus from entering the North Sea.

The way north took me over a well laid concrete track.

I came upon three wise men from Durham, Rochdale and Doncaster, gathered around a concrete-bag bunker.

They were all Grateful Dead fans who like me had attended the Bickershaw Festival in 1972.

The first and last outdoor festival I ever done attended, unforgettable.

Weaving down and around quiet lanes I encountered this Walker Evans workshop.

Armstrong Cottages is an estate originally built by Lord Armstrong for the workmen restoring Bamburgh Castle.

The 1901 Census lists the current inhabitants with their provenance and professions.

114 residents are listed for the 19 cottages, of whom 53 are working men employed in the building trade: their professions include stonemasons, joiners, plumbers, rope & pole scaffolders, blacksmiths, and plasterers.

Many come from Northumberland or Scotland, but a significant proportion are from further afield: Cumberland, Westmorland, Lancashire, Durham, Yorkshire, Derbyshire – and one from the Channel Islands.

Seven nights in November will now cost you the best part of a thousand pounds.

The Armstrong family the former owners, made millions from the sale of armaments.

If I thought that war would be fomented, or the interests of humanity suffer, by what I have done, I would greatly regret it. I have no such apprehension.

He also said:

It is our province, as engineers to make the forces of matter obedient to the will of man; those who use the means we supply must be responsible for their legitimate application.

I paused a wee while to take a sip of water and admire the agrarian architecture.

A couple on their bikes stopped to chat, as a babe in arms the lad had been transported by mam and dad, in a sidecar with tandem attached.

Such a delightful and poignant recollection – we wished each other well and went on our way.

I made my way from the rolling hills back down toward the coast.

Where a permissive path hugged the shore, which I cautiously shared with some equally cautious sheep.

Looking back toward Lindisfarne.

Looking forward to the past.

Pausing for the passing of a mainline train.

Berwick upon Tweed in view.

Come the evening I spent an hour or two in The Curfew, feasting on fine beer, company, haggis scotch egg and game pie.

Finishing with this well deserved and wonderful, bottle of Oude Geuze.

The final day – so many marvellous miles covered, forever stopping to chat, snap, look and learn.

No finer way to see the world, though so condensed and intense even at touring speed – apologies to all the things that I failed to see.

So long to Amble, Newcastle, Redcar, Scarborough and Hull.

Newcastle to Amble

Well here we are heading north for a fourth day – having bidden farewell to Hull, Scarborough and Redcar.

Passing a few familiar sights.

Pearl Assurance House Architect: T P Bennetts

BHS Murals Joyce Pallot and Henry Collins.

The building was originally developed by C&A and it is thought that funding for the reliefs might have been provided by the store and/or Northern Arts. It became BHS which subsequently closed, the building is now occupied by Primark, C&A estates still own the site. 

Civic Centre entrance to the Council Chamber.

Taking a bold leap into the unknown I left the city centre, unwisely following unfamiliar roads, predictably becoming very lost.

I sought assistance from a passing fellow cyclist, very kindly he guided me to Tynemouth, following a mysterious and circuitous course across the undulating terrain – thanks.

The city quickly becomes the seaside with its attendant retail bricolage.

An all too familiar redundant lido – opened in 1925 and closed in the mid 90’s – but a Friends Group aims to breathe new life into the site.

The Park Hotel built in the 1930’s and recently refurbished has been bought by The Inn Collection Group.

Chronicle Live

Much has ben down to improve the promenade at Whitley Bay

The Whitley Bay Seafront Master Plan sets out our ambitious plans to regenerate the coastline between St Mary’s Lighthouse and Cullercoats Bay.

The proposals are a mix of council and private sector developments and involve more than £36m of new investment at the coast.

North Tyneside Gov

In 1908 the Spanish City was officially opened.

A simple three-arched entrance had been built facing the seafront and the area was now completely enclosed within a boundary. In 1909, large rides appeared, including a Figure Eight rollercoaster and a Water Chute. Elderton and Fail wanted to make a statement and create a new, grand entrance to the fairground. They hired the Newcastle architects Cackett& Burns Dick to survey the site and begin drawing up plans for new Pleasure Buildings.

Building began in February 1910 and the construction was completed by builders Davidson and Miller 60 days later. The use of the revolutionary reinforced concrete technique pioneered by Francois Hennebique was perfect for the job, being cheap and fast. The Dome and surrounding buildings – a theatre and two wings of shop units – opened on 14 May 1910 to great fanfare. Visitors marvelled at the great Spanish City Dome, the second largest in the country at the time after St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, which provided a spectacular meeting place with uninterrupted views from ground level to its ceiling, 75 feet above.

Telegraph-wire cyclists, acrobatic comedians, singing jockeys, mermaids, they all appeared at the Spanish City during its first decade. One of the wings hosted the menagerie, where visitors could see hyenas, antelopes and tigers! This was converted into the Picture House cinema in 1916.

Spanish City

Eventually the Master Plan will be fully implemented.

Beacon House beckoned and I took time to have a good old look around.

Ryder and Yates 1959

A little further along, a selection of Seaside Moderne semis in various states of amendment and alteration.

Before I knew it I was in Blyth.

The town edged with military installations

Gloucester Lodge Battery includes the buried, earthwork and standing remains of a multi-phase Second World War heavy anti-aircraft gun battery and radar site, as well as a Cold War heavy anti-aircraft gun and radar site. The battery occupies a level pasture field retaining extensive rig and furrow cultivation.

Historic England

During WW2 Blyth Harbour was used as a major submarine base and that combined with the heavy industry in the area it made a very good target for the Luftwaffe.

Derelict Places

827 men of the 225th Antiaircraft Artillery Searchlight Battalion of the U.S. Army, arrived at this location in early March 1944 and were attached to the 30th British AAA Brigade. Here they sharpened their skills in the high-altitude tracking of aircraft.

Skylighters

I headed into town.

Uncovered this gem in the library porch.

Stopped to admire the bus station.

And found a post box marked Post Box.

Burton’s gone for a Burton.

The cycle route took me off road along the estuary and under the flyover.

Encountering a brand new factory.

And the remnants of the old power station.

Blyth Power Station – also known as Cambois Power Station, refers to a pair of now demolished coal-fired power stationsThe two stations were built alongside each other on a site near Cambois in Northumberland, on the northern bank of the River Blyth, between its tidal estuary and the North Sea. The stations took their name from the town of Blyth on the opposite bank of the estuary. The power stations’ four large chimneys were a landmark of the Northumberland skyline for over 40 years.

After their closure in 2001, the stations were demolished over the course of two years, ending with the demolition of the stations’ chimneys on 7 December 2003.

Wikipedia

UK battery tech investor Britishvolt has unveiled plans to build what is claimed to be Britain’s first gigaplant at the former coal-fired power station in Blyth in Northumberland.

The £2.6 billion project at the 95-hectare Blyth Power Station site will use renewable energy from the UK and possibly hydro-electric power generated in Norway and transmitted 447 miles under the North Sea through the ‘world’s longest inter-connector’ from the North Sea Link project.

By 2027, the firm estimates the gigaplant will be producing around 300,000 lithium-ion batteries a year.

The project is predicted to create 3,000 new jobs in the North East and another 5,000 in the wider supply chain.

Energy News

Long gone is the Cambois Colliery, its pit head baths and the buses that bused the workers in and out.

One hundred and eleven men died there.

The route headed along the coast on unmade roads and paths, I bypassed the Lynemouth Pithead Baths – having visited some ten years ago.

I was delighted to find that Creswell Ices were still in business and my temporary partner Adrian treats me to a tub.

Having arrived in Amble I was delighted to find the Cock & Bull.

Following a few pints I feasted on fish and chips.

Then watched the sun set over the harbour.
Good night all.

Redcar to Newcastle

An early start on another sunny day, cycling along long straight roads out of town, towards Middlesborough.

Having previously visited Hull and Scarborough and all points in between.

Slowly passing sleepy factories and desolate bus shelters.

Bunker like social clubs and flower lined roads.

The Albion club in South Bank has stood empty for the last three years. 

Now local lad Mark Trainor has the keys – and says opening the doors to the club his own family frequented for years will be a dream come true.

He’s planning to cater for everyone, he says, and it won’t just be all about drinking.

Parents will be able to call in for a coffee after dropping the kids at school, there will be pool nights and Mark’s personal favourite – Pie Day Fridays.

Gazette

Public art framing the Transporter Bridge.

The £2.7m Temenos structure has taken four months to piece together on the banks of the River Tees near Middlesbrough’s Transporter Bridge.

Thousands of metres of steel wire have been woven between the two steel rings to create the 164ft high and 360ft long sculpture.

It was created by artist Anish Kapoor and structural designer Cecil Balmond.

BBC

Temenos is a Greek word meaning land cut off and assigned as a sanctuary or holy area.

Following a 1907 Act of Parliament the bridge was built at a cost of £68,026 6s 8d  by Sir William Arrol & Co. of Glasgow between 1910 and 1911 to replace the Hugh Bell and Erimus steam ferry services. A transporter bridge was chosen because Parliament ruled that the new scheme of crossing the river had to avoid affecting the river navigation. 

The opening ceremony on 17 October 1911 was performed by Prince Arthur of Connaught, at its opening the bridge was painted red.

In 1961 the bridge was painted blue.

In 1974, the comedy actor Terry Scott, travelling between his hotel in Middlesbrough and a performance at the Billingham Forum, mistook the bridge for a regular toll crossing and drove his Jaguar off the end of the roadway, landing in the safety netting beneath.

Wikipedia

The cycle track followed the river, which sports a fine array of industrial architecture.

Tees Newport Bridge designed by Mott, Hay and Anderson and built by local company Dorman Long who have also been responsible for such structures as the Tyne Bridge and Sydney Harbour Bridge, it was the first large vertical-lift bridge in Britain.

Wikipedia

Crossing the river and heading for Hartlepool.

Negotiating underpasses and main road cycle lanes.

I was delighted to be drawn toward Dawson House here in Billingham.

Austere brick churches.

St Joseph RC Low Grange Avenue Billingham

A prefabricated polygonal structure of the 1970s, with laminated timber frame. The seating came from Pugin & Pugin’s church at Port Clarence. 

Taking Stock

Just along the way Saint Lukes Billingham 1965.

In a slightly more upbeat mode St James the Apostle Owton Manor.

I convinced myself that this building on Station Road Seaton Carew was a former pub, I discovered following consultation with the local studies offices, that it was in fact a former children’s home destined to become a doctors.

I found myself looking back across the estuary to Redcar.

Northward toward Hartlepool.

Where the bingo was closed and the circus had left town.

Every Englishman’s home is a bouncy castle.

St John Vianney located on King Oswy Drive West View Estate.

Architect: Crawford & Spencer Middlesbrough 1961.

A large post-war church built to serve a housing estate, economically built and with a functional interior. The campanile is a local landmark. 

The parish of St John Vianney was created in 1959 to serve the growing West View Estate, on the north side of Hartlepool. The church was opened by Bishop Cunningham on 4 April 1961. The presbytery was built at the same time.

Taking Stock

I found myself on yet another former railway line.

The Cycleway was once a railway line designed by George Stephenson to take coal from the Durham coal fields to the docks in Hartlepool, where the coal was then distributed throughout the world.

Tees Valley

The landscape opened up to coal scarred scrub, I lost the path and found a church, which imposed itself upon the hillside.

St Joseph RC Seaham County Durham

Architect: Anthony J. Rossi of Consett 1964

Taking Stock

Opening 1964

Seeking assistance from a passing cyclist I negotiated a safe passage to Sunderland.

The Sunderland Synagogue is a former synagogue building in Sunderland, England. The synagogue, on Ryhope Road, was designed by architect Marcus Kenneth Glass and completed in 1928. It is the last surviving synagogue to be designed by Glass.

The synagogue was listed as a Grade II historic structure in 1999.

Wikipedia

I crossed the Queen Alexandra Bridge

The steel truss bridge was designed by Charles A Harrison – a nephew of Robert Stephenson’s assistant.

It was built by Sir William Arrol between 1907 and 1909 and officially opened by The Earl of Durham, on behalf of Queen Alexandra on 10 June 1909.

Wikipedia

I took a right and arrived in Roker, where I saw these well tanned and tattooed cyclists taking a rest.

Pressed on, largely alongside the coast to South Shields.

Under advisement from a jolly passing jogger I took the Tyne Pedestrian Tunnel.

Tyne Cyclist and Pedestrian Tunnel was Britain’s first purpose-built cycling tunnel. It runs under the River Tyne between Howdon and Jarrow, and was opened in 1951, heralded as a contribution to the Festival of Britain.

Wikipedia

I cycled the banks of the Tyne, fetching up at the Quayside with a fine view of the Baltic.

Washed and suitably brushed up I hastened to the Bridge Tavern – to take a glass or two.

A fine end to a very long day.

Scarborough to Redcar

Well it seems that I had already cycled from Hull to Scarborough, so it must be time to head for Redcar.

Leaving Scarborough by the Cinder Track under the expert guidance of Mr Ben Vickers.

This was the site of the Gallows Close Goods Yard.

Formerly the Scarbough to Whitby Railway – the line opened in 1885 and closed in 1965 as part of the Beeching Axe.

Yet again I chance upon a delightful post-war home.

I parted company with the track dropping down to the Esk Valley from the Larpool Viaduct.

Construction began in October 1882 and was complete by October 1884.

Two men fell from the piers during construction, but recovered.

I found myself in Ruswarp, home to this enchanting bus shelter.

I bombed along the main road to Sleights.

There then followed a hesitant ascent, descent, ascent along a badly signed bridleway, fearing that I had climbed the hill in error I retraced, then retraced.

A difficult push ensued, a precipitous path, rough and untended, rising ever higher and higher.

Finally arriving at Aislaby, more than somewhat exhausted – the village is mentioned in the Domesday Book as Asuluesbi

Pausing to catch my breath I took the wildly undulating road to Egton – along the way I was alerted to the presence of a tea stop by two touring cyclists from Nottingham.

The Cake Club.

A welcome wet and a hunk of home made carrot cake.

Brewmeister Maria was good enough to suggest route through Castleton Moor and over the tops to Saltburn.

It was too hot a day for a detour to Fryup.

The curious name Fryup probably derives from the Old English reconstruction Frige-hop: Frige was an Anglo-Saxon goddess equated with the Old Norse Frigg; hop denoted a small valley.

An old woman at Fryup was well known locally for keeping the Mark’s e’en watch – 24 April, as she lived alongside a corpse road known as Old Hell Road.

The practice involved a village seer holding vigil between 11pm and 1am to watch for the wraiths of those who would die in the following 12 months.

Castleton Moor ghost.

In the village I was given further directions by two elderly gents, who had been engaged in a discussion concerning their long term mapping of acid rain levels in the area.

One was wearing a Marshall Jefferson t-shirt.

I climbed Langburn Bank onto the flatish open moorland.

Taking a brief break to snap this concrete shelter.

There then followed a hair stirring series of hairpin descents to the coast at Saltburn.

Followed by an off road route to Redcar.

Our Lady of Lourdes – Architect: Kitching & Archibald 1928

Built in 1928, this church was designed with some care and is an attractive, if fairly modest, Lombard Romanesque-style essay in brick. The use of a semi-circular apse, narrow brickwork and use of tile for decorative effect give it a pleasing appearance, typical of restrained but elegant work between the wars.

I arrived and took a look around, first time in town, here’s what I found.

Another long day – I went to sleep.

Portsmouth To Brighton

Having cycled along the Solent to Pompey – we set out Brighton bound one sunny Sunday morning in the merry month of May.

Heading for the Hayling Island Ferry.

Determined to make good time as we had an appointment a Pallant House, we pedalled purposefully along the Hayling Billy Line.

Ever onward, passing several examples of well kept, post war houses and former tin tabs.

We eventually rolled into Chichester, finding our way to the gallery which I had previously only ever dreamt of visiting.

What wonders await at Pallant House?

Inside we found the best of Twentieth Century British Art, displayed in period surroundings.

Suitably satiated we sat headed further east – to Bognor and beyond!

Reynolds Furniture Depository and a crowded Bank Holiday weekend seafront.

Since 1867 Reynolds has grown from a small shop to the largest furniture store in Sussex, with over 30,000 sq ft on four floors.

The Funeral Service now has three offices in Bognor Regis, Chichester and Littlehampton and the purpose built storage facility in Canada Grove continues to thrive.

We soon found ourselves in Felpham, amongst yet more interesting housing.

We traversed the River Arun at Littlehampton.

Then meshed with the milieu on the prom.

The day grew much hotter and we grew ever so slightly loster.

Finding our way back to the coast through the Kingston Gorse Estate – where almost everything is comprehensively prohibited.

Kingston Gorse is a beautiful seaside location close to Goring-by-Sea in West Sussex. In Kingston Gorse, there is a gorgeous housing development with a number of three, four and five bedroom homes.

In 1918 JA Candy, who owned East Kingston Farm, sold the land on which Kingston Gorse now stands to the local builder G Pesket.

In the 1920s he constructed the infrastructure and developed approx. 30 plots including Imray, which he occupied.

Kingston Gorse

The estate was once home to Bud Flanagan who then sold his house to Teddy Knox.

The Crazy Gang Bud Flanagan Jimmy Nervo Teddy Knox Charlie Naughton Jimmy Gold

by Cecil Beaton

At Southwick we crossed the River Adur via the docks’ locks.

Proceeding towards our overnight digs more than somewhat weary – it’s been a long day.

There are more snaps here taken on my previous trip.

Carrington Moss

Flat as can be, between rail and river, flat.

Crisscrossed by tramways and drainage ditches.

Carrington Moss is a large area of peat bog near Carrington in Greater Manchester, England. It lies south of the River Mersey, approximately ten miles south-west of Manchester, and occupies an area of about 1,100 acres..Originally an unused area of grouse moorland, the moss was reclaimed in the latter half of the 19th century for farming and the disposal of Manchester’s waste. A system of tramways was built to connect it with the Manchester Ship Canal and a nearby railway line. During the Second World War the land was used as a Starfish site and in the latter half of the 20th century, a large industrial complex was built along its northern edge. More recently, several sporting facilities have been built on Carrington Moss. Today, the land is still used for farming and several nature reserves have been established within its bounds.

Parts of Carrington Moss are accessible to the public over several rights of way.

On Carrington Moss 1851 David Cox

Industrialisation of the moss took place from 1947–1952 when Petro-Carbon ltd began to build what would later become known as the Shell Site. The estate was leased on 1 October 1968 to Shell Chemicals, who in 1957 had purchased a propylene oxide plant along the moss’s northern edge. Shell had built an ethylene oxide plant in 1958 and began to produce polyether polyols the following year. Council housing was built nearby, at Carrington and Partington, for workers and their families. By 1985 the Shell plant had a turnover of about £200M and employed 1,150 people, but a major restructuring of the business reduced the workforce to less than 500 by 1986. By 1994, four distinct plants operated on the 3,500-acre (14 km2) site, producing a range of chemicals, and materials including polystyrene, polyethylene and polypropylene. In 2005 it was reported that Shell would close their polyols and ethoxylates units, a decision which came into effect in 2007. The estate is currently managed by chartered surveyors Bell Ingram. Lyondell Basell operate the last remaining chemical plant on site.

Wikipedia

This is the beleaguered site, still farming, remnants of rail, traces of tipping and vestiges of industry.

Plans are afoot – including of course indicative multi-modal routes.

Trafford Gov UK

Hundreds of campaigners fear endangered wildlife at Carrington Moss will be ‘decimated’ if plans to build a new town on green belt land go ahead.

They also argue the development would be ‘catastrophic’ in terms of how it would impact the environment.

Manchester Evening News

Storm Christoph showed that Manchester is susceptible to the adverse effects of extreme weather events, which are forecast to become more regular occurrences.

Greater Manchester Labour for a Green New Deal argue that we must abandon the idea of developing on greenbelt, and instead embrace bold alternatives which reflects the urgency of the climate crisis﹣starting with sites like Carrington Moss.

The Meteor

This is an area in liminal limbo, the pressures of the modern world leaning on its very being, as ash, alder, badger, field mouse, and kestrel give way to Wainhomes.

Where then will the wanderer wander, in search of solace?

Ending our journey at the long gone Partington Station

The remains of the subway.

The company of J. C. Edwards Ruabon Ltd, was based in Ruabon, Denbighshire, and was active from 1903 to 1956 as a brick, tile and terracotta manufacturer from its works at Tref-y-Nant, Acrefair, Albert Works, Rhosllannerchrugog, and Pen-y-bont, Newbridge, Denbighshire.

James Coster Edwards (1828-1896) founded the company; it was sold in 1956.

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.

Rotherham Modernism

There comes a time in everyone’s life, when one simply must go to Rotherham, at least once – so I did.

To keep company with my personal town guide, Sheffield Modernist and local resident, Helen Angell.

I arrived early at Rotherham Central, so went for a solo wander.

The station was originally named Rotherham, becoming Rotherham and Masborough in January 1889 and finally Rotherham Central on 25 September 1950.

The newish Rotherham Central station was opened to passengers on 11 May 1987, the present iteration on Friday 24 February 2012, as part of the Rotherham Renaissance plans for the regeneration of the town.

Wikipedia

Opened 22 December 1934 as the Regal Cinema with Leslie Howard in Girls Please. Sandy Powell, the famous comedian attended opening night this 1,825 seat. It was designed by the Hull based architectural firm Messrs Blackmore & Sykes for local exhibitor Thomas Wade and was leased to the Lou Morris chain.

By 1937 it was operated by the London & Southern Super Cinemas Ltd. chain. The Regal Cinema was leased to the Odeon circuit in 1946 and was re-named Odeon. It was sold by the Rank Organisation to an independent operator in 1975 and renamed Scala Cinema, by 1981 using the circle only.

Closed 23rd September 1983 with the film Porky’s.

Became a bingo hall initially named Ritz but now Mecca. On 20th February 2020 the building was put up for sale by auction at an asking price of £600,000+, but failed to sell, with the maximum reached £590,000. Mecca bingo continues in the building.

Cinema Treasures

Curious corner retail development and sculpture of the Sixties – with pub archeology.

Art Deco detail and tiling.

Royal Mail Sorting Office.

Retail detail.

Beeversleigh Flats – built between 1968-71. 

Main contractors J. Finnegan it’s thirteen storeys high – housing forty eight dwellings.

Interwar Technical College – Howard Building

From the 1930s, it provided technical-orientated education from the Howard Building on Eastwood Lane, Rotherham. In 1981, three neighbouring colleges of arts, technology and adult education were merged into one. As a result, the college became known as Rotherham College of Arts and Technology.

Revised plans to convert the historic Howard Building in Rotherham town centre into self-contained studios and apartments have been approved by the planning board at Rotherham Council.

The prominent former college building was sold prior to going to auction last September after it was advertised as a development opportunity and given a guide price of £250,000 by local auctioneers, Mark Jenkinson & son.

2015

28 Days Later

A group of rogue property directors with links to a prominent derelict building in Rotherham have been banned for a total of 54 years. The six, of Absolute Living Developments, were found to have misled more than 300 people to invest at least £12 million in residential properties.

The firm was linked through a lender to Avro Developments, which had plans passed in 2015 to renovate former college block the Howard Building in Rotherham town centre.

Rotherham Advertiser 2019

Clifton Building

Next to the market.

With a strident high tech canopy, very recently added – though Rotherham’s history stems back 800 years when it is thought that the original royal market charter was granted by King John in the year 1207.

There are traces of the 1970’s rebuild.

Bunker-like The Trades former music venue/pub, which replaced the former riverside Trades Club.

The PA now silenced.

This was an amazing event. The bands were really good and the drinks offers, while limited, were good. The ceiling in the ladies toilets had fallen through and was dripping, presumably there had been a leak from all the rain, but this didn’t lessen the awesome experience.

October 2019

The cooling towers and flats are long gone – the coal-fired power station operated from 1923 until October 1978.

The Prince of Wales Power Station in Rotherham was located on Rawmarsh Road and was opened by the Prince of Wales – the future King Edward VIII.

The former Grattans catalogue offices can be seen to the left.

Renamed Bailey House and still in use by the local authority, its days it seems are numbered.

The building is named after Rotherham-born engineer Sir Donald Bailey whose ingenious bridge designs played a key role in shortening World War II, the house in which Bailey was born, 24 Albany Street is still standing.

Sadly no longer home to the Harlem Shuffle

No big names – just big sounds.

There are some surviving power station buildings.

Along with electrical infrastructure.

Up the road next, to the former fire station, which now houses J E James Cycles.

It is surrounded by typically atypical inter war housing.

I could make the wild assumption, that these flat roofed maisonettes were originally homes fit for firefighters.

A passing nod towards a former Methodist Chapel.

Further on up the road to Peck House.

And the attendant tiles.

Just around the corner Backer Heating – still trading.

Returning toward town and enchanted by a giant 13 amp plug.

Under the underpass.

Then the other underpass.

Finally through the last underpass.

With a final notable note regarding Rotherham’s hand painted council commissioned signage – I’d like to think that they have a sign writer in their employ.

Many thanks to my learned companion Helen – thanks for a fine day out, so much to see and do!

Fred Perry Way – Stockport to Reddish

The third and last leg, starting from the confluence of the Tame and Etherow where the Mersey begins.

Passing the remains of the railway bridge carrying the Cheshire Lines through to Tiviot Dale Station.

Over the river and beneath the terminal pylon.

Along Penny Lane beside Lancashire Hill flats.

Across Sandy Lane into Coronation Street.

Once a rare sight on our roads the ubiquitous SUV reigns supreme on our suburban streets – the level of UK car debt currently stands at £73 Billion.

We weaved in and out of the highways and byways of South Reddish.

Through Unity Park where the goals are lower than low.

The hoops are higher.

And the bowls are rolling.

Past the perfect Platonic bungalow.

Taking the well worn path betwixt and between the houses.

Crossing open country.

Encountering exotic planting worthy of the French Riviera.

Noting the voguish transition of the local semi-detached housing from white to grey and the now familiar sight of the Range Rover in the former front garden.

The reverse of a roadside sign can often be far more interesting and attractive than the obverse face.

Reddish South Station sustained by the once a week parliamentary train, on the Stockport to Stalybridge Line, coincidentally the only time, as a goods guard, I ever worked a passenger train, was along here, one Christmas long ago.

We stopped at Denton, a request stop, the seasonally boozy passenger gave me a fifty pence tip.

George’s – where I bought a bag of chips on the way back, great chips, friendly and safe service with a smile.

Houldsworth Working Mens Club designed by Abraham Henthorn Stott forming part of the model community developed by the late-C19 industrialist Sir William Houldsworth, which included cotton mills, workers’ housing, school, church and a park.

Church of St Elisabeth 1882-3, by Alfred Waterhouse one of the finest Victorian churches in the country – both of the buildings are Grade II Listed.

Over the way the former Victoria Mill, converted into apartments.

With adjoining new build.

We faithfully followed the signs, noting a change from blue to green.

Somewhere or other we went wrong, our luck and the signs ran out, we instinctively headed north, ever onwards!

Traversing the Great Wall.

Mistakenly assuming that the route ended or began at Reddish North Station that’s where we landed.

Back tracking intrepidly along the road we found the source of the Fred Perry Way.

In the North Reddish Park – where tennis can still be played today albeit with a somewhat functionalist net, on an unsympathetic surface.

Journey’s end.

To forget, you little fool, to forget!

D’you understand?

To forget!

You think there’s no limit to what a man can bear?

Fred Perry Way – Stockport To Hazel Grove

Second time around – having once cycled the whole way in 2009.

I’ll do anything twice or more – so here we are again, this time on foot.

Let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start – in the middle, the section from the town centre to Hazel Grove.

Maps are available here for free – we declined the offer, deciding to follow signs instead, many of which were missing or rotated, the better to misinform and redirect – such is life.

We are mostly lost most of the time, whether we like it or know it or not.

We begin at the confluence of the rivers Mersey and Goyt – which no longer seems to be a Way way, the signs having been removed, and proceed down Howard Street, which seems to have become a tip.

The first and last refuge for refuse.

Passing by the kingdom of rust – Patti Smith style.

Passing under the town’s complex internal motorway system by underpass.

Where help is always handily at hand.

Whistling past the graveyard – the site of the former Brunswick Chapel where one and hundred and fifty souls lay lying.

Onward down Carrington Road to Fred’s house.

Through Vernon Park to Woodbank Park – with its heroic erratic.

Almost opposite the entrance to the museum, now set in shrubbery, are the foundations, laid in September 1860, of what was to be a forty metre high Observatory Tower. Despite a series of attempts, funds for the tower could not be raised and the ‘Amalgamated Friendly Societies of Stockport’ eventually had to abandon the idea.

Historic England

Out east and passing alongside the running track.

Lush meadows now occupy the former football field, twixt inter-war semis and the woodland beyond.

Out into the savage streets of Offerton where we find a Buick Skylark, incongruously ensconced in a front garden.

The only too human imperative to laugh in the face of naturalism.

We have crossed over Marple Road and are deep in the suburban jungle of mutually exclusive modified bungalows.

Off now into the wide open spaces of the Offerton Estate – the right to buy refuge of the socially mobile, former social housing owning public.

People living on Offerton Estate have been filmed for a programme entitled ‘Mean Streets’ which aims to highlight anti-social behaviour in local communities.

MEN 2007

The next thing we know we’re in a field, a mixed up melange of the urban, suburban and rural, on the fringes of a Sainsbury’s supermarket filling station.

We cross the A6 in Hazel Grove and here for today our journey ends

Ignoring the sign we went in the opposite direction.

As we reach the edge of Mirrlees Fields – the site of the only Fred Perry laurel leaf logo emblazoned way marker.

The Fields are currently designated as a green space and are not available for residential development. But MAN would like to overturn this designation for over one third of the Fields.

MAN Energy Solutions UK is the original equipment manufacturer of Mirrlees Blackstone diesel engines.

Before the Blackstone MAN came in 1842 – the fields were all fields.

To be continued.