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.
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.
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.
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.
Today Monday 27th July 2015 – leaving Ilfracombe the royal we head south along the Tarka Trail, giving Cornwall a swerve.
Though first we feast on a slightly out of focus fry up at the digs.
Inspired by the route travelled by Tarka the Otter, this 180 mile, figure eight route traverses unspoiled countryside, dramatic sea cliffs and beautiful beaches. The southern loop incorporates the longest, continuous off-road cycle path in the UK. Walking or cycling, you can experience the best this beautiful area has to offer.
Then away we go following the former train line out of town.
The Ilfracombe Branch of the London & South Western Railway, ran between Barnstaple and Ilfracombe. The branch opened as a single-track line in 1874, but was sufficiently popular that it needed to be upgraded to double-track in 1889.
The 1:36 gradient between Ilfracombe and Mortehoe stations was one of the steepest sections of double track railway line in the country.In the days of steam traction, it was often necessary to double-head departing passenger trains.
Named trains such as the Atlantic Coast Express and the Devon Belle both started and terminated at Ilfracombe.
Despite nearly a century of bringing much-needed revenue into this remote corner of the county, passenger numbers dropped dramatically in the years following the Second World War, due to a massive increase in the number of cars on Britain’s roads, and the line finally closed in 1970.
Much of the course of the line is still visible today, and sections of it have been converted into public cycleways.
We leave behind – theshadowy world of secret handshakes, favours for friends and strange initiation ceremonies.
For the equally shadowy world of military installations.
The water tower at RAF Chivenor.
Originally a civil airfield opened in the 1930s, the site was taken over by the Royal Air Force in May 1940 for use as a Coastal Command Station. After World War II, the station was largely used for training, particularly weapons training.
In 1974 the station was left on care and maintenance, in 1994 7 FTS left Chivenor, merging with No. 4 Flying Training School RAF at RAF Valley, and the airfield was handed over to the Royal Marines.
A most delightful cycle path alongside the estuary of the River Taw.
The River Taw rises high on the slopes of Dartmoor and together with its tributaries, the River Mole, Yeo and little Dart, runs north through beautiful rolling countryside down to Barnstaple and into the Bristol Channel.
Passing under the Torridge Bridge at Bideford – a 650 metre long concrete structure built in 1987.
Three piers are in the river. Each of the piers in the water is protected by concrete fenders twenty four metres long by eight metres wide by eight metres high. The concrete piers of the bridge are around twenty four metres high.
It was designed by MRM Partnership.
Here we are in Barnstaple by the Civic Centre.
It’s described as an ‘iconic’ building, but not many locals would agree, this huge building widely considered to be one of the ugliest in Devon could soon be under new ownership.The council has confirmed that following a tender exercise, it is working with a preferred bidder to finalise the details of the sale.
In 2014Barnstaple based Peregrine Mears Architects believed the civic centre could provide up to 84 modern apartments.
Artist’s impression by Peregrine Mears Architects – looks a little too wobbly to me, Peregrine Mears Architects should get right back to the drawing board, where they started from.
The Neo-Classical facade restrained Deco of The Venue.
Formerly The Regal Cinema – opened on 30th August 1937
Architects – BM Orphoot
Revellers dancing at The Worx nightclub– as The Venue was to become.
The building in Barnstaple is for sale with Webbers estate agents for just £225,000. The striking building in a prime position on the town’s Strand was originally opened in 1937 as the Regal Cinema.
The building will probably be best known under the guise of Kaos, the name it was given during the 1990’s and at the height of its popularity.
Other nightclub incarnations at the premises included Babylon, Rockabillies, Coco, Club Tropicana and of course The Venue.
The Tarka Trail crossing the River Torridge, just south of Bideford, utilising the former railway bridge.
The old home town looks the same as I step down from the bike, and there to meet me is – well nobody.
And I realise, yes, I was only dreaming.
I’ll go to Okehampon then – take a look at the lovely tiled Post Office, whilst completely ignoring one of the oldest Norman castles in the country.
Walking around town in search of a B&B proved fruitless, though I was directed to an out of town Roadhouse aways away.
Welcome to Betty Cottles Inn – land of the lost apostrophe.
Rooms are not as photos/described on hotel booking sites, wi-fi hardly ever works. I prepaid/booked for nine nights, I checked out after two days. Needless to say I didnt receive a seven day refund. Owner with attitude problem, he had my money, and was not keen on helping with my concerns about the property. Musky smell to carpet in bar and restaurant areas. Not been cleaned for a long time. Rooms unsafe and not private, with curtains not long enough, lock on room doors inadequate.
Neil H – July 2109
You sneaked in a female into your single room without paying for her and got caught so obviously you have retaliated by way of a negative review. You were probably the most rude and hostile guest we have ever had and have had to report you to booking.com for guest misconduct and also banned you from being able to book here again.
Matthew owner at Betty Cottles Inn
I ate a reasonable meal in the Carvery and chatted amiably with a representative salesman on the move, whilst seeing off a few pints of Guinness – any port in a storm.
Following a sound night’s sleep, courtesy of the Ocean Hotel, I set out on my Ridgeback World Voyage – purchased through the Cycle to Work Scheme, I have essentially used it in order to cycle away from work.
My dream had always been to devise a way of life, where the lines between work, leisure and culture disappear, where such tiresome social constructs have finally become redundant – let’s go!
Having failed to learn from my previous jaunt, that a map is a handy aid to successful travel, I set off merrily without one – on Sunday 25th July 2015.
Following Sustrans’ signs will suffice, says I to myself.
I arrived safely in Brean, as the rain began to fall with a deeply disheartening enthusiasm.
The signage indicated a route across the beach – I quickly learnt that heavy rain and sand do not produce a sufficiently solid surface for cycling, when push comes to shove, there’s only one way forward.
There was no escape to the left, the extensive run of caravan parks and private leisure facilities having erected attractive razor wire topped barriers and locked gates – I pressed on.
With every arduous tortured sandy step, I developed an even deeper antipathy towards Pontin’s Brean Sands.
Here at Brean Sands we have been busy getting ready to welcome guests to our park. We have painted all our apartments, we have fitted over 10,000 metres skirting board throughout the apartments. All external soffits have been painted along with all the Double Decker apartments and main buildings. The QV Bar, Restaurant and also the Fun Factory have all had new flooring fitted. Our Restaurant bays are now refitted as well as improvements to our till area & reception desk.
Free at last from the sandy hell of the shore, I sought succour in this seaside café – where panoramic views of the sea come free.
Having enjoyed the multiple benefits of a breakfast not included tariff at the Ocean Hotel, I was now very, very hungry indeed – I made very, very short work of egg and beans on toast.
I briefly kept company with a Swiss couple, who were on an extensive motor car tour, I quickly became something of an apologist for the day’s foul weather.
It’s not always like this you know.
Stating the obvious, yet thinking the converse.
The panoramic view through the other window – a delightful row of rain soaked, link low rise maisonettes – nirvana!
I was arrested by this arresting wayside shelter/art gallery facility commemorating the Coronation of 1953, in the village of Chedzoy.
The village is at the western end of King’s Sedgemoor and lies on an ‘island’ of Burtle marine sands, close to King’s Sedgemoor Drain. The area was settled possibly in the Mesolithic period, and timber trackways from the third to first millennium B.C. provided routes to other settlements on the Somerset Levels. Roman artifacts have been found in the parish.
The name of the village is pronounced Chidgey or Chedzey, and derives its name from being Cedd’s Island. The zoy part of the name being derived from eg or ieg meaning island.
The shelter stands at the corner of Front and Higher Streets – it would appear that the Burghers of Chedzoy had exhausted their inexhaustible font of creative naming resources, by the time that streets had been invented – the Mesolithic fools.
The village people seem to be suffering from some collective false memory syndrome recollection of a fabulous Mer-family past.
Improving weather in the Bridgwater area, as we languish in the cool shade of the by-pass, beside the River Parrett.
The River Parrett has its source in the Thorney Mills springs in the hills around Chedington in Dorset in England and flows west through the Somerset Levels. The mouth is a Nature Reserve at Burnham on Sea where it flows into Bridgwater Bay on the Bristol Channel. The river is tidal for 18.6 miles up to Oath; and, because the fall of the river, between Langport and Bridgwater is only 1 foot per mile, it is prone to frequent flooding, in winter and high tides.
The River Parrett is 37 miles long and its main tributaries include the Rivers Tone, Isle and Yeo. The River Cary drains into the Parrett via the King’s Sedgemoor Drain. The River Parrett drains an area of over 652.5 square miles – comprising around fifty percent of the land area of Somerset.
Here we are in Williton – where the modern world is ready to sweep in unannounced as announced in the Somerset County Gazette.
Plans to build a new supermarket, retail units and health centre in Williton have been resubmitted this week. J. Gliddon and Sons Ltd. has put forward new plans for the redevelopment of land off the A39 Bank Street in Williton, behind its existing store.
The shop will be demolished to create the access road, with the company expected to occupy a new unit fronting onto Bank Street once the mini-roundabout has been built.
Well so far so good – I arrived in Minehead in one piece – bike intact.
Having only the vaguest notion of where my onward route lay – I hastened to the Tourist Information Office. Having carefully explained my malaise the helpful staff gazed at me with mild amazement, liberally mixed with slightly perplexed eye-rolling and the odd tut.
Having received quite detailed instructions, I was almost immediately lost, following a road that abruptly ceased to be a road. Reluctantly I picked up a woodland path, rutted with tree roots and certainly not a suitable cycling route.
It fell away sharply, as I careered out of control down the precipitous slope.
On reaching the end I discovered that my new rain jacket had also fallen away, along with my treasured Casio watch, which was tucked safely in the pocket.
I lightly bit my lip and reflected that climbing back up the precipitous slope, which I had only too recently incautiously careered down, was not an option – onward ever onward.
In my mind the younger me looks at the older me – having lost all faith in my ability to manage my life with even a modicum of honesty and integrity, or at best a basic grasp of reality.
A whitewashed Grade I Listed 15th-century Church, with a 14th-century tower.
Welcome to this outstanding Parish Church, which, thanks to it’s distinctive white appearance stands as a beacon on the hills of Exmoor. For centuries Selworthy Church has been a focus for residents and visitors as a place to experience the power and presence of God. We hope you find peace of God here and leave uplifted, refreshed and inspired.
Further on down the road somewhere or other I had a cup of tea and piece of cake.
Had I carried out even the most basic research, I would have known that the ups and downs of Exmoor are no easy ride, particularly in heavy rain without a rain jacket.
As the sky darkened I was heartened by the sight of the light’s of Ilfracombe, twinkling star like in the distance – following eighty six miles of toil and a measure of trouble, I finally arrived at the pre-booked digs. They had been concerned by my no-show, relieved when I finally arrived, incredulous when I told the tale of the day’s travails. The lady of the house ever so kindly washed and dried my sodden clothing.
I showered and hit the town – eschewing food in favour of a pint, chatting to a garrulous gang of solar panel cleaners from Cornwall.
Returning merrily to the B&B and the prospect of slumber.
Day four Thursday 4th September 2014 – leaving Clacton on Sea for Frinton on Sea is the equivalent of crossing continents, time zones, aesthetic and social sensibilities.
Leaving the razzle-dazzle, frantic fish and chip frazzle, for the sedate repose of germ free Frinton.
Green sward and restrained modernist shelters adorn the foreshore.
I love the bold optimism of Maritime Moderne – the bright eyed, forward looking window grid of these fine flats.
I have a cautious admiration for the faux Deco newcomers.
The modernist estate was attempted many times in the interwar years; visions of rows of fashionable white walled, flat roofed houses filled developers eyes. In practice the idea was less popular with potential house buyers. In the Metro-Land suburbs of London, estates were attempted in Ruislip and Stanmore, with a dozen houses at most being built. One estate that produced more modernist houses than most, albeit less than planned, was the Frinton Park estate at Frinton-on-Sea on the Essex coast.
Oliver Hill was known for his house designs, which spanned styles from Arts and Crafts to Modernist. Hill was to draw up a plan for 1100 homes, as well as a shopping centre, luxury hotel and offices. The plan was for prospective buyers to buy a plot and then engage architects to design their new house from a list of designers drawn up by Hill. The list featured some of the best modernist architects working in Britain at the time; Maxwell Fry, Wells Coates, F.R.S. Yorke and Connell, Ward & Lucas.
As wonderful as this sounds today, the buying public of 1935 did not quite agree. The majority of potential buyers were apparently put off by the Estates insistence on flat roofs and modernist designs. Plan B was to build a number of show homes to seduce the public into buying the modernist dream. Of 50 planned show homes, around 25 were built, with about 15 more houses built to order. The majority of these were designed by J.T. Shelton, the estates resident architect, with a number designed by other architects like Hill, Frederick Etchells, RA Duncan and Marshall Sisson.
The town is also home to this traditional confectioners – Lilley’s Bakery.
Leaving the coast for pastures new – well, a ploughed field actually.
Crossing the River Orwell over the Orwell Bridge on my way to Ipswich.
The main span is 190 metres which, at the time of its construction, was the longest pre-stressed concrete span in use in the UK. The two spans adjacent to the main span are 106m, known as anchor spans. Most of the other spans are 59m. The total length is 1,287 metres from Wherstead to the site of the former Ipswich Airport. The width is 24 metres with an air draft of 43 metres; the bridge had to be at least 41 metres high. The approach roads were designed by CH Dobbie & Partners of Cardiff.
The bridge is constructed of a pair of continuous concrete box girders with expansion joints that allow for expansion and contraction. The girders are hollow, allowing for easier inspection, as well as providing access for services, including telecom, power, and a 711mm water main from the nearby Alton Water reservoir.
The bridge appears in the 1987 Cold War drama The Fourth Protocol, in which two RAF helicopters are shown flying under it, and at the end of the 2013 film The Numbers Station.
This the only time that I chose to have a glass of beer whilst awheel, normally waiting until the evening – I couldn’t resist this charming looking brew pub in Framlingham.
Earl Soham is a village close by, on the A1120. The Earl Soham Brewery beers started out in life being brewed in local man Maurice’s old chicken shed. You may be pleased to hear they have a slightly more sophisticated set-up now, without forgetting their humble roots.
If you haven’t tasted them before, we think you’ll be as delighted with them as our regulars, and you can be guaranteed of a warm welcome if you come to try them out.
The sort of wayside boozer where I could have easily idled away an hour or two – hopefully I’ll pass by again some time and linger longer.
Another water tower – somewhere.
The most enchanting of shop fascias.
Something of a curiosity – David Frost’s father’s ironmongers in Halesworth – and the Ancient House with its ancient carving.
The bressumer beam at the front of the is linked with Margaret de Argentein in the late 14th and 15th century, it is believed t it could have been a manor or toll house.
Currently trading as a Bistro with paranormal problems;
Things in the window were swaying the other day and when we went to stop them they almost fought back.
I’ve seen two ghosts in the kitchen. One was clearly a man, the other was when I thought my daughter was over my shoulder but when I looked around she wasn’t there, and we were the only two in the building.
Rides include the world famous Snails and Tyrolean Tub Twist.
A huge toy town mountain incorporates the Spook Express kiddie coaster, Jet Cars and Neptune’s Kingdom undersea fantasy ride, Pirate Ship, Major Orbit, Balloon Wheel and Skydiver complete the rest of the rides.
Hungry – why not grab a bite at the American Diner.
I actually went to the Wetherspoons.
Though the town is full of tiny pubs.
And a chippy.
I wandered the highway byways and promenade of Great Yarmouth, all alone in a neon nightmare!
The area was my playground. Holt Town was always a but scary, there were old factories along the opposite side with wartime helmets in. A scrap yard under the arch. I remember sucking up mercury off the floor with a straw obviously from a spillage, no thoughts of danger, I’m alright now. The Seven Wonders, as we knew it, River, canal, railway, road, waterfall all crossing each other, not sure why? A fantastic industrial area to grow up in. The Don Cinema at the top corner at Mitchell Street and Ashton New Road.
The River Irwell bisects Salford and Manchester, joining the rivers Irk and Medlock, and then turns west toward Irlam, as part of the Manchester Ship Canal. Its course ends just east of Irlam, where it empties into the Mersey.
Urban development is ever so often dependent upon rivers – for sustenance, commerce and amusement. The Irwell and latterly the developments of the canal system has provided all of these in superabundance.
By 1870 the Pomona Gardens is thriving , boasting a concert hall and banqueting suite – further details here from Skyliner.
In the summer of 1887, a nearby chemicals factory exploded, damaging the palace – the area was under threat and destined to rot away to obscurity: the following year the gardens closed forever.
By 1900 the Ship Canal, docks and railways had arrived – Manchester and Salford are at the centre of an unprecedented growth in manufacture and trade.
During the 1970’s 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.
Manchester and Salford begin the long haul from post industrial decline to service centred cities – there were even seeds sewn for the development of a luxury marina. When I first visited Pomona the area was seriously overgrown and the underground wiring stripped out.
Remnant of the initial scheme – pedestrian access, balustrade and lighting.
What would poor old Pomona make of all this?
There was a failed attempt to prevent further development and return the area to nature. Peel Holdings prevailed and pressed on relentlessly with their programme of urbanisation.
In 1898 Manchester Liners Ltd was launched, four second hand ships were purchased and the company naming policy of applying the prefix Manchester was established.
The company began to operate services to Canada and the USA. Manchester Liners started WW1 with 15 ships in its fleet. During the war 10 ships were lost to enemy action, but because of the purchase of replacements the fleet was at 12 in 1918.At the outbreak of WW2, Manchester Liners had 10 ships in service. War losses were 7 ships, but the delivery of war-standard ships maintained the fleet at 8, which was sufficient to resume a weekly service to Canada.
The Manchester dockworkers strike record became so bad, that in 1973 the company decided to move half of its container services to Felixstowe. Furthermore, to obtain lower costs per unit, container ships were becoming bigger than the Canal limits.
This was a history of economic growth and prosperity, for some. Tangible commerce, the wealth of a nation built on making things, moving things. Cranes, ships, stevedores and sailors, the world and his wife converging at the base of the Manchester Ship Canal.
All this is long gone, containerisation, recession and state engineered shifts in global manufacture and trade.
They took away the cranes.
The area is now awash with intangible activity – what goes on behind the smoked and mirrored glass?
Just who is moving what around, how, where and why?
But hidden away between here and there is a tiled underpass.
A permissive path.
Where once there was a bridge – before the Manchester Ship Canal was built, the course of the River Irwell was approx. 50-100 yards further north of where the Ship Canal now passes under Trafford Road. This plaque is next to a pedestrian tunnel under Trafford Road, roughly on the line of the old navigation.
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.
And so our journey continues, leaving behind the semi-detached haven of East Didsbury.
Once again graciously greeting Mr Henry Simon and his wondrous footbridge across the Mersey – the greenest of structures on the greyest of days.
No more fords and/or ferries, say goodbye to wet feet.
We are down by the river, a place of pleasure and practical workaday goings on – on our way to Northenden.
Northenden was mentioned as Norwordine in the Domesday Book of 1086; its name came from Anglo-Saxon Norþ-worþign – north enclosure. It was then a small farming community with a manor house and woodland.
Northenden is on a major crossing place of the Mersey on the salt road from Cheshire to Manchester. The ford was an important way into and out of and into Manchester, in 1745 Bonnie Prince Charlie’s army built a troop-bridge out of big poplar tree trunks where the B5095 now crosses the Mersey, south of Didsbury, in his abortive attempt to seize the crown of England.
The Northenden ford was unusual because its northern and southern ends were not opposite each other, but people using the ford had to wade about 500 feet along the riverbed. The Simon’s Bridge was built at the ford in 1901 to help access to Poor’s Field, and the rent from this field was used by the church to buy blankets and clothes for the needy.
Little is known of Northenden’s Saxon origins other than that it was one of the few disembarkation points on the Mersey flood plain between Stockport and Stretford. A church was recorded here in the Domesday book of 1086. The village has grown in importance since 1641, when a ferry boat for crossing the River Mersey was installed. In 1642 a ford was also constructed, hence the names Boat Lane and Ford Lane. There was a water mill and, it is rumoured, a public house. The plan form of the village was established with properties being built along the two lanes, which intersected near the church.
Little change occurred for the next two centuries until, by the mid 19th century, market gardens in and around the village supplied food for the rapidly expanding population of Manchester. The only routes to the City were via the ferry boat or the ford until, in 1862, Palatine Road was opened and provided a bridge crossing. Northenden was still a rural village and, towards the turn of the century, good quality semi-detached houses were built for clerks and managers who were able to commute to Manchester on the horse-drawn bus and the tram.
In the 1940s the new suburb of Wythenshawe was largely completed, and by then Northenden’s rural character had gone. Palatine Road was developed for shopping and other commercial uses, and slum clearance removed many of the village’s early cottages around the church.
The water mill, which had provided a flour-milling service for a wide area, survived until the 1950s. It was situated on the banks of the Mersey where the weir, to create the change in water level and power the machinery, is still in existence.
Ford Lane affords a rural route twixt suburban settlements, tree lined and river-run.
Once the province of pleasure gardens, cruisers, boaters.
The lane is home to several listed buildings – the most prominent being St Wilfrids – the oldest part of the church is the tower, the rest having been rebuilt in 1873–76 by J. S. Crowther. The new part of the church is built in sandstone from Alderley Edge, with slate roofs, and is in Perpendicular style.
The Old Rectory and Northern House both mid to late 18th century, form a group of notable homes clustered around St Wilfrids.
Also in close proximity were a number of public houses – most notably The Tatton Arms.
Built in 1873 by the Tatton family and originally known as The Boat House.
Closed in 2007 and still standing, still awaiting proposed redevelopment into an apartment complex.
The Church Inn built in 1897 closed in 2006 – burnt out left for dead eventually refurbished into flats.
The Spread Eagle built to replace an old pub of the same name, the Spread Eagle was the second estate-style boozer on Royle Green Road, and it outlasted the Jolly Carter by almost a decade – long gone, following a shooting in 2008, the site now developed as housing.
Happily The Crown is still standing and still serving – cyclists and walkers welcome!
This was once my way to work, Stockport to Northenden each and every day, the river on occasion liable to flood – foolishly I cycled the Mersey in Spate, against the current clinging to the handrail, up to my axles in the raging torrent.
Once there were homes – 200 homes tucked between the M60, River Mersey and A560 Stockport Road.
I’ve been here before, many times, seen those homes demolished and the site returning to nature, brambled and overgrown, as the long standing lampposts disappeared for scrap, the kerbs covered in thick grass and moss.
Then the diggers arrived, the trees felled and the site cleared – no longer any trace remained of the lost homes of Gorsey Bank.
Building commences, steel erected, fences, roads and paths instated.
Emerging from the houses, the undergrowth, the Mersey clay and sandstone – a shiny new assemblage of state of the art industrial sheds. I’ll wander by from time to time, listen to the ghostly chatter of busy neighbours, going about their business.
Wait for the trees and brambles to take over again.
To begin at the beginning, well actually to begin in the middle and walk to the current beginning. The Gore Brook flows from the Lower Gorton Reservoir and from there onwards to meet the Chorlton Brook in the west, though I should imagine that prior to the construction of the waterworks, it was fed by more distant moorland waters.
Manchester being on the eastern edge of the Lancashire Plain and the western edge of the Pennines is riddled with rivers, rivers which now wriggle in an under and overground web, across heavily developed urban areas. Following the Industrial Revolution former meadow, common and farmland was overwritten by factories, housing and roads, the rural character of the rivers and brooks soon becoming darkened and polluted by the surrounding industries.
The Red Path is a pedestrian link between Pink Bank Lane and the Gorton boundary at Buckley Road. It roughly follows the course of Gore Brook. The original footpath, running from Buckley Road to the bank of the brook, was made using black cinders. It was probably made in the 1940s to provide access to the allotments located on either side. In the early 1950s , a concrete bridge was laid across Gore Brook and the footpath extended to Pink Bank Lane. This section used red bricks in it’s construction, probably supplied by Jacksons brickworks . Crushed bricks were then used as a topping to make the path smoother and fill in any cracks. The thoroughfare soon became known as the Red Path.
So wide eyed and mapless I bowled up at Brook Terrace, just off Stockport Road Longsight, in search of The Gore and its source.
In the early 1900’s the river was still open and bridged, here at Stockport Road, later culverted and covered – anticipating the arrival of Tesco’s and Granada TV Rentals.
From there we pass under the railway along Brook Terrace and into Parry Road.
The underpass is still there and very much in use, as is Stanley Grove School – the Manchester Central Schools’ Kitchens are long gone, along with the food filled, insulated aluminium cases, that fed the hungry mouths of many, with semolina, pink custard, meat pies and lumpy mash.
Onwards to Elgar Street and still no sign of the river, hidden beneath our feet, the corner of Northmoor Road, can be seen on the corner, no longer distributing dividends, but now providing social housing.
We arrive at Pink Bank Lane, a rich mix of terraced homes, flats and factories – and the long lost Garratt, and the long lost Gore.
Though the lazy, lazy river has been confined in a brick lined wind, to meet the ever pressing needs of the Gorton Sewage Works.
The river then hugs the edge of Annie Lea Playing fields on Buckley Road, until it disappears again as it meets Mount Road, the playing fields are still open ground – the Manchester Cleansing Department, seen on the left – is no more.
Here on Knutsford Road we see the construction of the tunnels and culverts, the footbridge to the left spanning the railway, is still there.
Finally we see The Gore reemerging clear, clean, wide, proud and resplendent in Sunny Brow Park, where it is still maintained as a decorative, duck-filled lake.
Briefly underground again and into the back of Far Lane, skirting the Brookfield Church graveyard.
Then tunnelling under Hyde Road at the back of the church lodge, appearing once again alongside Tan Yard Brow.
The manmade waterfall continues to cascade, the Fairfield to Old Trafford railway is now the Fallowfield Loop, Manchester Cycleway, young lads no longer mess about in wellies and torn Tek Sac jeans on the bank, the Tannery no longer tans.
Then we end our journey by the broad expanse of the Lower Gorton Reservoir, implausibly dotted with jolly yachts, and home to a now absent stepped outflow stream. Look up to the east, and there you’ll see the moors, you could go further.