Going awol

Well not exactly ‘awol’ but I am  disappearing for a while. Later this morning I’m off on a 10-day holiday to Cumbria, staying on a lovely little camp site which is part of a farm. Miles away from anywhere with an on-site wildlife lake, surrounded by fields, overlooked by Skiddaw and its neighbouring fells, and nothing but peace and quiet – it’s a little bit of heaven away from a mad and manic world.
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I stayed there twice two years ago and loved it so I’m really looking forward to this holiday. Hopefully the dogs and I will come back refreshed and relaxed and I’ll have plenty of photos for the blog so I’ll see you all when I get back.
 

Looking for Looney Tunes

Another day in Manchester over the weekend and this time I was on the Looney Tunes art trail. Now to be honest until last week I’d never heard of Space Jam and hadn’t a clue what it was supposed to be but apparently it was the first full-length film produced by Warner Brothers featuring a combination of human actors and well known Looney Tunes cartoon characters.
To celebrate 25 years since its 1996 release, and ahead of the new Space Jam film coming to cinema screens next month, several Looney Tunes characters have been painted in different locations around the city by street artist Captain Kris in collaboration with Warner Bros. UK and Manchester Business Improvement District, and for those with smart phones each piece of art includes a QR code (whatever that is) leading to a virtual map of the trail.
Now, I don’t have a smart phone and nor do I want one, so I had the fun of seeking out these artworks for myself. Armed with a list of characters and locations and the street knowledge gained from many hours spent roaming round the city centre over the last few months I set off from Victoria Station with my first stop being inside the Printworks where I found Bugs Bunny, Marvin the Martian, and Daffy Duck.
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Next on the list was Daffy Duck at the nearby Exchange Square tram stop but I wasn’t sure if he would actually be there. The art trail only officially opened last Wednesday but a report in the Manchester Evening News on Thursday said that Daffy had already vanished – apparently he had been mistakenly removed by a council cleaning team. Luckily the artist had reinstated him fairly quickly and there he was, on one of the platform’s central pillars.
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Round at the top end of Market Street I found Bugs Bunny popping out through the front wall of Primark then over in the NQ I found Marvin the Martian and Lola Bunny on the front of a pizza restaurant in Edge Street. A short walk through the streets took me to the Pen And Pencil bar where Porky Pig was doing battle with a leaking pipe on the outside wall then I found Sylvester stalking Tweety Pie round the corner of 111 Piccadilly. 
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Next on the list was another Bugs Bunny in Canal Street then a walk to Circle Square found Wile E. Coyote chasing Road Runner round Symphony Park. A short walk from there took me to First Street where I found the Tasmanian Devil bursting out through the wall of Junkyard Golf then another short walk found the Looney Tunes gang skateboarding through Deansgate Square.
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After another visit to Castlefield across the main road (more of that in a future post) I had quite a trek along Deansgate to look for Speedy Gonzales somewhere in Spinningfields. He took some finding as Spinningfields is a big area – 23 acres apparently – and just like the website details for the flower installation at Deansgate Square earlier this month the location details for finding Speedy bore no relation to where he actually was. Thanks to a patrolling security guy who knew what I was talking about I finally found him sliding down the rail at the top of some steps and I got my last Looney Tunes photo – that was it, I’d found them all.
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According to the website the Looney Tunes art trail actually started with Speedy Gonzales and finished with the characters in the Printworks so technically I’d done it the wrong way round but it didn’t matter in the slightest; I’d been to all eleven locations and happily I’d found all the characters. Making my way back to Victoria Station I popped into a cafe in the Royal Exchange Arcade for a coffee and a snack then stopped off in the Corn Exchange for a quick bit of photography there before catching the train back home – after almost five hours walking round the city centre it was definitely time for a rest.

The Castlefield goslings

When I wrote in my third Manchester Flower Show post that I’d been very disappointed with the ‘towers of flowers’ installation on Deansgate Square I didn’t say that was the second time I’d been to look for it. The flower show website had given its location as Deansgate Square, Owen Street and a look on Google maps showed me where Owen Street was. With the photo I wanted to recreate firmly in my mind I went there on my first visit to the show but looking for the floral installation was like looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack.
Finding Owen Street was no problem, what was  a problem was finding what I was actually looking for. The three high rise towers in the internet photo were over on the left but the whole street for quite a distance along was just one massive great sectioned off building site surrounded by huge hoardings advertising ‘Deansgate Square Phase 1’ or 2 or 3 etc. I even asked a couple of builders where this flower thing was but they hadn’t a clue so after wandering further along the street and still not finding it I gave up and headed back towards the city centre – and that’s when I had a lovely and very unexpected surprise.
The Castlefield goslings have been the subject of several Instagram posts and comments over the last few weeks. Along with a couple of adult geese they (presumably) live in and around the Castlefield Basin but for some unknown reason like to commute to the streets at the other side of Deansgate, taking their lives in their webbed feet by crossing the extremely busy main road. It beats me how they haven’t been squashed by now but traffic does seem to stop for them.
As I crossed the end of a side street behind Deansgate I looked to my right and walking down the middle of the street were several fluffy yellow goslings, two older ones and a couple of adult geese. The little ones ran onto a patch of spare land and spent a good five minutes pecking at the weeds growing round the edge, watched over by one of the adults before they all set off in a line down the street towards Deansgate.
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With hindsight I should really have gone to the main road to get a shot of them crossing it but some street art caught my attention and by the time I did get round to Deansgate they had disappeared. I finally found the flower installation a few days later after asking someone who posted a photo on Instagram – the flower show organisers really should have put proper details of its location on their website as it was in such an obscure place. It was while I was in that area for the second time that I went to explore the Castlefield Basin and saw the goose family in the Bridgewater Canal.
Mentally counting the goslings I found the same number as I’d seen a few days previously so at least none of them had become victims of the Deansgate traffic. No doubt by the time I make another visit to Castlefield the goslings will be all grown up so seeing them walking down the street a few days previously had been a lovely surprise which I’ll remember for quite some time.

A discovery walk round Castlefield Basin

My Monday walk this week was one of those impromptu ‘while I’m here I may as well look round over there’ walks. That being so, aside from seeing a couple of photos on Instagram I hadn’t previously researched the area I went to, nor did I photograph things which I now know could be of interest but I can, and probably will, go back there another time.
Castlefield is an inner city conservation area in Manchester and within its boundaries lies Castlefield Basin where the Rochdale Canal and Bridgewater Canal meet. Although many of the area’s old warehouses from long ago have disappeared over the years most of the remaining ones have been restored and renovated to be converted into modern apartments and offices alongside high quality new developments, an outdoor waterside arena for live music and several bars and eateries, making Castlefield Basin a very pleasant and popular place.
My walk started on Deansgate where the Rochdale Canal disappears under the road for a short distance and a railway line runs overhead. At the far side of the viaduct was a tall and very narrow building, empty and derelict for many years but once part of a sawmill possibly dating from the second half of the nineteenth century. A pleasant offshoot from the cobbled Castle Street ended in a large parking area at the side of the Bridgewater Canal then steps on the right took me back up to the road.
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Passing the large and now converted canalside Merchants’ Warehouse on my left and the beer garden of Dukes bar on the right the road took me to Lock 92 on the Rochdale Canal, where the canal itself joins the canal basin. At the far side was the attractive lock keeper’s cottage with its pretty garden though looking down the canal I couldn’t miss what must currently be Manchester’s ugliest building, the Beetham Tower, a 47-storey mixed-use skyscraper on Deansgate.
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Past the cottage the road took me under three viaducts to a dead-end offshoot of the Bridgewater Canal with its narrowboat moorings next to Castlefield Bowl, the outdoor music and events arena. Heading back to the canal basin along the towpath I took a couple of shots under the bridges before emerging at Catalan Square with its tapas bar and attractive outdoor dining area complete with floral planters.

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Narrowboat moorings at Castlefield Bowl

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Staying on the towpath would have taken me back past the lock keeper’s cottage so I went up the steps to Catalan Square and crossed the modern Merchant’s Bridge running above the junction of the two canals to the area of Slate Wharf. With a span of 40 metres the 3-metre wide deck is hung from the steel arches by 13 hangers, and with no underneath supports it has a bit of a bouncy feel to it when walking across. Taking photos from the middle of the bridge when other people were walking across it needed a steady hand and a lot of patience to avoid blurry shots.

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The Bridgewater Canal from Catalan Square

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Potato Wharf from Merchant’s Bridge, with a freight train passing overhead

At the far side of the bridge was the pleasant open area of Castlefield Green with several narrowboats moored alongside and The Wharf pub/restaurant with its outdoor seating area. At the head of a small former wharf by a bend in the canal was the restored Middle Warehouse, now converted into offices, apartments and a restaurant and also the home of Hits Radio, formerly Key 103 and previous to that Piccadilly Radio.
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Past the front of Middle Warehouse a small footbridge took me back onto the canal towpath and if I ignored the ongoing development of multi-storey apartments and 2-bedroom duplexes of Castle Wharf on my right it was a very pleasant walk until I eventually emerged onto the main road not far from where I started.
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Never having been to that area before I didn’t know what to expect but I was very pleasantly surprised by how nice it is. Having now found out a lot more about the place a return is definitely on my list and hopefully there’ll be a lot more photo opportunities waiting for me when I do go back.

Manchester Flower Show – 3

My Monday walk this week, which has now become a Tuesday walk, covers my second day in Manchester and this time I started by looking for flower show exhibits and installations which were away from the immediate centre. Less than ten minutes walk north east from Victoria Station brought me to Angel Meadow and the first installation, a leafy giraffe and a baby elephant.
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Back past Victoria Station and I had a fairly long walk down to the far end of Deansgate to get to Deansgate Square and the Towers of Flowers, the next installation, but when I finally found it I was less than impressed. Photos on Instagram and the flower show website showed a tall display of colourful blooms with three high rise towers in the background – they were great shots and I wanted to create my own version but for some reason any colour had gone. The display was dull and looked scruffy and however I tried I just couldn’t get the shot I wanted.
Moving on from there it was a reasonably short walk to my next stop, the pleasantly pedestrianised area of First Street where I found some quirky installations with watering cans and a lovely bright display on top of the entrance to the Innside hotel, while a nearby railway bridge had a large floral arrangement hanging underneath each of its arches.
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Next on the list was the Whispering Wisteria, a tree sculpture draped with 500 pieces of wisteria and situated at Circle Square on Oxford Road. Hidden in its branches were tiny speakers broadcasting the sounds of the community around Circle Square and though they weren’t loud they weren’t exactly whispering. The tree itself was nice though and while the wisteria may have been artificial it was a lovely colour and worth seeing.
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Along the road I should have been able to find another secret garden at the Kimpton Clock Tower Hotel but again the reality bore no resemblance to what was on the internet. Unless the garden was actually inside the hotel, which looked too posh for me to go in wearing t-shirt, cycling shorts and trainers, there was no evidence of it anywhere on the outside, though to compensate for its apparent invisibility I did take a photo of the florist’s stall at the entrance as they were supposed to have created it.
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A ten-minute walk from there took me to ‘Picnicadilly’, a side section of Piccadilly Station approach which had been fenced off and turned into a very pleasant picnic area with shrubs, artificial grass and picnic benches.
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Down the road to Piccadilly Gardens and on Portland Street I found Soak In The City, a bath full of flowers situated in the ground floor window of a modern office block, but again the reality wasn’t the same as the website. The internet had shown a very pretty photo of the bath taken from inside what seemed to be a reception area but with the building closed there was no access so unfortunately I could only get my shots from outside. Disappointing really but there was a pretty tree just outside the door so at least I got a reasonable shot of that.
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Back across to the far side of Piccadilly Gardens I revisited Stevenson Square in the NQ to check if I’d missed anything on my previous visit; I hadn’t really, though I did find some small fancy trees in pots outside a restaurant down a narrow side street. From there it was down to the Arndale shopping centre and another search for the floral bee sculpture inspired by the 2018 public art trail Bee In The City. This time I found it quite easily and its location proved that it wasn’t there when I’d looked for it before.
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Next I was on a quest to find a bike covered in orange blooms supposedly situated in King Street. I hadn’t known about it on my previous visit and though it seemed to be too bright to miss I couldn’t see it anywhere even though I walked the length of King Street and back. I did however use the opportunity to photograph one or two things which I hadn’t done previously.
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The next on my list was the King Street Town House which promised a very pretty frontage. It wasn’t actually on King Street, it was a couple of streets away from the top end but I found it easily enough and though the front wasn’t exactly awash with flowers the entrance was very pretty.
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Just along the street was the Belvedere modern office block, though with a name like that it should really have been a hotel. Here in what would normally be the main entrance was Swing Into Summer, a large and very lovely floral display with a swing at its centre. I’d known nothing about it as it wasn’t mentioned anywhere on the internet so I found it by accident but I was glad I did as it really was nice.
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Heading back to Victoria Station I had one last place to go to, the Corn Exchange not far from the cathedral. My main reason for going there will be featured in a future post as I took many more photos than I expected but I was also delighted to find that both entrances were covered in flowers, making my last two shots exceptionally colourful.
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As I headed back home on the train I was glad to take the weight off my feet for a short while. I don’t know how far I walked round the city centre that day but it was certainly some distance, and after almost seven hours on foot I was glad to get home and chill out for a while.

Manchester flower show – 2

Continuing my walk round the city centre in search of floral installations I backtracked from St. Ann’s Square to the nearby Selfridge’s store where I found two large decorated commercial wheeled bins outside the main entrance, each containing a sizeable arrangement of foliage and flowers.
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According to various websites there was a bee-friendly rooftop garden at the Printworks so as that was only a couple of hundred yards away I made it my next stop, however I could find no signs or indication of the garden anywhere. Asking one of the security guys at the entrance I was told that it hadn’t been finished in time so wasn’t yet open to the public; a bit disappointing really as apart from the garden itself I think I could have got some good shots of the city centre from up there.
Round at the Arndale shopping centre I went in search of a large floral bee but even though I walked through the whole place, both upstairs and down, I couldn’t find it anywhere. I’ve seen it on Instagram since then so I can only assume that either it didn’t exist at the time or as it was still only early morning it hadn’t been put out on display for the day.
Moving on I decided to go up into the NQ as according to the official website Stevenson Square had received (quote) ‘a magical floral makeover’ however when I got there I felt distinctly underwhelmed. Expecting to see a myriad of flower decorations brightening up many parts of the square I could only find a couple of decorated doorways and one or two planters containing tall grasses, although behind a bus shelter there was a very quirky use of some old portable tv sets and deep wooden office drawers.
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Down the road in Tib Street the Northern Flower shop had a display of flowering plants set outside on wooden crates although as I’ve never seen the place open before I’m not sure if that was actually part of the flower show or just their normal way of trading. Across the road and round the corner Frog flower shop was festooned in pretty garlands although as I’ve seen them on previous occasions they seem to be a permanent fixture rather than part of the show.
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Three different local groups of stitchers, knitters and yarn addicts have collectively been yarn bombing the lower part of Market Street outside M & S and that’s where I found the bright, colourful and quirky knitted trees complete with bees, birds, rainbow caterpillars and even sea creatures, all guaranteed to raise a smile.
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By this time I’d more or less given up on my planned route round the streets so I decided to just wander randomly to find other displays. In St. Mary’s Street I found Gaucho Argentinian restaurant, along Deansgate I found the attractive terrace of the very new and recently opened Qbic Hotel, and in the lower part of King Street Boodle’s doorway was surrounded by deep pink and cream roses.
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Dotted at various points along King Street were several quirky hand sanitizing stations, while some very pretty flowering plants tumbled out of a cement mixer into a wheelbarrow garden. The nearby organic health and beauty products shop Neal’s Yard Remedies had an attractive display using a modern delivery bike and outside Framed Opticians in St. Ann’s Passage was another wheelbarrow garden, this one being inspired by the 1980s ballroom culture of New York City.
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In St. Ann’s Alley I found the Bread Flower delivery bike. Local business Bread Flower delivers flower bundles and freshly made bread across Manchester every weekend and for the flower show their bike and trailer had been turned into a miniature cottage garden filled with herbs and seasonal plants. At the top of King Street I got my final two shots of the day, an iconic red telephone box bursting with (artificial) red and deep pink blossom.
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I knew I still had a lot more to see but by then I’d been walking round for four hours and it was very hot – time to call it a day, go home and chill out, then plan a return to Manchester on another day.