Manchester’s Christmas light sculptures

Manchester’s Christmas light sculpture trail kicked off the approach to Christmas on November 12th, with most of the colourful light installations dotted around Piccadilly Gardens and St. Peter’s Square. They sounded like they might be worth seeing so yesterday, in the quest for some new photos, I made a late afternoon visit to the city.
Piccadilly Gardens was playing host to one of the six city centre Christmas markets and the place was absolutely heaving with people so it was difficult to get the shots I wanted without someone being in the way, but with an infinite amount of patience and a lot of wandering about and standing around I managed to get most of what I wanted.
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It was a lot less crowded round on St. Peter’s Square though I had to wait a while for other people to get out of the giant walk-through bauble before I could get my shot. The Christmas tree is 36ft tall and made from recyled materials while the giant Santa is 37ft tall and weighs in at 2.3 tonnes – he even has his own Twitter feed where people can share their selfies.
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Outside the cathedral I came across a lovely little Nativity display, not actually part of the sculpture trail but sweet enough to take a photo of, and round in Cathedral Gardens was another Christmas market, this time with a German theme. I’m not sure what the tall thing was supposed to be, it wasn’t part of the sculpture trail but I’d seen it just after it was erected. Each storey contained different figures which revolved, as did the blades on the top, though it hadn’t been fully working at the time I first saw it.DSCF1380 - Copymanchester-manchester-christmas-lights
One thing which has surprised me is that the giant walk-through bauble in the Printworks hasn’t been mentioned anywhere in connection with the light trail although I presume it’s part of it. I discovered it a month ago on my last hunt for street art and being early on a Sunday morning there was no-one to get in the way while I took my photos. I’m glad I saw it when I did as there were far too many people in the Printworks yesterday to make any decent photography possible.
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I’d started this photography quest from Piccadilly station and by the time I’d worked my way down and round to Victoria station for the train home I’d had enough. I’ve never really liked crowds anyway and this little sojourn into the city centre has just confirmed one thing – my usual early Sunday mornings are definitely the best times to go.

Manchester street art – June 2021

During the week of the Manchester Flower Show back in early June, when I spent two days trekking round the city looking for various floral displays and installations, I also photographed a lot of street art which, for one reason or another, has so far not made it onto the blog. Looking through my file of street art photos the other day I realised just how many haven’t yet seen the light of day so here’s the batch taken in various random locations around the city centre in June.
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Salmon Street
Tropical themed bar, Back Bridge Street
The artist of the next mural is an illustration lecturer with a focus on painting everyday people, friends and family or those he meets while painting in the streets. I’d never heard of him before and I have no idea why his work in the Arndale Centre was cordoned off but unfortunately it meant that I couldn’t get a decent straight shot of it. The following five were all roadside hoardings round a new development of apartments and penthouses being constructed not far from Angel Meadow park.
Arndale Centre – artist, Dreph
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Coffee Town cafe, Angel Street
Railway viaduct, Bridgewater Canal, Castlefield
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Railway viaduct near Oxford Road station
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Strange creatures in Gloucester Street
An ‘eye watering’ paste-up in Back Turner Street
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The Brazilian Waxing Company on Oxford Street seemed a bit of a quirky place. It was a double-fronted shop with the exterior flowery decor continuing inside and in the right hand window four pairs of gold coloured legs were hanging down from the ceiling but there were too many reflections in the glass for me to get a decent shot of the whole window.
Brazilian Waxing Company, Oxford Road
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The next mural was actually inside a shop and though I would have preferred to see it without the shadow from the internal window shutter I thought the pattern gave it quite an unusual appearance. The final artwork in this batch is Liam Bononi’s ”Inferno” – I’d been lucky enough to see him at work and chat to him while he was creating it a few weeks earlier so it was nice to finally see the finished piece.
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Well this has just about brought my June street art photos up to date. I have several from August which haven’t yet seen the light of day but I’m thinking that the next couple of blog posts should have more of a festive theme. That all depends on the weather though – fingers crossed this continual rain will clear up soon and give me a couple of dry days to carry out my plan.

Angel Meadow – from hell hole to tranquility

On the immediate north east side of Manchester’s city centre, off the A664 inner ring road and just a stone’s throw from Victoria Station, is Angel Meadow, a small public park occupying an area of about seven-and-a-half acres. With its open green spaces, trees and pleasant pathways it provides a lovely quiet oasis away from the hustle and bustle of the nearby city centre but it wasn’t always so nice – back in the 18th/19th century it was part of a larger area of the same name but known to many as ‘hell on earth’.
Three hundred years ago Angel Meadow was an affluent suburb of just less than one square mile, divided into three hedge-lined fields where rows of cottages were spaced out and many smart houses were built for merchants, artisans and tradesmen, but as Manchester grew larger Angel Meadow fell out of favour when those who could afford it moved further afield. By 1770 the city’s population had doubled to 100,000, the large old merchants’ houses were let out to lodgers while builders operating without planning restrictions built poor quality houses in every available space, and in spite of the name conjuring up an image of a heavenly landscape nothing could have been further from the truth.
In 1782 Richard Arkwright’s cotton mill, the first of its kind, was built in Angel Meadow, followed by workshops, a dye works, two iron foundries and a rope works which were all opened to service the new cotton industry, and within a few years the River Irk, which ran through the area, had more mills along its banks than any other river of the same length in England. Thanks to Manchester’s new industrial age and the need to house a great many destitute Irish who had fled the Great Famine in Ireland to find work in the city Angel Meadow very quickly became run down, neglected and grossly overcrowded, and by the mid 19th century it had become one of the city’s worst slums.
Looking round the modern area today it’s hard to imagine what it was like two centuries ago with its rows of dingy back-to-back terraces and damp lodging houses which had once been elegant Georgian properties. Up to 30,000 people were packed into the dense and unsanitary slum housing where families struggling to make ends meet lived alongside criminals, gangs, vagrants and prostitutes. Homes were so cramped and dirty that new arrivals to the dingy lodging houses of Angel Meadow often had no choice but to remove their clothes to keep them free from lice and sleep naked among strangers in rooms where cockroaches were welcomed because they ate the bed bugs.
An attic room in a lodging house – photo from Manchester Libraries
Covered passageways led to dismal inner courtyards; backyard piggeries, slaughterhouses, bone yards, catgut factories and piles of dung released a potent cocktail of obnoxious aromas into the air and very often the alleys and back streets would be ankle deep in rotting rubbish and offal. Rickety stairs led to windowless attics where some lodgers slept on temporary beds, known as ‘shake downs’, on the floor and many people ended up living in cellars. Some of these were up to 15ft below ground level and if a home was unfortunate enough to be located next to a privy (an outside toilet) waste would frequently run down the walls. The cramped conditions, dangerously dirty dwellings and an abundance of rats led to diseases being rife, which in turn led to a high mortality rate with many of the deaths being babies and young children.
A back alley in Angel Meadow – photo from Manchester Libraries
When St. Michael and All Angels Church was built in 1788 the adjacent land was designated as a parochial burial ground, used for the interment of those who had no family place of burial or were too poor to afford a proper funeral, and the number of bodies buried there was so high it became Manchester’s largest cemetery at the time. It’s been estimated that in the 28-year period from 1788 around 40,000 bodies were interred there, all victims of sickness and extreme poverty and most buried in mass graves where coffins were piled next to and on top of each other, as many as possible until a pit was filled, then it was closed up, covered with earth and another pit dug next to it.
St. Michael’s church, Angel Meadow – photo from Manchester Libraries
The burial ground was closed in 1816 but as social and living conditions in Angel Meadow became worse over the years some of the poorer people resorted to digging up the cemetery and selling the soil as fertilizer to nearby farmers. Gravestones were removed and used to repair holes in house walls, exposed bones were collected and sold to the local glue factory, human skulls were kicked around in impromptu games of football and some slum dwellers used the cemetery as a dumping ground for ashes, offal and rotten shellfish. The situation became so bad that following a government-led investigation into the levels of squalor in the area the Burial Act of 1855 was passed requiring redundant graveyards to be covered with flagstones. This led to the burial ground becoming known as St. Michael’s Flags, and it’s this burial ground which is now Angel Meadow park.
From time to time over the years several improvements were made to St. Michael’s church, including the removal of the galleries and the three-decker pulpit, and the provision of a new roof, though when the Rev Jowitt Wilson was appointed rector in 1913 he arrived to find the main church door without a handle, cats and kittens in the organ and the church itself heavily in debt. Nevertheless, in his 14 years there he did tremendous work including opening the tower prayer room for daily prayer, persuading the parks committee to turn the surrounding churchyard into a garden and building a rectory. Sadly falling attendances meant the closure of St. Michael’s in 1930 and the site was sold on condition that the building was demolished, with the work finally being carried out in 1935.
The Angel Meadow area was eventually recommended for demolition under the 1930 Slum Clearance Act but it was World War Two which had the biggest impact on removing most of the slum housing – the area was heavily bombed and many homes were destroyed, though some families did continue to live there until the final slum clearances in the 1960s. Fast forward through the years since then to more recent times and the turn of the Millennium saw the regeneration of many of the old red brick factories and warehouses. The building of modern new apartments gradually brought residents back to the Angel Meadow area and St. Michael’s Flags was awarded a National Lottery Heritage grant to regenerate the neglected and overgrown space for the benefit of the new residential community.
In 2004 the Friends of Angel Meadow was formed to campaign for the continued redevelopment of the park and to research the history of the area. Over £200,000 was raised through grants and match funding, which was spent on re-landscaping the park, erecting four solar-powered street lights and an arched entrance way, installing street furniture including seating and bins, and planting trees and wildflowers, while a local heritage grant paid for the design and installation of six history boards and the publication of an information booklet. In 2006 the park was given Green Flag Award status which it has retained ever since, then in 2015 the Co-operative Group, whose newly built headquarters are nearby, funded a significant programme of work to improve the overall look of the park and rebuild its front entrance.
The Co-operative Group headquarters known as One Angel Square, close to Angel Meadow
I visited Angel Meadow in early June this year while on a quest to find a particular floral art installation which was part of the Manchester Flower Show, though I knew nothing of the park’s dark, sad secret at the time. I didn’t stay there long as I had other places to go to but in spite of nearby ongoing construction work which is part of a massive regeneration programme it was still a very quiet, peaceful and attractive place to spend some time. The surrounding modern area is now known as the Green Quarter and though the hell hole of the original Angel Meadow has long since disappeared its name lives on in the tranquility of this lovely little park.

Catching up on street art

The day I took the short train journey to Blackburn to see the Knife Angel was actually my second attempt to go there. I’d originally set out to see it the day before, only to find there were no trains running on Sundays between here and there due to maintenance work on the line, so Plan B came into force. I’d recently found out about some new street art in Manchester’s Northern Quarter and as I hadn’t been there for a while I decided to seek out the artwork while it was still new.
A short walk from Victoria Station I came across a couple of artworks which were so new that the hydraulic platforms used while painting them were still in front of one of them. These particular gable end walls seem to be used specifically for advertising and though I wouldn’t normally photograph adverts I did like these, especially the larger of the two with its creatures and colourful foliage. Not far away was an advert for Dr Martens but the rendered surface of the wall was so rough I had to stand well back to see the detail of the picture properly.
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Away from the advertising walls I roamed the NQ’s roads, side streets and back alleyways and though I’d seen quite a lot of the street art before I also found quite a lot which, although not recently new, was certainly new to me. Walls, shutters, window decorations, even a section of road – nothing escaped the camera lens.
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In Stevenson Square a section of the road had been painted with a colourful Christmas tree design and only a few days previously street artist Hammo had gone to town on the walls of the old redundant public toilet block, with one side looking like a gingerbread house and the other side complete with a line of dogs with a sleigh full of presents. Unfortunately the whole block was surrounded by steel barrier fencing so I couldn’t get any unobstructed close-up shots without poking the camera lens through a couple of gaps.
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Close to Stevenson Square I found a couple of fantasy murals on the windows of a game store and down a narrow side alleyway just off Newton Street I came across a mural by Liverpool-based Brazilian artist Liam Bononi. Liam is well known for the very expressive eyes and hands in his artworks and this one was instantly recognisable before I saw the signature at the bottom. My final shot as I made my way back to the station was one of Akse’s excellent murals, his most recent one and apparently a character from Squid Game, whatever that is.
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My last visit to Manchester had been in August (and I still haven’t got round to sorting out the photos I took then) so I could possibly have missed a few artworks between then and now, but finding so many new ones turned what had started out as a disappointing morning into quite a successful one.

The Knife Angel story

The National Monument Against Violence and Aggression, known as The Knife Angel, is a collaboration between artist Alfie Bradley and the British Ironwork Centre in Shropshire. Created to raise awareness of knife crime it also stands as a memorial to those whose lives have been affected by it.
When the idea of a sculpture made entirely of knives was first discussed the Home Office was contacted for permission to collect knives from police forces across the country in the hope that this co-operation would bring about the introduction of new knife amnesties, with the Ironworks offering to supply each force with knife banks completely free of charge. Permission was granted by the Home Office and the ”Save A Life, Surrender Your Knife” campaign was born.
The Ironworks created a total of 200 knife banks and during nationwide amnesties in 2015/16 over 100,000 knives were both confiscated by, or handed in to, every main constabulary across the UK. The collection of knives included machetes, meat cleavers, swords and ordinary household kitchen knives, with some even arriving at the Shropshire workshop in police evidence tubes and still with traces of blood on their surfaces.
To create the 27ft tall sculpture Alfie Bradley constructed a steel supporting frame and formed the basic angel shape using steel sheeting which the knives could be welded onto. Every knife was disinfected and blunted before being welded onto the sculpture; the wings were created using only the blades which produced a feather-like appearance, while the facial features were a mix of Alfie’s great grandad, grandad, dad and two younger brothers.
During the angel’s creation families who had lost loved ones due to knife crime and violence were invited to send a personal message of love and remembrance which Alfie would engrave onto one of the blades to be fixed on the angel’s wings. Messages were also sent from ex-offenders who had since seen the error of their ways and gone on to support the fight against knife crime and violence in a bid to stop it happening on the UK’s streets.
It took just over two years to create the sculpture and in December 2018 the Knife Angel began its official National Youth Anti-Violence Educational Programme across the UK, beginning its journey outside Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral then moving on to Hull in February 2019. Since then it’s moved on to a different town or city each month – until the end of this month it’s in Blackburn, Lancashire, which is where I saw it just a couple of days ago.
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To say that the photos don’t do this angel justice is an understatement. It’s a brilliantly designed and expertly crafted sculpture which I found very sobering and thought provoking, but regardless of what it stands for it’s a truly beautiful piece of art in its own right and I’m glad I got to see it before it moves on.

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.