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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A bank holiday weekend in the UK and finally after a very wet month we have some decent weather. Temperatures have risen considerably and locally we have cloudless blue sky and wall-to-wall sunshine, just in time for the start of the 8-day long event billed as the Manchester Flower Show. The city’s first public event of the year signals the start of summer and dozens of shop windows, doorways, statues, fountains, pedestrianised streets and squares and even phone boxes have been given a floral makeover, although not all the displays and decorations are real flowers.
My day yesterday started off at Victoria Station and as I walked though the concourse I came across a large sectioned-off corner full of bouquets, balloons and teddy bears. Nothing to do with the flower show, it was an anniversary tribute to the 22 people killed in the Manchester Arena bomb attack on May 22nd four years ago. For those who don’t know, the Arena is right next to the station and has access via a flight of stairs directly from the concourse, which explains the location of the tributes.
A short walk from the station took me to the cathedral and the first display on my planned route. Created by community volunteers the bee-friendly display was inspired by the colours in the cathedral’s Hope window and the perennials will be planted out after the flower show ends.
Round the corner from the cathedral was the decorated doorway of the Banyan Bar while a couple of hundred yards away New Cathedral Street had gone all flower power and hippy with planters and hand sanitizing stations painted in psychedelic designs and colours.
Across the road in St. Ann’s Square it was impossible to miss the Royal Horticultural Society’s huge iconic floral letters while on a smaller scale a pretty purple wheelbarrow displayed some cream coloured blooms. The Richard Cobden statue was surrounded by a display inspired by Parisian parks and nearby the rusting entrance to a long-disused electricity substation had been turned into a ‘secret garden’, inspired by the well known children’s book and the walled gardens of Britain’s stately homes.
The base of the Boer War Memorial was surrounded by blue flowers and plants, there was a very colourful display in the corner window of the HSBC bank and the central fountain had been given a theme of tranquility with bamboo screens and garlands of cherry blossom, Japan’s national flower. The entrance to the Royal Exchange arcade looked exceptionally bright and pretty, and though the flowers may not have been real they gave me one of the most Instagrammable shots I’ve taken so far.
With the exception of a couple of plain and colourless plant displays which didn’t really interest me I’d photographed just about everything in St. Ann’s Square that had anything to do with flowers; there was a lot more to see so it was time to move on and search out some more photo-worthy displays in other streets and parts of the city.
Not having taken part in the previous three weeks’ photo challenges I decided to put all four topics in one post for the end of this month, with each topic having two photos though there’s a common theme running throughout. I have to confess though that this time none of the photos are my own, they have all been sourced from the internet so the quality of some may not be too good.
May 7th – Space
Growing up through childhood to secondary school age, as a family we didn’t have a tv until I was 11 years old. I was brought up listening to the radio, although my parents did have quite a good and wide ranging record collection so I learned to appreciate different genres of music from a very early age. One of my favourite tunes from the early 1960s is the instrumental Telstar; featuring a clavioline, the early forerunner of today’s modern synthesizer, the tune was named after the Telstar communications satellite launched into space in July 1962.
Fast forward now to 1987 and Star Trekkin’, a space related novelty song which parodies the first tv series of Star Trek and features the catchphrases of some of the characters. I first heard it on a compilation tape of Michael’s and it greatly amused both of us at the time.
May 14th – Mirror
Not having any particularly photo-worthy mirrors in the house I’ve resorted to using an image of a book cover for this topic. Alice Through The Looking Glass and its predecessor were both favourite books when I was young and I would read them over and over again – and even after many years I can still recite Jaberwocky in its entirety.
Mirrors was one of my favourite songs of the late 1970s. Written and sung by Sally Oldfield, sister of Tubular Bells composer Mike Oldfield, the song features a prominent bongo rhythm which was very uncharacteristic for styles of pop music at the time.
May 21st – Rain
Back to the 1960s now and a song which features the distinctive sound of a celesta, an instrument looking like a small upright piano and which produces a sound similar to a glokenspiel but with a much softer tone. Although released in 1962 Rhythm Of The Rain didn’t become one of my favourites until much later on in the decade.
Back in the late 1980s as an adult I learned a tap dancing routine based on the title song of the 1952 film Singin’ In The Rain. Surprisingly, and I don’t know why, I’d never actually seen the film before then but I made it my business to watch it the next time it happened to be on tv and I’ve liked it ever since.
May 28th – Music
Another group whose songs I liked back in the late 1960s was The Beach Boys. I Can Hear Music was originally recorded by The Ronettes in 1966 then The Beach Boys released their cover version in 1969. Although I like both versions I prefer the Beach Boys one as it has a more upbeat tempo.
And finally, I’ve managed to find a photo of the exact model of 1950s Ferguson radiogram which started my love of music all those years ago. The radio had three wavebands – long wave, medium wave and VHF (Very High Frequency) and behind the drop down front was a 3-speed turntable on the left and space for records on the right.
The launch of Radio 1 in the late 1960s gave me an increasing liking for pop music, much of which my parents weren’t particularly fond of, so my dad rigged up a speaker system running from the back of the radiogram in the main living room. One speaker was in the front room while the other was in my bedroom, and an isolator switch on the radiogram itself meant that I could listen to pop music in either room without my parents being able to hear it.
Well that’s just about it from me for this month, I hope everyone likes my choices for each topic. Time to put the kettle on now then I’ll pop over to Astrid’s blog to see what interesting things others have come up with for this week’s topic.
With the weather not being good enough for me to do what I had planned over the weekend my Monday walk this time catches up with some street art photographed three weeks ago when my wanderings round Manchester took me away from the Northern Quarter for a while. On someone else’s blog I’d recently seen a photo of a ‘green lady’ artwork located in the vicinity of the Great Northern shopping/entertainment complex and though it was a fair walk from the NQ it seemed to be worth looking for.
Unfortunately I couldn’t find the green lady anywhere in spite of walking round the area more than once so I came to the conclusion that the photo I’d seen had been taken some time ago and the artwork had since vanished. I did however find a leafy mural at the entrance to a currently closed restaurant and some street art under a railway bridge, then as I made my way back to the NQ I found Spiderman on the windows of a corner building.
Back in the NQ I was passing though Stevenson Square on the way to Ancoats when I saw something on the side of a bus shelter. As an advert it wasn’t really street art but it was amusing enough to take a photo – although having found out what it actually is I certainly don’t fancy drinking the stuff – then tucked in a corner down a narrow side street I found a colourful hotch-potch of all sorts which had obviously been there for quite a while.
Ancoats isn’t really known for its street art as it has very little compared to the NQ but one thing I did want to find was a big colourful bird known as the Guardian of Ancoats. Featured on several blogs and websites as a ‘must see’ it was supposed to be situated just one street behind the main road separating Ancoats from the NQ but it proved to be just as elusive as the earlier green lady so presumably it had been painted over some time ago.
Encouraged by finding a couple of Qubek’s bees on the wall of the Manchester Creative Studio and some colourful shutters nearby I decided to explore a few more streets in the vicinity and was quite surprised when I found far more street art than I expected.
In Bengal Street a new multi-storey building was being constructed on a large corner plot and two sides at ground level were surrounded by hoardings covered in brightly painted street art. They were certainly a good way of brightening up a construction site and well worth getting a few shots.
Across the main road in Addington Street I found a lovely paste-up on the side of an old disused building then back in the NQ I discovered a shutter and another piece of artwork down a narrow alleyway which I’d somehow missed on my previous wanderings.
Back on Thomas Street I took the final four photos of the day (featured in a previous post) then made my way back to the station. Four hours of constant walking round the city’s streets were enough for one day, it was time to go home, make a brew and a late lunch, then relax for an hour or so.
And a few quirky bits thrown in for good measure.
Just recently it seems that Manchester’s street artists have been painting things faster than I can photograph them. Less than a week ago I found out about two new artworks in progress and soon to be finished so early yesterday I went out to the city to photograph them, however I actually found more than I expected.
Although it’s nothing to do with street art I’d read recently that the exterior of the Printworks is classed by some as being very Instagrammable so I took a slightly different route from Victoria Station to find the suggested spots for photo taking, then never having been in the place I crossed the road and went to take a look.
Originally the home of several newspaper and printing businesses dating from the late 19th century the building was bought in 1986 by publishing magnate Robert Maxwell who immediately closed it down. It was left unused and derelict for over ten years then as part of Manchester’s redevelopment following the 1996 IRA bombing it was bought in 1998 by Shudehill Developments and converted into an entertainment and leisure venue which includes a cinema, fitness club, nightclub and several eateries.
During the redevelopment the original frontage was retained and part of an internal railway from the newspaper business was incorporated into the new ground floor walk-through from the main road to the street behind. It was actually quite dark in there and it felt a bit odd with everywhere closed and no-one around so I didn’t linger too long.
Coming out of the back of the Printworks I followed my previous well trodden route to find the new street art I wanted to see but before I got to it I unexpectedly came across a new work in the process of being painted. Liam Bononi is a self-taught Brazilian street artist based in Liverpool and his artwork can be seen in many cities in other countries; expressive eyes and hands are apparently distinctive features of his work so it’ll be interesting to see this one when it’s finished.
The next artwork, which is one of the two I especially wanted to see, is on the side of the Manchester Craft & Design Centre and has quite a sweet little story attached to it. The Design Centre was once a Victorian fish market where, over many years, the fishmongers would always welcome the local cats as a way of deterring any pests, for which they were rewarded with treats of fish. The market finally closed down in 1973 but the cats kept returning although there was nothing there for them, however one dedicated fishmonger, Jimmy Kelly, would also go back regularly to make sure they got their dinner.
It was just a short walk from there to Tib Street and the next artwork I wanted to see, and though it had been completed I was surprised to see another artist at work on the wall next to it. The two walls form part of the boundary of the Northern Quarter Car Park and though I’ve been past there many times I didn’t realise until recently that one is a memorial wall. To brighten up what has long been a bit of a redundant corner all the artwork had been commissioned by the Northern Soul Grilled Cheese place across the street, though unfortunately Qubek’s work was partially obscured by a couple of notices and stacks of tables and chairs ready to be laid out.
From Tib Street I made my up to Stevenson Square as I wanted to photograph something for a future post, and though I wasn’t expecting to find anything new since my previous visit two weeks ago I actually did. A series of shutters on a corner building had undergone a very bright makeover, and while they weren’t advertising any particular product they seemed to signify mobile phone usage.
Having recently found out about a place which was considered to be highly Instagrammable, and thinking of shots for a future post, I headed away from the NQ. Via various streets and pedestrianised squares I finally found what I was looking for and though I couldn’t go in it was certainly worth several shots from the outside.
On the floor in the window of a vacant shop nearby, which appropriately had been a tailoring and alteration business, I spotted an old and very decorative Jones sewing machine though light reflection on the glass meant the shot wasn’t too clear. Enlarging it later on I made out the words “As supplied to Her Majesty Queen Alexandra” on the shoulder of the machine and research tells of a reliable account that she did indeed use a Jones machine during her days at college.
Along the street was a tall narrow 4-storey building with a very flowery front facade and though the direct sunshine made photographing the whole thing difficult I did manage to get a shot of part of it. Round the corner was Crazy Pedro’s bar and pizza restaurant and as well as one of Qubek’s well known bees there was some really bright art work round the side.
With the sky clouding over again I made those my last shots and headed off on my long walk back to the station – not a moment too soon either as just as I got there it started to rain. Although I hadn’t spent as much time in the city as on previous occasions I’d got most of my planned shots and more and it had been nice to chat briefly to the two artists I’d seen working, but now it was time to head back home for a good brew and a late lunch.
The final Friday of Astrid’s photo challenge for April and it’s a quick one from me this time.
Last summer a new shop opened in the town centre, and having discovered exactly what this stuff is I have to admit it’s not something I fancy as a drink but apparently lots of people love it, so as I’m never likely to go in there I’ve had to pinch this photo from the local news.
Next is a bit of a weird one. I don’t know what the creature is supposed to be but I found it painted on a wall at the end of a short alleyway in Manchester’s NQ. I did feature a cropped version in a previous post but to include the speech bubble I’ve had to blank out the words.
The soap in my bathroom soap dispenser was getting low recently so I topped it up with water, gave it a good shake and photographed the results.
I recently went back to my previous hobby of Postcrossing after a 2-year absence and though I still have lots of postcards to send to people I wanted something a bit different. I found a bundle of 100 modern postcards at a good price on ebay and when they arrived I was pleased to find one which fits this week’s topic perfectly.