After a few cool days, Sunday was set to be sunny and warmer so we headed for Alexandra Park. I’ve posted about this park before. It’s just south of the city centre between Walley Range and Moss Side and sandwiched between the busy Princess Parkway, the road to the airport, and Alexandra Road South. The park was laid out in 1868 as a pleasant green lung for the well-heeled Victorian inhabitants of the spacious villas of Walley Range and even Moss Side. They would go there on warm evenings and Sunday afternoons in their most fashionable clothes and promenade along the terrace to admire the gardens. And so it remained for a long time. But, after World war 2, the fortunes of the area and the park changed. The bombing of central Manchester during the war made it an unpleasant place to live. The middle classes decamped from around the park and moved to the southern suburbs or out into Cheshire. The villas were split into tiny apartments and the people who moved in were less affluent than their predecessors.
The area probably hit rock bottom in the 1980s and 1990s. To the north of the park, Moss Side became a centre of drug trafficking and gang violence. There was even gun crime, something virtually unknown in the UK. Manchester became known as Gunchester. At one point there were riots and the shops along Princess Road were burned. Alexandra Park was caught up in all this, it was scary in the day and a no go area at night. But strong police action plus the determination of the local population has seen the area turn around. City living is now back in vogue. People who can no longer afford to buy into nearby Chorlton have turned to Walley Range to find reasonably priced period houses. And Moss Side, close to a completely rebuilt Hulme to its north is also becoming a place where people will consider buying into.
And Alexandra Park has benefitted from these changes. The local people were determined to revive this beautiful space. Its taken a while. They began in 2002. It took a while to get the necessary money together to fund the project. £5.5 million apparently. That done, it’s taken 3 years to put the plan in action. It wasn’t popular with everyone. To restore the park to how it was in 1868 it was necessary to clear some undergrowth and take down some of the trees, particularly on the terrace. Some of the older trees were in a bad way and needed to be felled. For a while we had an encampment of green eco-warriors living in the trees. They eventually abandoned the trees and the plan was begun.
Today the park was officially reopened after a weekend of events. It was good to see the park full of people out enjoying themselves. There was even some promenading along the terrace but no where near as well dressed as it was in 1868.
I like this part of the park. There are still a lot of the original trees here over the wide path that runs parallel to Alexandra Road South. With the tall trunks and curving branches, it reminds me of a great, green Gothic cathedral.
The terrace is where the promenading used to go on. This area became overgrown and, with its position closest to Moss Side, was the most dangerous part of the park. It’s all been beautifully restored. The planting is new and looks a bit thin at the moment but will bulk out quickly. I think it’s very successful. They have even replaced the lost urns. They used to be stone but these ones are cast iron. They will be going nowhere.
This house was the park keeper’s lodge by the Claremont Road gates. It was in a ruinous state a couple of years ago but it’s back to its original condition now.