If I might be so bold as to suggest another project to @biggreenfest for their next project to green Chorlton it would be this one.
In the centre of Chorlton, there is a popular little shopping precinct. Popular it may be but a thing of beauty it isn’t. Not exactly sure when it was built, but it has the fingerprints of the 1960s all over it. There are similar developments in suburbs across the city and the only reason this one does as well as it does, is because it is in Chorlton and people like the little stores especially the greengrocers like Elliott’s where I like to call in for some fruit when I’m passing by. As I said the precinct is not a thing of beauty. It’s made of that dirty red brick that the city seemed to buy a job lot of in the 60s and built some of the astonishingly ugly university buildings around All Saint’s (see the ‘Blots on the Landscape’ tab). There’s some of the ubiquitous, stained, sixties concrete and a stumpy little office tower that is too short to be classed a skyscraper and too tall for the suburban landscape of Chorlton.
But what I really dislike about it is that it turns its back on Manchester Road and faces inward rather like the Arndale Centre used to do in the city centre until the IRA forced a redesign and made it face out into the streets. As you walk down Manchester Road you are faced by a blank wall of red brick with no indication of what is in there. It also cuts off the shops further along Manchester Road from the rest of the village and they are amongst the most interesting in the area. People arriving in the centre of Chorlton looking for the likes of the fabled Barbakan and Unicorn might give up and go home as the impression you get is that there is nothing further along Manchester Road beyond the blank red wall.
I seem to remember there being a plan which involved the rebuilding of this precinct, moving Chorlton Library and Chorlton swimming pool here along with new shops and the existing library and swimming pool would get new uses but that was in the days before 2008 when the world was awash with borrowed money. In 2013 we are in a different world and such grandiose plans are, for the moment, a thing of the past. Someone must own this precinct. If it was me, as a unit came vacant, I would knock through the brick wall and give each store two entrances and windows, one into the precinct and the other facing Manchester Road which would at least solve the dull wall problem. Maybe a couple could become cafes who could spread out onto the Manchester Road side in warm weather.
Between the blank, red wall and the road there is a patch of grass, you can’t really dignify it by calling it a lawn. There are some fine trees on it and they are great assets to the area. I would leave them be. Though I might give thought to evicting the pigeons who sit in the beautiful horse chestnut trees waiting to be fed by an old lady (I have seen her do it, she knows who she is) under the ‘DO NOT FEED THE PIGEONS’ signs. But the grass is pretty poor, doesn’t add much to the ambiance of the area and disappears completely under the horse chestnut trees.
In my last post I mentioned the state of the pavements in Chorlton. Here, below, is a good example of what I mean. This patch has been dug up, re-laid, dug up again several times, re-laid again resulting in this mismatched, ugly, possibly dangerous stretch of tarmac. Now when I spend my hard earned cash I like to spend it in places where the experience is enhanced by the ambiance of the built environment. Shopping in central Manchester is a pleasure because you shop surrounded by some of the best architecture in the city. On wet days I can go the faux-marbled halls of the Trafford Centre. Chorlton does have good retail experiences but bland, red brick walls and poor pavements don’t add to it. West Didsbury has just had all the pavements resurfaced in an attractive mixture of tarmac and brick, it brings together all the restaurants and stores and helps to give the area some of its character and a firm identity. It says we care for this area and you are safe to come here. It would be good if Chorlton could do similar, unifying all the different areas of the retail area.
That would be expensive I suspect and money is in short supply of course. Maybe the cost could be met by the city and Chorlton businesses who would benefit from it? With businesses making a contribution as a tiny percentage of their profits? What wouldn’t be so expensive would be my plan for the grass outside the wall. I propose a wildflower meadow. It would look stunning in summer for weeks on end. It is low maintenance and is great for attracting insects like bees. Someone, possibly @biggreenfest, has been working here and a few weeks ago there was a drift of yellow daffodils that brightened the area. Sadly, their season is over for the year and they look a bit bedraggled, left to their own devices they will be back next spring.
I understand that setting up a wild flower meadow is relatively simple. I watched some be set up near where I live. First, in late winter, you come along and spread some pretty strong chemical over the part of the grass you want to be the meadow that kills all the grass and weeds like dandelions that can take over, competing with the plants you want. It looks pretty severe and we wondered what the **** they were up to. When it’s all died down, someone rotivates the area and it is seeded with the mixture of flowers you want. If this was done in Chorlton the pigeons would have to be gone as I’m sure that would have great fun picking through the soil finding all those nice fresh seeds. Done correctly you are rewarded by a wildflower meadow with colour that goes through from late June until October. You then let it go to seed, cut it down and, with luck, it all returns next year.
Here’s one I made earlier….