Category: Nature


At the top of Bridge Street, just before you get to the bridge and overlooked by Albert Bridge House, is a little piece of land. It’s on the edge of Spinningfields and on my route from that part of town to Kendal’s department store on Deansgate and on to St. Ann’s Sqaure. I imagine at some point there must have been buildings on it. What they were and what happened to them I don’t know. They could have been demolished or even bombed out in WWII. At some point someone decided to pave the area over. It looks like it was done in the 80s. It has a dated look and could do with a bit of a makeover. There’s some uneven paving and a few benches. A cool restaurant has opened on it but I’ve not seen any tables spilling out onto it yet. It doesn’t have a name, so I call it ‘the square with no name.’ Imaginative aren’t I?

I’d like to see it given a thorough update. Maybe now people see the stunning job they’ve done on St. Peter’s Square, the city might have an appetite for this to happen. In the meantime a little olive grove has sprung up. Surprisingly these trees do well in Manchester. We usually associate them with holidays in places like Spain, Italy and Greece. But some types of olive trees live up in the mountains in those countries and are used to cold winters. We may not have baking hot summers like Tuscany and Andalusia but our winters are mild compared with the Italian and Spanish mountains so the trees thrive here. But, because of the shortness and the coolness of our summers we have, we are unlikely ever to see a crop of olives. They are very decorative trees and are popping up around the city. There are some outside Selfridges in Exchange Square and there’s also a grove of them, along with some lemon and orange trees, on the top of the Hilton Tower. How cool is that.

These trees will probably have started out life in one of the Mediterranean countries before being transported to their new home in Manchester. They do have these wonderful gnarled trunks that become more contorted over the years. They are long lived trees and some, in their original countries, will have seen, if not the rise of the Roman Empire, the fall of it. The ones here have been put into some of those wonderful, bee, cast iron containers that have been popping up around the city. They were cast by the Hargreaves Foundry in Halifax, the company that cast the parts for The Angel of the North that you see on the main road as you approach Newcastle. 

In the centre of the square is, I imagine, the oldest of the olive trees. Just look at how gnarled its trunk is. It’s been given a different type of container as suits its importance as the oldest tree in the grove. I wonder if Hargreaves cast this as well?

We’ve had an unseasonably warm weekend in the UK. It got to 25/78 in Cambridge apparently. While not quite as hot as that in Manchester it did top 21/70 in the city tempting guys out in shorts and women in summer frocks for the first time this year. It’s not going to be as warm this week, as we go back to work, but still pleasant.

The warmth has brought out the blousey, pink cherry blossom all over the city. It’s always a pleasure to see this. I feel quite Japanese in my anticipation of this event. I virtually had to queue with the tourists to take pictures of the cherry blossom around the Cathedral. The blossom is at its peak at the moment. It’s a pity it has no perfume. And I don’t think there’s anything in it for the bees either. Still, it looks wonderful.

Here’s a picture of a corner of Manchester Cathedral in 1942. It was bombed badly by the Luftwaffe just before Chrsitmas 1941. The part you can see is in ruins, so was the rest. It was the second most damaged cathedral in the country after Coventry Cathedral and that was levelled in a particularly vicious raid on that city that eradicated the wooden frames medieval city for ever. A great loss apparently. We are lucky that Manchetser Cathedral survived. The problem was its position, within minutes walk of two of the city’s railway stations, Exchange and Victoria. You can see the ruins of Exchange Station across the river from the cathedral.

I tried to take this picture from the same spot. This is as close as I could get to it. Part of the gardens around the cathedral were cut off. They were putting on an Easter Passion Play and there were fences keeping me out. The passion play hasn’t been without controversy. Someone came up with the idea of giving people a ‘Jesus’ experience by offering to crucify them on the cross used in the play. In the end that didn’t happen. In my picture you can see the cathedral totally restored (the war damaged organ has been replaced with a new one and will be officially heard for the first time this Easter weekend) and Exchange Station has been replaced by glass apartments and offices. 

I’m not sure how many acres of parkland there are around our offices on the business park where we are located, but it must be a lot. Only three guys look after it but it always looks immaculate. Some of it is little patches of woodland that was here before the offices were built. Some is lawn which is easy to manage on one of those fun sit on mowers. A lot of the planting is the kind that is easy to manage shrubs and plants that need to be pruned annually or bulbs, like the daffodils, that come back year after year. It looks impressive but it is designed to be low maintenance.

But there are a few places where they have planted areas up with bright annuals that need to be replaced every year or two or three times in the season. One area is outside Chadwick House. Chadwick House is one of the original office blocks on the park. I think it dates back to the 60s or even the 50s. It was one of the buildings that was used by the Atomic Energy Corporation. They are still here looking after the country’s atomic energy industry. Their presence has attracted the other hi-tech companies that have moved here. Considering it’s a mid 20th century building, it’s not a bad one.

There’s a flower bed that has been planted up outside it. It’s a sea of purple pansies that really stands out against the green of the rest of the park. There are purple/red cordylines in there as well. We like these, they look tropical but are actually from the warmer parts of New Zealand. That can be a problem as, if we have a severe winter, they get killed off. The warmer winters have encouraged us to plant these kinds of plants. Then we have an old fashioned, bitter winter and they bite the dust. We lost all our Agapanthus back in 2010 like that. The cordylines have survived this winter though.

The carpet of purple was spoiled by just one lilac one that crept in.

Outside Chadwick House there are these two statues. I’m not sure what they represent. I think they’ve been there since the building was put up. Maybe something to do with the atomic industry? They have that brutalist look of 1960s architecture. They are also sitting in carpets of bi-coloured, purple and yellow pansies.

This is the lake on our office park. On warm days it’s nice to sit out by it and have lunch or an informal meeting. Even on cool days it’s nice to walk to and around. It’s the home to some ducks and Canada Geese but we are banned from feeding the gulls that come looking for lunch leftovers. Gulls are big and fearless and have been known not to wait until you have discarded your lunch before helping themselves to it. I once lost most of a Marks & Spencer’s sandwich on Llandudno beach to one. It took it straight out of my hand swooping down from behind me. The first thing I knew was this huge, feathery thing inches from my face. I’ve always been wary of gulls since. And the swans in the harbour at Bowness on Windermere are best avoided as well. They don’t look that big on the water but, out of it, they can tower over your average 7 year old boy and their wingspan is enormous.

At the moment the edge of the lake is ringed with the bright, yellow flowers of the Marsh Marigold. Not a relative to the garden marigolds we plant in our gardens for summer, but it does have similar looking golden flowers. It likes to live in the shallow water on the edge of clean ponds and lakes like this one. You can see the sword like leaves of the water iris coming through as well.

Also the Gunnera is beginning to show. Over the summer it will grow taller and taller and produce these huge leaves and long flower spikes. It has thick stems with vicious looking thorns. Some people love it but it’s not for your smaller garden. I always imagine that dinosaurs walked among it and maybe snacked in the leaves. It has a very primeval look to it. 

After my wandering about yesterday I was back in the office. But we are still having warm, sunny weather and it’s nice to get out with my team, have a wander and talk about stuff. You don’t have to be chained to a desk to be working and ‘blue sky thinking’ is better achieved under actual blue skies I think.

It also gave me the opportunity to see what was growing in the parklands around the office. I found this Gorse plant covered in acid yellow flowers. There are so many that you can’t see the stems or, indeed, the nasty spikes that stick out of them. They say that ‘when the Gorse isn’t in flower, kissing is out of fashion.’ The thing is that you can always find a few of these yellow flowers on a Gorse plant in any month, even in the depth of winter. But, it seems, April in England is a great time and place to do some kissing. The bees were enjoying the flowers. I think it’s a member of the pea family, the flowers are very similar to those you sea on pea plants.

And the white cherry blossom is out everywhere as well. It’s the native cherry tree and will provide lots of cherries for the birds later on in the year. The blousey pink cherry blossom is yet to come.

Lesser Celandine is a member of the buttercup family and is one of the UK’s most popular Spring wildflowers. I like its glossy, heart shaped leaves and its bright, waxy, yellow flowers. Apparently it’s found across Europe and into Asia as far as Japan. Gardeners don’t like it as it can, once established, colonise an area crowding out all other plants. Being a member of the buttercup family, all parts are poisonous and farm animals that might eat it can be very ill indeed and could die. It’s not native to North America but has been introduced there for some reason. They are regretting it as it has colonised woodlands across the US and Canada. 

But this little colony on the bank by a road surrounding a local golf course is no danger to passing cows or chickens and won’t be leaping across the road to local gardens either. So I can continue to enjoy it with no worries.

The warm sunshine has tempted some of the hibernating butterflies out. I’ve seen several bright yellow Brimstone butterflies but they aren’t keen in settling to be photographed. This pretty, brown one was though. He/she settled on a celandine flower for a meal of nectar. I didn’t recognise what sort it is but a quick Google search on my iPad revealed it is a Comma butterfly. I think it gets its name from when it closes its wings it looks like a comma punctuation mark. They used to be restricted the the Welsh border area but have spread their habitat to other parts of the country, especially to the north where it is now warm enough for them to cope. Nice to hear a good butterfly story. We do seem to be losing a lot of them.

At some point in the daffodil season I like to have a walk through the St John’s Gardens. It used to be the churchyard of St John’s Church when this part of the city was where the ‘well to do’ lived. Large Georgian houses line St John’s Street, once the homes of prosperous Manchester merchants, they now are full of highly paid doctors and lawyers. It’s a pity we have lost the church, it was a very imposing building but became surplus to requirements why the city grew and the nature of the area changed from residential to offices. The gardens provide a little oasis of calm in a busy city centre. Things grow well here, allegedly because of the generations of Mancunians who have been buried here.

You can certainly believe it when you see the profusion of daffodils growing there are the moment. The gardens are carpeted with them. These pictures were taken yesterday under a blue skied Manchester. I like the contrast between the peace of the daffodils in the gardens, the warm red brick of the old Georgian houses and the glass façade of the Hilton Tower a few hundred metres away on Deansgate. Currently it’s the city’s tallest building but, just beyond it, a new tallest building is beginning to rise on Owen Street with another, even taller, being put in for planning as part of the Trinity Islands development. That one will be about 220m tall. And rumours are swirling around that an even taller one, 75 storeys, is in the planning pipeline. We are living in exciting construction times in Manchester these days.

It’s the Spring equinox today, the sun is directly over the Equator and, here in the UK, we will have 12 hours of light and 12 hours of darkness. From now on the days will lengthen as we head to mid summer’s day. Next weekend the clocks go forward and we will have light evenings as well.

So today is the first day of Spring. BBC Radio 4 have been marking the equinox by inserting poems with a spring theme into their regular programmes. I like that I live in a country where they read poems to us. Can’t see it happening anywhere else. The morning news programme, Today, inserted this classic Spring poem by William Wordworth into all the news about Brexit and Trump. A welcome relief.

Daffodils

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

William Wordsworth

Being England, the weather didn’t get the memo about it being Spring and it poured down all morning. But by lunchtime the sun had come out. I persuaded my little team at the office that we needed to get out for a while; we could walk and talk and sort a few things out. And we did that. Honestly! But it did give me a chance to take some pictures of all the daffodils that grow in the park that surrounds our offices. They are at their best at the moment. These aren’t the wild ones that Wordsworth would have seen by the lake near his home in the Lake District. They are modern cultivars that we have developed for our gardens but they still look very fine under the bare trees. In a few weeks the leaves will come out and the daffodils will have faded for another year so it’s important to enjoy them when we can. We had a word with one of the gardeners. There are only three of them but they have a huge area of parkland and gardens to keep in good shape. This they do very well.

Here are some pictures I took while ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’ this afternoon.

I also spotted some primroses.

 

We’re on top of stuff at work and it is a quiet time of year. After all the tumult of 2016 we are getting used to the new realities of life and, hopefully, moving on. It’s going to be a number of years, though, until we sail into calmer waters of course. And we’re not sure how the outcome of the American elections will affect things, but the entire planet is in that boat.

Our little department decided to go out for a ‘working breakfast.’ I did suggest a ‘prayer breakfast’ but one of the team declined that offer. In fact what she said was ‘f**k off!’ We wear our religion lightly in the UK. We headed for a restaurant in the centre of the office park where our offices are. There’s a nice little lake there where people like to sit on warm days. It attracts water birds including these Canada Geese. They were introduced to the country to grace the lakes of large country estates. Having wings and a tendency to roam, they have found the UK to their liking and are found all over the place now. They are noisy and big and these ones are quiet used to people and can be a bit persistent if you are eating your sandwiches in the sunshine. Maybe, under Brexit, we can have them declared illegal immigrants and ship them back to Canada. They were stealing bread from British ducks today.

Here are some British Ducks who are having their bread stolen.

Near the lake is the Fun Hut. It was locked today but on warm, sunny days they open it and out come the deck chairs. They also have footballs, rugby balls and other toys that we can use on the lawns around the lake. It’s mostly guys who like to play in their lunch hours. A fun idea we think.

I quite like a game of Table Tennis when the Fun Hut is open. In spite of the sunshine it was still pretty chilly though.

Spring is stirring. This is a good thing. The central reservation of the road near the offices is full of these little, yellow crocuses.

And there are some early daffodils. Last year I noticed these were in bloom on Boxing Day (26th December) but have only just come out now in their, more usual, early February. We must have had a colder winter than last year.

We needed some more coffee capsules for the Nespresso machine. We got some of the usual ones and tried a couple of the flavoured and the limited edition ones. I like the ones flavoured with vanilla or caramel. We hide those for personal use. No one knows we have them. We are bad.

I was a bit irritated on Friday night to discover that work had downloaded a lot more work to me than I had expected. True, I have to the end of the month to do it but I’d already worked out my daily schedule and to keep to it I’d have to do a bit more almost straight away to keep me on track. So I got up ridiculously early on Saturday morning (6am) and by 11am I’d caught up. Go me! I then fired off an email saying that I expected this extra, unexpected work to be reflected in my Christmas bonus. Always good to do this sort of thing from a position of power I think.

Having caught up I was able to get out and about and do a few things I needed to do in Chorlton and Altrincham. Nothing onerous, just organising a few things for Christmas. I had a bit of a wander around Chorlton to see what was going on and see if there was anything that would be of use over Christmas. On Beech Road I like to check out the ‘A’ boards outside Launderette, the restaurant/café bar that has been put in what used to be a public lauderette. They are always witty. Here’s yesterday’s offering. They didn’t disappoint.

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There was a sign on the gate into Beech Park.

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I had Beech Park all to myself this morning. The weather wasn’t brilliant and people were busy on the Saturday morning errands. The park still looked lovely as the Copper Beech trees are taking on their autumn colour. It’s a shame there wasn’t some sunshine. That really brings out the colour which looks wonderful against a blue sky.

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This sign was on the gate to the children’s playground. Adults seem to want to keep the kids and dogs apart. I bet the kids and dogs would have a great time together.

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