Category: Winter


After a mild December, January and February, winter came back to bite us. An Atlantic low pressure system pushed up against some cold, Arctic air and dumped snow on the city. It wasn’t nice snow, it was that wet stuff that turns to slush pretty quickly. I had to work a bit this morning then I jumped on the tram and went to HOME, Manchester’s new arts centre on First Street. Here’s the restaurant with something of a blizzard going on outside.

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I had some time before I went to my event so I sat in the restaurant and had some coffee and some rather delicious Courgette and Lime Cake. It has vegetables in so it MUST be good for you? 

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It’s the award season of course and I’d gone to HOME to attend the Manchester Theatre Awards. After London, Manchester has the most active theatre life of any city in the UK. Big productions are put on at the Lowry, the Palace Theatre and the Opera House while award winning plays are enjoyed at the Royal Exchange Theatre, regarded by many as the National Theatre of the North. It’s just one of the many theatres across the city. And new theatre is put on at tiny venues across the city. And we have the Manchester International Festival every two years that puts the city into the international spotlight. All are supported by appreciative audiences. We enjoy our live theatre.

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Some pictures of the great and the good of the Manchester theatre world enjoying something sparkly and some canapés while networking like their lives depended on it. We had a fun time. Darling! 

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Last Monday was ‘Blue Monday’ I’m told, the most depressing day of the year. All the excitement of Christmas and New Year is behind you. The decorations have been packed away. You spent too much money and are broke. You ate too much and are overweight. You didn’t get the presents you wanted (I buy my own now). And the whole event didn’t match your expectations anyway. It’s cold, wet and dark. You’ve already given up on the resolutions you made. I can see where they are coming from with this ‘Blue Monday’ lark.

We had other things to occupy us over Christmas that brought the disappointment of bad presents and a few extra pounds in weight into a proper focus. And now, half way through January we are feeling somewhat better about things.

However, that’s us and not most people. What did make me feel better about things this morning was coming across the Chinese lanterns in Manchester as the city gears up for the Chinese New Year celebrations at the beginning of February. It will be the Year of the Monkey. I’m not sure what that means for the world, hopefully it will bring something better than 2015 which had some really low points. Having said that, my life in a prosperous city in a, mostly, peaceful country, wasn’t so bad. More people living my life is what the world needs.

Here are the lanterns in St. Ann’s Square, looking cheerful against the grey skies and the beautiful buildings…

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And here are some in Albert Square…

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We had our first snow of the winter over the weekend. So far winter has been mild and very wet. December saw guys dressed in shorts and T shirts in the city and then floods along the river. It was nice to have a bit of proper winter weather for a change, until you have to drive in it of course. I seem to remember there was about 15 minutes of snow in Winter 2014/2015. I was driving back from Liverpool and got caught in it. By the time I was home it was over. So this year’s snow has already outdone last year’s. We have to go back to 2010 before we had some real snow in the city. It was so bad we couldn’t get off the drive and I was worried we wouldn’t be able to catch our flight to Egypt. We managed it though. We spent 10 days in the warmth of the Nike Valley and when we returned the snow was still there with temperatures sub zero all the time we were away. The snow has gone but the papers are getting excited about a really long, cold spell with masses of snow. Papers love a bit of drama.

The weekend’s snow was nowhere near as bad as 2010. But it was enough to transform the city for a while and to get a friends 3 year old son to declare that it was Christmas again! He was disappointed. 

The guys in the police helicopters, @NPAS_Barton, have been up checking on how things are. Thanks to them for these pictures. I’m not sure how many bad guys they have up in the Lakes that need to be kept an eye on but the helicopter was up there on a job. They took this beautiful picture while they were up there. The water is part of Windermere, England’s largest lake. Beyond are the high mountains of central Cumbria, thick with snow. If Cheshire is Manchester’s well manicured front lawn, the Lake District is the spectacular rockery at the end of our back garden. Leaving central Manchester, traffic allowing, you can be by the lake shore at Bowness on Windermere in a couple of hours. 

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Closer to home they took these pictures of the city looking very monochromatic. I can’t tell exactly where these were took. Snow does tend to do that.

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On the ground, my car had an icing of snow. You can’t tell really because the roof is white already. 

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We’re having some unusual December weather here in the UK. Not the Atlantic storms that have rattled in over the last few weeks, with high winds and rains that have brought floods to the Lake District. We’re used to that. It’s been the mildness of the weather that has surprised us with temperatures in the 60s. It’s been more like spring than winter. The daffodils are in flower down south a week before Christmas. I’m bundled up in warm coats, scarfs, hats, sweaters and gloves when I really should be thinking about shorts. But it’s Christmas and I WILL rock the winter layered look.

Here’s a few pictures of Cheshire today. 

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In the autumn, as part of the the commemoration of the start of World War 1, the city planted 1000s upon 1000s of snowdrops in the city’s parks and gardens. The snowdrop, being the first flower to bloom after the winter is seen as a symbol of hope so it was appropriate to plant them as a symbol for the coming of peace after a war. 

At the moment they are all blooming. They look at bit thin on the ground at the moment because single bulbs were planted but over the years they will multiply and spread to form a dense white carpet in late winter. These ones were in the gardens surrounding Manchester Cathedral.

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And these were in St John’s Gardens, a garden created by the demolition of St. John’s Church many years ago when the city centre spread and commercial buildings replaced the houses that were there. Things grow well in these gardens, possibly because of the 1000s upon 1000s of former Mancunians who were buried in the church yard and are still there. Something the office workers probably don’t think about when they sit on the grass enjoying their al fresco lunches in the summer months!

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The rather grim, grey, 60s office block in the background has its days numbered. It, together with another equally unprepossessing building behind it are destined for demolition. It will be replaced by another glass and steel office tower connecting Spinningfields to the new St. John’s Quarter being built around the former Granada TV Studios that have decamped to Media City. Behind the cross, in the distance, seven apartment towers are planned to line the banks of the river. People are saying it will make St. John’s Gardens look like Central Park. I think that’s pushing it a bit but we will see.   

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I went into Manchester Art Gallery to check out the rest of the ‘snowdrop’ installation put in to mark the opening of the gallery’s World War 1 art exhibition. I posted pictures of the ones outside a couple of weeks ago. They are still looking fresh in the cold, early spring, Manchester weather. I couldn’t get inside the gallery then as it was closed. Some more pictures here.

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Inside the warmth of the gallery has caused the snowdrops to flower early and there were few on show. That was a pity. When the installation is taken apart they will all be replanted in the city’s parks and gardens.

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I’m very fond of this stand of cherry trees that grow alongside the playing field of a school near where I live. At the moment, in late winter, very early spring, they show their bare bones against the deep blue of the sky. In a few weeks they will be covered in white cherry blossom and then tiny, bronze coloured leaves. In summer the leaves deepen in colour to a dark green and, if the weather is kind, we get a wonderful crop of dark red cherries. Walking to pick up the Sunday papers I help myself to a few. Then in the autumn, the leaves turn a vibrant yellow before falling to start the entire process again.

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After nineteen days without a day off I had the opportunity to work at home for a couple of days which I gratefully seized. I got up at six and did all my tasks early. Satisfied that I had done my quota for the day and taking out my work phone in case I needed to be contacted (I didn’t), I headed over to Dunham Massey Hall for a walk in the park on a cold, grey day. Dunham Massey Hall is a grand, Georgian mansion set in a deer park on the very edge of the city. Surrounding the park is a huge estate of farmland. It used to be owned by the Earls of Stamford and Warrington but it’s now owned and maintained by the National Trust and it is open to the public. Being so close to the city, it is a popular place to visit. Warm weekends in summer or cold, snowy ones in winter can be a bit of a nightmare but a grey Monday in early December isn’t so bad.

A panorama of Dunham Massey Hall with some of the deer park. The stable block is on the left.

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The area is very wet. The mansion and its garden is surrounded by an artificial lake which is kept in place by a dam. The path in this panorama is on top of the dam. There is a steep drop to the right of the fence.

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The holly trees were full of bright red berries in time for Christmas. Some say that this is an indication of a bad winter in store for us. I hope people don’t cut the berries for Christmas. If we do have a bad winter, the birds will need these berries in January and February.

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When I was younger I used to work here at the restaurant in the old stables up by the mansion. It was always busy. They have built this new visitor centre by the car park that contains visitor services, a new restaurant (the one I worked in is still open though), a new shop, a little garden centre and a place where you can learn about the estate. During World War 1, the mansion was used as a military hospital. As we commemorate the war, there is an exhibition of what happened in the house at the time. Sadly, it’s closed at the moment as most National Trust houses close in the winter so maintenance of the treasures inside them can be done. It reopens in February. I must go to see the exhibition.

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At the bottom of the dam there is a small pool with a fountain. You could see it but not get close to it from the path across the dam. But the new developments have included a path so you can get to it for the first time.

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The lakes and ponds on the estate attract a lot of water birds including these noisy Canada Geese. Not sure if they have flown in from Canada though, they seem to be permanent residents.

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The mansion and the stable block.

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The stable block with the clock where I used to work in the restaurant.

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The park is surrounded by a wall that keeps the deer (it is a deer park) in and stops them wrecking havoc on the surrounding farms and the nearby city. The estate contains a village and many farms housed in rather nice houses like the one you see over the wall. You can always tell an estate house because its woodwork will be painted in the estate burgundy red.  Inside the park there is another wall around the formal gardens. The gardens are beautiful but the deer would soon made short work of all the plants in there.

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This is the deer barn. The deer are fed from here. They are a commercial herd and have to be culled yearly or they would overrun the park and outstrip the food resources. Some are shot in the park and they are butchered in here. They often ended up on the menu in the restaurant.

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Some views of the park with the ancient trees. Some are coming to an end of their life and new ones are being planted to restore the original plan for the park. They surround the new trees by little fences that keep the deer away. Deer would strip the bark off and the new trees would die.

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 There weren’t many deer about yesterday. They must have been deep in the park well away from the main drive I walked on. They aren’t worried by people, they are used to us invading their space. I spotted this one, a female I think, worryingly close to the deer barn.

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I walked through Beech Park in Chorlton yesterday afternoon. With all the leaves gone, we are able to appreciate the shapes of the trees stripped back to their bare trunks and branches. The lack of leaves drew my attention to a tree on one side of the park. It must have been one of the original trees that were planted when Beech Park was laid out in Victorian times. It grew but now is in the final stages of its life.

The thick boughs and branches have had to be removed in case they fall off on to one of the citizens of Chorlton as they jog or walk their dog around the park. Only the great, thick trunk remains and that is riddled with decay. The entire trunk was covered in impressive bracket fungi from top to bottom. In spite of they the tree was still trying to grow and new shoots and branches were attempting to grow from the truncated top of the tree.

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Had to dash out this morning for a short while to take someone somewhere. Last week we were promised thick snow but it didn’t really materialise. A snowflake fell somewhere in London and the press and TV were full of stories of chaos and the worst winter in 20 years with special programs about how bad it was in London. Back in January 2010 when Manchester was literally knee deep in snow and cut of from the rest of the country for days on end nothing was said. Why? Because, when we got to London, there was no snow to be seen. 

There wasn’t anything on the weather reports last night about the city having snow in the night. They talked about the eastern side of England, the Peak District to the east of the city  and the area north of the city in Lancashire but not here. It must have swung south at the last minute and hit us. Here are some pictures of the snow where I had to go. Very pretty but difficult to get through.

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