Category: Ducks


Over the last year or so we have got used to the bright, yellow water taxis, or Waxis, plying the rivers and canals between the city centre to Salford Quays and on to the Trafford Centre. One route starts in Castlefield and goes to Media City and then on to the Trafford Centre. A second route is being started that will eventually go from Victoria Station, along the River Irwell to Spinningfields and then to Media City. Given the grid lock that can happen in Manchester in the rush hour, a sedate ride to work along the canals and rivers is a viable and pleasant alternative. Tourists enjoy the ride as well. Over the summer I’ll take a trip and see what it’s like. It’ll give be a different perspective on the city.

I got chatting to the guys running the system. One of the Waxis was moored on the New Bailey side of the river. I wondered about a third route along the Rochdale Canal from Piccadilly Station to Media City. There must be a constant stream of BBC types,and other media bods, arriving from London and wanting to get to Media City. The route has a dedicated tram route already. They said no. There are too many locks on the section of the canal between the station and Castlefield. If you’re having a drink at one of the bars on Canal Street or Deansgate Locks it’s always fun watching the boats negotiate the locks but it does take an age. Especially when they don’t make it. 

The duck races were supposed to start at the Bridge Street bridge and finish under the Irwell Street bridge passing through Spinningfields and New Bailey. The problem was there was a stiff breeze blowing across the river at right angles so they changed the direction of the race starting at the footbridge and finishing at the start. As they say, ‘in Manchester we do things differently.’

Then another problem happened. The wind blew all the ducks, in both races, into the New Bailey bank where they stubbornly stayed. So the Waxi saved the day, ran up and down the river creating waves that eventually got the ducks moving in the direction of the start, sorry, finish!

Pictures of the Corporate Duck Race with the Waxi trying to move them along…

I was quite pleased that I caught the launch of the main duck race with a golden shower (behave!) of ducks being dropped into the river…

The ducks were reluctant to swim. They all clumped together in the middle of the river having a meeting about how to deal with the race, and then decided to follow their corporate buds into the bank…

Although the duck race is a bit of harmless fun over the Easter weekend, it does have a serious point in raising money for charity. This year the charity was Brainwave, an organisation that helps children who have born with, or suffered, some kind of brain trauma and helps them to become more independent.

The companies that create wealth in Spinnifields and New Bailey sponsor large ducks for a corporate duck race with the money going to the charity. The ducks were on show on the steps of the Bridge Street bridge prior to the race. A great deal of effort goes into dressing them.

My favourite was the Beaky Blinder duck. He’s dressed like a Victorian gang member from Birmingham, made famous by a  rather good TV show called Peaky Blinders. The Birmingham gang got their name from the razor blades they concealed in the peaks of their caps which they would blind their enemies with. I wonder if this duck has one in his cap. He intends to win! Manchester had a similar Victorian gang culture. One of the famous gangs here was called The Scuttlers…

Amy, gone but not forgotten…

Elvis of course…

A certain American president. If this one had come second he would have claimed to have won…

I took a lot of pictures today. So many I can’t think of a simple way to arrange them. So I’ve decided to do them chronologically. Cross Deansgate from Brazennose Street takes you onto the Spinningfields campus. Dominating the plaza between the Armani Store and the John Rylands Library was this huge rubber duck. I’m going to need a considerably larger bath…

I’ve posted several times about the wooden ducks we have collected over the years. We like to dress them up for special occasions like Easter and Christmas and for national events like royals occasions and to support the various England teams. The guy who used to sell them at the Manchester markets has given it up to open a new business in Wrexham, north Wales, selling model planes and cars and the like that you can make up yourself.

You can still find the ducks though. We spotted these beautifully painted ones at The Hollies farm shop where we went for the gin tasting a few nights ago.

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And these we saw, upscaled and up-priced ones, at a flower show in Chorley (more posts soon about that) that we went to yesterday. They are cool but I prefer the unadorned ones we have that we can dress up.

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It was so hot in the city yesterday that it was nice to get out and visit the Warrington office on Birchwood Park. It was hot in Warrington as well of course, but it seemed less oppressive out there where the office blocks are set in parkland with wildflower meadows and small woodlands surrounding a lake. I got there about lunchtime and lots of the people were enjoying their food alfresco on the lawns about the lake. I took some pictures.

This plant is called Birds-Foot Trefoil. It’s a member of the pea family. Theses yellow flowers are very similar to the ones you see on pea vines. They provide food for the little, not so common now, Common Blue butterflies.

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After parking up I walked past this fountain. I took the pictures with my iPhone. Real photographers might ‘tut’ at me using an iPhone camera but I find the quality of pictures is fine for what I need. I like the way it has caught the falling water.

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I’m not keen on Rhodedendrons for reasons I went into a few posts back, but I did like the apricot/peach colour of the flowers on this one on Birchwood Park.

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The offices are mostly high tech with companies like Rolls Royce having offices here. The U.K. Nuclear industry also have their HQ on the park. I had to go to one of the newer offices. The buildings are quite simple in design but the landscaping really sets them off. There’s a long lawn running the length of the offices and that is divided by a canal, maybe it’s a rill, running down the centre. At the end there is a chromed sculpture that leads your eye to the top of the canal/rill.  It’s all a very nicely done development.

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Some ducks had abandoned the water for the relative shade on the lawn so hot was the day. 

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Some Pink Campion wildflowers growing on the edge of one of the little woodland areas.

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And I did like a lot the little, highend bird houses for upscale wild birds that live at Birchwood Park.

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And while I was at the Maker’s Market in West Didsbury I spotted these wooden ducks. They are the same as ours but have been painted up so that they can be sold at a premium price in places like Didsbury. They are very nice but I like our plain ones that we can dress up ourselves as and when we need to.

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I’ve been working from home for part of the day. Always a tricky one. The neighbours are having building work on such a scale that it seems to be affecting  the entire immediate neighbourhood, if not physically, but with the noise. And I can always find little jobs that need doing before I can settle to ‘work’ work. And the weather is so warm and sunny it’s been tempting to wander into the garden and see how it’s doing.

This pot of bulbs got shunted into a corner last year after flowering and were forgotten. Usually they would be planted up with summer flowers. But when I came across it this morning last year’s bulbs, some Narcissi and some tulips, had come into flower. I tidied up the pot and here it is looking wonderful.

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Shrubs usually come back of course. And this Spirea, Bridal Veil, was also looking wonderful.

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Last year, a pair of ducks took up residence in our area. They were not at all worried by the people or cars and wandered from garden to garden looking for tasty morsels to eat. Then they disappeared. But this morning, unless it’s another pair, they were back. Here they are poking about in the grass on the lawn for whatever ducks like to eat in the grass. They were happy for me to get close and posed for my camera on my iPhone.

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We like to have fun with our wooden ducks. They started out as garden decorations but have migrated to the warmth of a centrally heated house several years ago. They are quite happy inside now. On special occasions we like to dress them up. So here they are all ready for Easter. Wishing all my readers a Happy Easter. Go easy on the chocolate eggs…

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We have spent most of the time since Christmas Eve holed up at home eating festive treats. Cabin fever has set in so we decided to go for a walk to blow away the cobwebs and wake us up a bit. Working hard can be tiring but nothing like the tiredness you get from giving yourself up to pleasure for four days. I fasted some before Christmas and lost a bit of weight, most of which has been put back on in the last few days, but at least I don’t have to beat myself up over it as I’m back to my ideal weight for a guy my height and age. Sorry to be irritating about that but I just ate sensibly before Christmas and the weight just fell off. I have never had much trouble controlling my weight. Eat well and exercise and there’s not much to it.

The Boxing Day snow is still lingering where it fell as the temperatures haven’t got above freezing at all since then. The skies are clear and blue and, at this time of the year in the UK, that means cold.

We wrapped up warm and headed for the Forest Park, a local park popular with dog walkers with a huge grassy expanse where people play football on Sunday mornings. I was warm in my wool/cashmere coat, scarf and gloves but regretted wearing my flat cap as the frost was getting to my ears. Note to self….take wool hat next time.

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This is Mary of ‘Mary had a little lamb’ fame looking out across the cricket pitch for her lost sheep. In the best tradition of a Christmas pantomime, altogether now….’He’s behind you!!!’

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From there we went to the Science Park and did a loop by the Atomic Energy buildings, past the pond and then back by the Fujitsu Campus. A weird place for a walk you might think but it is a pleasant one. The offices are set out in parkland with little bits of woodland along the paths. There’s a lot of wildlife in the area. It was all very quiet with the car parks almost deserted and the offices closed until after New Year, possibly until next Monday. We like to enjoy a long winter break in the UK. I liked the white bark of these Silver Birch trees, lit up by the winter sun against the blue of the sky.

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We headed to the pond on the edge of the huge central lawn. In summer people like to sit out here and eat lunch. I did a panorama.

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The pond was frozen at one end but the fountain at the other end kept the water open so the resident population of ducks had somewhere to swim. It looked cold for them. I didn’t envy them at all.

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I thought the ducks, all Mallards, the males with their iridescent emerald heads and the females in their drab browns, would be there so I made up a packet of bread for them so they could have something to eat. They are quite tame as they are used to people and like to share their lunches with them. I soon had an enthusiastic group of them enjoying the bread. Some in the water were having trouble getting out across the little ice shelf that had appeared on the edge of the pond so I threw some in for them.

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I was intrigued by the snowflakes that someone had gone to the trouble of stencilling onto the paving stones of the path.

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Just before we got home I spotted Santa, a snowman and two reindeer, one was Rudolf, having a beer and a cigarette outside a house. Apparently Mrs. Santa Claus hates the smell of tobacco smoke inside her home.

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We’ve been busy decking our halls for the festive season and that means getting the ducks ready for Christmas. Here they are, all festive and be-scarfed (I think I just invented a verb there) and ready for Christmas and the cold weather…

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