Category: Manchester


These tiny gardens around some of the trees on busy Barlow Moor Road in Chorlton are always a pleasure to see. And typical of The Chorlton vibe. The guy in the picture looks after them but someone else, one of his neighbours, plants them out. In spite of being on a busy road, they suffer little damage. Most people are very respectful of them and enjoy them. I say ‘most’ because the guy who looks after them told me that, occasionally, he comes out and finds that one of the sunflower heads has been decapitated in the night, probably he thought, by some drunk on the way home from some bar.

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I love the colour of these sunflowers. I must plant some up next year. They are usually yellow but these have an autumnal, rust colour that reminds me that summer is coming to a close and in a few weeks it will be Autumn. I do like Autumn and the run up to Christmas but it’s sad to say goodbye to Summer.

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Between my two visits to the Maker’s Markets I had a wander along trendy Beech Road, the beating heart of übercool Chorlton. It’s where Chorlton hipsters, the LGBT crowd, the yummy mummies, the affluent young professionals and the BBC crowd gather to eat and drink in the pavement cafés, watch well heeled Chorlton go past and put the rest of the world to right. They read The Guardian so they know how to do that. When they are not doing that they can buy themselves something they don’t need but want at one of the interesting stores. Or buy clothes in places where, when asked where they got it,  they can say ‘Oh this? I found it in a little store I know on Beech Road.’

Chorlton likes to recycle to save the earth. Which is as well because they each have the carbon footprint of a small third world town what with all those trips to to their cottages in Abersoch to sail and surf with the Cheshire Set, or indulge in mountain climbing and hiking at their places in the Lakes. And when life in Chorlton gets too stressful (the decorator has painted the kitchen in the wrong shade of eau d’nil….again!) they simply have to fly to Spain to get over it at their friend’s villa on the nice side of Marbella. There’s a shop that takes old, discarded bits and pieces and turns them into new useful and beautiful things. I liked the bike and loved the ducks and the chickens.

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On of the most favoured eating spots for the Chorlton crowd is The Lauderette. It used to be one when the area was poor and bedsit land for students. Now it’s a trendy restaurant on the, possibly, trendiest street in the city. I always enjoy their ‘A’ boards. I don’t do FACEBOOK, but if I did my status would be ‘Pizza’ or, possibly ‘Prosecco’ if they had that option….

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And this is the most persuasive arguement yet to tackle global warming…..

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Some more pictures of the inaugral Maker’s Market in Chorlton. It was in the usual place outside the Chorlton Library where the pavement is wide enough to put up stalls and still leave room for people to pass and look in comfort. This market was bigger than the usual ones they have here and spread as far along Manchester Road as the Sedge Lynn pub and the Co Op Funeral Care building. I thought that was it. I wanted to try a coffee from the Coffee Cranks but I’d just had one at the Post Box Café so I went for a wander along Beech Road and returned via Betty & Butch. I bought my coffee and then spotted that the market was also on the other side of the library in the playground of St. Oswald’s Primary School. More stalls, more music and, sadly, more rain!

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I noticed that the Maker’s Markets people are starting another new market, this time outside the Lowry Centre on Salford Quays across the basin from Media City. With all those people living in expensive apartments it’ll do well there I think. And it might be a place to do a bit of star spotting. TV stars have to eat like the rest of us? Or do they send their people out to see the market and report back on the experience so they can enjoy it vicariously?

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And in September they are having a market on Spinningfields that will specialise on dog products and treats. We love our dogs in the UK and are quite happy to spoil them rotten. I’m definitely going to that one.

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In the meanwhile, some more pictures of Maker’s Market Chorlton. 

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The Maker’s Markets, that run markets in some of the pretty, Cheshire country towns like Knutsford and Sandbach, and the leafy suburbs of Manchester like Cheadle and West Didsbury have finally turned up in Chorlton. What’s taken them so long I wondered? Chorlton loves a good market and these are some of the best. So on Saturday I wandered down to check out the inaugural one. It wasn’t the best of days weather wise, with frequent nasty showers but, between them, Chorlton was out enjoying it’s new market.

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I took a lot of pictures. I have posted before about the little coffee trucks that turn up at various events. They open up to reveal a complete coffee shop making delicious coffee. I even spotted one serving up Prosecco at the Jazz Festival. But I’ve never seen one of these. A three wheel bicycle that converts into a coffee shop. It’s run by the Coffee Crank’s Co Op from Fallowfield and they cycle it around the city to events like this. The guy who rides it about wasn’t the biggest guy ever but he must have been strong to move this safely through Manchester’s busy traffic. They have a regular coffee truck for events far from the city.

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I bought a delicious Coffee Mocha. It was only when I got home I noticed this sign of the side of the coffee making machine. It talked about ‘suspended’ coffee which I assumed was some new type of coffee. They are always coming up with new types of coffee it seems. If you click on the picture below you can read that it is an idea rather than a coffee. The idea being that when you buy a coffee you buy a second one that can be given to someone else who, for whatever reason, needs a coffee and doesn’t have the wherewithal to buy a designer coffee. Cool idea that I will buy into next time I come across this company. Who knows, I may need one myself one day.

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Ginger’s Comfort Emporium had one of their little bicycle ice cream carts here as well. They are based in Chorlton and make the most delicious ice cream including my personal favourite, Chorlton Crack, a vanilla based ice cream flavoured with salted caramel. If you are ever in the city, search it out. Sadly the weather was favouring a hot coffee over an ice cream on Saturday.

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There’s always music at a Maker’s Market event. This red headed guitarist was entertaining the visitors from under his much needed gazebo. I liked his sign.

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Kate, who runs the slightly worryingly named, deadthingsbykate.com,  has a bit of a ‘Game of Thrones’ vibe about her, looking something like Emilia Clark’s character, Daenerys Targaryen. Not a bad thing to look like to be honest. Cool hat as well.

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I was a bit worried about her stall, it featured an awful lot of dead creatures and I like my creatures alive and doing their usual creature things. She is a expert taxidermist and the creatures on her stall, and her shop in Macclesfield, are all brought to her by people who have found them bereft of life already. What she does gives them a second life.

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I also liked this stall seeking cacti in upscaled, old tin food cans. I’ve seen them before at other markets. I must point them out to my friend, Pete, who grows many cacti and sells them on the terrace at the Post Box Café. I love the bright colours and paints used on the tins.

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Yet another building scheme is beginning. This time it’s the Hotel Indigo just near Victoria Station. It was planned sometime in the Jurassic period but, because of the massive redevelopment of Victoria Station, the new Chetham’s School of Music building and the new tram line across the city centre, this congested part of the city couldn’t take another project.

All those three are finished now and so Hotel Indigo is set to go. They are using the Victorian City Buildings (oldest office building in the city apparently) as the entrance and the public rooms and building a circular tower for the bedrooms. It’s nice to see something new and circular in the city centre. This is what it will look like with Victoria Station on the right and the Hanover Building on the left. The empty space has plans for offices and apartments here.

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In this picture the City Buildings are under tarps being worked on…

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In this picture the building under tarps is the beautiful Edwardian Baroque Hanover Building. It belongs to the Co Op and has been mauled over the years. They are taking it back to its Edwardian splendour but with 21st century technology carefully factored in. The Hotel Indigo tower is going on the space in front of it where the scruffy, semi derelict buildings were demolished last week. There’s an awful lot of projects starting up in the city at the moment. In spite of our uncertain economic future, which will come right in time of course, Manchester is still seen as a great place to invest.

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Manchester isn’t known for its hot climate. Considerably closer to the North Pole than the Equator, we consider ourself lucky to have the odd sunny day. Indeed, we are advised to take Vitamin D in the winter as we don’t get enough. The sun helps us produce our own supply apparently and we don’t see it very much in the winter. It’s amazing we haven’t all got rickets. 

We are restricted in what we can grow as well. Plants that do well in London, 200 miles to the south on the dry, east coast, don’t thrive in Manchester. But you might be surprised what we can grow, given a little tender loving care.

Yesterday I called in on the Post Box Café in Chorlton. I went in for breakfast and coffee. My Dig The City Garden is still here on the terrace. It changes with the seasons. I’m not concerned that it doesn’t look like it did in St. Ann’s Square last year, I like to see how it develops.

Pete, who helped with my garden and is very into tropical plants, has planted it up for the summer with bananas! They will never fruit this far north, summer just isn’t hot and long enough. But with regular feeding and watering the leaves do look spectaucular. When there is a danger of frost, Pete will have to take them back to his house and put them into his heated glasshouses to get them through the winter. I’ve only seen bananas growing twice before, once on a trip to Egypt where they like the Nile Valley and the other time was in a garden in the French Quarter of New Orleans. And now here in Chorlton. 

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He’s planted around the bananas with tropically coloured inspired planting.

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As I post the Rio Olympics are drawing to a close. I have to say I’ve not seen a minute of it. It’s on that bit too late for me to watch when I have to be up early for work next morning. I catch up with developments the following morning on BBC Radio 4 and, having learned who has won what and where, there doesn’t seem a great deal of point in watching the events on Catchup or Olympic highlights. Rio needn’t be too insulted by my lack of interest, I didn’t watch that much of the London Olympics in 2012 and they were on my doorstep. And Tokyo in 2020 has no chance at all being on the other side of the world when everything will be taking place in the middle of my night. 

The UK did well in London 2012. Host nations tend to. We sort of expected a poorer showing in Rio. But we have thrown a lot of money at developing our athletes and it’s paid dividends. As the Olympics close we are in second place behind the USA. China may be snapping at our heels but it looks like with might hold them off. Russia, which usually does well, has had problems of their own making and can count themselves lucky they are there at all. Some nations have wondered how we did it? Subtext being something a bit dodgy is going on. Well, sunshine, it’s all been achieved with hard work and determination (and a lot of financial investment of course). Team GB has done well. Back in 2012 it was all talk about Team Yorkshire when a disproportional number of our medals came from that beautiful county. In Rio 2016 it’s all about Team Manchester. 23 of the 66 medals won so far have been won by athletes from or based in this city. If Manchester was its own country, something I quite fancy happening, we would be fourth in the table sandwiched between China and Germany or Russia.

Back in 2012 there was an official celebration of the medal winning athletes with a parade through London. We have done better in 2016 and there will be a parade again to celebrate but this time it will be through the streets of Manchester. Sometime in October we are told. As soon as I know I’ll have to book the day off.

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A new park/square/plaza is about to be created between Manchester Cathedral, Chetham’s School of Music and the River Irwell on what was Victoria Street. They’ve been trying to do this for decades in various guises but at last they are getting it sorted out. At present there are these raised beds created from railway sleepers straight onto Victoria Street creating a temporary garden in front of the cathedral. These are a great idea if you have limited space and no viable soil where you live. Two things though. One, when they start to create the new space I hope they move these gardens to somewhere else in the city that needs a bit of green. And, two, I hope the quality of the new space will be as high as the new St. Peter’s Square near Central Library.

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My last post was about the ancient library in Chetham’s School of Music. It’s one of Manchester’s greatest treasures and a bit of a hidden gem. It’s difficult to get into. For a start it’s in a working school and the safety of the students is paramount. You can visit on a school day but you have to be escorted while on the site so you can’t just wander in. An ancient ordinance says it must not be opened on Saturday or Sunday. This, of course, is when many tourists come to the city for weekend breaks and would love to see it and find they can’t. 

And a lot of Manchester people have no idea that these ancient buildings exist. Apart from a tempting glance through an arch opening onto Cathedral Gardens, the Medieval buildings have been completely surrounded by newer buildings, hemming them in and hiding them from view.

But this is changing. The music school has moved into their new building with state of the art facilities and a massive concert space while the ancient buildings are renovated. Once that has been done we won’t be able to tell the difference as everything is listed and must be put back as it was originally intended. That done, the school will moved back into the old buildings as well.

The plan has not been without controversy. Some Victorian buildings along the riverside have been demolished. One was originally the oldest hotel in the city but the interior was so mangled over time that it was allowed to be pulled down. They are going to landscape the ground where the Victorian buildings were with lawns and the street along the river from Chets to the cathedral will be turned into another new square. For the first time in over 200 years, Mancunians can view these buildings with ease. This is what it looks like at the moment with the Victorian buildings gone. Bit of a mess at the moment but you get the idea.

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Some people have objected to the buildings being demolished because it exposes Chets to modern Manchester, especially the glass towers and offices of Greengate, across the river. My view is that we are a growing modern city and while we should look after our heritage, which we clearly are with Chets, we do not live in a museum. Here’s the view as it is now. The plans are for five more towers to join the ones already there.

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I’ve been being a tourist in my own city. I’ve visited Chetham’s Library for the first time in my life. It’s in the same buildings as Chetham’s School of Music, a Manchester institution of renown that takes children who are gifted musically and develops their skills. Alumni of the school find positions in the great symphony orchestras of the world or go on to forge successful solo careers. We are very proud of this school. The buildings look like they should be in one of our medieval cities like York or Canterbury. You can see modern Manchester just beyond the limits of the buildings.

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The buildings, next to the Cathedral, date from the 1400s and were originally a manor house for a local titled landowner. He donated the house to become a school for priests. It stayed that way until about 1515 when it became a school for boys for a few years. It was the place of work of John Dee during Tudor times. He was the alchemist/scientist at the court of Elizabeth I. He was very interested in demons and magic as wall. That and all the bangs and whistles and nasty smells that came from his lodgings made people suspicious of him. He might have been executed for his interests but was a favourite of the Queen who banished him to the most obscure, Godforsaken place she could find; Manchester in those days. Here he continued his interests in demons and is said to have raised the devil in this building. The devil’s cloven hoof scorched a table where he stood. I was sad we couldn’t see this on the day I visited. During the English Civil War it was used as a prison and an arsenal.

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Humphrey Chetham established a school here for poor boys of the town of Manchester in the 1640s. It’s been a school ever since. Illustrious Manchester Grammar School occupied part of the buildings for a while before they moved to their spacious present site in Fallowfield. The Chetham’s School of Music was only established in 1969 which surprises people probably because of the age of the buildings.

Chetham’s Library has its roots in the 1400s and is the oldest public library in the UK and possibly the western world. Other libraries may be older, like Oxford or Cambridge, but they were never open to the general public. It’s a small library of about 100,000 books  compared to the number kept in places like Central Library, but what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in quality. Here are some pictures of the interior. Life was very brown in those days.

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This is the table where Marx and Engels sat, read and talked and came up with the ideas that led to the political system of Communism. Their thoughts were coloured by the great poverty that lived alongside the great wealth that existed in Victorian Manchester in those days.

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Chetham’s Library has a chained library. Books, handwritten in the olden days, were astonishingly valuable. To stop them being stolen they were chained to bookcases and walls.

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Books had to be hand printed as well. Here’s an old printing press and its attendant pharanphalia.

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