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Manchester Heights Walk, Sunday November 6 2011

Reporter: Jonquil Lewis

This was the latest in the annual city walks which Barry has organised in recent years.

The guides, as previously, were the very knowledgeable and entertaining Don and Gloria. As usual Barry had arranged perfect autumn sunshine.

Twenty four members met in Piccadilly Gardens and took the Bury Line tram up to Heaton Park. When we arrived the place was a real litter strewn mess, but when we got back to the same spot a couple of hours later the debris from a festival/fair/bonfire had been removed...

The walk, as promised, was a 4/5 mile stroll through parts of Heaton Park not usually penetrated by visitors, some of it decidedly rural and even muddy. The park is enclosed by a 4 mile circumference wall which enclosed the grounds of Heaton Hall, the home of the Egerton family. Manchester City Council took it over and landscaped it from 1904/5.

The first pause was on the site of the old racecourse which was relocated to Aintree in the 1830's. Next came a large lump of granite which commemorated the visit of Pope John Paul II in May 1982. Then we came upon a magnificent edifice rather hidden in a dip. This was the huge Greek style colonnade which formed the entrance to the old Town Hall, built in 1822 and which was on King Street. It was saved by the architect Edgar Wood and moved to this out-of-the way site in 1912.

Passing the ornamental lake, hand dug by navies, which now serves for boating and general recreation, we arrived at some tramway tracks and the Tramway Shelter which now houses a tramway museum. Two very old trams were in evidence today and they still carry visitors throughout the summer.

A short climb took us up to the old Hall, not now in a very good state of repair, especially round the back. The Hall dates from the 1770's and the grounds and ha-ha were landscaped by William Eames. The Hall and environs were home to a total of 134,000 aircrew cadets during World War II. Nearby the highest point in the City of Manchester is topped by a folly cum observatory known as the Temple of the Four Winds. It was designed by James Wyatt (an ancestor of mine) and built around 1800. The views across the city to the Pennines were stunning.

The next part of the walk was quite different - a track through rough pastures - which brought us to a point near the old Simister Gate. After this we left the Park and followed the boundary wall anticlockwise below the Heaton Park Reservoir to which there is no public access. A half mile of road walk followed and then an unexpected gem. A concrete relief mural by Mitzi Cunliffe shows the history and commemorates the building and completion in 1955 of the Haweswater aqueduct bringing 100 million gallons of water daily the 82 miles from the Lake District to this reservoir and one in Audenshawe. The scheme was authorised in 1919 and construction began in 1925. We re-entered the Park at St Margaret's Gate and wound our way back to our starting point.

What an interesting and surprising walk. Some members had never been to Heaton Park before but I'm sure we will do now. Thanks go to Barry for organising and to Don and Gloria for their interesting and sometimes ascerbic commentary. Don is rather critical of the City Council and some of its planning decisions.

The meal at Fellicini was a sociable affair. Some of us enjoyed our meals more than others. Any ideas for next time?

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