Manchester City Walk - ‘Another Side of Manchester’ - November 4th 2012

Reporter: R.D.

On a fine but chilly Sunday morning 33 members assembled at Market Street Metrolink stop, where we met up with our guides Don and Gloria. We boarded a tram towards Oldham Mumps. On the way we could see the spectacular 1 Angel Square, the new Co-op HQ, then passing Central Park, home to the Sharp Project and onto Newton Heath and Moston where we alighted. It was noted that after we got off there were only two people left on the tram.

Before leading us to the Rochdale Canal Don explained that Newton Heath was the original home of Manchester United, and also that it was a deprived area having lost much industry over the years. However, it was hoped that the new Central Business Park which we passed on the tram would help to address this. When we reached the canal he gave us a brief history. It is a broad canal as the locks are wide enough to allow vessels of 14ft beam to pass through. It was completed in 1804, has 92 locks and runs for 32 miles from the Bridgewater Canal at the Castlefield basin through Rochdale and over the Pennines to join the Calder and Hebble Navigation at Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire. The canal was closed in 1952, but in the 1960s a water park was created and its depth reduced to 4 inches along the Manchester section. However it was later fully restored and reopened to navigation in 2002. However, Don pointed out that hardly anyone uses the canal because of instances of vandalism from nearby estates. (More info regarding the canal online eg Wikipoedia).

We then started to make our way westward toward the City Centre. Shortly Don pointed out a building, ex Co-op, in the basement of which was a large and valuable collection of Country & Western vinyl records. Originally he had a shop on Oxford Road, and charged an entry fee. He used to make copies rather than selling his originals. They all went into store under the Co-op where he used to look after them and operate from but the Co-op has closed and he is not well and now they are mouldering awaiting a saviour.

As we continued we passed several locks looking picturesque with trees in their autumn colours and many photos were taken. Onward past Miles Platting and a rather fine restored Victorian warehouse which had been converted into apartments, and then into New Islington, which is being redeveloped by Urban Splash. We passed a row of new houses which had a Dutch style façade. We then arrived at New Islington Marina which had recently opened and had many narrow boats moored. Don took us to a dilapidated listed building called the Dispensary. Only a mass of scaffolding is preventing it from falling down. The developers Urban Splash want to pull it down but we saw plenty of evidence that the locals are trying hard to prevent this.

From here we continued under the Great Ancoats Street and into the Piccadilly Basin. Don pointed out the archway which was originally part of a grand entrance to the Rochdale Canal but is now the entrance to the Dale Street car park. We then descended down some locks and continued underground for quite some way before emerging the other side of London Road and under Aytoun Street and finally along the picturesque Canal Street into Oxford Street where we made our way to Georgios Restaurant and an excellent meal.

Many thanks to Don and Gloria for an interesting and informative walk and of course to Barry Lewis for organising it once again.