I enjoy all the wildlife we have in Salford but one bird that brings particular joy is the Canada goose that is found in large groups around our waterways; these geese are always full of character, lively and beautiful to see. Take a walk down to Salford Quays and the Canada geese will be there, pottering under the trees along the quay and bobbing on the water of the Manchester Ship Canal. Stroll around Peel Park and you will often find a group of these gregarious birds on the river Irwell. Introduced to the UK around 300 years ago as an ornamental bird, over 60,000 breeding pairs are now living here. These geese have adapted well to life in the city and to warmer climates.
The Canada goose is a large goose and has a black head and neck and large white throat patch. These geese were introduced from North America [Canada I guess] and have successfully spread to cover most of the UK. In North America these geese migrate [as most geese do] but in the UK they are resident all year round and have never learned migration routes. With a wingspan of up to 1.8 metre and a loud honking call it is not surprising that I have met more than one person who is too terrified to pass when one of these large geese is blocking a narrow path by the canal; they can be very intimidating. When Canada geese have nests and young they are very protective and they will hiss and charge anyone that they think is threatening their brood. In some areas of the UK Canada geese are so territorial they can chase off other wildfowl, therefore putting native species at risk.
These are handsome birds that generally mate for life and in spring the goslings are very cute and yet many consider them a nuisance both here and in North America. This intolerance is probably because of their numbers, their enjoyment of green lawns and the amount of droppings they leave behind. Canada goose droppings do cover the paths where they hang out and there are some suggestions that these droppings might be harmful to humans. The evidence that this is the case doesn’t appear to be there but [the same as droppings for other animals] if you ate goose faeces this would probably make you ill.
Families enjoy feeding the Canada geese, swans and black headed gulls at Salford Quays and the activity and excitement when someone turns up at the water’s edge with food is vibrant and stunning. While the birds will eat the bread most people bring, grains would be a better option if you want to help the birds through winter when there is less grass for them to eat.
Although called Manchester Tennis and Racquet Club this grade II listed building is actually across the Irwell in Salford but also just a short walk from the centre of Manchester. Although the name of the club is above the grand arched entrance you could easily miss this historic building, the exterior of which is packed with faded grandeur. The red-brick building apparently retains many of its Victorian features inside and is an interesting historical sporting venue.
At this unique venue members can play real tennis, a game that goes back as far as the 1400’s as well as squash. You can also play the fast game of rackets which was first developed in prisons and later alleyways, played against one or more walls. Rackets is played with wooden rackets and a small hard ball as either singles or doubles. The indoor rackets court at Manchester Tennis and Racquet Club has been in continuous use since 1882.
Opening on this site on Blackfriars Road in 1882, the club started life nearby a few years before. At that time it had one rackets court and a tennis court, a squash court was added later in the 20th century.
It would be interesting to take a peak inside this building sometime.
‘I met my love by the gas works wall Dreamed a dream by the old canal I kissed my girl by the factory wall Dirty old town’
Ewan MacColl wrote ‘Dirty Old Town’ in 1949 about Salford. The gas works wall encloses the gas holders that have stood between Liverpool Street and Regent Road for around 150 years. I can see them from our kitchen window and often find myself humming the tune but not for much longer; these familiar landmarks are in the process of being dismantled. The ‘gas works wall’ will remain and this now has a board that records the memories of local people and the history of the gas works and the area.
On Friday 15 November a small group of us gathered to see the new board, meet some of the people involved and have a chance to get up close and personal with the remaining gas holder. As we walked over to the site from home I said, ‘Surely we will get to sing the song.’ It almost didn’t happen but someone else was keen and standing in the chilly November air we all managed to remember the words to the first verse.
The memories of local people bring the industrial landscape of Salford alive. Today this part of Salford is an odd mixture of recycling plants and car show rooms but once housing, shops, pubs and cinemas crowded around four gasometers and a power station. Built in 1869 and 1879 the gasometers have not been used since the 1960s. We donned hard hats and fluorescent jackets, walked up to the remaining metal gas holder structure and peered into the hole that is gradually being filled before the surrounding structure is removed. Although functional, there is a charm in these gas holder and I admired the detail on the columns and the crisscross pattern of the structure. I will miss them.
From the work of the community artists who recorded the memories of local people I learnt that there is a railway tunnel underneath West Egerton Street and from Les’ story I found out just how close this part of Salford came to being blown sky high:
‘An incendiary bomb landed on top of the gasometers during WW2. It was moved by an auxiliary fireman. He managed to put it out and save the area from being blown up. He was awarded the George Medal.’ Les
We like to get out and stretch our legs and get the heart pumping after writing at the laptop for much of the day. Salford Quays is the place we take one of our favourite regular walks and we often swing by the Watersports Centre as there is usually something going on there which gives us an excuse to linger and lean on the railings and watch. Sometimes there are groups of young people learning how to manage a kayak, on other occasions there are acrobatic wakeboarding sessions. Those of us not taking part in these water-focused activities [and we are never alone here] can idly enjoy the spectacle.
I am always pleased to see the Manchester Ship Canal at Salford Quays being used. When I used to cycle to work over the canal I would often see groups rowing along the canal in the early morning. In winter it would be barely dawn and the sun would be coming up over Manchester, the rowers were out on the water and wrapped up against the cold. On other trips around Salford Quays we have stumbled upon open water swimming events when the noise from splashing arms and legs echoes around the blocks of flats.
My first experience of the Watersport Centre was when our son took part in the Salford Dragon Boat Festival. His workplace had a team in the race and we came along to watch the fun. The dragon boats themselves are stunning, each decorated boat is 40-foot long and holds 18 people. One of these is a qualified helm, 16 people row and one person is the drummer beating time. We cheered our son’s team on and for novices they did pretty well, getting through a number of the heats but the main thing was that they enjoyed taking part. This event is a great spectacle if you can get to Salford Quays next time it is on.
Always keen to explore other parts of Salford further from my home I found myself walking north from the familiar Buile Hill Park and in to the unfamiliar Claremont and Irlams O th’ Height areas of Salford. Here I found Lightoaks Park and was delighted by what a lovely and pleasant park it is. Lightoaks Park is one of Salford’s larger parks and it offers a varied landscape that is worth an hour or two of anyone’s time.
The park was officially opened in 1925 and as it rapidly approaches its centenary it has an active friends group that helps to take care of the park and organises events and activities throughout the year.
I walked through the park to the pond with Mr BOTRA and leaning on the fence we chatted to a local who was also out enjoying the park. He told us he was a regular to this park and shared his love of the park, expressing with his smile how important his local green space was to him. We meandering around the paths through woodland and lawns and found the outdoor gym to play on for a short while. We stumbled upon a section of wall set with old carved stones, presumably from a mansion that was on the site previously.
Maps from around 1940 show that the pond was a feature in the new park and that in those days Lightoaks Park had a pavillion, tennis courts and a shelter with a lodge at the Claremont Road entrance. In the higher part of the park was Crimble Lodge and Claremont Farm.
Irlams O th’ Height is a former village and is a tough name for locals and visitors to spell. I hope I have got it right!
It isn’t often that Ordsall in Salford is mentioned in the Chancellors budget! In 2011 I was only half listening to the Chancellors statement on the radio but my ears pricked up when he proposed funding the construction of the Ordsall Chord. What was the Ordsall Chord and what sort of musical instrument would need government support? As we live near to Ordsall in Salford I investigated further and discovered this was a much needed railway project joining two Manchester railway stations; Manchester Piccadilly and Manchester Victoria. The Ordsall Chord takes a curved route around the city centre, skirting the boundary of Ordsall, hence its name.
As with many railway projects nothing happened for a long time but eventually construction work started. I watched the new line taking shape through 2016 and was excited to see the bridge over the Irwell erected [watch the video] and the completion of the project at the end of 2017. This arched bridge is a stunning addition to the local skyline and is a thing of beauty. The weathering steel of the bridge over the River Irwell gives it an attractive rusty appearance as well as being practical.
In December 2017 the Ordsall Chord opened for trains, providing that much needed direct link between the two stations. On my Waxi trip along the canal we sailed under the bridge but I couldn’t wait to take my own trip on this new bit of railway line. In January this year we used a trip to Bradford as an excuse to take a trip along the Ordsall Chord.
This work has also revealed the historic stone bridge or viaduct built by George Stephenson in 1830 for the Liverpool to Manchester railwayline. This elegant bridge is being restored and will be part of the public space around the Ordsall Chord. I for one am looking forward to this part of the project being completed.
Through July to September this year Manchester is buzzing with the Bee in the City art trail that is getting people exploring corners of the city finding these colourful large bee sculptures. I am so pleased that a few of these bees have made it over the Irwell in to Salford and we have discovered and admired the ones at Salford Quays. Spend any time in the city at the moment and you too will enjoy seeing families seeking out these bees. Check your social media accounts and you will spot photographs tagged #BeeInTheCity.
These big bees make fantastic and engaging public art. People are tweeting about their favourite big bee and challenging themselves to find all the colonies of little bees in various venues around the city. Hopefully some of these people are also thinking about the beauty of bees and the threat many species of bee are under – did you know that over 270 species of bee have been recorded in Great Britain?
It is thought it was the industrial revolution that started the association between Manchester and the bee when the productive factories were hives of activity. In 1842 the bee was incorporated in to the Manchester coat of arms, dotted around the globe.
I haven’t followed the trail but instead have stumbled upon bees as I walk around the city. I came upon this bee in Salford City Council corporate pink on Bridge Street by the New Bailey and the River Irwell. Created by the artist Hammo, this bee has a stylised depiction of the Manchester skyline on its body.