Moving on: Leaving Super Salford for Marvellous Morecambe

We have been a trifle busy just lately.  After eleven years of living in a flat in Salford we decided it was time, as they say, to move on.  Salford has been good to us and in many ways we will miss living in a vibrant and dynamic city and being a part of Greater Manchester.  Leaving our many friendly and helpful neighbours and our lovely tai chi class [a nicer bunch of people you would struggle to meet] was a hard but positive decision.

When we moved to Salford, a city packed with modern, shiny high-rise blocks of flats, we chose an unusual 1930s development of flats with three floors arranged around large courtyard gardens and open shared areas.  Thanks to the design of the flats, we got to know more neighbours than we have anywhere else we have lived.  The site is secure and we have never worried about the leaving our flat on our long holidays and the gated parking for our campervan has been appreciated.  The large garden is a sheltered and sunny place to sit on a warm day with none of the worries of having to actually do any gardening yourself, it was a happy and liberating place to live.

A short walk from home was Salford Quays and a stroll around the water was a regular favourite way to spend some time.  This is where we could encounter nature; the trees changing colour through the year, Canada geese and black-headed gulls and sometimes coots and pied wagtails and different weather transforming the river and canal from sparkling blue to slate grey.  In addition there is always something new to see; someone might be filming around Media City, we could encounter groups queuing for a popular TV show or stumble upon one of the many special events such as the Makers Markets or Lightwaves.

We were surrounded by plenty of other favourite places; Weaste Cemetery, Peel Park and Buile Hill Park, Chapel Street and the River Irwell.  There are so many things to like about Salford, check out my Surprising Salford page for the full list.

If Salford is so perfect why are you moving on?  A search for quiet is the simple answer.  Although there had been other nudges, it was after spending two months in Scotland earlier this year that we both returned to our urban flat and struggled to adjust to the bustle of the city.  The 1930s flats were solidly built with thick external and internal walls and there is rarely any noise that gets through from neighbours to either side of us.  What my acute hearing did pick up was from the flat upstairs.  The guy was always respectful and well-behaved but I began to get tired of knowing when he was home, when he went to bed, when he decided to listen to music, when he had visitors and even when he visited the bathroom!  In addition, in the 1970s it was decided to build the M602 through Salford and the roar of the traffic on this short adjacent motorway was a continuous presence.

That said, we would have stayed in Salford if someone had built / was building small affordable bungalows and not just tall blocks of flats or if we had won on the Premium Bonds and had been able to afford the half a million or so for a penthouse flat overlooking Salford Quays.  With none of those options available, we checked our budget and began the search for a bungalow [we like living on one-floor] that wasn’t off the beaten track but offered some tranquillity, alongside some culture, and had natural areas within easy walking distance.

Having lived in Lancashire for many years, it is not surprising that we soon decided on the seaside resort of Morecambe where we follow in the footsteps of a long line of retiring Lancastrians.  Morecambe has plenty of bungalows to accommodate retirees and along with Lancaster has a thriving art and cultural scene and has that magnificent view across the sands of Morecambe Bay to the Lake District.

Our move to Morecambe isn’t so much a downsize as a new era.  We have gained a garden [again] and a kitchen that seems vast after living with one where I could stand in the centre and stretch out and reach everything!  But, having got used to our huge bedroom in the flat our new bedroom can best be described as cosy and our 1960s bungalow needs a long list of improvements to bring it up–to-date … but now when there are footsteps overhead it is just a herring gull landing on the roof.

 

 

 

 

Bridgewater RHS Gardens: #surprisingsalford #47

The RHS [Royal Horticultural Society] has come to Salford!  Even though I had read the news reports, it wasn’t until I visited the site of the RHS Garden Bridgewater that I appreciated the scale of the project to transform the 154 acre site near Worsley into a new garden.  Visits to the building site are being offered regularly and I would encourage anyone to book a tour.  It is a fantastic opportunity to see how the RHS are resurrecting this site and turning it into an amazing garden.

Worsley New Hall was a magnificent Victorian mansion surrounded by elegant gardens, with terraces and a lake.  Demolished in the 1940s and the site used by a garden centre and scout groups, the RHS are now making changes that remember and respect the past and also take horticulture and conservation into the future.

On our guided tour we began by looking across the site of the Welcome Building, where visitors will arrive when the gardens open.  In front of this will be a new lake and gardens that will lead you to the 11-acre walled gardens.  As building work is still very much ongoing our tour took a circuitous route around the site to stand in one corner of what will become the walled Paradise Garden.  Planting has now started on this site and we could begin to get a feel for what a stunning space this will be.  This walled garden area will also have a kitchen garden area, where food for the cafe / cafes will be grown.

Walking through the woodland we met the rare breed pigs who have been doing a tremendous job of clearing the ground for planting.  We reached the terraces that were once formal gardens below the hall and looked over the currently drained lake.  Our knowledgeable guide told us about the horticultural apprentice posts there will be here, the increasing biodiversity that will result from the planting and management, the links with the community that have been made and the educational opportunities the garden will provide.

We cycled to Worsley but negotiating the roundabouts to the M60 and the last section along Leigh Road are particularly busy and unpleasant.  We were told they hope to open up access from the canal and that will be much better for pedestrians and cyclists.

RHS Garden Bridgewater opens next year, although the whole site won’t be complete for many years.  That means you won’t need an excuse to visit every year and we will certainly be going along to see what it looks like when it isn’t a building site.

Middlewood Locks: #surprisingsalford #46

Salford in snow 2 Feb 200904
Looking over Middlewood Locks back in 2009

I regularly walk along Oldfield Road in Salford and when I do I always stop and look at the view over the river to Manchester.  The panorama takes in Beetham Tower, completed in 2006, and something of a novelty for some time.  I only took my camera the day it snowed in 2009 and you will notice the lack of tall cranes in the photograph.  This was the height of the economic downturn and it looked as if Beetham Tower might stand alone.  I always thought that if any area was crying out to be a green space it was this one and would imagine sitting on this gently sloping bank with a picnic looking across at the bustle of Manchester and this always changing and interesting view.

Middlewood Locks is part of the 15-mile long Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal which ran from Salford to Prestolee, near Little Lever, from where one arm ran to Bolton and another to Bury.  A spectacular breach in 1936 on the Bury arm led to the canal’s eventual closure.  There are long-term plans to eventually restore the canal and the first section from the River Irwell through the Middlewood Locks development is complete.  From there the line of the canal followed the railway line to Salford Crescent and Agecroft.

Instead of my dreamed-about park, the recession ended and the cranes returned.  Over the last few years the large site has been developed [along with many other sites in Salford] for housing [or a neighbourhood as the developers call it].  When complete the site will have blocks of flats, townhouses, gardens, offices, a hotel, restaurants, bars, shops, a gym and parking.

What makes this site attractive for a Salfordian is that, after being closed for access for so long,  we can now walk from East Ordsall Lane along the small section of canal through the development.  Eventually we should be able to walk from the River Irwell path to Middlewood Locks.  I could now sit and have that picnic by the canal.  The pictures below were taken recently along the pleasant landscaped path showing the views to Manchester and the lovely Ordsall Chord bridge.  Not all of Greater Manchester’s developments provide this sort of access and it is appreciated.

 

Salford Cathedral: #surprisingsalford #45

Salford Cathedral
Salford Cathedral

I have been watching the progress of the works around the side entrance and garden next to Salford Cathedral for some time.  We walk by the Cathedral regularly on our way into Manchester and on a recent walk I noticed the workers had finished.  The new piazza, that is now the entrance to the Cathedral, is completed and was officially opened on 6 July 2019.  This provides an entrance that is away from the pavement and busy Chapel Street and will be a lovely space for the congregation to gather after services.

Beyond the piazza is the Cathedral garden with the Onion Shelter at its centre.  Made from ten steam-bent oak wood planks, this open structure has a circle of seating.

Opened in 1848, Salford Cathedral on Chapel Street is dedicated to St John the Evangelist and is positioned north-south.  In 1854 the Great East Window was installed, a traditional and stunning stained glass window.  The stained glass was removed during the Second World War to protect it from bomb damage.  Along the base of the window are images that tell the story of the Catholic faith in England.

What was originally the Blessed Sacrament chapel became the World War One Memorial Chapel in 1923.  The Cathedral has a light and airy interior with a central modern altar in white marble.  There are interesting floor mosaics and tiling that give the building a clean finish.

While we were looking around, a young woman approached me and asked if I would take her photograph outside the Cathedral [the three of us were the only visitors].  I did willingly and asked her where she was visiting from.  ‘Mexico’, she told me with a smile and exclaimed how beautiful the Cathedral was.  We chatted some more and I learnt that she was staying in London, Manchester and Dublin and hoping to learn more English.  The new piazza gives an elegance to Salford Cathedral that it lacked before and maybe more tourists will make the trip to see it.

Salford Cathedral 2
The new piazza at Salford Cathedral

 

 

 

A day visiting Salford Quays with a local

I have lived a hop and a skip away from Salford Quays for over ten years now and still visiting the Quays is a favourite thing to do.  Salford Quays is my local walk, it is our first choice for drinks and a restaurant and it is where we always take our visitors.  It is a fantastic place to live near, always changing and interesting.  When I have been chained to the laptop for a morning, a stroll around the Quays brings me back to life as there is always something new to see.  As well as being a great place to live near Salford Quays is also a wonderful place to visit for a day or two.  Here’s a local’s guide to what to see and do.

Getting here

If you are coming from Manchester city centre then the Metrolink tram is the way to travel.  The trams run every few minutes from Piccadilly Station to Eccles and Media City.  After the Pomona stop make sure you look over the Manchester Ship Canal at the view back to Manchester.  I would get off at the Salford Quays stop and walk along Ontario Basin to the Lowry.

If you drive, there is a multi-storey car park for the Lowry Outlet Mall and if, like me, you own a high top campervan that won’t fit in a multi-storey car park, use the parking outside Booths, just off Broadway.

Morning coffee

You have plenty of choices for your morning coffee but I would start by sitting in the cafe in The Lowry Theatre [opens at 10.00] while you get your bearings.  This is a chance to look around the airy and modern theatre building too.  The Lowry has an excellent gift shop that sells Salford and LS Lowry related items and much more.

Lowry, a Salford painter

After coffee, head upstairs to the gallery [open from 11.00 Sunday to Friday and 10.00 on Saturday] to see some of Salford’s collection of paintings by LS Lowry.  You will see that Lowry painted more than the matchstick people and mills he is known for, although these are fascinating.  As well as the Lowry’s on permanent display the gallery has temporary exhibitions and there is always something worth seeing.

Imperial War Museum North

Cross the Manchester Ship Canal by the Millennium Footbridge, a lifting bridge of white tubular steel with changing LED lighting at night to the Imperial War Museum North.  This purpose built museum [open 10.00 – 17.00] is free to visit, although donations are welcome.  A mixture of permanent and temporary exhibitions about conflict and its effects, a visit here is always moving and informative.

Time for lunch

Walking by the ITV studios, where the new Coronation Street set is now housed, [tours are available at weekends] cross the curved Media City Bridge into the heart of Media City, where many BBC TV and radio programmes are recorded every day.  In the lively plaza look out for stars [we have eaten in the same restaurant as Glenda Jackson and you might see a Coronation Street actor or a favourite DJ] and head for Catena, an independent deli-cafe with a relaxed rustic feel and a great menu.  At the very least everyone around you will be wearing a BBC lanyard!  If you have the appetite, Catena’s pistachio and lemon cake is scrumptious.

Behind the scenes at the BBC

If you have booked, you can get behind the scenes at the BBC on a Media City tour.  The tours vary, depending on what is being filmed or recorded at the time, but this is a marvellous opportunity to get a feel for how the BBC produce their quality programmes, from Blue Peter to the BBC Philharmonic, Woman’s Hour to Five Live Sport.  There are also special CBBC tours for children.  The tours are lots of fun and everyone enjoys being in the interactive studio where you get to try your hand at being a weather presenter and reading the news.

While you are in Media City take a few minutes to walk the Blue Peter Gold Badge Walk, a path honouring some of the well-known names who have received a Blue Peter Gold Badge.  This ends near the actual Blue Peter Garden which is tiny but always makes me smile.

Shopping or history or football

If you are as frugal as I am you might like the bargains in the Lowry Outlet Mall … but you might also hate the idea of shopping.  If that’s the case, walk along Ontario Basin, by the Helly Hensen Watersports Centre [and maybe stopping for a beer and watching some water sports at the pub next door].  Cross Trafford Road to Ordsall Park [looking left to see the stripped-classical 1920s Dock Office], skirting around the park to reach Ordsall Hall.  This charming building is over 800 years old and has a great hall with a definite wow factor.  Only open until 16.00 and closed on Fridays and Saturdays, you might have to rush to fit this stunning building in [or come for the weekend instead of a day!]  If it is closed you can still enjoy the attractive timber-framed building from the outside, admire the gardens and appreciate the contrast with the surrounding modern buildings.

If neither of these are your cup of tea, then walk back across the Millennium Bridge, over Wharf Road and up the hill to Manchester United Football Club’s Old Trafford ground.  You can visit the shop for the latest strip or book on a Museum and Stadium Tour in the Theatre of Dreams.

Cocktails

The early evening is cocktail hour at Salford Quays.  You might be tempted by the remarkable golden Alchemist building that overlooks the Manchester Ship Canal and this certainly has the best view in the house from its terrace.  Of course, this terrace is also the retreat of smokers and so isn’t always as pleasant as it could be.  Instead I prefer to visit The Lime Bar, a stylish long-standing Salford Quays restaurant-bar that has a classical cocktails list, friendly staff and a vibrant vibe.  Stay long enough and you might decide to eat here too and I don’t think you will be disappointed.

Sunset

If you are lucky you will get the chance to see a Salford sunset.  Standing on the Media City Bridge and watching the sun go down over the Ship Canal is a big hit at the end of a packed day of sightseeing.

Agecroft Cemetery: #surprisingsalford #44

20181230_120125
Agecroft Cemetery on a wintery day

It was a chilly winter morning when I last visited Agecroft Cemetery.  We wrapped up and walked along the River Irwell carrying a flask and biscuits in a rucksack and sat on a sheltered bench in weak sunlight looking over the gravestones.  A few other people were here tending to graves and, as always, the cemetery felt soothingly calm.

Agecroft Cemetery is Salford’s newest cemetery.  Designed by Manchester Architects Sharp and Foster and built by Gerrard’s of Swinton, the cemetery was opened in 1903.  More than 53,700 interments have been carried out within the cemetery’s 45 acres.

The cemetery has splendid ornate entrance gates on Langley Road.  Inside there are neatly arranged roads and rows of gravestones.  The buildings were all designed by Sharp and Foster; the crematorium building was converted from a Non-Conformist burial chapel in 1957 and there was also once a Roman Catholic chapel within the cemetery.  It is hoped to save the disused chapel with a clock tower and many stunning features that was abandoned in the 1980s and can be seen in the photograph.  Work is being carried out to protect this derelict gothic-revival chapel from the weather and there are plans to seek funding to restore it.   The group’s website has more information on the history of the cemetery.

Later I explored the graveyard, reading inscriptions on stones that took my eye.  I like to visit Salford’s cemeteries at this time of year as many of the graves have seasonal decorations and I find this makes the graveyard feel part of the spirit and movement of the seasons.  The cemetery has plenty of interesting burials, including Commonwealth war graves.  A stone memorial to the crew of a Lancaster bomber carrying a full bomb load that crashed nearby in 1944 is near the entrance.  All seven members of the crew and two civilians on the ground died in the crash.  Reports at the time said that around 80 people were injured.

The Stockport air disaster of 1967 killed 72 of the 84 people on board.  The passenger aircraft full of holidaymakers returning from Palma de Mallorca crashed near the centre of Stockport, just a short distance from Manchester Airport.  Astonishingly no one was killed on the ground.  Arthur and Elsie Kemp from Salford, who sadly died in the plane crash, are buried together at Agecroft Cemetery.

 

 

 

 

Flood defence & storage basin: #surprisingsalford #43

The opening of the Salford flood storage basin was a big deal.  Anyone who remembers the terrible floods of 2015 will be relieved to see improved flood prevention up and running.  The River Irwell has burst its banks many times over the centuries; notably in September and October 1946 5,300 homes were flooded.  The most recent flooding was on Boxing Day 2015; after a day and a half of constant rainfall 2,250 homes across Greater Manchester were flooded and over 500 businesses.  Water rushing into your home is devastating and for many of the families it took many months for their lives to get back to anything like normal.

The Salford Flood Basin opened in 2018.  I intended to visit earlier but other things got in the way and it was a fine but cold wintry day when I eventually got there.  I cycled along the River Irwell to the flood basin and entering along the path from Great Cheetham Street West.  Arriving at the flood basin I was firstly aware of  the size, it is huge (five hectares apparently).

At a cost of £10 million, we are told that the basin is big enough to hold more than 250 Olympic-size swimming pools of water and will protect almost 2,000 homes and businesses from flooding.  In addition, the scheme has created an urban wetland habitat and a green space for Salford residents.  A 2.5 km footpath runs around the periphery of the basin and on a sunny day this will be a peaceful place to stroll, well away from the bustle of the city.

The photograph at the top of the post shows one of the two kiosks on the site.  The colourful designs were decorated by Manchester graffiti artist, kELzO.

How does a flood storage basin work?

The basin is a sort of natural flood plain in the middle of the city.  Sitting within a sweeping meander of the River Irwell, the area was excavated and the soil used to create an embankment around the edge of the site.  This embankment is a flood defence in itself but if needed the storage basin can be flooded in a controlled way. through an inlet in one corner.  When the river levels are high excess water can be diverted into the storage basin where it will be stored and released back into the river when water levels have subsided.

It is hoped that this and the existing flood storage area at Littleton Road will prevent devastation like that seen on Boxing Day 2015 in the future.