Thursday, 1 March 2012

Dirty Old Town?

I don't do cities. They're always packed with people rushing around trampling on each other and nobody ever smiles, but this week I've been forced to get to know Manchester a little better as I'm attending a five day course there. The course itself is 2 1/2 miles outside the city along the A62 but rather than take the bus from Piccadilly I've been walking there and back each day. On day one I stuck to the main roads but since then I've been exploring the back roads and, rather like the fells, it's amazing what you can find when you come away from the main routes.

The streets behind Piccadilly station have names that appear to point to the history of the city: China Lane; Cotton Street; Silk Street; Portugal Street; they all conjure up images of a time when the mills were still going strong and international trade was the order of the day. The one street name that puzzled me though was Radium Street, I've no idea where that name originates from, maybe it glows in the dark?

Wandering around the newly laid cobbled streets of the Arncoat area you will find a crazy jumble of old and new architecture. What I know about the technicalities of architecture you could write on the back of a postage stamp, but I do enjoy looking at buildings and appreciating them, even if Kevin McCloud mightn't approve. The pavement free cobbled streets have an unexpectedly European feel to them, until you turn a corner and are confronted with an immaculate row of terraced houses that wouldn't look out of place down the posh end of Coronation Street. Further along the same street there's a lovely old converted factory/ mill - once the working place for some of the most poorly paid people of the city and now, by the look of it, home to some rather more affluent folk.

True, further along the A62 some of the back roads are a little less pretty, but they still have their moments - it was tucked away behind these that I spotted the lovely old factory complete with chimney. I did notice that the good folk of Manchester appear to keep many of their green spaces locked firmly behind high fences, not too sure why that is, maybe it's the only way to protect them? I suppose large green spaces in cities aren't quite as safe as large green spaces on fells so perhaps it's for the best.

Greenery - safely fenced off.
As day 5 of my enforced city living looms large I must confess I've developed a bit of a soft spot for the little corner of Manchester I've explored. It's not somewhere I'd want to live but it's far from being a Dirty Od Town.  (And I know most people associate that song with Dublin, but I first heard it performed by Fivepenny Piece and dedicated to Manchester, so there!)