Clifton Country Park: #surprisingsalford #20

Salford Clifton Country Park.JPG
Clifton Country Park and the Lookout sculpture

We chose a gorgeous sunny day to take the bus out to Clifton, just outside the M60.  Although it was mid-week it proved to be a good opportunity to experience just how popular a local facility this country park is as plenty of other people were out enjoying the fine weather and nature reserve.  Clifton Country Park is in the river Irwell valley and is centred around a lake, shown in the photograph.  This lake was created in the 1960s after gravel was extracted for the nearby motorway [then the M62].

As well as the lake this lovely country park has woodland, meadows and pools and is bordered by the river Irwell.  It was once the site of the Wet Earth Colliery, an early deep mine first sunk in 1750s.  The colliery was worked until 1928.  Clifton Country Park also has a cluster of pieces on the Irwell Sculpture Trail that follows the river from Bacup to Salford Quays.  The dynamic trail was updated in 2011 and new sculptures are still added.  The trail is over 33 miles and has over 70 sculptures of which The Look Out at Clifton Country Park is one and is from 2001.

After walking around the lake, we followed the course of the former Fletcher’s Canal which was made navigable by Matthew Fletcher in 1790.  The woodland path is lovely here, with the river Irwell to one side and the remnants of the canal to the other and the bluebells were just finishing when we visited.  Walking back towards the lake we found the old Gal Pit which had a horse gin or horse engine to pull ropes from the pit and an iron sculpture of a Galloway pit pony recreates this today.  Not far away is what is known as Fletcher’s Folly.  In 1805 steam-powered winding machinery was adopted and this chimney was connected to the boiler house by two underground flues which caused maintenance issues.  By the 1890s a new chimney was built leaving this a redundant folly.

With wildlife, history and sculptures there is something for everyone at Clifton Country Park.  If you are interested in detailed history of this area, Salford Council’s leaflet gives a thorough background and a map of the country park and where to find the remnants of the previous industrial use.

Why bother travelling?

2012-06-05-cecina-cycle-ride-006
Italy

Migrating Miss’ thoughtful and interesting blog post on why people travel got me ruminating on my own reasons for enjoying travelling and for deciding to become a travel writer and blogger.  I am interested in my local area and I appreciate the many different reasons why many people would prefer to stay at home.  Maura Kelly is right, just looking through Migrating Miss’ reasons for enjoying travel, many of them are existential:

  • To Learn
  • To Challenge Myself
  • Be anonymous
  • Because life is too short
  • To know myself
  • To feel
  • Experience Cultures
  • Have adventures
  • Meet People
  • To Not Look Back & Wonder

Some of these reasons resonate strongly with me.  I am very aware that ‘life is too short’ and I don’t want to ‘look back and wonder’ but then travel isn’t for everyone, some people feel their place in life is where they are and have no need to wander the globe and yet for me travel is an urge, even a necessity and it is a big part of who I am.

I enjoy learning and I certainly learn best when the learning is reflected in the place, geography and culture I am in.  On our trips we like to stop to explore historical sites and learn about why places are culturally important and for me this learning has more relevance when I am standing on the spot.  Looking over Culloden Moor I can feel some of the pain of the soldiers as the Jacobite uprising fell apart; I got a sense of the long span of human history when I walked in the steps of the pilgrims at Delphi and finding the layers of history in the city of Berlin is a thrilling experience.

But thinking about why I love to travel also got me mulling over how I see and experience and in this I am concerned with my observations moving on to interpretations, while appreciating that my own way of seeing a place as a white British woman will be individual.  I try to be mindful of my surrounding and I am delighted when I manage to see the familiar as if it were new and walk down a nearby street with new eyes.  But in truth it is arriving in new places when all my senses are really heightened.  Everything happening around me can feel strange and inexplicable and I am bombarded by new smells, colours and sounds and my brain will be trying to interpret the meaning in the landscape and the way people use the space.  In my own culture, in the north-west of England, I take so much for granted; I know how to use the bus, can identify the crops in the fields and understand the language people are using and my brain will take short-cuts as it doesn’t need to make sense of even the smallest detail.  I can be creative about what I see anywhere but insight can sometimes get lost in the humdrum day-to-day.  Travel opens up my imagination, offers new perspectives and encourages my brain to make new connections.

What has become clear is that for me the buzz that I get from this sensual surge and unfurling of my imagination in these new places has become addictive and after a short time at home I am ready for another fix.

 

 

 

 

Back where you belong

P1040317.JPG
Can you spot the shiny new wing and bonnet?

It took eight weeks to fix our campervan after the Greek tragedy and what a long eight weeks they were.  For two of those weeks the ‘van was making its way back from Greece, another two weeks were spent sitting around while firstly the body shop did the estimate, then the insurance company assessed the damage and then we waited for parts.  The repair took three weeks and the final week was spent in daily anticipation that the ‘van would be fixed only to be informed sometime mid-afternoon that there was another problem.  One day it was the airbag, another a mechanic put too much weight on the oil filler and broke it off, another day the ABS fault was lighting up.  Every day we were packed and ready to roll but each day the new fault required more parts and another wait on tenterhooks.

We were so pleased to get our blue Renault back and we went straight from the body shop to a campsite.  We would have camped in any weather but as it turned out we were blessed with glorious and sunny weather and the Cheshire countryside proved to be perfect for a few days cycling.  But first we spent a sunny afternoon cleaning the accumulation of Greek and garage dust from the van interior.  I emptied every cupboard reminding myself what goodies we had left in there, having a little weep when I found the tins of giant Greek beans in tomato sauce and the bottles of dark Greek olive oil.  Despite the mixed emotions, somehow this process healed the weeks of separation and made the ‘van feel like ours again.

In Cheshire we discovered The Whitegate Way, a 10 km cycle route on an old railway line and we cycled around Delamere Forest.  We relaxed and took life easy feeling that our life was back on track again.

We followed this with a weekend camping with friends on the Staffordshire / Cheshire border and then more sociable camping in Derbyshire.  We didn’t travel far and we didn’t need to, we were just content to have our campervan back where it belongs.

 

Centenary Bridge: #surprisingsalford #18

centenary-bridge-1
Centenary Bridge over the Manchester Ship Canal

The opening of the Broadway Link Road in 2010, called Coronet Way, introduced us all to a new view along the Manchester Ship Canal and particularly of the bulk of Centenary Bridge which can be seen as the road climbs over the railway line.  This modern lift bridge joins Trafford Park on the south side of the Manchester Ship Canal with Eccles and the M602 and is an important transport link for the companies on Trafford Park, as well as enabling those of us who live on the northern side of the canal to reach Trafford Park for work and services.  The bridge got its name as it was opened in 1994, the centenary of the opening of the Manchester Ship Canal in 1894; the 36 mile long huge canal to Liverpool and the Irish Sea that took six years to build.

When I am cycling along this road I always stop to admire the bridge and the Manchester Ship Canal.  The day I took this photograph I was deep in composition when I was joined by another cyclist who was keen to join me for a chat.  He was enthusiastic about the spring weather, the view and the joys of cycling.  We talked for some time about bikes and the best panniers; a conversation I would never have had if I hadn’t stopped to enjoy the view.

The Centenary Bridge is one of only three of its type of lift bridge and was the first low-level bridge to be built across the canal since it had opened.  The bridge was the first with a lifting mechanism, rather than a swinging mechanism; the bridge lifts upwards to allow ships to pass through.  The dual carriage way of Centenary Way was constructed in twelve sections and can lift 15 metres above the road level between the four towers.  Each of the striking square towers is 30 metres high and has a framed indentation that says Centenary Bridge in vertical letters.  The control room is on the Salford side of the bridge.

This video show the massive bulk of the dual carriageway being lowered after a ship has gone through on the Manchester Ship Canal.  The raising of the bridge is an awesome sight that we have been lucky enough to catch just once as we drove from Media City.  With reduced traffic on the canal, this doesn’t happen so often these days.  If the Port Salford plans go ahead perhaps it will become a more common sight.

 

 

 

Nothing compares to a campervan

Croxden Abbey (4).JPG
The ‘van at Croxden Abbey

It is now over nine weeks since ‘the incident’ and without a campervan we have been forced to try other accommodation ideas for our holidays.  What this period of exile from our ‘van has done is not only reinforce our love of the campervan lifestyle it has also made me realise how much having a van is a part of me and without it the knowledge that something is missing from my life pervades everything.  None of the options we have tried, youth hostels, self-catering cottage, tent and hotel, compared to the sense of freedom we get from travelling in the ‘van.  These different holidays had to be booked and organised beforehand and none of them were as relaxing as being in our own campervan.  Below is the types of accommodation we have tried and how I found them.

Youth Hostels – We used to do lots of youth hosteling with the YHA and I worked at Buttermere youth hostel for a summer season in the 1990s, so we gave this budget option a try for our first break.  Youth Hostels have the big advantage of having a kitchen so we could have home-cooking and remain frugal.  The YHA website allows you to book a series of hostels and at between £29 and £39 a night for a room for two this is a good budget option.  The kitchens can get busy at meal times but they are sociable places; as we had found in the past, youth hostels are great places to meet and chat to other people.  The downside of this is that you can’t find your own space and when I wanted some peace and quiet to sit comfortably chilling and reading my book there wasn’t anywhere to go.  Although we had sole use of a room the bunk beds meant that they were not great for lazing around.  Youth hostels are also often closed during the day time.

Self-catering cottage – This is much less of a budget option, although you can save a lot on eating out as home-cooking is still an option.  We paid £370 for a luxurious cottage for five nights on the edge of the Lake District.  We had our own space, could come and go as we pleased and had everything we needed to hand.  This was a relaxing and enjoyable holiday that came closest to being as good as the campervan.

Camping in a tent – The weather was warm so we set off with a borrowed tent to camp in the Peak District for a couple of nights.  I love being on campsites and so this holiday ticked the box for relaxing on the site watching the world go by.  I was less keen on having to run to the toilets first thing in the morning and we were ill prepared with no relaxing chairs or a table.  With better equipment and in good weather this is a pleasant option, costs the same as staying on a site in the ‘van and we could cook our meals, although the equipment we had was limited … but in the rain it would be dismal.

Hotel –  We paid £90 for a night bed and breakfast in a comfortable hotel in the Yorkshire Dales.  Of course, we have stayed in hotels before and generally agree that they are okay for a night or so but after that we yearn for home cooking.  In the evening we ate at the local Indian restaurant for £40 for the two of us.  For me this makes hotels feel like an expensive option that doesn’t suit us for long holidays.

 

 

 

 

Salford City FC: #surprisingsalford #17

kersal-moor-feb-2017-4
Salford City Football Club

There are big football clubs in Greater Manchester, Manchester United are in Trafford and Manchester City are in Manchester.  Here in Salford we have Salford City FC, a National League North side [this is level six in the English Football league structure].  Salford City play from Moor Lane in Salford, next to Kersal Moor on land that was once Manchester Racecourse.  Salford City have been working their way up the leagues over the past ten years.  Success in the 2007-2008 season saw them secure promotion in to the eighth level, with further promotions in 2014 – 2015 and 2015 – 2016.

It was towards the end of the 2013 – 2014 season that the news broke that five former Manchester United players, Ryan Giggs, Gary Neville, Phil Neville, Paul Scholes and Nicky Butt were taking over the side.  These are five of the six ‘Class of ’92’ players who came through Manchester United’s youth team together to all dazzle us with their skills, successfully playing for Manchester United [David Beckham is the one missing].  These five took on the ownership of a lower league team enthusiastically and the story was told by a BBC documentary Class of ’92 in 2015 and 2016.  Salford is mostly a red [Manchester United] city, rather than blue [although there of course exceptions] and so you might think this was a match made in heaven.  Certainly expectations were high although not everyone was happy with the new ownership.

The club’s history goes back to 1940 when it began as Salford Central.  The name was changed to Salford Amateurs in 1963 and they gained the nickname ‘the Ammies’.  Today, the joint managers Anthony Johnson and Bernard Morley, who have been with the club since 2015 and have recently agreed full-time positions, are working hard to achieve success.  The Salford City players will also turn professional this summer.

In preparation for further promotion, work on the ambitious new stadium at Moor Lane is underway.  The new stadium will hold 5,000 fans and planning permission was granted despite local residents concerns regarding parking.  Anyone who has ever been to a match will wonder just where those 5,000 people are going to put their cars but this development will ensure the team is equipped for higher level football.

Although the team just missed promotion at the end of the 2016/17 season coming 4th, many of us in Salford have got our fingers crossed that Salford City FC are going to continue to do their city proud.

 

How I got hooked on the #vanlife

1972 Cornwall
1972 & my introduction to motorhoming

It was the early 1970s, I was twelve and my parents borrowed a small motorhome from a friend of the family.  We packed a few things and set off for a touring holiday, none of us really having a clue what we were letting ourselves in for.  Despite being crowded and the ‘van being basic, we had so much fun we did this two years running, visiting Scotland and Cornwall.  Before the words were even in common parlance my parents created wild camping holidays that were frugal; I loved it.  We slept in lay-bys and car parks the majority of nights, with just one night on a campsite during the week so we could shower.  I can remember trying to wash in the sea and being interested that the soap wouldn’t lather and watching boats on the Firth of the Clyde as the sun went down.  I can remember having lots of freedom to explore places.  This was the days before seat belts and on steeply winding roads it was the job of us children in the back to hold the cupboard doors shut as they had a tendency to swing open.  We had no fridge and no toilet on board, just beds, a cooker and sink.  The [blurry] photograph shows my sisters at the back door of the ‘van, it was a Commer vehicle but beyond that I have no idea what the conversion was called.

While staying overnight in a coastal car park near to Ayr in southern Scotland we were joined by another Commer van of the same style.  I joined my Dad in going over to say hello and they proudly showed us around their ‘van, which we were impressed to see had a fridge.  This retired couple, one Swiss and one American, were full-timing in their motorhome and were travelling around European countries.  This was a lifestyle I hadn’t even dreamt was possible and at twelve years old I was immediately attracted to such a relaxed way to travel and my dream to own my own campervan began [it took me over 30 years to get there].  The couple were very friendly and told me how they kept in touch with their grown up family back in the US by sending a postcard every week and that they were currently learning Spanish as that was where they were heading next.  They talked about how they spent their time in their ‘van and showed me crafts they made in the evenings.

I am not sure I would like to return to those days without all the modern technology that helps us communicate with our families today but I still remember those first holidays in a motorhome and I am thankful that I had those experiences.  Without them I might not have seen the possibilities and be living the life I lead now.