There haven’t always been allotments in Ordsall and it took a long community-led campaign and lots of work and planning to get them. For some time the Ordsall Allotment Association had members but no allotments but eventually the allotments were completed and the site was officially opened in 2014. The allotments have transformed an area of derelict land in the centre of Ordsall in to a green oasis. The site was formerly part of the centre of the estate and the Jubilee pub, a post office, and library were cleared as part of the redevelopment of Ordsall. The former St Clements School site on Robert Hall Street had originally been identified for the allotments after the school closed in 2007.
The 23 allotments have now matured after three years of growing and I always stop to peer through the fence when I pass and see what is growing on the plots and admire the neat rows of sheds and vegetables.
In September the allotment members have an annual show where they showcase their produce, celebrate their achievement and compete for the best vegetables.
Wandering through the residential streets of Swinton in Salford on a sunny afternoon recently I stumbled across Swinton Cemetery. The cemetery creates a beautiful square that is surrounded by housing. The rows of graves are neatly arranged and the trees provide colour and shade. There is a small red brick mortuary chapel within the cemetery. This beautiful, peaceful and neat cemetery has been used for burials since 1886 and is still in use today.
Today the cemetery includes the re-interred remains of over 300 burials from the previous Unitarian Church in Swinton that was closed and demolished in 1985. The burial ground land was undisturbed until 2013 when the land became part of a development for a new supermarket. The development caused considerable concern locally. The Unitarian burial ground included a war grave and the graves of three men who lost their lives in the Clifton Hall Colliery Disaster in 1885.
In his book From Salford to Tucson and Back Again, Robert Carter describes his childhood in Swinton in the 1960s and a character on his street who was the gravedigger at Swinton Cemetery. This man always wore clogs that ‘clanked as he walked’ and owned a scary black dog that would walk a few yards behind the gravedigger often with a piece of meat in its jaws, apparently to tenderise the meat.
In 2007 the Manchester Evening News reported that Salford was getting its own version of Central Park. I have never been to Central Park in New York but it must be a point to debate whether the regeneration of this former brown field site quite managed to meet this extravagant aspiration. That said, the Lower Irwell Valley Improvement Area [Livia] is an improvement on the previous derelict site, joining together a number of smaller green spaces that give wildlife the green corridors that allow them to move around in.
Livia is in Pendlebury and lies between the railway line and Bolton Road and is surrounded by housing. The 1950s map shows the land was previously Newton Colliery with some farms surviving at that time. There is a public art memorial to the colliery on a grassy corner of Bolton Road and Queensway.
The regeneration created woodland and wild flower areas and the whole park is criss-crossed by a network of winding footpaths. There are some sculptures and structures that are now overgrown and it seemed to me that there is currently little management of the area ongoing. The green space seems to be mostly used as a route away from the traffic between home and the main road for local people. Even on a sunny day it was quiet here and the wildlife are probably all the happier for that.
We are lucky at Salford Quays that the Manchester Ship Canal is orientated east-west. Every year on the shortest day we walk down to Salford Quays to see the sunrise. Unfortunately, this day of celebration has yet to coincide with one of the beautiful sunrises that we do occasionally have over the quays but we remain hopeful. When I used to cycle to work along the canal I would often enjoy amazing sunrises in spring and autumn during my commute to work.
Not being early birds these days, what we do manage to see more often is the sunset and these are worth walking down to the Quays to see. We are always joined by other people, both locals and visitors and the bridges will be lined with photographers and those who are just enjoying the natural spectacle as the sun goes below the horizon.
Standing on the bridge by Media City you are looking across the two Mode Wheel Locks on the Manchester Ship Canal. This unusual name is a corruption of Maud’s Wheel, the name of the wheel at the corn mill that was previously at this spot. These locks were the final lock on the Ship Canal before the expanse of the docks.
The boat in the photograph is one of the boats that takes parties on short canal cruises from Castlefield in Manchester city centre and beyond are the factories of Trafford Park.
Our local university, University of Salford, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Although the history of the institution goes back to 1850 and the Royal Technical College formed in 1921, which in 1958 split in to The Royal College of advanced Technology and the Peel Park Technical College, it wasn’t until 1967 that the Royal College became the University of Salford. Today the University of Salford has 20,000 students, one of which was our son some years ago; and so our links with Salford began. The University served him well and its connections with industry and the sandwich degree course he completed with a year gaining useful work experience served him well.
The campus overlooks Peel Park and has an airy and relaxed feel. More recently the Peel Park main campus has changed beyond recognition and building work is currently a continuous feature. In 2011 the University also added a Media City campus. All this development came around the time of redundancies for some staff, as the university reviewed courses and schools and addressed areas that were under-performing.
The Old Police Station faces the main campus of Salford University. Built in 1957 in brick and Portland stone, the building fell in to disuse in the early 2000s. In 2011 the building was saved from demolition when the University of Salford had plans to develop the land. The hope today is to keep the elegant frontage of the building and various plans have been put forward to redevelop the site, although nothing certain yet. In the meantime the boarded up windows are decorated with images from university students. This both brightens up the building and is a great way to showcase the student’s work.
Salfordians can be a bit touchy about losing the recognition they feel their city deserves and there was a minor kerfuffle in 2011 when the uni re-branded to become The University of Salford, Manchester. I can’t get too hot under the collar about this myself as it didn’t make any geographical difference to the campus, it is still our local university. The addition to the name perhaps made it clear to students unfamiliar with Salford how close the two cities actually are and this might just help it appeal to students keen to be part of the vibrant Manchester student scene.
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.
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.