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.
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.
The handsome red brick building of Salford Museum and Art Gallery overlooks Peel Park and is within the Salford University campus. The building started out as a private house, a mansion known as Lark Hill, and opened as the UKs first unconditionally free public library in 1850, the museum and art gallery following a few months later. The facility was quickly popular and received an astonishing 1,240 visitors a day in its first year.
Today the library is no longer here but, as well as permanent exhibitions, the Museum and Art Gallery has changing exhibitions of works of arts and stories of the history of Salford, so it is always worth a visit. The exhibition spaces are light, airy and uncluttered. The entrance is always welcoming and has something interesting to browse thorugh.
The Victorian Gallery with its stunning ceiling has art works collected from that era. The Pilkington Gallery showcases items from Pilkington’s, a local firm that created decorative tiles and pottery. The company was formed by four Pilkington brothers in 1893 and in 1904 they began making pottery in the art nouveau style and their work rivalled that of famous pottery firms from Stoke-on-Trent [or The Potteries]. Salford Museum’s Pilkington collection contains a wide range of the ware Pilkington’s produced between 1900 and the 1970s and when the factory closed in 2010 the museum acquired the Pilkington archive. This gallery is full of vases, bowls, plates and tiles that are vibrant and beautiful.
Bringing the outside in, Lark Hill Place is a recreation of a Victorian northern shopping street, with gas lamps, a chemists, blacksmiths, toy shop and the Blue Lion Pub [this is recreated from a number of Salford pubs and the original Blue Lion was on Cook Street by the brewery] . Many of the shop fronts were originally in the streets of Salford and were saved as the city developed and the old shops were demolished.
Our tram route is the Eccles Line which was phase two of the Metrolink development in Greater Manchester. Phase one was the Altrincham to Bury line which opened in 1992 and it wasn’t until 2000 that the line reached Eccles at a cost of £160 million. Phase one had constructed tram routes on the under-utilised suburban rail network and the plans had been to continue with this process; however, as Salford Quays developed, transforming the old docks with housing, retail, offices and leisure, it was clear the area needed improved public transport and in 1995 the four mile route around Salford Quays to Eccles was agreed and work began in 1997.
When completed, the blue and grey trams initially struggled to compete with the bus route from Eccles. The direct bus from Eccles, the number 33, ran every ten minutes could beat the tram which takes a meandering way around the quays to reach the city centre. The new branding and pale yellow and grey trams were introduced in 2008 and for those on or near the Quays, the new yellow trams have become a clean and efficient way to travel and the trams are now often full. The tram is cheaper than the bus and much more scenic and it is always my public transport of choice.
We chose our home in Salford as much because of the easy access to the tram stop as anything else. Using the Metrolink network we can now travel around Greater Manchester easily, making the most of day and weekend tickets as the network has expanded. We like the real time information about when to expect the next tram [on the rare occasion that we have a ten minute wait for the next tram we can always walk to the next stop] and we like the Get Me There app that makes buying tickets easy.
Whenever I travel on the tram in to Manchester I will always look to see what is happening on Ontario Basin where the water sport centre is, there are often people messing about in boats here but I might have my head in a book and miss this attraction. Whatever is distracting me, my personal rule is to always take the time to look at the view as the tram crosses The Manchester Ship Canal between Exchange Quay and Pomona station [this is a station of many jokes as it is rare for anyone to get on or off at Pomona and if they do the passengers will joke that they must be lost]. As the tram crosses the bridge you have a fantastic view along the canal in to Manchester, in a morning the sun will be rising behind the city, there might be swans on the water and nothing is ever so important that you cannot take a minute to enjoy it. Pomona island, straggling Salford, Trafford and Manchester, is then laid out before you, still a wildlife haven in the city although its days are numbered as development has now started at the Cornbrook end. Work has now started on the new Trafford Centre line. This will join the network at Pomona and I am sure in a few years this station will be as busy as any other and those days of stopping at the ‘ghost’ station will just be a memory.