The Vault Regulars

Friday, March 27, 2015

Disappointed, in Wales

Once a year Sheila and I meet up with friends for a weekend of hiking and socialising. Recently our accommodation has been a nice house in Caethro just outside Caernarfon. It’s in a quiet spot with good views and also only a 10 minute walk to the pub.

I picked Sheila up from work on Friday lunchtime and i felt a bit unwell. Just shaky, warm and a bit nauseous. I thought it would pass having taken some tablets for upset stomach but it didn’t pass. To make matters worse it rained and was misty on the journey.
Arriving at Caethro i just about hung on to go to the Loo without embarrassment. But i felt no better.

Everyone arrived and we all settled in with a meal, few beers and glasses of wine and then it was decided that tomorrow we would drive over to Ogwen Cottage and do the Glyders starting with the ascent of Y Garn.
It’s a route i have done before but it is a worthy and picturesque route. The weather forecast was checked and it all seemed very promising.
Time quickly disappeared and bed time called.

In the morning i was still feeling no better but decided that i could do the walk. I had an upset stomach not a broken leg was my way of appeasing Sheila, she was a bit concerned.

Ogwen Cottage was a bit of a shock. This was our first visit since the new facilities had been built and what a grand job they have made. I remember the old green shed.

A beautiful day, and as you would gather there were lots of people and cars everywhere.
Y Garn
Unfortunately there isn’t much to tell from my point of view. We set off up the steep face of Y Garn and as soon as i put in any effort the shaking became worse and i was burning up. Sheila kept telling me to stop and go back but i soldiered on until we made the first ridge of the Pinnacles and then when i sat down i knew that was it. Complete loss of energy.

Once i had had a chat with the others it was decided that i would go back. What a pain in the bum it was such a fantastic walking day.
Sheila and i got down and sat by the Llyn for about 1/2 hr and then drove back to Caethro where i spent the afternoon laid up in bed.

I have no idea what caused it and still don’t. To make matters even worse, the village pub has closed down The Bryn Gwna Inn.

So here are the pictures i took of the brief walk and a couple of Llyn Padarn later.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Revisiting the Irk

The walk we did last week that followed the River Irk into Manchester posed quite a few questions for me. Even though the areas it passes through are not pretty it has to be taken into consideration that this is due in many respects to it’s past history.
I decided last Thursday to go back and with more time on my hands try and understand why the Irk was one of the most polluted rivers not just in Manchester but the world.

The valley of the Irk during the 19th century and early 20th century was a very busy industrial area with many companies using the water of the Irk in such industries as tanning, bleaching and dyeing,  many mills, the Gas Works and of course the waste products from surrounding homes used to empty into it.
There were thousands of people working alongside it’s banks whereas today there maybe just a few hundred. Obviously, with the efforts of the rivers authority and Manchester city council the waters are greatly improved.

A few things that were on my mind included where does the Irk join the Irwell? Where does it disappear to once it hits Manchester centre? What was the large multi coloured contraption above the disused railway bridge? What was the steel drum opposite HMG paints?

As i was in the centre of Manchester i decided to start there and find out the answers to my first questions.
Where does the Irk flow through the Centre and where does it join the Irwell.

After much searching i found the outlet.
The confluence of the River Irk and the River Irwell below the aptly named Hunts Bank.The arched bridge is over Gt Ducie St. and was built in 1844. 
Victoria train station is the older building behind.

In years gone by the Irk was an open river through Manchester. This was before all the industrialisation and the building of Chethams hospital.(Now gone) which used to be where the building is in the above photograph, far right. Now part of Chethams music school and the train station.
There is still one of the old streets to be found called Walkers Croft but it is again part of Chethams and passes under Victoria Station.
Walkers Croft
This area used to be a cemetery for cholera victims and also the dead from the Victorian workhouses. Many bodies have been found and the remains transferred to Southern Cemetery.
An excerpt from the first OS map of Manchester dated 1849 and shows the River Irk still open.

Whilst i was in this area it was difficult to miss the massive works that are being undertaken at Victoria Arches. These are made from the Red Sandstone quarried in Manchester and i will come to this a little later.
 Victoria’s arches.
The new scene at the old Victoria bus station and in keeping has used red stone seating.
Victoria’s new pedestrian walkway.
So back to the Irk. The underground culverting goes between Chethams Music school and turns north before the Football museum, here there is a water feature which represents the course of the Irk. It then goes underneath Victoria rail station and finally leaves or joins the culvert depending on which way you are walking, after Ducie Rd Bridge.
Underneath the bridge is a large weir, seen in the image below.
The River Irk as it enters the culvert under Manchester City Centre.
The building behind the weir is quite interesting with its huge brick arches. I cannot find out much about this building although some old maps show it could be a tannery. A tannery is also mentioned in the book A Manchester Man by Mrs G.L.Banks.
An interesting look into the culverting can be found here. Click.
Continuing a few yards up river this area was known as Scotland. The bridge below was Scotland Bridge.
Scotland Bridge
The link to Scotland goes back to the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. It seems that this area was where the army was billeted on its march south to Derby where they ran out of porridge. 
The army recruited 300 Manchester Folk many poor and homeless and formed the Manchester Regiment.
A pub of that name existed until the late 1990’s but has been demolished. Other signs of this event, even down to street names and map references cannot be found. For some reason it has all disappeared.

The next 100yds of the Irk were difficult of access. I did try but was beaten back by fences, high grass and No Access signs etc. I had to walk along Dantzic Street until i came to a pedestrian bridge at Roger Street.
Roger Street Union Bridge. Listed.
Looking at the state of the bridge i would say it is obvious why its only foot traffic now.

So having found the Irk flowing into the Irwell and where the Irk disappeared underground, it now left me to find out what the large coloured structure was that we saw on the previous walk.
Image below.

I found myself in a strange area called St Catherines. I say strange because allegedly it is part of the Irk Valley development program. Well they have put a board up and also tarmaced a path that stretches about 50 yds and ends abruptly with no real meaning of why its there. The area is overgrown, strewn with litter, unmanaged coppices, burnt out cars and everything in between. 
Just reading a paragraph from the message board.
Significant investment will result in major environmental improvements across a previously neglected landscape etc.
The Irk Valley project aims to provide safe and comfortable countryside links etc.

I think somebody ran off with the funds. This area is an absolute disgrace.
On my way to finding out what the colourful structure was i actually felt quite unsafe and not comfortable at all. But i endeavoured to find out it was a storage facility for fairground rides.
If you got that from the photograph dear readers then well done.
The safe and comfortable St Catherines. I think not.
Fairground ride storage from the disused railway bridge.
The disused Impossible railway bridge. Once part of the Lancashire and Yorkshire railway.
The footbridge was made famous by LS Lowry’s Collyhurst Footbridge painting. 2 images below.

The real footsteps.

 A view looking west into the city along the old railway route.
A view looking east towards the new Metrolink sheds.
Back down onto banks of the Irk and on Collyhurst road was another weir. The Irk then meanders through the grounds of HMG paints and of course i could only see the route through the fencing. Crossing over the road to have a look again at the rotating barrel i found the name Steel-Shaw on it. I checked it out on Google but to no avail. 
The bearings supporting it are quite large and so the weight it held must have been considerable. Exactly what the stone trough is for at the side is a bit of a mystery apart from i guess it was where they emptied the liquid when the process was finished. I expect the waste went straight into the Irk.
A mystery drum. * We have an answer. See end of post.
I asked a number of people who came out of HMG paints and a couple of dog walkers but no one had any idea of what it was.
Whilst checking google i found that many years ago on this site was the Yew Tree dye works and maybe it had something to do with that industry rather than paint mixing as i had presumed earlier.

Behind the drum is Sandhills, another Irk Valley project. Today this area is empty and brown land. During the 2nd World War this area was full of homes and workplaces and very badly damaged during the bombing campaign. The road through the area was Fitzgeorge Street.
In years way before the war this area was a quarry and produced fine red sandstone that was used all over Manchester including the Victoria arches seen earlier, the Roman fort at Castlefield and St Ann’s Church in the centre of town. Now if only they had built Piccadilly gardens with it we might not have ended up with the awful mess we have now.
Some remnants of the stone quarrying can still be found with a bit of searching in the Sandhills area.

The weir adjacent to HMG Paints factory

 The tiled bridge entrance to Sandhills and what once was Fitzgeorge Street.
 The remnants of Sandhills quarry stone.

Fitzgeorge Street during the 2nd World War. The tiled wall of the bridge can still be seen on the Sandhills entrance image above. The chimney was from a chemical works.

I had a good afternoon wandering around the lower reaches of the Irk and it is a fascinating area. It would be better if the Irk Valley project made a bit of headway as anything they seem to have done is now being taken back by nature and will be lost. There is lots of social and industrial archeology to explore and i am sure i will do some more digging another time.
There is a terrific video on THIS web page that does show how bad this area used to be.

* The Answer.  The Mystery Drum. (Thanks to Jo Fraser from the Irk and Medlock Valley’s groundworks)
Dear Alan, thanks for your email. I gave HMG a call and they explained that the iron drum is a ball mill, previously used in the manufacture of paint - resins and solvents were put inside together with pebbles to grind and mix the paint. Apparently these were used up to 5 years ago but have now been replaced with more efficient bead mills. As you may know, HMG is a long established company (85+ years) although it was previously sited over the road on Fitzgeorge Street within what is now Sandhills geeenspace, but there has been a dye works and other manufacturing works on the current site since at least 1794 (William Green's map) - the University of Manchester has published lots of old maps online which allow you to look at areas in detail. 

Visitors to Manchester's former industrial river valleys are steadily increasing - the former power station ash tip at Clayton Vale in the Medlock Valley is attracting many more local visitors as well as national and international visitors from as far afield as Japan, Malaysia and will host participants from the Society for Ecological Restoration's World Conference later this year. The Irk Valley is less developed for visitors yet but has been showcased by Jonathan Schofield (writer and city centre guide) on the Manchester Confidential website 

I agree that St Catherine's is in need of attention, unfortunately this winter a significant proportion of the trees on site have suffered severe damage by rabbits eating the bark so it is likely that many will have to be felled in the near future for safety reasons, resulting in the site being more open. 

In the Irk Valley, some projects just completed or currently in progress are:
  • Connecting Collyhurst - Groundwork leading on a project to encourage local use, funded by BIG Local lottery
  • Remediation of former gas works waste tip  at Harpurhey Reservoirs
  • £26m investment in improving water quality in the lower Irk/River Irwell by United Utilities
  • Access Improvements to riverside land adjacent to Sainsbury's, nr Heaton Park
  • Site improvements and mass bulb planting at Bowker Bank Woods Crumpsall
  • Biodiversity improvements at Broadhurst Clough, Moston
  • Restoration of the lake at Boggart Hole Clough funded by Clean City
  • Wild Trout Trust surveyof Blackley section of River Irk to identify opportunities to improve the river for fish and wildlife
  • Improvements to St Michael's Flags linked with development of Coop headquarters

Although investments were made to bring Lower Irk sites up to a basic standard around the Millennium, Manchester City Council has plans for large scale future investment and regeneration; this is already underway in Collyhurst and is expected to follow over a 10-15 year period in the Lower Irk Valley, necessitating parallel investment in the greenspace to provide for the significant increase in population.
The Collyhurst and the Lower Irk Valley site measures 135 hectares and includes a large number of development opportunities owned by the Council and Network Rail which provide significant potential to redefine a large and under utilised area to meet the city’s economic objectives for future growth.
The area has benefited from a very significant pipeline of committed investment that will completely reposition the northern part of the city centre, ensuring that it plays a key role in the future success of the City Region economy.
Initiatives currently being driven forward in the area at Strangeways, Greengate, Victoria Station and NOMA (the Co-Op estate) will, over the next ten to fifteen years, transform this part of the city creating new office space, new public space, new retail development and new homes.
The vision for Collyhurst and the Lower Irk Valley over the next 10-15 years is to create a sustainable, low carbon community that will provide over 2,000 new homes, the refurbishment of over 1000 existing properties, improved retail and public services provision, new employment opportunities, enhanced transport and pedestrian routes together with open space and local environment improvements. The redevelopment is also expected to contribute to the city’s aspiration to become a world top 20 digital city by 2020.

I hope this email answers your queries, please get back in touch if you have further questions. 

With regards, 
Jo Fraser
Irk and Medlock Valley Programme Coordinator
Manchester City Council
c/o Groundwork Manchester Salford, Stockport, Tameside & Trafford
Timber Wharf
42-50 Worsley Street
M15 4LD

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A curry at the end of the Irk.

Thursday 12th March 2015.

I missed the "C" teams last curry walk, so I was pleased when Martin arranged another one. I think it had been mentioned on one of Martin's previous ELLDWA bimbles that Reg may fancy the walk and so I expected only 3 or maybe 4 attendees. I turned up at Heaton Park station and by 10.30am there were 18 people. Immediately the thought was This and That curry shop won't seat 18 people in one go. It can be very busy with local workers.

Crossing Heaton Park, the biggest municipal park in Manchester we passed the Hall. It was sad to see it so shut up and crumbling. Hopefully it won't be to long before it is back to its old splendour.

Having called into the golf course cafe last time it seemed a good idea to call in again. Unfortunately the person behind the counter didn't seem impressed with making tea and coffee for 18 so made the excuse that they didn't have any milk.
So we left and the golf course lost probably £40. We will go to the cafe by the lake next time.

Across the busy road we picked up the right bank of the River Irk. One of the Severn rivers that flow into Manchester centre.
(Some now culverted).
The river was flowing fast whereas last time it well down and slow. The water quality was looking decent considering that years ago it was badly polluted.

The path goes through Blackley Forest. The forest is a fine area of suburban woodland looked after by The friends of Blackley Forest.

In our eyeline loomed the Hexagon Tower. Once the home of ICI research. Now a conglomerate of companies occupy the space.
A new housing estate had us scratching our heads about the forward route. A bit of a detour brought us back riverside.
Hexagon Tower
We have done numerous routes in Manchester and obviously we pass areas where you could say are not very pretty but it was a shock to see the amount of rubbish that people have dumped in Harpurhey. It was awful. There are 2 old mill ponds which with TLC could be made really nice.

Passing burnt out piles of plastic and wire we crossed Queens Park where there is another unloved building. What used to be a grand hall was demolished and in its place was built the present building which was once a museum and art gallery containing many dolls, dolls houses and militaria but is now only used for storage and administration by Manchester Galleries.
When it was opened it must have been a fantastic place to spend what little free time locals had then.

Queens Park Museum when it opened.
Recent image of boarded up building and roller shuttering now installed on main entrance.

Hendham Hall and grounds, formerly the home of the Houghton family, was purchased by public subscription in 1844. The competition to design this park, together with Philips Park and Peel Park, was won by Joshua Major (around 1787-1866). Queen's Park was opened on 22 August 1846. Lodges designed by J E Greggan (1813-55) were built for the Keeper and Under-Keeper. Major's design was strongly criticised in the gardening press, particularly by John Lindley (1799-1865), editor of the Gardeners' Chronicle. There were significant alterations to the park in the 1850s and 1860s. A labyrinth designed by Dwerryhouse, gardener at Tatton Park, Cheshire (see the description of this site elsewhere in the Register) was opened in 1852 (closed 1860-1), and a rustic summerhouse and range of propagating houses, possibly designed by John Shaw, were opened in the 1850s (demolished in about 1930).
In 1865 a fountain commemorating Malcolm Ross, one of the leading advocates of public parks in Manchester in 1846, was erected in front of the Hall. The Hall was demolished in 1880, to be replaced by a Museum and Art Gallery by J Allison in 1884. In 1898 a statue (listed grade II) by John Cassidy of Ben Brierley (1825-96), a local poet, was erected in front of the Museum. A bowling green was added in 1909, followed by tennis courts and children's playgrounds for cricket and football. The Parliament Hut, one of the Manchester Elderly Men's Shelters, was built in 1926 (demolished 1961).
Queen's Park remains (2000) in public use and is in the ownership of Manchester City Council.

After a short meander we dropped down to the Irk again using a new flight of stairs and passing under the high arches of the Metrolink line.

A short section of tarmac and we passed HMG paints with its "Dreadnowt" submarine placed on its end. Painted white with a red poppy logo. There was also an industrial sculpture which was new to us. Not sure exactly what it is, there was no plaque but i think it could be a paint mixer. Anyone with knowledge please leave a comment.
No plaque to tell us its use
The Dreadnowt at HMG Paints

Then it was up along a high banking of Sandhill before passing through some car repair units and crossing Angel Meadows. This area has tremendous history of suffering and deprivation.
In stark contrast ahead of us was the new CIS building. Manchester's best building in my opinion.
Across the carpark and Shudehill the aroma of curry sped us along. At this point we split up into 2 groups, one group had first sitting in the curry house while group 2 headed for the Hare and Hounds for a first class pint of Joseph Holts finest. £2.15 a pint i may add.
CIS Manchester across Angel Meadows.
Passing through the car repair units we came across a Ferguson TE20 tractor that had just come out of paint. It was looking good although its renovation was not all original. Electrics were modern day.

Our curry was the usual high standard for very little money. The best value tucker in Manchester.
I had 3 curry's, Spinach, hot mince and lamb with rice. £5.50.

This and That

Dishes served at This & That

On our walk i noticed a structure that wasn’t there on our previous trip in 2013. So i must check it out. (Image Below) Soon.
I also went to see how the modernisation of Victoria train station was progressing and below are just a few images taken,

Old CIS buildings.
Martins post on the walk and a route map can be found here.

Monday, March 9, 2015

If only i had a kite.

Saturday 7th March 2015.

We had been looking forward to the good weather that had been forecast over the last few days however not everyone lives in London and our weather was not good. It was low cloud and very high wind 40 - 60 mph on the tops. Temperature was ok at around 8 degrees C, but the wind chill made it feel much lower, it wasn’t raining which i suppose could be called good weather for the Lake District.

Due to the wind speed the route was being changed minute by minute. Decisions being made on the fly about what we thought would be a reasonable outing.

The start point was easy, it was going to be Stephenson’s Ground. Adjacent to the farm buildings. The initial plan was to do Caw and White Pike but like i said, this was quickly changed when we got our first taste of the wind and saw how low the cloud base was. The cloud base wasn’t the problem it was the wind.

It is a fine area to walk in and lots of exploring can be done to find the ancient ring cairns and cists that are quite abundant if you know what to look for. A Bronze age axe was found a few years ago at Stephenson’s Ground.

Our route first headed North East following the River Lickle. The track is again an ancient one and one of the routes that workers, carts and slate sledges used to ply from the quarries higher up.
Looking at the ground, worn rock can still be found showing where the carts or sledges passed. It is a nice way to walk to work as long as the weather is good.

The River Lickle down below us to the right is a fine spectacle and in many places the wind was whipping the water back up the water course. Luckily we were being pushed up the hill. Good to see Natty bridge still in situ.
Natty Bridge on the River Lickle
Reaching the col below Dawson Pike we could occasionally glimpse Caw top but generally the cloud level was around 400 metres. At this point and with raised voices to overcome the howl of the wind the question was posed "Does anyone really want to go up Caw or White Pike”. It was a resounding no.

So we stayed on the path and skirted under White Pike and through the old Walna Scar Quarry. With the swirling mist the shadows of the ruined buildings was quite spooky as they suddenly apeared. At a gate in the old boundary wall we found the original path the miners would have used coming and going from the Duddon Valley. Today most hikers feet tread the official Walna Scar path.
Heading for Walna Quarry
Remnants of Walna Quarry buildings
Many Herdwick sheep sheltered in the hollows as we passed. They didn't even bother to run off as they usually do. Almost down to the valley bottom we passed our first walkers of the day, heading up. Like us they were battling the wind and were all wrapped up.

We chose the path that leads to High Moss which meant that Bru the dog who had jumped over the 5ft high road gate had to jump it back again and then he had a 6ft ladder stile to get over. What an athlete. 
Tarn Beck Seathwaite

The dogs at Turner Hall Farm awoke as we passed and one dog in particular was keen to check Bru out. Bru wasn't interested and we had to see the farm dog off. The Newfield Inn at Seathwaite was visited for quality control purposes and we found to beer to be acceptable. With the warmth of the real fire on our bodies getting back outdoors came as a bit of a shock. It was freezing.
The Newfield Inn, Seathwaite Duddon Valley.
The wind, now in our faces was a battle. The Park Head track is a good wide rocky path and usually an easy way. Today with the wind it was hard work and I was getting a bit peckish. Reaching the top of the track we looked for a sheltered spot for lunch. We found one close to the road. It was a good spot but we still needed to put on insulation.

Lunch over, the track on the east side of Kiln Bank Cross was taken passing a large adit and many old slate heaps. The views down the valley towards Broughton Mills were superb and a real shame that Hoses Farm never got the camping ground up and running because its a great spot to pitch a tent.
The wind was fierce and more sheep huddled together as we skirted Stainton Ground heading now North East below Raven Crag.

Stickle Pike with Hoses Farm below.
We crossed Carter Ground and then found a dead sheep right on Black Moss Beck. It couldn’t have been dead long. Just shows that filtering water is always the right way.

The wide expanse of Long Mire greeted us, another ancient thoroughfare. The mist was getting lower over the tops and Caw was nowhere to be seen, we knew it was there but well under cloud. Our track turned South East once we had crossed the marsh and bog that is Long Mire Beck where we followed a wall and an old green lane that brought us back to Stephensons Ground.
5 bar water yeat.
Considering that our walk was only 13.4km is was pretty hard work at times and we were glad to get back to the car. For our efforts we took another unanimous decision to visit the Blacksmiths Pub because we had to go passed it on the way back to Broughton In Furness and the Manor Inn.
The beer in the Blacksmiths was first class and although the Manor is Camera Pub for 2015 in Cumbria my 1st prize went to the Blacksmiths. 

The Blacksmiths Arms. Broughton Mills
The Manor Arms. Broughton In Furness.
Photo Gallery. Link

Find it Here

About Me

My other blog.