Friday, April 25

A Manchester Medley

The 2014 cricket season is upon us and so the Easter weekend saw Mr Beardsmore and myself based in Manchester for a few days, watching the County Championship Division One match between Lancashire and Warwickshire...

- Arrival at Old Trafford -
Travelling up on Easter Saturday, we alight at Manchester Piccadilly station to find that our Metrolink tram connection is being replaced by buses. Stagecoach are operating the substitute service and we board the bus bound for Altrincham, passing Deansgate and Trafford Bar en route to Old Trafford. Unfortunately we missed the designated stop for the stadium and ended up in Stretford instead, although it wasn't long before we were safely settled into the hotel at the cricket ground (albeit with views of the car park rather than the pitch).

- Chorlton Library -
Our Saturday evening destination was Chorlton, a bustling village area with a thriving real ale scene. The local library caught my eye, as did the neighbouring Sedge Lynn Wetherspoons housed in an old billiard hall. A chip supper gives me chance to tuck in to a steak and kidney pudding and there is beer to enjoy at the Spread Eagle (Holt's Bitter) and the Dulcimer Bar (Cromatry's Ghost Town Porter).

- Manchester United -
Sunday morning and before the cricketing action commences we seek out the 'other' Old Trafford, this being the world famous home of Manchester United Football Club. The stadium is monumental in scale and has been besieged by a small army of Japanese tourists. Statues commemorate club legends including Sirs Alex Ferguson, Matt Busby and Bobby Charlton while there are poignant tributes to those that lost their lives in the 1958 Munich air crash.

- Play Underway -
To the cricket then and the game begins with Lancashire winning the toss and choosing to bat. Home opener Paul Horton makes a valiant 83 but his departure in the afternoon sees a collapse from 193 for 4 to 247 all out, despite some beefy boundaries from captain Glen Chapple. The Bears reply is off to a solid start as Varun Chopra and William Porterfield see us through to the close 63 without loss.

- Peveril of the Peak -
Manchester City Centre gets our evening attention on Easter Sunday, journeying across on the 256 bus via Hulme (but not Stourbridge!) I was particularly keen to sample the Peveril of the Peak, an unspoilt gem of a boozer on Great Bridgwater Street complete with an exquisite tiled frontage and signage from the long-gone Wilsons Brewery. Stephen gets his gammon fix in the Waterhouse and we finish in the one-roomed Grey Horse where the Hyde's Original takes my fancy. 

- Trafford Bar Metrolink -
Into Monday and another morning walk, this time along Talbot Road where I simply had to photograph the Trafford Bar Metrolink Station overlooking the corner with Seymour Grove. The building itself appears to be closed so access to the tram platforms is down paths to either side. 

- Old Trafford Bell -
Having stocked up on supplies from the Tesco store next to Trafford Town Hall, we settle back in at The Point stand for more cricket. The first session sees Warwickshire building steadily on their promising start of the previous evening, Chopra and Porterfield taking their stand to 127 before the latter departed for 77, his highest County Championship score for some time. Glen Chapple snared Chopra lbw for 52 with the last ball before lunch, and the afternoon became an attritional affair despite Ian Bell making 75. Bad light later on means the close of play score is 316 for 9, a useful Bears lead although not perhaps quite as commanding as it might have been.

- Metrolink at Altrincham -
The tram system is back in full operation following the earlier engineering works so we make use of it for a ride out to Altrincham - the 12 minute frequency gives a regular, reliable service long into the evening. Altrincham seemed rather quiet albeit it was a Bank Holiday Monday and a Manchester City match night. The railway station is being redeveloped into a new interchange and there are further building works as a new hospital takes shape. We admire the town's market hall before sampling the Old Market Tavern followed by Costello's Bar, the Dunham Massey brewery tap at Goose Green.

- Stretford Station -
Tuesday 22nd April and our final day in Manchester is also a rather damp one, with play delayed due to persistent (if not particularly heavy) drizzle. We fill in our time with a wander back to Stretford, noting a large shopping mall, the Bridgwater Canal and the local Metrolink station. Lunch is a full English trading bacon and toast for Stephen's unwanted hash browns and black pudding.

- Cursed Covers! -
The rain continues into the afternoon, meaning the Old Trafford covers are an increasingly frustrating sight. A pint in the Bishop Blaize (a Wetherspoon's near the football ground) kills another hour or so, and our patience is finally rewarded when play resumes at 16:45. The Bears added just 8 to their overnight total, James Anderson bowling Oliver Hannon-Dalby to leave us 324 all out. The Lancashire openers then made untroubled progress through to 46 without loss and we made our way homewards in full expectation of a drawn fixture. 
Back at Piccadilly we just had time for a quick half in the Bulls Head (a Marston's pub with an ornate bar counter) before catching our train. It was great to see some cricket again and to get to know Manchester a little better in the process - the city certainly made a good impression. As a postscript to our visit, the match continued into Wednesday and did indeed finish as a draw, but only after a tense finish that suggested we'd missed most of the excitement - never mind, you can't have everything!

Friday, April 11

Bushbury, Pendeford and Fordhouses

Friday 11th April 2014: Every now and then I like to do a local stroll, topping up my picture archive with recent developments so that I record the changing face of the area. Today's spring sunshine tempted me into one such walk so here's what featured photographically on my way round...

- The Remnants of Strykers -
Shaw Road gets me underway as I pause to remember Strykers, the bowling alley which closed last autumn before being burnt down in suspicious circumstances just before Christmas. The charred remains have largely been cleared away now leaving just a few bits of wall and rubble.

- The New KFC Nears Completion -
For many years Strykers was situated just across the road from the Bushbury Working Mens Club but that too is now a memory. Springing up in its place is a drive-thru KFC restaurant which is due to open very shortly, hence the finishing touches were being applied to the building, car park and revised road layout.

- The Island House -
Literally next door to KFC is the Island House, a pub that has been closed for some considerable time. I remember it under its historic name as The Croft and can vaguely recall having a drink in here with my Dad the once - we were hoping to watch some Wolves football but I think we reluctantly had to make do with Eastenders! I half expect that this place will itself be demolished at some point although it is still standing for the time being and could yet find a new lease of life.

- Continuing Construction at Goodyears -
Those of you who've read the blog over the years will know I've been keeping a watching brief on developments at Goodyears for some time, intrigued to see how the proposed regeneration takes place. Part of the tyre factory has been retained and has had the Gatehouse Hungry Horse pub and an Aldi supermarket for company for a while now. Today I caught a further glimpse of progress with Akron Gate where construction company Persimmon Homes are building a combination of houses and apartments. The photograph shows completed buildings on one side of the road while the other has cleared earth awaiting a future phase, so one day I'll hopefully come back to tour the finished estate. 

- One Stop Hop Pole -
Onwards to Oxley and a chance to see what has become of two former pubs that I've also been keeping tabs on. The Homestead on Lodge Road has been replaced by housing, some of which is now occupied although construction is ongoing at the Eccleshall Avenue end of the plot. Down on Oxley Moor Road I can update my shots of the Hop Pole but the sight of some pretty blossoms can't disguise the fact this is now a One Stop convenience store.

- Community Centre at Foxley Campus -
Rummaging through Rakegate via Probert Road and the St Anne's estate, I make my way to Marsh Lane where the transformation of Pendeford High School into the North East Academy's Foxley Campus has moved on apace. A banner hanging on the railings suggests completion is due for September 2014, so in the meantime I seek out a shot of the replacement Fordhouses and Oxley Community Centre which does look rather smart.

- Pendeford Lane -
From Marsh Lane I cross the canal and follow the path up to The Droveway. The stretch of tarmac I'm walking along used to be open to traffic as Pendeford Lane back in the days when the area was an airfield rather than a housing estate. You can still make out bits of the road markings as I pass some allotments and the back of Fordhouses Cricket Club.

- Pendeford Community Hub -
Ryhope Walk brings me into the centre of Pendeford where Morrisons supermarket and the Pendulum pub are familiar features that I've certainly mentioned before. Other facilities include Nelson Mandela House (for respite care) and the local medical centre, while Pendeford Square brings back memories of visiting Saturday markets on the patch when I was a kid. St Paul's Church and the Oasis cafe feature prominently here, as does the joint library and community centre building which has recently been remodelled into a hub.

- Vine Island -
The Staffordshire & Worcestershire Canal quietly passes the edges of Pendeford and makes for a pretty stroll with more examples of blossom trees. Back at Marsh Lane Bridge I branch off into Wobaston, noting that a special 3E shuttle route is operating to Patshull Avenue to maintain bus connections during i54-associated road improvements. Chetton Green flats and the Harrowby Arms are next to catch my eye, followed closely by Fordhouses Baptist Church (corner of Winchester Road and Newbury Road) as I emerge back onto the main A449. The new Vine Island layout is largely in place now, meaning restricted options for motorists exiting Bee Lane onto the Stafford Road.

- Poets Corner -
I've never been entirely convinced about the architecture of St Anthony's Catholic Church although it is certainly visually striking. The freshly-mown turf of Bee Lane Playing Fields is spongy underfoot as I cross into the Poets Corner estate, taking time to photograph some cute monster-themed letters on a fence by the playground. Shelley, Browning, Kipling and Burns lend their names to the estate's roads as parents collect their little ones from Elston Hall School after morning nursery. Sometimes you can happen across little surprises even in areas you think you know well, and a case in point here was the Community Garden facility up a path off Shelley Road. I wasn't aware of the project until now but it's certainly done a great job of reclaiming waste land and providing a space for the whole neighbourhood to enjoy.

- The Woodbine -
A couple more pub pieces can then round off my camera-wielding circuit. D9 and I only visited the Woodbine back in February but since then it has closed down despite still having the banner outside proclaiming the opening of its refurbished lounge. For as long as I can remember the place has had something of a chequered existence and even masqueraded as the Red Rooster for a few years, so quite what its future holds remains to be seen.

- Butlers Arms Stanchion -
The Woodbine is a very recent casualty in the closure stakes whereas the Butlers Arms went several years ago - I can just about picture it in my minds eye as a large roadhouse overlooking the roundabout where Bushbury Lane meets Kempthorne Avenue. Apparently Dave Wagstaffe the legendary Wolves winger ran the place for a while, but come the 1990's the site was a supermarket (initially a Kwik Save but subsequently Somerfield then Co-op). The pub building may be gone but there is still one lingering reminder of it on the car park, albeit the ornate stanchion tower these days holds a bright green co-operative sign rather than a Butlers Arms example. It just goes to show how features and facilities come and go over the years, sometimes dramatically and sometimes imperceptibly but for now at least I've documented what I can and enjoyed some sunshine into the bargain!