WALK - MANCHESTER HEATON PARK
Based in North Manchester, between Bowker Vale and Prestwich, Heaton Park is easily reached from the city centre and from Bury by Metrolink, and bus, the park, at 600 acres, is one of the largest public parks in Europe, and contains a great deal of beauty and interest.
THE PARK’S HISTORY
The park was originally the grounds to Heaton Hall, country estate of the Egerton family, and designed by architect James Wyatt in 1772. The park became popular as soon as it opened, and even boasted a horseracing track in the 19th century.
The Egerton’s objected to the proposal to send the Manchester to Bury railway line through the park, and a protest campaign diverted it to what is now the nearby Metrolink route. Soon afterwards, however, estate owner The Earl Of Wilton (Lord Egerton) put the estate and extensive grounds up for sale. It was public demand and pressure on Manchester’s council and the estate opened as Heaton Park in 1902.
Much of the house’s furniture had been sold off, so what is now on display is period furniture similar to that which the Egerton’s would have owned and used. The park became a training ground and supply depot for soldiers in World War One and the RAF in World War Two.
A vast reservoir was dug into the park in the early 1900’s, and a full eighteen-hole golf course and boating lake as well. A Romanesque wall, formerly the façade of the original King Street Manchester Town Hall, was erected beside the boating lake. Statues gaze down from its corners, facing away from the water.
As well as the magnificent hall, the park has a Temple, a round observatory building standing at the highest point above sea level in Greater Manchester. The Manchester City Centre skyline and motorways mar the panoramic view of surrounding hills. A plaque informs you that the neo-classical looking Temple cost the same as a year’s wage for an Under-Butler, £18 and 5 shillings.
THE GRAND LODGE
In 1807, Lord Egerton added a Lodging house for his gamekeepers, and this now stands imposingly close to the Metrolink exit. The arched Lodging house has a flight of stairs linking the two narrow sides to the house by an overhead corridor, and there is also a cellar path. It bears a memorial plaque to the soldiers who trained here in the Great War years, men known as The Manchester Pals.
GARDENS, TUNNELS & WATER FEATURES
There are several gardens, an orangey, a bee-keeping area, a tunnel of trees, and a rock tunnel cut to look like a natural cave, at least at its entrance and exit. The area has been used as an open-air theatre for productions like Alice In wonderland, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
THE FARM AND ANIMAL AREA
A delightful petting zoo makes Heaton Park a favourite place for families to visit. Peacocks walk freely round the park, and the zoo has Alpacas, Donkeys, pigs and pigmy goats among many other animals. A small hatchery area allows people to watch birds laying and looking after their eggs if any are being laid at the time of a visit.
THE BOATING LAKE
This is huge at six acres, and most remarkably, men, using just picks and shovels, dug it. Most of the workers were picked from among the unemployed
Another major surprise is the Park tramway. Many will think of the Metrolink as the first tramway since the Edwardian era in the city. In fact, the Park tram, which carries visitors from the entrance to the boating lake, was in operation from 1903. A museum to the tram was opened in 1969, though now it is only open on Sundays and Bank Holidays. A new tram, following the original route, was opened in 1980. There are plans to extend the tram deeper into the park.
Travis, Supergrass and other bands have given concerts in the park.
In May 1982, Pope John-Paul 2 gave a mass in the park, attended by thousands, and a rather dull lump of rock commemorates his visit. A nearby helipad was also set up to cater for his visit.
One man who wowed audiences in the park without ever going there was legendary tenor Enrico Caruso. A sold out concert he gave in 1909 in Manchester’s Free Trade hall was recorded on a new gramophone devise by salesman William Grimshaw, who played the recording in the park to an audience of a staggering 40,000, before opening a highly lucrative gramophone recordings shop in Bury.
There are many maps and guides to the park, though it is well signposted and just wandering around will let you see most of it easily enough. The paths are rarely steep and in decent weather, it is a truly enjoyable place
MAP - HEATON PARK http://maps.google.co.uk/maps?hl=en&q=heaton+park+Manchester&um=1&ie=UTF-8&hq=&hnear=Heaton+Park,+Bury,+Greater+Manchester&gl=uk&ei=BJDMSoK9EdD64Abpz-juBQ&sa=X&oi=geocode_result&ct=title&resnum=1
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