WALK – WILMSLOW ROAD
A very straight road route taking in museums, important hospitals, parks, art galleries, war memorials, and several notable pubs.
Heading from Manchester to Didsbury, the walk begins on Oxford Road at St. Peter’s Square, which commemorates the dreadful Peterloo Massacre which occurred on there in 1819, when the cavalry charged against a peaceful demonstration of up to 80,000 peaceful demonstrators, calling for political reforms. Up to 15 people died and as many as 700 were injured.
In the aftermath, after considerable political turbulence, many reforms were fought for ad gained. The Manchester Guardian newspaper came into being from reporting the incident. The poet Percy Blyshe Shelley wrote The Masks Of anarchy in support of the Chartists injured and killed there, and the event inspired many regional dialect poets, including Samuel Bamford and Ben Brierley.
From the Square, I walked through the entertainment district, where the Odeon cinema has now become a Waterstones bar, and the Dutch Pancake House has also sadly closed its doors for good. The Café Bars and hotels of Portland Street to one side, MacDonald’s and the Cornerhouse Art house cinema to the other lead the way to Oxford Road Railway station, with The Salisbury & Thirsty Scholar bars nestling under its Victorian bridge arches.
From the various eateries and bars, you come to the main Student campuses, once confusing with the Polytechnic and University on the same stretch of road, but now drawn together as one and the same campus as a Metropolitan University.
The BBC offices are on the left, if you are heading towards Didsbury. GMR, aka, radio Manchester, broadcast from here, and many regional TV shows also go on air from the BBC building.
The two-tiered Phoenix shopping precinct is next, with the Church of the Holy Name, the main university place of worship, close by.
The main university buildings loom up now, dominated by the Manchester Museum, with its tremendous natural history and Egyptology displays. A giant spider crab is on display in the window, looking like a creature from a Guy N Smith horror novel. A plaque reminds us that Ernest Rutherford first split the atom here.
Moving on, you come to Whitworth Park, and Hall, which has a gallery of modern art at its heart and frustrating opening hours. The park itself is quite small but pleasant to see. Opposite, are the Manchester Royal Infirmary and Eye Hospital facilities? The Infirmary was once in Piccadilly Gardens, but later rebuilt here, and serves as one of the city’s major healing centres.
The aroma of the spices of the Curry Mile at Rusholme hits your senses before you see the Mile, with its blaze of colourful window displays and probably a hundred competing Indian and Halal restaurants. The stretch probably doesn’t actually last for a mile, but it is a very impressive and unforgettable area and the restaurants are mostly good to visit.
Between Rusholme & Fallowfield, is Platt Fields, a marvellous park that often hosts events like picnics, and Victorian Tea parties? There’s a great boating lake here, and the Nico Ditch runs through its heart. The Ditch is a pre-Roman channel of unknown origin or purpose. Some think it was a defensive ditch, though its length (it has mostly been broken up by redevelopers outside of the park but once ran considerably further) makes it unlikely to have been defendable. Most likely it was a pathway, which could be used to move quickly to observe any approaching enemy and then be able to run quickly back to report on findings in preparation for defence.
The Park’s other highlight is the Shakespeare Garden, an ornate landscaped are, with mazes, and trestles of vines, which is be lived to contain every kind of flower, tree and grass mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays, poems and sonnets.
The road now leads into Fallowfield, where Manchester City’s football ground used to be at the nearby Main Road. The floodlights were once clearly visible across the area and traffic on match days used to be horrendous.
On the corner of Wilbraham Road stands the Alice In Wonderland themed twin bars The Cheshire Cat and Te Queen Of Hearts, once called The Jabberwock, and set in a former church building.
From Fallowfield, past the Owen’s College University halls of residence building known locally as The Toast-Rack due to the hoped design of its roof, I moved into Withington, at the top end of which Wilmslow Road branches left while Palatine Road runs to the right, with the roads going round the cancer research hospital at Christies. Many people’s lives have been made longer by the treatments received here, including lots of good friends and relatives. Given the nature of cancer, many have also sadly died so Christies always has an aura of dread and foreboding for many, but the work done here is truly wonderful.
Just before the hospital is The Red lion bar, where the landlord, a crown-green bowling British champion, has his own bowling green for punters to use when drinking there in the daytime.
From Withington, the road runs into Didsbury, and posh, often expensive houses rise to the fore, many with attics and basements. The Mersey Valley village and grew to prominence as one of the few places where the Mersey could easily be forded between Manchester and Stockport. Named after a Saxon chieftain, Dyidd, the hamlet saw much troop activity during the English Civil War and the later Jacobite rebellions.
The poet Laureate, Carol Ann Duffy is a resident of Didsbury.
After the main village with its distinctive antique and bookshops, lovely library and clock tower, the rod brings you to the Fielden Park College campus of the University and the Botanical Gardens covered in another walk report. Shortly afterwards, Wilmslow Road ends at the junction with Kingsway.
© Copyright. Arthur Chappell
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