Sunday, 15 September 2019

"Mancunium" "Cottonopolis", Manchester.

5th September 2019

According to Wikipedia, "Manchester is the third-most visited city in the UK, after London and Edinburgh. It is notable for its architecture, culture, musical exports, media links, scientific and engineering output, social impact, sports clubs and transport connections. Manchester Liverpool Road railway station was the world's first inter-city passenger railway station; scientists first split the atom, developed the stored-program computer and produced graphene in the city." Sounded like a good place for a long weekend away then. I've done the first and second.

After a long journey on a Cross Country Trains Voyager (which was only 36 minutes late into Manchester Piccadilly) and a slightly confused walk from the station (exits on different levels, should have come out the lower one on Fairfield St., I later worked out) I found the Pendulum Hotel and booked in. This is part of the University & Conference Centre, close to the city centre and stations, was cheaper than a Premier Inn, and much nicer. The view from my room was pretty much what you'd expect in a city centre hotel (see above). The staff (and the breakfast) made up for the lack of view. Oh, and the giant pendulum swinging back and forth in the middle.

First evening explore on foot around the city centre. They're right, there's a lot of architecture, from ornate red Victorian to shiny steel and glass 21st century. Plenty of history evident on the streets.

Having watched many of Martin Zero's Youtube videos exploring Manchester (it was one of the things that influenced my decision to go there) I found I kept recognizing random bits of the city, particularly around the River Medlock 😃

I also took a ride on a Metrolink Tram out to Media City where amongst the shiny new studio buildings and trendy bars and restaurants they have something that claims to be the Blue Peter Garden.

How can this be true? The real Blue Peter garden for those of us of a certain age will always be the one in London, famously not vandalized by Les Ferdinand and Dennis Wise 😈


Back in the city centre I was finding Manchester an easy place to get lost in. It took a couple of days to get my bearings. But  I found another place I recognized from a Martin Zero video, The Lass O' Gowrie pub in Charles Street.

A splendid looking Victorian glazed tile pub with a good selection of decent ales (and cheap for a city centre as well) and only a short walk from the hotel. I had found my temporary "local" for the duration of my stay.

Also this.

I've seen some interesting and unusual statues in cities but...



Thursday, 12 September 2019

Along the riverbank - Brentford

1st September 2019

After visiting Gunnersbury Park I walked down to Kew Bridge and bought a picnic lunch, sat and ate it by the river at Strand-on-the-Green, which would be a much nicer spot if the litter bins were ever emptied and the piles of broken glass bottles removed. I suspect this isn't a place you'd want to hang around at night.

As it was still a fine afternoon I decided to walk along the north bank of the Thames, following the Thames Path towards Brentford to see how far I'd get.

This section of the Thames Path mostly follows the riverbank, between the many and varied moored houseboats and new blocks of riverside apartments. 

Some of the houseboats are quite ramshackle though no doubt these permanent moorings are not inexpensive. Some, particularly those nearer Kew Bridge, have high fences on the landward side with gates and letterboxes, so the path runs through an alleyway.

Further along the moorings are more open and there are a variety of types of boat - mostly converted from commercial cargo barges. There are other tyoes of craft moored here too.

At Waterman's Park, a narrow strip of green space between the river and the A315 is the sad sight of the wreck of the 1910 Harbour tug Deepwater.

Until 2016 this was lived in as a houseboat until it and two other boats were taken into the possession of the local authority as having been abandoned by their owner. Shortly afterwards the Deepwater was damaged, allegedly by council workers, and began to sink. In spite of efforts by other local boat owners to refloat her she is now a sunken wreck. The council and local boat owners were involved in a  long dispute over plans to evict the existing boats and build a multi-million pound marina, so you can draw your own conclusions as to why Deepwater was allowed to sink.

Since then the council have got their way and the few boats and wrecks remaining are fenced off from the land, the former riverside community has been evicted, and the gentrification of this stretch of Thames riverside is set to go ahead.

No doubt the council's plans will cost a multiple of their projected costs and take many years of disruption before they are finally completed, after which another part of London's riverside will have been reduced to bland, sanitised conformity.



Further along the path diverts away from the river to the High Street and then back again to the river opposite John's Boat Works on Lot's Ait where there are many barges moored and being worked on.

This part of the walk at least has a bit more character and becomes a bit more "industrial". Then as we come to the mouth of the River Brent, from which Brentford takes its name, there are a number of moorings at Point Wharf Lane alongside blocks of new apartments.



At Brentford Dock the path again turns away from the river in front of MSO Marine's large boatyard and heads back to Brentford High Street.

Time was getting on so I turned left and walked up the High Street to find a bus (alas not the Routemaster that was running as part of Brentford Festival) to get me back to Osterley where I'd left the car.
Brentford High Street was until the building of the Great West Road in the 1920s the main road to the west from London and still contains a number of historic buildings, including quite a few former coaching inns.

Crossing over the River Brent again via the bridge in the High Street I was reminded that on a childhood walk with my Grandad he'd pointed out the area on the left bank looking downstream where he aid my Gran had been born, though even then the area had been redeveloped so the house no longer existed and since then it has been much altered again. 

After that little reminder of family ties to this area I crossed the road and caught a bus to Boston Manor Station and then a tube to Osterley.


Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Gunnersbury Park

1st September 2019

Gunnersbury Park lies in the London Borough of Hounslow, only about 5 miles from where I was born but I'd never been there (at least not as far as I remember) so it was a good place for a random Sunday afternoon excursion.

The house and grounds were purchased for the nation from the Rothschild family, it was opened to the public by Neville Chamberlain, then Minister of Health and later appeaser of right-wing dictators, on 21 May 1926. The park is currently jointly managed by Hounslow and Ealing borough councils.

I'd parked at Osterley and got the tube to Acton Town, having intended to go into town afterwards but in the event didn't do so. From Acton Town it's only a 10 minute walk to the museum and cafe at the mansion in Gunnersbury Park.

The museum is located in the larger of the two mansions, which were built at the beginning of the 19th century, replacing the original 1663 Paladian mansion, Gunnersbury House. The large mansion becoming Gunnersbury Park and the small mansion Gunnersbury House.
In 1835, the merchant and financier Nathan Mayer Rothschild purchased the Large Mansion and park shortly before he died. The Small Mansion and its grounds were acquired in 1889 by the Rothschilds, reuniting the original estate. The Rothschilds extended Gunnersbury further, acquiring most of the Old Brentford Common Field to the west, as well as land to the north.

Downstairs the drawing room, long gallery, and dining room have been restored to how they were when the Rothschilds lived, schemed, and entertained in them whilst finacing the British gonvernment's wars and the expansion of the British Empire, and investing in  various industries across the globe. 

The historic kitchen was closed while I was there although the Butler's Pantry was open for a comparison of conditions 'above' and 'below' stairs. 

Other publicly accessible rooms in the house are used as galleries to showcase an extensive and varied collection of objects connected to the local area and which I found very interesting, also being connected to the local area. (Despite having moved away when I was 8 if asked where I'm from I still say "Heston originally".)

I particularly liked the second floor Industry Gallery with it's collection of goods and artefacts from the many companies that established factories in the 1920s and 1930s along the "Golden Mile" of the Great West Road to the north of Brentford.

There are also galleries devoted to People and Place, Home, Toys and Games, and Entertainment. All linked to the local area - the Leisure Gallery includes a video installation covering the contribution of Ealing Studios and other nearby locations to Film and TV and includes some films I never knew had been partially made "round here".

In the middle of the house is the double-height Skylight Gallery which contains part of the Lucozade sign that I remember used to be on the side of the factory and visible from the M4 motorway. The sign was an example of “kinetic sculpture” in advertising, it lit up to make the Lucozade appear to pour from the bottle to the glass. It was installed in 1954, on the side of what was then known as the “Lucozade Annex” which was knocked down in 2004. The sign originally said "Lucozade aids recovery" but this was changed in the 1980s to "Lucozade replaces lost energy" as the powers that be decided it might be offensive to sufferers from HIV.

Back outside I decided to head south across the 200 acre park but that plan was thwarted as much of the centre is cordoned off by barriers where a huge new outdoor sports facility is being built. So instead I had to make my way around the edge of the park, passing the small mansion (also behind barriers) and Priness Amelia's Bath House. Princess Amelia was the favourite daughter of George II. Plans for her to marry Frederic (who later became Frederic the Great of Prussia) had come to nothing, and when her father died, Amelia lost her apartments at St James's Palace. She took a house in Hanover Square and used Gunnersbury House (the original one not the present one) and estate as a country summer retreat. It was she who landscaped the park in the 18th-century landscape style and made Gunnersbury famous with her parties and political intrigues.

I walked down to the southern tip of the park past the Potomac Lake (private fishing and almost unseen behind its spiked railings and surrounding trees) and exited into Lionel Road North, passed under the M4 on its concrete flyover and continued down to the River Thames at Kew Bridge where I got refreshments and then followed the north bank along the Thames Path to Brentford. But that's (possibly) a subject for a separate blog entry.

Until then here's a Flickr Album of photographs from Gunnersbury Park.



Gunnersbury Park