A Little Adventure In Manchester And Salford

Today was daddy-daughter day. Or, to put it another way, it was can-you-take-the-baby-out-I-need-to-get-some-stuff-done day. So, while Mrs J began work on this year's Christmas cakes, I put G into her pram and pushed her out into Manchester, without much idea of where I was going to take her.

The weather was ok so I decided to go to the Christmas market in Albert Square. I've got no idea why these Christmas markets are always 'German' markets (unless it's got something to do with Prince Albert, that is). Whatever the reason, whenever I've been in previous years I've been hard-pressed to find any German people at all, amidst all the local stallholders saying things like "mug o' Gloo-vine is it love?" in thick Manchester accents. To my surprise, the girl who served me the mug of mulled wine in the picture above did appear to actually be German, although I'm no good with accents so she might just as easily have been from Bury.

I gave G a bottle (of milk, not mulled wine) while we were at the market then walked her around town for a bit. I thought about taking her back home then but she'd dozed off and. as I looked up and saw Victoria Station in front of me, I thought it might be fun to take G for her first trip back to her home city of Salford since she was born. And so, her first-ever train journey was Victoria to Salford Crescent. Not exactly the Trans-Siberian Railway, but long enough for me because it was hot on the train and that made her restless. I managed to settle her back down though and after a short walk through the Salford University campus we reached here.

Peel Park is the oldest park in the world. Or at least it might be. There's some doubt about it as well as a variety of other contenders, but frankly it sounds better to just gloss over all that and let Salford have its bit of glory. It was opened in 1846, after various civic leaders became concerned about all the pollution and disease in industrial Salford and Manchester. If Central Park is the 'lungs' of New York then I suppose Peel Park was intended to be exactly that for Salford. Slowly ambling through all the fallen leaves (which crackled satisfyingly under the wheels of the pram) I came across this.

That mark is 8'6'' above the ground. What's even more remarkable about it is that, looking around, I couldn't actually see where the River Irwell was, which proves it must have been an incredible flood. Amazingly, only three people died. Obviously at this point I had to go and find the river, which didn't take all that long. I pushed G across a green bridge but, as you can see, she remained impassive.

I knew that for part of its route the Irwell serves as the boundary between Manchester and Salford, just like the Tyne separates Newcastle and Gateshead. So I briefly wondered whether I was already back in Manchester. But the wheelie bins outside the nearby houses all had Salford City Council printed on them, so I was a bit confused. Then I spotted another bridge, and pushed G across that one too.

This bridge was a little bit grander than the other one. Presumably Alderman S Rudman JP (he obviously thought it was cool to tell people he was a magistrate) made sure that if it was going to have a plaque with his name on it, it had better look good. Anyway, this bridge was also over the Irwell, which left me even more confused because I'd only gone over the Irwell about half a mile previously and hadn't changed direction. I definitely still wasn't in Manchester though, as this sign suggested.

Seeing as I was obviously getting closer and couldn't remember exactly where the station was I thought I may as well just walk back home, and headed off in the general direction of Manchester. On the way we crossed the Irwell for the third time, at the point I was already familiar with, near the top of Deansgate and close to Victoria Station. That's the bit of the Irwell which separates Manchester and Salford, but it only acts as the border for a relatively short distance. It turns out that the Irwell doubles back on itself not once but twice as it flows through Salford, which explains all of those bridges. If I'm going to educate G all about her home city when she grows up, I think I'd better brush up on the geography myself first.