Some positive ideas to make the city better when this is all over

Walking more, cycling more is an international health and well-being aspiration. But for individuals, rather than policy makers, these activities often remain a dream, a hope, a lost New Year’s Resolution. Present circumstances will doubtless require a global reprogramming in many areas of life but, where practical, it’s best to hold on to as much normality as possible, even amongst local authorities. 

Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, has allocated £160 million to the Mayor’s Cycling and Walking Challenge Fund

So it’s good the usual Manchester Council business has been moving forward with positive ideas. The Northern and Eastern Gateway walking and cycling scheme is part of that. This may help open up areas that need investment while revealing to many Mancunians, and adopted Mancs, areas of the city that have eluded them.

Over the last few years I have loved conducting tours up the Irk Valley north of Victoria Station. It’s surprisingly green up there with some spectacular industrial relics and a contemporary and exemplary industrial business in HMG paints. The whole area is a rich mix of epic history and huge potential. 

2020 03 18 North Manchester Bike And Cycle Route
The route across the inner northern and eastern areas

This interesting valley will be crossed by the new route which is intended ‘to make walking and cycling in the north and east of the city a safer and more enjoyable experience for everyone.’

The map above shows the route which will provide a ‘cycling and walking route, linking the areas to the north and east of the city – Ancoats, New Islington, New Cross, New Town, Redbank and the Green Quarter – to each other and the city centre.’ 

Cotton Field Wharf New Islington Marina
Cotton Fields Park, New Islington

The scheme is part of a Greater Manchester-wide programme in which Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, has allocated £160 million to the Mayor’s Cycling and Walking Challenge Fund. This money ultimately comes from the UK government’s Transforming Cities Fund.

In some ways the route chosen is an odd one because it seems to begin and end in places that aren’t natural start and finish points. That said people using the route for leisure could spend most of the day enjoying its potential. 

17 02 2019 Irk Tour View
View into the city centre from the Irk Valley

Starting from the north western end people could visit the refurbished and fascinating Jewish Museum (it reopens in 2021), cross down to the River Irk, the boundary between Cheetham Hill and Collyhurst. Union Bridge here is a lovely listed structure  and over 200 years old. It is presently disgracefully treated by the council, this route will rescue it.

Then the new trail will skirt the park in Angel Meadow, a charming green space with a chilling past, splendidly described on the signboards written by the Friends of Angel Meadow. Then it’s up to Rochdale Road, maybe with a thirst quenching stop in the glorious Marble Arch pub (once it reopens) for superb ales and a really good kitchen for the hungry.

As we move south east between Rochdale Road and Oldham Road and beyond, there will be lots of food and drink on offer when the good times roll round again: Chinese at the Glamorous Restaurant (above the giant Asian supermarket - part of the Wing Yip group), Sushi Marvel on Oldham Road, and into the Cutting Room Square, Ancoats - one of the UK’s more exciting food and drink scenes of the past 12 months. (On a walk or cycle along this route, the £145 tasting menu at Michelin-starred Mana *might* be a bit much.)  

2019 12 03 Halle St Peters Oglesby Centre Exterior 1
Halle St Peter's and Cutting Room Square

Close by is one of Confidentials' favourite new and old combo buildings at Halle St Peters. The trail then passes the superb nineteenth century mills of Ancoats before leaping the Rochdale Canal into New Islington, finishing close to the eponymous Metrolink Station. En route there will be drink to be had at Cask and bread and sandwiches at Pollen amongst interesting, if variable, architecture and a newish park called Cotton Fields. There are waterways everywhere. 

If this new route can be delivered with, as the brief says, physical barriers for cycling and walking removed then it will be a happy result, and the sort of thing modern cities should be planning. 

The more we get of these routes, the fewer walking and cycling New Year’s resolutions will be broken.

There is a consultation period for the Northern and Eastern Gateway, until 30th April, for you to have your say. You can click here to have your say.