Chorlton Water Park to Dunham Massey along the Bridgewater Canal

“We were lucky this year – summer fell on a bank holiday”.

(someone on Twitter)

I was going to write an elaborate blog post about how we cycled down to Dunham Massey (a large country park south of Manchester) where we had a picnic in the gardens and saw deer and baby rabbits, but all you need to know is this: Start at Chorlton Water Park, carry on to Sale Water Park, keep going until you’re at the point where it says “Overflow River Channel” on the map snippet below. You’ll be going under a bridge, follow the bend of the path just up onto the “bridge” which turns out to be the canal. Then follow along the canal for about an hour or so until you get to the exit off the tow path that’s closest to Dunham Massey (GPS/Google Maps is your friend). The surface is quite good in most places except for some bumpy bits when you get closer to Dunham Massey, but I managed well with my fairly thin hybrid wheels. If you get off at the right spot, you’ll go under a bridge again and end up almost outside the park. Say hi to the baby rabbits.

http://www.bridgewatercanal.co.uk/bww.html

[Photo by David Jones]

South Manchester to Macclesfield cycle, via Lyme Park and the Middlewood Way

Middlewood Way

Awesome weather = time to get on yer bikes! I’ve been meaning to visit Lyme Park for ages, so we used the opportunity last weekend and set off south towards the park. From our front door to the station in Macclesfield the ride took us about 6 hours, which included quite a few stops for map reading and route changes, and a couple of longer breaks for food and drinks. The route is mostly flat, with very few hills. Regarding the road surface, I managed well with my 7 gear hybrid bike with tyres that are on the thin side, although I did push on some paths that might be manageable with mountain bike tyres. We used a Cycle GM cycle map number 7 (Stockport).

We started our trip in South Manchester and followed the 62 cycle route down to Stockport. This part is a bit tricky and depending on where you’re coming from, it’s probably best to just read the map and aim for Vernon Park to get through Stockport city centre.

Our initial plan was to simply follow New Bridge Lane/Stockport Road/Osborne Street until we got to the 55 cycle route, but when we cycled past Vernon Park we decided to have a quick wander round the park (which is lovely, by the way!). We had a look at the park map and figured we could hit the 55 if we just went along the footpath by the River Goyt until we got to Jim Fearnley bridge which is marked on the cycle map. This plan turned out to be rather adventurous, as for the first stretch along the river we had to carry our bikes up and down steps, planks, and over a few fallen trees. However, once the initial climbing was done, the footpath along the river was wide and suitable for cycling, and the views were marvellous.

Once we got closer to the bridge, there were a few more steps up and down, but again nothing too bad. We went past a cricket club (which appeared to be in the middle of the woods, with no access roads…), crossed over the bridge (dodging the kids racing their bmx bikes down the steep hill) and turned left onto the path to finally get onto the 55. Just shortly after that the 55 leads to a main road, where we did not follow the 55 signs pointing to the left but took a short cut, turning right onto the main road which wasn’t too busy and had a off-road cycle path for a short bit as well. The road took us directly to the Railway pub in Marple, where we had a short pit stop before getting back onto our bikes.

The 55 cycle route starts again just next to the Railway pub, so from there on it was plain sailing/cycling, as we only had to follow the path and signposts down the Middlewood Way. We left the path when we got to the “Nelson Pit Visitor Centre” signs, crossed over the cycle path and the canal, down Lyme Road (a private road that is marked as a public footpath) which took us up a bumpy hill (more pushing) to the gates of Lyme Park. A little further up the hill (past some overheated sheep) the views were brilliant, as we could see all the way down to Manchester. We followed down the path to get onto a paved road, which took us directly to the Lyme Park car park. The hall and gardens close quite early, so we decided to save the visit for another day and have lunch/tea at the pond instead.

The White Nancy near Bollington

Originally, our plan was a round trip to Lyme Park and back up to Manchester, but since it was already quite late and the sun had worn us out, we decided to cycle on down to Macclesfield and take the train back instead. We left Lyme Park the same way we came and went back onto the Middlewood Way (55) cycle path. The ride to Macclesfield was easygoing, taking us past the White Nancy near Bollington and some rather interesting solutions for bridging height differences. The Middlewood Way seems to lead directly to Macclesfield train station, although I think we took the wrong turn somewhere and had to do a few right-left combos past a Tesco’s to get to the station. The trains to Manchester run every 15 to 20 minutes, and finding a train that would take our bikes wasn’t a problem.

The trip was absolutely brilliant, and there’s plenty to see – lush woodland, a river, wild flowers, old mills, a cricket club in the middle of the woods, quite a few pubs… Get on your bikes!

[Photos: Middlewood Way by Terry Wha. White Nancy by Alice Rosen]

Donkeys in Debdale

Does anyone remember b3ta.com? I mean, it still exists, but I just assume that, like myself, most people must have stopped hanging out there to make way for a new generation of kids who were into photoshopping puns and making Buffy swear. Oh man. I miss the noughties.

AnywhatdidIwanttosayagainway, b3ta.com once had a photoshopping misheard lyrics contest and one of the entries that really stuck with me (along with the aforementioned Buffy swear keyboard which taught me the correct – albeit Southern – pronunciation of the word cunt, the zebras in Kenya song, and badger badger badger badger mushroom mushroom… Oh man, I MISS the noughties) was an animation of the famous Beatles lyrics

“She’s got a chicken to ride, she’s got a chicken to ri-hi-hide, she’s got a chicken to ride, but she donkey”

Next thing I remember is going on a trip to Debdale Park and the nearby donkey sanctuary, cycling down the Fallowfield Loop (we all agreed on calling it the floop right?) and singing this song. The donkey sanctuary is located close to the reservoir and Debdale Park where we happened to gatecrash some local parade (that for some reason reminded me of The Prisoner). It currently houses around 20 or so rescue-donkeys (there’s a list with photos and names of all donkeys along a wall inside) and a couple of rabbits. If you ask nicely (or if you’re a kid) the volunteers even bring out a donkey for close up donkey viewing and maybe even a donkey nose rub. So you’ve got water at the reservoir, donkey noses, and dozens of blackberry bushes on the sides of the floop, which results in a pretty good day out. Go!

Kids and donkeys welcome.

European travels, part 3: Rome

The next stop on my travels around Europe this year was Rome. I took Latin and Italian in school and had been to (Northern) Italy countless times, but for some reason never made it all the way down south to Rome. Fortunately I had the chance to visit the city for a conference in June, and the trip turned out to be one of my favourites of 2012.

Despite being a large city, the central areas of Rome make it feel relatively small compared to other European capitals – considering there’s about as many people there as in Paris, seems a lot more walkable. Many of the streets, especially in the city centre,  are narrow and despite the heavy traffic it’s generally quite easy to get around by foot (which is good, since there’s only 2 metro lines anyway and bus services in unknown cities are always a bit of a mystery to me). I stayed at a room at the ‘Roma Vintage B&B’, an apartment which is conveniently located near one of the rare metro stops, and only 20 minutes walking distance away from the Colosseum. I shared the flat with 3 other guests and a fantastic coffee machine, which made up for the otherwise lacking breakfast – well, I suppose biscuits already count as breakfast in Italy.

The first day took me right to the Colosseum – it being a Wednesday afternoon in term time, there happened to be hardly any queues, and within a few minutes a was inside what is probably one of the most famous ancient buildings in the world, fully equipped with an iPod touch as video guide. I’m a sucker for audio guides, so I paid for one when I bought my ticket, only to find that I had accidentally paid for a video guide, which the rather flirtatious Italian at the audio guide booth was more than happy to hand over and explain to me. It turned out that the video guide was actually pretty awesome, with an interactive map and little movie snippets of Spartacus playing at the right locations in the Colosseum. I also met the official Colosseum Cat which had either fallen over or just fallen asleep in the sun.

After my trip to the Colosseum, I moved across to the Roman Forum (they do a combined ticket) and spent several hours wandering around gardens and ruins of old temples on a lovely sunny afternoon, which was pretty amazing. I’m wondering what today’s equivalents to the Roman Forum – a crammed area full of temples, statues, government buildings and memorials – would be. Probably something like the Printworks. Another thing to note in Rome is that there are drinking  water fountains everywhere (even on the side of roads – there was one right outside my apartment), so save your money for bottled water and just keep an eye out for a free refill.

I only just realised that I spent most of my time in Rome outdoors (well, expect for the conference days) without paying a lot, since a good number of the attractions are temples, squares, churches, or ruins thereof, which are often freely accessible. I also paid a visit to the “Torre Argentina”, a cat sanctuary located in – what else – the ruins of an old temple, had a wander round the Vatican, went up the Gianicolo hill, went on a open top bus tour down the Via Appia (organised by the conference), and visited countless churches from the past few centuries.

In the evenings, the focus shifted quickly from ancient ruins to the one other thing Italians are pretty good at: Food. Luckily we even had a native Roman tour guide – well, one of my fellow PhD students – who was happy to take us to some of the nicest pizzerias around. Having said that, they’re probably all nice. We gatecrashed a pizzeria opening where I had some of the most amazing pizzas I can remember eating (and I mentioned I’ve spent practically every summer of my childhood with my family in Northern Italy), went to another pizza place where we placed our orders on iPads, visited what is said to be the best tiramisu place in Rome – twice (man, that pistacchio tiramisu… THAT PISTACCHIO TIRAMISU!!!), and went to a family run trattoria (this time without our Italian speaking guide) where we communicated with the incredibly friendly host via gestures, pointing, random words, and a lot of laughter.

Am I glorifying Rome a bit? Maybe. It’s quite dirty. We are actually surprised to see how much rubbish there was around and how run down some areas look. The traffic is insane – in order to cross a street, you basically just walk and hope for the best while cars are swerving around you. Some people are rude and give you funny looks when they notice you’re foreign. But then again, I get funny looks all the time. But, well, I can live with that. Can I come back to Rome now, please?

European travels, part 2: Oslo

Part 2 in my “European Travels” series is the most expensive city I’ve ever been to: Oslo, the capital of Norway.

I travelled to Oslo in April 2012, as part of a spontaneous “let’s do something fun” trip with my best friend, which took me from Manchester to Berlin to Oslo and back to Manchester within less than a week. The first thing I noticed on my way to Oslo was the ubiquitous wifi. Have you ever made a FaceTime call on a plane, showing your friend who’s sat on his desk in Berlin a view of the landscape from 10,000 ft altitude? It’s possible with Norwegian Air – they offer free wifi on their flights, which is not particularly useful on short flights but definitely fun to play around with. Next stop was the shuttle train from the airport to Oslo city centre with more free wifi, and our hotel with, yes, more free wifi. We stayed at the Comfort Hotel XPress which was cheap and cheerful, and by cheap I mean “real cheap”, not just  “cheap for Oslo cheap”.

Oslo is a lovely little place and absolutely perfect for a short city trip. We went to quite a few places during our stay: The Viking Museum, which I really enjoyed, the Jewish Museum, the modern art gallery, and my favourite, the Vigeland Sculpture Park. Since there is so much water around Oslo, water transport is simply part of public transport, so we took a boat across the fjord to Bygdoy, a peninsula in the west of the city which houses several museums. Another nice part of Oslo is Grunerlokka, a trendy quarter with plenty of restaurants and bars, alongside some reasonably priced cheap eats.

I even managed to find some vegetarian food, which, given that it’s all about fish and seafood in Norway, was fairly difficult. HappyCow pointed me to “The Fragrance of the Heart” just behind the town hall, a nice little cafe that serves affordable vegetarian food. I can very much recommend the omelette and their quiche in combination with several pots of hot coffee!

If you’re visiting Oslo be prepared: It’s expensive. Not just a bit pricey, like, say, Paris or London, but everything is practically twice the price of what you would pay elsewhere. So if you’re not on a Norwegian income, eating out or having drinks hurts a little – after the first day we just stopped converting prices from Norwegian crowns into Euros, which made us a lot poorer, but also a lot happier.

European travels, part 1: Berlin & Potsdam

Here’s a confession: I am a carbon pig. Thanks to my travels, my carbon foot print this year is probably the size of a small Eastern European country. I am not happy with this, but I just can’t help the fact that a) travelling home to see my parents in Germany would take days by train, and b) flights are just so much cheaper than train fares. Anyway. This year, I have been extra busy with various conferences around Europe, which meant a) a lot of work, but also b) I got to see some amazing places! As my life in Manchester is currently restricted to writing a thesis, I’m going to post an n-part series (for n somewhere in the interval between 3 and 8) of my “European Travels”. Sit back and enjoy.

This year’s first trip took me to Berlin, to see some friends I hadn’t seen in over a year. We all know that Berlin is awesome, and I’ve written a 2-part post about it before, so I’ll just tell you about my trip to Potsdam this time. Potsdam is a small(ish) city just south-west of Berlin, about a 20-30 minute train journey from the main station. It’s a student town, but in German that’s usually a good thing, meaning green, loads of cyclists, culture, and hippie-ish people/places. Suits me. Potsdam is also known for various castles and lakes surrounding the town, including the very famous “Sanssouci” palace, which used to be the summer residence of the King of Prussia. I went to visit the town and Sanssouci on a rainy day, but despite some heavy showers I couldn’t help but spend quite some time in vast gardens surrounding the castle.

The palace itself (accessible via guided tour only) is nice, but… well, I’ve seen a lot of castles, and they all begin to look the same at some point. The gardens (free admission) and various little buildings (such as the “Dragon House” in the photo above) are definitely worth a visit though, and you should save some time to have a wander around the lovely city centre of Potsdam.

A few of my favourite things

So, I got caught up in a torrential rain storm on my way home last night, and, having screamed at the rain all the way while cycling down Oxford Road, I did the only reasonable thing and sought shelter at Big Hands. As I was trying to get a little dryer (by sitting on bench… I know, good story, right?) I started chatting to some Australian girls who had been in Manchester for a few weeks. I kept asking which places they had been to and ended up jotting down a list of my favourite spots to visit in Manchester. I couldn’t help but turn this into a blog post,* so there you go:

Central

Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI)

Oh, how I love this place. Whether it’s for a full tour round the different exhibitions (which can easily take you half a day), or just for a sneaky visit to the absolutely magnificent steam engine hall, MOSI is one of my staples to take visitors to. If you’re lucky, the steam engines are running, and you can spend quite some time just marvelling at these fantastic pieces of engineering, with their bolts and pistons moving to what seems like a perfectly choreographed little dance. Well, I do.

The Knott

This pub, just round the corner from MOSI, offers some of the tastiest pub grub in town. They used to have a grilled halloumi sandwich which was so good, it made me weep (I do get very emotional when eating nice veggie food); the Lancashire cheese and beet root pie (if that’s your kind of thing), however, has now become my new favourite.

Cloud 23

While I find Cloud 23 as a bar rather unattractive, it’s definitely worth a visit for the Afternoon Tea (or, aptly named, “High Tea”). Watch Manchester from above while eating cake – winner.

Affleck’s Palace

It seems every Mancunian has a story of how they used to hang out at Affleck’s in their teens. This indie shopping mall is a huge maze of little shops spanning several floors, ranging from second hand to fancy dress, posters and badges, hand-made jewellery, and general weird stuff. There’s a tasty little milk shake bar hidden in some corner on the 1st floor (maybe… I tend to lose my bearings as soon as I enter the building), a cafe on the top floor, and endless hours of fun.

The Star & Garter

When I first moved to Manchester, I spent many a Saturday night dancing at Smile, “Manchester’s longest running indie night” at the Star&Garter pub. While the novelty of drinking double g&ts and falling up and down the epic staircase has worn off, I still enjoy the odd night out at Smile, dancing to some excellent and un-embarrassing tunes. I’ve never made it to the Smiths night (which, apparently, attracts a fair number of quiffs), but it’s definitely on my “things to do before I leave Manchester” list.

Big Hands & The Temple

While I don’t usually spend too much time at pubs, Big Hands and The Temple are certainly two of my favourite places in Manchester. They’re gloriously dark and scruffy places with similarly scruffy patrons, brilliant jukeboxes (always fun to take non-Brits who are not yet used to the concept of jukeboxes) and overpriced beer.

The Cornerhouse

This art gallery/cafe/bar/restaurant/cinema “complex” is always a safe bet if you fancy art/coffee/drinks/food/indie and artsy movies. Having said that, the cosy little cinema screens are certainly my favourite, in particular because you’re ok to bring in your own snacks (unlike basically any other cinema). My go to combo for rainy days is a pack of biscuits and a cup of tea from the cafe to go with my movie.

Manchester Museum

I like to hang out in the live animals bit of Manchester Museum and watch the chameleon climbing around its little artificial rainforest, which is strangely meditative. Apart from that, it’s the place to go if you’re into dead animals (stuffed and skeletons alike). The bony dude on the picture is called Stan, by the way.

Surroundings

Fuel, Withington (south)

Fuel Fuel Fuel Fuel Fuel Fuel Fuel. I love Fuel. If it was legal to marry pubs, I’d have drunkenly proposed to Fuel a few times already. Mind you, I probably have. There’s veggie food, which always ends up being absolutely perfect, lovely staff, a brilliant quiz on Tuesdays (hosted by two Welsh brothers), open mic on Wednesdays, free gigs on weekends ranging from hip hop to hardcore and back, knitting groups, poetry, comedy, and what not. Oh and there’s no bouncer to yell at you when you stand outside with a drink, so on busy nights half of the fun is usually happening outside on the pavement.

Fletcher Moss Park, Didsbury (south)

My favourite park in Manchester. The Japanese garden is absolutely gorgeous in spring/summer.

Bury Market, Bury (north)

One of the biggest markets in Europe. Definitely worth the visit if you want to eat your way across the continents and perhaps buy some slippers.

Boggart Hole Clough, Blackley (north)

I came across this place very randomly when I got my first bike in Manchester and pointed at a map saying “let’s cycle to that place with the funny name“. This seemingly average park turns into what can only be described as a huge hole in the ground, with a little garden and a few benches at the bottom. We sat there eating our lunch while watching a small group in fancy dress filming what looked like an Alice in Wonderland themed scene. Weird-o-rama.

Islington Mill, Salford (north west)

There’s art, gigs, yoga, dancey nights, and more gigs. For some unknown reason, I hardly ever make it down that side of town, but if I weren’t such a lazy bugger, I’d definitely spend more time at the Mill. You should go. It’s good.

Now it’s your turn – What are your favourite (non-pub) places in Manchester?

* I actually woke up at 6am and couldn’t go back to sleep because I was so excited about the idea of writing this up as a blog post. And while getting out of  bed to write is certainly laudable, not sleeping off the drinks has started to take its toll on me over the course of this blog post being written and I only just about managed to finish it without curling up on the sofa. I guess that’s what they call “writer’s dilemma”.

[Images cc-licensed by no22aScraggyDog, marcus_and_sue, and Pimlico Badger because I lost 30GB worth of photos in a Time Machine backup accident.]

How I went from Manchester to Sicily and back – via Bury

Got me one of them fancy retro picture apps on my phone now, all retro stylee here!

Anyway.

One rainy Saturday morning we were working our way through our adventure time stack of leaflets, flyers and maps which we have accumulated over the past year or so, looking for something to do on this rather miserable day. For a fraction of a second, the thick blanket of clouds opened up just about enough to let through a single ray of sun light, lighting up the leaflet I was holding in my hand. That very same moment, the church bells next door started to ring their most beautiful song, and an elating, almost euphoric sensation pulsated through my body. When I looked down at the leaflet, which was still lit up by that single ray of light, I knew we had found our destination for the day: Bury Market.*

And it was… well, big. Very big. A paradise for anyone who really, really needs several pairs of slippers. And meat. Lots of meat. In the food bit, there were fewer fancy food stalls with cake (CAKE.), chocolates, deli stuff, the usual, than I had hoped for, and the few fruit and veg stalls weren’t too convincing. Which, of course, did not stop me from buying my way across the various food stalls at the market. But then, just as I was wandering through a remote corner of the market, trying to find something lunch-able, I had the second epiphany of the day. All of a sudden, I could hear a quiet, friendly voice behind me: “Please… eat this. If you eat here, you will be very, very lucky today!”

“Well, I suppose if the food already starts talking to me, it has to be a lucky day” I thought and turned around. Three faces smiled at me, framed by an array of food and little signs. “We only just opened today, you should really eat something we made… it will be your lucky day!” one of the faces said to me. I quickly scanned the food on offer, just to spot something familiar looking: A small, bread crumb covered ball – an “arancina”, a deep fried risotto ball, which I had just discovered on a trip to Rome the week before. As I am unable to say no when offered food, particularly not by friendly faces, I accepted the offer for food and quickly engaged in a little chat while waiting for the “arancina” to finish its bath in the deep fat fryer. Turned out the stall owners of “La Putia” were incredibly friendly Sicilians with a love and a lot of enthusiasm for food, who were more than happy to talk about Sicilian specialities, Italian food in general, ice cream and tiramisu in particular, and which Italian restaurant in Manchester was the best (apparently none is proper Italian despite the Italian chefs and owners, but San Carlo comes close). I walked away with a delicious little crunchy-creamy risotto and spinach ball and a phone number for home made tiramisu, which happily joined the blocks of cheese, whimberry pie and fancy cordial in my bag. A lucky day indeed!

* In case you’re wondering: the tram to Bury was on time, the tram back into Manchester was massively delayed. That’s 50% of my Metrolink journeys this month delayed, good work TfGM! Oh and, by the way, the new black bus stop signs are ridiculously difficult to spot. Who thought “hey, we’ll design some bus stop signs that blend in smoothly with the urban environment” was a good idea?

The Coast is Always Changing: A trip to Somerset & Devon

HUuuuauaaaaaaaahhhhRRrrrrrrrggggghhzzzzz.

That’s the sound of me stretching my hands, positioning my chair, neatly arranging that cup of tea in front of me, stretching again, trying to remember the URL of my blog, checking Twitter first, having another biscuit, and finally logging in to WordPress to write… a blog post! It’s been a while, bah bah bah, the usual. But hey, I’ve brought something back from the many trips I made in the past couple of months: Stories. And piktchas. That’s what you’re here for, right?

Now, let’s start in non-chronological order with my short visit darn sarf. We went to the wonderful Butlin’s holiday park in Minehead for the Nightmare Before Christmas ATP (curated by Les Savy Fav, which I ended up missing twice in one day, Battles, and Caribou, just in case you’re wondering) at the beginning of December, and, being the ueber nerds we are, somehow did not spend the  whole weekend getting drunk and chasing seagulls (and by that I mean making out with Dutch girls) like my German friends. In fact, we got up early every morning and went on excursions around Somerset and Devon to see some more of the South than just the inside of the chain restaurant and arcade games lined Butlins pavilion.

On the first day, we tried to explore the rather magnificent looking Dunster Castle near Minehead, only to find that it is closed to the public over the winter months (it’s okay, I only cried a little). A short walk around the ‘medieval’ (for some meaning of medieval) village did not bring up any more interesting sights and so we returned just in time to watch the first set of Battles.

The next day, we stretched a little further and simply drove as far west as we could, finally landing in Lynton/Lynmouth on the north coast of Devon. As expected, the town had already gone into winter hibernation – except for the big and cold Arts & Craft centre, where we interrupted the reading pleasures of a lady in a thick winter coat. Back outside in the pouring rain, we followed signs to the Cliff Railway, just out of curiosity. Much to our surprise* the cafe at the top of the cliff was open for business, and we did our best to support the local economy by purchasing coffee and stale apricot cake.

And this was my breathtaking account of a spectacular holiday. The highlight of the weekend was when I got a text of my ex-housemate, who kindly agreed to look after the rabbit: I had dropped the wrong set of keys into his letterbox, leaving the rabbit locked into our flat for the entire weekend with quickly dwindling supplies of hay and water in his cage. Images of the rabbit doing this while trying to survive on a diet of newspaper cropped up in my head. Thanks to our landlord however, the situation was quickly resolved, the ex-housemate got into the flat to feed the rabbit, and all three of them (including the rabbit) just sigh and roll their eyes a little bit whenever my name is mentioned.

* I must apologise for the number of clichés I’ve used in this blog post. This is what happens when you only write scientific papers for months. You lose all ability to communicate and default to clichéd language. Just like all those scientists that write for the Daily Mail. Q.E.D.

Slow, Slowly, Sloes*: Sloe picking in Chorlton

First things first: You want sloes? Go and get sloes! Check out my carefully drawn map of Chorlton Water Park (jelly-bean-shaped area marks the spot) and go sloe picking while they’re still there.

We’ve been wondering for a while where to find sloes from in and around Manchester. Due to lack of a vehicle, the tip-off about the sloe bushes at junction 19 of the M60 wasn’t exactly helpful. We were just about to head down to Stockport and wander around the parks there, looking for prickly bushes, as the mighty @robotswanking received a Twitter message from sloe expert Cormac. Plans were changed quickly and mission: sloes headed south-west instead, to Chorlton Water Park.

Just by accident (we did actually get lost on the way to the orchard, taking a right turn after the bridge rather than just heading straight on) we wandered down a small path in a field that seemed completely overlooked by the many visitors. And there it was: a sloe bush. Not very big, not many fruit, but it was what we were looking for. As we had picked what would have been enough for at least a glass full of sloe gin, we moved on further down the path – and discovered what can only be described as (drum roll) sloe valley (ta-dah!). Dozens of sloe bushes, easily accessible by the side of the path, just waiting to be picked. As we got closer to the gate that was leading back to the main path, the sloes got bigger and bigger, until we finally found one bush that kept us busy for almost an hour.

We returned home with scratched hands, muddy boots, black dirt under our nails and a small blue Ikea bag filled to the brim with big round sloes. Several hours of pricking and several bottles of booze later, we had these beauties in our kitchen:

So – if you fancy picking some sloes around South Manchester, Chorlton Water Park is the place to go! Don’t worry, there’s enough for everyone. Just make sure you’re careful and don’t trample down everything, yes?

* And I do apologize to Liam Frost for the sloe-pun in the title.