Manchester - A Bee in the City


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August 24th 2018
Published: August 31st 2018
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This morning we drove over to Ashton (-under-Lyne) in the rain. We parked the car in the park and ride car park and then just sat wondering how we were going to get to the tram stop without getting soaked because it was absolutely chucking it down by this stage. So we sat ... and we sat ... and we even contemplated giving up on going into Manchester and returning to Stalybridge! Fortunately the rain let up and we were able to make our way across to the tram stop ... just in time to see a tram arrive and depart without us. The next tram was due in 10 minutes so that gave us plenty of time to work out how to buy our travel cards from the machine. At least here we can buy a daily travel card at any tram stop!

About 30 minutes later we were alighting from the tram at Piccadilly Gardens and almost straight away we were on the trail of the bees. Bee in the City is a Wild in Art event taking place in the City of Manchester this summer. The bee is a heraldic symbol of Manchester dating back to the Industrial Revolution when Manchester was a hive of activity producing huge quantities of cotton and textiles in its newfangled cotton mills. The event features 101 supersized bees painted by artists and members of community groups and 19 ‘nests’ of little bees clustered in museums, galleries and shops. We saw but a few!

As we walked to the Arndale Centre we photographed our first super-sized Bee: ‘Rutherford, Turing and Beyond’. Then, as we entered Arndale, I was captivated by the display of vintage sewing machines in the All Saints store windows. Wow, so many old sewing machines stacked row upon row looked really cool. While we were inside the Arndale Centre we saw our first cluster of little Bees that have been created as part of the Bee in the City Learning Programme. Coming out of the Arndale Centre we found ‘Penny Pendo-bee-no’ in Exchange Square and ‘Mr Bee’nn’ in Cathedral Gardens.

This brought us to the doorstep of Manchester Cathedral. Although we have visited Manchester many times over the years we have never set foot inside the Cathedral so today we made our way inside where we found another cluster of little Bees and, of course, some beautiful stained glass windows and a magnificent pipe organ. We started chatting to a couple of volunteers who realised pretty quickly that we were not locals.

When it was established that we hailed from Australia one of the volunteers asked if we knew that there are kangaroos inside Manchester Cathedral. No, we didn’t. Come with me and I’ll show you. She led us to the Cathedra (Bishop’s seat) explaining that Manchester’s third Bishop (James Moorhouse, enthroned 1886) came to that post after being the Bishop of Melbourne between 1877-1886. Hence the carving on his Cathedra included kangaroos because of his antipodean connection.

Outside the Cathedral we found ‘The Bee of Hope, Community and Respect’ as we wandered towards the Old Wellington Inn, a half-timbered pub in Shambles Square. Built in 1552 it is the oldest building of its kind in Manchester. Like Cooks’ Cottage, the Old Wellington Inn no longer stands where it was originally built. It hasn’t moved across the world like Cooks’ Cottage, but it was underpinned with a concrete raft and raised by 1.4 metres in the 1970s to fit in with the development of the Arndale Centre. After the 1996 Manchester bombing it moved again, this time 300 metres towards the Cathedral when the area was being rebuilt and redeveloped.

We decided to have our lunch at the Old Wellington and opted for one of their share plates, a box baked camembert. This consisted of a whole baked camembert topped with caramelised onions and served with chutney, toasted sourdough and crisp celery. It was good, sort of a like a deconstructed cheese toastie?!

Gosh, lunchtime had been and gone and we’d only seen four of 101 Bees! We tried to pick up the pace a bit, but found ourselves in a part of Manchester we’d not explored before so we kept being distracted by things other than the Bees.

We made our way down New Cathedral Street where we found ‘Bee a Rainbow’ and then into St Ann’s Square to photograph ‘The Homing Bee’ and ‘Colourful Manchester Skyline Bee’. With another downpour threatening we ventured into St Ann’s Church. Consecrated in 1712 the church is named after St Anne, but also pays tribute to the patron of the church, Lady Ann Bland. The tower of the church marks the centre of the city and surveyors use it as a platform from which to measure distances to other locations.

During the next break in the weather we headed around the back of St Ann’s and found ‘USBee’. Continuing along Deansgate we arrived out the front of what appeared to be another church where ‘Rocket, the Steam (punk) Bee’ and ‘Bee-vina McColl’ sat in Spinningfields Square.

We discovered that what we thought was a church was, in fact, the John Rylands Library. Such an impressive looking building was deserving of more than a passing glance so we made our way through the modern foyer and into the late-Victorian neo-Gothic structure that was opened as a library in 1900. The library was founded by Enriqueta Augustina Rylands in memory of her husband John Rylands. John Rylands was an entrepreneur and philanthropist who owned the largest textile manufacturing concern in the UK and became Manchester’s first multi-millionaire.

In the exhibition gallery we were lucky to catch ‘The Alchemy of Colour’ a very interesting exhibition detailing the strange and curious, and often poisonous, recipes that artists used to create the vivid colours they used in illuminated manuscripts and such. Unfortunately no photographs were allowed in the exhibition gallery for copyright reasons.

With the afternoon running out we tracked down a few more Bees in the Spinningfields neighbourhood of Manchester down near the River Irwell: ‘Pablo Bee-Casso’, ‘A Worker Bee’s Work is Never Done’ and ‘Love’. We’re not sure if we’ve never been in this part of Manchester before or if we just don’t recognise it anymore? The area has seen significant rejuvenation in recent years and is now home to many restaurants and bars. We thought it was quite like Southbank in Melbourne.

Making our way back towards the tram stop at Piccadilly Gardens we passed the Town Hall. This is yet another impressive Mancunian building that we don’t recall from earlier forays into Manchester. A six year project started this year to restore the Town Hall so we found it surrounded with temporary fencing. This made it difficult to take photos of the whole building so we settled for some photos of the towers and spires of its roofline. Our final Bee ‘This is Manchester’ was installed in Albert Square in front of the Town Hall.

We had an uneventful ride back to Ashton on Metrolink. It was certainly much cheaper for us to use public transport today as it would have cost us a small fortune to bring the car into the city. We can see why Kath and Albert find it the best way to go into the city if they need to travel in to Manchester. We also managed to stay dry on what is certainly the worst day’s weather we have had during our three weeks in the UK.

Tonight Colin and Lucy came up to join us for cards. It’s always more challenging to play Jo with six people. It can get very, very competitive! Eventually Bernie managed to win Jo, but only very narrowly from Albert. I had a miraculous win at Blobs and then Albert cleaned up on our second game of blobs.



Steps: 14,467 (10.75 kms


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Rocket, the Steam (punk) BeeRocket, the Steam (punk) Bee
Rocket, the Steam (punk) Bee

From Spinningfields Square looking towards John Rylands Library
Manchester Town HallManchester Town Hall
Manchester Town Hall

Victorian, Neo-gothic architecture at its best


31st August 2018

Travel Agency - Triaz
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