Trail Blazers

Posted by editor on July 20, 2010 under Community, Environment

Surrounded by wildflower meadows, kingfishers and tawny owls, you’d never guess you were in Gorton. But, as Len Grant reports, there’s a whole lot to discover beyond Tesco and the busy Hyde Road.

Simon and Vicky on part of the Gorton Heritage Trail: "It celebrates local heritage amongst outstanding wildlife habitats."

Simon hasn’t always lived in Gorton. In fact, when he moved here from Whalley Range in south Manchester just three years ago he admits he had negative preconceptions about the place. “I was pleasantly surprised when I saw this house,” he says. “But it was the location that really sold it for me: the views and the amazing habitats right on the doorstep.”

Simon’s small cottage is part of a conservation area with some older houses nearby dating back to the Gorton Hall estate. He didn’t realise until he’d moved in that his new home was right next to the Gorton Heritage Trail. “One of the neighbours gave me a leaflet, and that was the first I’d heard of it.”

The Trail was established 10 years earlier in 1997, inspired by local councillor and one time Lord Mayor of Manchester, James Ashley. It was Ashley and a group of local people he brought together who first recognised the potential of celebrating local heritage within a trail that took in some outstanding wildlife habitats. The trail includes Richard Peacock’s Mausoleum (he of Beyer Peacock fame), the ‘Dissenters Graveyard’ at Brookfield Church, an old salt road and lots of clues to an old tannery.

With his fiancée, Vicky Evans, Simon joined in with the group’s efforts to maintain the trail. “As ecologists we are both interested in practical conservation work – we help with the Wildlife Trust as well – and we thought we could lend a hand with some of the hard work.” Content with weeding, litter picking and clearing paths, he wasn’t so keen at first on joining the organising committee.

“James Ashley had died a year or so before I moved here and the committee was becoming gradually disillusioned. They’d put in a massive effort over the first few years but needed new blood to take things forward. And so, despite paperwork not being a strong point, I reluctantly agreed to come on board.”

The timing was good, however. In early 2009 the Environment Team at New East Manchester contacted the group and asked how they could help.

“They asked how the trail was being used,” recalls Simon, “and how it could be developed further as a community asset. Groundwork was then commissioned to conduct a consultation which lasted several months.”

Exhibitions were set up locally in the library and the indoor market; there were door-to-door questionnaires; and walkers were stopped on the footpaths and quizzed about their use of the trail. “Groundwork produced a really detailed masterplan which captured everyone’s comments and ideas and set out funding opportunities and a whole list of medium and long-term goals.

“It’s really invigorated the committee,” enthuses Simon. “Since then we’ve won funding for tools and safety equipment for our clean-up days and new computer equipment for all our admin.”

But there’s a lot to do. “One of the long-term goals is to have a pedestrian crossing at the point where the footpath dissects the busy Hyde Road. That’s quite crucial to the future of the trail. New East Manchester are also applying for an ‘Access to Nature’ grant on our behalf so we could afford a part-time development worker. Yes, the last 18 months have been good, which has been down to the help we’ve had from New East Manchester.

“If I were able to see into the future I’d see the trail being used by lots more local people, being well sign-posted and being accessible to local schools and youth groups for things like pond-dipping and bug hunts. It’d be great!”

See the Gorton Heritage Trail website here

Gorton 100 Book (and more)

Posted by editor on March 18, 2010 under Community

Few in east Manchester will have missed the Gorton 100 celebrations last year when the whole community came together for a series of events to mark Gorton becoming a part of the City of Manchester…

… or, as Gortonians say, the City of Manchester becoming part of Gorton! Now there is a new book that records the 12 months of passion and pride as well as some of the achievements of the last 100 years.

Out on the 27th March: the Gorton 100 celebration book

Out on the 27th March: the Gorton 100 celebration book

The book – Gorton 100: Best Viewed from Within – is an 80-page pictorial account of the area’s historical features such as Belle Vue, Crossley Motors and Beyer Peacock as well as capturing the people of Gorton at play during the centenary celebrations.

Some highlights include images of the K1 steam engine, the first Beyer-Garratt produced by Bayer Peacock, being transported from the Museum of Science and Industry to its birthplace in Gorton… and then cheered by former employees of the engine works. Brilliant.

Childhood recollections have also been recorded. This is from Maria Koudellas as she recalls her wartime evacuation to Macclesfield. “A hot meal waited for us and for afters was the most delicious creamy rice pudding I have ever tasted. ‘Made from a beaten fresh egg,’ said Mrs Johnson. Then it was bath and bed, what bliss. Coming from a small two-up, two-down in West Gorton, no bathroom, two boys and two girls sleeping in the same bedroom, I thought I was in heaven.”

The book will be launched on 27th March at Gorton Market from 12-2pm with a host of free entertainment including Manchester’s own exciting, colourful band of drummers and dancers, Bloco Novo, the multi-skilled street entertainers, Curious Eyebrow, and the foot-stomping sounds of Dr Butler’s Hatstand Medicine Band.

Also available, at £5, by calling Gorton 100 committee member Rose Cusack on 0161 231 3532.

The book, and many of the events, was made possible by generous funding from many organisations including the Heritage Lottery Fund, New East Manchester and Manchester City Football Club.

And here’s a ‘shout-out’ for anyone who lives, works, studies (or just visits) Gorton…

The ‘Gorton Heart’ Facebook group is at and is for all to share local and family history; highlight educational achievements and opportunities; showcase Gorton arts – from Gorton Visual Arts and Gorton Voice to music, dance and literature. Find out what’s on at the cinema or when the local pub quiz nights or karaoke evenings are taking place and explore local opportunities for training and personal development.

The Facebook group is an opportunity to promote any local event to the whole community.

Inspirational Gorton

Posted by editor on March 3, 2010 under Business, training and employment, Community, Education and health

Len Grant reports back from the ‘Gorton People Stronger Together’ consultation day last weekend.

I feel I’m witnessing the beginning of something special. Today Gorton people are coming together to celebrate the start of a motivational programme for young people and their families. I arrive at the indoor market in time to see dozens of young people being issued with clipboards and I LOVE GORTON T-shirts before being briefed

Clipboards at the ready

Clipboards at the ready

by Ruth Ibegbuna from Urbis, the programme co-ordinator for the ‘Gorton People Stronger Together’ programme. “Tell people about the money,” she says to volunteers, “and ask them what they’d like us to spend it on. Then invite them along to the Monastery for an afternoon of fun and entertainment.” (Not to mention the free food supplied by the Gorton Market traders).

The volunteers are split into teams, each given an area to canvas in the next couple of hours. “I’ll do the estate,” says one teenager who might expect to be still under the covers at this time on a Saturday morning. “I know it well, so I’ll get some good responses.”

We all love Gorton!

We all love Gorton!

I follow the four-strong team heading for Hyde Road and Tesco and overhear enthusiasm (and occasional apathy) from their respondents towards the news that Gorton has won £450,000 from the central government’s Inspiring Communities programme.

Today is billed as ‘Gorton’s biggest ever community consultation’ and, as the completed questionnaires come rolling back to base at the market, it seems that plenty of people have a view on how the ‘win’ should be spent.

But this project is not starting from scratch. Already the Urbis team have run hugely-successful ‘Reclaim’ mentoring schemes for young people in Moss Side, east Bolton and north Manchester. (See The ‘Stronger Together’ programme will build on and extend the theme taking a wider approach by supporting young people as well as their families.

Plans already include Saturday classes for 11–14 year-olds (more early mornings!); a project to renovate unsafe open spaces, adding lighting, greenery and public art; and a Reclaim mentoring project for Gorton girls (the last one was just for young men).

Down at Gorton Monastery preparations are well in hand for the afternoon event. As the Bloco Nova samba band and dancers arrive, I set up a small studio near the café where I am to photograph local people soon to appear on posters and banners promoting ‘Gorton People Stronger Together’. Local MP, Gerald Kaufman is one of the first to arrive and, although he’s unlikely to appear on a banner, he is more than happy to pose in his Gorton T-shirt with some of his younger constituents.

Smile if you love Gorton!

The afternoon flies by. The word has got out that the photography sessions are informal and fun and soon there is a queue out the door. Young and old are captured and I even persuade the camera-shy to take a turn. Some of the pictures appear here but more will adorn Gorton in the coming months.

Before I know it, and with nearly 1000 images on my memory card, the event is over and I hear later about Gorton Visual Arts and their print-making workshop; the manifesto-writing and the young people getting up there on the ‘Gorton Plinth’ telling everyone about their achievements and aspirations. I don’t need to be told about the samba band because I heard their mesmeric beat down the corridor!

To get involved in Gorton’s exciting new project email or call 0161 605 8218.

Gorton 100 Finalé

Posted by editor on December 7, 2009 under Art, sport and leisure, Community

It’s been 100 years since Gorton became part of the City of Manchester and the centenary has been marked by dozens of events over the past twelve months.

Last night the celebrations culminated in a Festive Finalé at Gorton Monastery with music, stalls, speeches and refreshments for all. At dusk, children and adults alike lit a lantern and paraded to Gorton Park for a fire display and fireworks.

Don’t forget to turn the volume up on your computer.

Music : Cedar Mount High School; Gorton Voice Choir; Bloco Novo
Lantern Procession: Artistic team led by Fiona Smith and Tess Hills
Fire Performers: Circus Diaspora
Fire Garden Installation: Walk the Plank