It has been a few weeks of us working with the restrictions of our outdoor activity. While some people are taking it badly and seeing it as a means of a loss of freedom, I haven’t. I have found that I am a lover of limitations, focusing the attention and enabling creativity to take free rein. I have been using the time for local adventures for my one a day.
No matter where you live, there is an opportunity for local adventures. Be it in the streets around your house, the local part or the district centre nearby. I live in the East of Manchester and have tapped into the limitations of the ‘one a day’ rule to really get to know where I live. And I have been loving it.
As you know, I am a fan of urban environments and the people who live there. I appreciate the small details and the hidden aspects which make place different to any other. We might be in a part of town with plenty of red brick terraces, 1930s council semis and somewhat lonely looking old shops, but they each have a completely different story to tell. Which is something I am discovering on each and every adventure I take from my doorstep.
I have come to realise over the years that I like a place with a huge diversity of people and buildings. It really brings out the character of a place and sparks my curiosity for finding out more. Something which I am lucky to have on my doorstep. The East and the North of Manchester might have a bit of a reputation for being a bit run down, but that’s not to say that is all there is to it. A previously rich and affluent area, built up by the Industrial Revolution, the east and north have more going for them than you could imagine.
Looking beyond the houses
I know so many of the outdoor crew are rather averse to urban wandering seeing it as some kind of sub standard activity in the outdoor realm, but I am here to champion it. To encourage you all to really get to know somewhere. You can dream of the countryside and rolling hills all you want, but right now you have what you have. So why not make the most of it and enjoy your time.
An area will be built on history, of adaptation and changing times. Just as we are experiencing now. The buildings have stood the test of time, their stories nestled into the mortar and grime on the brick faces. If you can look beyond the superficial (as I imagine you would like people to do with you before making judgement) you will see that there is more than meets the eye.
Take this building for example. Sitting, rotting, waiting, neglected in a side street. Just beyond, people are shopping and getting on with their daily lives. Yet, hidden in plain sight is a Tudor building. 500 years old and nestled into the more deprived part of Manchester. A part of the city, which was rural and the land of farmers, long before the buildings came up. What’s more is that this seemingly unsightly blot has survived the English Civil War and two World Wars and is still standing. If you want to take a lesson from any of this, it is that you can hold your own, no matter what.
Getting lost where you know
I am pretty well versed when it comes to direction in the city and around my part of east Manchester. That being said, I can and do still manage to detour or ‘get lost’. Although it is technically not getting lost as I know where I am, I head off the beaten track and simply follow my feet. Letting go of any prescribed ideas of where I will adventure and just going. This weekend, I accidentally ended up exploring where I planned to visit the next day. It was even more fun as it wasn’t planned. It worked as a means of finding something new – which actually was a cemetery.
I find cemeteries fascinating. They are steeped in history, discovery and also share something of the socio-economic past of a place. It was interesting in Moston to discover the (impressive) grave of one of Manchester’s most notorious gangsters: Damien Noonan.
Falling in love with the story
It is easy to judge by appearances. I am pretty sure that some of you will have looked at the pictures in this post and had a thought or two relating to whether you would even want to spend time there or not. Smashed windows, forgotten spaces and litter don’t usually get pride of place on a postcard. But that is not the whole story. What remains now, is not where they came from. The lives spent there and the times enjoyed by the people in the area during the ‘good years’.
Each of us has a story to tell. A reason for the scar above our eyebrow or the dent in our shin. They are part of the story and the bits which make us who we are. An unfortunate event which changed our outward appearance, but never changed who we are inside. This is what I fall in love with, with people and with buildings and places too. Looking past the grime. Accepting where it is now and taking an interest in who, or what, happened.
I am not going to share specifics at this point in my post, but I will be giving you a glimpse into my local discoveries as the days come and I have the chance to share. For now, I will leave you with what I hope to be a bit of inspiration. A dash of curiosity to find out what makes your area tick. What made it the way it is today and the stories it hides beneath the brick facade.
Step through your front door, head out without a plan and get yourself really acquainted with the people and places near to home. The spaces you neglect for the far away dreams of hills and dales. I am sure that when you learn more about where you live you will find a new appreciation for local adventures for your one a day too.