so, in my last post i suggested that one really positive use for the origin princess street site would be to floor it and replace the project with a public park. i think that the lack of green space in the city centre is a spillover from manchester’s industrial roots; this is a city which was based on production, not playtime. in terms of the city centre, there are so few areas of true green space. there is the afore mentioned sackville street gardens, st. john’s gardens out by the museum of science and industry, the tiny tiny peace garden on st. peter’s square, and the bare patches of earth that make up piccadilly gardens. other than that you’ve got to head out to reach angel meadow, or further afield getting down towards whitworth park.
the thing is, all of this actually ignores the best park in the city centre. parsonage gardens is a little hidden gem in the city centre, and quite a lot of people either don’t know it exist, or have heard about it but never seen it. well, here it is, one street over from deansgate. the gardens have existed in roughly this form since 1897, though there are records of activity on this site just following the norman conquest in 1066. since 1985 the gardens have been part of a designated conservation area which reaches from deansgate down to the irwell.
the gardens themselves are a lovely space. i wandered down to parsonage gardens on thursday this week, the day that spring appeared to pop its head around the corner and check whether we were ready for it yet – and this little piece of calm in the city centre was certainly looking good for the bright blue sky overhead. nestled in between some fine pieces of victorian and edwardian architecture, the kite shaped gardens are in essence really simple – but that is part of the charm of them. tree lined, leading a central point, lots of grass, and the first burst of colour starting to make their way through.
i was a little surprised about the lack of activity in the gardens the afternoon i was there. arriving just after 1pm, i expected to find suits and sandwiches all over the place. there are loads of benches all around the gardens, a sign that the council acknowledge the role that parsonage gardens has to play as ‘an oasis of calm’ away from the bustle of the city, and the office. yet i was amongst about 10 people taking a break in the gardens. this seemed like a real shame to me; i guess as the days get warmer this number will shift up dramatically. however, as ever i worry about over saturation; the major plus point of parsonage gardens is that they have surprisingly clean air for the city centre. the road to the side isn’t a major thoroughfare, and the greenery leaves the area fresh. how fresh will it stay filled with hordes grabbing their lunchtime fag?
parsonage gardens was awarded green flag status in 2010, and it is well deserved. this is a beautifully maintained green space, and offers some great views around the gardens. being someone who enjoys taking photos with an expanse of blue sky in them (you’ve surely noticed this by now if you have read this blog more than once!) i love getting in amongst the tree branches, getting a shot of the seemingly dead wood offset against the spring skyline. you can also sneak the familiar sights of a manchester backdrop in their too – bold, big architecture.
it’s a shame that this place is one of so few spaces like this in the city. manchester was/is an industrial city, so green space was/is always going to be at a premium; why build a park when a building turning a profit can go there? can this change? i guess not, but at least places like parsonage gardens are protected, and appreciated by the council.