Saturday, 4 June 2016

A vanished pond and a sinister story


Now I am just an old romantic, and so I would love there to be something in the story of Sally’s Hole.

It was a pond on the edge of the meadows just to one side of the old road that ran from the village across Turn Moss to Stretford.

Tradition had it that a young woman was drowned there. I leave it up to you to weave the story of the deceit and betrayal of a young woman in love left abandoned, or just a tragic accident in the early evening when she lost her footing beside the pond.

The spot is secluded and it is easy to feel that something is not quite right about the place.  On a wet autumn afternoon with the light fading and the leaves heavy with rainwater you begin to feel very alone.  But landscapes change and Sally’s pond was not always shrouded in undergrowth.  For most of its existence it was just an open space, a stretch of water more than likely created by farmers hollowing out the clay which then filled with water.

Its end was equally mundane.  Sometime in the late 1960s it had become a dumping ground for old bikes prams and the odd milk crate and was filled in.

The hollow can still be seen through the trees just beyond the stumps.  And the stumps themselves have passed into folk memory.

My friend Tony and Oliver the son of Bailey the farmer both remember freewheeling down to those very stumps on warm summer days and of the time one lad miscalculated and took his bike and body into the stump.

There were plenty of these ponds across the township.  Some I guess were natural while others were the result of extracting marl and clay.  Plenty of these marl and brick pits existed into the last century around the Longford Road area, and in the 1840s there were sixteen of various sizes and depths along part of Oswald Road.

Now they are all gone, but the hollow that was once Sally’s Hole is still there if you know where to look, and who knows perhaps one day the people who manage the meadows might decide to reinstate it.  Now that would make the old romantic in me happy.

Location; Chorlton, Manchester

Picture; Sally’s Field, J Montgomery, 1958, copied from a 1945 photograph, m80104, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council, http://images.manchester.gov.uk/index.php?session=pass

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