Saturday, 17 December 2016

A forgotten river, an old railway track .... the Platt Brook, the Fallowfield Loop

By Withington Road Railway Bridge, 2009
Today I think we shall walk the Fallowfield Loop again

Now I first came across this disused railway line a few years ago and have been promising to take the route to Fallowfield with my botanist friend David Bishop, but in the way of these things our desire to start some serious walking has got there first.

We had been up in the Hope Valley and with the sun shining and the presence of plenty of ramblers we decided it was time to join them but more of that later.

In the meantime it is the Fallowfield Loop that has got me going on this bright sunny day at the end of April.

It is a cycle and walking track, which runs for six miles from St Werburghs in Chorlton to Debdale Park.

As you would expect there is much to see and I have already promised myself the Companion Book of Flowers, along with Trees to spot and enjoy and What was that bird?

Platt Brook and Ley Brook, 1841-53
But for me the exciting discovery of our first trip along the path was the Platt Brook which runs open along part of the track and is a constant reminder to me of the number of open water course which flowed through south Manchester.

Many now disappear in dark culverts lost to most of us but occasionally come out into the daylight.

So it is with the Platt Brook which is the Gore Brook earlier in its journey.  Like some of the other books it finally runs in to our own Chorlton Brook and on its course picks up even smaller ones like the Ley Brook which is almost hidden from view.

We missed it at first and I was only drawn to it by a small brick wall which stops the curious from falling down its banks.  But there it was running underneath the old track into the Platt Brook and visible as it snaked off southin the opposite direction  towards Fallowfield, Burnage and Withington.

Stretches of it had been put below ground by the 1840s.

Now I fight the romantic side of my character but I have to confess to a sheer bout of the emotion at finding these little water ways most of which are totally overlooked but are a powerful link to our rural past.

So a bit ironic really that it should be this old disused railway track that brings me back to south Manchester of the 1840s, where as many of you know I so often reside.

The line in 1905
The Fallowfield Loop Railway began in 1891 when the stretch between Chorlton and Fallowfield was opened, followed the next year with an extension up to Fairfield.

The line provided a new route for the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway to run trains from Sheffield into Manchester, and local stopping services ran from Fairfield and Gorton on the Hope Valley line to Manchester Central via Hyde Road, Fallowfield and Chorlton-cum-Hardy before joining a section of line from Old Trafford into Manchester Central.

It had a chequered history and its demise was a slow decline marked by the closure of some of the stations in the 1930s and the rest in the 50s.   Its end as a passenger line came in 1969 with the closure of Central Station although it was still used for freight until 1988 when the line was finally closed.

The route remained an increasingly overgrown relic of our railway past until its reopening as a cycle and track way in 2001.

The Comet,  on the loop line in 1935
This brings me back to our resolve to do some serious walking and in turn leads me to a reflection on how you kit yourself out for a new hobby.

Like all new ventures we were in danger of going over the top and friends have gently smiled at the idea that we should use a compass, but it is all part of the fun.

So with that said I rather think it is time to make tracks.

Now I amalways pleased to be corrected otherwise what ids the poinbt of trying to get thisngs right so Here are two corrections from Brian Roberston and Ed Allen.

Brian wrote, "I have to correct your blog on a couple of points, Andrew Simpson. Firstly, there were no station closures in the 1930s. All of the stations closed together on July 7th, 1958. Secondly, although some Hope Valley trains run through Gorton and Fairfield, these stations are very much on the Woodhead line. Incidentally, the building of this line necessitated the building of new stations at Gorton and Fairfield. The line's main claim to fame is that the blue Midland Pulman was a regular visitor as it rested at Reddish depot between turns."

And Ed Allen comented, "The first picture is not Withington Road but St.Werburghs looking South. The bridge was widened in 1929 to cater for widening the tracks...a scheme which never materialized. I grew up with the Loop at the end of the garden in Chelsfield Grove. I still live nearby, with the Metrolink now at the back of the house. Land was reserved for the widening, the long thin field behind our house, the cinema on the bridge had to be easy to demolish and the houses on the West side of Buckingham Road were built on reserved land. The Comet didn't run on the Loop but ran from Piccadilly/London Road to London Euston. It didn't run through Fallowfield and anyway, the station in the photo is somewhere else, Fallowfield' signal box was actually on the Westbound platform. The locomotive is an original Royal Scot class originally named Jenny Lind then The Rifle Brigade. Usually, steam locos running on the Loop were former Lner engines Long coal trains were run into manchester and the Manchester Central to Harwich boat train was a regular heading the other way. So many archive photos have been captioned wrongly in the past, I hop no-one minds a little correction now and then."

Pictures; on the Fallowfield Loop by Withington Bridge, August 2009, Phil Champion and, map of the spot where the Platt Brook joins the Leigh [Ley Brook] from the OS of Lancashire 1841-53, courtesy of Digital Archives, railway bridge close to Fallowfield Station, City Engineers, October 1905, m78399, the Comet  Manchester to London Express, pulled by Loco 6146, passing through Fallowfield at 5.30 pm 1935, m63467, courtesy of Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council

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