Where I grew up has, in recent years, become one of the trendiest places to live in the Greater Manchester area. It never used to be like that..not when I was a kid. Its been funny to watch from afar how it has transformed and changed to a place that’s almost unrecognisable.
This place is West Didsbury, Manchester. I grew up on Lapwing Lane and then just off Burton Road. This is ‘home’. This was a community that really was a community and the environment and infrastructure around us supported that. Burton Road was home to everything you could need and want – butcher, green grocer, newsagents, launderette, bakery ….the list goes on. Life happened on Burton Road. Memories of hauling the laundry to the Launderette. Memories of running away from home with my brother (for an hour!) to the bakery and sitting at the back spending the £1 that I had. Even queuing for bread in the late 1970’s outside the bakery when the strikes and black outs were prevalent.
Lapwing Lane is also transformed…once home to more shops and services relevant to the era…cobblers, hairdressers, newsagents, book shops, supermarkets…
Community was where we lived. No need to go much further. Everyone knew each other. Kids were free to walk to friends – Clyde Road and Burton Road being my main haunts. Even back then, we played on the old disused railway line with easy access from both Lapwing Lane and Burton Road.
This area is now radically transformed. A completely different kind of community. It really began mid/ late 90’s. Local businesses, had begun to close. I guess due to the large supermarkets popping up locations a few miles away. Car ownership also allowing for travel to purchase the necessities. Some businesses had transformed before I left and still remain today. My mums hairdressers, became a restaurant (The Lime Tree) which still remains. Luckily for them managing to stay relevant through the burst of trend that came their way. But for the most part, a lot of what we knew as defining community has gone. Supermarkets are now Indian restaurants (the Great Kathmandu used to be Liptons in the 1970s). The cobblers became an extension to a pub (The Railway), butchers are long gone. Green grocers are gone. Newsagents – gone. Bakerys, haberdashery shops, shoe shops, laundrette and more….gone. Yet this area is buzzing. Community re-defined is now bars, restaurants, expensive boutique shops, trendy cupcake tea rooms and the like. A few classic shops still remain but not many.
Community anchors such as a hospital is also transformed. Withington Hospital has now been razed to the ground and more sought after housing replaces the wards and Main corridor that all locals would have known. The hospital was formerly on the site of an old Work House from Victorian times. The structure still remains and have also been converted into flats. I wonder how many of the new trendier residents know how close the graves lie for the children that perished there….the old community knew this and respected this….
What has returned is the use of the old railway lines. No longer a railway but a tram line. This was talked about when I was a child. Always the hope that a tram would use the old tracks (trams originally functioned along Palatine road/ west Didsbury junction many years ago). Forty years on and sure enough they pulled it off. West Didsbury has a wealth of public transportation options but this is by far the best. Clean, fast, efficient. But funnily, when I ride the tram, I experience something different. I can still see where the paths were and breaks in the fence were to get onto the dis-used tracks. I can still identify the parts of the old platform that us, the local kids had rope swings from trees that took us from one side to the other. I remember searching for tadpoles and frogs on the flooded tracks and not far from the tracks once stood an old Willow Tree where the Willow Tree gang was formed. Childhood memories of a community long gone.
So visiting has become nostalgic of an era gone by. Especially as the area is swarming with transplants and probably not many original residents remain. They will have no memories of what it used to be. My brother still lives here which is great allowing me to stay connected to home and the area.
Its funny to be out and about and remember the past. Its still odd to be trying on clothes in the space I hid when I ran away from home. Its odd to be ordering a drink where the old deli meat counter used to be. Its sad to see the demise of so many traditional shops allowing way for yet another bar and/ or restaurant. My old primary school exists (Cavendish Road) which is lovely to see but even now, the parents of the kids are ex pop stars or B list celebs…..how times have changed. Due to this, its near impossible to buy a house here. Rarely do they come onto the market and when they do, the prices are astronomical. The house I grew up in from age 12 has appreciated in value by 2300% since my mum bought back in the 80’s.
With that said, I’ve moved on. I’m not sure I’d want to live here now. Its a great place but I prefer to remember the area as it was. My childhood community, of which at times, it does glimmer through.