As the colder days creep in I wanted to share with you a few places I like to visit in my home city of Manchester where I like to relax. They are a mix of venues and places, and all have a place in my heart. They are all accessible and I have had great experiences and created wonderful memories in each of them. I love to take moments in my busy life to reflect on things that bring me joy and that can often lead to a visit or two.
I think it is important that we have a place or maybe a few where we can escape to when things get too much, or you feel overwhelmed. It is also lovely to have places that you share with someone in your life that is close to you and they become part of your identity together.
Here are my top three places, if you get a chance give them a visit, they are fabulous.
Coco Tree – Chorlton Manchester
I live in Chorlton and it is a lovely suburb in the city of Manchester. Like most suburbs it has its challenges as well as benefits. I recently read an article written by a local butcher’s which has been in Chorlton for 51 years. They have seen the area change and had a few negative things to say about the place. I wasn’t surprised at some of them because Chorlton does have a darker side but overall I have a different perspective from my experience over the 9 years now I have been here. I have never not loved it!
I have had sight and lost my sight here, so I have seen and felt a lot of what Chorlton has to offer. Since my sight loss I have encouraged my son to come out with me so he could be reassured I would be okay being out and about. I heard of a chocolate cafe that opened (after my sight loss, so I don’t know what it looks like) in the centre, so thought we would try it out. It has the BEST Hot chocolate, just what you need when this weather begins to change. They do Chocolate truffles (Dylans favourite) Chocolate moulds (items like shoes, books, name plate etc) chocolate lollies and much more.
When we first went we were a little nervous but there was no need. The staff are amazing and now we are regulars they know us and always have a smile and a cheerful hello. They are very helpful with descriptions and encourage Dylan’s support without getting in the way. This is so great as I have experienced it when adults become pushy and take over.
This place has become mine and Dylan’s and it is always top of the treat list for when he has achieved something amazing, which is often so I may have to negotiate a discount!
Longford Park – Stretford Manchester
This is a park that is located at the end of my road. It connects Stretford and Chorlton and is a large park with a Sports Centre with a running track, a café, 2 children’s play areas, an animal corner, a resident ice cream van, tennis courts and multiple fields with football goals. It is a great space for families, walkers, runners, cyclists, and anyone looking to enjoy nature. This has a place in my heart for many reasons. It was somewhere Dylan and I used to go in the summer before losing my sight and spend the day, just us two, having a picnic and rolling down small hills. Now we go with my sister and younger nephews. Dylan thinks he is too old or cool to go with just me now he is hitting 13!
Another reason I love this park is that it was the first place I went for walks after losing my sight. I remember how amazing it was that I began to pick up on the sounds and smells. It really enabled me and gave me the space to get in touch with my other senses, ultimately helping me to move forward on my journey of sight loss.
I have also recently started to run again after a long time finding a guide runner through the Sight Loss Council. We now visit the running track because it is a flat smooth surface, no bumps or hanging branches to worry about. Running here is helping me to build up my confidence so we can face more challenging routes as we go on our running journey.
There are so many memories that this spot of land in a suburb of Manchester has given to me and I will continue to explore and enjoy the space as my journey continues.
Piccadilly Train Station – Manchester City Centre
This might sound like a strange place to share. You might be thinking, ‘What? A train station? What good memories or offerings can that have?’. Well let me share!
Again, I have visited Piccadilly Train Station a lot over the years with sight and now without sight. From my university days visiting a boy in Bath, to weekends away with the girl and more recently for work trips.
The space like me has evolved, adapting to the change of need and culture. I was recently a part of the joint campaign within the sight loss sector through my role at Visionary to help stop the closure of train ticket offices in the UK. The thought that someone or a group of people thought they could do this, no doubt to save money, was naive and rash. They made the decision without consultation but since many charities campaigned the decision has been turned over which is such a relief for me and many in my situation.
My reason for loving Piccadilly train station is because it is a symbol of independence and possibility. Since starting at Visionary, I have now travelled to meetings across the country. Admittedly I’m with my support worker so not completely independent…yet! But I am hoping one day it will be alone or with my guide dog (if I ever get one!) The point is that it has given me so much being able to travel to those meetings to prove that I can, to show the world that someone with a disability doesn’t have to be stuck at home. With the right support and facilities in place they can achieve and succeed as much as the next person.
So yes, a train station is a symbol of strength, independence and possibility for me. Have you a building that offers something like this for you?
Thank you for listening or reading about my top three places in Manchester that bring me joy and hold a place in my heart. Please do share with me your place and stories if you wish, I would love to hear about them.
If you’re ever in Manchester or specifically Chorlton, do check them out. Who knows, you may even come in through Piccadilly Train Station.