Didsbury residents fear that some of the natural delights on their doorstep are under threat
PUBLISHED: 00:38 21 May 2013
Words by carl nagaitis. photography by kirsty thompson
Didsbury is one of the North West’s coolest places to live, where residents enjoy all the benefits of its proximity to the buzz of vibrant city centre Manchester, while retaining the feel of a village that combines location, convenience, celebrity and history. It’s populated by an eclectic cross section of residents from lawyers to labourers and from craftsmen to TV celebrities, some of whom may well have identified Didsbury as their ideal location for a home when it was chosen as the back-drop to the hit turn-of-the-century television series Cold Feet.
Yes, Didsbury has it all. Just five miles from the centre of Manchester, this super suburb is full of stylish shops, bars and restaurants and luxury homes, along with quaint retreats and cosy rural hideaways dotted along the course of the River Mersey which weaves its way through the district.
However, there is growing concern among some residents that some of the delights of Didsbury might be under threat. They are worried that a move by Manchester City Council to reduce its spend on the Mersey Valley Management Authority could have a negative impact on the riverside.
Didsbury Civic Society chairman Steve Parle believes a proposed 75 per cent cut in spending on the service will almost certainly affect the parks and green spaces that have become an intrinsic part of the suburb’s character.
‘Mersey Valley Management employs three wardens plus ancillary staff to manage and maintain the green areas of the valley,’ explained Steve, a former teacher and head teacher who has lived in Didsbury for 14 years. ‘Their plan is to get rid of the wardens and save money. But the impact could be enormous.
Our parks and green spaces have been at the heart of Manchester’s metropolitan provision since it was a smoke-filled industrial city. The importance of these areas in terms of recreation and health were recognised by the city governors.
‘The fact that rivers like the Mersey, the Irwell and the Irk have been changed from poisonous, contaminated open sewers to the relatively clean waterways they are today is nothing short of a miracle.
‘The Mersey Valley remains an extremely valuable recreational amenity for the people of Didsbury who have access to the wonderful woodland areas and water meadows that mark the course of the river. The wildlife, the rare blooms and the health-giving fresh air are just some of the features that are so attractive to residents and visitors.
‘In fact our riverbanks have become so popular that they can sometimes look more like Blackpool prom on sunny Sunday afternoons in the summer when families turn-out in force to enjoy the good weather.’
However, Steve fears that the sun may not shine so brightly on the Mersey Valley following the cut-backs. That is why he wrote an open letter to councilors and interested parties outlining his concerns while Manchester City Council went through a public consultation process over their proposals.
‘The council has been talking about volunteers taking over the work of the wardens,’ added Steve, who is also chair of the Didsbury Parsonage, a community facility based at the heart of the original Didsbury Village. ‘But the number of available volunteers is limited. More importantly volunteers need organising.’
Despite his concerns about cut-backs, Steve is proud to call Didsbury his home and describes it as ‘a unique place with the distinct feel of a village and a real sense of community’.
He is fascinated by its history and points out there are more listed buildings in Didsbury than in any other part of Greater Manchester. That’s one of the reasons he joined the Didsbury Civic Society.
‘The society’s core principal is preserving the best of the old and to ensure new developments are of high quality,’ he explained. ‘And that includes the environment!
A spokesman for Manchester City Council told Cheshire Life that that a recommendation to go ahead with the proposed cuts would be put before the Mersey Valley Committee on May 23rd.
Councillor Nigel Murphy, Executive Member for Environment said: ‘The Mersey Valley is a fantastic resource and we recognise that we have obligations to maintain the valley, its habitats and wildlife, and keep the waterways safe. However, due to the savage cuts in central government funding we have been forced to make difficult decisions. Our intention is to link the operation to the wider Neighbourhood Teams, who currently manage parks and green spaces across Manchester, and link their work more closely to the wider river valleys as this is a more cost effective model.’