The B&B we're staying in backs onto the mysteriously-named Boggart Hole Clough, so when I met Phil at Piccadilly we decided that we would spend our day walking our way back there, searching for evidence of Mancunian Boggart activity as we went.
A Boggart, for the uninitiated, is a sprite, a mischievous spirit mainly found in Lancashire and Yorkshire, often thought to be responsible for poltergeist activity and pranks like turning the doorstep milk sour, making things disappear and causing dogs to go lame. They reside in mossy places - and north-east Manchester is surrounded by mossy places. Legend has it that the Clough behind our temporary home is one such place. It was suggestedly, spookily, shrouded in mist this morning.
Once you start looking for evidence of Boggarts in Manchester, it is surprisingly easy to identify them. Behind a row of recycling bins at the back of Piccadilly station, much moss. In the centre of a concrete block on Old Mill Lane at the heart of the New Islington redevelopment, a deep hole with moss inside. On the brick linings of waterway channels off Alan Turing Way - all manner of mossy shapes and green shades.
By the time we reached the municipal space of Boggart Hole Clough itself we were so convinced of the evidence of prankster spirits throughout the area of East Manchester that we were almost disappointed by the dripping green and gold cutting lined with lightning-struck trees and plastic-bag debris where undoubtedly mischief would easily find a home. But it is an impressive park, especially for the impressionable traveller like ourselves, willing to embrace and enjoy tall tales like that told of the Boggart on the website of the Boggart Hole Clough Brewery.
What did we actually do today? To retrace our steps, we found the Brewery in an industrial unit off Clough Road (a modest plant; a dog-walker who looked like he'd lived around the corner all his life didn't know it existed, but a car mechanic in a neighbouring unit did), surprised the lady at the door, not used to occasional callers like us, and bought from her a couple of bottles of Sundial (ABV 4.7%, 'A very pale beer with a refreshing fruity hop taste and aroma'). Prior to that, we enjoyed a generous couple of hot meat barms at J&Js Cafe, two doors down from the God is Great Boutique in Moston, made all the more special by a fruitless trawl around the industrial estates of Miles Platting, where surprisingly no All-Day Breakfast Cafes were to be found.
We had a wondrous twenty minutes with two good folks in the Sportcity Visitor Centre, the perfect people to be in that job, being thoroughly local and steeped in the history of the place. Marvelled at B of the Bang, as every visitor must, as it is a very impressive piece of public art. Noted the subtle social engineering in place along the thoroughfares surrounding Sportcity - railings corraling events visitors along specified approved routes, and detaching local residents from them; and further into town mused on the installation of new pieces of large public art along Old Mill Street, before any buildings had been completed on New Islington - perhaps to install the idea of New Islington into people's minds, early in the project.
We enjoyed finding cousins of B of the Bang all along our route - a large spiky plant in someone's garden on Old Mill Street which we named C of the Cactus, an odd piece of public art in North Manchester Business Park strung like a 20ft harp (T of the Twang), some tree-like madness on the top of the empty Thorp Road Factory Shop. And I enjoyed keeping the Boggart connection going as I replayed in my head Paul Rooney's Lucy Over Lancashire, first blogged about here, an ambitious piece of music in which a Boggart Lucy, explains at some length the connections between Lancashire and the activities of the Dark One. These include the Pendle Witches, Dark Satanic Mills, the Red Devils, The Fall, the slave and cotton trades, Mick Hucknall and, especially the wicked shock-jock Alan Beswick who it turns out is her Master.
There's a Beswick Street in Ancoats, near where our walk began. And Lucy used to inhabit a pair of old Puma trainers hanging on a telephone wire on a street just off the A666. We saw plenty of old trainers hanging on our route too. Boggarts, Lucy, Beswick... we had plenty of fun finding East Manchester full of them and their ways today. When we got to the B&B and told the landlord we'd been through Boggart Hole Clough park, he raised his eyebrows and said, worriedly, "The Park..?" He didn't explain his distress at our act of reckless daring, or he's not saying... but clearly he knows, because he's learned to live with, the dangers of the Boggart...