There’s been a lot of press about Pomona Island in the past few months, partly because of the Royal Exchange commissioned play of the same name, mostly because a group of Pomona enthusiasts are angered by Manchester Council agreeing to lend developers over £10 million to build a bunch of ugly apartments on it.
I often get off at Cornbrook tram stop to wait for a connection and look onto the patch of desolate wasteland that separates Trafford and it’s more flashy neighbour, Salford Quays and wondered what it was. Other than a huge canvas for graffiti artists, sprawling across the river, following the rolls and bends into the city, I thought nothing of it until the uproar of Pomona warriors spoke of its lavish past.
So we went exploring.
It’s a transient area that resembles nothing of its thriving and bustling past but this is perhaps a positive to some. Once a palace, an industrial hub, and then a nightlife spot, it is now quiet and empty. The archives don’t speak much of it either. This drawing of Pomona Palace in 1875 seems to be amongst only a handful of documents that depict its once fruitful existence. Pomona (who is also the goddess of fruit and nut trees) was a lush botanical garden advertised in the Victorian era as a place to escape from the impurities of Manchester’s atmosphere and to many, is still seen as a place of solace, a far cry away from the modernisation of Salford and the never ending building works in the city centre.
Pomona has now returned to a green space that promotes the growth of rare flora and the migration of African birds each year which to many locals, deems the area a space of ecological importance but you probably wouldn’t know that unless you looked real close. There is no ‘here it is!’ moment – it’s more of a ‘is this it? where are we?’. This wasteland has been completely taken over by nature, parts of old walls have turned into grassy hills which creates an odd fumbling landscape that can only be created by being forgotten about. But for some reason, I like it. This everyday boring space is exactly what Manchester needs. Nothing. A space that isn’t anything, it’s just there. At present, Pomona is in a state of transition from its former glory to a natural paradise, and maybe now looking to the future of more urbanisation in Greater Manchester – it is an interesting space waiting for something to happen, or perhaps hoping that nothing will.