Piccadilly Gardens > Chorlton. The route takes you from the centre of Piccadilly Gardens (a microcosm of strange and wonderfulness in itself) down the long corridor of university buildings and student takeaways along Oxford Road, straight through socially turbulent and historically rich Hulme, skimming past Trafford, Whalley Range and ending up in suburban Chorlton, hosting one of the most burgled postcodes in the UK, M21. The route is simple, mainly made up of long roads, straight roads, crashing through an overflow of colourful and diverse communities. You’ll pass many shut down pubs, and a few army training bases.
On a good day, it takes around thirty minutes from beginning to end. You’ll go past the old BBC building on Oxford Road – a far cry away from the corporate shiny-ness of Media City now. It was wonderfully brutalist, which unfortunately to some, was an unsuitable fit for the 20th century. During the demolition, I remember the facade being torn down, resembling a less frilly open doll’s house. A large world map poster remained tacked onto a wall – the owner must not have needed it wherever they were going. It was a nice thing to pass everyday on the bus, but then it was torn down in the cold months of 2012, and was turned into a rarely used car park.
You’ll ride past where Hulme Crescents once stood – a poorly designed council estate that after only a few years, was deemed structurally unsafe for families and became an over 18 estate. Artist communes were attracted to the space when the council stopped taking rent in 1984, and was knocked down in the early 90s, affirming its place in Hulme’s memory. (If you want a more eloquent telling of the crescent’s story, read Jon Lymer’s article in issue no. 17 of The Modernist)
There’s a stop near the Hulme Community Gardens – a beautiful burst of green in a heavily residential area of grey and red brick, often stained with heavy rain fall. Turn your head the opposite direction and you can just about see into “Homes for Change” – co-op block of flats that replicate parts of the crescents with communal walkways. If you’ve got off in Hulme, try and find Hulme Hippodrome, a beautiful theatre that opened in 1901 and hosted the first radio recording of The Beatles, unfortunately its dreary exterior no longer matches the interior (a few images of it can be seen here).
A bit further on there’s a warehouse on Upper Chorlton Road with furniture piled so high and so tightly packed together, it’s almost impossible to see how they’d retrieve anything from the back. It’s a treasure trove of old cabinets and old chairs and old architecture plans of Manchester hidden in old office drawers. Trees have started to embed themselves in the gaping holes in the roof, and ivy has taken over with aggression.
There’s a house next to the junk shop I like to stop at that lets cockerels run awry in the front garden. It must be pretty annoying for the neighbours, but it looks nice to passers by. I occasionally peak through the wooden fence and have human-poultry staring contests.
Most importantly, some of my favourite places to eat lie close to this route. If you’re coming from town, Eat Goody will be your first stop – a simple Korean canteen style restaurant, busy with students and lecturers. Get off at MMU All Saints Campus, walk down past Deaf Institute and it’s down a little side road. If you’re thinking ‘this can’t be right’ then you’re probably heading in the right direction. Order everything and bask in the glory of your decision. Nasv Sandwich Bar lies on the crossing of Upper Chorlton Road and Shrewsbury Street. On the outside it looks like a regular old sandwich shop, but if you inquire inside, you’ll be served a plate of beautifully authentic, no nonsense, home made Sri Lankan food. You probably won’t have to wait long to hear a beautiful story of a man who’s worked in high profile hotels for decades, and loves to cook food from his home land.
Local’s favourite Tibetan Kitchen and slow movers (but well worth the wait) Jerk Junction are within a few minutes stroll from each other in Whalley Range. Tibetan Kitchen (run by beautifully charismatic Sonny) is a canteen style restaurant with an incredibly relaxed and homey vibe. Start with a steamy cup of heavily spiced chai tea, leave with an extra portion of momos to stick in the fridge. Of course the last stop is Chorlton itself, a hybrid of flat whites and hardware stores, mummy meet ups and hearty Lancastrian pubs. If you wanted to walk up Beech Road and further into the Ivy Green woods, you’ll end up at Sale Water Park, great for boxing day strolls and pining for dogs that pass you on the way.
The 86 is one of the most lovely routes I’ve lived on. The journey has been ingrained into my daily routine, and yet I still find delight in looking for all my favourite parts that others may not take much interest in – I take delight in the journey, and am often finding myself getting off unexpectedly, and tempted to look around in spite my innate frustration of being late to things. I’m slowly working my way around this vast city, and love its ability to surprise me, even if it is only one bus route at a time.