Walking Gorse Hill’s Art Trail

How many times have you walked to Old Trafford tram stop and spotted the herons design on the BT box? Or seen the sunset scene on the BT box on your walk to Old Trafford? Well, I have walked past those boxes a lot over the years and never noticed the art; and I’m not the only one. We (human beings) tend to operate on automatic pilot a lot of the time, rushing ahead to the next task, caught up in thinking; we’re like walking heads!

So, one Tuesday evening in July I decided to follow the trail on Gorgeous Gorse Hill’s map. It was easy to follow, taking me along points on Chester Road mainly, directing me to look at art and nature on my door step.

Taking the time to stop and notice, I surprisingly started to notice more: the delight in Wayne Rooney’s face on the corner of Sir Matt Busby Way; reflected sunset in mirrored buildings; noisy Canada Geese flying overhead… I noticed more detail in the art: colours, shapes, and repetitive patterns. And as my walk went on, I noticed a shift towards appreciating and enjoying more the walk I was on. I must admit to usually focusing on the less attractive side to Gorse Hill: noise, traffic, fumes, concrete (what was that about autopilot!); much more interesting to balance that with art and nature.

Apparently all this ‘being present in the moment’ stuff is good for your mental health. It certainly was the case for me on my walk, but don’t take my word for it, try it out for yourself, what do you notice?

Guerilla Sunflower Planting Day

One of my children’s favourite songs is a song called Sunflower by David Gibb.

“Hello and welcome to my garden green,

It’s good to have you on the team,

You’ll find that you’ll feel lighter,

When there’s a blue sky and the sun shines brighter,

Everyone round here leads such a busy life,

All they need are summery vibes,

That’s something I can provide,

Let me tell you why

I’m a sunflower, the tallest and the brightest flower of all. … ”

Saturday 1st May was International Sunflower Guerrilla Gardening Day*. Scheduled on the 1st of May of every year, the day is an annual international event when guerrilla gardeners plant sunflowers in their neighbourhoods, typically in public places perceived to be neglected, such as tree pits, flower beds and roadside verges.

Gorse Hill residents and children brightened up our lovely neighbourhood by planting sunflower seeds in front gardens. For a few, where it was not possible to plant in front gardens, seeds were planted in public growing spots for everybody to enjoy watching them grown.

My children enjoyed picking the plumpest looking sunflower seeds and planting them, excited to anticipate which will thrive and grow to their full majestic height.

As summer approaches and there is the promise of more freedom, those large yellow happy sunflower heads may accompany us to what we hope will be a happier and sunnier future. It seems fitting, after all, as David Gibb sings, sunflowers are “the tallest and the brightest flower of all”.

* Guerrilla gardening – Wikipedia

The Spirit of Our Neighbourhood

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Six years ago, a few people sat together and said: “well we should just stop moaning about it and do something”. That fateful statement led to the creation of Gorgeous Gorse Hill and we’ve just held our fifth AGM {AGM Notes} just under a month ago.

It’s been an incredible journey, not without its highs and lows. Who knew flowers and butterflies on roller shutters could be so controversial! But, that challenge has led to some of the positives, those of us who act as the group Committee have learnt so much on this journey, how to engage other residents, how to work with the Council and sometimes without them. The things we’ve achieved have ultimately led to an area with a clear identity; where many still don’t know where Gorse Hill is as soon as you mention the mosaic bollards or the Pocket Paradise they soon do. I’m proud that we’ve been able to give the area an identity beyond the place with all the take aways and where Manchester United is.

When we started all those years ago, I don’t think we imagined we would have spent our sixth year of existence working out how we could maintain our pocket parks during the middle of a pandemic – but we managed to do it.

I think what the last year has shown me is the tenacious nature of Gorse Hill residents, how many are willing to help others, whether that’s getting involved in the local mutual aid group and shopping for shielding residents, to sharing wood chip and manure on the allotments, to making the alleyways amazing – it’s all been done this year.

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At the heart of what we do, has always been how can we make Gorse Hill nicer for everyone, how can we brighten up someone’s day and make the mundane marvellous. That plays out in many ways: with 1000 snowdrops being planted at Ravenswood Rest Space, to pansies in tree pits, to sparkly bollards and art on substations or having a park renamed after a wonderful local resident – Marje Kelly.

It was this core mission that saw us planning a lantern parade in a pandemic; it is this that I look back on for our sixth year as showing who we are: as residents, neighbours and friends. We knew November was going to be tough – even more so as we ended up in a second lockdown – we knew we needed to bring some light in the darkness. And that’s what we did.

The past six years has been tough at times, but I look back with pride at all we’ve done as volunteers and marvel at my fellow volunteers. Whether they are regular committee members, people who come to volunteer on planting days, people who donated (generously) to the care leavers collection for Gorse Hill Studios or made lanterns and stood in their gardens and waved and applauded as we walked around Gorse Hill in November.

Six years feels a long time, but there’s so much more we can do – together. I feel with the Gorse Hill spirit – we can.

A Light in the Dark Places

As I write this, the clocks have just gone back; which means darker evenings for us all. Just as we enter Tier Three of Covid restrictions it feels even more challenging.

When we thought of what could replace our usual Winter Fair, we thought a Lantern Festival was a solution to the challenge of doing something that would be socially distanced. Now it feels even more important as it presents an opportunity to bring light where there is dark, hope where it may feel there is none and a connectivity when it may feel we’ll never be able to be connected physically again.

We’re excited to be working with the wonderful Caroline Daly and Venessa Scott again; as well as Gorse Hill Studios. And wow what a project we’ve got.

How to Get Involved

We’re asking residents of Gorse Hill to get involved, to tell their neighbours, to sign up their streets and on Saturday 21 November from 4.30pm to fill our streets with lanterns. During the week of 9th November, a leaflet will be dropping through letterboxes with two simple designs for lanterns so you can start making them at home. They’re really simple and you can start getting ready for then by saving glass jars, paper bags, tissue paper, making sure you have some sharp scissors and glue in. We recommend using battery-powered tealights which can be used again. As well as the leaflets Venessa has also made two great how-to videos.

You can watch them here, the first one is how to make paper-bag lanterns:

And the other video shows you how to make jam jar lanterns:

We’ll be posting regular updates and reminders on our Facebook page so do join to keep updated.

Help to Join In

We appreciate in these challenging times not everyone will be able to afford craft stuff to make lanterns, if you can’t don’t worry, we’ve got you. Get in touch and we’ll arrange for you to have access to the right supplies so you can still make lanterns.

A Parade

As well as residents filling the streets, we’re also working on something a bit special too. Caroline, Venessa and the talented staff at Gorse Hill Studios are making some large willow lanterns that will be paraded through the streets of Gorse Hill on the 21st November at 5pm. Now there are a lot of streets in Gorse Hill and we won’t be able to do all of them, so we’ll be prioritising streets that sign up to the Festival. Just drop us a message on Facebook or an email to: gorgeousgorsehill@gmail.com to let us know your street is signing up and you’ll get added to the parade route.

Donations

As if all this wonderfulness wasn’t enough during the parade, we’ll also be collecting items for Stretford Food Bank. We’ll be sharing what items are best on our Facebook page nearer the time.

So, what are you waiting for Gorse Hill. Let there be light!

There Is A Light That Will Never Go Out

Gorgeous Gorse Hill was set up as a hopeful project. A project that sought to make small positive changes in the local community which we hoped could lead to bigger things or just to put a smile on someone’s face.

2020 has proven a difficult year for hope. But it’s been there. In the small acts. In Gorse Hill we’ve seen it with the creation of mutual aid groups and with the wonderful alley transformations that are taking place.

As the year draws to its end the challenges we’ve experienced through 2020 are unlikely to ease; the nights will draw in and the weather will change. How can we mitigate these challenging times ahead? How can we as a community continue to support and show support to one another when we may not be able to see one another?

So, Gorgeous Gorse Hill had an idea, something to replace our cancelled Winter Fair. A Winter Lantern Festival – bringing light in the darkness, something everyone could join in, something to connect us all together in hope.

There’s going to be lots of things going on so that people can get involved:

  • We’re producing a “How-To” leaflet so you can make simple lanterns at home for you, your neighbours and street. There’ll be suitable for little ones to make to. Watch out for it dropping through your letter box in October.
  • We’ll be sharing a lantern making video on our website and social media channels so you can make and follow along with our local artists who are supporting the festival.

But there are things you can be doing now to be prepared:

Start washing and collecting glass jars.

Start collecting/sourcing battery tea lights.

Start saving and collecting clean paper bags.

All of these simple ingredients will be used in our lantern making lessons. The more you have the more lanterns you can make!

How wonderful will it be to see every street in Gorse Hill filled with light on the 21 November. We are also planning an exciting lantern parade with large scale lanterns we are making with our artists and Gorse Hill Studios – watch this space for more on that!

Excited! Hopeful! You should be – the more that get involved the better this will be. Start spreading the word with your friends and neighbours, everyone can join in. Keep checking our website or join our Facebook group for regular updates.

Can’t wait to get started, here’s a simple lantern making video you could do now, with easy to find materials at home.

Let’s make Gorse Hill fill with hope this Winter.

Putting Our Best Foot Forward

Climate Emergency – making small steps locally is our way to help avert it

Gorgeous Gorse Hill is five! For those of us who set up this resident-led community group it’s fairly unbelievable. What started as a conversation about how we can help make our area better, make everyday spaces less drab, reduce the grey that surrounded us has led us to this point. The underlying purpose of Gorgeous Gorse Hill was always about “making the mundane marvellous” (yes, I know I’m really over fond of alliteration); an attempt to make our everyday journeys brighter and cheerier. But beneath that was also an attempt to bring more nature to the area, to enable planting, flowers, fruit and vegetables to thrive where previously there was nothing. In our small way we’ve brought a little bit more biodiversity to Gorse Hill but fundamentally we’ve brightened things up.

Brightening things up, that was what it was about making journeys better. Journeys by foot – to school, to work, to the shop, to the match, to the pub, even just to the bus stop. These types of journeys are more important than ever and how we make them is the most pressing. We have to get out of our cars, we have to start walking. It’s hard to believe that 60% of all car journeys we make each day are between one and two miles; that is a staggering number and one we can easily affect. Can you imagine how different our journeys to school and shops would be if we were all walking there? How many more people we’d see and get to know. How many more hellos we’d be able to hear. How many flowers we’d get to see, you might even find that elusive final piece of GGH art. These are the journeys we need to focus on.

There is something that stops us making these journeys, whether that be the roads don’t feel safe, it takes too long to walk, the weather, the route is boring. Some of these we can’t do anything about (it’s Manchester folks, it’s always going to rain) but there are some we can and as such a new group has been set up to try and get more of us out making everyday journeys by foot.

Living Streets Stretford has been set up by some local residents to try and make our journeys better and to get more of us making them.

Stretford presents some challenges to the everyday walker, the first is the A56 it’s massive, full of cars and means walking along that route is not particularly nice. The work of Gorgeous Gorse Hill and Stretford in Bloom is trying to do something about this by adding more plants, trees, shrubs you name it to brighten up our journeys and at the same time make a small dent in air pollution. But Living Streets Stretford feels there’s something else that they can do (with all of our support) and that’s make those journeys easier. At the moment there are some (likely not enough) crossings on all the main roads through Stretford, the problem is pedestrians are an after thought at these crossing. At some we can’t even cross the whole road in one go, at others we stand there for ages waiting for the lights to change, at others there aren’t even pedestrian elements (green man etc) to help you get across. Living Streets Stretford thinks this needs to change, if we’re going to encourage more people to leave their cars at home and walk then we need to make walking easier and driving more inconvenient.

Living Streets (is a national charity), they aren’t the enemy of the car driver, all of us involved are drivers, what they (and we locally are saying) is we need to walk more. Simple as that. It’s better for us (both physically and mentally), it’s good for our local area, it’s good for our neighbours and it’s good for the environment.

In this current climate emergency we can all feel a little helpless at the enormity of the challenge, but this is a literal small step we can make to help change things for good for us, for our neighbours and our children for years to come. If we can all do this, Gorgeous Gorse Hill will continue trying to make those journeys less mundane.

If you’re interested in getting involved you can join the Facebook group or get in touch with us at: Stretfordgroup@livingstreets.org.uk

2020 Activities and Events

Ħ meeting or event                 * activity

  When & Where?
Feb * Saturday 22nd, 11am – 12, Avondale
March * Saturday 14th, 11am – 12 lavender planter
near Bishop Blaize pub
  Ħ Monday 9th, 7 – 8pm, Gorgeous Gorse Hill AGM:
Trafford House, Chester Road (all welcome)
April * Friday 3rd time, 11am – 12, Avondale:
Easter Holiday special!
May Ħ Saturday 2nd, Spring Fair, 11am – 2pm:
Gorse Hill Studios
  * Saturday 9th, 10:30-11:30am – Pocket Paradise Park
June * Date TBC, lavender planter nr Bishop Blaize
July * Date TBC, Burleigh Gardens
August * Date TBC, Avondale
September * Sunday 20th, 10:30 – 11:30am, lavender planters:
near Bishop Blaize
October * Date TBC, Pocket Paradise Park
November Ħ Saturday 21st, 2pm – 5pm – Winter Fair:
Gorse Hill Studios Ħ
  * Saturday 28th,  10:30 – 11:30am:
Ravenswood Rest Space
December * 5th December, 11:00am – 12:00 – Avondale


One Hour Pledge Challenge

Could you pledge one hour of your time to Gorgeous Gorse Hill for the year 2020?

Finding enough volunteers, particularly for regular activities where we clear up our planted areas, is one of our biggest challenges. You really don’t need any experience at all, or to like gardening – just a willingness to help out and maybe get your hands a bit dirty (though we do provide gloves!).

We have regular activities throughout the year, or if you’d like to do things in your own time then you could adopt a tree pit on your street, or do some regular weeding at one of our sites in your own time. Or design us a poster?

Just head over to our Facebook page (search for ‘Gorgeous Gorse Hill’) and find the pledge challenge post. All you need to do is pledge in the comments and look out for activities coming up. You’ll need to be a member of the group to join.

Some activities are suitable for children but must be supervised. We’ll let you know on the event listing.

Mary

Shopping Local and Helping Your Community

I’ve been the Chair of Gorgeous Gorse Hill for five years, Wow! Five years! That’s just sunk in. We started this group, essentially sat round a dining table talking about what we liked and didn’t like in Gorse Hill. We are just ordinary residents who’ve never really got involved in running a community group before. Five years on we’ve learned so much and done so many things in Gorse Hill, if someone had told me we’d have mosaiced 15 concrete bollards I’d have fallen off my chair.

But here we are, all still local residents, all still volunteers. Everything we do for Gorgeous Gorse Hill is in our spare time: funding applications, writing blogs, meetings, Christmas Fairs, planting 5000 bulbs, planting 1000 snowdrops, digging, weeding, painting, sweeping and there’s lots more.

When people offer to help us, or we win a funding bid, it is huge! Every minute of help we receive, and every penny of donations are incredible, making a huge difference to what we can achieve for Gorse Hill.

So, when we were chosen to be one of the Co-operative’s Community Fund recipients for 2019/2020 we were over the moon. This means that every member who chooses us as their Community Fund, who shops in their local Co-op and buys Co-op brand products, 1% of that goes to us. This is amazing and could mean a huge amount of money raised for us.

But to achieve this we need everyone to sign up as members and choose us as their Community Fund, then we need them to get their friends and family to become members and do the same. It’s easy to do that, just follow these simple instructions.

This is an amazing opportunity for Gorse Hillers to show their love and support to their local community group.

Ruth

Calling all GGHs: We’re looking for a new Treasurer to join our committee

I’m stepping down from the role of GGH’s Treasurer and I want to ask you for your help: could you be GGH’s next Treasurer?

Treasurer… are you thinking that doesn’t sound like something you’d be up for?

Think again 😊 I’ve been doing it for a couple of years now and it’s a pretty straightforward role. More importantly, it’s one of those things that you can do in 2-3 hours per month but it has a massive impact on keeping the wonderful activities of GGH going. The main responsibilities of the Treasurer are quite simple: mainly making online payments from the account, keeping a record of invoices and receipts, and tracking the group’s finances on a spreadsheet.

I’ve recently moved away so I’m not able to continue doing this role but I have such admiration for the work that everyone in GGH does that I am reaching out to encourage anyone and everyone who loves our fantastic community group to consider helping out by volunteering to be our next Treasurer – it’s a great way of getting involved, you will make a BIG difference, and you’ll be part of improving our community even if you don’t have much time.

Emma