Finding the Bees in Manchester

If you wander around Manchester, you will see bees everywhere. The worker bee is a symbol of Manchester, and it adorns their public buildings, bins, and bollards.

Our visit to Manchester turned into a treasure hunt for bees. It started at the town hall. I saw a TV programme a while ago which showed the mosaic bees on the floor of Manchester’s town hall, and when we decided to visit the city, it was the first thing that went on my to-see list.

Floor of Manchester town hall A closer look at the town hall floor Public bin in Manchester Bee carved into stonework of a building Manchester's worker bee Bees in the crest of the Corn Exchange Metalwork bee Bee motif on a traffic bollard Planter box in Manchester

From there, I was curious to see how many other bees we could spot around the city. Some were obvious, like those decorating the many public bins. Others were more discreet, hiding within emblems or carved into the stonework of buildings.

Watch the video.

Lights of Manchester Town Hall

It was a trick I discovered in Sydney’s town hall. When faced with a dark building interior, take photos of the lights from below. The results are fantastic.

Manchester‘s town hall is a beautiful building and worth a visit. Taking decent photographs inside is tricky. The lights tend to dominate the shot – they do however accent the gilt edges nicely.

Great Hall in Manchester's town hall
Great Hall in Manchester’s town hall

Standing directly below and photographing different clusters of lights produced these strange and beautiful photos.

Lights within Manchester town hall
Lights within Manchester town hall
Lights within Manchester town hall
Lights within Manchester town hall
Lights within Manchester town hall
Lights within Manchester town hall
Lights within Manchester town hall
Lights within Manchester town hall
Lights within Manchester town hall
Lights within Manchester town hall
Lights within Manchester town hall
Lights within Manchester town hall

Capturing an Indescribable Quality

I love taking photographs and rarely leave home without my camera. I am frequently reminded that while I love pointing and clicking away, I often fall far short of capturing the view as I remember it.

Often my photos feel lacking depth and contrast. Over the years I have learnt to rein in my camera’s automatic settings and white balance adjustments but my methods are tricks rather than expertise based on real understanding.

Recently I have begun to work on changing that. I have started taking more photos on settings other than the comfortable, forgiving, automatic and program modes.

I have started messing around with one setting at a time; learning what it does, how it affects my photos, and what new types of photographs the setting opens up for me.

The result is many more photos but with few worth keeping. Those I do keep justify my efforts.

Evening in Lyon's large city park
Evening in Lyon’s large city park
Tiles on a dome in Vichy
Tiles on a dome in Vichy
A walkway alongside a spa in Vichy
A walkway alongside a spa in Vichy
A fountain in a Vichy spa
A fountain in a Vichy spa

Those few stand out for feeling better; they have an indescribable quality of being captivating. The moment more accurately evoked – both lighter and darker – less perfect in some ways, but much more interesting to look at.

Water droplets caught mid-air
Water droplets caught mid-air

Manchester’s Libraries

Libraries are not generally what you’d consider tourist attractions. So, it surprised me to realise that we had visited four libraries during our three-day visit to Manchester.

Portico Library

Labelled bookshelves in Portico Library Glass roof of Portico Library Portico Library
The Portico Library is a tiny, glass-domed reading room, with book-lined walls. It was established in 1806, and I can imagine gentlemen of the day discussing business and politics in deep armchairs. The centre of the room is now crowded with display cases and cafe tables, which hides some of the grandeur of the space.

John Rylands Library

John Rylands Library Building Main Staircase in John Rylands Library John Rylands Library Main Hall
The John Rylands Library is magnificent and surreal. It looks like a gothic cathedral, and it is so unexpected that it feels like an elaborate movie set.

If your things-to-see list only has space for one library, this is the one to visit.

Central Library

Manchester Central Library Building Books line the circular walls of the Central Library reading room Exquisite clock in the centre of the reading room
The Central Library is a public lending library. The impressive, circular building tempted us in, and the modern renovation within was even more impressive. Along with the modern facilities, they have preserved some of the old features of the building; the domed reading room is exquisite.

Chetham’s Library

Grounds of Chetham's Music School Chained books in Chetham's Library Dark wood bookcases in Chetham's Library
Chetham’s Library is another tiny library, tucked away in the grounds of Chetham’s School of Music. The dark wood-panelled bookshelves open up into a room where Karl Marx once studied.

Manchester

I had never visited Manchester before. Manchester is city to the north of England and one steeped in history. Even with such a rich past, I know the city more through its modern place in culture – a place of music and as a counter-point to an all too often London centric country.

Being able to visit Manchester with Megan, who grew up in Australia, was a linguistic treat. Megan knows bedding and linen collectively as Manchester. This term for linen is used in shops and in general conversation in Australia. You will find a Manchester department advertised within a store and there you will find the bedding.

Taking Megan to a city so associated with a product was always going to be fun. There was of course no mention of the Australian interpretation of the name to be found. We did try to learn more at the Museum of Science and Industry.

The accents further north in Great Britain are also a linguistic treat. A few conversations ended with Megan looking bemused, wondering what had been said.

The city centre felt alive with young people. Nearby university buildings ensured this; students were visible everywhere we went. We happened to visit at the time of graduation ceremonies and twice found ourselves within throngs of proud parents and garbed up graduates.

We only saw a few brief glimpses of the centre and the city during our visit. From the train, the suburbs told a different story, long rows of red brick houses stretched out into the distance. It would be interesting to see a bit more of that world.

Manchester Piccadilly Station
Manchester Piccadilly Station
Glazed red tiles adorn many buildings
Glazed red tiles adorn many buildings
Manchester town hall and surrounds
Manchester town hall and surrounds
Walkways join council buildings
Walkways join council buildings
Staircase within Manchester town hall
Staircase within Manchester town hall
Corridor within Manchester town hall
Corridor within Manchester town hall
Manchester town hall's clock tower
Manchester town hall’s clock tower
Formal entrance to Manchester's Chinese district
Formal entrance to Manchester’s Chinese district
Boat locks within Manchester's city centre
Boat locks within Manchester’s city centre
Tram lines
Tram lines
Horizon dominating Beetham Tower
Horizon dominating Beetham Tower
Old Manchester train station
Old Manchester train station
Signage hints to a different past
Signage hints to a different past
View from the train over the inner suburbs
View from the train over the inner suburbs