I’m a sloth. A short fat hairy one.

It’s early January. I peer out of the cave expecting the usual grim, damp cold wintry weather only to be blinded by bright sunshine and a blue sky!Rear view of Failsworth Town Hall, library and Wholesome Cafe

Damn. So much for hibernating. I’ll have to get up and do something now. But what though?

I shuffle through the cave garbage for ideas, got some leaflets somewhere.

  • A walk: short, about an hour around Moston Brook
  • Nordic Walking: interesting, sticks provided, starting point the local park
  • Cycling: around the track at Boggart Hole Clough, an ‘inclusive‘ activity
  • Pilates: gentle exercise, over 50’s class in Blackley
  • Running: organised Park Run in Chadderton

Running was that? Don’t make me laugh. With all this fur? Nope, a walk’s more my thing, the shorter the better.

The Wholesome Cafe at Failsworth Town Hall was warm, comfy and bustling. I could have stayed all day but the group set off with a spring. Ann Bates led the way and I mooched along at the rear.Lots of variety packed into just one hour and we were back before I knew it. Taking a route alongside the canal, we went over bridges, through open fields and wooded areas, picked out the brook, up and down paths and steps. We paused now and then to chill out and listen to titbits of local history, courtesy of Alan Hampson.

You couldn’t get a finer group of gas-bags. I hardly got a word in edge-ways.Ann Bates (pictured) said “I’m planning regular, monthly, walks and some will be themed too. Covering different aspects of the brook through the seasons. Anyone’s welcome.”

Pooches seemed welcome too, on a lead, plus a brew at the end if you fancied it. I had a blast and it blew a few cobwebs away.

I was so inspired I went for a bike ride a few days later, courtesy of Simply Cycling.

The word ‘bike’ is a bit loose. I chose a tricycle. Don’t laugh. Broke my leg a while back so my balance is a bit skewed. To prove a point, I veered straight down a path and crashed into the gate before wobbling out onto the track.My pride was dented but the gate and ‘bike’ were undamaged, thank God, or I’d have disappeared into the distance never to be seen again.

The sports track at Boggart Hole Clough wasn’t too busy. I shared it with a gentleman rider keeping a good pace, a couple of youngsters trying out a tandem, a mother with younger child on a two-seater. Plenty of others came and went and no-one was disappointed.A bargain at just £2 a session, Simply Cycling have lots of different cycles to choose from, some curious looking. It’s ‘inclusive’ because anyone, any age, any ability or disability can have a go. There’s parking nearby, toilets on site and a cafe next to the boating lake further in the park.

Volunteers are on hand to help you chose a carriage and, in my case, get on the damn thing. I whizzed round and round the track until my legs were tired but it was good fun and I’ll definitely go again.Boggart Hole Clough boating lake and cafe

Details of upcoming events around Moston Brook are posted on the Moston Brook Friends facebook page. Simply Cycling run sessions at three parks across Manchester, including Boggart Hole Clough, just check out their website.

As well as pilates classes, North Manchester Fitness run a range of activities for all ages and abilities throughout the week in Blackley, Harpurhey and Prestwich. Visit their website for details and pick what suits you best.

So, is this short fat hairy sloth ready for spring? Mmmm…maybe but I’ll give my cave a sweep first and take a nap before I decide what to do next…don’t want to overdo it after all?

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“So, what’s your idea?”

Continued from “We help develop the ideas they feel passionate about.”

There’s an energy in the upstairs meeting room. An energy of three teenagers working away on their winning projects, bouncing ideas off their mentors and each other. Trish and I chat to each of them in turn.

For the youth, by the youth
“My business partner, Dublin and I were meant to be revising at home but instead we went into town. On the way we agreed that revising was no fun but if we didn’t get down to it we were going to fail. That’s when we decided to make a revision web app.”

Dapo and Dublin, already fluent in a number of computer programming languages, are taking their GSCEs in a few months time as well as launching their GSCE Maths Cloud App.


“Aren’t the big corporations doing this sort of thing already,” we ask, “why would two 15-year-olds from north Manchester be ahead of the game?”

“It’s for the youth, by the youth. We understand how young people want to learn.” says Dapo confidently before telling us how their videos and podcasts will cater for different learning styles. “You’ll earn points as you revise and they’ll be incentives, like gift cards and books.”

A beta version of the app has already been tested with 2,000 student visits each day. “We’ve had ideas before but we haven’t been able to see things through. The Agency has given us the proper training we’ve needed, we couldn’t have done this ourselves.”

Dynamic Beginnings
“It took a while to develop my idea but I knew I wanted to do something around music because I love it so much,” says Aneka. “I know it really helps people to write down or release feelings through music.”

“So, what’s your idea?” we ask.

“It’s a project consisting of 10 workshops ending with a showcase. It’s aimed at young people to build their singing and songwriting skills. They’ll do both group and individual work so that they get an all-round experience.

“The final showcase will be a chance to show what they’ve learned and what they achieved and they can choose to perform as a group or individually. The aim is to build up their confidence, prove what they can do and hopefully pursue music in the future.”


Aneka’s been busy organising the workshops so, had she enjoyed it and what were her plans?

“Oh yes, and, once I’ve finished my GCSE’s, I hope to continue with the idea and do another series of workshops in the summer. I’ll have more time to plan, a better idea of how much funding I’ll need and how to promote it better. I’ll know much more about what’s involved.”

Workshops are continuing at The Miners in Moston until April. Contact dynamicbeginningsmcr@gmail.com for more information.

Empowering young sportswomen
“My dream would be to get into Team GB as a pro boxer, says Faidat. “I box down at the Collyhurst gym – it’s a great place – but it’s made me realise how difficult it is for young women to get into elite sport.

“Boys have it easier. In pretty much every sport, there are scouts looking out for new male talent, but it’s not the same for girls. So my campaign is called EmpowHerr. I’ll be encouraging more girls into sport and, at the same time, encouraging scouts and elite players to support them.”

“So what will you do exactly?”

“I’ll be visiting schools, speaking to girls interested in sport and signpost them to different clubs. At the moment the aspiration amongst girls to get into sport is quite low. In areas like ours young people don’t often make it in elite sport, unless it’s football.”


Faidat tells us she’s planning a sports day for young women. “It’s called Powerherr Day and I’ll bring girls together from different areas to compete against each other – athletics, football, basketball – watched by scouts and supported by elite players from each sport.

“I’m trying to break down barriers. If I can get two girls into Team GB my job is done. That’s what I’m aiming for.”

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“They start to believe in themselves.”

I’m led through the noisy main hall, out the back where the braver ones are having a kick-about, and down the ramp to the garage. Inside all is quiet and calm.

I’ve been looking forward to visiting the bike maintenance project at The Factory Youth Zone in Harpurhey for some time. It sounds like such a good idea.

In amongst the dozens of bicycles, all in different states of disrepair, three young women are working together with youth worker Heather and volunteer Mike on a couple of mountain bikes perched on maintenance stands.

“We’ve been going for about 16 months,” says Heather when I ask her how it all began. “We started from nothing, and all this place was full of junk.”

With donations of professional tools to get things going Heather explains they now have four fully-equipped workstations where young people work under supervision.

“Most of the bikes here have been donated by the police,” Heather says. “The young people sign up for a twelve week programme where they choose a bike and learn how to put it together with new components. As long as they try hard and respect the place, they get to keep the bike at the end of it.

“You’ll need new tyres for that,” she says, keeping an eye on one of the young women. “Do you remember how to do this? You put one side of the tyre on first, and then the valve…”

“But it’s more than just bike maintenance skills isn’t it?” I ask.

“This is a very able group,” says Heather, “but for others it’s about building self-confidence, communications skills and manual dexterity. Some young people think they can’t do it but once we spend time with them and they see we trust them with the tools then we get results.

“Some say they like the calm atmosphere and it’s more challenging than the activities they do in the main centre.”

Success, Suzanne and Victoria tell me they are all friends from Moston. Success has been working in the garage for three months and has already earned her bike. The others are just starting out.

“So you’re the expert?” I suggest.

She laughs. “What do you like about it?”

“I like helping my friends,” she says while adjusting a chain, “and I like making things, especially hard things. They are changing the tyres now and then we’ll start working on the gears.”

“So you look forward to your Monday evenings?” I ask.

“And I sometimes come down on Tuesdays to help my little sister in the junior session.”

At the next workstation volunteer Mark is helping Victoria with her rear tyre. “I’ve been fixing bikes at my Collyhurst house for years,” he says, “and lads would always come round. It’s a good way for kids to gain confidence.

“They think they can’t do things but, when you do it together, you can see them start to believe in themselves. There’s a connection when you’re fixing something together and it’s a good way of having conversations about other stuff.”

Once tyres and inner tubes are on and pumped up, the young women move on to the their gears. It’s starting to look complicated so I leave them to it.

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