The clock tower outside Altrincham Metrolink station. It's a Victorian-era brick tower with a white rendered cupola and white clock face.

Photographer Gary Roberts was back on the road again last month, gathering images of life in Trafford as part of our whistle-stop tour around Greater Manchester's ten boroughs.

If you wanted to travel through an example of the demographic and development spectrum of Greater Manchester you could do worse than take the tram ride that spans the southern reaches of Trafford, Altrincham, to the Cornbrook stop at the borough’s northern boundary.

Stalls outside at Altrincham market, on a square with decorative paving.
Outside at Altrincham market.

Altrincham, with average house prices of £556,391 is out-priced only by its more southerly Trafford neighbour of Bowden whose average house price is an eye watering £1,006,373

Both are multiples of the average value of properties in Old Trafford at the Cornbrook end of the line. A stroll around this ancient market town exudes affluence with the award-winning market housing stalls catering for foodies and luxury items rather than everyday necessities. The arrival of a Gail’s bakery soon in the town centre is very much seen as the litmus test for an area that has ‘arrived’.

The inside of Altrincham market. It has a steel-and-glass shed roof with bunting and lights suspended from the beams, and there are people sat at tables in the foreground eating and drinking, with market stalls along the external walls.
A nice day out at Altrincham market.

Salfordian Sir Graham Brady, the long-serving Tory MP for Altrincham and Sale West, has witnessed the area’s renaissance but has recently announced he is standing down. Although according to recent polls he may not have had the choice to remain after the next general election.

Red-and-white shopfront for Gail's Bakery, prior to opening. The windows are covered from the inside by red-and-white displays to disguise the shop fit-out going on inside.
Gail’s Bakery

The Sale stop on the tram marks an approximate midpoint, both geographically and economically. Average house prices come in at a more modest £404,145, but still above the national UK average. Buoyed by recent waterside development and the redeveloped Stanley square, the centre is attracting upmarket eateries and food shops.

Ashley, co-owner of Ashby’s organic grocers located in Sale centre, notes the recent changes to the town:

Ashley, a white man with glasses and a beard, wearing a dark blue apron with his company's logo, stands inside his greengrocer shop with trays and bowls of fruit & veg on display.
Ashley, co-owner of Ashby’s organic greengrocer.

“Our shop has been open for a year but I have been a frequent visitor before this and the changes I have seen have been amazing. The improvements have spread from the centre out through School Road, Northenden Road with coffee shops and restaurants and even Washway Road has seen the arrival of fashion boutiques.”

The recent announcement of the closure of the the Stanley Square-based Sale food hall shows, however, that even this town is not immune from recent rises in energy prices and the cost-of-living crisis.

Looking along the canal at the back of the King's Ransom pub in Sale. There are rowing boats moored against a wooden jetty, and on the opposite bank there is a 1960s-style office block. Further in the distance, these is some canalside brick-built housing.
The canal behind the King’s Ransom pub in Sale

Ashley, though, remains optimistic:

“Sale is more of a destination place now, with visitors from nearby Altrincham and Chorlton as well as from closer to the city”.

A blue plaque for author Dodie Smith, on a white rendered wall surface.
Blue Plaque for Dodie Smith – see if you can locate it!

The final stop on the tram, before you leave Trafford, serves as the main interchange for the Manchester Metrolink network, and is Cornbrook located in Old Trafford . Although buttressed up against the new developments of Manchester City centre, and with its affluent history and architecture in the conservation area along Chester Road, the area has recently received criticism for its lagging behind in development. 

Empty fireplace showroom on a busy Talbot Road in Old Trafford. There are two cars speeding by, one red, one black, travelling in opposite directions.
Derelict fireplace showroom at Trafford Bar.

Pomona Island, next to the Cornbrook stop, now an overgrown wasteland and environmental retreat for bird life, once acted as a countryside and entertainment retreat for the city but is now squeezed on all sides by new developments.

A large residential block under construction next to Pomona Island. In the foreground there is the island's long grass and a paved path through the centre.
Pomona Island overlooked by new apartments under construction.

It would be nice for this missing piece of the Trafford jigsaw to be returned with some thought to its historical role as a place of idyllic landscape and recreation for all of Trafford and Greater Manchester residents to enjoy. True development, not just about the bottom line.

A Kestrel flies over Pomona Island, with an old, grimy lamppost in the foreground and a Capital & Centric hoarding in the background.
Nature finding a way among the rampant property development.

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All images: Gary Roberts

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  • Gary Roberts

    A photojournalist and writer who covers conservation and social issues worldwide. Founder of Education background includes BSc Zoology at Leeds University and an MSc at The University of Manchester in International development poverty, conflict and reconstruction. Gary studied and later taught photojournalism at Speos Photographic institute. His work has involved numerous conservation and social justice groups including The Fairtrade foundation, Oxfam, ABRU Animal Behaviour Research Unit, SOS Lynx, Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, TANAPA, and APOPO. Publications include UK National and International Press.


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