But as many will know, this is far from the first time sinkholes have caused drama in the region as of late.
In 2016 alone – the year that will be remembered by Mancunians for Brexit, the electing of Donald Trump, and of course, sinkholes – at least six major sinkholes opened up across Greater Manchester.
The Mancunian Way sinkhole – which was caused by a collapsed water culvert destroying a main sewer, and quickly became a tourist attraction until it was finally fixed and reopened on 16th June – grabbed most of the headlines, but there was also a 10ft deep, 2ft wide sinkhole that appeared on Tib Street in the Northern Quarter in April, the collapse of an old brick sewer that opened one in Whitefield on 12th September, a super storm caused traffic chaos in Cheetham Hill as a crater closed Waterloo Road two days later, and several other notable instances that can all be referenced from that same year.
But now that we’ve actually highlighted the sheer scale of the problem, what actually is a sinkhole? What makes them occur? And just why do we seem to be so plagued with them here in Greater Manchester?
We had a dig around to get to the bottom of this – and this is what we found.
What are sinkholes?
If we’re going to get technical with it, the Oxford English Dictionary defines a sinkhole as: “a cavity in the ground, especially in a limestone formation, caused by water erosion and providing a route for surface water to disappear underground”, but in a nutshell, a sinkhole is essentially any hole in the ground created by erosion and the drainage of water.
Sinkholes can either be just a few feet across, or in the case of the aforementioned instances in Gorton earlier this week, large enough to swallow whole vehicles and whole buildings.
Although they’re more often than not the result of natural processes, they can also be triggered by human activity too.
Are there different types of sinkhole?
The short answer is yes – there are two basic types of sinkhole.
There’s those that are created slowly over time, which are known as cover-subsidence sinkholes, and those that appear suddenly, which are known as a cover-collapse sinkhole, and as you’d expect, it’s the latter type that creates the sort of headlines we’ve seen this week and in recent years, but both varieties are formed by the same basic mechanism.
Why do they occur?
Now, this is where the real geological explanations have to come into it.
Sinkholes mainly occur in what is known as ‘karst terrain’ – areas of land where soluble bedrock, such as limestone or gypsum, can be dissolved by water.
With cover-subsidence sinkholes, the bedrock becomes exposed and is gradually worn down over time, with the holes often becoming ponds as the water fills them in, but with a cover-collapse sinkhole, this same process occurs out of our sight.
With cover-collapse sinkholes, naturally-occurring cracks and small voids underneath the surface are hollowed out by water erosion, with a cover of soil or sediment remaining over the top, and eventually, as the hole expands over time, this cover can no longer support its own weight and suddenly collapses to reveal the cavern that’s been hiding underneath.
Pothole vs Sinkhole
There are a number of differences between a pothole and a sinkhole, that aren’t just the size of the hole and the drama that goes along with it.
It was revealed earlier this month, thanks to a recent study by Manchester-based personal injury lawyers JMW Solicitors and data from fixmystreet.com, that as of January 2021, there were 7,114 reported open pothole cases reported across Greater Manchester – a whopping 2,356 of those being in the City of Manchester itself – with the situation only predicted to get worse, so it would seem that sinkholes aren’t the only recurring issue we have in the region.
But what is the difference between the two?
To keep it brief, and without repeating too much of what has already been explained, a sinkhole is a closed natural depression in the ground surface caused by removal of material below the ground, whereas a pothole is usually a fairly small feature caused by a failure of paving materials.
Potholes are known to become more abundant in late winter and spring due to freeze-thaw damage.
Why do we get so many sinkholes in Greater Manchester?
And now we’ve come down to the crux of it.
What is it about the region of Greater Manchester that seems to be revealing so many dangerous and damaging sinkholes in comparison to others? Well, according to Dr Domenico Lombardi – a lecturer in Geotechnical Engineering at the University of Manchester, who gave his two cents on the topic after the year of sinkhole mayhem that was 2016 – our sinkholes are not a natural phenomenon as much as they are man made.
It’s all about the number of old mines, sewers, a growing population and ongoing building works that we have going on in the region – and of course, increasing rainfall.
We know by now that sinkholes occur when underground cavities collapse, causing the failure of the ground above, but in Greater Manchester, our geology is mainly sand and sandstone – which are hardly soluble – so Dr Lombardi says we need to look to old mines and collieries, which are eroded during heavy rainfall or when there is a leaking water main or sewer pipe.
In these cases an underground cavity can form super quick, and the collapse can happen in a matter of hours – as was reported by United Utilities to the case in Abbey Hey yesterday.
Dr Lombardi said: “In recent years, an increasing number of sinkholes have been observed in Greater Manchester and in other regions of the United Kingdom. Arguably, this can be attributed to the increasing number of extreme rainfall events… flooding and an ageing utility infrastructure.”
Dr Lombardi recommends timely repairs and maintenance of piping, and a more sustainable drainage system, with more urban green areas too.
It’s hard to decipher for sure at this point whether the necessary action is being undertaken to prevent more dangerous and damaging sinkholes from opening up across the region – especially as the number of freak weather occurrences are becoming harder to predict – but with work now officially being underway on Manchester’s first city centre park in 100 years, and the City of Trees initiative – which will see three million trees planted across Greater Manchester as part of The Northern Forest – starting to take shape, there’s no denying that positive ground is being made.
Time will surely tell.
We tried Greater Manchester’s first eight-course pie-tasting menu and it was absolutely unreal
Every now and again the opportunity to eat something genuinely new and different and which pushes the envelope when it comes to the kind of food you ever even thought you’d enjoy — sitting down for the inaugural ‘PieSessions’ was one of those such occasions.
This month, we had the privilege of being invited along to one of the most exclusive and highly-anticipated dining events in Greater Manchester: an eight-course pie-tasting event created by pie-pros Ate Days A Week, Scotty’s Pies and a number of other collaborators.
Hosting a true first for the region, Notion Bar over in Stockport was packed out with over 50 guests who were all eagerly awaiting to taste pies from the local favourite, MasterChef contestant turned meat and pastry specialist Scott Eckersley-Bell, as well as Wigan staples Baldy’s Pies and Harwoods Patisserie.
At first glance, the popular SK Deep South-inspired dive bar might not look like the place to offer up a gourmet tasting menu, but what it did have was an accessible charm and a bunch of hungry people not only willing to keep their minds open but who simply love all things pie. Who doesn’t?
At the top of the bill was probably one of the most interesting things we’ve eaten all year: a Japanese-inspired ‘Pie-Scream’ which delivered the exact savoury spin as it promised on the tin. A malt-crust cone stuffed with smoothly pipped mash, katsu curry sauce and crispy Teriyaki bacon in place of a flake.
We believe we call that ‘making a good first impression’. From that moment on, we knew we weren’t just going to be eating any old meal and that it wasn’t just going to be plate after plate of what you normally consider a pie; everything was different and we can honestly say everything was good, if not amazing.
Next up we had probably one of our standouts from the entire night which was a garlic, ginger and soy pork mince tartlet with a perfect piece of honey-glazed pork belly next to it, as well as a light edamame and spring onion purée to balance out the strong flavours.
Following on from the opener, the pair delivered all of the tried and tested Asian flavours in a method most will have never experienced them in before and, in truth, we could have even taken some extra spice with that virtually perfect tartlet but they were careful not to thrash our palettes early doors.
Two down, six to go and when we tell you it was plate after plate of precise pie-based ingenuity, we’re not exaggerating. From the short rib slider, which was almost like an elevated Wigan kebab, to the gentler poached cod pithivier which kind of reminded us of a seafood twist on a Cornish pasty, there was a single thing we didn’t like.
The way the menu was also carefully constructed not to beat you over the head with non-stop meat, pastry and gravy but to fluctuate between smaller bites and more substantial courses was already pretty impressive, as we managed to make it to the end of the meal at the perfect level of full.
We were even pleasantly surprised to see how the team tackled the issue of pudding, with a sweet and just sharp enough take on parfait with fresh orange, stem ginger and brown sugar, as well as a much richer chocolate, salted caramel and hazelnut brownie for a big finish.
To be honest, we loved the tiny little lemon madeleines they surprised us with as an after-dinner treat even more than the desserts (the two of us in attendance are lemon fiends, to be fair) but the best course of the night has to go to the ‘Big Jim Volume 2.0’.
Speaking to Ate Days A Week Founder Andy James on our way out, you could clearly see how his passion for the concept had translated amongst his colleagues, into the excitement of the guests and then back onto him after he saw how well the whole thing went down.
There was a real buzz about the place that was nothing like we’d ever experienced before with other tasting menus and we think it’s because those in attendance had never sat down for a meal that was as experimental as this one whilst also being that accessible.
Yes, it might be a touch posher than pie, mash and gravy but it never stayed too far away from that simple British pleasure and while there were certainly a few thrills to give you that tasting menu feel, nothing felt out of place and neither did the diners.
Pulling off one of the best teas we’ve had in a long time from a tiny kitchen inside a rough-around-the-edges late-night drinking spot, we already know there will be a sequel to PieSessions not only because Andy told us so but because it was such a massive success. Count us in for the next one.
Manchester Christmas Markets 2023 — dates, locations, prices and everything you need to know
Rejoice, Manchester it’s that time again — famously the most wonderful time of year, and you know what that means: we’ll soon be filling our faces with bratwurst, cheersing steins of Bavarian beer and filling our houses with far too many festive trinkets because the Christmas Markets are back.
We’re not even tooting our own horn when we say this, it’s just a fact that the Manchester Christmas Markets are some of the best and most popular on the planet and this year we celebrate 25 years since the seasonal stalls first opened up in 0161 and started a legendary annual tradition.
It doesn’t matter how many years roll by, we still await their arrival like little kids waiting for Christmas morning and set our schedules for what time we’re going to head out on which day to cross off the must-haves on our markets checklist.
With that in mind, we thought we’d help you put together your own plan of attack this holiday season and give you all the info you need to know to make the most of the 2023 Manchester Christmas Markets. You can thank us later.
Manchester Christmas Markets 2023 mug design and price
Every year the Manchester Christmas Markets has a limited-edition mug design, and this year the collectable souvenir has taken inspiration from the Nutcracker.
There are two different sizes and 2023 designs to collect when the markets officially open next week.
When you order a hot drink at the markets you’ll be charged a £3.50 deposit for a mug (that’s up from £3 last year).
You can then return your cup when you’re finished to get your money back, or take it home as a memento.
Last year, the Manchester Christmas Markets mugs were so popular they ran out before the markets had even finished – but they’ve ordered extras this year to be on the safe side.
Travel advice and how to get to the Manchester Christmas Markets 2023
Transport for Greater Manchester has urged people to use public transport wherever possible to travel in and out of the city centre for the Manchester Christmas Markets.
That’s because of all the events running alongside the festivities, from huge football matches to gigs at the AO Arena to Black Friday sales.
The Bee Network app will help you to plan your journey and you can read all the latest travel advice here.
The best hotels to stay in for the Manchester Christmas Markets
Now, for those of you travelling into town to sample our world-famous markets — as literally thousands do every single year — you might be in need of somewhere to lay your head after a few too many steaming mugs of Glühwein.
Fortunately, since this city continues to be such a popular tourist attraction all year round, there are plenty of hotels to suit whatever your budget is.
In fact, you’re so lucky that we already put together a list of the best hotels in Manchester a little while back, so you’re welcome in advance.
And that should do you for now and your guide to the 2023 Manchester Christmas Markets — we’re sure most of you know the score by now: it’ll be a big, cold, a bit busy but utterly wonderful as it always is.
We’ve found the trick is to try out a few days during the week if you want to beat the rush and then come back at the weekend for the full-bellied crowds brimming with festive cheer.
There really is nothing like it in our opinion and we’ll be sure to keep bringing you plenty of updates on all things Christmas Markets-related going on in Manchester over the next couple of months.