My colleague Lucy, from our Enterprise team, had asked if a group of us could join her to walk 3.5k along part of the Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal, to give our specialist input into a possible project. I had never walked this stretch before and it was a revelation.
Obviously I was focussing on the heritage aspects of the canal and as I had never walked this stretch before it really was a revelation! We did have to look past the rampant Himalayan Balsam, but what an amazing 18th Century feat of engineering this is. I knew that the canal had been abandoned in the 1960s and I knew only sections were still in water. I’d visited Nob End before and carried out some lime mortar training with the Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal Society at the Meccano Bridge a couple of years ago. However I’d never walked the Bury Arm beyond the breached section.
We walked from Nob End, the junction where the Bury stretch meets the Bolton and Manchester sections, along the towpath to Whitakers Bridge. The high quality of 18th and 19th Century construction was immediately evident. The stone copings that line the edge of the canal are huge and the ¼ stone mile markers are beautifully carved and intact.
We met a few cyclists and walkers along the way, and my dog, Harvey had a lovely time greeting people, though he was rather taken aback by the aggressive cob swan who felt the need to spit at him in the spirit of defending his family.
We passed a number of bridges with the rubbing strips still attached, just! Also I was amazed at how much of the towpath was surfaced with setts. It must have been half of the length we walked. This is very unusual in my experience, setts are usually confined to towpaths under bridges, next to locks and wharf areas.
The canal was opened in 1796 from Bolton to Bury, terminating at Oldfield Road, and extended by way of the Manchester section to the River Irwell in 1808. The main cargo was unsurprisingly coal, given the number of collieries in the area. Sadly the major breach in 1936 was never repaired and the canal formally closed in 1961, though you can still access this section by way of walking in what would have been part of the bed of the canal.
The Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal Society was formed in 1987 and meets regularly to carry out repairs and vegetation management.They are currently working on clearing vegetation from the wonderful locks at the top of the Manchester arm, just below Nob End.
Judy Jones, Heritage adviser (Manchester and Pennine Waterways)
The work carried out by the heritage team is extremely varied, covering all sorts of structures and a wide variety of projects. Not one week is the same and we keep learning all the time, meeting some fascinating people and visiting stunning places along the way. We are hoping that through our blogs we can share some of our passion for the amazing industrial heritage of the inland waterways.See more blogs from Heritage team