We've launched a campaign to attract narrowboats back to Manchester.
Although two of the region’s major waterways, the Rochdale Canal and the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, were fully restored just after the Millennium, leisure boaters have been slow to visit the city in large numbers.
We want to turn that around by mounting a publicity campaign to tell boaters about the many attractions on offer in the ‘Venice of the North’. With the help of bright, new canal signage, improved towpaths and more regular events, we hope to create a new buzz around the city’s waterways.
David Baldacchino, local waterway manager with the Canal & River Trust, explained: “Twenty years ago only a few pleasure boaters travelled through the area along the Ashton Canal and down to Castlefield as part of the Cheshire Cruising Ring. Even the buildings used to turn their backs on the city centre canals.
“But the situation is very different now. New developments like Piccadilly Village, the Bridgewater Hall, the Rain Bar and Castlefield positively embrace their lovely waterside settings.
"The canal system is a great place to walk, jog or cycle off road, away from traffic and urban bustle. Salford Friendly Anglers have just taken out fishing rights in the city centre and local boating businesses are expanding as visitors discover one of the best kept secrets of the waterways.”
Among these is the highly successful hotel boat company, Wandering Duck, established three years ago by Mark Bratt and his partner Ruth. Mark believes, despite all the local improvements, out-of-date negative images still persist within the national boating community.
He said: “Our guests love the route and we've never had any negative feedback about travelling through Manchester. It’s important to get over to people that it's OK to take your time and enjoy the city rather than scaring people into getting in and out as quickly as possible.
“There is no longer a need to get up at 5 or 6am and travel all the way through East Manchester (Ashton Canal) and through the city centre (Rochdale Nine) in a day. There are people still doing this, and they miss out on the opportunity to moor in the lovely development of Piccadilly Village and explore the nearby bars & restaurants of the Northern Quarter. This means they end the day exhausted.”