The walking group met on 7th July 2018, at the height of the summer heat wave – though at the time of writing it is actually raining hard! We originally hadn’t planned anything as Paul was due to be away on another two week venture. So it was a last minute decision to make the most of the lovely weather. We did set off half an hour earlier than normal to avoid the worst of the afternoon sun.
We left St. John’s Church Hall at 9am and headed off through Clarence Park towards Freetown. Our walk took us past St. Thomas’ Church and Pimhole before we picked up the Roch Valley Greenway and along the banks of the River Roch for a short while before reaching Blackford Bridge.
Crossing the main road, we then made our way through the housing estate and we walked through Springwater Park, where we experienced the summer colours. We headed out towards Radcliffe Metrolink station and our intended route onto the old Manchester, Bolton & Bury canal.
Manchester, Bolton & Bury Canal
According to the local canal society, the canal originally ran north from Salford, on the River Irwell near Manchester, to Prestolee. Here it split into two: the main line continued to Bury, while a branch headed north-west to Bolton. Now mostly derelict, the canal is under active restoration.
The best-preserved section of canal is around Prestolee and Nob End, where the towpath is a quiet walking route away from the bustle of Bury and Bolton’s town centres. The undisturbed waters here also provide good fishing.
A local history book tells us that when it was fully opened the canal was 15 miles long, had 17 locks and 6 aqueducts. It was built between 1791 and 1808. Most of the freight that it carried was local coal. Eventually it was abandoned in 1961 after the collieries had reached the end of their working lives.
However, the Pioneer Mills footbridge had become unsafe and is therefore closed for access. So we were forced to make a detour back through Radcliffe centre to pick up the canal path. We paused at this point for refreshment before walking the distance of the path to Wellington Street. For those of you not familiar with this route, it takes you past Elton Reservoir and the site of the former Farmer’s Arms. For those of a certain age, The Farmer’s Arms may be better known as Benny’s Nightclub. It was later demolished after being damaged by fire.
After crossing under Crostons Road, we headed towards Woodhill and into the Burrs Country Park. We arrived at the Brown Cow at 1pm and were forced to enjoy refreshment before going our separate ways: either to the Scouts delicious Cream Tea at St John’s Hall or off to watch England’s World Cup Quarter Final tie. It was an extremely enjoyable walk and we had covered about 8 miles altogether.
Best foot forward, David Robinson