It started cloudy but turned into a lovely summery day, so my Trans Pennine Trail > Cheshire Ring loop on the bike was to be savoured, not rushed.
After a false start saw me returning home for sunglasses, I set off down the familiar towpath of the Bridgewater Canal to Stretford. The Bridge public house by Dane Road has recently been refurbished, I think, and reports indicate that it’s a good place to tarry. Perhaps we should meet there one evening.
There have been major path improvements where you leave the towpath just before the Watch House Cruising Club building. This used to be a steep descent into a muddy ‘dip’ to join the TPT path that is now on the far side of the green railings. This may or may not be to do with water management – I’ve noticed quite a lot of work going on in the past few months that may be to do with water management and dealing with large volumes of water in the Mersey Valley without damage to property. Or it could simply be an ongoing project of maintenance and improvement of the towpaths and the Trans Pennine Trail.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that in the inner city environment, albeit an affluent one, there will still be scallies with spray paint who keep the team of council workers armed with solvents fully occupied. The picture below also shows the blue TPT signs that are now followed all the way to the Peak Forest Canal, some 26 km away.
Jackson’s Boat footbridge was built in 1816, when a halfpenny toll was charged to cross it on foot or one penny with a bicycle. That bridge was washed away in a storm and was rebuilt in 1881 as an iron girder bridge, still charging a toll to cross the river. In the 1940s Manchester Corporation bought the bridge and the toll was abolished by the end of the decade. It has recently been refurbished, and even more recently has been made wheelchair friendly. In the background you can see the recently opened tram line to Manchester Airport, crossing the Mersey on an impressive new bridge.
My ride continued beside the river, then around the delightful shores of Chorlton Water Park, full of visitors on the sunny Bank Holiday. Those bicycles do look rather strange though!
Back to ‘Inner City’. Throughout this ride I was aware of overflowing litter bins, probably just with the weekend’s rubbish. Why can’t people be bothered to take it home when the bins are full? It must be some sort of an urban disease. The ginnel at the end of our road is another example where rubbish just seems to be casually discarded. I may team up with a neighbour to clear it occasionally, but I’m surprised that this isn’t done by the people living next to the ginnel; it would only take a few minutes every now and then…
A little further on, the TPT crosses the river in Northenden, although the rather longer looping riverside path could be followed, and passes this new block of housing, with large French windows opening onto yet to be built Juliet balconies (or balconettes) with good views across the river.
The new buildings are just downstream of a weir. They should be good places to live, with little chance of any flooding due to the superb flood management systems for the Mersey Valley.
The new homeowners will no doubt regret the passing of the Tatton Arms, a rambling old hostelry that really looks set for demolition. Will it be replaced by housing, or sensible supporting infrastructure? (Such as a pub / restaurant / school / surgery / shops?)
Whoever was responsible for this new signpost on the far side of the bridge still had faith in the survival of the Tatton Arms. (Click to enlarge.)
Leaving the riverside, the TPT runs through Didsbury to join a disused railway line. Well, that used to be the case, but some of the disused track has now been reclaimed by the Metrolink tram network, relegating the cycle track to a neat route next to the re-laid rails.
East Didsbury station is currently the terminus of the South Manchester line from St Peter’s Square. There are no current plans to extend it further.
The old railway line continues to Stockport. The TPT follows this route for a while before reverting to the banks of the Mersey, starting through this corrugated iron tunnel at East Didsbury.
On the approach to Stockport, ‘The Pyramid’ is passed. This iconic building may be familiar to those who fly over Stockport before landing at Manchester Airport. Back in the 1980s there was a project to build five pyramids along the banks of the Mersey, but this was the only one actually constructed, and that wasn’t without its problems. The developer went bust in the early 1990s and Co-op Bank appointed receivers (my former employers). We tried for several years to sell the unfinished building, without success, leaving Co-op Bank with little alternative but to take possession and deal with the huge white elephant themselves. The most sensible option was to complete the build and use the place for their own purposes. My guess is that the Co-op Bank has subsequently had to cope with much tougher problems!
The TPT takes several alternative routes through Stockport. On this occasion I lost sight of the signs and took a short cut down Great Egerton Street. The River Tame is now followed, with the aid of more disused railway track, to Reddish Vale where there’s a café and toilets. I sometimes stop here, but today I simply picked up a couple of bags of crisps and continued a further 5 to 6 km through the Tame Valley to a favourite picnic bench overlooking a Haughton Green meadow.
This is about half way along the ride and today this spot in the warm sunshine seemed to me to be as good a place for a half hour break as many an Alpine meadow.
Soon afterwards the Peak Forest Canal towpath is joined and the TPT is left to continue on in an easterly direction
Barges on the canal are a Good Thing. Barges in the canal are a Bad Thing. Hopefully one of the Work Boats and a crane will deal with this burnt out wreck.
On a more positive note, it was good to see the barge below negotiating the obstacles, and what used to be a muddy towpath has now been expertly re-laid, so it can be used as a cycle route on wet days without the rider becoming engulfed in mud.
This is the home of a large resident community of Canada Geese, who obviously do not have a taste for daisies!
After a while, Dukinfield Junction is reached. The northern end of the Peak Forest Canal. To the left, towards Manchester, is the Ashton Canal, and to the right the Huddersfield Narrow Canal heads through Stalybridge before going north to the Standedge Tunnel, the longest, highest and deepest canal tunnel in Britain.
Taking the Ashton Canal option, this magnificent chimney soon comes into view.
Nearby, this is one of many families of Canada Geese that litter our local canals.
The Ashton canal also requires a Work Boat and crane to recover this debris. I chatted at length to the Canadian couple pictured. They live in the centre of Manchester and were enthusing about this, their first venture along the canal from their front door. It’s a lovely walk, despite the inevitable inner city rubbish.
Soon, the descent into Manchester City Centre via a long series of locks commences. Manchester City’s football stadium can be seen in the distance and is soon passed, as is the velodrome whose facilities catalysed the resurgence of UK track cycling prior to the 2012 Olympics.
The suburb of Bradford has some new property, but today my attention was drawn to this old mill building, possibly about to come down. Not exactly Valparaiso, but in the context of the size of the building these are quite sizable pieces of graffiti.
I think they are very good efforts.
At the end of the lock system some canalside housing is passed before the Ashton Canal joins the Rochdale Canal near a bridge, from which there’s this view towards Miles Platting to the north.
The Rochdale Canal link with the Bridgewater Canal is now followed through the centre of Manchester. The only section where it’s not possible to cycle the towpath is the short journey along Canal Street, through the Gay Village.
The view below from Canal Street always reminds me of days in the 1960s spent in UMIST’s main building, either in laboratories, the library, or high up in K3, taking exams.
You see city centre Manchester from a different angle if you take to the towpath.
Castlefield basin displays a panoply of industrial archaeology, from Roman times to 1764, when it was the terminus of the Bridgewater Canal, to the recently constructed Merchants Bridge.
From Castlefield it’s a short ride home along a much travelled route, past Manchester United’s Old Trafford base.
Here’s the route downloaded from my Garmin GPS, including the false start, and an extra kilometre in Denton due to a navigation error brought on by a tussle with a road bike.
Approximately 62 km, with a meagre 220 metres ascent, taking rather less than 5 hours. (Click on the image for a slightly larger version.)