Friday, 25 March 2011
Wednesday 23 March 2011 - The Salford Trail (Part 3)
Avid readers (are there any?) may recall that a small team of Timperley Trotters and Tipplers joined an elite squad of mud splodgers from East Lancashire LDWA (Long Distance Walkers Association) on 23 February for ‘Part 2’ of the Salford Trail.
Today we reconvened outside the Marriot Hotel at Worsley Old Hall, where walk leader Reg gave a short speech in the blinding sunshine to his 22 or so victims.
“Worsley Old Hall is part of a large Conservation area which includes the Marriott Hotel and Golf Course. The Hotel was formerly the Farm attached to the Hall. The Old Hall was the residence of James Brindley(1717-1771),employed by the Duke of Bridgewater to design and build the Bridgewater Canal and the Barton Aqueduct.”
A group photo was taken. Several late-comers contrived to avoid this ritual. I’ve borrowed the official photo.
Eventually we set off. Then we stopped almost immediately to remove all except base layers and to arrange a rendezvous with some latecomers. We were on a golf course. “Watch Out” screamed Norman (54, but thanks to SpecSavers still alert as a wary Meer cat) when a golf ball whistled past his ears. “Sorry” the wayward golfer apologised to the rest of us, “I’ll get him next time…!”
Our tour of the golf course continued, along bone dry paths, in beautiful 16C weather – what a contrast with that day in February when we did ‘Part 2’.
The tall spire of the Ellesmere Memorial towered above us, but somehow we contrived to walk in a loop around this Memorial, without actually managing to visit it!
The main A572 Leigh Road was negotiated with difficulty, but we were soon progressing nicely through fields full of bull rushes beyond a Garden Centre to the relative tranquility of the Bridgewater Canal’s towpath.
This path led gently to Worsley Green and a plethora of display boards detailing the history of the 250 year old canal and its associated mining and transport heritage.
We passed the half-timbered Packet House where passenger services on the canal to Manchester started in 1769.
By now we’d been going for nearly an hour, so a lengthy elevenses break was in order. Well, ‘twelvses’, perhaps – we hadn’t set off until after eleven.
We feasted on the steps of Worsley's only monument to Francis, 3rd Duke of Bridgewater, "The Canal Duke" – 1736 to 1803. This was constructed from the base of the Works Yard chimney. Apparently it was originally a fountain, though sadly now dry. The base carries a Latin inscription:
A lofty column breathing smoke and fire,
Did I the builder's glory once aspire,
Whose founder was that Duke who far and wide
Bridged water through Bridgewater's countryside.
Stranger! This spot, where once did never cease
Great Vulcan's year, would sleep in silent peace,
But beneath my very stones does mount
That water's source, his honour's spring and fount.
Alas! That I who gazed o'er field and town
Should to these base proportions dwindle down.
But all's not over, still enough remains
To testify past glories, duties, pain.
We then wandered across to the Delph where Reg explained that the previously orange waters derived from seepage of iron ore into a sandstone quarry from where around 52 miles of underground channels served the Duke of Bridgewater’s coal mines as far as Walkden and Farnworth.
Reg offered another short speech: “The building of the Bridgewater Canal, linking coal mines in Worsley to Manchester, was responsible for halving the price of coal overnight thus fuelling the Industrial Revolution. A million tons of coal were mined each year until 1887.”
It’s much cleaner these days, with Kingfishers occasionally being seen hereabouts.
Our route continued into Worsley Woods and alongside the Old Warke Dam, at the end of which a black and white Tudor style cottage marked the point at which we descended some steps on to the old Tyldesley Loop Line footpath. The railway served the towns of Tyldesley and Leigh until its premature closure in 1965 thanks to Dr Beeching’s brutal axe.
The previously muddy course of the railway has now been nicely surfaced – an excellent amenity that from here provides a straight walk of about one mile to its end at Monton. On the way, the site of Worsley railway station is passed. Young mothers with prams were enjoying the sunny day on the long platforms.
From the end of the Loop Line in Monton, we turned right at the conservation area that is Monton Green and crossed the bridge over the canal, gaining the towpath by ‘The Waterside’ pub, directly opposite the Monton Lighthouse.
Monton Lighthouse is a recent structure, the forty-foot red and white building having been built with loving care by "Barnacle" Phil Austin over a four-year period. The local media has provided good coverage, with various videos accessible from here.
I fancied a pint – there were lots of folk lazing in the Waterside’s beer garden. Norman, a confirmed alcoholic, would have joined me but was scared of the repercussions from Reg. “You know he was a ‘butcher’ – he’ll have my guts for garters” whispered Norman, turning pale at the mere thought of crossing our leader.
The canal towpath was fairly narrow. A cyclist encountered some difficulty with our procession. I was at the back, expecting to hear a big splash, but the lad emerged unscathed.
A railway passed overhead. Apparently this is the Liverpool to Manchester railway, opened in 1830, and the bridge is the world’s first example of a railway bridge over a canal.
Patricroft railway station is nearby, together with the Queens Arms pub, the worlds first railway pub. Originally named the Patricroft Tavern, this was opened in 1828 in anticipation of the business associated with the opening of the new railway. The name was changed following a visit to Salford by Queen Victoria in the 1850s. She arrived at Patricroft Station and then transferred to the Royal Barge on the nearby canal for transfer to Worsley where she stayed as a guest of the Duke of Bridgewater. A replica of the barge (another ‘Phil Austin project’) is stored beside the canal, covered by a tarpaulin that makes it less than photogenic. So no photo, I’m afraid.
We left the canal here, in favour of a path beside the railway line as far as Worsley Brook. Following the brook to a path under the motorway, we then jinked about and finished up at the side of a cemetery. Soon we emerged onto the moss land (Barton Moss) at the outer edge of the busy Barton Aerodrome.
It was 1.30. Time for lunch. For those who hadn’t eaten their lunch at our twelvses stop! I found a few more goodies in my bum bag – mini red cherry peppers stuffed with feta and mizythra cheeses – courtesy of Mr Sainsbury. Sorry I didn’t have enough for everyone (Norman refused to speak to me for at least ten minutes).
Apart from a little jink to cross the motorway, the path through the moss runs dead straight for nearly three miles.
Twelve Yards Road seems a most inappropriate name! It was pleasant enough though, in good chatty company under a burning sun, and before we knew it we’d reached the end of Twelve Yards Road and had turned left at Astley Road. This road was busier, with an assortment of vehicles from juggernauts to 4WD buggies out for a joy-ride to contend with. We survived, though, but I don’t know whether anyone noticed the unusual names of two of the farms along the way. Ebeneezer Farm and Hephzibah Farm. Good old Salford names, in good old Salford countryside…?!
Soon after re-crossing the motorway, we eschewed the footpath sign that provided a clue to the continuation of the Salford Trail (that will be ‘Part 4’) and continued down Astley Road to the A57, where a right turn led us back to some cars at Irlam rail station. I think everyone managed to get a lift back to Worsley Old Hall. I know that we managed to acquire a new recruit for the Timperley Tipplers – Moira was on her first LDWA walk and it turns out that she lives very close to our little quartet (JJ, Rick, V and me). So she won a lift home. Well, as far as a pot of tea at Chez Rick, anyway.
It was also good to see Alan and Sheila (Alan’s entertaining take on the day is here), and John from Stockport, who we also saw later at a most enjoyable show of a cine film taken on an overland journey from London to Kathmandu in 1968.
What a lovely day!
Reg‘s official LDWA report on the walk is here, and Roy Bullock’s Salford Trail website is here. I’ve borrowed an image from the LDWA and a few words from Roy’s site – I hope nobody minds. Thank you, anyway!
I’ve uploaded a few more photos to an album here if anyone is interested.
Today’s route is shown below – 18 km, with all of 50 metres ascent, in a little less than 5 hours.