Saturday, 1 May 2010

We'll get to Clifton Aqueduct if it kills us

Operation Clifton
April 10th 2010
Easter 2010 - part 14

We decided to have a day off on Saturday and so went for a bike ride instead. As you will have seen from my last post, we were rather underwhelmed by the "restored" section down by the Irwell and set off to see what we could find further upstream.

 Clifton Aqueduct - over the River Irwell

I am normally well prepared for lost canal hunts, but given the last minute change of schedule we came armed only with a single sheet of A4 which provides an outline map of the whole 16 mile route, all the way to Bolton and Bury with no detail of the surrounding area. Add to this it is a strange city and the fact I hadn't even consulted Google Earth and I guess that our failure to prepare should have prepared us to fail! But I am an optimist and I am always sure things will turn out out OK in the end. They didn't.

Trough of Clifton Aqueduct

We cycled into darkest Salford hoping to find some trace of the canal as we criss crossed the area. Half an hour of fruitless searching left us hot and horribly lost. I tried to use my faithful GPS function on the Blackberry, but it didnt help. In the end we resorted to the tried and tested method of a paper map - or the A-Z of Manchester to be precise. I agreed to buy a copy as long as the guy in the petrol station would tell us exactly were we were at that time.

Collapsed arch at the junction with Fletcher's Canal, next to Clifton Aqueduct
Sure enough, we were a mile off track and after threading our way through a seedy set of backstreets we emerged at Park House Bridge, or what remains of it. From here there is a canal bed of sorts with a bit of water in it here and there, but the towpath was nearly non existant and the wreaths and "Police Crime Scene" banners did little to encourage further exploration.

Dry canal bed between Clifton Aqueduct and the M60

Instead we opted to go further by road and to try and pick up the canal line beyond the Agecroft Cemetry and Forest Bank Prison (nice area) so were delighted to find a refreshment waggon in a lay-by selling butties and cold drinks - nectar. The lady running it suggested we use the cycle ways through Drinkwater Park  and then on into Prestwich Forest Park. This advice was a Godsend as the whole area has been transformed into a network of wooded cycle trails and footpaths, including a couple of sections of national cycleways.

Our objective was to get to the M60 or thereabouts and in doing so have a look at the Clifton Aqueduct, possibly further if time permitted. Time permitted ok but as we were dressed in heavy jeans on a blistering spring day, our energy reserves dwindled at an alarming rate.  We therefore paused at the aqueduct and gently cooled off, learning something about the area from a very knowledgable rambler, and grasping the opportunity to look at his OS map and identify the best route back to Castlefields. It was good to hear him enthusing  about the iminent restoration of the canal, balanced by another rambler's disbelieving shake head.

 Remains of the mile long Fletcher's Canal Arm

As it turned out the best way back was via the towpath, emerging at dodgey "police crime scene" we had found earlier. We threrefor decided to call it a day at the M60 and to leave the northern 11 miles for further exploration at a later date.

No comments: