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Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Out of the City, at last.

Of we set in lovely sunshine and a last look at the warehouses and viaducts of Castlefield. This is now the Bridgewater Canal and for what ever reason it was a lot cleaner than the Ashton. The first part was edged with new apartment buildings some looked like they may last 15 years and some a little longer, but none will last as long as some of the original warehouses have. They looked to have extremely small windows and no doors so they must have been fireproof stores or for high value goods. We passed one of the new apartment blocks with a couple of blokes abseiling down cleaning the windows.

We passed the old Hulme Lock down into the Manchester Ship Canal (MSC). A little further along was the new Pomona Lock that has taken over this duty. I assume that the several trip boats that were in Castlefield occasionally pen down to go into the Salford docks and the River Irwell. A little further on you come across Old Trafford, the home of Manchester United. Over the years I have seen bits added on to the structure but I would guess the pitch is the same size and actually the capacity will have probably gone down with all seats now instead of terraces.

You soon come to Waters Meeting where the Bridgewater Canal splits. Just as we arrived there was a flurry of boats after it all seeming to be quiet. We took a right and headed north West. You soon come to the big Kelloggs Factory. It is said that a million boxes of breakfast cereal are produced here. We were now passing through Trafford Park. The land belonged to the Trafford family who where dead set against the construction of the MSC as it would render their country seat uninhabitable. The canal opened in 1894 and they sold their holdings in 1896. The purchaser went into partnership with a director of the MSC and they created the worlds first industrial estate. At it's height in the 1950's it is said that 70,000 were employed there. At the the North end of the estate is the Trafford Centre and there were some good moorings to allow boaters to spend their cash.

Very soon after this you actually come to the MSC and the Barton Swing Aqueduct and bridge. As the MSC is actually getting increased traffic these days I would expect the bridge to open more regularly. However ships have become specialised and there are plenty of low air draft vessel about that would probably fit under the bridge now. It was great to see the stop plank cranes still in place and ready for use along this stretch.

Just round the corner at Monton a certain Paul Austin has built a Light house. It doesn't actually have a light but took him three and a half years to build and he is said to have sold his barge to cover the £20,000 costs. It looks very attractive an apparently has three floors.

The next wonder on this stretch is the cause of it all. Worsley. This is where the Duke of Bridgewater had a mine operation. He had been on the 'Grand Tour' and seen canals so decided that it was just what he needed to get his coal to the Manchester markets. It was a great success and set in train the canal mania that had most of the canal system constructed in 50 to 60 years. The mines were all connected by underground canals and the system covered over 40 miles on two levels with an inclined plane and locks! All this after 1761!! At the still existing entrance to this underground system stands the Packet House, a half timbered building. It was built in 1769 and by 1781 there were daily departures to Runcorn that took 8 hours and to Manchester that took 2.5 hours. There were two classes as the trip cost a shilling and sixpence steerage.

We continued on along this wide and deep canal. We passed through an area of apparent countryside but it was an area that was covered in mine workings not so long ago. We stopped near Astley Green and walked over to the Astley Green Colliery Museum. It is open Tuesday afternoons luckily. The wrought iron head or winding gear stands proudly above the flat landscape and is the last set left in Lancashire. The shaft was started in 1908 by forcing steel rings down through the earth and lining the sg=haft as it deepened. This was the first time this method was tried in the area and was a lot safer as no lives were lost in the construction. The mine opened for construction in 1912. It finally closed in 1970. The demolition started immediately and by the time a councilor arrived they had removed one of the winding houses and one set of head gear. Eventually a preservation order was placed and the buildings listed. The winding engine is huge and was made by Yates and Thom of Blackburn. There is a large collection of underground locomotives and rolling stock but no money to display them to full advantage. The place remind me of an early Iron Bridge Blist Hill site when I used to help with the conservation there before it opened to the public. The old fellars that were there working on the place were very proud of their work and the history of the place and eager to pass on their knowledge. They have just had an estimate for the overhaul and painting of the riveted wrought iron head gear and it came in at £350,000. They deserve every penny that they can raise. When we were there they were filming a sequence for the 'Heir Hunters' and the production company were being extremely tight in assisting the Charity. It was a special 90 minutes spent there and in the future I could see spending all day there if plans come to fruition. After a walk back to the boat we sat out side on the bank and read out books as it was very warm and sunny. The wine bottle got opened too. Macy enjoyed getting off the boat for a poke about after so long in a marina and in the city.

Unfortunately photographs aren't loading today so with luck I will include them tomorrow so you can get some idea of what I have been waffling about!

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