Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Sunday canal ride

On Sunday me & my brother went for a trip round the Peak Forest Canal, Ashton Canal, Bridgewater Canal then a nip down Seymour Grove in Firswood (?) to get to the Fallowfield Loop. We took the mountain bikes, this wasn't really necessary but it's fun to bounce around on the suspension just for the day.

The canal system has never had a great reputation, but parts of it, especially the Peak Forest canal in Hyde are looking very neglected compared to the last time I explored a few years ago. The ruts are bigger, the litter is worse and the boggy bits are boggier. British Waterways is to be changed into a Charitable Trust as part of the quango axing, which is apparently a good thing as it will give them more access to grants and funds, so hopefully some of that (probably pitiful) dosh can make its way towards Tamesides canal system and upgrade the paths to the quality found closer to the city centre.

If you put the parts of dereliction aside, the canal system is a fantastic resource that goes totally unappreciated in a country thats prepared to spend £3.1m on making congested motorways more dangerous for instance. It's the fastest route to get from Hyde to Ashton for example and involves no hills at all. It's the same on the otherside of Manchester where to get from the city centre to Trafford park would involve a steady climb whereas the Bridgewater canal is a flat, unhindered & quiet route to the same destination. And even on a nippy Janurary afternoon a ride around the canals makes for a really pleasant day out, it's even nicer on a summers day when the sun's out.

Anyway, enough waffling. Here's some photos of the Peak Forest canal to get to Portland Basin in Ashton. (By the way I've taken some of the photos facing forwards, some back the way we've come from.... just in case you think the towpath is switching sides all the time!)

This spot is in a noticeably bad state, I've no idea how long its been like this but eventually the edging stones will collapse completely into the canal and become a much bigger problem to fix than if it had been seen to now. (near the Snipe retail park). There are a few other spots similar, but this is the biggest. The towpath has been collapsed in someway near Asda in Ashton for a long time, but I haven't been over there for about 10 years so haven't seen the state of it myself.

You then get to the Motorway bridge, which is the darkest and gloomiest part of the journey. The main problem here is the lighting is insufficient for any time of day & most of the bulbs have gone now anyway.
Just past here you get to the only 'posh' bit of the journey with a range of expensive looking canalside homes. The surface on this stretch is pretty good but I'm not a fan of this sandy gravel surface (whatever its proper name is). It's seen as being more 'countryside' and natural, when in reality canals are anything but natural and it would be a benefit to everyone if these towpaths were resurfaced with the wide tarmac like surface that can be found further on as you get towards the Sportscity.

The search for Alien life continues in Droylsden.....

A little further on you start to find the good old British tradition of 'Cyclist Dismount' signs. At least these ones are signed with British Waterways so you know who to blame for wasting money. From this point on there are quite a few shoulder gates, but there is no need to use any of them as some are off to the side for no reason and at others the gate next to it is permanently open.
From here onwards the surface is good and a decent uniform width. This is all part of when the Commonwealth games was held in Manchester and the whole stretch got a thorough refurb.

This bike rack caught my eye because it's a shining example of form over function. It's a fantastic piece of manufacturing and looks good, but it's quite obviously a useless piece of crap for locking bicycles to (the bent rusty front wheel illustrates this nicely!). Plus it's hidden out the way down the side of the building instead of outside the entrance & visible.....sigh.

This spot is obviously the favourite nicked bike dumping area. We counted at least 7 bikes and 2 shopping trolleys amongst other stuff.
Near Great Ancoats now and you start to find some big apartment buildings. The new metro line goes right past here as well and there is a fair bit of ground works going on. You can stay on the towpath here and come off somewhere near the BDP Architects building on Ducie St, but we chose to come off and zip down the roads to get under Picadilly train station and over to Canal Street where you can rejoin the towpath.

Canal St is one of nicest parts of the city centre. Infact such a good job has been done of creating a pleasant, relaxed, traffic free daytime environment on Canal St that I propose British Waterways should join forces with the LGF and embark on a pioneering revival of the Northwest's waterways.

Once you are back onto the towpath you are heading towards Castlefield with it's city centre living atmosphere,  bridges, viaducts, bars & restaurants and.......hmmm what is it that makes this place so nice?...no cars blasting around.

Once you are outside of Castlefield the towpath reverts back to the thin sticky sand-gravel stuff. 

Our journey on the canals ended at Throstle Nest Bridge where we used the excellent segregated facility (Pavement) to partially negotiate the Mega roundabout of death and begin to head towards the Fallowfield Loop.

On the Loop we met this little fella who I saw again the next morning, but this time at the complete other end of the Loop. So there you have it, the canals are good but the Loop is so good that stray kittens think its worth making Home. That's a seal of approval to be proud of :-)


  1. Even as an experienced cyclist, I only very recently started to cycle the mega roundabout of death. Even now I don't always ride it. I bet when they look at the accident stats and see the no cyclists were killed there, it is hailed as safe. The fact that no sane cyclist would use the damned thing seems not to be a problem.

    As for the canals, I love them. They are a great monument to our industrious past and they one of the few available routes which has no cars and actually leads to useful places. Looks like a nice outing

  2. The fact that no sane cyclist would use the damned thing seems not to be a problem.

    I love using that argument to our local council. It's a concept they never take on board...I wonder why :>D

    Nice pics as ever Jim - it's interesting how the state of the towpath changes from place to place. I rode from Audenshaw to Ashton down the towpath a few summers ago & still just about have my teeth intact. The surface was horrendous in places!

    The antenna is a HF beam for amateur radio. Ccchhhrrrkkkk...over & out ;>)

  3. Those cycle stands that secure the bike by one wheel are just shouting to Mr. Skally -“push me over and watch my wheel bend”. I will not use these as Mr. Scally did visit my bike.
    Good pics of your journey.

  4. Great pics! I must venture more that way, passed the City Centre... I love canals too, for me their history as well as their current charm make them such an enjoyable place for a nice walk/ride... shame about the neglect though.

  5. Glad you all enjoyed it. It's all about the nice big pics :) makes up for my lack of writing skills!.

    The canals are great, very peaceful to ride along (mostly). Them and routes like the Loop are the only genuine traffic free paths we have in MCR so they are worth visiting and making use of when possible.

    Apparently the Cheshire Ring is around 80 miles, which would be doable for a very long summers day of riding.....