The Bridgewater Canal
Successful throughout its long history, first as a commercial waterway and latterly following cessation of freight in 1974 as a leisure waterway
The Bridgewater canal which took 35 years to complete is strategically located in the North West of England. The canal (39 miles long) runs through Lymm village and connects with the Trent and Mersey Canal at Preston Brook (via the Anderton lift), Leeds and Liverpool Canal at Leigh, The Rochdale Canal and The Manchester Ship Canal in Manchester. The first section of the canal crossed the River Irwell by means of a unique stone aqueduct constructed over the river Irwell, later replaced by the equally famous Barton Swing Aqueduct over the Manchester Ship Canal.
Affectionately known as the 'Dukes Cut' the Bridgewater Canal revolutionised transport in this country and marked the beginning of the golden canal era followed from 1760 to 1830
Named after its owner, Francis Egerton the 3rd Duke of Bridgewater and sometimes described as England’s first canal (opened in 1761), it was originally used to transport coal from mines in Worsley to Manchester. Its success helped inspire a period of intense innovative canal building, known as 'canal mania'. It later faced intense competition from the Liverpool and Manchester Railway and the Macclesfield Canal. Navigable throughout its history, it is one of the few canals in Britain not to have been nationalised, and remains privately owned. Have a look at further information on the Bridgewater Canal Trade and history.
The Canal today
The canal is owned by the Manchester Ship Canal Co. (MSC) who bought it from the Bridgewater Navigation Company in 1887. The MSC Co. manages the canal in conjunction with the Bridgewater Canal Trust.
Today the Bridgewater Canal is a shared leisure facility, used by fishermen, pedestrians, and cyclists. Pleasure craft use the canal which forms part of the Cheshire Ring network of canals. It is known as a 'contour canal' because it maintains the same elevation along its length. This means that for barge owners journeys are not interrupted by the need to negotiate locks.
Most of the boats that you will see moored on the Canal are privately owned and belong to Members of the Lymm Cruising Club. They have monthly meetings and there are varied social events throughout the year.
Short duration narrowboat trips are available from Worsley (The Bridgewater Heritage Boat Company) and from Manchester Castlefield (City Centre Cruises). Narrowboats can also be hired for holiday cruising from further afield along the Bridgewater Canal. There is further information on boat hire.
There are also two rowing clubs: Manchester University Rowing Club, based just north of Dane Road Bridge, and Trafford Rowing Club, whose boathouse is in Walton Park that are worth a visit.
The Bridgewater Canal is a popular place for coarse fishing. Home to many species including Common and Mirror Carp, Tench, Bream, Roach, Perch, Pike and Rudd, thus meaning that different levels of skills and knowledge of the various fish are required. Fishing on the Bridgewater Canal is licensed to a number of fishing clubs. Please take a look at Warrington Angling Association and Lymm Anglers for details on membership. There are no day tickets. Fishing is permitted from the towpath side only.
For those on Foot
For those on foot the full route is still navigable (though access to the Mersey can no longer be gained) and the towpath forms part of the 'Cheshire Ring', a 97 mile circuit of canal side paths. Locally the canal can be used as a basis for circular walks of varying lengths, particularly in conjunction with the two other long distance routes which pass close by: the Trans Pennine Trail and the Mersey Valley Timberland Trail.
The Canal towpath is tranquil, quite and beautiful in places. Plant highlights include the Hawthorn blossom in May, the Yellow Flag Irises in June and the enigmatic Royal Fern. Canada Geese and Mallard are always present and Mute Swans, Grey Herons, Cormorants and both Grey and Pied Wagtails are often seen. On summer days Dragonflies and brightly-coloured Damselflies fly amongst the vegetation at the water's edge. With many significant canal features, flora and fauna to be spotted along the towpaths and myriad reflections on the still waters, it makes for a peaceful day out.
If you venture too far afield there is a Metrolink line from Manchester to Altrincham which runs alongside the Canal from Stretford Station to Timperley Station.
Cyclists are encouraged to use improved sections of the canal towpath known as the Bridgewater Way, the much improved, wider, flatter, better-surfaced Canal towpath. Improvement is to be made to access points and provision of information and interpretation signs. It is being created, one short stretch at a time as funds become available. It will extend 65 km along the Canal.Have a look at places to visit along route.