Canals 4. Bridgewater Canal: Old Trafford to Stretford

I drive to Old Trafford from my home in Ancoats, just a couple of miles, to make sure I’m not out exercising for too long, and park up in Trafford Wharf Road, next to the Manchester Ship Canal. The short walk to the Bridgewater canal passes two impressive warehouses built by the Liverpool Warehousing Company on what is now called Victoria Place (once Trafford Park Road). The first warehouse, built in 1925 is derelict…

The second, almost identical was built seven years after the first, and has been restored and converted into a concert venue, imaginatively named Victoria Warehouse. Both warehouses were originally used to store cotton.

Opposite the warehouses and next to the roundabout, is a sculpture created in 1995, called Skyhook. I used to love this sculpture, but the more I see it, the sillier it looks to me. What do you think?

“Skyhook” by Brian Fell

I cross over the normally busy main Trafford Road, which at this time of lockdown is deserted, drop down to the bridgewater canal next to Throstle Nest Bridge where I left off from yesterday’s walk, and continue westwards, away from Manchester.

The canal passes under the modern road bridge, and just on its exit I spot this sign… Warrington Anglers Association? We’re still a real long way from Warrington here, a good 18 miles along the canal. It seems the WAA have expanded their territory quite a bit, like a Mexican drug cartel stretching its acquisitive claws outwards across the border….

OK, I hereby apologise to the Warrington Anglers Association who I’m almost positive have never produced, or trafficked, narcotics across the Cheshire – Lancashire border ?. And I would also like to add that the chicken at the Old Trafford branch of Los Pollos Hermanos is the best you can get in Manchester. Honest ?.

Shortly, I pass Old Trafford stadium, the home of the second best football team near Manchester, and currently the fifth best in England (the table doesn’t lie guys ?), unaffectionally know to us City fans as “The Swamp“…

The swamp

A patch of bluebells is flowering by the side of the towpath…

To the left (south) of the canal is the Manchester International Freight Terminal. Through the trees I can just see the huge cranes which straddle the railway lines. I’m getting excited about these, and I’ll get to see more of them later… oooh!

On the northern side of the canal, where the towpath runs, is the Manchester Container Terminal. By sticking my phone through the tight railings I can just get a snapshot of the containers stacked ready for transport.

I must admit I do have a fondness for containers. I love the names on the side, the places they’ve been, the places they’re going. I guess it’s the same part of me that wanted to go to sea when I was young, the wanderlust in me. I’ve mentioned in a previous blog that I always wanted to work on a cargo ship, sailing the world not as a passenger, but as someone who belonged on the sea. It never happened ?.

Amongst all this industry, a beautiful pair of white flowering cherry trees cling to the bank of the canal, like two lovers about to dive into the water…

The next bridge allows me to climb up onto the road and get a better picture of the cranes in the freight terminal. I know you all think I’m a bit sad, but I’m a boy and I like cranes ?.

The gantry cranes at Manchester International Freight Terminal

I pass under an old railway line that used to connect the huge Ford Motor Company on the north bank to Trafford Sidings on the south (see an old map here – the factories are all gone, but the railway’s still there, and some of the old street-names are still present).

Ford factory, Trafford Park, 1911

The Ford factory was opened in 1911 on the site of the old Manchester Electric Car Company (which made electric trams) and was the first Ford factory outside the USA. It ran until 1931 when all production was moved to Dagenham.

The railway line between Trafford Sidings and the old Ford factory

I love the dereliction of this bridge, and climb up the bank to get a better look from the top…

The wooden sleepers may have decayed over the time since this line was closed, but that ironwork will last for many more decades, if not centuries.

A patch of forget-me-nots smiles upwards at the midday sun, and I smile at them…

And at this point I reach the junction of the three arms of the Bridgewater canal.

This short spur I’ve walked from central Manchester to this junction looks on a map like it is a later branch, but it was actually part of the original route, from the Duke of Bridgewater’s mines in Worsley just north of Salford to central Manchester. The turn to the right in the picture above is the original route, swinging north west to Worsley, and 34 years later in 1795 extending on to Leigh. The left turn in the picture above is the branch to Runcorn, which was completed in 1767, six years after the original section of the canal.

That’s as far as I go today. Well not really of course because I have to walk the same route back again! One thing I miss since the lockdown on these walks is being able to take public transport to the start point so I finish at my car! Getting to the end and then knowing you have to walk the same distance over again, past the same views and landmarks is depressing!

This walk was completed on 13th April 2020. It is about 1.4 miles there (and almost the same back ?). Here’s the map.

21 thoughts on “Canals 4. Bridgewater Canal: Old Trafford to Stretford

  1. I think that sculpture would look better the other way up like a big question mark 🙂 I love the photo of the swamp, the colours are lovely, it’s so clear and there’s just something about it…. 🙂

    1. Haha! Yeah, it might look good the other way up! ?
      I’m wondering now whether it’s the picture of the swamp, or the team that you play there that you like most…?!
      Don’t worry, some of my best friends are United fans! ??

      1. I’m not interested in any sport at all so the actual football ground has nothing to do with it 🙂 I just like the photo for itself 🙂 I think it’s the canal that does it, if that had been a tarmac road it wouldn’t look half as good.

  2. Not my favourite area of Manchester.
    Meant to ask is social distancing on the narrower towpaths a problem or aren’t you meeting anybody. There must be dog walkers about.
    Not really the sections for ‘house boat’ users but I wonder how they are fairing?

    1. Hiya BC.
      No, it’s not a particularly nice area. Most of the historic industrial stuff around here has been cleared for modern buildings.
      Social distancing is a bit of a problem on the towpath, yes. There are so many runners along the towpaths at the moment. I try to stand aside to keep away from them as much as possible, but some of them don’t seem to care, almost brushing past. Luckily I’m probably immune, so sod ’em, but it does anger me because they’re also passing other people that might be a lot more vulnerable than me.
      I haven’t seen hardly any occupied boats to be honest, certainly far fewer than you normally see. It makes you wonder whether a lot of these crusties are really 100% boat-dwellers or playing at it a little, returning to mummy and daddy’s house when things get tough! ?

      1. Yes, I forgot you may be immune Paul. Looks like some of the antibody tests they are developing are not totally reliable and there is doubt about longterm protection and the possibility of still passing the virus on. A right muddle but one that needs sorting before we can achieve a sensible exit strategy.

        1. Yeah. A reliable antibody test would be a godsend, as then they could let loads of people go back to work, in particular the medical staff (I’m not desperate to get back! ?).

          Although it’s not 100% proven that you can’t get the virus again or carry it, it seems the reports of people getting it twice are most likely down to the 2nd test of 3 being a false negative, which is good news if correct.

          There’s an interesting article about whether it’s re-catchable here:

  3. I read the other comments about social distancing – that’s definitely a problem on our canal banks, and also on the River Kelvin. Some narrow paths and some inconsiderate people. I agree the joggers are the worst, they don’t move out of the way for anyone and exhale all over you as well. Ugh!

    1. Exactly Anabel. Ignorant ******s. ?

      I must admit to a burning desire when I see one coming along,? – and you can tell the ones that aren’t going to give room – and I think, “just one smooth movement, one slight shove, and they’ll be in the canal”…… so tempting!??

    2. Yes this is a problem on my local canal too. It seems with all the gyms closed all the joggers have decided a canal is the perfect place to run instead and they won’t slow down for anyone or anything! It’s got to the point they are threatining to close the towpath to runners and cyclists entirely but I can’t see how it will be enforced so I expect it will be largely ignored.

  4. At least you are getting out to explore a bit. My local canal is quite nice but doesn’t have much industrial heritage.

    I don’t really know Manchester much. I’ve changed trains a few times at Piccadilly station and I once had to go between Manchester Piccadilly and Victoria which turned out to be on a replacement bus (the trams were not running for some reason) so that was about the only time I saw any of the city.

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