Sunday 28 June 2015

Fairbottom Branch Canal and Tramway - Waterhouses Junction to Park Bridge

This is Waterhouses Junction, the start of the Fairbottom Branch Canal. This path branches away part way along Hollinwood Branch Canal 3 - Stannybrook Road to Crime Lake.

The canal has water in it at this point and is quite wide.

The path has a good quality grit surface and at this point there are open views to the south.

However, the canal isn't open water for long and fills with plants as the hedgerow starts.

There are a number of benches if you need a rest.

Here the canal crosses Valley Aqueduct near Valley Farm over what used to be the main road used by coaches and wagons between Oldham and Ashton. Here the canal is filled in and is completely dry.

After the aqueduct stay on the right hand side, the path to the left is a path for horses.

Now the canal is in water and this spot is popular with fishermen.

At Bardsley bridge there is access out to the road via a barrier.

Here the canal is dammed to keep the water back from the bridge. The bridge is low because of mining subsidence and the canal closed at this point in 1904 as a result.

It is a steep and rough climb up on the other side.

Here the canal bed is used as a muddy bridleway whilst the tow path is on the right. The tow path here does get muddy in the wet.

The path soon becomes more wooded.

Whilst a bit muddy in places the towpath is pretty good.

The two paths then divide for a while

and come back together as they reach Fenny Field Bridge over the River Medlock. This is the end of the canal.

From here a tramway ran up to Park Bridge. The cycle route roughly follows the route of that tramway.

First it dives into the verge on the left just before the road signs,

then swings round

and back out beside Waggon Road, the route of the tramway.

Here the path is soft and sandy as it is designed for horses rather than pedal cycles. However, it is far better than the cobbled road.

The path takes you up to Park Bridge.

Here there is just one thing missing...

the bridge itself. The viaduct that carried the railway was demolished.

At this point you can join the Ashton to Oldham Greenway in either direction.

Saturday 27 June 2015

Rickshaws in Manchester

It was just fantastic to see a rickshaw being ridden in Manchester last Wednesday.

The rider stopped for a chat. He'd been brought in for an event. He has ridden rickshaws all over the country and we got to discussing the differences in attitudes towards cycling and rickshaws between Manchester and Bristol. Needless to say he was far less pleased about conditions for cycling Manchester in Manchester than Bristol.

Sadly Manchester City Council has continually refused to license pedicabs or rickshaws to operate as taxis or private hire in Manchester in contrast to other cities. This is to the detrement of the city's environment which is degraded by the air pollution and danger from the excessive number of taxis and private hire vehicles in operation.

The rickshaws were operating a complementary service for the CHI Housing event that was being held at Manchester Central.

Friday 26 June 2015

Cycle Facilities vs Roadworks

There was a fairly positive but brief discussion at the recent Manchester Cycle Forum this week about the problems of cycle facilities at roadworks. As one officer put it, at the moment contractors just put up Cyclist Dismount signs and think that's it.... They are working on guidelines for contractors to be issued by Manchester City Council and then shared across all the GM councils via TfGM.

Here are two bad examples I found today. First on Middlewood Street, opposite the armadillos.

The first thing you see, at the incorrect NCN6 sign are the roadworks and road narrows signs.

Further up is the lazy Cyclists Dismount sign, as the pedestrians are pushed out onto the cycle lane.

Pedestrians are then supposed to rejoin here, only to find a car blocking the pavement further up.

The other was someone digging a dirty great big hole in the cycle track by Sackville Street.

I suspect there are many more around the place, hopefully not for too much longer.

Wednesday 24 June 2015

Hollinwood Branch Canal 3 - Stannybrook Road to Crime Lake

This post picks up where Hollinwood Branch Canal 2 - Droylsden Junction to Stannybrook Road left off, trying to cross a rather nasty road. The character of the path now changes from quiet Site of Special Scientific Interest into the popular Daisy Nook Country Park. There used to be a hump-backed bridge here to carry the road over the canal, but it is long gone.

Once you successfully cross the road and avoid being hit by the 4x4's in the car park you reach a little building which contains a small tea shop - somewhat of a rarity on most traffic free cycle routes in the Greater Manchester area.

The next thing you see at the end of the car park is this narrow boat shaped play area, sadly the nearest you get to a boat on this whole canal.

A little way beyond there is a small patch of water and then the entrance to what used to be called Dark Tunnel, but it was opened up into a cutting following mining subsidence.

The tunnel section is tarmacked over and infilled.

Past the tunnel, there is another short stretch of water before reaching Woodhouses Aqueduct over the River Medlock.

It has quite a spectacular curved shape.

Next you meet the remains of a lock, and then the canal turns sharply to the left.

Here there were a set of staircase locks.

The canal climbed steeply here past a basin to the canal junction.

This is Waterhouses Junction, the start of the Fairbottom Branch Canal. Here you can join the Fairbottom Branch Canal and Tramway - Waterhouses Junction to Park Bridge.

From here the Hollinwood Branch is in water. The path now goes over this outflow. The route through the water is perfectly ridable on an ordinary bike.

The path then goes under this footbridge

and over a small aqueduct

before the canal widens into Crime Lake.

This was apparently created by accident.

At the end of the lake is the site of Crime Bridge. This has now been filled in and marks the end of the usable section of canal, the next section is rather difficult to follow.

You can exit here onto Cutler Hill Road, though the gap is narrow. If you follow the path round the lake to the car park it is probably easier for larger pedal cycles to exit.

Saturday 20 June 2015

Hollinwood Branch Canal 2 - Droylsden Junction to Stannybrook Road

This post is the continuation from Hollinwood Branch Canal 1 - Sunnyside Road to Droylsden Junction north and east towards Daisy Nook Country Park.

At Droylsden Junction the original aqueduct has been replaced by a narrow bridge with a wooden base. It is quite safe, but a bit unnerving to cross.

The path opens up after the bridge, somewhat overshadowed by buildings on the left.

Soon you reach the former location of a swing bridge that gave access across the canal to Lumb Farm. However, you first have to negotiate a pretty dreadful (anti)cycling kissing gate where tricycles and tandems will have to be up-ended or lifted over.

Lumb Farm is now the location of a large industrial operation called Hadfield Wood Recyclers. Watch out for the HGVs entering the site.

Across the wide entrance road you can get to the next section of canal through the gap on the right of the fence, the gate is locked, and then through a wooden (anti)cycling kissing gate. Again trikes, trailers and tandems will struggle.

Just beyond the gate this sign marks the beginning of the Hollinwood Branch Canal Nature Reserve which includes all of the rest of this section of the canal.

The sign reads...
Owned by Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council and managed by Cheshire Wildlife Trust. The Hollinwood Branch of the Ashton Canal is an excellent example of its type of a standing water system in the Greater Manchester area. This coupled with the number of regionally and nationally rare species found within it, lead to it being notified as a site of special scientific interest. The main habitats are swamp and fen. The open water areas are particularly diverse, containing species such as Water Soldier, Arrowhead and Frogbit, as well as a varied aquatic fauna - Dragonflies, Common Frog and Common Newts. Pike, Rudd and Common Bream are found in open water with Mallard, Moorhen and Reed Bunting. The towpath along the length of the canal makes up part of the Medlock Valley Network and walkers can view this interesting habitat from a convenient position.

This is the point where the path begins to look like a proper canal towpath alongside something resembling a canal. The first part is overshadowed by the barrier of trees on the left, but this is soon left behind. The boundary on the left of the towpath is the dividing line between Oldham and Tameside.

The trees on the left become a hedgerow and the far bank has farmland beyond.

The path itself is however is quite narrow and quite rough, but rideable on a hybrid bike.

Here you enter a hidden gem, an almost secret area, it's one of my favorite paths in the whole of my exploration of Greater Manchester.

As the canal curves gently to the right the canal passes under Cinderland Bridge which carries the path to Cinderland Hall Farm.

It is a tight squeeze to get under the bridge, because as the land subsided the banks of the canal were built up to keep the water in. North of the bridge was a dam and the canal returns to its sunken level.

Now there is some open water in this section of canal. Brookdale Golf Course is on the left of this section. The surface is smoother here, though muddy in places.

However, this soon ends and it becomes clogged with plants again.

The canal swings to the right again, heading almost due east and reaches the site of an old swing bridge, now replaced by a fixed wooden structure. By now the roar of traffic is beginning to assault the ears.

From here the path swings away from the canal and upwards as the traffic gets ever louder.

Soon you hit the bridge over the M60.

This eight lane scar through the landscape is completely out of keeping with the surrounding landscape and severs the canal at this point.

The path drops away on the other side returning to the canal route.

However from here there is no water in the canal.

In places it has been infilled above the level of the towpath, which changes the character of the route considerably.

The path then widens and moves over the canal bed as gates come into view.

This (anti)cycling kissing gate leads out to Stannybrook Road, and the road beyond leads into the car park of Daisy Nook Country Park.

This is a really dangerous crossing, it drops steeply to the left,

and to the right there is another junction, hidden from view to anyone crossing into the park, and there is nothing to protect people crossing the road from the speeding traffic.