At Droylsden Junction the original aqueduct has been replaced by a narrow bridge with a wooden base.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.