Hello again people and pooches. Joe the Cocker here reporting on a walk from Runcorn’s Waterloo Bridge to Preston Brook and Murdishaw Valley, and back. We walked for about twelve miles along the Bridgewater Canal and into woods, trying not to return on the same paths. It was a warm Sunday morning as we set off with the intention of walking about six or so miles. I think that we were underestimating how far that we felt like walking. I reckon that me and my human could have walked all the way to Leigh, Greater Manchester, at the other end of the Bridgewater Canal that day. We parked in the car park next to The Buffs, The RAOB Club with its Bridge View mural painted on the side wall. After a few minutes of faffing about we were ready for the off.
We set off from Waterloo Bridge, which nowadays is the end of the canal. At one time the canal joined the Manchester Ship Canal through a series of ten locks, dropping down from Top Locks and passing alongside Dukesfield. If any of you are familiar with the area you will know of a pub called Ten Lock Flight, where the Crosville Bus Depot used to be, and is named after the locks just mentioned. The view from under Waterloo Bridge has been blocked off since the building of the approach roads to the Silver Jubilee Bridge in the 1960’s but, with the roads being demolished at present, a view is again opening up. Maybe, the locks will be opened up and re-established as they remain in place filled in with sand and rubble.
Waterloo Bridge was built in 1828 and is the start point of the Bridgewater Way, which walkers or cyclists can travel along the 39 miles to Leigh. We walked along the towpath of the Waterloo Basin, created as a holding area for watercraft, while they waited to descend the once very busy locks. We passed under the ugly concrete approach bridge to the Runcorn – Widnes Bridge. Shortly, we walked under Doctors Bridge that Devonshire Place to Greenway Road. This ironwork bridge was built in 1878, to replace a less sturdy, earlier construction.
As we strolled on, we passed St. Paul’s Gardens, nowadays a car park on the site of Camden Tannery, which was later used by E.D. Williams, the painter and decorator business. The unusual rounded walls that form small alcoves, were built after the fire that destroyed the building, to shore up the canal sidewalls and adjacent land.
Further along the towpath we passed The Brindley Arts Centre, opened in 2004, and named after the builder of the Bridgewater Canal. The design of the centre has been given several awards for it modern architectural design. This area of the canal is the home of several families of birds including swans, ducks and moorhens, making it popular with families feeding the relatively tame birds. I have finally stopped chasing the birds along this stretch of the canal because my dad always tells me off and they always elude capture anyway.
On our right we came to one of the arms of the canal that originally met with a second arm further along the canal encircling woodland that used to be there. The decision was later made to straighten the canal along its present line with the woodland being cleared to form Sprinch’s boat yard. The Bridgewater Motorboat Club use this area now and have created well kept gardens and a club house on the site. The building at the rear of the boatyard on the corner of Victoria Road was, for a long time, the residence of the canal’s chief engineer.
The canal bends left at the boatyard and the leafy towpath runs along a short length of Bridge Street. On the right is the old Ebenezer Timmins, Bridgewater Foundary building, looking a bit neglected nowadays. As the canal starts to straighten, we walked under Delph Bridge. The original brick-built bridge can be seen from underneath, with the two cast-iron wideners either side. It is a home for pigeons to roost and so we always rush under this bridge to avoid being bombed.
It was time to stretch my legs. I had been on the lead up to this point but, as it was quiet with not a soul to be seen, I was released from my shackles. It was fun to have a zoom around on the empty towpath. I have fallen into the canal twice along this stretch so, my dad was a bit nervous as I reached to have a slurp of refreshing canal water. All I could hear was the big feller saying ‘Joe, Joe, Joe’. Much to his relief I didn’t fall in this time.
Immediately after the bridge there is a set of sandstone steps that lead to a larger flight of stone steps. My dad reminisced about the many time that he had walked up and down this flight of steps on his way to Canal Street to watch Runcorn football club play. He told me about how he would chase after the ball when it had been inadvertently kicked out of the ground when he was a sprog. How he would sprint to watch ‘Pengy’ face and save another penalty. He told me about how the Linnets had beaten Notts County 1 – 0 in the FA Cup in 1967. He waffled on about his childhood memories as we walked along the newly laid towpath. He said that he could still hear the crowd shouting ‘Come on the ‘corn’. I couldn’t hear anything of the sort. He also told me that Runcorn AFC used to be a non-league force to be reckoned with in the past before their sad demise.
Across the canal we could see the 1893 Co-operative Society buildings connected to Co-operative Terrace. Continuing on along the towpath we passed Ockleston’s Wharf, the boat yard on the right of the canal along from Webb’s Garden Centre. Soon we passed under Bate’s Bridge at the end of Sea Lane. Further along the towpath we crossed over the cobbled, Astmoor Bridge, that used to lead to the houses built in Astmoor which is now a large industrial estate. Astmoor was described as a hamlet, a mile and a half from Runcorn in 1896. We then passed under the three concrete bridges over the canal that serve the Mersey Gateway Bridge.
As we were now on the right-hand side of the canal, we walked along the towpath at the side of Castlefields, before we reached the Town Park Lake. The lake, or ‘Resy’ as it is known locally, is a popular angling lake with carp, roach, perch, rudd, pike, bream and eels. Wildfowl and well-kept vegetation make this a pretty place alongside the canal. The canal at this point has a carpet of waterlillies, with their yellow flowers open and pointing at the sun. It was a tranquil spot as we passed as we had the place to ourselves.
Onwards we walked along the towpath through Fountains Wood on our right and Norton Priory and Big Wood on the opposite side of the canal. We walked under Greens Bridge and Old Norton Townfield Bridge along with four other Norton bridges. We crossed over to the opposite side of the canal for a while as we plodded along under the railway bridge. This quiet stretch of the canal was another area for me to have a good run off-lead. There were quite a few puddles for me to splash through. I liked this stretch of the canal. Borrow’s Bridge and Crawley’s Bridge arched the canal as we headed toward Marina Village. We crossed to the right of the canal again at Marina Village, a development of houses and apartments overlooking the canal. The Preston Brook Marina is on the opposite side of the canal. We had a short detour away from the canal at Norton Arm Junction into Duke’s Wharf, a small section of canal within the houses.
We had reached a T junction in the Bridgewater Canal at Preston Brook Waters Meeting. A small footbridge called Preston Brook Roving Bridge spans the canal at this point. It was time to have a short break sitting on the bridge incline approach. It was lucky that my dad had brought some snacks and water for us because we had walked further than we had planned, and we were ready for a short rest. After twenty minutes sat in the sunshine, we decide that it was time to head back. Preferring to not cover the same ground on our return journey, my human had a look at his map and decided that we should walk into the Marina Village and then turn left into Murdishaw Valley.
The well surfaced path led us through Murdishaw Wood, a broadleaf woodland and meadows with an abundance of wildflowers and deciduous trees. A babbling brook runs the length of the valley and it is a peaceful and tranquil oasis in a large housing estate. We walked through the nature reserve and didn’t meet any other people. I was wondering where everyone had disappeared to. We left the valley and walked along the footpaths through Murdishaw until we reached Wood Lane and headed back toward the canal. This took us to the bridge that crosses the canal at Red Brow Lane. Instead of crossing the canal we walked along the path alongside the houses along Water’s Edge. We had some good views across the fields toward Daresbury Labs.
We crossed the canal again at Norton Townfield bridge to walk along the footpath, just off the canal, close to Sandymoor. This took us to Sandymoor Lane where we turned right into Big Wood. The footpath through Big Wood led us around Norton Priory then back onto the canal towpath. It was a matter of retracing our steps for the last few miles along the towpath.
We met a family of swans on the way back with eight cygnets. The weather was really pleasant with a mixture of sun and clouds with a refreshing breeze. Everywhere was becoming busier as it was early afternoon when we reached our car parking spot. We had walked around twelve miles by the time we returned so, as soon as we got back into the car, I fell asleep. The big feller walked twelve miles but, I had probably zigzagged twice as much as him. There are so many distractions for a crazy Cocker Spaniel. Till next time!