A Bike Ride from Bury to Bolton along the Manchester, Bolton and Bury Canal

January 2006

Click Map left for a more interactive map.

This was one of my favorite bike rides so far during the making of this web site, it encompass everything that we wanted to do when building this site. The ride is away from traffic, is set in great countryside, is not too long and gives you the opportunity to enjoy the ride.

We set off on this bike ride on a very cold, but crisp Sunday morning. I had headed up to Duncan's, in Bury, and borrowed his spare bike for this ride. I didn't know what to expect on this ride, as Duncan had orgnaised it and had checked his maps etc. In fact Duncan had scanned his dads old A to Z along with a new one to give us some idea of where the canal used to run. This was especially useful around Bury and Bolton town centers, as the canal has long been built over in theses areas. We really did find these maps useful, maybe if we get time we can scan these in for you.

The ride isn't too hard (as its flat) and it gives you the opportunity to turn back at any stage. We did a loop and we came back on the busy Bolton road, I wouldn't really recommend this road, as it was busy (even on a Sunday) and is quite hilly. You may just want to take in the canal (the flat route). As you will find out later on, the Bolton and Bury canal links up with the canal down to Manchester, and it is possible to take this route through Clifton and Salford back in to Manchester. This is something we would like to do, and we have actually covered some of this route on a previous bike ride.

There is loads to see and do on this route, and you do travel through some great countryside, however you are never far away from civilization and the chance for a break.

We hope you enjoy this route - it is recommended. PS We did take quite a few pictures - hope you don't mind, there was a lot to see!

The Start - Just outside Bury Town Centre

The glamorous outskirts of Bury! This was taken from the old railway viaduct that took the (long closed) Bury to Bolton railway over the river Irwell and the canal.We are looking down to where the canal used to run, we believe i was between the mill and the newer building on the right.

The canal used to run under Bolton road to a canal basin around a quarter of a mile from here. Nothing is left of this canal basin, in fact there isn't much evidence to say a canal was ever here.

There is a good picture of the old basin at Bury in book called "Lost Canals of England and Wales" by Ronald Russell, which is documented in our bibliography page.

Still on the viaduct but looking the other way (away from Bury). Again the canal used to run right in the middle of the picture from top to bottom.

The street running to the right is Wellington street, at the bottom of this street is a small industrial site. You maybe ok to park to car round here if you planned to bike or walk this route.



From Wellington street looking back to the viaduct. Its great to see this viaduct restored and in use as a cycle / path way. Many of these fine viaducts were demolished in the 60s and 70s.
At the end of Wellington road, you take the pathway that runs along the old canal, here we found the remains of the stone edging from the canal side. (note how frosty it was!) Still it wasn't muddy!
Here we are on the route of the old canal - its all filled in though!
Again more edging stones.

Suddenly through the trees you come across the canal, here it is water, in fact for most of its length, towards Bolton,it is in water.

There are plans to get this canal back in use - it would be great canal to navigate.

Some of the local wildlife along the canal. Great to see swans, infarct we saw another 2 pairs further along the route.
Here we are heading towards Radcliffe. The route feels right out in the countryside. We are weaving our way between Daisyfields and Lower Hinds.

Here we are on the outskirt of Radcliffe. Just ahead of us the canal is lost under Water street. When they updated the road, they removed the canal bridge and filled it in.

To the right of the picture there used to be an old canal yard. The picture isn't very clear, but when you are there, you can see the yard quite clearly.

A sunken barge! We have no idea how old this barge is, and how long it has been there, still an interesting site!
Looking up to Water street, you can see where the canal stops.
Water street. Here the canal originally went under the road, however it is now all filled in.
On the other side of the road, you can see where the canal starts again. This would be an obstacle if they wanted to re-open the canal, however looking at what they did at Stalylbridge, I am sure they will have no problems here!
Heading out of Radcliffe. The canal is in water, if a little weed strune. The tow path is ok though.

We are now around a mile out of Radcliffe, this picture is looking down in to the Irwell valley and down to the river Irwell.

The canal runs tight along the valley at this point. The countryside and views are nice, especially being so high up on the valley side.

A little further on the canal opens up.
Again around 2 miles outside of Radcliffe, heading towards Bolton.

This is a well documented relic on the route, but one we hadn't expected to find. Its the remains of an old steam crane that was used to unload barges and pass their load down to the factories and works below.

Sadly this great machine is rusting away, and the boiler especially, looks like it will not last much longer.

A great find and something really interesting to find.

Here is the view down from the site of the crane. This is where the crane would drop off its cargo.
An original marker stone on the side of the canal. These are rare finds, and certainly good to find.

We were getting closer to Nob end, where the link to Manchester joined and the route to Bolton started.

As I mentioned earlier the canal hugs the valley side, and not too far away from here so the canal breached. The canal side just fell away in to the Irwell valley.

The canal was dammed at this spot, and the upper part we have just covered was still used for freight up until the early 1960s. However this breach was the end of the canal as a through route. They never did manage to mend the breach.

At the other side of the dam the canal is not watered. We were to come across the breach around half a mile from here.

I assume due to the breach this part of the canal was not in water from an early date, hence why this mill building was built over the canal.

The 3 pictures show the building over the canal. It is built right along the route of the canal, as the pictures clearly show.

With further reading, I understand this mill is not in use and the buildings are either in the hands of the council or the canal restoration trust.

Here we are at the start of the breach - note how the path goes down in the canal. We can see the wall of the canal in front of us.

Here are a selection of pictures showing where the canal was breached. You can see how much was washed away during the breach.

This breach eventually led to the canal being shut as a complete canal.

This site is worth a quick stop off, you can see where they have tried to repair the breach with various new supporting walls, and even the inclusion of some old railway lines to try and put some strength in to the retaining wall.

A close up of the canal wall - these are normally well below water level. Here we can see the workmanship that went in to the canal build. There is a inner brick lining, followed by the stone outer wall. The masonry work is of a high quality. All this hard work would be under water! These canals were built to last, and should be preserved where possible.
The "Nob End" junction. Hard to see the line of the canal, but here the arm joined (behind us) running from Manchester. To the right the canal led to Bury, to the left to Bolton.

Here we are at the top of the "Nob End" staircase canal locks. Sadly these locks are in a bad way, Not much left to be seen, just the retaining walls of the locks have been left. Luckily in winter you can make out quite a lot of what is left, but in summer these are heavily overgrown.

I think there was 5 locks here. This will be a major construction job when they eventually repair these locks. Still they will make a spectacular central point of this canal.

From the top of the locks looking down the Irwell valley - this is where the canal snakes down to Manchester. We hope to follow this route in the future.
This is all that's left of the bridge at the top of "Nob End" where the canal ran towards Bolton.
Canal Buildings at Nob End.
Heading towards Bolton - here the canal is back in water. Notice that the canal is broad in nature - doing a bit of research the original plan was for this canal to link up with Manchester and Liverpool canal, they wanted the canal to be broad to match. However the plan was never realised and this canal remained un linked to any other network.
Heading towards Bolton. Here the path is good, if a little muddy in places.
You get to see how wide the canal is here! We are near Little Lever.
Sadly the canal ended just near this point. We didn't know why - until we came across Hall Lane (A6053). Originally the canal crossed here on a aqueduct. Nothing is left apart from some of the supporting wall on the left hand side of the path.
There wasn't much to see of the canal, we did follow a path along Fogg lane, a small dirt path. We could see the route of the canal, but it was above us and was very overgrown. Luckily a little further on we got back on the canal route. Here you can see the edging stones marking the canal.
Looking back along the route of the canal - you can see how wide it was.
Heading towards Darcy Lever.
This is where the canal went under Radcliffe road. You can make out the top of the bridge.
A closer look at the bridge here.
The plaque on the bridge showing when it was restored.
The view from the bridge looking towards Darcy Lever, there is a pathway on route of the old canal.
This is where the canal used to run. We rode along here, until suddenly the path ended and the canal disappeared. It took us a few minutes to try and work out where it went.
At the end of where the route of the canal stopped we could make out the old railway viaduct at Darcy Lever.
After consulting our maps we worked out that the canal used to cross Radcliffe road and the River Croal via a viaduct at this location. There isn't much left to say there was even a viaduct here. However we have seen pictures of the viaduct and, like our photo, the Darcy Lever viaduct can be seen the background.

A shot up at the Viaduct - this is a great structure, as far as we know you are not able to cross it.

We took this from the opposite side of the river, we were trying to find where the canal started again. We had a clue as we were on Aqueduct lane, a clue or what!

With a bit of searching and climbing through the undergrowth we came across the canal once more. See the canal sides. We are looking back towards the aqueduct.
Not the best shot - but this was showing where the canal used to flow.

A slight diversion, but we knew that the canal went under Burnden viaduct, so while in the area we had a climb up to the old railway alignment and a look at the state of the viaduct. We were very surprised by how good a condition it was in.

A sign said it was closed in 1981, although the line closed long before that. These could easily be re-opened as a safe way to cross the very busy St Peters way that runs below it.

The picture to the lower left shows the old railway alignment looking back towards Bury - we would like to follow this at a later date, but it was very over grown, better to walk this.

Here is where the canal passed under the Burnden viaduct. There isn't much to see of the canal at this point, most has been filled in.
Another look at the viaduct.

On the route of the canal - its very difficult to judge where the canal ran, as so much has gone.

We couldn't follow it just after this point. St Peters Way was built over it in the 1960s. We had to go through the back streets (Bromwich Street) and cross over Bradford street to try and follow the canal.

We then followed Dorset street to the point where we knew the canal ended at a wharf near the main church in Bolton.

This was was the point where the canal ended, the wharf has long disappeared under St Peters Way. This is the viaduct that takes the railway from Bolton to Blackburn.

The site of the old canal wharf at Bolton. You can just see St Peters Way on the right hand side of the picture.

This was the end of the route.

While in Bolton we took a look at the old stock car track (as we are both stock car fans a page on the stock car track can be found here.) while in the area we thought we would take a look at the other side of the Burnden railway viaduct to look at access etc.

As you can see access to the viaduct is available and work is being undertaken in that area. (this is just behind the old Bolton football ground - which is now a Asda store)

Another shot of the viaduct at Burnden - looking back across towards Darcy Lever and Bury.

We hope you have enjoyed this route - we did. There is loads to see along the route and we found it really interesting. We saw a lot on this ride, maybe as its winter and the trees and shrubs are down. Well recommended. Give this route a try.

Jon and Duncan

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