Not only is it an historic gem within Peel L&P’s portfolio, but this year, The Bridgewater Canal, has attracted national and international attention for both its industrious historical importance and its popularity today among waterway enthusiasts.
In May, a group of parliamentary delegates from Indonesia earmarked the Bridgewater and Manchester Ship Canal as canals of international acclaim and visited on a fact-finding mission with a view to building a canal in Jakarta.
General Manager of the Bridgewater Canal, Peter Parkinson, said: “The delegates were interested in both the leisure and commercial uses of the Bridgewater and Manchester Ship Canal and were very impressed by what they saw. It’s fantastic that our canals still hold world-wide significance.”
The Bridgewater Canal also achieved national recogniton at the Inland Waterways Association (IWA) Parliamentarian of the Year award ceremony, which took place at the House of Commons in March this year.
Peter attended the IWA dinner alongside MPs and Peers, as well as representatives of several navigation authorities and other national organisations. During the event, the IWA reminded MPs and Peers of the importance of navigable waterways to the health and wellbeing of the UK population and the contribution they make to the UK economy through regeneration, tourism and leisure.
Peter said: “It’s fantastic that the Bridgewater Canal Company is receiving the recognition it deserves and that we’re getting the opportunity to meet those in power to help influence change and raise the profile of the Bridgewater Canal and Peel.”
Canals and their history have also been a source of growing fascination among the media and the Bridgewater Canal will have its moment to shine when it will be featured in Channel 4’s Great Canal Journeys. Presenters Prunella Scales and Timothy West spent a number of days filming on the canal including Worsley Delph and Barton aqueduct - which is the world’s only swinging aqueduct, and where Peel’s Archivist Dr Alexandra Mitchell was interviewed by the pair.
Alex’s deep knowledge of both the Bridgewater and Manchester Ship Canals has been in demand by TV researchers and she has shared detailed historic information and artefacts with the teams’ producing Channel 5’s ‘How the Victorians Built Britain’ and BBC One’s Antiques Roadshow, who filmed at MediaCityUK this August.
Not only has the Bridgewater Canal’s profile soared but its profits too with it this year achieving its biggest profit to date - £750,000. Peter explains: “We’ll be reinvesting this healthy profit back into the canal and will carry out important repair works to sluice No. 5 and Medlock tunnel tipping gate, which are both in Castlefield.”
“Our canal engineer Chris Wareing, also invested almost £1million this year in the replacement of the Road Bridge at Vicars Hall, which included the construction of a 1km surfaced access road.”
The number of moorings have also increased this year at Castlefield Marina bringing the total up to 22 and while the team have taken control of moorings in Grappenhall and Warrington, there is real motivation to deliver new moorings in Astley over the next year.
It’s not just boating enthusiasts who have a passion for the Bridgewater Canal, walkers and cyclists are now enjoying the improved towpath in droves thanks to a series of successful funding bids, helping to upgrade the towpath and create the Bridgewater Way sustainable transport route. Partnerships Manager Lisa Marsh said: “In the last ten years we’ve helped secure around £6m of investment to create The Bridgewater Way which is now almost 70% complete. We are currently awaiting a decision on a £200,000 bid made to the GM Mayors Challenge fund to complete the Wigan section of the Bridgewater Way, resulting in 20 miles of continuous sustainable transport route from Wigan into Manchester City Centre and beyond to Altrincham.”
The Bridgewater Way has attracted the interest of international cycling legend Chris Boardman who is fronting the ‘Made to Move’ campaign to encourage more cycling throughout Greater Manchester and the team met with him to discuss ways in which the Bridgewater Way can play its part.
As leisure usage of the canal increases, so does Peel Land and Planning’s responsibility to keep people safe on its banks and water. Peter added: “We’re members of the Bridgewater User Group and fully support the ‘share the space, drop your pace’ campaign and are closely working with both the Manchester and Trafford Water Safety Group’s on their ‘don’t drink and drown’ campaign.
The growing success and popularity of the Bridgewater Canal is down to the passion that the team have for preserving it as a leisure water way for all to enjoy with the support of the local community.
The Bridgewater Canal, England’s first true canal, will be featured on Great Canal Journeys on Channel 4 on 28th Oct at 8pm.