A New Year canal walk

Weather-wise the last couple of days here have been very cold and frosty, but with clear blue sky and sunshine the opportunity for the first long dog walk of 2017 was too good to miss. With so many nice places to go to locally I’m always spoilt for choice but this time I decided to walk east along a section of the Bolton to Bury canal which I haven’t been to for about fifteen years.Β I parked the van on the lane at the top of the slope leading down to the upper canal and the remains of the old staircase locks mentioned in aΒ previous post, and my walk started at the Meccano bridge over the old locks.
The locks section of the canal is currently in the slow process of being restored by the local Canal Society and the Meccano bridge was constructed in 2013 to replace the old wooden footbridge which had collapsed many years ago. Designed by a Manchester artist with a love of Meccano and manufactured by two Bolton companies all the 400 parts and 700 nuts and bolts were made in the same style as a toy Meccano set but scaled up to be ten times larger, ten times thicker and a thousand times heavier. The bridge was assembled on site using the old but refurbished bridge supports and after construction the threads on all the bolts were purposely damaged to prevent it from being dismantled. Painted in the same colours as toy Meccano it’s certainly an unusual feature of the local landscape.
Meccano bridge at the old staircase locks
From the Meccano bridge quite a long stretch of the canal is filled in and overgrown so it took a few minutes walking before I came to any water. Most of it was clear with a thin layer of ice on top but there were a few parts covered in a layer of green surface weed or so overgrown it was hard to tell if there was any water there at all. A couple of ducks were in one of the green parts; one of them was standing on some ice just under the water and it looked almost like he was actually standing on the surface.
Manchester, Bury & Bolton Canal – Bury arm
Walking on water?
Mute swans
Eventually I came to the old and derelict Mount Sion steam crane which sits at the side of the towpath. Dating from around 1884 it was used to unload heavy coal boxes from barges on the canal and drop them into the yard of the Mount Sion Bleach Works situated down the bank behind the fence. It’s one of the earliest surviving steam cranes in England and was granted Grade Two listed status in 2011.
Not far from the crane there was, at one time, a partially sunken canal dredger lying about halfway between the two banks. I can remember back to one day nearly twenty years ago when my partner, his brother Alan and sister-in-law Louise and myself cycled along the canal path and came across the dredger; it was surrounded by overgrown reeds and tall grasses and a lot of the vegetation was growing up through the rotting hull. My partner and Alan found a couple of planks from somewhere and put them across onto the dredger and once they were on it they proceeded to run around pulling up clumps of reeds and hurling them at each other. Sometimes they missed and something would land on the towpath; Louise and I had to dodge several muddy missiles that day but it was all good fun. There’s no sign of the dredger now so presumably after all these years it’s completely covered and hidden by all the overgrown vegetation in that part of the canal.
Mount Sion steam crane, circa 1884
Further along still, with the water now clear and weed-free again, I was surprised to see this lovely creature – a Mandarin duck. Although he was with two companions they were both Mallards so he didn’t appear to have a mate unless she was in hiding somewhere. I watched him for several minutes while he swam around then settled on a partially submerged tree branch to preen himself; he was beautiful, and definitely a photo opportunity not to be missed.
Mandarin duck
After seeing the duck I walked for a little while longer then checked the time; a quick calculation told me I’d walked for two miles and though that wasn’t very far I was beginning to lose the best of the sunlight so it was time for me to turn round and retrace my steps. My walk ended where it began, back at the Meccano bridge, and with the sunlight having lost its earlier glare the bridge and its brick work had taken on a late afternoon glow, so with one final photo I headed back up the slope to the van.
Although much of that section of canal isn’t as scenic as other parts of it I’d had a pleasant couple of hours which had stirred up a few memories and given me a lovely surprise in the form of the Mandarin duck, so I’m glad that after so many years I chose that particular route to walk – and maybe in the spring when the new leaves are on the trees I’ll go back to take some more photos.


18 thoughts on “A New Year canal walk

  1. I’m glad you enjoyed my walk Susie, it’s a shame that your own activities have been curtailed. The Mandarin duck was so pretty; I’ve seen them before on ornamental ponds but never on a local canal so it was a lovely surprise when I saw it. πŸ™‚


  2. I like the Meccano bridge and it’s amazing the difference in colour the sunlight made to it over a couple of hours. That Mandarin duck made me go whoa, it’s really beautiful, I’ve never seen one before. I went to our park a few weeks ago and the lake was partially frozen, it certainly does look like the birds are walking on water. It’s nice to revisit places that stir up happy memories, gives a nice warm glow.


  3. It made a nice change to go somewhere I hadn’t been to for so long, and other than the overgrown parts of the canal being even more overgrown nothing has changed in the years since I last went there. It’s a shame the old dredger isn’t still visible, I’d have loved to get a photo of it for old times sake.


  4. Most local people like the bridge, some don’t, but I think it looks quite funky. When it was officially opened a group of a hundred people, including the members of a local brass band, all stood on the bridge to test its weight and it didn’t move an inch.


  5. Very pleased to see your photos of the Mandarin Duck, a male of course, the female being streaked brown/grey in colour but noticeably different to a female Mallard. Surprisingly for a duck they usually nest in holes in trees. There is quite a large feral breeding population here in the south but I was not aware they were in the north of England much unless he is just taking time out from a local wildfowl collection. They are native to south-east Russia, north-east China, and Japan where I believe they are quite an endangered species so good we have some here to act as a backup reservoir for the species.


    1. I’m glad you like the photos of the Mandarin, I was really surprised to see him on the canal. I Googled it when I got home and found that although the main population is in south, central and eastern England small numbers do occur in Wales, northern England and Scotland. There’s a large wildlife lake only about a mile from the canal so I thought maybe he’d come from there but I’ve never seen any on my walks round there and there are none showing up on any of the photos I’ve taken there so where he’s come from is a mystery.


  6. What a beautiful walk to start the new year! Such an interesting bridge and story to go along with it.
    I love when I find unusual animals on my nature walks. Such a pretty duck you found!
    Happy New Year, Eunice!


  7. Happy New Year to you too Christine!
    I’m really pleased you’ve hopped over to this new blog and posted a couple of comments, I hope you read more as and when your busy life allows. I haven’t given up on the old blog, I’ll be continuing with it once I start camping again, this one is just something a bit different to keep me occupied until then πŸ™‚


  8. Hi Eunice,

    I duly noted your new blog and have finally got my butt over here πŸ™‚ There’s something magical and alluring about strolling through the British countryside, even during the raw, sometimes bleak January time.

    Your superb photos have conveyed that wondrous ambience. Loving the duck.

    Wishing you the many peaceful moments in 2017, Eunice.

    Gary πŸ™‚


  9. Happy New Year to you too Gary, it’s nice to see you over here. Say hello to Penny for me πŸ™‚
    Glad you like the duck; I can’t imagine where he came from but I hope he sticks around, he was such an unusual sight to see on the canal πŸ™‚


    1. Some parts of the canal are so overgrown they aren’t exactly pretty but the rest of it is quite nice so the walk was a good one. I was coming close to a built up area at my turn round point so there wouldn’t have been much to see for a while. That section of the canal stops where a wide main road crosses it and it continues over the other side of the road. The next section is quite scenic and I walked along there in May and June last year; there’s a couple of photos from that walk in my ‘Year in pictures’ post.

      The duck was beautiful and seeing it there was a lovely surprise πŸ™‚


  10. The canals always provide interest along the way, don’t they, Eunice? Even in their Winter apparel. We were at Skipton on the Leeds-Liverpool last August and it wasn’t the best weather but we had a lovely time. πŸ™‚


  11. I love walking along canals, and even if it’s a section I’ve been along several times before there’s always something interesting to see. There’s a section of the Leeds-Liverpool only a short drive from my home and it’s one I’ve often walked along but not for a while, so I may very well do that walk again soon.

    I’m quite intrigued by the Monday Walks feature on your blog so once I’ve got some photos sorted I’ll join in next week and possibly make it a regular thing on here πŸ™‚


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