Rochdale Canal celebrates 20th anniversary of its restoration

Published: Friday, 01 July 2022

ROCHDALE Canal celebrates its 20th anniversary of its full restoration this month.

RochdaleConstructing Once an artery for trade during the industrial revolution, Canal & River Trust  maintain today’s canal is a haven for people and wildlife connecting Manchester city centre to Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire, the ‘Everest of Canals’ featuring 91 locks rising 600 feet and winding through historic market towns, industrial cityscapes and stunning upland landscapes.

Join its campaign

To celebrate the special date, when John Craven, television broadcaster and vice president of The Waterways Trust, re-opens the Rochdale Canal outside Dukes 92 in Manchester on 1st July 2002, the trust is calling on more people to join its campaign #ActNowforCanals to help look after the canal, from fundraising and volunteering through to picking up the occasional piece of litter whilst out for a walk.

Rochdale GayVillageSections of the canal in Manchester city centre and Yorkshire have recently been awarded prestigious Green Flags—illustrating their importance as quality green spaces for local people and home to much loved and support of wildlife, and major Green Recovery and art projects earlier this year have resulted in bright new rainbow planters in Manchester’s Gay Village, floating reed beds, more trees, flowers, wildlife and engaging art installations.

The trust tells that particularly valuable in urban areas, the canal towpath offers people a traffic-free space to roam and connect with nature. Community projects, such as the Incredible Edible garden scheme in Todmoden, have sown the seeds for a major canalside movement to grow free fruit and vegetables for people to pick. And partnership projects working with organisations like Transport for Greater Manchester have resulted in new access ramps to the towpath and in Yorkshire a new joint promotion with Northern Rail aims to open up the canal to rail users.

Rochdale WorksBenefits for people and wildlife

Richard Parry, Canal & River Trust Chief Executive, explains:

“The positive benefits for people and wildlife resulting from the restoration of the Rochdale Canal in 2002 are amazing. It has been the catalyst for hundreds of brilliant projects, schemes and developments which have transformed the urban and rural landscapes around the waterway.

“We believe that no other charity brings as much free, open and accessible blue green space to the doorsteps of so many people. And we want to keep it that way by protecting and preserving these special places and ensuring canals don’t fall back into the dark days of dereliction and decline."

First opened in 1804, the Rochdale Canal was the trans-Pennine motorway of its day, busy with barges carrying coal, wool, cotton, grain, cement, salt and timber between Lancashire and Yorkshire, feeding the demands of the Industrial Revolution.

RochdaleSceneTrade boomed on the canal until the beginning of the 20th century, when the development of railways and road transport led to a dramatic reduction in barge cargo and the canal was officially abandoned in 1952. In the latter half of the 20th century, sections became derelict, filled-in, bridges lowered and the M62 motorway built across its line.

Crazy aim of restoration

The seemingly crazy aim of restoration began in the mid 70s when a few enthusiasts formed the Rochdale Canal Society. This sparked off a major multi-million pound partnership project, involving British Waterways (forerunner of the Canal & River Trust), all the local councils, Inland Waterways Association and others taking advantage of public funding opportunities around the Millennium. Work included the creation of a new channel under the M62, a new canal tunnel under the A627(M) roundabout, 12 new road bridges and the refurbishment of 24 locks.