The inspiration for doing this walk came from reading Cyril Bracegirdle’s ‘Dark River’ … written in the 1970s, and in far grimmer times for the river, it paints a prophetically optimistic picture for the Irwell’s future revival.
This is the first of three walks that trace the course of the main rivers that flow into my home city of Manchester.
The River Irwell rises on Deerplay Moor above Bacup. It flows for 39 miles until it merges with the River Mersey at Irlam. Along the way it flows through Manchester, forming a natural barrier with its neighbour … the twin city of Salford.
The river was navigable in the early years of the cities developments. During the Industrial Revolution, the banks of the Irwell became home to a wide variety of factories and mills … the effluent from those establishments transformed it from a fish thriving waterway into a deadly drain!
In more recent times, huge efforts to reinvigorate the river have born fruit … fish and other wildlife have returned and the poison-spewing factories have been replaced with swanky apartments and hotels through the city centre!
My route hugs the river as close as possible, using a variety of pleasurable trails and paths (not always easy to follow, due to poor waymarking!).
I was mesmerised by the industrial ruins and more modern features that I encountered along the way and have tried to replicate and share, in photo format, some of the intriguing sights I witnessed.