Our Vision

The Restoration Partnership includes ourselves, the Canal & River Trust, Bolton, Bury and Salford Local Authorities plus other landowners and stakeholders. It builds on the work of the Joint Steering Committee which was established in 2000.

The following is our shared vision for the Manchester Bolton & Bury Canal:

Canal Route
Water is taken from the River Irwell at Burrs Country Park, north of Bury, feeding Elton Reservoir. The canal begins at the River Irwell in Salford and continues through Pendleton and Agecroft to Clifton where it crosses the River Irwell. The canal goes on to Ringley and Prestolee to cross the Irwell again and reach the final flight of six locks at Nob End. From here the summit level has one arm leading to Hall Lane in Little Lever, which formerly continued to Church Wharf in Bolton. The other arm goes through Ladyshore and Radcliffe to Bury. When constructed the total length was 15 miles 1 furlong.

Land Ownership
About 12 miles of the canal (80%) is now owned by the Canal & River Trust; a further 3 miles (15%) is owned by United Utilities and in Little Lever a short length is owned by Watson Homes. Bolton Council owns the land along the route of the canal from Hall Lane to Bolton; this length is unlikely to be restored. Bury Council and GM Fire & Rescue both own short lengths at the Bury terminus.

The line of the canal has planning protection in the Bolton, Bury and Salford Council Local Plans. Each Local Authority has its own planning policies related specifically to the canal which will inform future restoration proposals.

Present Condition
In 2021 about 6 miles of the canal (40%) is still in water.

In Salford the first quarter mile at the Middlewood locks has been fully restored, and building continues alongside.

The Bolton arm is in water for ¾ mile as far as Hall Lane, Little Lever where its restoration is planned to end. Beyond will be difficult to restore as there are three missing aqueducts and the A666 (St Peter’s Way) is built on the line of the canal for the final half mile.

The Bury arm is largely in water for almost 4 miles, with two obstructions: the 1936 breach at Nob End and the lowered Water Street Bridge in Radcliffe. There are detailed plans with costs estimates which address these obstacles.

Community Needs, Outcomes and Benefits

The Vision for a restored canal is to meet the varied and multiple needs of local people and visitors.

Over 250,000 people live, work and are educated in the communities alongside the canal, many of these individuals and families live in areas with some of the highest levels of UK multiple deprivation. The restored canal, towpath and improved facilities will attract increasing numbers of people who are looking for leisure and sport activities, for example, walkers, cyclists and anglers.

Local communities, their representatives and visitors have identified the following immediate needs, longer term outcomes and benefits that the restored canal needs to deliver.

Economic Regeneration
Restoration of the canal will secure additional public and private investment that provide new jobs and training opportunities in the service, housing, construction and ‘green’ employment sectors. Liaison with the three Council Regeneration and Planning teams will bring key areas of brownfield land back into use for valuable housing and commercial development. This will improve the quality of life and support communities with multiple deprivation.

Tourism & Recreation
The restored canal and towpath will provide attractive routes, connecting nearby centres of population with local visitor facilities and attractions, linking existing country parks and recreational areas. It will offer safe and easy access for users, including young families, elderly and the disabled. New visitor centres and catering facilities will highlight industrial and natural heritage assets and promote the canal.

Health & Wellbeing
Improved access will provide a better-quality water and countryside environment. Restoration will enhance local surroundings and encourage increased use by groups with physical, mental illness needs or loneliness. Sustained, strategic liaison with health improvement professionals will deliver targeted use of social prescribing and volunteering to provide opportunities for fun, outdoor activities and the company of others.

Education, Culture and Heritage
Restoration will provide opportunities and facilities for new educational, cultural and heritage initiatives which will benefit the local community. Schools will benefit from resources. Restoration will help to build local pride and support from residents for the canal. Community led events, concerts, art and design installations along the canal will supplement existing attractions and encourage fresh initiatives. Restoration will preserve and interpret unique industrial heritage and natural assets.

Leisure and Sports Facilities
Restoration will establish new facilities along the canal. Programmes and facilities which provide water-based activities will attract new visitors, for example canoeing, paddle boarding and angling. The improved towpath with signposts, information boards and guided trails will connect the canal, its heritage and natural assets.

Environment & Climate Change
Most of the separate lengths of canal that are currently in water are designated as Sites of Biological Importance. Restoration projects will protect, manage, improve and extend these assets connecting a further 9 miles of varied habitats to support greater biodiversity. Increased use of travel along the restored towpath will encourage more local journeys. Improved management of invasive non-native species will help to improve water quality to support a wider range of biodiversity. Opportunities to create natural water storage facilities and ‘slow the flow’ drainage features into the rivers will help to mitigate some of the effects of climate change.