About the Walk
What’s on offer?
This guided tour will take you to Manchester’s waterways and introduce you to their industrial and social history, cultural heritage, and the canals’ importance to the city’s built and natural environment. The tour will start in Castlefield basin – terminus of the Bridgewater Canal, Britain’s first canal independent of rivers, and an important trade hub during the Industrial Revolution. It will then continue along the Rochdale Canal, going past the site of The Hacienda nightclub and ending in the popular Gay Village neighbourhood along the Canal Street. Our focus will be the history, contemporary uses, and creative responses to the Bridgewater and Rochdale Canals (with a few surprises on the way as well).
What’s it about?
There are hundreds of miles of canals in Greater Manchester. These waterways have gone through a radical transformation in their use and purpose, from being important transport links in the 18th and 19th centuries, to largely being left unused and sometimes derelict. During the 20th century, however, the canals have gained a new lease of life thanks to many volunteers working on reopening and regenerating them. Today, canals across the UK are an important leisure resource for boaters, walkers, runners, anglers, canoeists, paddleboarders and cyclists alike. What is more, Manchester is central to both the industrial and canal history of Britain since it is here that the Bridgewater Canal – Britain’s first canal independent of rivers – was opened in 1761. This canal brought down the cost of transport of coal by half and so kickstarted the Industrial Revolution.
We will explore both the history and present of Manchester’s canals – from their importance for transporting goods and passengers to their current roles as homes to liveaboard boaters, sites of leisure and tourism, as well as urban spaces enhancing mental and physical health and wellbeing. This guided tour is aimed at the general public and will share interesting research findings from our respective areas of study including tourism studies, creative writing, history and literature, offering new insights into these ‘hidden treasures’ of Manchester. You will also get chance to ask questions and share your own stories about the canals.
Who’s leading the event?
This event has been organised and will be led by three waterways researchers and enthusiasts, Maarja Kaaristo (Manchester Metropolitan University), Sarah Jasmon (Manchester Metropolitan University and University of Manchester) and Jodie Matthews (University of Huddersfield). Maarja has been researching leisure and tourism on British canals since 2014 and is also a volunteer and a committee member of Inland Waterways Association’s Manchester Branch. Sarah is a liveaboard boater, writer, and a researcher who has published both fiction and nonfiction about the canals. Jodie is a literary scholar and historian who has studied the literary history of the canals and the lives and reputations of boatpeople. She was the Canal and River Trust’s first Honorary Research Fellow.
Anyone over the age of 16 is welcome. We will be walking outdoors along the canals for about 2 hours with intermittent stops. The terrain is even, however not wheelchair accessible in all parts. Please wear sturdy footwear and weather-appropriate clothes. We will be outdoors for the whole duration of the walk, so make sure to bring waterproofs in case it rains.