July 31st, 2008

From Park Bridge To Daisy Nook

The river Medlock rises in the Pennine foothills and runs along the border between Oldham and Tameside, ending up in Manchester, where it joins itself to the Irwell. From the 1790s through to the 1920s (approx) the upper Medlock valley was an industrial hell. It's now (mostly) a country park. 

From Park Bridge to Daisy Nook is about two miles.  There was an ironworks at Park Bridge and coal pits all around. The ironworks has been selectively demolished, leaving a faintly surrealist jumble of chimneys, pavements, lawns and staircases that lead nowhere.  There's a visitors centre and the ruins have been used for Open Air Theatre. I'd love to see them do Hamlet here.

Below Park Bridge- at Fenny Field Bridge- was the terminus of the Fairbottom Branch Canal. Here coal was delivered to the wharf by tramway and loaded on barges ultimately bound for Manchester. The first half mile of the canal- as far as I can determine- is now a bridle path.

The canal passed under Bardsley Bridge...

...beyond which it becomes a canal again- or rather an elongated fish pond-  though most of it is choked with bullrushes and other weeds. 

At Waterhouses (now known as Daisy Nook) it joined the larger Hollinwood Branch Canal. There are some mighty works of late 18th century engineering here. The canal dropped down the hill through a system of several locks,

then passed over the river on the cyclopean Waterhouses Aqueduct.