Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Rochdale Canal City Centre Lunch Walk Trip Report

Like a lot of people I work too hard at a job I don't even care much for and spend most of my lunch hours rushing out for a sandwich then rushing back to my desk like the wage slaves that I am. So the other night while reading a surprisingly good Ramblers Association Magazine I had bought for the first time ( I only got it as I can't seem to find TGO anywhere this month, but I will probably buy this mag again as it is really good). I came across a Manchester City Centre walk of approximately 4km that could be done in an hour. I decided that on at least one day this week I would walk out that door at 1pm and not return until 2pm on the dot. So in true Forest Gump style I lept from the office chair turned my monitors off and flew out the door with the intention of walking for an hour without stopping. Walk Jamie Walk!

Rochdale Canal in Manchester City Centre

I had to get something to eat on the way that I could eat while I was walking and fancied something a bit different so I went through China Town as I was heading that way. I went to one of my favourite city centre eating places Ho's Bakery. This is a unique place selling various oriental based pastries and cakes. I grabbed myself a few tiny filled sweet buns with fillings like sausage, pork, bacon and egg, and a sweet melon cake slice thing for afters. If your ever in town and want something different it is well worth a visit, the Ho's Bakery is on the corner opposite the big Chinatown archway. Manchester's Chinatown is the second largest in the UK and a great place to head when in the city centre for fantastic restaurants, huge grocery shops and cooking equipment shops with a difference.

Ho's Bakery by The Archway in Manchester's Chinatown

I reached the entrance to the Gay Village which is where I could cross the road and go underneath the Princess Street bridge to join the canal towpath which is also the Cheshire Ring Canal Ring Canal Walk long distance path. at Lock 87. I headed west along the south side of the Rochdale Canal under Princess Street bridge. As you come out from under the bridge the scene that hits you is like something from an old L.S. Lowry painting or black and white industrial revolution photograph archive. Almost immediately my head was singing the song from the 1992 Boddingtons Bitter television commercial where the two venetian gondolas pass on this exact spot on the Rochdale Canal in the 1992 commercial. Wow does this bring back memories, the Boddingtons Bitter commercials were always brilliant and that was one of my favourites which I'm stood in its set right now "By eck its gorgeous"... "that Gladys Althorp, she never buys her own".

Rochdale Canal setting of the famous 90's Boddingtons gondolas advert

I reached Lock 88 which drops the canal underneath Oxford Street, one of Manchester's busiest streets which leads out to the Universities, Fallowfield, Rusholme and eventually Didsbury. One other bonus of this walk is that it passes at least four outdoor shops on the way! Here you can leave the canal and head a few hundred yards along Oxford Street to the Cotswolds Outdoors Rock Bottom shop. At this Lock 88 the office buildings seem to hang right over the canal and swamp it into almost none existence! I made a dash under the bridge after spotting on the light fittings the most ridiculous numbers of fat bodied spiders I've ever seen! Ewww!

Rochdale Canal's Lock 89 Tib Lock

The canal now bends round to the back of the excellent Rain Bar on the opposite side of the loch where Lock 89 or Tibs Lock is located. If its a sunny day you can sit out the back of the Rain Bar and watch the canal. As I approached two narrow boats were utilising the lock, this is something I can watch again and again, there is just something so majestic about the locks that I have always loved, such inventive yet simple technology. At Lock 89 there is a small branch of canal heads off towards the Bridgewater Hall. This was originally the Manchester and Salford Junction Canal opened in 1839 that canal was built to join up the then Mersey and Irwell Navigation ( now the River Irwell and Manchester Chip Canal ) with the Rochdale Canal. The branch that heads off here now simply goes to a basin outside the back of the Bridgewater Hall but amazingly the old under ground route that went underground for a kilometre still exists in the empty tunnels that can still be seen under the city centre! Photos and info here.

The Beetham Tower rises above Deansgate Locks

Carrying on past Lock 89 I then reached the Hacienda on the left which has now been rebuilt into stylish city centre apartments. Along the tow path and on the side of the underground car park there was art writing along the car parks walls with a year by year history of the life of the world famous nightclub. I then headed under the Gaythorne Bridge to reach Deansgate Locks, these days more famous as a going out spot for city centre revellers. Here locks 90 then 91 take the canal past the huge railway viaducts that once fed the massive Central Station with steam trains which is now the GMEX. The viaducts now carry the Metrolink tram system into the city centre. Looking up from this part of the canal there is one massive feature The Beetham Tower, the highest building in Manchester and the highest residential building in Europe! This 168m tall glass giant is controversial, you either love it or hate it, I being a proud Mancunian love it. One of the things visitors to our great city always talk about is the contrast of old and new and in this walk you really get to see it. After Lock 91 the canal goes under a wide bridge under the main A56 Deansgate road, when originally built the canal ran in a shallow tunnel beneath the Duke of Bridgewater's field at Castlefield between Lock 91 and the Dukes Lock 92. On either side of the canal as in many parts of the Castlefield area you can see the red sandstone that they tunnelled through.

Fascinating old factory constrasts the Beetham Tower

I eventually reached the Dukes Lock or Lock 92. I'm familiar with this area as the Dukes 92 pub and restaurant here is on of my favourites. Castlefield is a stunning area completely regenerated many years ago and has kept its style decades later. Just before Lock 92 there is a beautiful narrow and tall brick building with a chimney from the industrial age which provides an amazing contrast with the modern Beetham Tower. I cut the walk short as time was against me so I nipped through the old roman fort area of Castlefield, passing the second outdoor shop on the way, Ellis Brigham which is by far my favourite outdoor store and is situated in the heart of the old roman fort area of Castlefield.

Mamucium plaque in the old Roman area of Manchester

I made my way back to my wage slave hell. I had the same buzz about me I have when I've done a good walk at weekend or been to the gym in the morning, like I had beat the negative drag of the day and done something different and interesting as well as physically beneficial. It was a fantastic walk which I plan to do at least once a week and I think everyone should be encouraged to walk out of the door at lunch time and walk until you get back an hour later!

I have uploaded the photos from the walk here.

Route Map...


  1. Nice one. Pleased to see you are able to take a whole hour for lunch - it can't be that much of a wage slave hole! I'm not sure about the outdoors shops, though; Brighams was good in the old days, and Cotswold was until a few years ago, but latterly I've given up on them in favour of, Hathersage (Outside), Stockport (Alpenstock), and Hale! (Rohan), where I find they have a bit more stock and know how and are more helpful than the Manchester shops.

  2. I am studying the relations between city and water and Manchester is one of my case studies. It was fun to read your report! Thanks a lot.