What's happening ? (May 2000)

Well we're a few months into the new Millennium now and cycling remains one of the big issues in the towpath world. Many of the towpath sections (88 miles of them according to Waterways World magazine) of Sustrans' National Cycle Network are up and running (or pedalling) and will no doubt be host to hundreds of bell-free bikes when the Network is officially 'opened' on 21st June. There does at least seem to be rather more consultation by Sustrans nowadays, though the jury is still out on how much they really listen to other users' concerns. Since Sustrans regionalised it is clear that there is no longer an obvious 'national' picture, and we maybe need to return to a more parochial attitude to our own local waterways.

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Things are moving at last on the restoration of the Rochdale Canal (TAG's 'alma mater') now that British Waterways and The Waterways Trust have stepped in to rescue the project. Two of the major obstructions to navigation are being seriously looked at - the M62 crossing at Castleton, and the A627(M) in Rochdale. Proposals for the former involve realigning the canal so that it can pass through the existing underpass that has been used as the towpath diversion for so many years (see below).

The plans include a floating towpath through the existing culvert, which could be 'extracted' temporarily when wide-beamed craft need to go through. A pragmatic solution that, despite potential operational difficulties from time to time, seems eminently workable and we have supported it. Not so the Rochdale Canal Society who believe towpath users should find some alternative way round, probably involving a half-mile diversion. We have expressed our dissatisfaction with their objections (which they have as yet not seen fit to try and justify or explain).

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As if to show what can be done, with a bit of effort, that other Millennium-funded trans-Pennine waterway project that is the Huddersfield Narrow Canal, is including a through towpath under the restored Mottram Road bridge, even though there was never one there in the first place.

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And while we're on Millennium projects, two nice expensive footbridges officially opened in the last fortnight - the Lowry Centre bridge (£4.5m of it) across the Manchester Ship Canal in Salford Quays (see below),

and the Millennium Bridge across the River Thames, opened by the Queen, though not yet fit for human traffic. So we can't complain that we're always the poor relation after all.

Not quite the same scale but in April, the Millennium Walkway alongside the River Sett in New Mills was opened, providing the missing link in a number of local and medium-distance paths.

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Elsewhere on the system, the Louth Navigation Trust have installed mileposts along the entire length of the Louth Canal and are clearly encouraging walkers to provide the impetus for full restoration of the canal in the future.

Not a million miles away, Single Regeneration Budget money is being spent on improving the walk along the Slea Navigation from the town to Cogglesford Lock.

Down on the Oxford Canal, European cash is being spent on improving the local footpath network which has resulted in towpath improvements on the Brownsover Arm and a new footbridge over the Arm.

In North London, Haringey's consultation on a path alongside the New River through the borough received a mixed response, and it looks as if police objections to a path through one small area will result in only partial success for the pro-path lobby.

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If anyone has any other snippets that may be of interest either for the TAG Newsletter, or for this site, please get in touch with me at andyscreen@towpath.org.uk

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