First section of canal project officially opened

Michael Hunt

Representatives from Trafford Council, Peel and Sustrans officially opened the first section of the Bridgewater Way in Trafford.

The two mile stretch between Sale and Stretford is part of 12 miles of work in Trafford which will extend north of Stretford towards The Trafford Centre.

The newly transformed towpath was created to be more suitable for walkers, cyclists, fishermen and anyone who enjoys spending time along the Bridgewater Way canal.

The official opening by the Mayor of Trafford was just one of a number of activities held along the canal last week. Other activities that have taken place include narrow boat trips by the Open Lock Project, walks and talks by the Ramblers' Association and Friends of Bridgewater Canal, Sale, and guided cycle rides.

The first section is part of the Bridgewater Way, which is a 65km scheme that aims to regenerate the canal towpath and create a new route for cyclists and pedestrians.

Peel said that when the £8m project is complete it will attract over half a million visitors a year.

In addition to funding by the Bridgewater Canal Trust, the Sale to Stretford section of the towpath is one of many schemes across the UK funded by sustainable transport charity, Sustrans, using a £50m award from the Big Lottery Fund which was won in a national TV vote in 2007.

A memorandum of understanding between Sustrans and its partners at Trafford Council and Peel was signed in December 2008. This confirmed the partners' continued commitment to the project and pledged £250,000 from Sustrans' lottery award to improve the towpath for cyclists and walkers and provide a series of links into the community.

A new Portrait Bench was also unveiled at the opening. The bench, featuring figures of William Bleasdale, Dr Charles White and Darren Campbell, which were nominated by the public, can be found on the Bridgewater Canal towpath close to the Sale Waterside piazza.

Cllr Ken Weston, chairman of Trafford Bridgewater Way Steering Group, said: "These celebrations mark the start of a new era for the Bridgewater Way in Trafford. The Sale-Stretford section is the first in a much bigger programme to transform the towpath in the Borough, providing all those who visit with a much improved experience of our beautiful canal. I would encourage people to come and enjoy the benefits that the Bridgewater Way has to offer and I look forward to seeing the route develop further."

Mike Butterworth, property director at Peel, added: "We hope that the official opening of the Bridgewater Way in Trafford will encourage people to use the towpath and enjoy the wonderful wildlife and scenery. This is just the first section of work in Trafford and we expect further sections to be open by the end of the year."

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