Rivers around Manchester
- Last Updated: Monday, 17 June 2013 17:13
- Published: Wednesday, 12 January 2011 12:47
- Written by admin
The information contained on these pages is for information only. Canoeing can be a dangerous sport, and river levels and personal ability must be taken into account before paddling any river. Ultimately the decision to paddle any river must be a personal decision.
The River Goyt
The Goyt runs from the Errwood and Fernilee reservoirs, north of Buxton, to Stockport where it joins the Tame to form the Mersey. It is also fed by the Etherow, which flows from the Woodhead reservoirs. All these reservoirs tend to have a stabilising effect on the river level, so it does not rise and fall as fast as some rivers. Even so, it can vary between being a fairly placid and rocky river (grade 2), with long flat sections between weirs and rapids, and fast flowing with many potential hazards (grade 3+) after heavy rain. It has become progressively cleaner over the past few years, and now is a very clean river, as can be seen from the popularity of the fishing.
The river can be paddled from New Mills or Whalley Bridge when in spate, but only by experienced paddlers. There are three 2 or 3 metre vertical weirs, with closed ends that will need some careful inspecting before they are shot. The final weir is at Roman Lakes. There is a further broken weir at Marple Bridge, which is normally shot on the left.
The river is more often paddled from Brabyn's Park, Marple Bridge, to the MCC site. The first sloping weir has three shoots separated by walls. If water is starting to flow over the side shoots of the sloping weir, the stopper in the centre becomes harder to paddle through and the safest way is to scrape down the sides. As water levels increase further the stoppers at the side also become progressively more difficult. At high levels this weir can become highly dangerous with vicious stoppers and tow-back. The next obstacle is the horseshoe weir a few hundred yards down stream. The water at the bottom of this weir has unpleasant boils even at lowish levels, and becomes dangerous as the level rises - the boils become even worse and a stopper starts to form, trapping much in the way of debris. There has been a fatality at this weir in high water in the past.
If in any doubt, miss both weirs. By putting in below the horseshoe weir, you can still have an enjoyable paddle. While at lower levels the paddle from here is mostly a rock dodge, as levels rise the rapids improve, but overhanging tree branches, fallen trees across the river and floating debris can become serious hazards. The best rapid is probably 'looping rapid' a couple of hundred yards above the club site. It is often worth paddling up from the site to play there, although you will probably have to portage around the fall at the top of the site.
Beyond our site the river continues with similar character until reaching another weir in about half a mile. The river can be followed to Stockport, but be careful of the weirs. The first weir at Chadkirk is a sloping weir, about 2m high. The middle section of this weir has collapsed recently, and needs careful inspection. The vertical weir at Otterspool by the A627 is dangerous and must be portaged except in low water. Even then, take care. If you should ever lose a boat in the Goyt in spate conditions, it is worth checking this weir to see if it is trapped in the stopper.
The River Irwell
The Irwell has undergone some extensive developments in recent years to benefit canoeing and is both interesting to paddle and conveniently local.
Bury Canoe and Kayak Club have their site and headquarters at the Burrs Country Park where the river has been modified to provide a good practice site for most levels of competence. At low water the whole river is a bit of a scrape but the Irwell rises very quickly after rain, when the section from Ramsbottom to the Burrs site can be very enjoyable.
Access can be gained either from Nuttall Park, Ramsbottom or slightly further upstream near the steam railway car park, where a canoeing friendly launch area takes you through a purpose built canoe chute avoiding an awkward weir. The first and possibly best part of the trip starts within half a mile of Nuttall Park where you enter Gollinrod Gorge, normally a grade 2 section with plenty of playwaves which in high water becomes very bouncy and great fun.
The river continues with mainly grade 2 rapids and a couple of weirs. The route down is usually obvious and as the river has undergone quite a clean up the water quality is considerably better than you might expect with Kingfishers and other wildlife making a steady comeback.
After about 4 miles you come to the start of the Burrs site which is marked by the large and very steep top weir. The weir is about 14 feet high with a 60 degree plus slope on the left with fish steps on the right. It is normally shot on the left, but in medium to high water levels inspect the stopper from the left bank as it has a fierce tow-back which can hold a boat for a long time. If in doubt portage. If you do shoot it hold on to your stomach and enjoy the ride!
The several good small weirs and rapids on the rest of the Burrs site provide opportunities for playing and slalom practice. The usual egress point is on the left approximately 50 yards after the road bridge and the last of a series of small drops. A gravel slope leads to the club house. The canal on site can be used to paddle back to the top weir.
Please note that a fee is payable for using the Burrs site, unless just passing through to finish further downstream.
The River Mersey
The Mersey starts at Stockport, where the Goyt and Tame merge, and runs between high banks through mostly open country until joining the Ship Canal at Carrington. Unfortunately the Tame is nothing like as clean as the Goyt, and therefore the Mersey is also quite a dirty river. It is constrained between high man made banks, and when the river is very high all water features, including the 2.5m Northenden Weir, simply disappear. The 10 mile section from the bridge on Manchester Road, East Didsbury to Ashton-on-Mersey Cricket Club, Little Ees Lane off Glebeland Road can give an interesting paddle at most levels. Many other access points are possible, such as the car park at Northenden Weir or the car park behind the lake at Trafford Watersports Centre. Most of the river is straightforward with occasional minor rapids. However, the weir at Northenden can be dangerous in spate, and should be carefully inspected. It is normally shot on the left, although at higher levels a tongue starts to appear at the extreme right. Alongside Trafford Watersports Centre a broken weir forms an interesting rapid, which in the past has been used as a slalom site. At the right level some good play waves form here, as long as you don't mind the smelly water. A short distance beyond Ashton-on-Mersey Cricket Club is a stepped weir which requires great care. It can be portaged on either side.
As a result of the University of Brighton study into canoeing access to rivers, a canoe trail has now been opened on the Mersey. It starts in Stockport under Hollywood Way Bridge, near the Pyramid, and finishing at Carrington Parish Recreation Ground, and has various access points along the way.
Please note that canoe hire is not available from Chorlton Water Park
The Etherow above the resevoirs has been paddled. This is a real spate stream. The put in is on Black Clough, and involves a fair walk. The hazards include sheep gates.
The Etherow below Bottoms Resevoir can only be paddled when the resevoirs are releasing, and after a drought this can happen very rarely, even in the heaviest storms. There are a number of artificial weirs, many of which will require inspection. There is a large steep stepped weir at the top of Etherow Country Park which looks very unpleasant, and furthermore the wardens do not encourage canoeing through the Park.
The Tame is normally paddled from Dukinfield to Gee X mill. It is generally grade 2, with some small artificial weirs. Unfortunately it is very polluted, and the greatest dangers from shooting the weirs comes from getting stuck in a shopping trolley at the bottom. The one point in its favour is that the canal follows it, and therefore it can be paddled as a loop.
The Bollin is normally padlled from where the A538 crosses it near the Airport to the Swan With Two Necks at Dunham Massey. It has been re-routed through concrete channels where goes under the airport runways, and the motorway, but no difficulties have been reported. It is grade 2, except the weir just before the Swan, which can get quite exciting at higher levels. The greatest difficulties are dodging overhanging branches at some sections of the river.