Monday, 6 October 2008

Ramble at Tandle Hill

St Helens MC Ramble, Sunday 5th October 2008

This is Dave Connelly's report on the ramble round Tandle Hill, exploring both the countryside and also the rich social and industrial heritage to be seen in the area.

Attendees:- Dave Connelly, Ben Connelly, Les Berry, Carol Baxendale, Ken McWilliam, Ken Fyles, Derek Hatch, Lionel Greenslade(+ 1 guest), Ken Hollis(+ 3 Guests), Keith Halliwell, Bill Clayton and Roger Sager.

The walk was approx. 8miles in and around Tandle Hill Country Park and the Rochdale Canal with Lunch at the Summit Inn(Royton).

Tandle Hill Country Park is in the town of Royton, in the Metropolitan Borough of Oldham, Greater Manchester, England. It consists of approximately 110 acres, a combination of beech woodland and open grassland.

The park contains a countryside centre (opened in 1994), picnic areas, children's play area and numerous trails and paths into the surrounding area. It is a popular route for walkers in the region. In fine weather conditions, it offers views of Manchester and even the Welsh mountains.

History of the Park

Tandle hill was originally part of the township of Thornham - part of the extensive parish of Middleton. It was used as a meeting place for radicals in the 19th century. In the period leading up to the Peterloo Massacre it was said that it had been used by radicals for practicing marching and drilling. The beech woodland was planted to prevent this happening again and the hill became a hunting park and private game reserve as part of the Thornham Estate. It was sold in 1861 and came into the ownership of Joseph Milne, whose wife later sold the park to Norris Bradbury, a Royton councilor. Bradbury gave the park to the people of Royton in 1919 as a peace offering at the end of the First World War. A granite marker stands near the Oozewood entrance to the park, and it's inscription reads:

Tandle Hill Park and Woods. These grounds are the gift of Norris Bradbury Esq. J.P. of Tynwald Mount, Shaw Road Royton as a thank offering for peace after the Great European War 1914-1919. 6th September 1919.

Tandle Hill was formally designated as a Country Park on 1 July, 1971.

War Memorial

The war memorial commemorating the men of Royton who died during the
First World War stands at the highest point in the park, and was unveiled on 22 October, 1921 by the Earl of Derby. Originally the memorial, which is constructed from Portland stone, bore plaques listing the fallen and a bronze statue. The original plaques were stolen in 1969, and replacements were later installed in the grounds of St Paul's Church, Royton.

Rochdale Canal

The Rochdale Canal is a navigable "broad" canal in Northern England, part of the connected system of the Canals of Great Britain. The "Rochdale" in its name refers to the town of Rochdale, Greater Manchester, through which the canal passes.

The Rochdale is a Broad canal because its bridges and locks are wide enough to allow vessels of 14ft width to pass through. The canal runs for 32 miles (51 kilometres) across the Pennines from the Bridgewater Canal at Castlefield Basin in Manchester to join the Calder and Hebble Navigation at Sowerby Bridge in West Yorkshire.

As originally built, the canal had 92 locks. Whilst the traditional lock numbering has been retained on all restored locks, and on all the relocated locks, the canal now has only 91 locks. The former locks 3 & 4 have been replaced with a single deep lock (Tuel Lane Lock), which is numbered as "3/4."

A lock on the Rochdale Canal with water flowing over the gate due to the lack of a side channel.

The Rochdale Canal was conceived in 1776, when a group of 48 eminent men from Rochdale raised £237 and commissioned James Brindley to conduct a survey of possible routes between Sowerby Bridge and Manchester. He proposed a route similar to that built, and another more expensive route via Bury.

Further progress was not made until 1791, when John Rennie was asked to make a new survey in June, and two months later to make surveys for branches to Rochdale, Oldham and to some limeworks near Todmorden. The first attempt to obtain an Act of Parliament was made in 1792, but was opposed by millers, concerned about water supply, and it was not until 4 April 1794 that an act was obtained which created the Rochdale Canal Company and authorised the construction of the canal. Further acts of parliament were obtained in 1800, 1804 and 1806, the main purpose of which was to raise additional finance.

The canal was opened up in stages, as it was completed, with the Rochdale Branch being the first in 1798, further sections in 1799, and the bottom nine locks opening in 1800, so that boats from the Ashton Canal could reach Manchester. Officially, the canal opened in 1804, but construction work continued for another three years. A 1.5 mile (2.4km) branch from Heywood to Castleton was opened in 1834.

Because of its width, it was more successful than the Huddersfield Narrow Canal and became the main highway of commerce between Lancashire & Yorkshire. Cotton, wool, coal, limestone, timber, salt and general merchandise were transported. In 1890 the canal company had 2,000 barges and traffic reached 700,000 tons/year, the equivalent of 50 barges a day. But this traffic soon faced competition from the Manchester and Leeds Railway (1841). By cutting tolls the canal managed to maintain business and for a time remained profitable but by the start of the 20th century it was in trouble.

In 1923 the canal's reservoirs were sold to the Oldham and Rochdale Joint Water Board. Most of the canal (apart from a short profitable section in Manchester linking the Bridgewater and Ashton Canals) was closed in 1952 when an act of parliament was obtained to ban public navigation (the last complete journey having taken place in 1937) and by the mid 1960s the remainder was almost unusable.


With the growth in leisure boating, a campaign was mounted for its re-opening. The first section to be restored was the nine locks between the junction with the Ashton Canal and the Bridgewater Canal, as a result of the Ashton Canal reopening in 1974. The Rochdale Canal Society was formed, and worked hard both to protect the line of the canal and to begin the process of refurbishing it, concentrating on the section from Todmorden to Sowerby Bridge. Nearly 16 miles (25.7km) was opened in this way, with the section from Todmorden to Hebden Bridge opening in 1983, and the entire eastern section up to the summit opened by 1990. The reopened section was still isolated from the canal network.

The next success was a re-fashioned link with the Calder and Hebble Canal (which had never closed) at Sowerby Bridge, which joined the restored section to the national network in 1996, and involves one of the candidates for the deepest lock on the British canal system (Tuel Lane Lock at nearly 20ft). In 2000, the canal, which had never been nationalised, passed from the control of the Rochdale Canal Company to the Waterways Trust, and an £23.8 million investment package was announced, with funding coming from the Millennium Commission, English Partnerships, and the councils of Oldham and Rochdale.

As restoration proceeded, boats could travel further and further west, and the restoration of the sections through Failsworth and Ancoats were a significant part of the re-development of the north Manchester districts. On 1 July 2002, the restored sections joined up with the never-closed section in Manchester, thus re-opening the canal to navigation along its entire length.

Dave Connelly