Over the past 200 to 300 years, the Mersey catchment has been managed to serve the needs of the Industrial Revolution.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the Worsley area. Here the origins of the Bridgewater Canal can be explored.

The once quiet hamlet of Worsley became the hub of heavy industry and is now approached by a network of motorway junctions.

The first thing that those who follow this walk will realise is how much of a quiet haven it now is.

THE Walk From the car park turn away from Worsley and follow the pavement to the left. Look to the left to find a complex of hotels and a golf course. Turn left and approach Worsley Old Hall. This was once the home of the Duke of Bridgewater and is now a fine hotel.

The Old Hall was once a quiet residence of the Egertons from Elizabethan times but when the Bridgewater Canal was being planned the building was used for accommodation and offices. At the same time Francis Egerton, the First Duke of Bridgewater built a new hall of red brick.

From the Old Hall find the church of St Mark now across a new road. The Canal Duke would not have recognised this church because it was rebuilt by his successor in 1846. The new church is a fine example of the work of Sir George Gilbert Scott. Some of the interior furnishings would have been recognised by the old duke. This includes the pulpit and organ screens imported from France and Flanders in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Perhaps because they do not expect to find nature so close to the motorways visitors often miss the joys of Worsley Woods. Here are footpaths, a lake, and look out for the Ellesmere memorial built in 1859 to celebrate the canal builder. This memorial is best viewed by binoculars as it now surrounded by housing.

Wardley Hall is worth a short diversion and is often missed by walkers.

It dates from the 16th century and is now the residence of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Salford.

From Wardley Hall retrace this diversion and bear left into Worsley. Divert to the right and look over the mine entrance of the canal. John Gilbert was the engineer who cut some 46 miles of tunnels into the coal mines and allowed some of the shafts to flood. Coal was then brought by boat into the canal and reduced the price of this “black gold” into Manchester. The iron deposits typical of coal mines stained the water of the canal red but this is not poisonous and Worsley is popular with anglers.

From the mine entrance stroll into the village into what seems to be a green dating back to Tudor times. How wrong can you be? The fountain on the “village green” was once a red brick chimney which carried away the smoke from the Duke of Bridgewater’s coal yard. The centre of Worsley looks like a Tudor village but it was actually built around 1900 once industry began to fade into history. It is hard to imagine that this was once one of the most dirty and polluted areas in the whole of Europe.

From the houses and chimney on the green approach a very solid looking metal bridge. Beneath the bridge and to the right are colourful pleasure barges.

Here a very short and obvious diversion leads to the old Packet house.

This was built in the late 18th century and in 1845 a mock-Tudor frontage was added. The steps of the Packet House were used by travellers.

They wanted to embark on the comfortable packet boats which carried them into Manchester. This was the 18th century equivalent of a commuter transport system.

Return along the towpath from the Packet House and pass the Bridgewater Hotel on the right and the footbridge on the left. Look on the left bank of the canal to see the historic boatyards. These were built in the 1760’s and have changed very little since this time.

Continue to follow the towpath towards Manchester. To the right of the towpath is Alder Forest which is exactly what it once was.

From medieval times alder trees were harvested here. The wood was cut to produce the clog soles which for centuries provided lankie lads and lassies with long- wearing footwear.

Continue along the towpath to reach Barton swing aqueduct one of the most magnificent feats of Victorian engineering but one which needs to be placed in context.

This unique aqueduct carries one canal (the Bridgewater) over another (the Manchester Ship canal). A moveable section some 330ft (100 metres) long was built and filled with water.

When vessels were not passing through the ship canal the Bridgewater section was swung into the normal portion, allowing the latter to function normally. From the aqueduct the route should be reversed and the time should be taken to explore the fauna and flora of the towpath.

The route then returns to the starting point and here is a wonderful stroll through lots of history and natural history.