You might forgive me for thinking I was in Cheshire when I stepped off the number 33 bus at the end of the line in Worsley, surrounded as I was by handsome black and white timber framed buildings. Think of Salford and many people will bring to mind rows of terraced streets in the style of Coronation Street but on the edges of Salford are suburbs that challenge that stereotype in a big way and demonstrate the variety of this city. The Tudor-style building in the photograph is The Packet House which dates back to 1760. The building stands on the banks of the Bridgewater Canal and is where you would have bought your ticket for the packet boat. By 1781 there were daily sailings from here to Runcorn along the Bridgewater Canal; the boats were pulled the thirty or so miles by horses and the journey took eight hours.
I had taken advantage of a wintery and yet sunny day to explore Worsley, a suburban village cut through by the Bridgewater Canal, often described as England’s first canal. Opened in 1761 the canal is named after its owner Francis Egerton the third Duke of Bridgewater. He lived nearby in Brick Hall and limited his personal spending so that he could secure the best engineers of the day to build his vision of a canal system to transport coal from his Worsley mines to Manchester and later Runcorn. This now peaceful suburb of Worsley was once a bustling industrial village with lime kilns and boat building as well as coal mining. At the delph, a watery hollow below cliffs, is a tunnel entrance that once took barges in to 46 miles of underground canals to access the coal; two main underground canals were built, one 100 feet above the other.
Recreating the Tudor style became popular in the nineteenth century and Worsley is teaming with these attractive buildings, including the Court House. After walking around the lovely buildings in Worsley and Worsley Green in the sunshine I followed the canal towards Boothstown. I soon lost the roar of the traffic on the motorway and I was surrounded by fields and trees on this lovely and rural-feeling section of the canal. I returned by Worsley Old Hall, now a country pub in the city and followed the paths through Worsley Woods and Old Walke Dam. To reach the bus stop I crossed the interestingly named Alphabet Bridge in Worsley, so called because it is made from 26 planks and local school children would practice their alphabet as they crossed it.