We chose a gorgeous sunny day to take the bus out to Clifton, just outside the M60. Although it was mid-week it proved to be a good opportunity to experience just how popular a local facility this country park is as plenty of other people were out enjoying the fine weather and nature reserve. Clifton Country Park is in the river Irwell valley and is centred around a lake, shown in the photograph. This lake was created in the 1960s after gravel was extracted for the nearby motorway [then the M62].
As well as the lake this lovely country park has woodland, meadows and pools and is bordered by the river Irwell. It was once the site of the Wet Earth Colliery, an early deep mine first sunk in 1750s. The colliery was worked until 1928. Clifton Country Park also has a cluster of pieces on the Irwell Sculpture Trail that follows the river from Bacup to Salford Quays. The dynamic trail was updated in 2011 and new sculptures are still added. The trail is over 33 miles and has over 70 sculptures of which The Look Out at Clifton Country Park is one and is from 2001.
After walking around the lake, we followed the course of the former Fletcher’s Canal which was made navigable by Matthew Fletcher in 1790. The woodland path is lovely here, with the river Irwell to one side and the remnants of the canal to the other and the bluebells were just finishing when we visited. Walking back towards the lake we found the old Gal Pit which had a horse gin or horse engine to pull ropes from the pit and an iron sculpture of a Galloway pit pony recreates this today. Not far away is what is known as Fletcher’s Folly. In 1805 steam-powered winding machinery was adopted and this chimney was connected to the boiler house by two underground flues which caused maintenance issues. By the 1890s a new chimney was built leaving this a redundant folly.
With wildlife, history and sculptures there is something for everyone at Clifton Country Park. If you are interested in detailed history of this area, Salford Council’s leaflet gives a thorough background and a map of the country park and where to find the remnants of the previous industrial use.