Hollinwood Branch Canal

Custodian of a unique group of canal features

The Hollinwood Branch left the main line of the Ashton Canal at Fairfield Junction, Droylsden, just above lock 18, and it proceeded in a northerly direction for about 2½ miles to Waterhouses. Here it climbed through four locks and the Fairbottom Branch commenced at the top of these. The Hollinwood Branch continued for about another 1¾ miles, climbing through another four locks in the process, to terminate at Hardman Fold Basin adjoining Drury Lane, Hollinwood. From this basin there was a private branch canal to Hollinwood Top Wharf, known as the Werneth Branch, which was about 800 yards long. The Werneth Colliery Company built this private branch and its purpose was to connect Old Lane Colliery at Werneth to the Ashton Canal via the Hollinwood Branch.

The Hollinwood Branch is now derelict but in the vicinity of Waterhouses and Daisy Nook it is still the custodian of the remains of a unique group of canal features that were situated between Waterhouses Bridge and Crime Bridge (both now demolished). The distance between these two bridges is only ¾ mile and the best way of illustrating these features is to portray a journey between them. Today, much of the area around Waterhouses lies within the Daisy Nook Country Park in the care of the National Trust.

Hollinwood Branch Canal, Features 1 to 18

Commencing at Waterhouses Bridge and travelling in the direction of Crime Bridge, the towpath is on the left-hand side of the canal. Boodle Wood is soon reached and this is where Waterhouses Tunnel was located.

Just beyond Waterhouses Tunnel, the river Medlock is arrived at and the canal crosses the river on Waterhouses Aqueduct.

Ahead of the river Medlock the ground rises and here the canal climbs through the four Waterhouses Locks.

As previously mentioned, beyond the bottom lock the canal turns abruptly to the north west and on the outside of the bend the lower side pond is located.

Immediately above the staircase locks, on the offside of the canal, is the upper side pond.

Between the two side ponds, the land slopes steeply upwards and the Fairbottom Branch runs across the top. At the top of the slope, by the side of the Fairbottom Branch, the next two features were located.

Beside the head of lock 21, on the offside, there once stood a brick-built hut with a slate roof.

Above Waterhouses top lock, the Fairbottom Branch leaves the Hollinwood Branch on the offside.

Adjoining the junction, on the offside of the Fairbottom Branch, was the Wood Park Colliery Loading Stage. The colliery was operated by the Chamber Colliery Company and Wood Park Colliery Tramway connected it to the staithe to enable boats to be loaded with coal.

The next three features were just above the top lock on the towpath side.

Before the spillway started to descend the valley side proper there was a footbridge across it and below this there was a waterfall, marked on maps as a weir.

Proceeding a short distance along the canal a footbridge is reached.

Continuing along the canal, a second noteworthy aqueduct is soon reached.

Ahead of the aqueduct there is a lake on the offside of the canal.

Crime Bridge lay just beyond the lake and this brings to an end the short journey along the Hollinwood Branch Canal through Waterhouses and Daisy Nook. Nevertheless, mention must be made of another notable aqueduct and this is Valley Aqueduct on the Fairbottom Branch. This stone-built, single-arched aqueduct is also deeply arched in plan with battered side walls to enable it to withstand water pressure.

In retrospect, it is quite remarkable that so many diverse features could have been packed into a ¾-mile length of canal. This must surely make a good case for the restoration of this part of Hollinwood Branch, as well as the Fairbottom Branch, ahead of the difficult task of restoring the rest of it, especially as most of this section now lies within the Daisy Nook Country Park.

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