Canal towpath transformed as first part of regional cycling and walking scheme opens

Cyclists trying out the resurfaced route. Photo by Darren Robinson
Cyclists trying out the resurfaced route. Photo by Darren Robinson

The borough is blazing a trail for travelling on two wheels or on foot after the first part of an ambitious regional scheme was unveiled.

A stretch of the Bridgewater Canal in Astley popularly known as the Muddy Mile has been completely renovated and was reopened at a high-profile ceremony on Tuesday afternoon.

The re-opening of the canal towpath. Photo by Darren Robinson

The re-opening of the canal towpath. Photo by Darren Robinson

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This is the first part of Greater Manchester’s Bee Network, which it is hoped will eventually form the UK’s largest cycling and walking network.

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and cycling and walking commissioner and Olympic champion cyclist Chris Boardman were joined at the site by Wigan Council leader Coun David Molyneux, representatives from partner organisation Peel L&P for the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The towpath has been completely resurfaced, with new signage installed and access points improved. The route is now part of the Bridgewater Way which encourages people to walk and cycle on the canal and tow path from Wigan Pier through Leigh and into Salford.

The project to overhaul the Muddy Mile was funded jointly by Wigan Council, the Mayor’s Cycling and Walking Challenge Fund and the Bridgewater Canal Company.

Mr Burnham said: “Cycling and walking is part of Greater Manchester’s wider transport strategy, Our Network, my 10-year plan for an integrated, modern and accessible public transport system.

“Excellent cycling and walking links across our local neighbourhoods are vital to this vision, allowing people to walk and cycle easily and safely for shorter journeys. To see this first piece of the Bee Network in place and ready for many journeys is heartening.”

Coun Molyneux said: "It’s fantastic news that the first Bee Network scheme in Greater Manchester is complete in our borough.

"This is another example of how we’re leading the way and working effectively with organisations to deliver ambitious plans that will revolutionise travel.

“We have had a lot of very positive and welcoming feedback from residents and commuters alike who are already benefitting from this scheme, demonstrating the demand for such facilities.

"We’re working with Transport for Greater Manchester to urge people of all abilities to walk more and get out on their bikes. Not only will this support health and wellbeing but
improves air quality and will also reduce congestion.”

The opening was celebrated with afternoon tea at The Old Boathouse while there were also two guided cycles and a walk along the new section of towpath led by Inspiring healthy lifestyles.