The Run to Runcorn


It was our last permitted day of 7 on the Bridgewater canal, and although we could have continued straight on, onto the Trent and Mersey, we decided to turn right, under a rather unassuming bridge and follow the 5 mile route to Runcorn.

Turning towards Runcorn

You could be forgiven for thinking this was a side arm, but in fact it is the proximity to the Mersey that made Runcorn the significant and profitable end destination to this canal. We suspect very few boaters bother to explore this section if they are traversing north to south, it was very quiet and predominantly rural. We didn’t meet a single boat moving in either direction it’s entire length and back.

Pleasant passage on the bridgewater

Although the quality of the Towpath and the occassional village school meant we didn’t feel cut off from the world.

Merry mural on the school

It took less than 2 hours to reach the official visitor moorings outside the Brindley Theatre, from where we set off to explore this industrial town. Although Ethelfleda established a settlement here in 915 AD, to guard against marauding Vikings, it wasn’t until the industrial revolution that Runcorn established itself as place of commercial value. And in 1964 it was designated a “new town” and it doubled in size. It’s not the prettiest of places by any means, but our focus was to see the Mersey crossings and the Manchester ship canal. We walked thought the concrete shopping centre and came across the beach.

Manchester Ship Canal

But this isn’t the sea, it’s actually the ship canal, with the Silver Jubilee bridge in the background. There’s an info board highlighting what can be seen from this view point.

You are here

So of course we wanted to get as close as possible to this awesome structure. For those of you that like facts and figures. Copied from wiki Construction began in 1956, The main arch is 361 yards (330 m) long and each side arch measures 83 yards (76 m). During its construction 720,000 rivets were used. Its height over the river bed is 285 feet (87 m) and the headroom over the ship canal is 80 feet (24 m). During its construction 5,900 tons of steel were used and 7,500 tons of concrete. The bridge requires constant repainting, with each coat using 6,000 imperial gallons (27,300 l) of paint. On the Runcorn side the approach viaducts are 359 yards (328 m) in length, and on the Widnes side 166 yards (152 m). The cost of constructing the bridge was £2,433,000.[18] At the time of its construction it had the third longest steel arch span in the world. It had the longest vehicular span in the country, but this record was held for only a few weeks until the Tamar Bridge was completed. By 2001 it was the 10th longest steel arch bridge, and at that time was just 8 inches (20 cm) short of having Europe’s largest span. It carries over 80000 vehicles a day, 10 times more than it was designed for.

Towering over Runcorn

and to our pleasure, (though not the locals) the bridge is currently closed to road traffic, whilst they upgrade it and add toll booths. We were still able to walk across.

Work in progress

We were only able to see clearly on the east side (towards Manchester) as we first crossed the ship canal, then the wide open mud flats of the Mersey at low tide, with the Fiddlers Ferry power station and industry of Merseyside on the north.

Views east from the silver Jubilee bridge

As we arrived into Widness in Merseyside, we saw the historic Mersey Pub, aka the Snig, where boatmen and women who had to brave rowing across the estuary, were served the local delicacy Snig pie…. made with locally caught eels

The Snig in Widness

When we were able to look West we saw the equally impressive railway bridge which runs parallel to the road bridge

The 19th century rail bridge

And in the distance, about 1.5km east, the Mersey Gateway bridge which opened in 2017

Looking towards the new Mersey Gateway

Having had our fill of bridges for the day we returned to Firecrest. I nipped into the convenient supermarket whilst Eric took Firecrest the remaining ¼ mile to the end of navigation and turning point.

Victoria arm, End or start of the Bridgewater canal

So we could return to Preston Brook and enter it’s tunnel through to the Trent and Mersey.

Preston Brook tunnel

Again as with most of the places we have visited on the Bridgewater canal, I would happily have stayed longer to explore more. But the Anderton boat lift awaits us on the next stage of our adventure.