Walking the Mersey: from Stockport to Sale

30 thoughts on “Walking the Mersey: from Stockport to Sale”

  1. What a superb blog this is – an eclectic mix of art, architecture,environmment,local history,nature,photography, poetry,social comment et al, weaving a story as it descends down the Mersey. In other words there is something for every one here! This is the part of the Mersey Valley I know so well having lived and worked nearby for many years. Looking forward to many more installments all the way down to New Brighton!

  2. Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging
    on sites I stumbleupon every day. It’s always useful to read articles from other writers and practice a little something from other web sites.

  3. I live really close to the pyramid & am embarrassed to say I had no idea this walk existed until last week. Youve now inspired me to give it a whirl. Ive looked online for a map but struggling to find anything. Any tips? Thanks for the inspiration,

    1. You need the Ordnance Survey Explorer map 277, Manchester & Salford, which shows the paths I followed – the Etherow &Goyt valley way and Trans-Pennine trail. I’m glad you have been inspired by my account. Enjoy your walk!

  4. Put some decent shoes on and start at the river at the pyramid and head west, it’s a great walk. You have to cut through the waterside hotel ‘briefly’ and then back to the river. It’s good to cycle as well and wildlife brilliant. There are sand martins and kingfisher at cheadle bridge. Buzzards circle over the fields looking for rabbits too and goosanders fishing (definite sign the fish stocks are healthy)! Parrswood refers to how it used to be, parr being a young salmon and the gravelly bottom suitable for the young salmon to put weight on before the big migration to the sea. I love the mixture of industrial heritage and wildlife it’s fascinating. No doubt it gets better year on year, as the wildlife claims it back! Happy travels. John

  5. Thank you Gerry for a really interesting post. I cycle/walk along this route regularly and feel that you have captured the essence exactly. I particularly was interested in the photo of the bleach works and the tithe map. Possibly of interest would be to look at the walk using a historic 1:25000 OS map. A copy can be found on the sabre website(road enthusiasts), under the section of historic os maps. I also understand from Keith Warrenders book Underground Manchester, that part of the flood defences are banks along the river set back from the edge of spoil from the building of Manchester’s secret nuclear shelter, Guardian telephone exchange. The spoil was dumped along the river banks at night so that people would not notice so much!!!!
    Steve Robinson

    1. Thank you, Steve, for your generous response – and for the interesting information about the flood defences. Just as long as the spoil wasn’t radioactive!

      1. This is an excellent, well put together blog which I found very interesting. As a boy born in Cheadle Heath in the 1940s, I lived only a short walk from Brinksway and the River Mersey and, if I could take you back to the Brinksway of my childhood in a time machine, the first thing you’d notice as we walked towards the area along Stockport Road is the smell of the river, which you could smell long before you could see it at the bottom of the sixty feet high sandstone cliffs at Brinksway. In those days, the Mersey was little more than a vast, flowing, open sewer, into which all the waste from the mills poured day and night out of big pipes. The cottages then along the river were not connected to the main sewers and all the waste from the chamber pots and middens in the cottages was thrown into the river. The River Mersey was also plagued with rats and there were no fish in it as it was so polluted. If you fell in, as many did, and you didn’t drown, you could pick up a nasty infection, such as Weil’s disease. Access to the cliffs on the main road side of Brinksway, opposite the Springmount Mill, was via two doors in the wall along the pavement, which led down steep paths cut into the sandstone to the front and back entrances of a little 18th century dwelling called Rock Cottage, which was built on a sandstone ledge halfway down the cliff and overhanging the river. By the early 1950s, these doors, which had a triangular danger sign and a tangle of barbed wire on top of them, were supposedly kept locked, to prevent children and anyone else from getting onto the cliffs, as there had been many tragic accidents there where children had lost their footing on the cliffs and plunged sixty feet down into the river far below and been swept away and drowned. As a six year old in 1953, I became the latest statistic when I managed to open one of the doors in the wall and get onto the cliffs. I was probably trying to get down to take a closer look at Rock Cottage, but I slipped and went over the edge, bouncing off the outcrops of rock as a plunged downward, screaming in terror. My life was saved by two very brave men, Jack Morris and Bill Howard, who were in the right place at the right time. Jack dived into the river and dragged me out unconscious and the pair of them got me onto a ledge just above the river and Bill gave me artificial respiration until I ejected the filthy river water from my lungs. Then, bit by bit, they dragged me back up the cliffs to the safety of Jack’s cottage on the main road at 122, Brinksway (now long since demolished). Another thing you would notice when visiting the area as it was over 60 years ago is the complete absence of trees and other foliage, which is now abundant all the way from Chestergate to Brinksway and Heaton Mersey and beyond. The river was too polluted to sustain trees, let alone wild life (except for rats). Today, 60 years later, the river has been considerably cleaned up and doesn’t smell any more. There are fish in the river now and ducks waddle on it and, along its banks, there are now kingfishers and otters. A huge difference to what it was like when I was a child.

      2. Thanks, David for your kind remarks and your really interesting account of the state of the Mersey 70-odd years ago. The story of your fall into the river is truly terrifying. Were you badly injured?

  6. Amazingly Gerry, only badly bruised and shocked. As I was knocked unconscious by the fall, to this day, I retain no memory of either the fall or the dramatic rescue that followed and can only relate what I was told later by grown-ups who were there. I think they call it traumatic amnesia. So, over 60 years later, we’ll probably never know what I was doing on those cliffs on that Sunday afternoon in July, 1953.

    Six months after my own ordeal, another boy, eleven years old James Price, from Lomas Street in Edgeley, fell down the cliffs into the river at near the same spot. His life was saved by two Stockport policemen who entered the river from the opposite bank in front of the Ring cotton mill, and, aided by a third policeman shining his torch, they swam across the freezing river in the cold, afternoon darkness and located James who was crying out for help and trying to cling on to the rock face where the river was six feet deep. Then, with the help of Stockport Fire Brigade, they were hauled by ropes out of the water and back up the cliffs to safety. James was then taken to Stockport Infirmary suffering from hypothermia, but recovered. Not long after that, the doorways in the wall were bricked up and nothing remains of them today. The two policemen were later given bravery awards for saving James’s life. Well, at least it was a warm summer day when I fell in.

  7. I played by the river Mersey as a child in the mid 1970s and it was an exciting place that made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. You new that one mistake would result in you being swept away, you were never getting out, it was smelly deep water with swirling currents that pull could you down. People would fall in in Stockport and have the bodies dragged out in Liverpool. We used to climb inside the railway bridge and make our way across the river in the gantries with trains passing above our heads and the fast flower river metres below us, if we slip it was certain death. I was about 7 years old, one lad Stuart was only about 5 years old, crazy thinking back.

    1. Just reading this, Mike, has made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up! We had childhoods, back then, hardly affected by risk assessments or health and safety considerations! Thanks for reading and commenting.

  8. I remember those two bridges over the River Mersey. We used to call one of them the Concertina bridge because of its trellaced design and I remember a tragic incident there in 1952 when a little boy fell from it into the middle of the river and was swept away and drowned. Although I left Cheadle Heath in 1954, when I was seven years old, I much later heard of another tragedy at Gorsey Bank, near the footbridge, around November, 1973, when a 15 years old girl named Deborah Grimley from the now long gone Gorsey Bank housing estate decided to go for a swim in the river and apparently was dragged under by the fast flowing current and drowned. I have always had a healthy fear of the river, especially after what happened to me in 1953.

  9. This is so informative! I’m familiar with the bridge having croswed it to get to Jackson’s Boat and the luttle nature reserve/wood. I used to live infront of the Mersey in Cheadle Heath and walk home along it. I’ve never thought of walking from one to the other oddly. I love the look of the ‘caves’, how cool.

  10. Very informative post Gerry… greatly enjoyed reading it. I’ve had it on my TTDL to take a photographic record of the Mersey from its source to the sea out at New Brighton and Crosby – one of these days I’ll get around to it! Thanks again. Cheers – Graham.

    1. Cheers, Graham – it certainly makes for an interesting trail. I’ve not quite finished-still got the stretch from Warrington to Runcorn to do. Your own blog looks very interesting, I’ll have a nose around. Your latest post was a surprise – I didn’t realise that Eldon Gardens was still standing.

  11. One of my favourite parts runs between where the old Victorian Bridge is situated at the back of United Utilities and the weir at the Heatons, the streamer weed in summer is bright green and shimmers about in a clear depth of 3 feet of water running over a golden carpet of pebbles, such a beautiful sight in summer, often complemented by Common Darters and Kingfishers amongst other things.

  12. What a lovely pictural and historically informative pleasure it was to wander through this and look at the area where my g’g’grandfather originated. He lived in Stockport, lastly at Brinksway Bridge, prior to his transportation to Australia to serve his 7 year sentence for theft. He did not want to return to England, as Austraila was the land of opportunities which he grasped and made an incredibly successful life for himself after disembarking, but according to family legend, missed greatly the greenness of the English countryside. Thank you for showing some of it to me.

    Chris Batten

    1. What an interesting response, Chris. Fascinating and appalling to think of your g’g’grandfather, convicted merely of theft, being transported. I wonder how green the countryside was around Brinksway back then – there are some vivid descriptions of pretty dreadful conditions, I recall, in Engels’ ‘Condition of the English Working Class in 1844’.

      1. Hi Gerry

        I don’t think that my g’grandfather’s conviction was that appalling as he went on to better things in Australia. Although a convict, he was able to further his education, marry, father 12 children, own around 1,200 acres of land, and become quite well off. He was a leader of his church, a friend to all social classes, and very well respected in his new community. Unfortunately, in an attempt to green up the dull Australian countryside, he imported willow cuttings and planted them along a long stretch of the river that bordered his land, and these trees have now been deemed a noxious weed as they choke the natural waterways and have mostly been cut down and burned. Whoops, what an environmentally ill advised act, but one which saw the green trees that reminded him of home take off and multiply (as they say!!)


    1. Access in all sorts of spots: near huge Tesco at Portwood or under the viaduct to the left of the Motorway, or opposite St John’s Methodist church – Cheadle Heath down towards Gorsey Bank or even at Cheadle Bridge near Parrs Wood.

  13. Absolutely wonderful. Came across this article totally by chance and am enthralled. As a retired teacher I spend days cycling up and down and around the Mersey Valley and am writing a series of children’s books based on the wildlife here. Your article is a confirmation of how wonderful and fascinating this area is. Thank you so much and well done.

  14. Gerry brilliant blog and will used by myself as I am walking the Mersey from where it meets the Irish Sea (Blundellsands ish….but went to Southport anyway) to its source at Stockport.Have done Southport to Warrington so far (with the exception of where the river Alt comes into the Mersey at Altcar rifle range that it is not safe to walk that stretch when the flags are red!).Amazed me so far how different it is a various points from the wild beaches at Crosby to the industrial stretch at Widnes to the various marinas (or should that be marinae) at Crosby,Liverpool,South Liverpool,Widnes and Sankey to the marshland and the wealth of wildlife particularly liked Spike Island and Pickerings Pasture between Hale village and Widnes was an absolute brilliant find that I will be revisiting.Thanks for the blog

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