It pleases me, loving rivers.
Loving them all the way back to their source.
Loving everything that increases me.
– Raymond Carver
Seeking sea level
With the canal walk completed, I cast around for another project. Then an idea began to take shape: to walk the Mersey from its source to the sea. The Mersey is formed from three tributaries: the River Etherow, the River Goyt, and the River Tame. The official start of the Mersey is at the confluence of the rivers Tame and Goyt in central Stockport, a few miles south of Manchester. Older definitions place its start a few miles up the Goyt; for example, the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica states, ‘It is formed by the junction of the Goyt and the Etherow a short distance below Marple in Cheshire’.
My idea is not just to walk the Mersey proper, but also its headwaters and main tributaries. Apart from the general interest of these walks, there is a personal reason, too: it seems that my life and family history is contained in these waters.
The river Goyt rises in the Derbyshire Peak District. A few miles to the southeast is Youlgreave, the small village where my mother was born. Derbyshire represents one tributary of my family.
Another tributary of the Mersey is the river Irwell, which flows through Manchester before joining the Mersey at Irlam. My father was born in Openshaw, to the east of Manchester city centre: the house where he grew up was a few streets from the banks of the Medlock that flows into the Irwell in the city centre. My wife’s father’s family were miners and mill-workers from Little Lever, near Bolton, where the Irwell twists and turns before heading due south to Manchester.
I grew up in Poynton, south of Manchester, in the 1950s when the village still retained visible traces of its coal-mining past and went to school in Macclesfield, near to the source of the river Bollin, yet another tributary of the Mersey. In 1967 I left home to go to university and the car I travelled in followed the course of the Bollin and then the Mersey, over the Runcorn bridge from where the river opens out into an estuary three miles wide, before reaching Liverpool.
- The source: song of water
- Fernilee reservoir
- Errwood Hall: a mansion on the moor
- Whaley Bridge to Marple
- Where two rivers meet: walking the Goyt to Stockport
- Walking the Mersey: from Stockport to Sale
- Walking the Mersey (sort of) from south Manchester to Warrington
- Walking the Mersey: Along Sankey Brook to Widnes
- Two Mersey Forest walks
- Cressington and Grassendale parks: river access restricted
- A walk in the edgelands: along the Garston shore
- Walking the Mersey: Oglet shore
- Walking the Mersey: Dungeon to Hale Point
- Pickering’s Pasture: sunset on the Mersey
- A walk round Hale
- Walking the ancient sandstone cliffs of the Mersey
Liverpool – its places and history – crops up often in these pages for the simple reason that’s where I belong. For more Liverpool insights and history visit local historian Mike Royden’s website. His latest book, Tales from the ‘Pool is out now.