Canal could get a £1m upgrade to draw more visitors

A goose nesting in one of the planters on the Rochdale Canal bank, Fielden Wharf, Todmorden
A goose nesting in one of the planters on the Rochdale Canal bank, Fielden Wharf, Todmorden

ABOUT £1 million could be spent making the Rochdale Canal more useful and attractive to visitors.

The council has been asked to support a bid for lottery funding by Pennine Prospects and the Waterways Trust, which owns the canal.

The money could help pay for upgrading displays at the canal visitor centre in Hebden Bridge, improving access, putting up new signs and interpretation boards and expanding educational and promotional work.

If the bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for £780,000 is successful, it will be matched with money from the South Pennine Leader programme.

It has been a long- standing aim to turn the canal and surrounding land into a “Linear Park”.

The Leader Action Group has set aside money towards the project and a team representing communities from Sowerby Bridge to Todmorden, with local history and ecological expertise, is working on the scheme.

Calderdale Council’s economy and environment spokesman Barry Collins said the improvements would help more people enjoy the canal and find out more about the area’s rich industrial heritage.

“The canal and visitor centre in Hebden Bridge are assets that have remained largely unchanged since the centre opened in 2004.

“We could make big improvements to the centre and improve the information along the canal bank, making it easier for people to get to it in the first place.”

Councillor Collins (Lab, Illingworth and Mixenden) said communities, organisations and schools must play a bigger role in developing interpretation and learning activities around the canal.

“This is a really exciting opportunity to get people involved in understanding the canal and its heritage,” he said.

The Rochdale Canal runs for 33 miles between Manchester and Sowerby Bridge where it connects to the Calder and Hebble Navigation.

It was re-opened along its entire length in July 2002 and forms part of the South Pennine Ring.