|After a grey and rainy day yesterday, seven of us were met
with beautiful sunshine at Oaken Clough this morning before we set off on
our Spring Walk, with a spring in our step, to Park Bridge. Bryan, Paul H,
Judith, David, Doreen, Anne, Susan and - Molly Blue - the cute dog of one
of our newest members, Anne.
The recent work done in the area was obvious as we approached. New gravel
paths had been laid and reed beds had been planted to filter the oxide which
had drained into the river from the grounds of the iron works surrounding
it, which was proving quite effective. Also, many small willow trees had
been planted and staked and were now just beginning to bud. The river banks
too had been reinforced with stones in netting to keep the soft ground back
from falling into the river.
Park Bridge was a bustling, noisy centre of industry a hundred years ago.
It is difficult to imagine now, as it has become a quiet backwater between
Ashton under Lyne and Oldham. There were a number of small collieries around
Park Bridge, at Rocher Vale to the east and Fairbottom to the west, sending
out their coal by means of a tram road to Fenny Fields Bridge, where the
coal was loaded onto narrowboats on the Fairbottom Branch of the Ashton Canal.
The Lees family began developing iron works at Park Bridge in 1747. They
also built housing and other facilities for their workers. The remains of
a later rolling mill and cotton mill which were built close to the railway
viaduct can still be seen.
We went stopped of at "Fairbottom Bobs," which was an interesting piece of
industrial history. Fairbottom Bobs was, in fact, a Newcomen atmospheric
engine - a very early steam engine. It was built here, in an area known as
Fairbottom, possibly around 1760, to pump water out of the Cannel coal pits,
which were about 200 feet deep. The name arose from the bobbing motion of
the wooden beam.
Bryan was very knowledgeable about the area and history of Park Bridge (and
reminded us it was here, at the iron works, that the rivets for the Titanic
and the Eiffel Tower were made!).
Paul H had brought some rubbish grippers, gloves and black bin bags so we
could collect rubbish lying around the paths and then drop them into allocated
recycling bins when the walk was over. We collected 3 full bags!
We called into the heritage centre to have a bite to eat and a coffee and
then set on our way back to Oaken Clough.
Another enjoyable and informative day.