Britain’s waterways form part of the social fabric of the nation, arteries connecting great cities like Manchester, Leeds and Liverpool. Our social connection to and respect for these waterways and their contribution to landscape, heritage and habitat is nowhere more evident than the Trans-Pennine canals, once the lifeblood of commerce and innovation in northern England. Built in the late 18th and early 19th centuries they were an industrial marvel, snaking their way through the rugged Pennine mountain range, revolutionising transportation by enabling the movement of goods between the industrial hubs of Manchester, Leeds, and Liverpool, and paving the way for unprecedented economic growth and prosperity.
In 1765 the construction of a canal was proposed to carry woollen goods from Leeds and Bradford and limestone from Skipton. Prospective backers in Lancashire argued for the canal to start from the port city of Liverpool, then at the height of new industry. By 1819, the Leeds and Liverpool Canal was one of the most used waterways in Europe, covering a distance of 127 miles and known as the original ‘super highway’ of the industrial revolution.
Today, all of this provides a canvas and a backbone for a creative new Linear Park which will repurpose disused land and buildings alongside the inspiring 19th century infrastructure. A team of BDP designers is creating a series of thematic landscape strategies and area studies that explore and demonstrate how to unlock the potential of this post-industrial corridor. It forms part of the cultural development of this expansive space by The Super Slow Way, an arts programme of regional events and engagements, backed by the Arts Council and the Canal and River Trust which believes in balancing the urban environment and the natural world through the lens of culture, history and peoples’ needs.
Three main strategies; greening and biodiversity, lighting and wayfinding, and movement restore life to the places and infrastructure that once supported a thriving textile industry. This new life on the canal is re-imagined as an exemplar, world class, post-industrial, natural linear park. The design centres on 23 miles of verdant green routes that connect streets and communities with the canal side; encouraging cross movement to and from the canal and its surroundings; and new crossing points and bridges to boost interaction between both sides of the canal. Integrating the fabric of communities with the ecosystem of this post-industrial corridor can deliver huge rewards.
A new landscaped riverside park is a big part of the proposed design; connecting infrastructure and buildings with creative landscape architecture will support environmental, cultural, leisure, educational and economic activity. It will harness the same pioneering local energy that gave birth to the industrial revolution to create new employment, educational, cultural, recreational, environmental, transport and tourism potential. This green, vibrant and healthy destination is a place where communities can truly thrive. Not only a place for people; it celebrates landscape architecture, enhances the heritage of our industrial waterways and creates meaningful social cohesion.