Towpath Improvement Works Completed at Saltaire

A popular section of towpath along the historic Leeds & Liverpool Canal around Saltaire and Shipley has been upgraded and widened to make the route more accessible for wheelchair users as well as people on foot or cycle.  

The charity Sustrans worked with waterways charity Canal & River Trust and Bradford Council to widen the path and lay a new asphalt surface on the two-mile stretch of towpath between Otley Road Bridge and Hirst Lock on the canal.  

Muddy potholes were filled in, the path was widened to 2.5 metres and the path has been finished with a natural stone gravel over the asphalt. 

There’s also a colourful new mural on Otley Road Bridge in Shipley which highlights local heritage, to celebrate the new-look path. It encourages people to explore the popular route, which is part of the National Cycle Network. 

Students from Shipley College worked with Sustrans to design and paint a 33-metre-long mural featuring Saltaire’s philanthropist founder Titus Salt, Shipley Glen tramway and the historic Five Rise Locks in Bingley.  

The work is part of wider plans to improve access along the National Cycle Network which follows a large section of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal. This will allow more people to access both the canal and local attractions along the way, using mobility scooters and other mobility aids, as well as families with buggies, and those on foot or bicycle.  

Thanks to support from Sustrans Paths for Everyone programme, Canal & River Trust will begin work on a second phase of towpath improvements later this year between Hirst Lock and Primrose Lane. 

Sustrans is the UK’s walking, wheeling and cycling charity and custodian for the National Cycle Network. Canal & River Trust is the waterways charity that looks after 2,000 miles of waterways across England and Wales, including the iconic Leeds & Liverpool Canal.  

The mural on Otley Road Bridge features local heritage sites. PHOTO: Simon Dewhurst Photography

This partnership project with the council is all part of a national programme led by Sustrans and funded by the Department for Transport, to improve the National Cycle Network and create accessible paths for everyone. The Government-funded Shipley Towns Fund also committed £23,500 for towpath improvements and a grant for the mural. 

Satwant Singh, 75, leads local cycling groups along the path and has cycled between Liverpool and Leeds in one day. He welcomes the improvements.  

“I’m so glad that this little route has been tarred. It makes such a big difference.  

“Before there were potholes everywhere and it was a challenge to have a ride. But now it is a perfect joy. More and more people are using it. I think it’s going to be very popular route now.” 

Josh Molyneux, Sustrans Network Development Manager for Yorkshire said: “This section of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal has always been popular for people walking and cycling for leisure, tourism and commuting. This project has smoothed out the potholes and opened out the track so it’s now accessible for people using mobility scooters and double buggies too.  

“It’s part of our work across the UK to upgrade the National Cycle Network and enable many more people to enjoy our routes.  

“This is very much a collaborative project and we’re very grateful to all the partners involved. In the longer term, we want to work with the Canal & River Trust and local authorities to further improve accessibility on the towpath. 

Mark Robinson, enterprise manager at Canal & River Trust, said:  

“These towpath improvements have made it easier for people to access and enjoy the canal. As a charity, we rely on grant funding and external support to allow us to carry out towpath improvements and we are delighted to have worked closely with Sustrans and Bradford Council on this project.   

“Canal & River Trust is the largest waterways charity working to care for and protect 2,000 miles of the nation’s much-loved historic canals and river navigations. This includes 317 miles of waterways in Yorkshire, like the magnificent Leeds & Liverpool Canal, the longest canal in the country. 

“Our charity faces soaring costs of looking after our canals at a time when available funding is stretched. So, it’s more important than ever that we continue to receive and grow support to ensure that canals are properly funded and supported, so we can keep canals alive, available and safe for the everyone to enjoy for many years to come.” 

Cllr Alex Ross-Shaw, Bradford Council’s Portfolio Holder for Regeneration, Planning and Transport, said: “This event is a great way to showcase the work that has been done to make this route more accessible for everyone and enjoy the local scenery.” 

This section of the canal towpath is part of route 696 on the National Cycle Network. It runs from Leeds to Bingley and links up with route 66 to Bradford.  

Previous accessibility and surface upgrades were carried out on the route near Five Rise Locks in Bingley, and from the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds to Woodlesford.  

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