Ashtac 40th Anniversary Canal Clean Up – Dukinfield Junction

Issue date: 15th October 2012


A large scale canal clean up, held over the weekend of 13th/14th October, has been deemed to have been a great success, with 100 volunteers across the two days joining in various activities in all three directions from Dukinfield Junction. 

The event was organised by IWA Manchester Branch working in partnership with the Canal & River Trust.  Waterway Recovery Group North West supported the event by supplying some of the tools and equipment, and by arranging accommodation in a nearby community centre for those people travelling from further afield. 

The main focus for pulling rubbish out of the canal was the Lower Peak Forest Canal, where reports from owners of deep draughted boats had indicated that there was a lot of rubbish in the canal.  10 truck loads of rubbish were taken away for scrap during the weekend, including several motorbikes, lots of bicycles, numerous tyres and a safe. 

On the section of the Ashton Canal heading north east from the junction (towards the Huddersfield Narrow Canal) vegetation was cleared from the towpath, a wooden fence was painted and shopping trolleys and an ancient looking photocopier were removed from the canal.

On the Ashton Canal heading south west from the junction vegetation was cleared, wooden fences were painted and a stretch of canal grappled for rubbish.  Bridge 28 of the Ashton Canal was cleared of rubbish and the offsides of the bridge were cleared of vegetation and a deep amount of soil and debris. 

The towpath bridge over the junction and the stonework of the aqueduct over the River Tame had grass and other vegetation removed from them.  In addition to this the whole area was litter picked, so anyone visiting Dukinfield Junction will certainly notice a difference.  Boaters using this stretch of canal have already reported an improvement in navigation along the first section of the Lower Peak Forest Canal. 

The weekend was also an opportunity to celebrate the 40th anniversary of an even bigger canal clean up, ASHTAC.  Ashton Attack (ASHTAC for short) followed on from Operation Ashton, and saw approximately 1000 people work on the derelict Ashton and the Lower Peak Forest canals over a single weekend in March 1972.  The event contributed to the Cheshire Ring being re-opened to navigation just two years later, in 1974. 

At least a dozen of the volunteers who came along this time had been at ASHTAC forty years ago, and several others called in to the event to join in the reminiscing.  Among the artefacts that people brought along were photographic displays, an ASHTAC commemorative booklet, a hand painted “ASHTAC - sign in here” board and even Mr Mac’s cardboard collecting box for donations for tea and coffee!  Mr Mac (David McCarthy) was present carrying out the same function as he did 40 years ago – keeping the volunteers refreshed with tea, coffee and biscuits.

CRT took the opportunity to launch their “Towpath Taskforce” initiative for their Manchester & Pennines area over the weekend, and IWA Manchester Branch are pleased to have been able to support this initiative.  This initiative will be taken forward in the form of joint IWA/CRT monthly work parties, on the fourth Saturday of each month. 

Several workboats were used by volunteers during the weekend.  CRT provided "Audlem" (which had been brought to site over the previous two days by one of the volunteer skippers) and IWA Manchester Branch provided historic boat "Ironsides".  Ashton Packet Boat Company provided a workboat to use as a platform to access offside vegetation, having towed it to the site using historic wooden motor boat “Joel”. 

CRT provided staff to take the rubbish away by truck, and waterway manager David Baldachhino joined in himself for one of the days, joining the volunteers in tasks such as vegetation clearance and fence painting. 

The management of the Portland Basin Museum and the Bridge View Café were both extremely supportive in allowing use of their facilities, including special “Navvies Lunch” offers in the café. 
As well as the monthly work parties which will start on Saturday 27th October, and thereafter on the 4th Saturday of each month (excluding December), IWA Manchester Branch are keen for a larger scale clean up to become an annual event, on a different part of Greater Manchester’s waterways each autumn.

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