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Ladybridge and Deane to the town centre

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The Middlebrook and its towpath,  looking downstream from Ladybridge towards Deane Clough.

We continue downstream from Ladybridge with Deane Golf Club on our right. This was a favourite place for trying to catch sticklebacks with a net and a jam jar.  Notice the slightly odd tree in the very centre of the picture..

Almost at Deane Clough. The tree is now over to the right.

It isn’t a tree at all but a phone mast.

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  Deane Clough Bridge before and after rebuilding for electrification of the railway.

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Deane Clough just off Junction Road.


Himalayan Balsam, (Bobby’s helmets, Jumping Jacks), a pretty flower which is probably a garden escape from Victorian times. It is now an unwelcome intruder which can take over in a short time driving out all other plants.


This little stream running down Deane Clough issues from a pipe. There is no sign of it on the other side of Junction Road; it disappeared under housing more than a century ago and is now probably fed by rainwater drains. It seems to have been known at one time as Kirkebrok (Church Brook) a name retained in Kirkebrok Terrace on Hulton Lane and Kirkebrok Road between Hulton Lane and Deane Church Lane. It is not named on an 1849 map but its sources can be traced. Even in 1849 it is partly below ground. One source runs from near New York for about 150 yards in a field between Junction road and Deane Road west of Smithy Hill. The other starts near Daubhill Station and flows northwest behind Deane Church Lane,  then continues, crossing Hulton Lane more or less where Kirkebrok Terrace now stands, to disappear under Wigan Road before reappearing in Deane Clough. When Dove Mill was built this stream was made to flow into the mill lodge then out again to follow its original course.

A Victorian framed picture of Deane Church with the tower of St Mary, Deane peeping over the trees. This area has changed very little since then except that trees have grown considerably so that this precise view can no longer be obtained.

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<< Looking upstream (west) from Deane Clough Bridge








A pool just below Deane Clough Bridge..............>>

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Tables have been provided to make a pleasant place for a picnic. It’s a safe place for a paddle and a splash around as well and can get quite busy on warm days in the summer. There is the appearance of a ford here and there must have been a crossing point close by but the bridge has been in place probably since the Bolton, Chorley, Preston railway was built in 1845 so the bare earth we see now is perhaps just the result of people and dogs entering the water for a paddle.

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From here you seem to have two choices, you can follow the good path which carries on in a straight line along the railway or you can take a less good path following the river off to the right. Let’s try that one.

But this pleasant path with the ducks and the local lads splashing about after fruitless attempts at fishing eventually leads you up to the right and away from the river bringing you into the field at below Haslam Park. The Thornbank flats and the Croal Mill can be seen.

So it's back almost to Deane Clough Bridge and over a footbridge onto the path which goes along the side of the railway.

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The path passes allotments (known by some locals as t’ pig pens) not many of which are still in use for the original purpose, but some of them still have uses like this huge pile of chopped trees. The Croal Mill towers above us. At this point the river is far over to the right at the back of the allotments and although it can be accessed here and there it is not possible to walk along it. The river winds round a large arc creating quite a substantial cliff just below the Croal Mill but eventually meanders back to the path to continue its liaison with the railway.

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The river rejoins the path and the railway. The bridge on the right takes you  past the Blackshaw flats and the Croal Mill and onto Deane Road. This part of Deane is known as "The Pocket"

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The river does take another little meander to the south but then honours us with its presence again as it passes under this rather ornate Victorian foot bridge.

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So now we have the Middlebrook on our left but in only about a hundred yards it parts company with us once more by diving underneath the railway.

The path joins Randolph Street, between Gilnow Lane and Board Street (right and up to Deane Road at the Pikes Lane Medical Centre). Then in a couple of hundred yards ..

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...we too can go under the railway to come out at the top of Spa Road

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We must go back upstream a little way now, to the right on the picture immediately above, to catch the Middlebrook as it emerges from under the railway and as it starts its even more engineered path towards and through the Town Centre. It is around here that the Middlebrook becomes the River Croal though the precise spot at which this happens is not determined.


It looks quite countrified at this point, but the bottom corner of Heaton Cemetery is just about 200 yards right and forward of the viewpoint of this picture and Gilnow Lane Primary School is just over to the right. Rural, idyllic, but all that is about to change.

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Lots of overhanging trees but the River is now well controlled in its cobbled bed as we approach Gilnow Mill.

The mill, like all the other survivors of the cotton age is no longer used for its original purpose but is home to a number of small industrial units.


There was a fire here in 2013 shortly after this picture was taken but no serious damage to the mill’s structure was caused.

           Alongside Back Spa Road


It now becomes very urbanised. Bolton might have been famous for cobbled streets but it has a cobbled river as well.


The paving of the bed of the Croal was one of the most important works of Henry Baylis (1824-74) who was appointed Borough Surveyor for Bolton-le-Moors in 1854. The river prior to this work had been to all intents and purposes an open sewer running through the centre of the town.

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from Back Spa Road the Croal turns along Back Tavistock Road.

and then flows alongside the appropriately named Croal Street but the river is inaccessible. In about 100 meters it reaches the Park Road Bridge.

This is the view looking upstream from Park Road, so this is the jungle behind those railings on Croal Street.

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Looking downstream from the Park Road bridge. Queen’s Park is on the left and immediately through the trees is the new children's playground There is a pleasant path along the river on the right.

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This is the view looking upstream from Park Road, so this is the jungle behind those railings on Croal Street.

and then flows alongside the appropriately named Croal Street but the river is inaccessible. In about 100 meters it reaches the Park Road Bridge.

A lonely boat sailor with the gas works in the background but on a sunny Summer day in 1950 the paddling pool was very popular.


There is now a path down both sides of the river as it flows along this edge of Queen’s Park and that is where we now continue our stroll.


There are a number of weirs to raise the level of the river because for the next mile a number of mills used to extract water. Park Road bridge and the playground are visible through the trees.

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On the south bank of the river are a series of tree-trunk carvings - A secret entrance - a traditional "green man" - a book, inkpot and quill-pen - a key - an angel with another key and another book (gate-keeper of heaven?). There are no notices indicating why they have been placed here or when, but I think it is later than Spring 2013.


They have featured in the INGRESS game, a worldwide smart phone / GPS challenge to locate and claim "power portals".

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