Published: 26th MAY 2024

Towpath through Saltaire's World Heritage Site upgraded

We've revamped a popular section of the Leeds and Liverpool canal, through the spectacular historic mill town of Saltaire, between Shipley and Bingley. It's part of bigger plans along this busy route.

family on bikes have a break on a towpath and smile at camera

A local family enjoy the new upgraded towpath along the canal on route 696 between Bingley and Shipley. PHOTO: Simon Dewhurst Photography

Local people have been enjoying improvements on a popular section of the Leeds & Liverpool Canal around the UN World Heritage site of Saltaire, and neighbouring Shipley.

The towpath passes through the picturesque former mill town, built by the 19th century philanthropist Titus Salt.

Our North team 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.

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 pot holes 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.”

Mural celebrates local heritage

picture of a boat at Hirst Lock, painted on a wall

A mural on Otley Road bridge features local heritage. PHOTO: Simon Dewhurst Photography

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 route 696 on the National Cycle Network.

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

Longer term vision

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.

Josh Molyneux, our 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.”

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Before there were pot holes 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. Blockquote quotation marks
Satwant Singh

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.”

Next steps

This section of the Leeds and Liverpool canal towpath 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.

This partnership project with the council is all part of our national programme 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.

We will be working with Canal & River Trust to start work on a second phase of towpath improvements later this year between Hirst Lock and Primrose Lane.

two men at front of group ride on the towpath

Satwant Singh (left) leads regular group rides in the Bradford area. PHOTO: Simon Dewhurst Photography.

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