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New public viewing point opened near historic canal lock


A NEW public viewing point has been opened on the entrance to the 198-year-old Woolston Lock at the eastern end of Warrington’s historic New Cut Canal.
The lock itself has been protected and its archaeological remains preserved for future generations.
Specially designed to retain the site’s archaeology, the viewing point offers superb views of the Mersey.
A brass plaque commemorates “Old Billy” –reputably the oldest horse in the world when he died, aged 62, in 1822 and who worked hauling barges on the New Cut Canal for much of his life, until his retirement in 1819.
The site’s history and wildlife story is fully explained in four interpretation panels perfectly sited and jointly developed by volunteers and the Environment Agency.
The New Cut Canal, once a major trade route as part of the Mersey and Irwell Navigation linking Manchester to the tidal River Mersey at Warrington, replaced the earlier 1755-built Woolston Old Cut and the Powder Lock, so named after a nearby gun powder mill. The building of the Manchester Ship Canal eventually led to its closure.
The area is rich in transport archaeology with the site of nearby Woolston Wharf, once an important berthing point for Mersey flats and last used in the 1950s. being recorded with a red plaque.
Some locals can still recall from their childhood, the “flats” (barges) berthed at the wharf with the bargees drinking in a local pub, now long gone, as they waited for their next cargo.
Close co-operation between the Environment Agency and local residents and conservation groups led to the creation of the new viewing point and preservation of Woolston Lock.
They had previously worked on the protection of Paddington Lock, at the western end of the canal and shared the view of local people that as much archaeology as possible should be retained, while at the same time providing flood defences to protect local properties.
Kevin Price, chairman of the New Cut Heritage and Ecology Group said: “As soon as we visited the site with the Environment Agency it was clear that this was a glorious opportunity to develop something special for all the community and interest groups. The river, once little more than an open sewer is now a real attraction for Warrington with much improved access for all to enjoy and it demonstrates how voluntary groups working in partnership with statutory agencies can create something special”


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