5 ways to enjoy Greater Manchester’s rivers

At the heart of most cities, you’ll find a river! In Greater Manchester the River Irk, Medlock and Mersey form the foundation of our water network.

Manchester’s rivers have always played an important role in our history; they were integral to the Industrial Revolution and have formed our boundaries in years past, separating counties such as Lancashire and Cheshire and the cities such as Manchester and Salford.

Despite many of Manchester’s rivers being hidden underground there are areas where the river environment has never been more accessible! Did you know that nearly all country parks include a river running through them?

In this blog we look at some activities which can be enjoyed on and around Greater Manchester rivers and hope to inspire you to step out this spring and enjoy:

1. Wildlife spotting

A lot of our time is spent in urban areas where we are removed from nature, where the wildlife consists of nothing but pigeons and squirrels. But wander a few steps further, to the rivers and ecosystems that sweep through our city, and a new world emerges!

Manchester’s rivers are valuable environmental corridors which protect habitats which have become separated by human development. These green and blue spaces offer unique habitats for fish, birds, water voles, frogs, newts, insects, bats and even otters! And although otter sightings are rare, they have started to become more frequent.

For tips on what wildlife you can spot along the rivers and canals check out this article from the Canal & Rivers Trust.

2. Take to the water!

There are a variety of ways you can take to the water and enjoy Manchester’s Rivers, including canoeing, kayaking, paddle boarding and sailing. Whatever floats your boat!

Whether the intention is fitness or enjoyment, there are multiple establishments where you can easily hire the right equipment so you can enjoy nature to its fullest.

Prices vary depending on the activity and generally start at £20, however, some activities are free!

Water sports are great for families, couples, and friends to participate in together. Here is a few activities and locations which are our favourite:

If you’ve got tips on where is best for other outdoor water activities, please share them with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

3. On land activities

If engaging in water sports isn’t for you there are plenty of ways to enjoy the river from the safety of the land, such as dog walking, cycling, horse riding, or leisurely walks.

Did you know that studies show that people who use blue spaces say they feel happier when they are close to them?

Whether you’re a seasoned walker or just looking to get out and try something different, there are different length trails for anyone to try out, most of which are flat. Here is a great website which outlines some of the best river trails that Greater Manchester has to offer!

4. Fishing

According to a GovUK report, a recent survey from the Angling Trust, revealed 99% of survey respondents agreed angling benefits their mental health and wellbeing. Since lockdown restrictions eased, 91% of respondents have already been out angling and many are enjoying the social distancing benefits of fishing.

Fishing is an activity which you can only enjoy by a water body, it forces us not only into nature, but into a naturally quiet and serene environment. The setting encourages a quiet focus and gives you time away from the day-to-day routine of the real world. Plus, with all the time spent outside, your levels of Vitamin D will be increasing too, further improving your health.

Thanks to a variety of conservation workers, including Irwell Catchment Partners, fishing is now even more accessible in Manchester. Many fish passages have been opened up in Greater Manchester, ensuring fish can bread freely, undisturbed from man-made interventions such as weirs.

Remember, you need a licence to fish…to make things easier, why not join an angler’s club? Here are some we know of!

5. Volunteer

Volunteering provides you with a sense of purpose, provides opportunities to build new friendships and gives you experiences which get you out of your comfort zone.

There are plenty of community volunteering projects which you can get involved in, all of which help keep Manchester’s rivers a desirable place for local communities to spend their time.

This includes the Love Your River Irk project currently being delivered by Groundwork. The project aims encourage more people to connect and volunteer in the natural environment and hosts several events and training sessions for those interested.

If you would like to volunteer, you can join the Facebook group here and learn more about it.

There’s also plenty of volunteering opportunities available through our river partners including:

Mersey Rivers Trust
Canal & Rivers Trust
City of Trees