Britain’s lost rivers resurrected and freed to go with the flow
The brick-lined culvert that runs through the centre of Manchester’s Philips Park has all the charm of an open sewer. There are no grassy banks, no fish, no reeds or other aquatic plants, no signs of life. Apart from a few broken bottles and an occasional rusting supermarket trolley, the waterway – built at the turn of the 20th century – is featureless and sterile for its entire mile-long course through the park.
The 2m-wide channel could pass for a section of the city’s sewage works. In fact, this turns out to be one of the major rivers of north-west England, the Medlock. Like dozens of other natural waterways in Britain it was channelled into culverts – others were buried in tunnels – in the wake of the country’s industrial expansion during Victorian and Edwardian times.
To the industrialists back then, rivers – apart from supplying water for dye works or taking away waste – were considered to be inconveniences and so were diverted, often underground. The end result was the creation of a network of lost rivers across the nation.
But now the Medlock is being reclaimed as part of a campaign that ecologists hope will return many of these lost waterways to their natural glory.
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