Black Bear Park follows part of the route of the former Runcorn and Latchford Canal from Twenty Steps Lock at Wilderspool to the River Mersey at Howley
Information provided by Warrington Borough Council
Additional information, photos and captions Copyright © Gordon I Gandy
Black Bear Park provides links across the Latchford, Stockton Heath and Westy areas of the town. The Trans Pennine Trail joins the park near to Stockton Heath swing bridge, while the Mersey Way meets the park at Kingsway Bridge. Originally the park was part of the seven-mile Old Quay Canal built in 1804 to link Latchford and Runcorn.
In 1894 the canal was severed by the building of the Manchester Ship Canal and became disused and derelict. A small section was left intact and this became the Black Bear Canal.
It joined the Ship Canal at Twenty Steps Lock (directly beneath the Northwich Road swing bridge) and the River Mersey at Manor Lock, formerly called Latchford Lock. It remained in use until the 1960s, mainly transporting Argentinean hides to the tanneries at Howley. Once closed the canal became derelict and was filled in during the 1980s to become the park we see today.
The park runs alongside Victoria Park
Just south of the Black Bear Bridge on Knutsford Road is the location of Warrington’s ancient ford, the only crossing point of the River Mersey until the 13th century when the first bridge was built at Bridge Foot in 1285. It is believed the ford was in existence 10,000 years ago and had probably been used by Mesolithic nomads (c8,000 BC) as they journeyed through the area. It should also be noted, however, that it is said the Romans bridged the Mersey in the early 70s AD during the reign of the Emperor Vespasian.
It is not known how long this bridge lasted, but it is known that by 175 AD the ford was again considered the main crossing point. The River Mersey has been re-directed since those days and the site of the ford is now just a boggy area.
The approximate location of the ancient ford, the only crossing point of the Mersey west of Manchester after the Romans until 1285 when the first Warrington Bridge was built at Bridge Foot.
The railway bridge carried the Warrington and Altrincham Railway over the canal and some of the railway tracks are still in place close to the bridge. The Black Bear pub no longer operates as a public house.
Plants and animals have been gradually encouraged onto the park by a programme of tree and wild flower planting and the creation of habitats such as the excavation of the pond. Access is possible by foot and bicycle from many points along the park. Paths are level and well surfaced and suitable for pushchairs and wheelchairs. Alongside Black Bear Park is Victoria Park.
Take junction 10 off the M56 and follow the A49 through Stockton Heath, go over the swing bridge past Morrisons supermarket and turn right at the lights on Loushers Lane. From Warrington town centre, turn left off the A49 Wilderspool Causeway onto Loushers Lane. As you come over a bridge about 200m along the lane you will see two shops on your left hand side. To the left of the shops is the entrance to the park. Parking space available opposite at Loushers Lane Recreation Ground.
A wheelchair access point can be found at the Loushers Lane entrance to the park next to the Ranger Cabin and there are kissing gates along the length of the park.
See Warrington Borough Council’s website for latest information on opening times and facilities.
Check with Warrington’s Own Buses for up-to-date information on bus timetables.