Offenders on a Community Payback scheme have spent over 800 hours on a project to transform a 10,000sq ft path in Irlam.
The Linear Park Walkway began life in 1873 as a railway line between Manchester and Liverpool, raised and realigned 20 years later to allow trains to pass over the newly-opened Manchester Ship Canal.
It was once a branch railway line to the Soap and Candle Works Factory to transport goods and staff between the factory and the main line near Irlam station.
It was famously re-opened as a cycle route in May 1987 by billionaire Virgin Group founder Richard Branson.
But since then, it has been badly neglected.
The project to overhaul this forgotten space began in October 2015 along with local charitable organisation the Hamilton Davies Trust (HDT).
Teams are under constant supervision by the Cheshire and Greater Manchester Community Rehabilitation Company to bring life back to the park.
Up to 12 offenders a day have been working to create walkable paths through the park, however due to council cuts in supervision for the offenders, work has slowed down to one day a week.
Payback teams are removing huge amounts of overgrowth and are picking litter to restore Irlam Linear Park to its former glory.
Mandy Coleman, Hamilton Davies Trust’s General Manager said: “The fact that we have linked up with probation to achieve this goal is ideal because Community Payback can provide a route away from re-offending and that very much fits in with our aim, which is to improve the local area in any way we can.”
The project also hopes to re-establish cycle paths which link Irlam to the opposite side of the Ship Canal.
Sean, one of the payback workers on the project, is on a 12-month Suspended Sentence Order which includes a requirement to complete 240 hours unpaid work.
He said: “I much prefer to be outside and doing physical work. It’s good that people have popped out to thank us, that means that we know the job we are doing means something to the community.”
Community Payback are now halfway through their restoration job after receiving permission for full access from landowners Peel Holdings.
Community Payback officer Dave Bowyer was especially pleased with all the hard work.
He said: “It’s a really good project because offenders can see the difference they are making and being told that by the public makes all the difference.”
With thanks to Sean Kilgarriff/Irlam and Cadishead Community Now and Then
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