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The stream then descends the 10 miles through Macclesfield and Wilmslow where it meets the River Dean, near to Styal Prison.
Photos In 1804 an 8 mile-long, 60 foot wide canal was opened between Latchford and Runcorn.
Just short of Whitelands, a short arm leaves Portland Basin (also in central Ashton), crosses the River Tame on the Tame Aqueduct, and makes a head-on junction with the Peak Forest Canal.
The Peak Forest Canal runs from a junction with the Ashton Canal at the southern end of the Tame Aqueduct at Dukinfield (grid reference SJ934984), through Newton, Hyde, Woodley, Bredbury, Romiley, Marple, Strines, Disley, New Mills, Furness Vale and Bridgemont to terminate at Bugsworth Basin (grid reference SK 021820 - the village is now called Buxworth) - and there is a short branch at Bridgemont to Whaley Bridge. The Macclesfield Canal runs for 26 miles (42 km) from Marple Junction, where it joins the upper Peak Forest Canal, and runs southwards (through Bollington, Macclesfield and Congleton) to a junction with the Trent and Mersey Canal at Hardings Wood, near Kidsgrove.
As the 19th century progressed, the increasing need for large freight carriers led to Liverpool's dominance as a port, and Manchester became increasingly reliant on its Merseyside neighbour for its export industry.
When the ports and railways had dominance of the trade, it was often cheaper to transport goods from Manchester over to Hull on the east coast, over twice the distance. The Manchester Ship Canal opened in 1894, by the expansion of the route of the Irwell and Mersey.