The Manchester Ship Canal is a river navigation 36 miles (58 km) long in the North West of England. Starting at the Mersey Estuary near Liverpool, it generally follows the original routes of the rivers Mersey and Irwell through the historic counties of Cheshire and Lancashire. Several sets of locks lift vessels about 60 feet (18 m) up to Manchester where the canal's terminus was built. Major landmarks along its route include the Barton Swing Aqueduct, the first and only swing aqueduct in the World, and Trafford Park, the world's first planned industrial estate and still the largest in Europe.
There are several nature reserves along its banks. Wigg Island, a former brownfield site east of Runcorn, contains a network of public footpaths through newly planted Woodlands and meadows. Among the wildlife species found there are butterflies, dragonflies, kestrels, swallows and house martins. Further upstream the 200-acre (81 ha) Moore Nature Reserve, which is bisected by the de-watered Runcorn to Latchford Canal, comprises lakes, woodland and meadows. The reserve is open to the public and contains a number of bird hides, from which native owls and woodpeckers may be viewed.
Near Thelwall, Woolston Eyes (a corruption of the Saxon Ees), is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. It is used as a deposit for canal dredgings and is a habitat for many species of bird, including Black-necked Grebes, Grasshopper Warblers, Blackcaps and Common Whitethroats. Great Crested Newts and Adders are present, and local flora includes orchids and Broad-leaved Helleborines. Diving ducks are regular visitors to Salford Quays, where species such as Pochard and Tufted Ducks feed on winter nights.