THE river which powered the industrial revolution in Bolton is being restored to its former glory — and ecological experts believe wildlife will soon start to flourish on the banks of the Croal.

The Moses Gate Weir was removed over two weeks — at a cost of about £15,000 — as part of the country’s biggest restoration project to revive the River Irwell corridor.

The weir, which runs through Moses Gate Country Park, has been blocking the path of spawning salmon and acting as an ecological barrier for river life.

Olly Southgate from the Environment Agency, who is leading the project, said: “The Industrial Revolution in Northern England was built on the power provided by rivers like the Croal and Irwell, and now we owe it to them to return them to their former natural glory.

“At 40 metres wide and nearly three metres high, Moses Gate Weir has been severely constraining the River Croal’s natural processes and has to be removed so that we can breathe life back in to the river.”

He said a difference could be seen as soon as the removal project got under way with the “natural connectivity” of the river already improving together with the availability of fish spawning habitats increasing.

Habitat diversity has also been improving and Mr Southgate said there had been “an overall general environmental boost” for local plants and wildlife.

Mr Southgate added: “The river at this point runs through one of Bolton’s biggest green spaces, and we hope the community will enjoy watching animals and birds return to Moses Gate Country Park as the river returns to its former course.

“This is the 19th weir we’ve removed so far as part of the River Irwell Restoration Project, so this is another great win for the natural environment in Greater Manchester.”

The removal of weirs — described as “barriers” to the river corridor — is said to be key to the recovery of the River Irwell, which 30 years ago was one of the most polluted rivers in Europe.

Before the industrial revolution, it was home to prized salmon and provided drinking water.

Today fish and other wildlife are returning to the river and its banks.

The weirs cost an average of £15,000 to remove and the work is being carried out by the Environment Agency, alongside The Irwells Rivers Trust, Salford, Association of Rivers Trust, Salford Friendly Anglers and local authorities.

The project, which has attracted national and international attention, has been selected as a finalist in the Natural Environment category of the Living Waterways Awards.