The AA's 1965 Road Book of England & Wales tersely dismissed Walkden as "An industrial and coal-mining town", but nearly 50 years on visitors will find few signs of coal-mining or the other industries, particularly cotton, which characterised it then. Today Walkden is perhaps best-known for its retail centre, and its role as host of Salford College's Worsley campus.
Although part of Salford City since 1974, Walkden has strong historic and commercial links with its closer, though smaller, neighbour Bolton 4 miles north.
Walkden's shopping scene is dominated by the Tesco supermarket store to the east of Bolton Road which draws shoppers from miles around but is also blamed by some for the disappearance of many local specialist shops.
Tesco moved from the nearby St. Ouen shopping precinct into the present store in 1977, taking over the premises from a SCAN supermarket, and in 2009 embarked on ambitious plans to increase the shop's size further.
The precinct abandoned by Tesco in 1977 has since been refurbished with an all-over glass roof added and the new name "Ellesmere Centre" adopted. Partly due to Tesco's success and uncertainty over their future expansion plans the Ellesmere Centre has struggled to fill all available units, but a mixture of shops including Boots, a greengrocers, opticians, several bakers and cafes means that the centre still serves a useful purpose for local residents.
Arguably the most beautiful structure in Walkden, the gothic Walkden Monument standing beside St Paul's Church on Manchester Road was erected in 1868 to commemorate Lady Harriet, Countess of Ellesmere.
Lady Harriet was famous for the compassionate interest she took in the lives of the poor, working class residents of the district. The Countess campaigned to stop women and girls working underground in the local coal pits and founded a school to provide better opportunities for them above ground.
After her death on 17th April 1866 a public subscription was raised to fund the memorial and a competition held to select a design from prominent architects of the day. The winning design was produced by T. G. Jackson in the style of an Eleanor Cross laced with associations to Lady Harriet and the district:
For 100 years the monument enjoyed the most prominent position in Walkden - right at the centre of the junction between Bolton and Manchester Roads. However, the increasing demands of motor traffic in the 1960's led the Ministry of Transport to demand the relocation of the monument - despite local protests - to its present location.
A more detailed account of the monument's history can be found in Anne Monaghan's definitive history book "Walkden, A Glimpse of The Past".
Worsley Fit City on Bridgewater Road is a council-owned recreation centre that was completely refurbished in 2007. The centre includes 3 swimming pools, a sauna, a fitness suite and dance/aerobics studio.
There is also private Total Fitness health centre near Tesco in the Ellesmere Retail Park, featuring several gyms, swimming pools, an indoor running track, steam and sauna rooms.
For cyclists, there is access to Salford's Loop Lines network of cycle trails from just yards outside Walkden station. From the former trackbed of the L&NWR railway next to Parr Fold Park, cycles paths run south through Worsley woods to Monton and north to Little Hulton.
Bingo fans can enjoy games at the Buckingham Bingo Hall in Ellesmere Retail Park 7 days a week.
On Walkden Road, just 2 minutes walk from the railway station, is Salford College's Worsley Campus.
The College's administration department occupies a jolly, 2-storey, red-brick Edwardian Baroque building opened in 1911 when it became the country's first Day Continuation School. It was funded and built by Worsley Urban District Council and Lancashire County Council under pressure from a local mill owner called Mr Burgess. The school allowed young school leavers to continue their education and receive craft training in the form of day release or evening classes.
Modern, purpose-built teaching blocks surround the old ay Continuation School, and the college offers a wide range of general and specialist vocational courses to both day and night school students.
In 2008, on Bolton Road, right in the heart of Walkden, Salford City Council opened the purpose built Walkden Gateway centre offering access to a wide range of cultural and health services including:
A legacy of an unusally strong Victorian Temperance movement is the relatively few pubs to be found in and around Walkden town centre. In the immediate area there are just two - the Stocks Hotel and Bull's Head. Both occupy landmark buildings that replaced earlier, humbler premises within 3 years of each other, suggesting a keen sense of rivalry between the breweries owning them. The Bull's Head's brick Gothic was built in 1895 followed shortly by the mock-Tudor Stocks Hotel in 1898. In January 2012 the Bull's Head was taken over by Wetherspoons and extensively refurbished, and now includes some interesting panels illustrating Walkden's history. There's even an original painting of modern day Walkden station inside (see it you can find it while enjoying a pint !).
Take-away outlets abound on Manchester Road and Bolton Road which meet in the town centre, and the Cottage Tandoori Indian Restaurant can also be found next to The Stocks Hotel. Just to the south of the cross-roads down Bridgewater Road a dining mini-district is developing with Casa Italia Italian restaurant occupying the building used for many years by Danielli's and Sugo, and the multiple award-winning Grenache restaurants facing one another.
One of Walkden's longest-established and best-loved eating options is Davardi's Pizza Bar on Bolton Road, who have been serving pizzas to take-away or eat in their cosy dining room since the early 1970's when pizza was quite a novelty in the region !
Just a minute's walk from Walkden Station is Parr Fold Park, a landscaped garden of mature trees and open lawns especially popular with dog walkers in the morning and evening. The formal rock gardens are no longer maintained but the beautiful woodland and flower beds make the park a real oasis in the suburbs. The park also houses a war memorial, pitch & putt course, equipped play area for 4-8 yrs, tennis courts, bandstand, bowling green and skate park.
Half a mile north of Walkden is Blackleach Country Park, an area of reclaimed industrial land that was landscaped with paths and planting around a reservoir in 1992. The park is often staffed by volunteer wardens who arrange various activities to help visitors to appreciate and enjoy the wildlife and plants found there. Blackleach is also connected to the Salford Loop Line network of cycleways, and also gives access to footpaths leading onto Linnyshaw Moss.
Walkden's development as an industrial town has left a rather unexceptional architectural heritage of vernacular, predominantly domestic, buildings.
Large areas are occupied by rows of Victorian terraces or post-war semis, and notable public buildings are infrequent.
However, there are some rewards for the patient observer, from decorative flourishes of terracotta or polychromatic brickwork, to the occasional individual edifice.
In addition to the buildings already mentioned above, other noteworthy buildings of architectural and historic interest include the former Co-op (1909) at the junction of Hodge Road and Walkden Road with its Baroque faience frieze, and the former Conservative Club (1894) whose entrance makes a stiff attempt at whimsy on Longley Road.
Perhaps Walkden's most unlikely claim to fame is its proximity to what is thought to be the widest section of motorway in the United Kingdom - the 17-carriageway M60/M61/A580 interchange that sprawls across Linnyshaw Moss. It might not be beautiful but it certainly is big !
Walkden was historically a part of Worsley Urban District Council and its heritage is promoted by the Worsley Civic Trust site, whose website includes lots of interesting articles about the area's past plus news, quizzes and things to do in the present day.