Ten riders gathered at the café at Delamere Station. We were all extremely pleased to see Dave and Liz Pipe arrive in civvies, the first time they’ve been for coffee with us since Dave’s op. All seems to be going well with his recovery except that he complains that he feels physically ‘weak’ when he exercises. Not surprising really, as he hasn’t taken much exercise in the 4 months since his heart attack!
As usual, Dave M wasn’t staying for the ride due to grandchildren duties and he left us when we got to Hatchmere. Happily, John W was able to ride today, so he, along with Clive, Dave H, Andy B, Bob, Nick, Tom, Mike G and yours truly set off from Delamere turning at Hatchmere and going via School Lane and Post office Lane to reach Norley Road. From there we took the little road to Pytchley’s Hollow, emerging in Norley at the Tiger’s Head. As we went down Bay Lane on NC70, there were ‘Road Closed’ signs on display. As usual we ignored them and were rewarded with no sign of a closed road nor of any workmen - #justbluffing! Via Onston Lane and the B5153, we reached Acton Bridge and took Hill Top Road to reach the steep hill down to the A49 where the swing bridge crosses the River Weaver. The bridge works here continue (still) and we were obliged to take the footpath here to cross the bridge before turning along Willow Green Road towards Little Leigh. The short, but steep hill over the Trent & Mersey Canal and thence up to Little Leigh was not appreciated by some (you know who you are..) but it got us to the A533, which we crossed to make our way into Comberbach. In order to make sure we didn’t arrive too early for lunch, I had thrown in a loop through Marbury Park and the associated flashes which took us to Marston, not far from the Salt Barge pub which we have visited on previous rides - but not today. On our way down Marbury Lane we came across a road block where workmen were installing a new (drain?) pipe. Their trench was only a foot wide and nine inches deep, so we were able to persuade them to let us carry our bikes over the obstacle.
Our route from Marston took us via Wincham to Pickmere where we took Park Lane to circle around Pick Mere and head back towards Great Budworth. Now the good burgers of Great Budworth complained last year that cyclists passing through their village were urinating in their horse troughs and being generally being rowdy (“car back”!!!). So we skirted the east side of the village and took Budworth Heath Road heading towards Antrobus, a pretty little village where the residents could be seen tending flowers at the side of the road. ‘Best Kept Village’ anyone?? Taking a left onto Meg Lane we crossed the busy A559 into Frandley. There, in Well Lane, we had to take to the ditch as a massive tractor and trailer came down the lane – it’s harvest time again as we could see from the combine harvester in the field a little further along the lane. Using the small lanes we soon arrive at the delightful duck pond at Higher Whitley followed by the A49 which we needed to cross. This can be tricky, but luck was with us and the road was unusually quiet so the crossing was achieved without any problems. We ran along Grimsditch Road and Newton Lane, crossing the M56 motorway before arriving in Daresbury which happens to be the birthplace of Lewis Carroll. There are stained glass windows in the church depicting characters from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
Crossing the A56 we headed down Keckwick Lane and passed through the wonderland that is ‘Sci-Tech Daresbury’. According to Wikipedia, S-T Daresbury is one of two national science and innovation campuses, which supports scientists, researchers and industry by providing a collaborative and innovative environment to perform cutting-edge research. The work is mostly in the area of particle physics, but it also encompasses bio-medicine, physics, chemistry, materials, engineering and computational science. Cerebral stuff indeed!
Continuing down the lane we soon joined the A558 which we followed through Moore and then on to the cycle path which runs alongside the A56 to Lower Walton and The Stag at Walton, where we were to have lunch. At this point, we’d done 29 miles in a smidgeon over two hours through rural Cheshire – an excellent pace for a bunch of ‘moderates’. The menu at the Stag was extensive, so it took us a while to make our choices. The food came quite promptly and, for the most part, was well received. However, the steak pie came in for some criticism from our resident food critic – overcooked steak.
Suitably fed and watered we embarked on the ‘industrial’ part of our journey. Crossing the Manchester Ship Canal we threaded our way through the houses to find the Trans-Pennine Trail (TPT). Several sections of this run through woodland, where the trail is somewhat overgrown and the track a bit gravelly, but eventually we arrived, via the local recycling centre at the St. Helens canal, where the TPT opens out into a wide, well prepared track. The canal itself is covered in green algae in which the moorhens and coots ‘dredge’ a path to their nests. The route took us past the Ferry Tavern and associated ‘marina’. The boats here look as if they never go anywhere, but our spirits were lifted by the sight of a pair of swans with seven cygnets. Further along, we cycled past a grey heron, who took absolutely no notice of us, even though we were only two feet away as we passed him.
Eventually we reached the viewing platform next to the River Mersey from where there is a good view of the new bridge. Once the obligatory group photo had been taken (thanks, John), we continued on. Because of the construction works, the TPT has been diverted through the ‘badlands’ of Widnes, where we were briefly embroiled in heavy traffic before arriving at the ‘Catalyst’, a science centre and museum focusing on chemistry and the history of the chemical industry. There is a (free) exhibition about the new bridge here, but the group felt the need to press on.
|Mersey Gateway site 2 year ago (Photo by Steve T)|
|Mersey Gateway site today (Photo by John W)|
Threading our way through the streets of West Bank we cross the existing Runcorn/Widnes bridge and then took some back roads and paths, known only to Dave H and myself, which brought us to the A56 at Sutton Weaver. Here John W, Tom, Nick and Clive followed the main road down to Frodsham and a direct route back to Chester and the rest of us took a route back to Delamere via Aston Lane and NC 5 down to Dutton Locks. In fact there is quite a long section of this route which is a rough track which was more than usually rutted because of the rain earlier in the week, so I must apologise to my companions for taking them along here. Crossing the River Weaver at Dutton Locks, we made our way along the south side of the river and then up the lanes towards Kingsley. Here, Beech Lane leads up to Norley Road, but it is quite steep in places – not so welcome at the end of a ride. Crossing Norley Road we followed Forest Lane get us onto Delamere Road which took us to Hatchmere and back to Delamere Station. Mike G left us at Hatchmere to head home and Bob continued on from Delamere with the same intent. So Dave, Andy B and myself enjoyed a coffee at the café where we had started, before wending our own ways home.
In total, 51 miles of rural and industrial scenery on a fine, warm and mostly sunny day.
See route map and/or gpx file download