Preston Guild Week takes place every 20 years – I’ve witnessed three. It is an ancient tradition celebrating the Merchants Guilds who traded in the town, now city.
In 1179, King Henry II granted Preston the right to have a Guild Merchant and awarded the town its first royal charter. The Guild was an organisation of traders, craftsmen and merchants, who had a monopoly of trade in the town. Gatherings for renewing membership were infrequent, from 1542 Preston Guild took place every 20 years. In 1790 there was freedom of trade in the town, which abolished the need for a Guild. But people continued to celebrate the Guild, as its festivities had developed into prestigious social occasions, which continues to this day.
The Guild Wheel has been created as a lasting legacy of the 2012 Preston Guild. The 21 mile route makes the most of the different landscapes that surround the city, creating a rich and varied environment for people to enjoy on foot and cycle. For more information and downloadable maps visit https://www.lancashire.gov.uk/leisure-and-culture/cycling/guild-wheel/
This was therefore an obvious challenge for my new-found cycling enthusiasm. Cometh the moment, cometh the man. Unfortunately the man made two predictable mistakes .
1 I didn’t have a map, expecting my local knowledge and the way marking to be ample.
2 I strangely decided, despite being out testing my road bike for a week, to use my ‘Mountain Bike’ which had not been out of the garage for years.
Anyhow, parked up and ready to go on a blustery, cool day. The route has a start outside the Pavilion Cafe in Avenham Park, which today, a Saturday, was quite busy. The route is punctuated with mileposts giving the distance in either direction.
I opted for a clockwise circuit. I set off confidently, whizzing along the riverside track and soon arrived at the old bridge in Lower Penwortham.
I was distracted by all the cyclists coming over this cobbled way and intuitively went the same way and on to a good cycle track. Only after some distance, as I headed up into Penwortham, did I realise this wasn’t the ‘Wheel’. My pride was too much just to turn around and go back, so totally disorientated I did an irrational loop into housing estates, cul de sacs and parks before having to ask a group of teenagers the way back to the river. Great start! By now I had also noticed my second mistake — my ageing cable to the rear derailleur had snapped, so I had to cycle the rest of the route in one gear!!!
Safely back over the bridge I was able to follow the correct way along the north side of the Ribble past the docks’ railway, no steam today, but I will return to check out their locomotives. Passed one in need of care and restoration.
Onwards through the docks’ area [one of the largest in Europe in the 19th century] another café at the Marina, and onto the seaward section of the Ribble, complete with seagulls and cormorants. Next there was a stiff incline [in the one gear] heading west into the wind alongside Riversway until a bridge took me over the busy road and back along a canal — The Ribble Link. This is the only canal constructed in the last century, connecting the Lancaster canal with the rest of the system via the Leeds Liverpool. This looks miniscule, and I wonder how many canal boats make the passage.
Onwards on surprisingly rural cycleways in Cottam and through the UCLAN sports fields, all areas I had no knowledge of. Still lots of cyclists coming both ways and with all being communicative it felt a very social day out. Somehow bypassed Eastway, past the ‘Hoppers sports ground over the M55 and ended up alongside the A6 in Broughton.
Quietness returned to Durton Lane with its speed bumps. Next I was going along the long neglected Longslands Lane and coming across the Asda superstore. Some steep inclines brought me onto the M6 motorway access at Bluebell Way [well, not quite] and Roman Way.
I was soon cycling through the grounds of Preston Crematorium, certainly plenty of variety!
A lovely section through Bluebell Woods, too early for the eponymous flowers, and steeply down the escarpment…
Good flat cycling alongside the River Ribble all the way back into Preston and Avenham Pavilion Café.
What a great trip out, though still stiff from the effort, and congratulations to Preston for making it all possible. Far too much interesting stuff for one post!
I’ll be back with a reliable bike, more fitness and a Map!
Next time I wonder about making a day of it and stopping at every single café en route – that would be quite an endurance trip.