Henry II granted Preston the right to have a Guild Merchant controlling trade in the town. That was back in 1179. Holding the Guild every 20 years probably started in 1542, membership would only change every other generation. Bringing together the town’s merchants, craftsmen and traders led to pageantry, feasting and processions. Six centuries later Preston still celebrates the Guild (though there has been free trade since 1790) every 20 years.
There is a local saying “once in a Preston Guild” due to the 20 years gap – the equivalent of “once in a blue moon”. We like to be different up here.
The last Guild was 2012 and to celebrate it Preston and Lancashire County Councils devised this 21mile ‘green route’ circling the city nearly all off-road. It was opened in August 2012, and though not as green as it used to be is a lasting legacy to the city and its Guild celebrations. LCC has devised an auditory commentary by scanning the QR codes attached to the mile markers. I must get round to trying them.
Known locally simply as The Guild Wheel, GW, it also has a Sustrans cycling route number – 622.
I haven’t been on the Guild Wheel since last September’s aborted ride. Let’s see what today brings.
I get off to walk the steep track down Red Scar into Brockholes Nature Reserve. I’ve had enough mishaps recently, I don’t want to tempt fate, who is on strike today? Maybe the Nurses or the Ambulances. Better safe than sorry or worse.
Without binoculars, it is pointless to stop off at the bird hides, though I do recognise some swans from a distance.
The ride alongside the Ribble is the greenest section of the GW and whilst the sun was shining the river took on a liquid silver appearance.
The route brings you right into the heart of the city where the Old Tram Bridge linked Penwortham to Avenham Park. It was built originally by the Lancaster Canal Company in 1802 to link the Leeds Liverpool canal system to the isolated Lancaster Canal using carts to transport the commodities. The arrival of the railways led to the closure of the tramway in 1858. Recent inspections of the bridge have shown it to be on the verge of collapse, and it was closed for good in 2019. There has been a strong local campaign for some sort of restoration, both from a historical view and more importantly as a leisure facility, it being a popular pedestrian crossing of the Ribble in the city. Costings were proving prohibitive but then along comes ‘levelling up’ and Preston has received a £20 million grant from the government. Good news, going hand in hand with Eden Project I mentioned in my last post.
Avenham and Miller Parks are looking splendid. Proud Preston.
Alongside the GW they are raising the river defences in Broadgate, the work is taking two years and already is causing traffic chaos at that end of the city.
Once I’m past the city of cars I’m on a new piece of tarmac alongside the junction with the Western Distributor Road system, it will soon be open. The GW then goes under the new bridge spanning the Ribble Link Canal.
I call in as usual at my favourite café on the GW, the Final Whistle, in the grounds of the university sports fields. Toasted teacake and a coffee £2.95. Whenever I have a toasted tea cake I’m reminded of my sadly departed mate, big Tony, who couldn’t start a day’s climbing without his toasted tea cake and a pot of tea. We had a list of cafés throughout the north-west serving this delicacy. Great times.
A robin is always on hand to help clear up the crumbs.
Nothing much else to report, the housing estates are still proliferating on every space i the Cottam area eating up the green spaces, but what about these catkins in the sunshine – a harbinger of better days to come.