Tag Archives: Preston

PRESTON GUILD WHEEL – WHAT’S NEW?

 

I first rode around the wheel rather disastrously in 2014. and have repeated it several times since.  It has rained solidly for over 24hrs meaning the fields will be sodden and unpleasant for walking. Having used my bike to assist with a few walks recently I thought it time to revisit the well-surfaced route.

A toss of the coin determined which way I went, heads sent me anticlockwise. The beginning is not inspiring, through an industrial estate including a metal recycling plant where my last car ended its days. The roundabout on Bluebell Way I always find confusing, there is a choice of a level route on pavements or a steeper way directly into the countryside, I found myself on the latter. Pleasant parkland is encountered but the noise of the adjacent motorway is offputting. I walk up the first steep hill. I’m enjoying the riding and soon cover a few miles, it is 21miles for the full circuit as posts every mile remind you. Most cyclists seem to be coming the other way, clockwise.  I watch as most seem to steer straight through the awkward wooden barriers designed to slow one. They certainly slow me I come to a standstill and walk through, my bike manoeuvrability is not what it was or maybe I’m just broad-shouldered.

D’Urton Lane is soon reached and appears to have been opened to traffic after several years or building Broughton Bypass. Housing estates are being built with access onto this previously quiet lane. At its far end all is changed with signalled crossings over the Broughton Bypass, here called James Towers Way named after a WW1 VC decorated soldier from Broughton.Safely over the busy roads and round the corner the old A6 is very quiet without much traffic and changed lanes……and my once favourite curry house has been demolished for development of the site.

There are major housing developments around Preston Grasshoppers rugby ground and further on the housing is closing in on the wheel, there will be a lot more traffic to contend with in future.

I had my usual coffee stop sat outside The Final Whistle Cafe in UCLAN’s sports ground. Climbing over Blackpool Road dark clouds were massing over Preston as I headed back. Along past, the docks was a memorial stone, erected 2018, in memory of Ben Ashworth a local marathon/charity runner. Apparently, there is a plaque entering Miller Park as well but I missed it.

The old tram bridge over the Ribble at Avenham Park has been closed due to structural defects, I wonder if it will ever open again.

At the end of Brockholes Nature Reserve is a new sign erected by The Peak and Northern FootpathsSociety, I don’t remember seeing it before though it’s dated 2013.

All that was left was to push my bike up that last steep bit [have stone sets been laid recently?] and cycle through the crematorium to complete the circuit. Very enjoyable and it didn’t rain.*****

MY ANNUAL SERVICE AND MOT.

“Your car will be ready about 4pm, we’ll phone you”

I’m in one of the outlets on the vast ‘motor village’ out by the docks in Preston where one can buy just about any make of vehicle. It was just after 9am in the garage reception area, more like a lawyers office than a garage but the mechanics must be hiding somewhere. Last year I took the opportunity to cycle round the Preston Guild Wheel but I’m limited to easy walking at the moment. The day was perfect, blue skies and winter sun.  I had to make the most of it so I planned on walking a 7 mile stretch of the Guild Wheel, its NW segment. But first a free coffee and a read of the paper – I had a lot of time to fill.

I knew from past experience that I wouldn’t enjoy the first noisy mile alongside the main road but as soon as this was crossed and left behind peace and tranquility returned. One’s mind becomes clearer and the rural calm helps with those nagging problems. The sun always helps.

I found myself on the Ribble Link which gives access at long last from the Lancaster Canal to the rest of the network once across The River Ribble. On a whim I decided to follow it towards the river but after a short distance and a couple of locks the the ‘path’ was too boggy for my trainers. As it is a new structure, 2002, there was no need for a traditional towpath. This link is basically Savick Brook which has been widened and equipped with locks to make it navigable. At a nearby bridge I watched some regular dredging going on and was able to chat about the Link with the Canal Trust workers. I have never seen a boat on this length before and wondered about its usefulness but they assured me 300 boats passed through last year.

Through the UCLAN sports grounds and  alongside housing at Cottam on maturing paths, dog walkers, pram-pushers, runners and cyclists all sharing and happy in the sunshine.

Soon one wanders into new developments appearing everywhere in north Preston like the pox. Their names are fanciful. They never come up with Muddy Meadows, Crowded Copse, Restricted View, Non-environmental Nook, Flooding Fields, Ruined Manor…

Broughton village however has recovered its relative tranquility since the long awaited by-pass has opened. The road is barely recognisable. Where’s the traffic queue? Probably somewhere else but they deserve a bit of peace for awhile.In a slower mode I noticed for the first time a stone ‘pinfold’ [where stray animals were held until collected] by the path and also a war memorial.

I walked on crossing the new road, named in honour of a local man awarded the Victoria Cross in the WW1. I was eager to see what has become of the cycle route along Durton Lane since the road works, again it is a changed world. There is no longer any through traffic but engulfing housing will eventually destroy its character.

A couple of snippets from this area …

The sign says No fly tipping.

Wouldn’t like to learn to swim here,

I let my phone guide me through the residential streets near the hospital and then on familiar ground down Plungington Road to enjoy a late lunch in my favourite south Indian cafe, RK Sweets. Vegetable thali for £5.

Rather than catch a bus just yet I wanted to put more miles into the lovely day so on I walked through the University area and past the international cafes of Friargate. What an opportunity to look at the newly refurbished market hall which though not yet fully running could give some life back into Preston city centre. I don’t come into town very often and I ended up in Wilkinson’s Camera shop spending money on an impulsive purchase of a replacement compact. Nearby was the bus station which is also being refurbished as part of Preston’s improvements.  The crowded bus dropped me a mile short of the garage so in the end I’d walked about 13 miles by the allotted 4pm

“Everything is OK and you’ve passed the MOT”     So all’s well.

 

LANCASTER CANAL 1. Preston to Woodplumpton.

As the crow flies this section would only be about three and a half miles but the canal does a large loop towards the Fylde, an extension to Fleetwood was originally planned. My plan was for an easy level walk on the towpath and this worked well until out in the country where the boggy terrain was extremely troublesome, why didn’t I anticipate that. I was trod in lightweight trainers which quickly became sodden as I slithered around in the mud cursing my stupidity. But the sun shone and it was a glorious day to be out so the benefits outweighed the negatives.

Dismissing the Ribble Link and the Tramway across the Ribble the canal now starts in Aqueduct Street, that’s a clue to its former route through Preston Town centre. Some inauspicious steps lead to a grubby basin with no room to swing a cat never mind turn a boat. I guess no one comes this far on the water. A finger post gives distances, there is only one way.

The towpath is on the left bank and I think remains so for the length. On the far side are waterside houses. In the background is the iconic St. Walburge church spire, the third tallest in England. Housing lines the cutting and above is another iconic Preston site Tulketh Mill with its towering brick chimney – cotton was king.

The first bridge is numbered 11 so a lot have been lost. I creep under Blackpool Rd. reputedly a good place to see kingfishers and on to the edge of Haslam Park. Bridge 13 is the first aqueduct, here above a diminutive Savick Brook which remarkably hosts the Ribble Link further on whose basin and locks are soon encountered. I’ve been this way before.

More pleasant housing on the right bank is passed, I could well imagine canal side living with a canoe to take me shopping. Bridge 17 gives access to a lovely cafe and the busy UCLAN sports grounds. Massive housing developments are taking place on the far side, Cottam. At last open countryside is reached. a former farm swing bridge has been removed with little trace. Salwick Hall is seen across the fields to the right, what must they have thought of the construction of Springfields BNFL plant nearby. One of my climbing partners spent most of his working life there producing Nuclear Fuels. ‘Reassuringly’ signs by the canal tell you what to do when there is a nuclear catastrophe.

A cutting takes me safely past and at bridge 26 is The Hand and Dagger Inn, not yet open this morning and I suspect with a change of name no longer a canalside pub but an eating ‘place’. The mud kicked in by now as I ducked under the busy M55 with distant views of the Bowland Fells.

The milestones are not all intact but those that are prove useful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Further on there is a marina hiring out and selling boats, a friendly worker is busy cleaning his stock. Further on a dog walker and I agree grumpily about the devastation all the excessive house building, often on flood plains, is having on the local area. I dare not mention fracking.  Crossing Woodplumton Aqueduct I drop down to examine Rennie’s design, apparently no two aqueducts on the canal are alike. At one point I’m listening to a tuneful bird call I don’t recognise, eventually I spot high in the branches a tree-creeper. I then struggle in the mud to complete the section to bridge 35 near Woodplumpton and a bus. Enough for today, if my hip is OK I’ll be back tomorrow.

 

Corniest boat name of the day…

 

 

 

 

THE LANCASTER CANAL. The Black and White.

As I said in my last post ‘I have a plan’.

I like a challenge and an objective. Since the beginning of November I’ve shelved trips abroad because of painful musculature around my left hip – brought on by excessive stress on the Cornish coastal path and in La Palma mountains last year.  My physio appointment today was positive and I’m armed with exercises to re-balance my muscles. So fingers crossed.

The Lancaster Canal is a good project in the circumstances. Flat walking and easily accessed from public transport. Walking on the flat seems to be no problem so over the next couple of weeks I hope to explore this canal system in easy sections..  I’ve never walked the full length so why not complete now.

The Lancaster Canal was a project from the 18th century to connect Kendal and Lancaster to Preston and ambitiously to the rest of England’s canal system. At the time Preston was a major port and the link north would provide coal and supplies to booming industries and limestone in the opposite direction, hence its nickname The Black and White. By 1797 a lock-less 42-mile section of the canal was constructed from Preston to Tewitfield. John Rennie was the engineer.  The extension to Kendal was completed in 1810 and a spur to Glasson Dock added in 1826. Passenger traffic on this section was much quicker than stage coach.  The southern link was complicated by the River Ribble, a tramway was built across it to gain access to the  Leeds – Liverpool system and thus an aqueduct was never built. As trade declined the last cargo was transported in 1947. The canal at its southern end now terminates in Ashton basin with a section lost in Preston’s housing. At the northern end the canal terminates effectively at Tewitfield locks as the M6 has disrupted further progress, a short-sighted but economical decision. The line of the canal can be followed northwards to Kendal.  This whole isolated canal was finally connected to the rest of the English canal network in 2002 by the opening of the Ribble Link.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lancaster_Canal

https://www.lctrust.co.uk/the-canal/history

 

 

EASTER DISTRACTIONS ON THE GUILD WHEEL.

The garage where I bought my car from last year lies on The Guild Wheel circuit. When I phoned to arrange the yearly service I was surprised the appointment, they have become very clinical in garages, was on Easter Monday, so rather than waste the day in went the bike. The receptionist, very clinical, was taken aback by my Lycra and helmet and doubted I would be back within the 2 hours the service would take. I set off on the Wheel in an anticlockwise direction and after a couple of miles I was investigating the lock gates from the Ribble into Preston docks when a familiar voice caught my ear and there was one of my sons and his partner cycling the opposite way. They were visiting from Manchester and doing a quick circuit before dining with family. I was invited to join them and soon was retracing my ride past the garage I had left a short while ago. I meant to mention that this garage is part of a multi motor showroom complex – there are cars and salesmen everywhere.

The day was cool and dry, we made good progress around the northern half of the Wheel. I managed to keep up with their youthful pace but was glad of a coffee stop in, say it quietly, Starbucks.That reminded me of a picture I took in Bethlehem a couple of years ago.

Onwards and down through the woods at Redscar where the bluebells were just colouring up. Now the fact it was Easter Monday hit home as all the way through Brockholes the path was thronged with families enjoying the sunshine. Slow progress. The pace quickened on the stretch by the river and after that my companions took a different route up into Preston. From here the crowds thickened again and I realised it was the famousegg rolling day in Avenham Park so it was simpler and safer to dismount and walk with the crowds. There was a great party atmosphere – egg-rollers, fair goers, music and dance entertainment and general family happiness. I tarried to absorb it all.

Even after leaving the park the route through the docks was thronged with people, the steam train was running. I arrived back at the garage after three hours to collect my car, complete with its clinical diagnostic sheet. I complemented the receptionist on their efficiency and enthused how easily I fitted the cycle into the boot.

Everyone seemed happy on this sunny Easter Monday.

A PRESTON PARKS WALK.

Preston was at the forefront of providing Municipal Parks in the 19th century with forward thinking from its Elders, Several of the developments where enhanced by using local unemployed cotton workers  during the Cotton Famine due to the American Civil War in the 1860’s.  In Haslam Park last year I remember noticing a forlorn blaze mark denoting a Preston Seven Parks Walk and I made a mental note for a future winter walk. The forecast was good for Saturday, most of my walking activities are governed by the forecast these days, so Friday night I did some Internet research with little success. The seven parks were mentioned but nowhere was there any detailed route information so out came the 1:25,000. The first thing I noted was that there were nine obvious parks in Preston, although one, Farringdon Park, was in fact a cemetery, so my objective changed and I wanted to also include Fishwick Bottoms, a green area, arguably a tenth.

A clockwise route was devised with hopefully as little street walking as possible taking me to parts of the city I had never explored. Some areas have a bad reputation, rightly or wrongly and I wanted to complete those in the morning rather than potentially in the dusk.

Deepdale Sainsburys was a good parking spot and after a heavy shower I set off at about 10am down the delivery bay of the supermarket – it was going to be one of those walks. Gates took me into Brookfield Linear Park and a path followed a little stream, Eaves Brook, through a narrow green strip in Holme Slack. As a result of being so close to housing the amount of rubbish and burnt out debris was disappointing.

Strange fruit.

Strange fruit.

Familiar roads, Cromwell and Ribbleton, were crossed and a bit of scrambling took me into Grange Park. This was much more extensive and at the far end next to the motorway were remains of formal gardens which were better maintained. The park was developed in the grounds of Ribbleton Hall whose foundations have been restored. From the motorway bridge I could have followed tracks to Brockholes nature reserve and then the Guild Wheel to the central parks but I wanted to visit the next three hereabouts. So turning away from the noisy motorway a stroll down the estate took me to Farringdon Park which is the city’s cemetery. Paths weaved between the gravestones, these paths apparently being laid out as a butterfly only visible from above. Rows and rows of sombre ornate Victorian headstones lined the path,  more arresting was an area given over to children’s graves. These were colourful with mementos of the lost childhoods but very distressing to witness. There are other areas of this park I would like to explore including a Muslim and Jewish burial areas. I emerged onto the road adjacent to Ribbleton Park which is mainly recreational with football pitches, bowls and children play grounds. Crossing over to the Fishwick estate I found a path dropping down to a large open recreational field in Fishwick Bottoms and then skirting the notorious Callon estate following a lane down again to join the Guild Wheel to Walton Bridge. A better way would have been to enter the Fishwick Nature Reserve linking to the same place but I was unaware of its existence, next time.

Fishwick fields - not a drug runner in sight.

Fishwick fields – not a drug runner in sight.

The familiar riverside track led into Avenham Park with its open aspect and popular cafe …

Avenham Park

Avenham Park

then Miller Park, more ornate with terracing, statue, bandstand  and fountain. The large brick building towering over Miller Park was formerly a the Midland Hotel serving Preston railway station and now used as council offices. Both these parks have had a lot of money spent on them in the last few years to bring them back to their former glory and in today’s sunshine were extremely popular.

Miller Park - ignore the ugly council block top left.

Miller Park – ignore the ugly council block top left.

To reach my next objective I continued on The Guild Wheel along the river into Preston docks, now marina, stopping off at the welcome cafe. A short section of road walking and I was in  Ashton Park again a more open space surrounding the old hall. The  playground seemed to have an entertaining variety of equipment for young and old.Crossing the busy Blackpool Road a short street gave access under the railway and Tom Benson Way [more of him later]  into Haslam Park. The pasture land for Haslam Park was the gift of Mary, daughter of John Haslam, a local cotton mill owner, the park opened in 1910. As I entered from the south there were acres of parkland with Tulketh Mill in the background, a reminder of the cotton trade which brought so much prosperity to the city and helped establish the parks I’m visiting. The Savick Brook runs through the park which also has a lake and large recreational spaces. The water for the lake cascades down an artificial grotto from the Lancaster Canal above.

Haslam Park with the iconic Tulketh Cotton Mill in the background.

Haslam Park with the iconic Tulketh Cotton Mill in the background.

 

The towpath of the canal helped me cross Preston towards my last park. Chatting to a man tending his canalside garden he alerted me to the presence of a Kingfisher which I later luckily saw rapidly disappearing under Blackpool Road. A few back to back streets and I was entering through the prominent gates into Moor Park which has a long and interesting history detailed  here.  [The observatory has recently been upgraded by the university,] Today the sunshine had brought lots of people into the park. I walked around the lake and past Deepdale Stadium, Preston were playing away today, down Tom Finney Way and into Flintoff Way and my car. The latter two along with Tom Benson [see link above] complete Preston’s sporting heroes trio.

This 12 mile circuit of these parks shows to varying degrees how green spaces enhance the city providing recreational facilities for all as well as suitable animal and plant habitats. My only fear is what will be their condition in a few more years of our cash starved council? I am sure they will not be developing this circuit as a Preston Ten Parks Walk.

 

 

Preston Guild Wheel again.

In my last post I mentioned there were a few issues with the ‘Wheel’ but as we were in the Xmas season of goodwill I left them till now. Today has been bright, sunny and freezing with no wind – perfect for another circuit to keep the momentum going. Well wrapped up I cycled from Longridge thus adding an extra ten miles to my clockwise route. Brockholes nature reserve was busy with family parties strolling around and serious telescope wielding birders. There did seem to be a lot of wildlife on the lakes. Onwards again in the parks families were enjoying the good holiday weather. This brings me to the first issue, that of sharing the ‘path’, there are a multitude of users – cyclists, strollers, pram pushers, dog walkers, joggers. On social media there have been unfavourable comments directed at cyclists for their selfish and at times dangerous behaviour. The main issue being speed. I must admit on my visits the majority of cyclists proceed in an orderly manner with due respect to pedestrians. There are only a few head down speedsters. Being old fashioned I have a bell on the bike and use it when approaching walkers as a warning, this seems to work well and we all pass happily. My grumble here is that a significant number of walkers are plugged in to some sound system, don’t hear and tend to stumble into your track becoming a danger to all. Touché.

The Guild Wheel has been a great success as a recreational route since its inauguration in  2012

For walkers and cyclists it is mainly traffic free but recent developments are threatening its viability. There are several new housing developments in the northern section which will, apart from the inevitable loss of open countryside, increase traffic on the presently quiet lanes. Local residents are as much up in arms as the Guild Wheel users. I believe that sections of ‘cycle to school’ lanes are also affected.                                                                                                                      In another area the construction of The Broughton By-pass cuts right across the Wheel and endangers users. I have not seen the proposals for pedestrians and cyclists on its completion.   It is interesting to read correspondence between Guild Wheel campaigners and our political representatives on the County Council. I will leave it to your interpretation as to whom to believe, time will  tell. There is a petition to sign if you have strong views.

Back home warming up in the bath I’ve a warm glow of satisfaction from today’s ride – physical and mental – long may it remain possible.