6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Lancashire Life today click here

Preston Guild Wheel - it's not just Bradley Wiggins creating a cycling legacy in Lancashire

PUBLISHED: 13:23 24 September 2012 | UPDATED: 12:59 01 June 2016

The route by Broughton College

The route by Broughton College

Since the Olympics, more and more of us are getting fit on two wheels. Martin Pilkington joins them on a new Lancashire cycle route

Signposts for Preston Guild Wheel Signposts for Preston Guild Wheel

It’s not only the Olympics that leave a legacy – the Preston Guild could have future generations of Lancastrians following in the tyre-tracks of gold medallists like Burnley’s Steven Burke and Bolton’s Jason Kenny.

This bequest comes in the shape of The Guild Wheel, a circular cycling and walking route which links tracks, footpaths and bridleways around Preston’s perimeter to form a 21 mile circuit.

The original idea came from Peter Ward, of the Preston Cycling Liaison Group, and Alan Waters was the man chosen to make it happen. He was seconded as project manager from the global engineering company, Jacobs.

Alan and I begin at Bluebell Way near M6 junction 31a. Soon we take what was once a railway line, the first reminder of the continuity of change. Once across Longridge Road we ride along the shady to the new Pope Lane nature reserve, until recently a waterlogged playing field. Then down the only really big hill in the 21-mile circuit, through Boilton Wood – unless you’re an Olympian it’s best to go clockwise because of that.

Avenham Park pavilion Avenham Park pavilion

‘Most of the funding came from Lancashire County Council which gave us £1.9 million with additional sources bringing the total up to £2.7 million,’ Alan explains. ‘Sustrans (the charity which pioneered the safer routes concept in the UK) provided money towards improvement work between Broughton College and Cottam to make it a school-route for pupils.

Barton Grange Garden Centre supplied some free help with landscaping; and we’ve had funding from the Primary Care Trust because of the health improvement implications.’ Improved access to various woodlands also brought cash from the Forestry Commission.

Beyond Boilton comes another example of how our environment is changing, and for the better: Brockholes Wetland Reserve, former quarries now lakes attracting wildlife and families. The views here are splendid as we rush towards the Ribble, possibly the prettiest section, the path hugging the river for two miles. Fly-fishermen, intent on their sport, are oblivious to our progress.

Further evidence of positive change comes with a stop at Avenham Park. Bikes secured we drink tea outside the fine new Pavilion, proof that modern architecture can be both human and beautiful. Bridges punctuate the river vista in both directions.

Cyclists on the new Windermere route Cyclists on the new Windermere route

Through the Docklands – offices and flats where once cargo ruled – then along and across Blackpool road via the cycle-friendly bridge, from which viewpoint Alan indicates an unexpected benefit of the scheme, an orchard planted with linked funding.

To our right is another legacy project, linking the Ribble with the Lancaster Canal and us with the Victorians. ‘We had good cooperation from British Waterways, doing bank reinforcement where the route follows Lancaster Canal’s Millennium Link section,’ says Alan.

‘This is very much a community project – the Probation Service provided support and we had conservation volunteers clearing paths. The challenge for the future will be maintaining the route, stopping greenery encroaching on paths. That needs community involvement. The city council has funding in its maintenance budget now, but money is tight so volunteer efforts will be invaluable.’

There is hardly a soul all the way along the canal-side, strange given how leafy and quiet it is, a wonderful place to walk as well as ride a bike.
Once past the canal we head north through parts of the quiet suburb of Cottam that I never knew existed, including the lovely ponds.

Alan, left, explaining the route to a cyclist Alan, left, explaining the route to a cyclist

After Cottam it’s over the M55 on a bridge where the Highways Agency has agreed to raise the parapets for safety, one of the more significant parts of the project. ‘The biggest challenges have not been civil engineering ones but obtaining the licences and permissions necessary to change the use of paths, or the routes,’ he says.

We cycle down the shared pathway along the A6 from Broughton to D’Urton Lane, one of the few road sections where you can for a moment – with care - be Bradley Wiggins. About 80 per cent of the way is off-road, the rest generally on quiet back-roads - then turn right into the delightfully named Midgery Lane, a misnomer as it’s more path than lane. This is the last section, mostly parkland with a few short slopes that at the end of a 21-mile ride feel like Mont Ventoux for the peloton.

For Kenny, Burke or Murray the route would not be physically challenging. Those less accustomed to exercise may prefer to take it, like the Tour de France, in stages. This unfit cyclist will certainly be returning, though with a more comfortable saddle. Least said!

You don’t need to be Bradley

The bridges at Avenham The bridges at Avenham

Bradley Wiggins, the Eccleston Olympian, says his favourite training route is 130 miles and takes in Clitheroe, Waddington Fell, Kirkby Lonsdale and Cockerham Sands.

He’s not alone in his love of Lancashire’s byways. We have some of the country’s best locations for cyclists with hundreds of routes, through urban areas and across some stunning scenery, such as the Forest of Bowland and Gisburn Forest.

There are several websites providing maps and routes for you to try out. We’d recommend the Lancashire section of www.cycle-route.com and the Lancashire county council website. You can also get a detailed map of the Guild Wheel at http://www.prestonguild2012.com/guild-wheel


More from Out & About

Yesterday, 00:00

Hearty breakfasts and delicious dinners are just two reasons for walking in this stunning area, as John Lenehan discovers

Read more
Bowland Walks
Yesterday, 00:00

There are few finer thing than exploring the countryside surrounding the many rivers situated across the county.

Read more
Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Victoria Smith always loved horses but her high pressure job meant she had little time to ride – until she met a deer in the Forest of Bowland

Read more
Monday, May 14, 2018

Developments underway and planned around the city are celebrating its proud heritage and building for the future

Read more
Wednesday, May 9, 2018

For almost 25 years, outdoor writers and photographers Dennis and Jan Kelsall have produced guides and articles covering many of the country’s popular walking destinations. Here, Dennis picks five of his favourites.

Read more
Friday, May 4, 2018

Ramsbottom is well known for its food and drink scene, but Rebekka O’Grady meets some arty residents that will inspire your creative side.

Read more
Thursday, May 3, 2018

A devastating riding accident may have saved Katherine Beaumont from a life of anxiety and stress. Now she is sharing her experience.

Read more

A unique community musical in Wigan is taking one of George Orwell’s most famous works from the page to the stage and making a song and dance about social inequality.

Read more

When photographer Emma Campbell fell in love with Lakeland’s fell ponies she decided to raise their profile with a special project.

Read more
Equestrian photography
Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Our walking guide John Lenehan takes us on a towpath where you can see one of Lancashire’s great engineering feats.

Read more
Canals Chorley
Monday, April 9, 2018

A selection of walks in and around Bowland for outdoor types who like to end their hike on a high note – with some great food and drink.

Read more
Monday, April 9, 2018

From specialist soap to awarding winning ale, Staveley is proving to be a magnet for small businesses and visitors

Read more
Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The joy of spotting owls is described by The Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s Alan Wright who tells us where to find them and how to identify these elusive creatures.

Read more
Monday, April 2, 2018

It stretches the length of the Liverpool suburb, and over the years has hosted many shops and businesses. Rebekka O’Grady chats to those who currently call it home

Read more
Great British Holidays advert link

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Subscribe or buy a mag today

Local Business Directory

Lancashire's trusted business finder

Job search in your local area

Property Search