After days of constant rain and winds there was a good weather window on Sunday morning. I took advantage of it and went for a local bike ride. Having moved to a new area recently I'm still exploring new local routes. My favourite cycle route around here is the Roe Green Loopline from Monton to Walkden. It is the best quality off road cycle route I have ever used. The surface is wide enough that people and cyclists don't get in each others way. It is perfect for hybrid bikes, mountain bikes and even road bikes. The way they have converted the old railway line route is the finest example of its kind you are likely to see. The path is raised above the surrounding floor allowing surface water to easily drain away into the purpose built drainage. The entire route is flanked with stunning trees giving it a really wild feel despite its suburban location.
I have been planning a circular route from home encompassing the Roe Green Loopline. Another converted old railway line which links up with the Roe Green Loopline is the Linnyshaw Loopline. This is a much shorter route but conveniently joins the Roe Green Loopline at its western end. Combining these routes completes half of a twelve mile circular route I can do from home. The Linnyshaw Loopline also passes through Blackleach Country Park. This allows a half way rest at the stunning Blackleach Reservoir. I read online recently that the second phase of the Linnyshaw Loopline upgrade was nearing completion. This would be ideal as it involves the creation of a new entrance to the loopline's eastern end from the A6 Manchester Road which passes the end of our road.
I set off in glorious sunshine on Sunday morning. I headed towards Walkden from Swinton on the A6 Manchester Road. One thing I do like about a local weekend ride is the lack of backpack. It is such a sense of freedom after commuting with a rucksack all week. The lack of weight on your back and no sweaty back. As it was early Sunday morning there was hardly anyone around. I got a bit of a shock when passing the Red Lion pub at Wardley. A man dressed head to toe in a Santa costume was doing the walk of shame along the road.
I reached the old railway bridge where I knew the Linnyshaw Loopline railway once passed under. I crossed the road to where I had hoped to see a new entrance and signage. Sadly neither were there. There was a large metal fence half way across the original entrance which I presumed was put there to temporarily prevent access whilst the upgrade work was being carried out. I was curious so I made my way down the old muddy footpath entrance. The good news is that once you are down on the route itself the path has been completely upgraded to that point. It is just the entrance work that remains. I cycled along the new section which has been done to a really good standard. The same metal fencing was in place at the Moss Lane entrance at the western end of the second phase.
I continued along the existing Linnyshaw Loopline section to reach Blackleach Reservoir. I stopped for a rest and to take in the stunning views. Blackleach Country Park is often justifiably described as a hidden gem. It is a great place to stop mid-ride. The reservoir is teeming with birdlife all year round. After taking a few photos I continued along the Linnyshaw Loopline. Where the loopline route crosses the A575 Worsley Road I noticed some new signage. The design looked excellent. One of the problems I have found in the past with signage on cycle routes is that annoyingly people mess with them and turn them to point in the wrong direction. These signs looked great as they couldn't be turned and were on top of a fairly tall inaccessible pole.
The route then passes through an area called Ashton's Field. Once the site of a colliery, this area is steeped in fascinating industrial history. Instead of racing through here I highly recommend reading the information boards. There are several paths through Ashton's Field. This would normally be confusing. However what has been done here is great. They have purposely painted the cycle route red to make it obvious. I cycled past four large metallic blue canal lock gates. What is interesting though is that there is no canal. It turns out the lock gates are actually an ornamental tribute to underground canals that pass under Ashton's Field. When James Brindley built the Bridgewater Canal in the eighteenth century to transport coal from the Duke of Bridgewater's mines in nearby Worsley, he also built miles of underground canals and it just so happens that some of these pass under Ashton's Field.
After Ashton's Field the loopline route crosses the A5082 Buckley Lane to Amblecote playing fields. Whilst following the route along the left side of the fields I came across a friendly Squirrel who ran alongside me for a while as I cycled slowly. After the last playing field there is a junction of paths. Here I headed left joining the Roe Green Loopline. One thing I absolutely love about the Roe Green Loopline when cycled from north to south is that it is downhill all the way. There are lots of sculptures along the paths here that have been designed by local primary school children.
Roe Green Loopline
Almost immediately after the first road bridge, which is the A5082 Cleggs Lane, I spotted three huge pipes overhead. This is the Thirlmere Aqueduct that carries millions of litres of water from Thirlmere Reservoir ninety six miles way in the Lake District to Manchester. It is the longest gravity-fed aqueduct in the world. If you have time check out the Hidden Manchester website for more information, especially their interactive Hidden Manchester Map. I have just discovered that the aqueduct actually passed under my old road in Eccles. The aqueduct crosses the path again a little further on after passing under the A6 and before the ramps up to the Parsonage Road crossing.
The downhill cycle back to Monton on the Roe Green Loopline through the wooded areas of Worsley was as fantastic as it always is. I had to slow down as there were now a lot of people out walking their dogs. If you want to see just how good the Roe Green Loopline is for yourself drive to Monton, park up at the car park and cycle the four and a half miles to Amblecote Playing Fields and back again.