This was our urban day. It is necessary to ride through a conurbation of some 50 miles leaving rural Cheshire behind to cross the River Mersey and continue north to Preston after which it is business as usual, the wonderful, diverse, rural landscapes that we have been enjoying every day so far.
The weather was the same again – cool, sunny, sparkly, blue sky and a brisk headwind from the North.
Yesterday we made inroads into today’s mileage leaving only 48 miles of rippling roads to do.
We had been well looked after at our overnight stop with Jennie and her family. We had a leisurely start to the day and returned to the rural idyll that is Delamere Forest and started riding at 10:30. No jackets required again.
The first 7 miles to Frodsham gently undulated through the attractive Cheshire countryside. We took a last long view at the green fields with the cooling towers looming ahead to the north.
We enjoyed a swift descent into Frodsham which is quite a large and probably once rural town. We were immediately enveloped by the traffic on the A56. This was a bit of a shock as since leaving Lands End we have avoided busy roads. We hurtled into the mayhem that is the interchange of the M56, A533 and A557 and found our way out onto the A557 heading towards the Runcorn Bridge.
We found ourselves on a very busy dual carriageway and really didn’t want to be there so we climbed over a fence and found our route through a surprisingly affluent leafy suburb passing the splendid Runcorn Golf Club.
After a couple of miles we caught a glimpse of the bridge. We were freewheeling downhill and round a bend to find ourselves in 3 lanes of traffic merging into 2, with a slip road and more traffic coming in from behind. There seemed to a disproportionate number of buses. But we were all going the same direction and it was a case of hold your nerve and hold your line. When planning I had wrongly assumed there would have been a cycle/pedestrian path but we didn’t see it. The bridge was built for 2 lanes of traffic between 1956 and 1961 and now there are 2 narrow lanes for vehicles in each direction. It was fabulous riding over the bridge and the highlight of the day. Very memorable. I was pleased we had timed our crossing of the bridge to miss the rush hour.
Once across the Mersey, on the Widnes side, we quickly found our route heading north to St. Helens.
As we cycled along into St Helens I spotted a large white phallus to our right. It is a sculpture built on an old spoil tip at Sutton Manor Colliery. The Dream is 20 metres high and close up resembles the head and neck of a young girl but from where we were it was definitely a penis. Kept me entertained for a few miles – tittering away to myself!
We passed St Helens RFC new stadium – very impressive and continued in constant heavy traffic through St Helens to Billinge, where although still very urban the traffic was much lighter. We stopped at Billinge Millenium garden and had a sandwich from the nearby shop and had a snooze in the sunshine.
After Orrell we passed under the M6 and wound our way along minor roads to cross the Leeds and Liverpool canal before passing under the M6 again and continuing north on the B5253 through continuous urbanisation to Wrightlington.
After Eccleston we had clearer glimpses of the Pennines to the East and rural pockets were appearing between the towns – so no longer joined up. We even saw some sheep at one point.
It was quite warm in the afternoon and I passed the miles by observing what the locals were wearing. I concluded that there is a correlation between age and the amount of clothes people wear. The young things are out in strappy tops and shorts whereas most people over 40 are sporting hats, gloves and coats and even one older lady in a sheepskin coat.
About 8 miles from Preston all this green nonsense was gone and we were back into fully urban. The GPS led us successfully on a rather convoluted route to our salubrious destination – Preston Travel Lodge.
We really enjoyed today. It was exciting and different and full of interest. We were never short of things to look at even though a lot of the time we were concentrating on staying alive!
Tomorrow we’ll get an early start to be out of Preston on the A6 before the traffic builds up and after a few miles find our route north to Penrith on quieter roads.
The GPX track for today’s ride is here.