Thursday, 17 Jan 2019

Cheshire. The most Beautiful Places in England

A bike ride isn’t a bike ride without hills. Well, that’s my excuse for sticking some killer hills in at the end of this one. Most of them aren’t even in Cheshire, but in neighbouring Staffordshire. However, they provide a fantastic view over the Cheshire Plain, one where on a clear day you can trace the route you’ve just ridden by the landmarks you’ve passed. Cheshire is a place of contrasts, swinging from working-class towns like Crewe and Macclesfield to the WAGs’ world of Wilmslow and Knutsford.

Cheshire. The most Beautiful Places in England - photo 1

Cheshire

Congleton is somewhere in between. Respectable now, and edging more into footballer territory as time goes on, it wasn’t at all respectable in the early 17th century. That’s when the locals raided a fund set aside to buy a new Bible and used it to buy a bear – because the one the town had for bear baiting was getting too old. That’s why there’s a bear on the town signs today.The route starts with a gentle climb towards the outskirts of Macclesfield and Alderley Edge. This is where WAG world starts, but it’s also the place where Congleton-born Alan Garner grew up and based some of his children’s fantasy novels. He was inspired by the countryside around the Edge, which is an escarpment with mysterious caves underneath it.

Cheshire. The most Beautiful Places in England - photo 2

Cheshire

David Beckham and Christiano Ronaldo lived in Alderley Edge, as well as numerous TV personalities, and you’ll notice the Ferraris and Aston Martins coming thick and fast for the next few miles. Knutsford has a McLaren showroom, and Wilmslow is so affluent that I counted ten sunglasses shops but not one butcher’s in the town centre. The route skirts the edges of this madness before doing a loop around Tatton Park and heading off to Cheshire’s salt towns.

Cheshire. The most Beautiful Places in England - photo 3

Cheshire

There are huge reserves of salt under Cheshire, with mines so big that lorries drive around in them. Northwich, Middlewich, Nantwich and Winsford all had salt mines, but Middlewich, where food salt is produced, and Winsford, where they mine rock salt for treating icy roads, are the only ones with working salt mines today. The River Weaver, which you follow towards Crewe, was crucial to the salt trade, as it flows into the Mersey near Runcorn. Some say Crewe is the start of the north, and it certainly feels northern. Rolls-Royce cars were made here, and Bentleys still are.

Cheshire. The most Beautiful Places in England - photo 4

Cheshire

It has one of the largest rail junctions in the country, and British Rail’s Crewe works once employed 20,000 people. Crewe’s neighbour Alsager is the start of the hilly last part of this ride. Mow Cop is an experience; you climb straight off the Cheshire Plain in just under a mile of over 11 per cent gradient, and the top bit is well over that. The summit is in Staffordshire, and the view over Cheshire as you ride along what’s called the Staffordshire Gritstone Edge is incredible. There’s Jodrell Bank straight ahead, with busy Manchester Airport behind and the sprawl of Manchester in the distance.

Cheshire. The most Beautiful Places in England - photo 5

Cheshire

That’s Liverpool and the sea to the north-west, the Wirral is just south of it, and then there’s Snowdonia. The next two climbs are part of the Staffordshire Moorlands. Biddulph Moor and Gun Hill, a climb made famous by local professional cyclist Les West, who was unbeaten up this hill in the 1960s and 1970s. The final hill, Croker Hill, is in Cheshire. Look for a conical hill called the Cloud over to your left, another natural feature that fired Alan Garner’s imagination. Take the A536 going north-east out of Congleton, turn left at Warren, then first right and continue straight to the B5087, where you turn left to Alderley Edge.

Cheshire. The most Beautiful Places in England - photo 6

Cheshire

Turn right onto the A34 and second left off it onto the B5085 to Mobberley. Turn right after Mobberley, then left and left again to ride around the edge of Tatton Park. Turn right as you enter Knutsford. Cross the A50, and after the M6 bridge go straight over the A556 onto the B5391. Take the second right, then go right then left to the A559 where you turn left. Turn left onto the A530 and continue south-east to Middlewich.  Turn right onto the A54 and follow this road to Winsford town centre. Turn left onto the B5074 at the roundabout and follow this road to Nantwich. Turn left at the first roundabout onto the A500, and left at the next roundabout onto the A530, and follow this to the hospital on the north-west edge of Crewe.

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Cheshire

Turn right just before the hospital and right onto the B5076, then go straight at the next roundabout and follow this road to Haslington. Go south straight through Haslington, then turn left onto the B5077 to Alsager.  Turn left in Alsager following signs to the Leisure Centre, then turn right after crossing a disused railway. Turn right to Rode Heath and right after crossing the canal, then first right and right again to the A34. Turn left, then second right to climb Mow Cop. Turn left at the top, then right to Biddulph. Continue through Biddulph and Biddulph Moor. Turn left to Rushtonhall, and there turn right to Ryecroft Gate. Cross the A523 and ride straight up Gun Hill. Turn left at the top and go north to Danebridge and Wincle, where you turn right. Then go left onto the A54 over Croker Hill and continue on this road back to Congleton.

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Cheshire

Start + Finish. Cheshire: Congleton.

Getting There. Cheshire: Congleton is on the A34, 12 miles north of Stoke and 20 miles south of Manchester city centre. It has rail links to both.

Bike Shop. Cheshire: The Cycle Store on West Road.

Cafe. Cheshire: Coffee Beans Cafe on Bridge Street.

Local Delicacy. Cheshire: Cheshire cheese.

Cheshire. The most Beautiful Places in England - photo 9

Cheshire

 

“Best 100-Mile Bike Routes”

Chris Sidwells

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