I visited some friends in Flint-shire this weekend. I set off on the Brompton catching the 8:40 Liverpool, full of smartly dressed people clutching boxes of Budweiser and heading for the Aintree Iron. De-training at Stockport, I caught the Cheshire Lines service. The last time I got this it was a crowded Pacer and not very comfortable, but this time it was a 3-car Sprinter and OK. This train takes a crafty route to get to Altrincham, the most direct route having been taken over by Metrolink, but after that heads across the plains towards that most Roman of Northern cities.
I’d taken the millennium greenway before out of Chester and knew it was a great route so resolved to do it again. The Shropshire Union canal heading north links up with it, and then it’s a straight shot out to the Hawarden Bridge to cross the Dee. Following my nose I used the Liverpool – Wrexham line as a route guide and headed up a narrow lane that was closed for patching – clearly there had been some flood damage around here. Climbing the hill got me to my friend’s house.
That afternoon we headed back down the hill and crossed the bridge again to visit the Wirral. This is an area I hadn’t visited before and it was a very pleasant surprise. On the north side of the Dee estuary, you cross a bird sanctuary on a raised walkway and follow the route to Park Head.
There’s a great pub called the Harp and fish’n’chips to be had.It was a spring tide so there was water right up to the shore, unusually.
Later on we visited the hostelries in Hawarden, ancestral home of the Gladstones.
The next Morning after a leisurely breakfast over cycling chat, I headed in the Homeward direction. Sadly the wind had got up and was not in my favour, but nevertheless I was determined to follow the River Dee into Chester. The city is blessed with two traffic-free routes into Wales, the disused railway and the river path and both are excellent quality. They also join up to make a great oval route for a leisure ride and many people were taking advantage of that.
They also form part of the North Wales coast cycle route. Today, however, it was heavy going with that blasting headwind slowing me down considerably. In these circumstances it is best to treat the headwind like a very long uphill climb, select a gear you feel comfortable in and pootle along – trying to fight the wind and go faster will just wear you out.
Rather than head for Chester Station, however, I had resolved to cycle through the city and head east towards the forest of Delamere. It’s easy to switch from the river to the Greenway in Chester – just head for the canal
The Greenway continues through the city – I had spotted it from the train on the way in – so with a short diversion to the retail park for provisions I carried on through. As well as the Greenways, Chester has a network of off-road paths that are of reasonable quality. Other attraction such as the Zoo are linked from the Greenway.
There has been a spate of pics on social media comparing a UK muddy track with an excellent Dutch cycle route – this amongst many other projects across the UK show that not all our bike routes are like that.
The Greenway ends at the former junction with the live railway east of the city and you have to take the roads. NCN5 had veered off somewhere – I’m not quite sure where. There is a section on an A-road but this was not busy – the area has plenty of motorways and dual carriageways as well. Then it’s back onto the lanes.
Beyond Mouldsworth there’s a short climb into Delamere forest, I found a back route in, but the area of forest I found myself in is the MTB Skills area, with steep banks and very muddy tracks that had been churned up by the MTB’ers, so hard going on the Brompton. I climbed out of that however, crossed the road and used a hard track to get to Delamere station which is on the south side of the forest. Trains on only once every two hours on Sundays and I had an hour to wait, but there is a station cafe so I was able to while away the time with a cup of tea and Piece of Bakewell. In time for the Durrells, Undercover and even Indian Summers on +1!
Back in Sheffield, I noticed the new pocket park that has emerged in the CIQ next to the Matilda building.
These little parks collect back-filling water in times of flood, allowing it to drain away later.