Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Burton-upon-Trent from Derby

There are several possible cycling routes between Derby and Burton and all involve crossing the River Trent by one of the bridges, notably at Willington or Swarkestone, or by crossing the River Dove via the  A38 trunk road at Clay Mills.
The most direct and scenic route is by the National Cycle Network Route 54 which goes through Mickleover, Etwall, Egginton and Stretton. There is a cycle path alongside the A38 all the way from the Findern roundabout to Stretton, but cycling a few feet away from oncoming 40 tonne artics is not much fun, although inevitable for a short distance on the recommended route.
So NCN Route 54 it is, and we can pick this up in the centre of Derby at Exeter Bridge, being well signed though the city streets out to Mackworth and Mickleover, following the old GNR railway route off-road for five miles to Egginton Junction Bridge on the A5132 road between Hilton and Willington.

 Mickleover Station ahead here from Station Road where there is a good car park. Note that NCN Route 68 (The Pennine Cycleway) is co-incident with Route 54 for over 3 miles)

 For the five miles to Egginton the path is scenic and traffic free, with a fairly good flat surface.

 At this point, alongside the A516 bridge (see below), route 68 diverges, going straight on towards Ashbourne, and we turn left going beneath both the A516 tunnel and Sutton Lane Bridge.

                   This is the A516 tunnel.  To the right here NCN Route 68 goes on to Ashbourne.

 The path again diverges on the other side of the tunnel, Route 54 on the right goes over Sutton Lane Bridge and into Etwall village. We take Route 549 which is off-road for another 1.5 miles and goes beneath Sutton Lane Bridge (see below).  The two routes meet again between Etwall and Egginton.

                                                          Sutton Lane Bridge.

                                          This tunnel takes us beneath the A50 trunk road.
   And here is Five Mile Gate, exactly five miles from Mickleover Station, with the chimney of what once was Egginton Dairy, and is now an engineering works.

   Turn towards the level crossing on the A5132. The old Egginton Station is to the right here just out of shot.

 We turn right at these cross roads back onto NCN Route 54 which runs between Etwall (left) and Egginton (right).

                                   Crossing Egginton Brook and into the village of Egginton.

                                 The A38 trunk road lies ahead as we leave Egginton village.

 Turn right here onto the right hand pavement, a shared path adjacent to the A38. Not by any means ideal for pedestrians or cyclists, but the only way to cross the River Dove.

Face the oncoming 70mph traffic as we cross the River Dove at Clay Mills, this being the boundary between Derbyshire and Staffordshire.

 To our right the River Dove flowing to it's confluence with the River Trent at Newton Solney just a short distance away.

 Cross the Stretton road here, watching out for traffic coming off the A38 slip road to the left.

....... and proceed on the pavement (shared path) to cross the bridge over the A38 trunk road.

       Then cross the slip road which leads onto the A38 South. Watch out for traffic from the left here.

           Now onto the traffic free path which leads down to the Trent and Mersey Canal. Dismount here, for the steps are steep and totally unsuitable for cycles. There is a wheeling ramp is on the left of the steps going down, but this slopes at 45 degrees. A poor set up not designed or approved by anyone who has ever ridden a bicycle. A total block for tandems, trailers, wheelchairs or the disabled.

The Trent and Mersey Canal is now in sight with the winding cycle path following the waterway for some distance.

                                On reaching the road ahead we turn left heading back towards the canal.

                                           Straight on at junctions in this housing estate.

 But here, with the canal bridge ahead (marked X) we turn right onto the tarmac path which leads down to the West bank of the canal.

                                                                    Follow the path.

                                                  And here is the canal.

                                        More houses, but a clear and well marked route.

 We cross this bridge to access the East bank of the canal and Burton lies to the left here, so accessible from any of the bridges which cross the canal.

                                               NCN Route 54 continues on towards Lichfield................

with a nicely painted Sustrans milepost............

and markers for the Kingfisher Nature Trail which runs alongside the towpath,

This nicely designed and maintained area is the South end of the Kingfisher Trail where NCN Route 63 goes off left through Burton towards Swadlincote and the National Forest, whilst Route 54 goes across the bridge to Shobnall Fields towards Lichfield, running parallel to the A38 road and the T&M Canal.

                                        View looking Northwards along the canal.

Alternative Return Route
Since we are on the towpath of the Trent and Mersey Canal, there is the option of riding this through to Willington, Findern, Stenson or even Swarkestone, and although traffic free it is not an easy ride, especially when the path is wet and in places muddy. However in dry conditions, and on a mountain bike, it is a viable proposition.
Initially the canal runs close by the busy A38 and the traffic noise is horrendous, but as we approach Willington the two diverge and sanity returns. Also Willington has more than it's share of public houses together with cafes at Mercia Marina, so a good place for rest and refreshment.

                                                              Canalside cottage.

 Some interesting historical artifacts here as this is an aquaduct which carries the T &M Canal over the River Dove and (marked X) is a WW2 "pillbox", a re-enforced octagonal concrete gun emplacement sited to (hopefully) defend the canal and river from German invasion forces.

Behind the pillbox is Monk's Bridge, the original road bridge across the River Dove, and behind that (not visible here) lies the modern bridge carrying the A38 trunk road.

                                                     A quiet stretch of the canal.

                                        More moorings as we approach Willington
And here we are at Willington. Note that Mercia Marina is not accessible from the right bank, but only from the road on the left which runs parallel to the canal.
From the Marina, cycle through Findern (on road) to Mickleover and Littleover.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Leicester to Watermead Park

This is a short ride of about 7 miles, following the River Soar NE from Leicester City Centre and what it lacks in distance, is more than made up for with lots of interesting places to visit along the way.  The route is flat, mainly traffic free and the path has a good tarmac surface. There are many lakes besides the River and the Grand Union Canal.
From Derby there are several options for travelling to the start at Abbey Park.
If you have a folding bike and a bus pass, the Skylink bus is favourite, although the journey is long,  as  the bus goes via East Midlands Airport and stops at most of the villages on the way.
Train is quite a good option since there is a  frequent service between Derby and Leicester.
Finally, travel by car is pretty direct and parking facilities are good in Abbey Park or nearby.
Directional signing to Abbey Park is good.

We start the ride in Abbey Park at the cafe adjacent to the fine stone bridge which spans the River Soar.

                                    Entrance to Abbey Park.  There are other entrances.

             A map of the park, which justifies a a ride around it before we commence the ride proper.

    See the boating lake.

               And there are lots of fine trees in the park and tarmac paths on which cycling is permitted.

                                      The cafe is across this fine multi-arched stone bridge.

 There is a good choice of food and drinks at the cafe which occupies the ground floor of this building.

 In front of the cafe is this (non too flattering) statue of Cardinal Wolsey, who died at the Abbey in 1530 and is buried in the grounds. The statue is of no historical significance, being funded in recent years by the company Wolsey who make knitted garments such as socks, and pullovers.

 The path ahead has the River Soar on the right, and behind the wall on the left are the remains of the Abbey after which the park is named.

 The route is well signed but confusing regarding the route numbers.  Route 1 is peculiar to Leicester whilst Routes 6 and 48 are National Cycle Network numbers.

                    Soon we see the National Space Centre, well worth spending a few hours here.

And the Abbey Pumping Station, now a comprehensive industrial museum, also worth a lengthy visit.
This is the rear of he building and the entrance is off the A6 road. Turn left at next road crossing.

                                 The well surfaced path meanders through woods.

 The River Soar is never far away and there are several small bridges crossing the tributaries...........

                                         ..........and tantalising views of the many lakes.

There are plenty of  paths off the main route and these lead to other parts of Watermead Park.

Take this sharp hairpin bend which leads to the Grand Union Canal towpath.

                The Grand Union Canal Marina at Thurmaston

This artwork is one of the Sustrans Portrait Benches which are representations of historical local characters, in this case ancient inhabitants who seem to fancy a nice steak for dinner.

                 Also a reminder of the woolly mammoth whose remains were found hereabouts.

Since there are some many possible routes around the various lakes, the riverside and the canal. there follows a selection of photographs taken at various places.

For more information on Watermead Park click Here