The May Day weekend sunshine had sent temperatures up over 24 Celsius and while a trip to the Lakes was certainly appealing, the idea of busy motorways as the crowds made their way to
|The cycle path along the Ribble Valley|
Blackpool and Bowness was not; so a day (or a half day) out on the bike was decided upon instead. My chosen route was to be the Cuerden Valley cycle path which when combined with the Old Tramroad route gives an almost entirely traffic free 10km ride to Preston where one can turn around and ride back or continue on the Guild Wheel (NCN Route 622 the Preston Circular).
In my case though, not wishing to drive at all, I opted to ride from Blackburn along the Leeds Liverpool Canal towpath to the bridge a half mile after the Top Lock Pub where the canal is left and a short ride down the lane to the right brings you to the start of the Cuerden Valley route at Whittle le Woods. Follow the lane downhill under the motorway and cross the A6. Follow Kem Mill Lane opposite and take a left on Factory Lane after some houses. The car park and entrance to Cuerden Valley Park is there.
|The park at the end of the Tramroad route|
From here as previously mentioned you can ride back the way you came or join the Preston Guild Wheel - a ride of 21 miles that circumnavigates the city to arrive back here. My own choice was to head eastward for 4 miles along this (marked on the blue signs as Route 622 and "Guild Wheel") as far as the nature reserve of Brockholes (itself worth a visit) before crossing the Ribble again at the Brockholes access bridge near the M6 junction 31 and following the lanes back to the canal at Riley Green. There I was back on the towpath to head home 31 miles after starting.
Most of this route is suitable for family cycling though the lanes from Brockholes are on road and climb about 140m (450 feet) from the Ribble Valley, while with the canal towpath there is always the chance someone will end up in the water though I have always managed to remain on the path myself. The best section (in my opinion) is the Ribble Valley to Brockholes though it's all a good ride. Have a look at the short video below which shows the Cuerden Valley route and the Ribble Valley. A ride along part of the Leeds Liverpool Canal is shown on the second clip.