I’ve been trading mails with a local blogging cyclist who has recorded some excellent video footage of his rides through a helmet camera. I spotted some scenes from NCN 6 with Darrell pointing out how variable the state of Sustran’s network is. We agreed that the term National Cycle Network raises expectations and also the single digit of our local route might raise it further, however amongst the 12,000 miles of the network Route 6 is equivalent to the A6. Note that it’s likened it to the meandering A6 and not the quicker and more direct M6. I decided to do the Trek test by riding it on my my daily commuter bike rather than my mountain bike. If it’s passable on that then I’m happy that most people should be able to tackle it on a mountain bike.
I coasted down Clifton Road away from the main roads and into the Irwell Valley to pick up NCN Route 6 to head north. There had been some resurfacing around the back of Philips Park, and new tracks keep popping up, so this area has improved over the past couple years. This is all to the chargrin of the local Friends of Prestwich Clough who are happy to see massive investment to the area but want wildlife, flora and fauna protecting. This area is a haunt for scrambling motorbikes so my view is that if more legitimate traffic can be generated, ie cyclists, then the motor vehicles that do far more damage might be driven out. I believe this land is being leased from the local council to the Red Rose Forest so not sure who to contact about signing and maintenance once all the work is complete but I’m hoping that some good wooden signs will mark out NCN 6. I crossed over the M60 and onto the Outwood Trail, a former railway line. This was muddier than I have seen for a while and I did walk a short section to protect my bike (and the wheel rims I had cleaned a few hours earlier) from deeper puddles, but I shouldn’t have bothered to be so careful as further along there were a couple of unavoidable puddles.
A section running under Outwood road was closed off with United Utilities contractors at work but a diversion was signed. The trail then dropped me down into Radcliffe and on road signs lead me through the town centre to the Manchester Bury Bolton canal. This section is owned by British Waterways and although the path is clear the poor canal is full of litter and weeds. I think it was dredged a few years ago but as it’s still water it requires regular clearing and I guess there are more pressing needs for their attention. I left the canal path riding past the sad remains of Benny’s night club to ride past Elton reservoir. This section is privately owned land though there is a public right of way. The NCN 6 signs disappear at this point because the local farmer removes them (from his fences/gateposts) as fast as we put them up. Quite often one missing sign can cause confusion along the route but fortunately there are no junctions along this section and it’s obvious where to go.
The Daisyfield way gives you a fast smooth descent towards Bury then weaves between St Gabriel’s and Bury Grammar Schools to guide you close to the centre of Bury without having to deal with traffic or junctions. The route just north of Bury currently takes you through the busy junctions of Bury Bridge and onto Tottington Road. Instead of this I rode through the Castlecroft area which will be the future route taking you to closer to Burrs country park. After crossing Brandlesholme road there will be a bridge constructed across the Woolfold Gap to link up with the Kirkless trail (another former railway line). Sadly, over 2 years since the decision to start this scheme was made, nothing has happened. Minutes from the Bury Cycle Forum meetings explain that compulsary purchase orders have been served, so it’s happening but obviously it’s a complicated process.
I rode down into the valley on muddy paths and then pushed my bike up the other side which would have been too steep for my mountain bike to handle either. I headed back towards Bury along Tottington road then took a on road route back through Radcliffe to complete a very pleasing though muddy 30k ride.