Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The road goes ever on and on...

Well, I did it, eventually.

A late night last night meant I didn't get up until late morning. I had to get some work done on the car and it took a while for this work to be authorised so by the time I was ready to go it was about 1.30 in the afternoon.

I got a few bits and bobs, and made sure the bike was roadworthy, and off I went to Bidston Station. I missed the half past 2 train by about 3 minutes, which meant I had to wait 57 minutes for the next one.

And so it was around 4pm when I got to Shotton Station and the beginning of the ride.

The route itself was fantastic. Mile after mile of smooth surfaced pavement, well away from any traffic. Outwards, it followed the banks of the river Dee from Shotton to Chester, then I had to ride a few hundred yards on busy city centre streets before joining the canal towpath of the Shropshire Union Canal, and from there to a former railway line that led directly back to my start point.

What really struck me was just how many people were using these cycle lanes. On the former railway line in particular I was encountering other cyclists several times a minute. Deeside Industrial Estate is a major source of employment, and Chester is a major source of employees, so I suppose it should come as no surprise that a wide straight quiet path directly between the two should be well used.

The route is also used by walkers, and there was a well established etiquette in place. Walkers would control their dogs if they had any, and move over to the side of the path. Cyclists would slow down and pass with care.

All quite remarkably good. I enjoyed it, despite becoming increasingly saddlesore.

This is Bidston station. It's a bleak old place, stuck out in the middle of nowhere. I have some bad memories of Bidston station.

A train. Clean, spacious, can carry bicycles. This one has green paint on the handrails and matching headrests. The train I came back on had pink I saw some interesting things out of the window. You get a different perspective to what you get in the car. You see the back sides of everything.

Off the train and away I go.

Over the same rail bridge I just crossed on the train.

And this is the view southwards. The blue cantilever bridge used to carry a huge volume of traffic until it was superceded by another road bridge just a bit further upstream. Legend has it that it was supposed to be opened by The Queen, or some other bigwig, but some local steelworker got fed up of waiting, and pushed under the ribbon and crossed the bridge on his pushbike. I hope this is true.

7 miles. Mostly like this...

I'd promised myself that I'd go through the secret tunnel. It's not really a secret at all. It's just an underpass for the A494 (the big dual carriageway that may have been officially opened by a bloke on a bike) but sometimes, when we were little, my Dad would take us home that way. Though the tunnel and then over the blue bridge. As small children, we thought this was a fine thing, and we would clamour for him to take us that way every time, but fortunately, he seldom did.

Here it is. Woohoo! The Secret Tunnel!!!!

And from there, just a long straight smooth path, all the way to Chester...

as the shadows lengthened... the late afternoon sunshine.

This building is where they make the wings for Airbus A380 superjumbos. The wings, once constructed, are put on barges and floated down the Dee. I was hoping to see one, or possibly one of the strange dolphin like aeroplanes that carry the raw materials to the plant. I saw neither, but I forgive them.

I once was given a guided tour around that factory by the personnel manager (a Mr Dunn if I recall correctly)

As a 12 year old, I was totally and utterly into aeroplanes, and I designed one and sent it off to Brisish Aerospace as it was then. They saw potential and gave me a tour of the factory and a bag full of aviation related goodies. How cool was that???? My school found out about it, and I was hauled out in front of everyone as a shining example of initiative and enterprise. I think I may have been beaten up as a result. Some of the other children sent off their own designs, but none of them got a guided tour.

Intermittent sunshine...

Poppy wreathes on a twig. I don't know if this is anything to do with it's proximity to RAF Sealand. The Dee was seen as having some tactical importance. The floodplains on either side of the river are dotted with pillboxes.

While Chester City Centre is quite posh, some of the outskirts are anything but.

A couple of horses had been tethered by the river bank. They ignored me as I passed. They must see a lot of cyclists.

Finally heading into the city centre. I had one busy road to cross, and a hill to climb before leaving the highway once more...

For the banks of the Shropshire Union Canal.

Looking back towards Telford's Warehouse.

And forward, northbound. As I cycled past the man on the back of the barge on the right, I nodded to him courteously, as if to say "hail, and well met, fellow user of unconventional, non car transport."

He ignored me.

The canal went over a bridge, and I backtracked and went down to the main road, because I needed to be on the other bridge. Down I went, and up the other side. After passing over the bridge, I found that I could have just joined the cycleway further along without any backtracking or upping and downing. Still, it did mean I got to see this...

Now, write it out a hundred times. If it's not done by sunrise, I'll cut your balls off.

 The return journey. 7 more miles of straight smooth traffic free cycle path.

I went to 6th form college in Blacon. Studied Art A level.  Had a 2 hour wait for the bus or a 12 mile bikeride home. I grew to hate the cafeteria of Chester FE college's arts centre.

This part of the trail contained several sculptures. The trio above was probably the best of them.

Onwards...  There were many cyclists on this stretch. By now it was about 5pm so people would have been heading home from work. Possibly from RAF Sealand.

RAF Sealand used to have an aeroplane on a pole outside it. A Hawker Hunter if I remember rightly. We went to an airshow there once. Again, the autistic, obsessive fascination with aeroplanes. All I remember of it is that we were standing on some grass, when suddenly, a Vulcan jet bomber did a low pass with it's afterburners shattering the air. There was no warning. Just a sudden shocking slam of sound and fury, which tapered gradually out, leaving just the howling of scores of bewildered and terrified children.

When we used to live in North Wales, and regularly made the trip along the main road, this bridge wasn't there. Trains don't like gradients, so the track was flat, and the road went over it. If you went fast enough over the bridge, your stomach would feel like it was coming out of your mouth. It's all changed radically over the last 30  years. Not just the infrastructure. The main employer here until the early 80's was heavy industry, particularly the steel works. Then that all went and was replaced mainly by light industry and warehousing. I worked around here for a while, doing agency work. My Grandad worked at the steel works for 30 years or more. Few people stay in a job that long here now.

I take my pupils along this road sometimes. It's a 70mph limit, has a hard shoulder, and has access via free-flowing sliproads. Pretty much as close as I can get them to motorway driving.

Croeso Y Cymru.

A pylon I passed.

The bridge I crossed at the start of the journey. The picture was taken from Harwarden bridge station. I'd missed the train by about half an hour, and the next one wasn't due to stop there, so I went back over the bridge to Shotton.

A tsunami cloud. They're actually formed in a similar way to the waves you see at the seaside, or so I've heard.

Shotton Station. I thought this was my train but it wasn't. It was some freight train passing through. What should have been a half hour wait turned into a 45 minute wait because the train wasn't on time.

Here it comes. The electronic signage is clear and consise. Unfortunately, they plonked a big "Way Out" sign right in front of it so it can't actually be read unless you're leaving.

By now, I was cold, saddlesore, and wanting to be at home. I got off the train in the dark at Bidston, and rode the 5 miles home.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

1 comment:

Pete said...

That was great, both the ride and your illustrated report.