Cycling and walking have apparently ‘exploded’ during lockdown, with people rediscovering what’s on their doorsteps.Advertisement
I thought I’d take a moment to look at one of Preston’s greatest assets – the Guild Wheel.
We’re lucky in the city as we live within a stones throw of the Forest of Bowland and you can be up in the Lake District in around an hour if the M6 is playing nicely.
But looping its way around the city is a well-trodden and often over-looked route.
Put in place during the last Preston Guild of 2012 the circulate 21-mile route takes you all the way around the outskirts of the city.
What’s new about the Guild Wheel I can hear you cry? Where have you been for the last eight years, Walker?
Well, like many, I’ve done bits of the Guild Wheel. I’d never done the whole thing.
Plenty of people told me they had cycled around it, but not walked the whole lot.
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My father recently passed away so I’ve had a period off work and I’ve found walking is proving a good way to process what happened. So on Monday I set out to walk the Guild Wheel.
First thing was to get on it, heading from Fulwood through Mason’s Wood and joining it on the section just before Asda.
It’s all downhill to start if you go clockwise, this was a sensible start. We marched onwards through the trading estates and cutting our way under the M6 as it roared above.
You head down the side of the Crem and you’re out into Red Scar and heading down to Brockholes in no time. There’s some fantastic views of the Bowland Fells from this point, glimmering in the hazy morning sunshine.
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Cutting past Brockholes and you’re back under the M6 again and going round the edge of Fishwick and following the River Ribble.
We stopped for lunch around here and then walked our way along the paths as you head away from the Ribble. You feel a long way from a city, despite being less than two miles from the city centre.
The section along the Boulevard and into Avenham and Miller Park really is something special. It’s easy to forget how lucky we are in Preston to have somewhere as special as Avenham Park, even as the rain set in then it’s a jewel in the crown of parks in the North West. The Ribble flowing alongside, and we march round into Broadgate.
We were averaging a mile every 15 minutes at this point, although feet and legs were starting to creak.
Heading towards the Docks is a really long slog of a section, up to the Bullnose – a place so often featuring in Blog Preston’s Instagram feed, and rightly so – a place to catch your breath and see some vastness.
As we headed up towards the A583 then you remember you’re definitely in a city as the roadworks set in, the Preston Western Distributor work means there’s a short diversion in place before the Cottam section of the wheel.
Piledrivers, big machinery and more as the price of progress will see a new road carve up from the Docks to join the M55 in a new motorway junction. I’ve spent years reporting on the city’s development and it always feels odd to stand there seeing something, that I’ve reported on through screen and paper, actually taking shape. It will change the face of the Western side of the city, forever.
No time for more contemplating as we headed through the weaving Wheel into Cottam and along the side of PNE’s training ground at Springfield. The club has always said it has Premier League aspirations, and the training ground certainly feels provincial – but maybe that’s a good thing, keeping the players grounded. And it’s another story from the archive, the saga and battle for the new training ground at Ingol that of course turned out to never be – just houses instead as the money for a training ground went elsewhere.
The Wheel starts to pick up on all the new housing developments as we work our way through Cottam, and I’m surrounded by more stories – planning battles, new roads, lack of schools – there’s been many over the years. And none more so than Lightfoot Lane as we head down it and start to close in on the final few miles of the wheel.
Read more: Cyclists fight back blaming dog walkers for Guild Wheel ‘safety issues’
Up across the M55 and into Broughton, another place in Preston, and another story. By this point our legs are aching and feeling like they might give way – it’s tempting to cut down to the Broughton roundabout and head for home as the six hour mark comes up for walking.
But we press on, up to D’Urton Lane, and another new road – this one, the cut across from the old A6 round into Eastway was like someone pulled a plug from the Fulwood traffic when it opened late last year.
The final section is painful, very painful, our pace slows right down as we finish up by the new retail park on Eastway. Exhausted and in need of a pint.
We saw plenty of others using the Wheel, other walkers out taking in part of the route and lots of cyclists. It was surprisingly busy for a Monday – people clearly heading to work, on their way home or just out to get some fresh air.
See the Guild Wheel route below or via this link
It’s easy to overlook what’s on your doorstep. I probably won’t walk the whole Guild Wheel in a hurry (my feet and legs are still recovering!) but it’s a great route for the city to have and something we, as a city, should be proud of and work to maintain. And maybe it’ll become a Preston rite of passage, have you done the Wheel? Yes, but only once every Preston Guild!
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Have you ever walked the Guild Wheel? What’s your favourite section? What do you think of the route? Let us know in the comments below