picIgnore the title, this not an endurance test it is a pleasant Sunday morning leg and lung exercise after church, it can be enjoyed by anyone of average fitness. Having said that don't make it hard for yourself, it's wise to take a few precautions by checking the equipment before setting out. The bike should have two wheels and two sets of working brakes, tyres should be inflated hard and the chain should have been oiled within the last three years. Take a rucksack with tyre levers, puncture repair outfit and pump. Resist the temptation to be stylish wear something yellow (the ones carrying advertisements for Wimpey are best, they keep out water as well) and a crash helmet. Finally take some small change in case you feel in need of refreshment when you get to the Ring O Bells or the Crooke Inn. The journey starts and ends in Ashton in Makerfield and takes in Garswood, Billinge, Rainford, Bickerstaffe, Lathom, Burscough, Parbold, Appley Bridge, Gathurst, Crooke, Wigan Pier, Wigan Flashes and The Three Sisters Recreation Area.

The Route

This cycle ride starts in Ashton in Makerfield on the A58 at Ashton Cross (just west of the point where M6 passes under the A58). At the traffic lights at the entrance to Ashton Golf Club leave the A58 and move off along Tithebarn Road in the direction of Garswood. At the mini roundabout at the end of Tithebarn Road turn left into Garswood Road and immediate right into Arch Lane.

Cross the railway and pass Monterey reservoir, at the top of Arch Lane with Charity Farm on the right and the entrance to the old colliery (now an industrial estate) on the left continue ahead along the bridleway. At the T junction turn right uphill towards the slag heap then left towards Billinge. If you have taken the correct path you should emerge into Garswood Road Billinge, continue to the junction with Main Street and turn left.

Follow Main Street round the bend to the mini roundabout at its junction with Birchley Road and Rainford Road. Turn right into Rainford Road, Rainford Lane, Back Lane, Red Cat Lane then turn right into Higher Lane at the Red Cat public house. At the mini roundabout in Rainford at the junction with Cross Pit Lane ignore the left turn and continue ahead along Higher Lane.

Having passed Rainford Junction railway station, follow the road to the left and emerge onto the Rainford by-pass at the Wheatsheaf public house. Follow the Rainford by-pass, pass under the M58 and at the next roundabout take the second left Lylake Lane B5240 towards Lathom. At the junction with the A577 Skelmersdale to Ormskirk Road turn left for a short distance then take the next turning on the right (again the B5240).

Turn left at the junction with the A5209 Parbold to Burscough road for a short distance then turn right into Ring-O-Bells Lane. At the bridge a short distance along go down the steps onto the towpath of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and turn left towards Parbold. At the old mill in Parbold you will need to cross the canal as the towpath changes to the opposite side.

Continue along the canal to Pottery Road Wigan via Appley Bridge, Gathurst, Crooke and Wigan Pier. Pass Trencherfield Mill, at the footbridge just beyond Chapel Lane cross the canal and follow the Leeds and Liverpool Canal Leigh branch to Ince Moss and the flashes.

Beyond Scotsmans Flash is a bridge to the towpath on the opposite bank of the canal, ignore this and continue ahead. The towpath on this side of the canal only goes as far as the railway bridge, so look for an uphill track on the right about half a mile ahead and leave the canal at this point.

Pass Park House Farm, cross the main farm track and continue ahead to emerge into Landgate Lane. Turn left along Landgate Lane cross the railway bridge and look for the entrance to the Three Sisters recreation area half a mile on the right.

Follow the path through the Three Sisters recreation area past the visitor centre and emerge into Lockett Road via Three Sisters Road. Turn right into Lockett Road, left into Bryn Road and right into Nicol Road about a mile further along. At the junction with Wigan Road continue straight ahead into Old Road.

Follow Old Road towards Ashton in Makerfield town centre, at the old police station turn right into the footpath called the Steam Engine, cross the brook, climb the hill and emerge through the alley into Liverpool Road.

If your legs are still working correctly at this point, turn right along Liverpool Road and cycle the last uphill stretch back to the start point. If like me the legs feel like jelly feel free to walk the last mile or summon a lift.

Palfreyman 21st March 2009


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    The Dinner Hour, Wigan - by Eyre Crowe

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    Ring O' Bells, Burscough

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    Parbold Mill

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    Mill Girl Statue at Wigan Pier

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    Souvenier from Rudesheim

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