I set off to get a new camera today, from Argos in Tunstall, so it was a good opportunity to ride along the cycle track from Kidsgrove. I’ve been along here before (See Biddulph Valley Cycle Way) but today I’d be going right into Tunstall.
Starting near Tesco in Kidsgrove, the path climbs steadily through the Birchenwood country park. This is the first of the tunnels, and considering that its dark, overshadowed, and isolated, it feels surprisingly unthreatening, perhaps because the new surface is very good and there is no litter or broken glass about.
After the tunnel the paved surface turns to gravel for a while, then suddenly back to smooth asphalt at this point, where I found myself asking Why here? Is this where the cash ran out? Is this where Stoke-on-Trent ends and Kidsgrove begins? Someone must know!
There is a lovely stretch between Goldenhill and Chell where the route passes through open parkland, well-kept and clean and clearly well-used by walkers and joggers, though I didn’t see any other cyclists. Unfortunately one soon arrives at this tunnel under the A527.
The picture doesn’t look too bad, but this tunnel was strewn throughout with broken glass. This is doubly off-putting: You have to carry your bike or risk getting a puncture, and you also have the slightly disconcerting feeling that you may meet the lowlifes who take bottles along to break. I am absolutely sure that some people will cycle through this tunnel once and never again.
This is not a moan about the bike track. Clearly money and effort have gone into creating it. There are even road crossings with little bicycle signs, which I’ve never used before in all my years of cycling.
But my point is that one weak point can spoil the route. A little further, and just before I left the path, was the last tunnel, and the worst:
This time there was loads of glass and rubbish in the tunnel, and what was particularly annoying was that twenty metres on the path led to an immaculately clean carpark serving this building containing Boots and the Tunstall Health Centre.
Somebody cleans the carpark. The roads get swept. The cycle path is abandoned to the yobs… perhaps that’s unfair. Perhaps I caught last night’s mess just before somebody arrived to sweep it up. No, I don’t believe that either. Surely there could be some sort of arrangement with the council by which a local firm took responsibility for a section of bike path, as a form of sponsorship or in exchange for a rate rebate? Some time ago on David Hembrow’s great blog A View from the Cyclepath he wrote about the specially designed machines the dutch have for cleaning the cycle paths. We have some way to go.
My overall impression of this route was that it is used for leisure and not for travel. All the people I passed were walking dogs or jogging. For general getting around on bikes we are going to need an awful lot more than we have at the moment.