If you have tears, prepare to shed them now.
The ‘Wheelock Rail Trail’ is a complete misnomer. It’s really the other end of the Salt Line, which once ran all the way from Alsager to Sandbach (and beyond) . At first it carried salt from Middlewich and Northwich to Stoke and the Potteries. Later it carried passengers including Sunday specials to Trentham Park.
So why the change of name? A ride down the trail reveals the answer. The trail begins here in Sandbach:
After about twenty seconds one encounters the first obstacle:
Why do they do this? OK, I know why they do this, it’s to try and prevent yobs from driving stolen cars or pesky motorcycles along the trail. Because the police are too useless to actually catch the offenders, and most users of the path are too nervous or afraid to police the facility for themselves.
In spite of the obstacles, the trail is a pleasant route, passing the brand new Sandbach Football Club ground
and going under Crewe Rd, demonstrating how cycle paths should cross roads:
Unfortunately the next busy road, the A534, is rather harder to cross, because not only is there no bridge, there is also an awkward gate on both sides of the long fast road, the Wheelock bypass:
I have used this gate many times on the way to work, and more often than not there is a cyclist or walker waiting patiently for ages to cross the road. This crossing probably means that large numbers of children are not allowed to go any further than this along the trail.
A little way up the road is this bridge over the bypass, carrying a gated farm road which is probably used by a handful of vehicles each day:
And a little way down the road is a bridge over this road which serves one house:
There is even a little subway built for bikes and pedestrians further south, where Mill Lane crosses the bypass:
So why is it that these three safe crossings, all carrying very little traffic, were paid for and built, whereas the Rail Trail, with hundreds of users every day, has to make do with a cheap and dangerous road crossing?
I expect the answer is that crossings were put in only where the law demanded them. Thus the quality of the trail is totally compromised.
If that’s not enough to make you weep, the real problem with the trail has yet to be encountered: It suddenly runs out at the Malkin’s Bank Golf Club.
Yes, it’s a fact: There was a continuous level route from Alsager to Sandbach, and a section in the middle was sacrificed to make way for a golf course. And presumably our elected representatives made this decision?
To add a final twist of the knife, it would have been perfectly feasible to keep the continuous route and design the golf course around it. Nope. We have the Wheelock Rail Trail in the North and the Salt Line in the South, and never the two shall meet. This map on the Salt Line shows the two sections in orange:
An even better picture of the scale of idiocy involved in this ‘planning’ comes with the satellite view:
In the top left of this view you can see the straight line of the Rail Trail. In the bottom right is the Salt Line. Is it too much to hope that some future local authority will put right this ridiculous break? So that in some future new age of quality transport we could have a fast and continuous direct bike route between these two towns?