The Wheelock Rail Trail

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?

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About abikerideaday

I like riding my bike about for work and for fun. Having a blog lets me sound off and generally express things. If you like my blog, please pass the address on to other cyclists in the area!
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One Response to The Wheelock Rail Trail

  1. Chris Lyon says:

    The complications of the salt line & wheelock rail trail are, as you say exasperated by the malkins bank golf course. But the timeline of events has been a major factor. The golf was built on top of the tip of the old mond factories and it doesn’t take much local searching to discover the chequered history of that particular saga.
    As you also say the complexity of the routes across the Wheelock bypass also seems confused but once again it’s the rail trail that came last and perhaps it’s to be applauded that any trace of the trail was left whilst that was built.
    The presence of the pre existing golf course ruled out the obvious extension between the two trails, althou’ that’s not to say it wasn’t contemplated in a very council sort of fashion. A perspex tunnel was suggested at one point to protect from the golf balls!

    Probably the obvious solution is to use the towpath, which would pass the golf course shop/clubhouse and improve that from the golf club carpark.
    The real complexities exist at the other end. The traditional Cheshire landowner intransigence, makes itself felt at what could be a idylic site around the old hassall station site. There is a small car park and there is a public footpath that leads across a canal bridge but access is hazy to say the least and the simple expedience of providing access seems to be disputed and disrupted in equal measure. This combined with the complexities of crossing the road adjacent to the old station building means the council tends to wash it’s hand quickly if the issue is raised. This is not also helped by it being virtually on the boundary of the two local parish councils.

    Perhaps a public display of interest and exploration might benefit the overall community

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