by Alec & Val Scaresbrook
The Cheshire Cycleway route gives you an excellent introduction to this delightful county. We’ve given a flavour below, and put together a slide show too. See mosses
The signposted route takes you along quiet lanes to visit some of the county’s gems on a 282 km (176 mile) round trip which takes in Chester, pops up to Parkgate, directs you across the Cheshire plain and delivers fine views from high up in the gritstone hills to the east, just inside the Peak National Park.
Black, white and green
The county is dominated by dairy farms, their green fields provide a restful backdrop to the black and white houses that are scattered throughout the countryside and clustered in the centres of towns and villages. Pubs, churches, railings, signposts and even the cows grazing the fields echo this monochrome scheme.
Despite Cheshire being mainly low-level, it’s not all cycling on the flat. The county is criss-crossed with canals, providing picturesque picnic places and pub stops, plus plenty of exercise surmounting the steeply humpbacked bridges.
The plain is also interrupted by a north-south ridge of sandstone (the Peckforton Hills being most prominent) and, further east, a shorter escarpment (Alderley Edge) with its steep face on the north-east side. The cycleway crosses both of these ridges, giving you a foretaste of sterner hills to come on the eastern edge of the county, where the route climbs to 417m (1368ft) above sea level.
The eastern hills
The contrast with the plain is marked. These gritstone hills and moors provide a different environment, with the extra height above sea level creating a harsh climate. Houses are huddled in the valleys, although farmhouses brave the slopes, tucked into hollows to escape the wind and snow. There are sheep in the fields instead of cattle, and the stock are kept in by stone walls, not hedgerows. You can even hear the difference – the joyful sounds of songbirds on the plain are replaced by the mournful calls of curlew and golden plover.
But if you prefer to look at the hills rather than ride them, make the most of the canal towpaths and ex-railway lines for their gentle gradients with a view (when you’re not in a cutting, of course). These routes can also make excellent short cuts, and provide handy alternatives to some unpleasantly busy A roads.