Discover Chorley's best-kept secret, the valley of the River Lostock.
Minimum time 2h30
Distance 13 miles (20.9km)
Suggested map OS Explorer 286 Blackpool and Preston
Start/finish Whittle-le-Woods, Chorley, down Factory Lane; grid ref: SD 575217
Trails/tracks good tracks, stony in places, or surfaced
Landscape river valley park, small urban section, woodland
Public toilets none on route
Tourist information Chorley, tel 01257 241693
Bike hire none locally
Recommended pub Halfway House Hotel, Clayton-le-Woods
© Automobile Association 2015. © Crown Copyright Licence number 100021153
Whittle-le-Woods is a suburb of Chorley, and lies along the A6, 2 miles (3.2km) north of the town. The start of the Cuerden Cycle Route is down Factory Lane in Whittle-le-Woods, just to the north of the church.
1 Leave the car park and immediately turn left onto the Cuerden Valley Cycle Route. At a junction bear left onto a slightly narrower track, and continue onto a surfaced track, climbing a little and then going forward to meet a main road. Turn right for 120 yards (100m), and then turn left to rejoin the cycle route.
2 The route through the valley park follows a broad, clear track, at one point bending right and left to pass through the edge of woodland before rejoining the course of the River Lostock to a bridge, water splash (for the adventurous) and picnic tables. Off to the right, a short distance, at this point is the park lake, which is home to numerous waterbirds, including at some times of year more than 250 Canada geese. Cross the bridge and go right, climbing briefly but steeply to follow a field edge path to a bridge spanning the M6 motorway, beyond which you descend to a car park and the A49.
3 Turn right on a cycle lane to a light-controlled crossing of the A6 at Bamber Bridge. Go forward, still on a cycle lane, as far as Church Road, and there cross the road at a safe crossing point, and turn into Havelock Road. Follow the road, shortly passing a small industrial estate to meet another lane. Turn right, and go past a supermarket car park, turning right onto a cycle lane once more, and through a low tunnel (dismount here). Just beyond, turn left beneath a road bridge into the edge of a housing estate. At a T-junction turn right towards a roundabout, but cross, left, just before it to enter the Preston Junction Local Nature Reserve.
4 Follow a clear track to a road. Cross and keep forward to cross another back lane. Go forward along the middle one of three possibilities. After a short rise the towers of Preston come into view. Descend to cross a farm access track, and keep on to meet a gravel track along the edge of woodland.
5 When the gravel track forks, branch right, descending to a track junction beside the River Ribble. Turn right to the next bridge, and here bear right and left to gain the bridge, across which the Miller and Avenham Parks mark the end of the route. Across the parks the centre of Preston is soon reached.
6 Return by re-crossing the bridge, but instead of dipping down to the Ribble, keep forward along an avenue of trees to meet the back lane crossed on the way out. Here rejoin the outward route, and retrace this first to Bamber Bridge and, once safely over the A6, back into Cuerden Valley Park and on to Whittle-le-Woods.
Most of Cuerden's 700 acres (284ha) are actively farmed, providing changing scenes throughout the year. The Valley Park is home to foxes, grey squirrels, great-spotted and green woodpeckers, patrolling buzzards and the occasional sparrowhawk, as well as a host of smaller birds, up to 70 species in all. The Preston Junction Nature Reserve, north of Bamber Bridge, is a good place to spot butterflies - common blue, small copper, meadow brown, wall brown, gatekeeper, orange tip small tortoiseshell. There are also some attractive ponds along this stretch, bright in spring and summer with yellow waterlilies. The reserve was built around the trackbed of the old Preston tramway.
Cuerden Hall is owned by the Sue Ryder Foundation and houses a small cafeteria; it is off-route, but easily accessible by turning left on reaching the A49 (rather than the route continuation, which goes right).
Long stretches of traffic-free cycling through a wooded river valley are linked by safe cycling crossing points and cycle lanes into an old railway trackbed and then an even older tramway trackbed into city centre parks in Preston. The whole ride is through an intense area of habitat for a diverse range of flora and fauna. The ride can be shortened by taking a picnic as far as the bridge crossing in Cuerden Valley Park.