Sustrans get ready for the £50 million 'great link-up'
In 2006 UK sustainable transport charity Sustrans was awarded £50 million from the Big Lottery Fund to complete 84 new local networks that would link up communities, suburbs, towns and villages where traffic-free links for walking and cycling were most sorely needed.
The majority of the projects will be rolling out over the course of 2013 – indeed some are already on the ground; for example, this impressive bridge at Bradford or the new bridge over the river Swale in North Yorkshire.
It is estimated that Connect2 schemes will pass within half a mile of more than three million people in the UK, and cross 57 of the most deprived localities of the country.
New off-road NCN route for East Hampshire
The Shipwrights Way is a new long-distance route linking villages and towns in East Hampshire, running from Alice Holt Forest near Farnham, across the South Downs to the sea at Portsmouth. It’s open to walkers and cyclists and, where possible, horse riders and people with disabilities.
The route passes through Bordon, Liphook, Liss, Petersfield, Queen Elizabeth Country Park, Staunton Country Park, Havant and Hayling Island, and enters Portsmouth via ferry finishing at the Historic Dockyard – around 50 miles in all, and passing seven rail stations.
It will form part of the Sustrans National Cycle Network route 22 linking London to Portsmouth. There is one small gap in the route around Bordon, but at the time of writing 47 out of 50 miles are completed.
New Anglo-French routes
Two new routes linking the two great cycling nations are now available. The Avenue Verte links the London Eye to Notre-Dame cathedral, sitting on the River Seine in the heart of Paris. Fully signed, it uses cycle paths and traffic-free trails for long stretches, linked by minor roads.
Well-known trails on the UK side include the Forest Way and the Cuckoo Trail. After taking the Newhaven-Dieppe ferry to French soil a superb quality railpath leads inland.
At this point a choice of route awaits: west via minor roads and bridleways across the rural quiet of the Vexin area, or east through wealthy ‘home county’ type country and along the Oise river.
Both options join to head into Paris along the river Seine’s banks and city centre canals. The shorter western option is around 250 miles and choosing the longer eastern option would add approximately 40 miles.
Ready to ride too is the Petit Tour de Manche, linking the Dorset coast between Poole and Weymouth with the Channel Islands and Normandy’s lovely Cotentin Peninsula – or kind of.
Unfortunately for the cycle route organisers Weymouth harbour wall begun to collapse in February 2012 and it will be July 2013 before the whole route can be cycled as planned, despite the fact the actual cycling part is fully signed. In the meantime it’s possible to complete the Channel Islands and French sections loop by sailing from Poole.
Spectacular West Yorkshire towns routes
This short town link between Ossett and Dewsbury is only 2.5 miles long, but is good-quality wide tarmac, much of it along a former railway and avoiding the hilly and busy roads in the area. A short section remains to be completed over the summer, but this can be bypassed on-road and the rest is available now.
A new small section on the spectacular Great Northern Trail is now open, and runs for around two miles between and Queensbury and Thornton. The original railway it runs along was nicknamed the Alpine Route because of the spectacular engineering required to negotiate the Pennine foothills. It’s an easy matter to link on minor roads to another spectacular railpath section further north at Cullingworth.
Sustrans have put out a one-off appeal for emergency repair funds to help mend the damage done by the last 12 months of extreme weather. Their normal annual maintenance budget of around £1million is proving insufficient to tackle the after-effects of torrential rain, and the prolonged freezing and heavy snow of the winter.
You can help out directly.
Other new routes and guides
Sustrans have collaborated with Four Point Mapping to roll out a series of 1:110,000 cycle maps and coverage is slowly working its way north. The first 15 to be published can be found here along with a guide pack for the Avenue Verte London to Paris route. The design is nice and clear with relief helpfully shown as coloured shading and National Cycle Network routes picked out and other local circuits also suggested. Highly recommended.