I got wind a while ago that Staffordshire County Council were looking into the possibility of finding a more satisfactory cycle friendly route from Lichfield to Tamworth and vice versa. In my previous post on the subject, myself and some friends had looked at the service road along the west coast mainline in the hope it could be a suitable route. Using satellite images from Google I was confident a crossing could be made over the river Tame, making landfall on the Tamworth side. Alas, the temporary bridge had disappeared in the meantime.
Following on from that post about what we found I was invited to go on a tour of Sheepwash Farm by owner Robert Gray, whose land includes a stretch of the service road and the crossing point at the river. Robert is an outward looking landowner who is encouraging members of the public to find out how his farm works. He runs farm tours for hundreds of school children each year and has various plans in the pipeline for increasing links with schools and surrounding communities to learn about modern farming. Already within or near the farm are the Woodhouse Community Farm, Sunnydale and Elford walled garden. When we discussed the possibility of a cycle route through his land he was interested in how this could link with what is already there, perhaps using existing rights of way, to enable cyclists and walkers to visit those places mentioned and also his new café at the fishing lodge at Fisherwick Lakes.
So last Sunday I headed out to take a look for myself. The café is a small friendly job – part eating space, part bait shop. Outside there are seats and benches on a walkway over the specimen pool. The café was a refreshing change from some of the other stops in the area. We had two fried egg sarnies and two mugs of tea and the total was just £3.20. There weren’t any rectangular plates or chopping boards. I’m no AA Gill but the sliced bread was fresh, the eggs runny and the tea was, well tea. No frills and the sort of grub and price that will make us take a little detour to come back again. The fishery is open every day but Christmas and New Years day, though not sure about the lodge and café.
One of our aims for the day was to look at the track on the Tamworth side of the river, hoping it would be good enough to connect with the A513 on the northern outskirts of Tamworth. First of all we checked out Comberford, with one of those ‘yes please’ houses at the end of Manor Lane.
But what we had already seen on the map was a bridleway further south that linked the A513 opposite Wiggington Lane with a short section of service road from the point where a potential new cycle/walking bridge might go. The Google images have been updated recently. You can see the bridgeless crossing in the top left hand corner. This meets a decent but slightly overgrown section of the old service road along the railway line tha runs out at the sewage works just a bit further south of the photo. Not a complete surface like on the other side of the river but good and flat and we managed 10 mph on it. The bridleway by the farm buildings was a bit sticky but nothing that couldn’t be upgraded.
From here it is a short ride to the outskirts of Tamworth by Rawlett School and down into the town itself. I know the council are looking at the cost of several options for a cycle route, from upgrading the Hopwas towpath to putting a cycle path along the A51. For the sake of a bridge over the river and a little upgrading, along with the consent of one or two landowners, the route we have looked at would provide almost continuous cycle path or traffic free cycling from one town to the other.
On our return we worked our way through Tamworth, my friend showing me a neat route I didn’t know about from the end of Tamedrive down Dunstall Lane, cutting out all the traffic up to Hopwas. There we climbed the hill and tried the pavement back to Lichfield, testing a potential cycle path. The path swops from side to side and the encroaching verge makes it currently very narrow in places. The traffic on the A51 can be really thick and fast as well. Heres hoping there is a will to pursue the project and a pot of money that can be found. If our small investigations help so be it, but it’s been fun riding around and having a look.