The Whitegate Way is a 6-mile traffic-free multi-use path running between Winsford and Cuddington on the edge of Delamere Forest. It follows a disused railway branch line which closed in 1963. It’s flat, wide and straight, making it perfect for little cyclists, walkers and wheelchair users, so I’m going to file this under both the cycle and walk sections.
Since the end of the 17th Century, Cheshire had a large salt industry with many companies lining the banks of the River Weaver from Northwich down to Nantwich (if you’ve ever been to the Lion Salt Works museum you’ll have heard all about this). The train line which once ran on the Whitegate Way, opened in 1870 and transported salt from the salt works around Winsford across to Cuddington (with coal being transported in the opposite direction) where it joined the Chester to Manchester line. There were 5 goods trains travelling every day in each direction at its peak in 1885. It’s hard to imagine that now as you cycle down in the peace and quiet!
Halfway along the old railway line is the main access point for the Whitegate Way, where you’ll find a large free car park, toilets and a cafe.
From here you can either cycle 3 miles west to Cuddington or in the opposite direction, 3 miles east to Winsford, or do the whole lot, meaning 12 miles in total, but one leg is enough for our three kids, anything over the 6-mile mark and serious moaning ensues! We chose to do the Cuddington stretch and I think this is the more scenic side to do as it passes through forested areas, whereas the Winsford stretch is more open fields, but it depends on which type of landscape you prefer.
In this direction, just after you pass through two wooden barriers you’ll spot the lake of Newchurch Common on the right which we stopped to have a look around.
Slightly further on to the right you’ll pass through a large wooded area which is the Scout’s Forest Camp Activity Centre, unfortunately, the grounds are private, which is such a shame as it looks a great wood to explore. Frustratingly a lot of the areas you pass through don’t allow access. On the left hand side of the Scout camp are the lake and woods which surround Nunsmere Hall Hotel.
Towards the end, we stopped to have a look at a wooded swampy area (I think it’s known as Lobslack Wood but don’t quote me!), the photo doesn’t do it justice, they were so green, my Star Wars mad son thought this looked like Yoda’s swamp covered planet, Dagobah so he was quite fascinated with them! Again though, the area is fenced off as it’s private property so you just have to have a nose over the fence.
The end point is just past a blue ‘Whitegate Way’ sign and if you’re feeling adventurous you can take the left-hand path opposite the sign and join the ‘Oakmere Way’ which is a multi-use 2 mile bridleway that runs all the way to Delamere forest, but this is much less family-friendly than the Whitegate Way and would require an off road bike.
From the end point we just retraced our steps back, stopping at the many benches along the route to stop for a break.
If you’re wanting snacks then look no further than the Victorian Station Cafe (in the main car park) originally built to house the station master and his family. I’ve got a thing for railway cafes ever since I fell in love with Brief Encounter (if you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend it!) and this one is a delight. It’s run by volunteers as a non-profit community organisation and they work with students from the Petty Pool Trust who help young people with learning disabilities, so it’s a great and worthwhile place to stop for drinks and food. If however you’ve brought a picnic then there’s a small picnic area to the side of the car park.
We really had a lovely afternoon here and I loved the fact that with no cars about it meant we could give the kids a bit more freedom to cycle on ahead of us but still being able to see them because it’s so straight. Really, the only thing you need to watch out for is horse poo!