Connect2 projects opened in Northwich and Crewe, voting under way for benches in Blyth and Bedlington

Christmas may be on the horizon, but December is proving to be a busy month for sustainable transport charity Sustrans, with the opening of two projects in Cheshire – a new bridge in Nantwich and the first part of a greenway linking Crewe and Nantwich – plus the release of a shortlist of nominees to be immortalised in new portrait benches at two locations in the North East.

The Riversdale Bridge in Northwich (pictured above), provides a link for walkers and cyclists between Greenbank and the Hartford Campus with Leftwich and Sir John Deane’s College.

Councillor Mike Jones, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council commented: “The people of Northwich have been without this important link for six years and from this point on can easily get to school, college and work.

“I hope the residents enjoy the reopening of this route and hopefully reduce the use of the car,” he continued.

“This has been a complex project to build and I congratulate Barhale – the main contractor – who has worked closely with the Council,” added Mr Jones. “The completed swing bridge and connecting routes are a testament to the hard work and perseverance of all the partners involved.”

Peter Foster, Regional Director for Sustrans said: “We are delighted to be restoring this lost link to the local community, which is going to allow many more local people to make their everyday journeys by foot or on bicycle.

“We are also pleased to see progress on planning the final stages of the Connect2 network, a new footbridge over the River Dane, improved sections of riverside path, and the slight widening of Hunts Lock crossing.”

To opening of the bridge, whose components needed to be transported on pontoons for a mile and a half along the River Weaver, was marked this week by a lantern parade involving local schoolchildren. The bridge, which is 45 metres long and weighs 50 tonnes, takes seven minutes to open to allow river traffic to pass.

Helen Bullough, Big Lottery Fund Head of Region for the North West, said: “This is great news as the new bridge will make it all that bit easier to make every day journeys by foot or bike.

She added: “People from across the UK voted for Sustrans to be awarded the £50 million Lottery grant, so it’s fantastic to see some of that funding making its way to communities in Northwich.”

Meanwhile, Crewe Golf and Leisure Club provided the setting for the opening of Phase One of Sustrans’ Connect2 Crewe to Nantwich Greenway, which will link the two towns via a four kilometre route running close to the A530 Middlewich Road.

The route will also connect riverside walks in Nantwich with Queen’s Park in Crewe, and Phase One has involved the installation of three bridges along the route.

Councillor Rod Menlove, Cheshire East Council Cabinet member with responsibility for environmental services, said: “I am delighted to see that the first part of this project has been completed. This project will open up parts of our countryside to people, and there is no doubt this project will enhance the Cheshire East environment.”

Peter Foster, Sustrans North West Regional Director added: “It’s great to see this section of the Connect2 project open for use, enabling people to walk and cycle through their local area. I’m sure it will be used a great deal over Christmas. This is just the first step of a wider project, which will make it much easier and safer for people to get between Crewe and Nantwich without having to rely on their car.”

Finally, residents in the North East of England are being asked which local figures they would like to see immortalised on Sustrans portrait benches that are to be installed alongside new cycle and walking routes.

The benches will be put in place in Blyth and Bedlington, with nominees for the former location including war hero and winner of the Victoria Cross Captain Richard Stannard and the comedian Stan Laurel, while choices for the latter include a Bedlington Terrier dog and Mary Weightman, who founded the PAWS animal charity.

Philippa Mitchell, Assistant Area Manager for Sustrans in the North East, said, “The nomination process has been really interesting, with such a wide range of local figures being suggested. I can’t wait to see who the towns of Blyth and Bedlington choose to honour in this way.”

Voting closes on 10th January, and residents are invited to email their three nominations to Connect2Northumberland [at] hotmail.co.uk with the subject line of either Blyth or Bedlington. Nominations should be accompanied by the person’s name and postcode.

Votes can also be cast by visiting the Sustrans Connect2 website and following the link to either Blyth or Bedlington, or by picking up a form from locations including Bedlington Library, Bedlington Station Library, Blyth Town Library, South Beach Library and Cowpen Library, The Buffalo Centre, The Isabella Centre and the Briardale Centre.

The full shortlist for each location is as follows:

Bedlington: Bedlington Library and Bedlington Station Library.


Ronnie Campbell – current and long-serving MP for Blyth Valley, first elected 1987
Stan Laurel – legendary comic actor and director
Willie Carr – the gentle giant and infamous ‘Strongman’ of Blyth
Lord Alf Robens – MP for Blyth in the 1940s, Chairman of National Coal Board
Capt Richard Stannard – WWII soldier who received the Victoria Cross.
Councillor Grant Davey – local councilor and manager of Isabella Community Centre
Councillor Kath Nisbet – awarded Community Crime Fighters award by PM
Michael Sweeney – 19 year old Guardsman from Blyth, killed in Afghanistan
PC David Rathband – local serving PC, has set up charity to help emergency service personnel injured in line of duty
Dawn Cookson – great neighbour, helping out people in the local community
Terry Cookson – other half of local couple who provide help for local people
History of Blyth – figures who represent past and present industry in Blyth


Bedlington Terrier – iconic dog, with woolly fur
Sir Daniel Gooch – English railway engineer, who worked on the Great Western Railway
Michael Longridge –owner of company which made locomotives for the new railways
John Birkenshaw – inventor of wrought iron rails
Dr John Brown – local GP and active member of the community
Councillor George Todd – local councillor
Mary Weightman – founder of local animal charity P.A.W.S., providing vet treatment for pets of people on low incomes
Ann Greenacre – community activist, especially through the Salvation Army
Judith Bremner – Long-term head of Whitley Memorial First School
George Webster – Set up and chaired ‘Friends of Gallagher Park’ group
Alastair Aitken - a teacher from Bedlington Community High who sadly died whilst trying to rescue a fallen walker in the Scottish Highlands
John B Topham – WWII hero, who received the Flying Cross for bravery

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.