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Preston is the lowest easy crossing of the River Ribble and flat north and south, also it is a natural route centre.
Photo of M6 approach to Junction 32 northbound. Get into lane early. The road is being further widened beyond the junction in 2014/5.
The main London to Glasgow road was the A6 until the motorway,M6, opened. The A6 came over the east Lakeland fells through Lancaster and into the middle of Preston. Leaving Preston south you'd cross the river at Walton Le Dale and through to Bamber Bridge where the road headed south west to Chorley and Manchester towards London. The motorway took a different route by going directly south to Warington.
Photo of the M6 between J32 and J33 looking north.
The other main route through Preston is the A59. This road goes from Liverpool to York. Coming over the Ribble at Penwortham and forming the main street in Preston, although now semi-pedestianised, before heading out towards Blackburn, it turns off at Samlesbury and goes north-east to Clitheroe. Nowadays that road is widened and straightened and is quicker than the motorway to North Yorkshire - Harrogate, York from Preston. Certainly more scenic where it crosses the Pennines at Blubberhouses and through the Ribble Valley at Pendle. The portion from Liverpool to Preston, Preston to Skipton and the road from Preston to Blackburn including the A677 were built as turnpikes or toll roads as were a lot of roads in the 18th / 19th centuries.
Other main routes were the road to Blackpool, A585, which used to have 20 mile tailbacks in the 50's and 60's especially at Blackpool Illuminations time.
The A49 Preston to Wigan is a long winding road that leads to Ross-on-Wye, an interesting road to follow - what business drove a route linking Ross, Hereford, Leominster, Shrewsbury, Warrington, Wigan and Preston.
Maybe you are aware that the road numbering system works clockwise from A1 to A6 in England. Roads starting say between the A5 and A6 are numbered beginning with 5. Those between A6 and A1 are numbered beginning with 6. The A59 starts in Liverpool between A5 and A6 and ends east of the A1 in York. Although last the A6 was the most important ;-) joining London, Derby, Manchester, Preston, Lancaster, Carlisle and Glasgow, arguable.
These older 'A' class roads have bridges over the Ribble at; A59 west at Penwortham, east at Brockholes. A6 south at Walton Le Dale. The bridges being sturdy stone built with 2 or 3 arches in the early to mid 19th Century, Brockholes having been a toll bridge. Surprisingly, maybe not, no bridges are west of Penwortham and the next bridge over the Ribble east of Brockholes is many miles away at Ribchester, excluding the M6. There are three other non-rail bridges over the Ribble and these are all foot / cycle - at Penwortham the original and picturesque narrow stone built river crossing, a foot crossing high above the river next to the old disused Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Bridge and the Old Tram Road bridge in Avenham Park.
The first motorway, click here to read more M6, in the UK was built around Preston to ease travel to Blackpool, the Lake District and Scotland from points south and east. This crosses the Ribble at Samlesbury / Brockholes next to the Tickled Trout Hotel, where it is said well known football deals have been done, with a complex bridge that incorporates separate bridges for the slip roads.
Forton Services, M6, just north of Preston an interesting design. Not a bad service station with a Costa and M&S although in need of a lick of paint.
The Romans built roads in and around Preston. Watling Street Road in Fulwood headed out north and Walton Le Dale and Ribchester had Roman Forts. No doubt Italians travelling from Rome to the Lake District, Hardknott, Hadrians Wall and further set foot in Preston. Stopping for a meal in Walton and Ribchester.
You can surmise certain things, I read about the slave trade in Lancaster, Samboo whose grave is at Sunderland Point (different website) near Lancaster in particular, as well as Liverpool so maybe African slaves travelled these roads which is a sad but fascinating thought.
A road I also found fascinating, many years ago, was Centurion Way in Leyland. Named after the tanks built there in the war it was a very wide, straight and cement surfaced road leading to Leyland Motors that seemed to be way over the top. Maybe there was a high speed super tank being tested. Although as a child roads often look big and maybe it isn't.
The Lancashire Evening Post has a webpage showing live views from the camera's on the M6 around Preston. Pretty good if you've heard there's something to worry about on the road before you set off. On a clear night you can see Blackpool Tower lit up on one of the camera's on the M55. Click here.
Click on the links below to find out more about on these roads.