As a New Town, Warrington is unusual in that it isn't new. By the 1970s it was already a sizeable industrial town, but it was granted New Town status and trebled in size. The place today features Victorian inner suburbs and leafy modernist outer ones.
The original route of the A574 is used here as a case study of how developers went about converting an old town to a new one.
We begin on Padgate Lane, just east of the A50 and the first section of road which was downgraded. The new A574 - Birchwood Way - runs about half a mile to the north. The old road is still well within the old town here, passing through much older houses.
At Padgate station, the road turned sharply to cross the railway bridge. The New Town developers widened this bridge and realigned the through route to the left to connect with Birchwood Way. The original route is to the right. The junction has been 'New Towned' with a pedestrian subway and new lighting, but once we're off the road it's back to the original route.
The turning to the right here actually takes all through traffic now: ahead the road is a cul-de-sac. Turning right leads to the New Town estates at Martinscroft. Note the original street lighting on this section.
A little further on, we encounter Birchwood Way. The underpass is only for pedestrians, and a turning loop has been installed, but the road clearly continues at the other side, lined with houses and parked cars.
On reaching Fearnhead Lane, the road stops. The road to the left is a New Town development; originally the A574 turned sharp right here. Look closely at the corner of the junction and you can still see the original line of the kerb. It was only altered in 2004.
To the right then, and along Fearnhead Lane. Fearnhead is now just another suburb of Warrington, but until the 1970s it was a separate village.
At Crab Lane, the road ends. Immediately to the right is College Place roundabout on Birchwood Way. However, look carefully and you can see the road used to continue over - the footpath gives the game away.
Continuing along the path, this is the original Crab Lane, which used to Give Way to Fearnhead Lane instead. It's now an access road to a business park.
The footpath isn't quite all that remains of the old A574 here. The road surface wasn't entirely removed, and the trees are now slowly lifting this large block of tarmac out of the ground!
The path climbs to use the Birchwood Way flyover to cross the M6. But look to the left, and on the north side of the bridge you can very clearly see the embankment for the A574's original crossing.
On the east side of the bridge, the footpath swerves away to rejoin the original A574 line. The incline is much steeper than it looks here.
Back on the original line, the path's right-hand edge is still formed with the road's kerb stones. Putting pedestrians back down on the route of the old road is quite a dangerous piece of design - there's no lighting down here, and it's screened from the main road.
About half a mile on, the old road suddenly reappears, complete with road markings. This section is no more than a hundred yards in length, running past a side turning to a subway under Birchwood Way.
After the subway, the path narrows down again, but this time with a cycle path. The original road surface has been replaced here.
Another hundred yards or so, and a street emerges from the housing estate in Locking Stumps just to the north and turns to become the old A574 again. From here the houses' addresses are "Warrington Road" and are numbered in the 700s.
Many of the houses along here are older than the New Town development. While this section was out in the countryside, the north side had a scattering of development. The road here is much wider and, if you look closely, is banked around corners, suggesting a rural main road.
Not much chance to take advantage of the well-engineered road though: the road turns another corner and then stops. There are two old lines here; through the trees is Oakwood Gate junction on Birchwood Way and the road curving around to the right is a temporary diversion linking this section of Warrington Road to the new A574 while Birchwood Way was under construction. The gate in the middle is the original course of the road. Today the footpath goes uphill to the left to cross Birchwood Park Avenue on a fo
Over the bridge, the road restarts, again as a residential road, this time through an estate in Heathfields. The road is still wide and well-engineered, but to turn it into a residential street, a quarter of its width has been sliced off. The centre line gives away the reduced width.
The road swerves away, but its original course followed the footpath straight ahead. There are more pre-New Town houses along there.
Another street comes in from the left and rejoins the old A574, and we're back on the old road surface. From here we're in the enormous Birchwood Park business estate, which has engulfed the road and a huge area of the former Royal Ordnance factory. The road is suddenly grassed over but obviously continued straight ahead - it comes complete with a line of New Town-era streetlights down the right hand side.
It's only blocked for a few yards and resumes again here, as an access road for some of the office car parks. Again, note the banking around this corner.
A couple of corners later (all beautifully engineered for speeds that are no longer possible here), we reach this sign, which means we're nearly back on the A574.
At this roundabout, the A574 (Birchwood Park Avenue) joins from the left and straight ahead is the original A574 out to Leigh. The pre-New Town house on the left is now a shop catering to office workers, named 'Roundabout News'. (I asked, but sadly they didn't have any.)
With thanks to Nick PY for corrections to this page.