The Fallowfield Loop is an off-road cycle path, pedestrian and horse riding route in the south of Manchester, England, which is one of the National Cycle Network routes and paths developed and built by Sustrans (it forms part of routes 6 and 60).
The Loop follows the route of the former Fallowfield Loop railway line, which was closed in 1988. It is approximately 8 miles long and connects Chorlton-cum-Hardy in the west with Fairfield in the east, and passes through Whalley Range, Fallowfield, Levenshulme and Gorton. It can be seen on Google Maps where it is marked in the same way as a railway line, and passes a short way above the "Fallowfield" marker.
The Fallowfield Loop railway line was a local railway route in Greater Manchester. Trains on the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway line (later, the Great Central Railway line) from Sheffield Victoria and Guide Bridge used the "Loop" to access Manchester Central railway station.
The line was fully opened in 1892 and remained in use until 1988, though the stations at Hyde Road, Levenshulme South, Fallowfield and Wilbraham Road were closed in 1958 following the withdrawal of passenger services.
Reddish Depot was built adjacent to the line in 1954 to maintain the new fleet of electric trains for the Woodhead Line, and remained open until 1983.
Conversion to a cycle route
The old line had lain derelict for many years until the late 1990s, when a group of cyclists started campaigning for its conversion to a traffic free "greenway" across south Manchester. That group, together with supporters from local civic societies and other community groups, formally became the "Friends of the Fallowfield Loop" in June 2001. The route is now mostly owned by Sustrans, a charity which specialises in building off-road cycle routes.
There are many access points onto the Loop along its length from Wilbraham Road in Chorlton-Cum-Hardy to Fairfield Station at the eastern end. There are also several metal barriers along the route, which until late 2016 would disrupt the ride for cyclists on normal-size bikes, and larger cycles like tandems and trikes had be lifted. However, after a successful trial period in 2016 the barriers along the route itself are now permanently open. The barriers at the different entrance points to the Loop are a variety of designs. Some of these are still very difficult to access using a normal bicycle, whilst others have been modified to be fully accessible even for tandems.
Along the route
The Fallowfield Loop forms a green corridor in an arc around Manchester city centre, linking parks and open spaces. Near its western end the Loop crosses the South Manchester Line (SML) of Greater Manchester's light-rail Metrolink system at St Werburgh's Road Metrolink station. There is a National Cycle Network "fossil tree" milepost (designed by John Mills) in the section of the Loop between Broom Lane and Stockport Road, and Sustrans murals underneath the former railway bridges at Stockport Road and Wellington Road. Towards the east of the route the Loop passes Highfield Country Park, Debdale Park and Gorton Reservoirs, and intersects Gorton Heritage Trail. Travelling up Route 60 from the Debdale Park access point will take you to the Ashton Canal, the Manchester Velodrome and the City of Manchester Stadium. The Thirlmere Aqueduct passes over the Loop near the Nelstrop Road access point and the Elisabeth Svendsen Trust Donkey Sanctuary is also located along the route, at Abbey Hey.