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Manifold Way Traffic-free Cycle Route - WillCycle
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Manifold Way Traffic-free Cycle Route

Manifold Way cycle route overall rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Manifold Way gets its name from the River Manifold, and that in turn started out as “many folds”, referring to the many meanders. It is a trail built on a disused railway, the old Leek and Manifold Railway, and stretches 8.5 gorgeous miles between Hulme End and Waterhouses.

As it’s less well known than routes like the Monsal Trail, Manifold Way tends to be less busy, but that needs to be balanced against the trail also being narrower.

This isn’t a completely traffic-free route, and includes about 1.5 miles along a normally very quiet lane that passes through the very narrow Swainsley Tunnel. The lane along here was built on the disused railway, too.

There’s a stretch running along the shared pavement, right next to the A523, and cycling there can be unpleasant. If cycling with especially younger children, I would strongly advise turning back at Brown End Farm.

Surface on Manifold Way

The surface is mostly tarred throughout, with one section in the middle, plus a few very short segments elsewhere, being self-compacting gravel.
The tar does vary in quality though, ranging from reasonable, to quite bumpy and breaking up.


At the start, next to the Hulme End car park, you’ll find The Tea Junction.

There’s a tea room at Wetton Mill, though you’ll have to briefly leave the trail and cross the river by the bridge.
At around 6.5 miles along, there is the Lee House Farm Tea Room & Garden.
Just before reaching the A523, there’s Brown End Farm.
Finally, in Waterhouses, right at the end of the route there’s Ye Old Crown Hotel.


You can use practically any type of bicycle, including trikes and cargo bikes.


There are toilets at all the refreshment stops, and also shortly before Ye Old Crown Hotel.

Points of Interest

Above the trail you will see the arch of Thor’s Cave. There is evidence of human habitation in the cave dating back approximately ten thousand years.
The cave is reachable directly from the trail, via a fairly easy stepped path.

Routes in Staffordshire


There are no A-frame barriers along this route, but there are several gates. These are the gravity-closing types, with a spring-level to open. People who can’t dismount will struggle to open these gates.

Cycle Hire

You can hire bikes from Brown End Farm, Waterhouses and from Manifold Bike Hire in Hulme End.


Safety: ⭐⭐⭐
Hilliness: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Refreshment stops: ⭐⭐⭐
Barriers: ⭐⭐⭐
Surface: ⭐⭐⭐

Overall: ⭐⭐⭐

The grading system I use is explained here.

Paying the rent

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Weather forecast for Manifold Way

What Manifold Way looks like

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Getting to Manifold Way

Your options for getting to Manifold Way are limited, and there are no train stations nearby. That pretty much means either driving, or cycling there.

Parking near Manifold Way

There are car parks in Hulme End and Waterhouses. Neither car park is particularly large, and on warm, sunny days, especially during school holidays, you will want to get there early.

More Routes

To find more routes, click this link.


DayCycle routes are routes that can can easily be cycled by most people in a day, or part of a day. Do have a look at all the other DayCycle routes available on WillCycle. Many contain detailed route guides, as well as embedded maps (like the one below).

Manifold Way interactive map

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