Chris and Julia ride for St Gemmas Hospice
The Trans Pennine Trail was something we had fancied doing for a number of years but time and family life had always got in the way. Living in Leeds made it easy for us to ride parts of the trail at the weekend, but in reality the full Monty was always on the radar. Riding to raise money for St Gemmas Hospice in Leeds gave us a goal to aim for.
Spring Bank 2011 was ideal timing for us, so after meticulous planning we set off for Southport on the train from Leeds on the Saturday afternoon. We didn’t intend to go mad on the distances each day as we were carrying all our own gear and support equipment and just wanted to enjoy the experience
As we swept into the outskirts of Manchester the train picked up numerous people. A guy got on with his bike and sat down opposite us, conversation turning to what we were doing as he had seen the maps on the bikes. On mentioning the Trail, he claimed to be addicted to it and had ridden it at least 20 times! A bit odd, but it’s great to meet different people and we enjoyed the 20 mins or so conversation.
On our arrival in Southport we checked into the Balmoral Hotel ready for the Sunday Morning start. It’s a hotel used by many cyclists and a good base just on the outskirts of town ready for the start of the TPT.
Day1 – Southport to Warrington 45 Miles
After buying the day’s rations at a Garage we headed for the start point, and guess what……a howling headwind to start our journey – a cyclist’s nightmare!! A group of guys were setting off at the same time having ridden from Warrington a day earlier. With our heads down, progress was very slow with the wind directly in front of us.
Riding down onto the Cheshire Lines path gave us a change in riding surface and a welcome shelter from the wind. Arriving in Maghull the rain started (oh joy!!), but a well-placed burger joint rescued us and we stopped for a Coffee. A quick look at the map showed the Blue signs pointing us to Aintree and the Liverpool loop line. Having read many reports from other riders’ experiences regarding the signs being removed or turned around, we went with my intuition. Wrong!! That mistake wasted us at least an hour and added about 3 miles, finally ending up in the middle of a wood. However, we eventually retraced our steps back to where we started – and of course the sign post was correct!!
The Liverpool Loop Line was great with a smooth surface and was debris free.
Halewood and the picturesque village of Hale came quickly as we turned inland and the wind and rain came then came from behind.
We then enjoyed a fab ride along the Mersey and the side of the Sankey Canal, stopping at the Ferry Tavern pub for a beer or 2. We eventually arrived at Warrington mid-afternoon, pulling off the trail here to head for Wilderspool Causeway and the Premier Travel Inn. We had booked a great room-deal for £29 and the staff locked the bikes away for us. What a great start to our journey.
Day 2 Warrington – Hadfield 45 miles
The adrenalin was flowing as soon as we woke up. Ready to hit the Trail we took a look outside.” Its pouring down” Julia said, “not just raining”, which it continued to do for most of the day.
The biggest mistake of day 2 was not having breakfast before we set off as we still felt full from last night’s meal in the pub. The start of our day took us alongside the Manchester Ship Canal and onto a great part of the track down past Lymm, made up of fine gravel. Unfortunately, with the incessant rain, it had turned into a grit and mud bath … gears, chains and brakes making horrible grinding noises. The signs again were very good until the TPT nightmare – Didsbury and Stockport! A diversion due to the Metrolink extension brought us to Tesco at Didsbury and a well-deserved warm up, coffee and food stop. We felt a bit embarrassed – these 2 soaked and blathered cyclists dripping water all over the Costa Coffee shop floor! But hey, it’s all part of the fun. On leaving Tesco’s, an elderly local gent pointed us in the direction of the trail which we eventually found after seeing the sign hidden behind a tree!! We must have lost a good hour here.
The next section took us to Stockport which I fortunately know reasonably well as I travel here with my job but we still got lost! Our advice is to go under the railway viaduct here, and then straight on to Tesco at the far end of town. We followed the map and the diversion signs, eventually arriving at the Stockport Tesco via the Northern section of the Trail. This is where you have to be very careful as the directions are not obvious. We took what we thought was the TTP to the left but we were wrong, eventually being put right by a local man. The TTP runs on the right hand side of the river which better signposting would make clearer.
The trail now starts its long slow climb into the Pennine Hills. This was where I started to feel tiredness kick in as I was carrying most of the gear in panniers and the difficult weather and mud had made its presence known. Eventually a downhill section to Broadbottom gave us a breather. After stopping at the Cheshire Cheese pub for a much wanted beer, we loaded up again only to find I had a puncture! That was all I needed, particularly as I could not get the pump to work as it was completely gummed up with grit and mud. In the end walking was the order of the day. Luckily, after a mile we spotted a cyclist who kindly leant us his pump, and off we went again, finally arriving at the Hikers and Bikes BB in Hadfield.
Eric the owner was a great chap who took one look at us and hosed us and the bikes down with the power wash!! We stayed the night in a very comfortable B&B above the café Royston – highly recommended.
Day 3 Hadfield – Doncaster town Centre 47 Miles
The Longdendale section was a lovely part of the ride, and it was difficult to imagine this was once the main line from Manchester to Sheffield. At Woodhead we climbed to the highest point on the trail, and then sped down a very, fast down-hill section to Dunford Bridge where the trail picks up again at the Eastern end of the Tunnel. Please make sure your brakes are in good order here as you can easily reach in excess of 40mph.
We enjoyed a steady downhill section now to Penistone and after a short break we took the Northern route via Worsbrough to Barnsley. Again the majority is down- hill so with the breeze behind us, good progress was made. A pit stop at the RSPB centre and the first signs of improving weather heralded better things to come. The trail followed the banks of the river Don passing Sprotbrough where we left the trail for our 3rd stop at the City centre Travel Inn. Another £29 deal and bikes locked away.
Day 4 Doncaster – South Cave 61 Miles
The following morning was not good as the after effects of some dodgy food took its toll. However after a visit to Tesco for liquids and Mars bars we set of in the direction of Selby. Following some bumpy rough tracks we eventually hit tarmac for a few miles then onto Selby for lunch (but not before fixing our second and last puncture). Following the banks of the Ouse we stop for a pint at the Hope and Anchor at Blacktoft with great views of the river. The sun was shining now and the temperature rising steadily, which was a complete contrast to the first 2 days experiences.
We headed for South Cave and the Fox and Coney Pub where our last stop was booked. This was a great pub with a good selection of food and beers – well worth staying here. The Landlord said that they have had numerous parties riding the Trail and he was going to advertise in the next edition of the TPT guide.
Day 5 South Cave to Hornsea and back to Hull – 50 Miles
After filling up on a great fry up we hit the road, heading off to Hull and the East coast. Watch out at North Ferriby as the A63 has recently been re aligned and the lack of Blue signs and an up-to- date map were apparent. Wrong directions from a local sent us down to Long Plantation which in fact is a footpath. Retracing our steps into north Ferriby, the Trail took us down to the Humber and under the Humber Bridge. Following the local Road network soon we arrived in Hull where we took time out to stop at the Wilberforce museum in the old part of the City. This was well worth the break.
Finding the start of the Hornsea section was difficult, however with some help from the locals again we were soon back on track. (Again, the signs in Hull are not great so worth taking time to research your route).
The run to Hornsea was flat ,and the sun now very warm in a cloudless sky. On arrival at the town, the trail turns towards the sea at the old railway station and a few yards later we were there!
At the obelisk on the sea front, Julia just lay down on the sea wall and enjoyed the sun before we sampled the fish and chips. I remind her that we have to ride back to Hull to catch the train to Leeds – this felt like the longest 15 miles we have ever ridden! The body really didn’t want to do it as the challenge was complete.
Back home after 5 days and 250 miles we reminisced what a great time we had, having experienced all the varying weather the UK can muster, and talked about the characters we met on the Trail.
The TTP is a great piece of work and can be enjoyed by all. It’s worth doing the research and planning, knowing accommodation is booked and the daily mileages involved. We decided that 50-60 miles a day was do-able and trained for that. It paid off with few problems.
A big thanks to all who look after and manage the trail .It’s well worth it, but please Stockport and Hull- get some signs sorted!! We can’t wait to do it again.
Chris and Julia
Pat and Bryan’s story has helped our Partners right across the Trans Pennine Trail network to see how changes can make the route more accessible. Take a look at what they've helped to accomplish.