Cycling the Trans Pennine Trail – Phil Travis (August 2023)
I’ve been planning to ride the Trans Pennine Trail for quite a while, ever since I completed the Leeds/Liverpool canal a few years ago. At the beginning of 2023 I invested in an MTB training
programme, purchased the TPT west to east route maps and got serious!
This blog covers my full TPT ride over three days in August 2023. All opinions expressed are my own from my personal experience of the Trail. You may agree or disagree!
The journey began with a very smooth rail journey from Bradford to Southport and an overnight stay. I’ve got to give a big shout out to ‘Lings on Kings’, which my wife and I visited for our evening meal. The food was lovely and the staff so friendly. Once the owner found out I was riding the trail for two charities (Alzheimer’s U.K. and Martin House Children’s Hospice) she gave me a £20 donation! A great start to the adventure!
Day 1. Southport to Hattersley. 79 miles.
After waving off my support crew I had a lovely ride along the coastline, hugging the dunes until I experienced lesson 1-rely on your own navigation tools rather than members of the public for directions!
Whenever I come across approaching people/ bikes/ horses on narrow tracks I always stop to make passing that little bit easier. The first pass of the day nearly led to local hero status as my approaching fellow cyclist continued to ride, moved onto the damp canal side grass and slowly moved horizontally towards the water. With his feet dangling in mid air over the water he managed to regain control and stay dry! We then chatted a while about our plans before continuing on our paths!
The picturesque village of Hale, with its rather grand thatched homes, led to splendid Mersey estuary views on the way to my support crew rendezvous at the Catalyst Science Café, where coffee and rather nice Eccles cakes helped to fuel the afternoon ride.
The afternoon reinforced the power of nature and the power of dogs! Left to its own devices nature quickly takes over sections of the Trail leading to a stingy, scratchy ride! The power of dogs? Owners frantically barking instructions to pets to share the Trail with me-utterly unheeded by the dogs! I’m pleased to report slow passes led to cyclist and dogs remaining unharmed.
Sections of the Trail gave a very ‘Game of Thrones’ feel with tracks, lined with trees arching overhead. I expectantly awaited Stark or Lannister families around every bend!
Stockport currently has some Trail closures (August 2023) with very clear alternative and relatively easy to follow yellow alternative route signs.
I arrived at my overnight stop in Hattersley at the Premier Inn delighted with the day and full of positivity for day 2. I chose Premier Inn for their locations en route and their positivity towards
staying with a cycle.
Overall thoughts on day 1 – Southport to Hattersley has some lovely sections, particularly early on. Signage can be varied. Without Garmin and Komoot I think I would have had several ‘going round in circles/totally lost moments’. Many of the A frame entry/ exit points to Trail sections are difficult to negotiate on modern bikes with wider handlebars. Doable but frustrating!
Lesson 2- fear of the unknown is your biggest enemy! I personally found day 2 an absolute joy. It began with a speedy downhill section from Hattersley to Broadbottom! I love long downhill sections! This was followed by glorious breakfast smells coming from the shops in a very quiet Hadfield. Being blessed with summer weather, which only seven days previously had looked like winter weather, the ride up through the woods to the Woodhead tunnels was picturesque with the sun glistening through the trees and bouncing off the rocks. The ride up and over Woodhead Pass was steep but relatively short and the views from the top are well worth the exertion.
Coming off the moors was a fun ride and the downhill on tarmac to Dunford Bridge was exhilarating.
Dunford Bridge to Penistone was a highlight with several clever sculptures carved in situ-carrots and creatures stood out. Nice coffee and cake stop in Penistone before continuing a great gentle downhill ride along smooth tracks and pleasant scenery through Oxspring.
Lesson 3 came soon after – never make assumptions about a persons age! Had a great conversation with a gentleman on a similar bike to mine, who had a junior bike attached via a
fixed bar. Having suggested to me we were a similar age I asked the youngster with him if he pedalled or allowed grandad to do it all. ‘Dad, not grandad’ was the swift reply. Oops! Lesson
learned! I chuckled to myself for quite a way as I continued on to the second overnight stop in Doncaster, again at the Premier Inn.
Overall thoughts on day 2 – Definitely the highlight of the whole Trail. Varied terrain, picturesque, interesting and once over Woodhead Pass pleasantly downhill. Possibly should have gone further, maybe to Selby, to make the final day a little shorter. But that’s the beauty of hindsight.
Day 3. Doncaster to Hornsea. 89 miles.
The final day began in glorious sunshine again and the ride to Braithwaite and beyond was excellent with sightings of early morning rabbits, herons and moorhens. I guess it was inevitable I would have a puncture at some point – of course why not on the longest day and whilst I was going really well! And of course it was a rear wheel flat!
I managed to get the wheel off, change the tube and re fit the tyre but getting the wheel back on – no way! I’d had a brief lesson from my son a few weeks earlier but hadn’t retained all the facts. Through the magic of technology and my wonderful support team a quick video call to son in Bahrain solved the problem and I was mobile again. Lesson 4- practice makes perfect so before the next challenge practice removing the rear wheel several times!
Onwards to a lunch stop in Selby and then miles and miles of long, straight roads and tracks with very little to look at apart from combine harvesters! The Humber Bridge stood in the distance but I’m convinced it kept moving backwards as each mile pedalled appeared to take me further away from it. I eventually got to the bridge and onwards to Hull centre, where a local family member met me and escorted me through the city centre on a series of dedicated bike lanes. A quick coffee and cake stop at the family house revived the body for the final 15 mile push to the finish at Hornsea. Nice riding tracks all the way and I was soon turning onto the road to see the sea, the TPT finish statue and a large welcoming crowd of family and friends.
Overall thoughts on day 3 – A long flat day. Not a great deal of interest.
– A good challenge over a variety of surfaces and mainly off road.
– Signage is varied-some excellent, some in need of improvement.
– Navigation devices are pretty essential and more than one can be really helpful.
– Having a support team is a real bonus for travelling light.
– Train for the ride-it makes the experience so much better.
– Plan thoroughly.
– Re fuel regularly. 30-60g carbs every hour. Flapjack, jelly babies and gels!
– Don’t let fear of the unknown convince you it’s not possible.
– Age is just a number. I’ll be drawing my pension soon!
And that’s it. 215 cycled over three days to complete the whole Trans Pennine Trail – Southport to Hornsea. £1200 raised for two charities and to think I wasn’t even going to make it a charity ride!
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.