Father and son
We live in South Warrington and after noticing the TPT signs, had tried a few small local sections on Sunday family rides. Turning 50 I decided to take on the challenge to cycle the TPT from West to East with my 12 year old son.
The plan was to test a one day section from Southport to Warrington followed by a one day section from Warrington to Stockport before tackling the Pennines and eastward route over a few consecutive days.
I oiled my 35 year old drop handlebar Puch Pacemaker road bike whilst Robert insisted on using his new BMX.
Southport to Widnes 12/2/08
The first leg was planned in a hurry to take advantage of the unseasonal excellent weather of early February 2008. We favoured the train to get from Warrington to Southport, but discovered you have to pre-book tickets with Virgin and Northern rail to get the bikes on board, so reluctantly drove to Southport and left the car. First problem was parking in Southport as every street is by residents permit, so expensive car parks the only option after 45 minutes messing about.
First stop was Southport tourist information to get the initial stamp though they were unable to supply a second stamping card.
After the obligatory photos at the Seamark, we set off at 11:30 under blue skies and no wind. The first few miles were uncomfortable alongside the busy main road, however once onto the Cheshire lines it was pleasant and good progress was made over 9 miles to Aintree.
Just alongside the Leeds and Liverpool canal near Aintree, Rob shouted and came to a halt. His chain had broken. I repaired the link but noticed another link was half broken so we limped along for half a mile and emerged into Aintree retail park where luckily there was a Halfords.
New chain purchased (and kindly shortened by Halfords) we refuelled ourselves at Macdonalds and continued our way. The Liverpool loop line is generally good going and fascinating in places where it’s cut between sandstone and later through old station remains. Concentration is needed in some places as the track is littered with broken glass, however Rob was not too careful and picked up a classic puncture. I administered a repair in the middle of nowhere and 30 mins later were on our way again.
As we approached Halewood, Rob began to tire, the small wide tyres of the BMX and single gearing taking their toll, slowing the pace to half speed.
The section around Speke is a bit dodgy as mentioned by others, but there is a sudden change of scenery to thatched cottages as you enter Hale where we picked up a stamp at the Wellington although the bar staff had not heard of the TPT.
Shortly after a road section, we were treated to a spectacular view of Pickerings pasture at high tide and sunset before we made the last mile to Runcorn Bridge. We initially intended to reach home, but with no lights had to call a halt after 6 hours and 35 miles and call my wife to pick us up. On 24th Feb, we did the short and pleasant section alongside the Mersey from Runcorn Bridge to Warrington as a family and collected a stamp at the Ferry Inn.
to Stockport 31/4/08
With experience of breakdowns and poor time planning from the last section, we got more serious about this section. Rob accepted he needed a more robust geared bike and used my old MTB. I attached panniers to mine and filled them with spares, cagoules, sandwiches and drinks, etc to simulate a 3 or 4 day trip load.
We set off in fine weather and headed down to the ship canal. The route along the raised canal bank through Stockton Heath is good and very pleasant along the old railway line past Lymm and onto Dunham Massey. Some of the going was tough on soggy ground. We soon reached Dainewell Woods and had an early packed lunch. The next section after the motorway was varied and surprisingly rural as we made our way up the Mersey past Chorlton Water Park. Again sandy tracks made the going difficult and missing or interfered with signs caused us to lose our way several times. Coming into Stockport, we witnessed a few youths trying to jump start an obviously stolen motor bike on the TPT.
Conscious we did not have a stamp for this section, we made our way to the Hat museum who gladly obliged. We guessed our way out of Stockport, but finished up on the wrong side (North) of the river Tame, before correcting our route and eventually arriving at our destination (Reddish south) just as it began to rain. Thankfully, we didn’t have any breakdown incidents such as those on the previous section and had proven the MTB and my pannier and handle bag carriers.
Stockport to Hornsea
We originally planned to do the rest of the TPT in four days, but when I searched for accommodation, there was little to be found in Penistone and surrounding areas. I noticed a Premier Inn at Tankersley just off the Timberland Trail and had an idea that if we could make this, and another strategic overnight stop, we may be able to do it in three days, saving a days holiday and the cost of another overnight stay. The good thing about Premier Inns is you can cancel up to 1pm on the day, so I booked a second night at Goole.
Day 1 Stockport to Tankersly 19/7/08
I had bought new triple panniers so we set off loaded up to the gunnels with clothes, food, drinks, toiletries, spreading the weight of tools and spares (including spare chain!) into the handle bar carrier. The weather was atrocious and up to the last moment we considered abandoning, but the forecast was for improving conditions.
After 1 mile we got back onto the TPT in Reddish Vale and the first good rain shower setting the scene, we picked our track alongside a swollen river Tame to Denton where confusing signage caused us to loose our way on Kingsley close. Several more showers later we came upon the gruelling climb up the A560 and both my legs went into cramp. It was not looking good and at this point I had little hope of us climbing over the Pennines. We took it easy, skirted the estate at Gamesley (why the loop?) and had lunch sheltering under trees alongside the river Etherow in a heavy shower. We were both tired, and could not understand why, but had not realised, that from setting off in Stockport, we had been going uphill most of the way. After lunch we messed around trying to find the cycle shop in Hadfield but discovered it was now just a café. They were able to stamp our card and we stocked up with drinks for the Longdendale trail.
The Longendale trail has a good surface, beautiful views and is easy side by side riding, eating up the miles. Soon we were at Torside and made use of the facilities. Again, up to Woodhead was easy, but what a shock after that. The track went up at about 45 degrees over the moors. This was not cycling territory, but fortunately the weather had settled and we thought that if we got to the top, the other side would be easy. The peak never seemed to come and again I got cramp in both legs again. We eventually reached “The Plinth” and crossed the road to shoot down Windle Edge clocking 28 mph and made fast progress down the Don valley to Penistone. Taking the southerly route we picked up another stamp at Wortley, enjoyed the Timberland trail and arrived totally sodden and exhausted at Tankersley where the second good point about Premier Inns came in – a hot bath!
Tankersly to Goole 20/7/08
What a difference a good nights sleep made, and the weather had picked up.
After a few minor repairs, we were soon back on track and arrived at a very busy Elsecar Heritage centre where we were welcomed for a stamp before travelling a very pleasant and well used Elsecar greenway. Rob took a tumble here but was lucky to come away with nettle stings and bent brakes on the bike. We got lost in Dearne as the new section was not signposted and also the new motorbike barriers on this section are very difficult to get through with straight handlebars. We thought we might pop into Conisbrough for lunch but didn’t realise from the map that it was way across the other side of a deep valley. We finished up having lunch in a pub next to a very picturesque spot near Sprotbrough. Stocking up on even more bottles of coke in Bentley, we were soon through Owston wood with its odd concrete surface and over the level crossings to arrive at the New Junction canal. This is also a very pleasant ride, reminiscent of Holland. At Skyhouse we cheated a little by deviating from the TPT and to take a short cut across to Goole on mostly minor roads catching a heavy downpour. Rob came off again due to gravel on the side of a road, but only his pride was dented. We arrived at Goole Premier Inn at our estimated time and enjoyed a repetition of previous nights bath, food, laugh, and a good nights sleep.
Goole to Hornsea 20/7/08
The end was in sight – one more good days cycling but we had a considerable distance to travel. The weather was just right – sunny but cool. We had been lucky with no significant mechanical failures, although things were beginning to rattle and grind. The first challenge was to reach the TPT route without using too many busy roads and this was via Airmyn to Boothferry Bridge and Boothferry Road to Howden. The 15 mile (mostly road) route to Ellerker was very quiet and flat, with tree lines roads and poppy dotted fields but so many villages with no shops. Even Welton didn’t have a shop anymore, though we did obtain a stamp from the Green Dragon. It was interesting that in most cases where we obtained a stamp; the previous date was two or three months earlier. By the time we reached North Ferriby we were desperate for refreshments. From North Ferriby, the cobbled track alongside the river is extremely uncomfortable and punished the bikes. It’s possibly the worst section for a road bike and perhaps because of the shaking I lost use of bottom gear. After taking some photos with the background of the majestic Humber Bridge, we scooted through Hessle to a fish and chip shop on Hull Road. We ordered medium fish and chips but were presented with a whale each. I can’t imagine a large portion.
The ride into Hull was busy but OK and well signposted until we got to the centre and lost the trail in the main street. We just headed North until we picked the trail up again just off the A1033. Just 15 miles to go now, and although I had now lost top gear, I had three left. The Hornsea rail trail is a good surface and good progress could be made, but as in the case of most old rail lines, the track is tree lined and you get only a restricted view of the surrounding countryside.
On the Hornsea rail trail we met a group of 5 adventurers (approx 10 years old) who were on the return from Hornsea and were very interested in our journey.
Eventually the route took us into Hornsea and we hunted out Tourist information but it had just closed. Eager for a stamp in Hornsea, we cycled up to the Marine hotel and took the opportunity for a celebration drink before end of journey photos at the Seamark. Shame the route ends in a town which does not have railway station, but as we did not wish to cycle back to Hull, I called my wife to pick us up whilst I completely dismantled the bikes to fit in the Yaris.
All in all
Overall, the experience was a very good one. I would recommend it as a joint challenge with children or great to do sections of the TPT for short family rides. Most of the route was well maintained and off road.
We only quickly passed one group of people who looked like they were doing the TPT. It would be interesting to know how many people complete the coast to coast each year. Everyone we spoke to along the way was interested and helpful.
The TPT maps will soon be due for an update as some marked shops have closed or changed, and the route has been modified in places. It would be a bonus if the TPT route maps could identify water points, as the cost of Coca Cola refills for Robert was an item!
We clocked more than 215 miles even though we missed out the Selby loop and I had calibrated the odometer carefully.
It may be worth approaching the Premier Inn group to see if they would provide bike storage at appropriate Inns or some kind of discount scheme in return for advertising.
Mike and Robert Phillips.
(No connection with Premier Inns – just found them handy and good value)
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.