Four chums unitedly killing cancer!
Myself (Iain) and 3 friends all in our early thirties – Nige, Lyndon & Matt decided to use the Trans Pennine Trail to raise money for Cancer Research UK. We set off on 1st April 2010 in some of the worst weather conditions possible for the time of year but it all added to the experience! We had a brilliant support driver who met us at points on the trail with food, fixed our bikes and transported our luggage between stops. Thanks to everyone who maintains the Trail, it is an excellent route hopefully used by many generations to come.
Day 1 – April Fools Day! We were dropped off by car at the start point. After a slight delay, we set off from a very cold, windy but sunny Southport at 8:45am. Once we had reached the sand dunes the wind dropped and we started to enjoy the ride, commenting how easy it was and how well we must have prepared… This soon changed when we reached the outskirts of Liverpool where some of the signs had been changed, broken or burnt and we got lost. Using the maps we managed to get back on track but the burnt out wheelybins and rubbish strewn track wasn’t at all how we had imagined the trail to be. Lyndon then had the first puncture and we spent 30 minutes trying to fix it (difficult puncture!) only to discover we had stopped in a mine field of dog mess… After much cursing, feet wiping, big dogs chasing us and more cursing we set off again. The trail had become muddier in places and as we reached Spike Island in Widnes it was raining heavily. The Merseyside section of the trail was a bit disappointing (with the exception of Hale village, lovely place!) after the nice start in Southport but it was all part of the journey. Lyndon was struggling with cramp and as we stopped we met a local who was very vocal about the new flower art piece on the river bank. After a brief history of Widnes, he wished us good luck and we set off heading for the cooling towers of Fiddlers Ferry power plant. This part was very difficult going, the trail was water logged and very, very muddy. A great sight at the end of this section was Graham, his wife Lynn and her friend Val who had brought us some lovely home made bread and sandwiches! After a brief stop with some special tea and coffee we set off for Lymm where again we were met with some freshly made pasta. This method of eating little and often was great as it kept us topped up. We then had the run in to Didsbury which was hard work due to the constant heavy rain and hail stones. We got to Didsbury at about 8pm just as it was getting dark and Matt’s brakes had stopped working due to the mud and water. Unfortunately we couldn’t see the signs and got lost so after half an hour of riding around in circles we resorted to mobile phone sat nav! This guided us into the hotel (via a petrol station where we jet washed the very muddy bikes!) where Graham had pre-warned them of our condition! They kindly let us put the bikes in the rooms but the lift was broken and we were on the third floor! Finally we made it into our rooms, got changed and went to Nando’s at 10pm for tea and 2 beers (all we could manage!). Despite the tiredness, we struggled to sleep as we had 2 double rooms between 5 of us! Day 1 was a real eye opener!
Day 2 – Good Friday. We planned to set off early as we had the dreaded Pennines to cross on Day 2, a tasty continental breakfast in our rooms and then a quick check over the bikes. It became apparent that Matt’s brakes were well and truly unusable. The night before, he had to ride for an hour in the dark through Didsbury town centre with no brakes trying to keep up with everyone else following the sat nav! Graham (as a top support driver!) had a spare bike for such issues. Matt changed his gear onto the spare bike and Graham said he would spend the morning fixing the brakes. Nige also had no rear brake, the 2 bikes with mechanical discs were struggling with the mud and water getting into them. This delayed the start slightly but we then made good progress into Stockport, getting a little lost by the Pyramid building but generally making good time. Lyndon had really struggled on Day 1 as he hadn’t eaten properly and had tyre pressure issues, we were all concerned for him but on Day 2 he was like a man possessed! He became the fastest up virtually every climb and actually improved his stamina each day! The trail took us through the beautiful Reddish Vale Country Park, what a difference the outskirts of Manchester to the outskirts of Liverpool. This had some climbing but also some fast downhill sections where we had the first wobble. Matt’s front wheel got stuck on a descent but he managed to stop himself from falling off and Iain managed to squeeze by on the edge of a big drop… Close! Nige decided to fit a head cam to try and get some moving footage at this point. After Reddish Vale, the trail became very muddy and steep making progress slow. Matt’s turn to get a puncture which again took 30 mins to fix due to some spindle and brake trouble. Iain was low on energy due to food intake but a few high energy bars fixed this. We made it to Hyde behind schedule where Graham was waiting with some food and a fixed bike! Iain recharged (and ate the leftovers), Matt opted to stick with the spare bike but Graham managed to repair Nige’s at this point too. We arranged to meet again in Hadfield (where League of Gentlemen was filmed) for lunch and Graham went ahead to scope out a pub. We set off again but the climbing had started with a very strong headwind! Upon reaching a village called Charlesworth after a big hill it started to rain heavily, we met a man outside the pub who explained the local area and asked if we were mad riding in this weather. Matt assured him about local brewery tactics and we set off for Hadfield. After a lengthy ride, we realised we had actually overshot Hadfield and missed Graham! It was getting late in the afternoon, we’d had no lunch and were getting frustrated by the prospect of the 16 miles remaining, straight up over Woodhead Pass! A quick decision was made and a local lady directed to a nearby pub. Nige phoned Graham and guided him to us and we went into the pub for a break and lunch (at nearly 4pm…). The landlord and landlady were really friendly and so were the locals, especially the state we were in! They also put quite a bit of money in our collection tin. We had a cracking meal, all homemade steak pudding, chips, mushy peas and gravy all washed down with a couple of pints of bitter (Iain’s first bitter ever!). The pub was great and the locals advised us on the route ahead. We reluctantly set off after saying goodbye just after 5pm to tackle Woodhead Pass… The run in up to Woodhead Tunnel was quite flat but very wet and muddy again (spot the theme!), we had a good journey and then hit the tunnel which is now closed to the public. We didn’t meet anyone else up there which was a bit worrying as the weather had really turned nasty but we carried on. This was extremely hard, wet and muddy but we finally made it to the top where we took some pictures. A bit further on, we realised this wasn’t the top and carried on further, riding through deep water pouring down the sides… Eventually as it was getting dark and we were questioning if we were going the right way we reached the downhill road section. The massive climb was well worth this rapid descent down the other side, reaching 35mph on mountain bikes in the dark / wet / mud is great fun! At the bottom we again went off road and saw a lone cyclist riding towards us. A bit nearer and we recognised it was Graham on the spare bike, meeting us to guide us in to the B&B! We followed him back at a tremendous pace for about 30 mins in the pitch black to the B&B, off road, again in deep water and mud. We arrived dripping wet, covered in mud and freezing cold in the dark, without Graham we wouldn’t have found the remote B&B at all! The owners of Carr house were lovely and we tried to keep our rooms clean! A quick change and we set off in Graham’s car for the nearest pub. We were too late for food but they made some sandwiches for us on the bar which we gratefully ate. The landlord was also a volunteer for mountain search and rescue and was interested to hear about our trip. He also said the weather was terrible for such a challenge… 2 drinks later (Iain & Matt couldn’t even manage a beer) and back to bed, another very tiring day but we got to see some great scenery and a sense of achievement….
Day 3 – Saturday. We started the day off well with a fantastic cooked breakfast! A quick oil of the bikes, plastic bags on our feet to protect from our soaking shoes and we set off again. On the way back to the trail, we got lost and had a whole field of sheep baa’ing at us! A helpful postie (flagged down by 4 dodgy looking blokes on bikes…) guided us back and we set off towards the trail split at Oxspring. We wanted to take the North option here as it was more off road but somehow got lost and ended up on the South trail. Graham had also got lost at this point at we ended up in the same village at the same time! We followed the South trail and made good progress until we came across a signpost we didn’t recognise. A quick check on the sat nav and map revealed we had gone 6 miles the wrong way! This had taken us an hour as it was in fact the bridle path (deep mud!) that went South. To top this off, Nige then got a puncture, another 30 mins stopped. We retraced our steps and then found our way back to where we had started hours ago…. Sat Nav was again used to help find the trail in the right direction but by now we were nearly 3 hours behind schedule! We finally made it to an RSPB park on the trail where Graham was waiting with food for our lunch! Again, no time for a pub stop but the food was great. Iain got a puncture over lunch but managed to fix it before we were ready to set off (1 puncture each now!). We had a good section and the first glimpse of sunshine at this point, we made up some of the lost time by riding hard. We flew through Doncaster along some nice stretches of the River Don and up to Bentley. Again, some of the signposts had been moved but we managed to stay on track. We met Graham again late afternoon at the side of the trail for some more food and drink before setting off for the final run into Selby. This took us along a great part of the New Junction Canal which was flat and fast. Matt managed the last puncture of the trip here but it didn’t take too long to fix. We continued further mostly along country lanes that were part of the trail giving us speed and allowing us to make up some of the lost time. Nige had started to get a pain in his right knee but said it was probably just fatigue. It was now dark and we were 7 miles from Selby so we managed to get up some speed on the final run, again using the Sat Nav to find the B&B (Hazeldene) where Graham was waiting and had pre-warned the owner! She was lovely and had other bikers staying there too. We put the bikes away and got changed, it was now late and Graham had gone to find somewhere for us to eat. As it was Easter Saturday, lots of places were fully booked but he managed to get a small Italian restaurant to let us in. We all had Pasta and the kind owner very generously donated to our charity. Matt and Lyndon needed sleep so they headed back whilst Iain, Nige and Graham went to the nearby pub for a game of pool and a couple of quiet drinks. The end was almost in sight, just 1 more day to go!
Day 4 – Easter Sunday! The last leg (literally…), we all now felt the end was near and just as well as we were feeling the ride by now! Nige had woken up with a bad pain in his right knee. We gave him some pills to reduce the pain and swelling followed by some deep heat to numb it. At breakfast (another lovely full cooked!) we met a fantastic chap called Derek Brown who entertained us throughout the whole of breakfast. He also raises money for charity and is planning a 700 miles walk in 32 days in 2011. He is hearing impaired, has fused toes but carries a massive back pack all over raising money. He truly inspired us to push on and also kindly donated to our cause. We are thinking of joining him next year on a section of his walk through Manchester. We set off and after a false start where we met some fellow trail cyclists going the wrong way, we got onto the correct track and aimed for Hull! Nige became increasingly concerned over his knee and he had to strap his left foot to his pedal as the right leg wouldn’t bend. Basically his left leg had to do all the work which was amazing! We had just over 60 miles to cover but the majority of the trail at this section is on small tracks and roads which were again quite flat. We had a brief stop to meet Graham for some food and then pressed on. We finally sighted a glimpse of the Humber Bridge in the distance but Nige was taking a picture and fell off his bike, no harm done but a few laughs from Matt! A bit closer and Nige was now riding with just 1 leg constantly, we have no idea how he managed this as the amount of effort his leg had to give was tremendous, he was determined to finish the ride! Again we stopped for a picture near to the bridge but Nige fell off again, this time snapping the strap on his left foot. Disaster as he now couldn’t ride but Iain had a football sock in his rucksack and tied Nige’s foot on with this. We made it to the Humber Bridge to meet Graham but his sat nav couldn’t find us. Iain’s pedal had broken but was still usable. We also met Lyndon’s brother and partner for a quick drink and some advice on Hull. They wished us good luck and we set off to meet Graham for final food stop before Hornsea. We now realised that Nige couldn’t ride back from Hornsea to Hull so we had to think of a plan, there was no station in Hornsea so it was looking bleak at this point. We made it to a village on the outskirts of Hull called Hessle. Hessle was a lively place with a 1950’s Ford dealer, bouncers on the public toilets (no joke!) and a great local character called Brett. Brett chatted away whilst we ate asking if we were completing a marathon or could help him find a girlfriend. Iain gave Brett a cereal bar and he wished everyone good luck but only had his bus fare home so couldn’t sponsor us. He had lost both his parents to cancer and his job in the local saw mill but was still a cheerful chap! He had gone to Hessle for a day out and watch the world go by. We pressed on and reached the outskirts of Hull, late on Easter Sunday. We were amazed by the number of police cars driving round all taking an interest in us. We stopped to get the map out but then were stopped ourselves by a police car. The policeman offered to help us and looked at the map.
We finally made it into the town centre and then back onto the trail. The last leg was 15 miles off road but not too muddy and also flat. The pace was slow but we played trivia games to keep spirits up. Nige managed a steady pace and we eventually arrived at the sea front in Hornsea! Graham had a bottle of champagne for us and Lyndon’s brother Darren had also come to help transport the bikes back! A quick celebration drink with photos (with Nige falling off again) and then back to our hotel in Hull! The hotel was a welcome sight and the bikes were quickly brushed down with a cloth by Graham. The hotel had said we could put them in a conference room if not too dirty so we made them presentable. As we checked in they stopped serving food but kindly took our order, allowed us to get changed and then we had tea! We were all too tired to leave the hotel so had a couple of beers in the bar and then bed. The staff were lovely and also a man passing at reception gave us another generous donation! Finally we could relax with a couple of beers and a mixed grill, 234 miles completed over 4 days in some of the toughest conditions we had ever ridden in. We all got on really well and our support driver was fantastic. So that’s it really until next time….. Thanks to everyone who sponsored us – Iain, Nige, Lyndon and Matt!
We finally made it into Hornsea, on the North East coast just above Hull after 4 days of riding in some very different and difficult weather! Thank you to everyone who sponsored us, those who gave money on the trail, sent us messages and above all, supported us to complete this challenge. There were some very tiring parts of the ride where it all looked too much but we managed to push ourselves and complete each day. We would also like to thank our support driver who was absolutely amazing! (If Carlsberg made support drivers….) Due to the weather and conditions of the trail we didn’t make any of the planned lunch stops but the Stig (aka Graham Vernon from ATC in Warrington) was on hand to meet us in a car park, road crossing or similar on the trail with stacks of supplies so we could eat on the move. We couldn’t have put the mileage in each day if it wasn’t for Graham and he made the difference between us making it and failure! We were also lucky to have assistance from Darren (Lyndon’s brother) on the last day as we had some issues and he came to collect us from Hornsea, took us back to the hotel and bought us all a beer, cheers Darren we owe you a few beers next time we meet! Finally we would like to thank our families for letting us complete this challenge, supporting us with messages and a very warm welcome when we made it home! Thanks to all and hope you enjoy the story and it inspires others to use this excellent trail.
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.