Southport to Hornsea
May 20th-22nd 2011: ‘Go on then – I’ll do it’ said I earlier this year and as the five of us were about to depart from the Balmoral Hotel Southport, the enormity of my response to my daughter, Rachel, began to hit home. Four of us (me, Rachel, Nigel and Danny) had travelled to Southport from East Yorkshire by train the day before and that seemed a long journey and we were about to return via cycle in three days. The fifth member, John, was meeting us at the hotel having travelled over early morning. The itinerary had us booked into the Premier Inn at Hattersley on Friday night, with the target for Saturday being Selby where we would be picked up by cars taking us home and then back again to Selby on Sunday morning for the completion leg to Hornsea.
Day 1 – Southport to Hattersley
8.40 a.m, off we set, first to the start point in Southport, where I picked up a stone from the beach to deposit at Hornsea. Then we were on our way, straight into a head wind! Its effect was reduced somewhat as we headed onto the Cheshire Lines path, the first of many of the old railway lines which were to take us to our destination over the next three days. An early highlight was the short section by the Leeds Liverpool canal where four canal boats slowly passed us plodding along and a couple of herons stood motionless as we passed. It was by this time that the others realised that I have a tendency to speak to everyone who I pass whilst cycling. This, together with everything but the kitchen sink being carried in my rucksack, caused great hilarity at times.
Up onto the Liverpool Loop line, what a superb surface for riding on. We made good progress along this stretch, including a stop at a well known supermarket just off the trail at East Prescot for a comfort break. Then through Speke and Hale and onto the banks of the Mersey passing under the Runcorn – Widnes bridge. As we cycled alongside the Sankey Canal, the first pangs of hunger were beginning to set in. Having threaded through the umpteenth A-frame along this section, we headed into Wilderspool to find somewhere to eat. A chippie for four of us and healthy eating for John from another well known supermarket. We left Wilderspool at about 2.30pm, travelling alongside the imposing Manchester Ship Canal with its high bridges towering over us. The old railway line from Thelwell to Altrincham took us through more A-frames which were a problem for me as mine is a hybrid bike with higher handlebars than the others who were all riding mountain bikes. This meant that I had to dismount at every A-frame whilst the others could carefully ride through.
As we left the off-road section, the rain which had been threatening for sometime began to fall heavily so we sheltered under a tree near Woodhouses until it stopped. A sensible move as the temperature had dropped and I was getting cold. We were now on the outskirts of Manchester, the signage so far had been good and the bikes were behaving although I was struggling to get lower gears.
As we followed the course of the River Mersey into Didsbury, we hit our first problem of the day, or rather I did!. Heading towards Didsbury Golf Club, I looked back only to look forward again as my front wheel hit the kerb, I somehow launched myself away from the bike and into some long grass. Luckily I was wearing long thick cycling leggings, but my left knee and right shin were trying to tell me something. I decided that the best thing to do was leave well alone and get on with the ride but I was out of it for some considerable time afterwards. So then, having followed the diversionary route, we missed the entrance to the off road section and headed over the A34. A customer in a local barber’s shop put us right and we were soon back alongside the Mersey heading towards Stockport. John and Nigel had moved out in front at this point and as we came around a corner on a narrow off-road section, there was Nigel moving a burning sofa out of the way.
We followed the signs into a very busy Stockport and then, we were lost. We had passed under the railway viaduct along Heaton Lane and we were now facing the shopping area. We spoke to a couple of people who, unfortunately, could not pinpoint our location on the TPT map and tiredness was setting in. In the end, we made a decision to head for the northern route and after not too long had relocated the trail, route 55 I think. Some damage to the signage near the new workings on the River Tame meant that we nearly chose the Tame Valley route instead of the TPT which was about 50 yards away. Having negotiated a fairly rough section near Denton, we followed the flat route south of Hyde until the long climb to the hotel at Hattersley. 7.10 p.m. This was a really tough end to the day and a roll call revealed a few problems. Danny had been struggling with his, shall we say, nether regions for most of the second half of the day, trouble with Nigel’s knee ligaments meant that he had effectively been cycling on one leg for a good 35 miles, Rachel was just about exhausted and I was just thinking of tomorrow and the Pennine climb. The only one who was fine was John and he was just accompanying us on the first leg anyway.
Our support team (Anne, Joanna and Amanda), who had driven across from East Yorkshire during the afternoon, were on hand to sort out any problems and encourage us for the next stage.
Day 2 – Hattersley to Selby
9.10 a.m. We all made breakfast (I must admit to having no appetite whatsoever!) and after a bike and rider check, we (now 4) waved goodbye to the girls and set off downhill towards the turn for Broadbottom, which Nigel nearly missed. The first of several climbs took us into Charlesworth and then onto Hadfield to the ride across the end of Bottoms reservoir. We then crossed between Bottoms and Valehouse reservoirs, a very spectacular location, followed by an uncyclable climb onto the Longdendale trail.
Of the whole areas on the trail, this, to me, was the best. The trail surface was very good and the views of all the other reservoirs to our left and rolling hills to the right was superb. Good progress along this section with a back wind meant we soon reached the Woodhead Tunnel. The second uncyclable climb took us above the entrance to the tunnel and over the Woodhead Pass (A628) road, followed by a continued climb to a farm track. We had to pass several cows as we headed back towards the main road, they reluctantly moved out of the way probably wondering why anyone else but them should be up there.
Another climb and we were at Windle Edge, with the descent to Dunford Bridge to come. Rachel went first, then Nigel, followed by Danny and then me. We clocked 40mph which seemed very quick to me and towards the end, a smell of burning tainted the air. I thought that someone was burning some strange materials, it turned out to be Rachel and Danny’s disc brakes! Back onto the old railway again and onwards to Penistone with Rachel in front setting a good pace and the remainder of us funnelled in behind. This section was very busy with plenty of people out walking with and without dogs, cycling and horse riding, a pleasure to see. A lunch stop just off the trail at another well known supermarket in Penistone and on again towards Oxspring where we climbed a long steep hill to Thurgoland, we had obviously missed the signs off the main road. We decided to head north towards Silkstone Common and with the help of a group of walkers, who pointed us in the right direction, we duly arrived at the Dove Valley trail at Silkstone. Although Nigel’s knee was still giving him some problems, Danny’s problem had not worsened and Rachel had gathered some more stamina, I was just glad we had passed all the high points!
Again, we made good progress along this section, over the M6 and onto Wombwell, another good surface. A pleasant ride alongside the River Dearne and then we were passed Conisbrough before dropping down by an old viaduct onto the banks of the River Don to Sprotbrough. This was another busy section which was narrow and windy, not the place to meet a motor cycle coming the other way as we did. Two members of Her Majesty’s Constabulary were interested in this man as they stopped us some way further up the trail to ask of his presence. Not much likelihood of an arrest, I think. We had a brief stop at Sprotbrough lock for an ice cream before passing under the A1 and then along a very good surface to Bentley. This was followed by an extremely bumpy, although thankfully very dry, off-road section to the first of several level crossings just ahead of Owston Wood.
By this stage, there were very few, if any, fellow walkers and cyclists to be seen as we wended our way down the leafy lanes towards Braithwaite. A photo stop at the lock was followed by what seemed like a sprint down the New Junction Canal to Sykehouse. We had decided earlier in the day that, when we reached Pollington, we would make a decision as to where we would stop at for the day (Selby or Howden) so that would give enough time for the support team to get whichever destination we picked. Having taken the walker’s route at Crow Croft bridge and been kindly aided by a local resident, we retraced and duly arrived at Pollington at 6p.m. A quick straw poll and Selby at 7p.m. was the choice so following messages to the team, we headed for Gowdall and Snaith. The sun shone briefly as we passed a cricket match at Carlton, the first one we had seen all day. The section to Burn airfield seemed to take a long time but once that was passed, we were soon alongside the Selby canal and then over the toll bridge arriving just about on time. The bikes were soon installed in the support vehicles and we were on our way home but not before a well earned drink in our local, the Kings Arms at Newport.
Day 3 – Selby to Hornsea
We set off in convoy back to Selby after a decent breakfast. All of us had cycled the section from Selby to Welton before so we were familiar with the area and what was to come.
9.10 a.m. A fresh south westerly wind blew as we headed towards Selby Farms having been waved off by the girls and Carl at the toll bridge. There was an early threat of rain but this did not materialise as we made our way through Cliffe and Hemingbrough to the off road section to Barmby on the Marsh. We reached Knedlington cross roads after about 45 minutes where a friend of ours, Steve, met us for the ride to Brantingham. I would certainly recommend any visitors to this area to call into Howden which has a delightful centre overlooked by the Minster. The run through the quiet roads in this area was only disturbed by the sound of our derailleur gears humming as the back wind blew us along. I had intended to stop at Blacktoft to sign the visitors book in the Old School House but was overruled by the others. We crossed Market Weighton lock and then through Broomfleet and on to Ellerker.
As we passed Brantingham, Steve decided he would head home (into the wind). It was at this point that the rain, which had been threatening for some time, began to fall heavily. As luck would have it, we managed to find shelter under some trees and, after about five minutes, just as Nigel’s knee began to seize up, the rain stopped. The road between Elloughton to Welton is the only significant climb in this area but it does afford some superb views along the River Humber. We had to weave through several walkers here, who were on a charity walk. Down into Welton, through Melton then into North Ferriby. At this point, I gave the others the option of the climb through Swanland or along the Humber Bank, so along the Humber Bank it was (what a surprise!).
I was hoping for an ice cream at Hessle foreshore but there was no sign of the van so we headed through the Square and then along Hull Road before entering Hull over the Hessle Road flyover. The signage through Hull soon had us in the centre where we stopped for something to eat in Queens Gardens. Our estimated time of arrival in Hornsea was 3 p.m so we relayed that to the support team and then set off at about 1.40 p.m. towards the old Hull-Hornsea railway line. Once on this section, it was largely plain sailing, apart from having to pass a burnt out van at Swine. We reached the old railway station at Hornsea and then turned right down towards the finish. At this point, Rachel nearly took me out as she passed across in front of me just missing my front tyre but a sharp intake of breath and we arrived just after 3p.m.
Little did we know that a much larger welcoming committee would be there than just the support team, but it was good to see them. After plenty of photographs and the ceremonial dropping of the ‘Southport stone’ into the Hornsea sand, it was all over.
A marvellous achievement to cross the country via some wonderful countryside and urban trails. Hardly any debris anywhere, a real credit to those who look after the TPT. Those old railway lines have really been put to good use. The bikes held up very well, the signage was generally very good and it was three days which none of us will ever forget.
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.