Three and a half days of riding enjoyment experiencing the Trans Pennine Trail
04-07 July 2016
A great start but a quick stop! The plan to be bussed from Walkington near Beverley East Yorkshire to the start line at Southport came to a sudden halt on the M62 at Junction 21. This was Monday 04 July (American Independence Day) and far from being independent the road was chock-a-block with vehicles. Unfortunately there had been a serious road accident. However, after about an hour we had managed to creep forward far enough to slip off at J21 and circumnavigate the area returning to the M62 at J20. We glided passed the 20 mile tale back on the other side and eventually reach Southport at 1.15 pm after leaving at 8.15 that morning.
After a quick lunch, the obligatory photographs, it was up on our bikes and off. The all important weather was to play it’s part that day. A South Westerly side wind blew steadily as we picked up the first part of the trail until we turned East leaving the Ainsdale Sands behind us. We also noticed how overgrown the trail had become. Nettles and briers were the main culprit and besides narrowing the trail they became quite a hazard. To add to our misery the rain started, gently at first then in heavy bursts. Thank goodness they left the road bridges when they took up the rail lines. These gave us shelter to put our water proofs on as we had no intention of stopping. The idea of a hot shower at the B&B was a strong incentive to battle on. The route, although made difficult through mud and rain, was enjoyable but after climbing Wally’s Steps at Aintree the signage was not clear and we wasted a lot of time finding the TPT again. For instance the route crosses a busy road and the sign states, “Go along Boulevard Speke”, but it does not tell you that the rider has to travel down Blackburn Drive first before arriving at Boulevard Speke. Once back on the trail we made our way to Hale for our first B&B.
This B&B is excellent. Church End Farmhouse 5 Church End, Hale L24 4AX.
Tel. 01514 254273. Highly recommended.
The next morning, cloudy but no rain, found that 2 of us had picked up punctures and unfortunately a water main had burst and so we started the day replacing inner tubes and going without a shower. The day could only get better. A good South West wind took us easily away from Hale and to Widnes to climb the odd steps on the bridge over Ditton Marsh. But again signage was the problem. We eventually found the trail again by following ordinary signs pointing to Widnes water front. The trail takes the rider past Lymm Hotel which welcomes users of the TPT. Just past there on the trail, look out for a bike shop with friendly and helpful owner.
On the point of signage it would help if most if not all signs could have East (E) or West (W) shown on them especially at places like Charlton Water Park (a really nice park which we can vouch for as we saw it twice). Our fault, we should have read the map better. Having gone around the lake we followed the signs correctly through or over two fences which brought us in line with the River Mersey. Next we came to a road bridge which has a sign pointing for the rider/walker to go up the bank. This we did and found ourselves on Princess Road (A 5103). Had another sign been there marked E we would have followed the River Mersey to Didsbury Village. However, we managed to find minor roads and landed back at Charlton Water Park. After this episode of déjà vu we realised our mistake and rediscovered the trail.
But not for long, as between Didsbury Village and Didsbury the signs seem to disappear again and left us at a busy junction either with some minor road near to the M60 or where the A34 and A5145 cross. Guided by signs leading to the River Mersey we rediscovered the trail. The surface on this part of the trail at times was poor almost to a point of being dangerous. The idea of using crushed house bricks was good but they had only been broken down to the size of a golf ball (but square) which made riding very difficult. Then suddenly the surface changed and it was rim deep loose sand. However, as if to make up for it, to our pleasant surprise was Stockport, it just came and went with no problems at all just good signage.
Hyde also gave us a problem with poor signage but we eventually arrived at Hadfield and our B&B. This B&B, Hikers & Bikers, is worth a mention. The rooms are clean and ideal for a place to stop on route. But please be warned, there is no breakfast served until 9.00 am. Even if agreement is made with the owner a week before, as we did for breakfast at 8.00am and agreed again the night of arrival as the owner takes (almost demands) the cash for the B&B. When no one appeared by 7.50 am the next morning the owner was contacted and asked if breakfast was to be served. The language from him was bad and insulting. He said that we had caused him nothing but trouble since we arrived and that he will be pleased to see the back of us. The said person arrived 10 minuets later. We recovered our bikes again with bad language from him. We were told, as he slapped down on a table some sort of rebate for the non-breakfast, that he never wants to see us ever again. That’s funny we thought the feelings were reciprocated as we did not want to see him again. Perhaps a visit to the AA may help him keep his business.
Anyhow on with the day. Across the road was a café, yes, open at that time in the morning –imagine! We got not only something to eat and drink but the sympathy card for staying at Hikers and Bikers. Leaving Hadfield (Oh by the way there is a very good B&B close by at Padfield) we were soon ticking off the miles as we passed the various (very full) reservoirs, to meet up with the infamous Woodhead Pass. Now that is not strictly true. The Pass bit I mean. A bit cruel really. We only wished it had been a pass. There is a tunnel but no, you are not allowed to ride through it. One has to go over it and if like us your bike is weighed down by pannier bags the effort required to climb the steep incline is immense. The path itself is made up of loose rubble and the incline goes left and right until the top is reached. But what an achievement and all part of the challenge and interest the TPT brings. Further on that statement was tested, as it was suggested we take a left off the trail and go even higher over the Pennines passed the old chimney used in the steam train age for air and smoke outlet. This left turn is just passed a wooden sign post showing the TPT to the right. Unless one is desperate to see the chimney then save your energy and stick to the trail. The chimney looks like the base of a windmill but about a third in size of height. We had to retrace our steps and re-join the trail. The speed run down towards Dunford Bridge was as exhilarating as ever with it’s sharp right turn just before the bridge to follow a good clear path to Penistone. A good watering hole and with all the facilities a biker needs for himself and his bike. Leaving Penistone the trail goes either via Silkstone or Wortley. We chose Silkstone taking a left in Oxspring. The first part of the trail crosses a pretty little bridge and then there is another bike pushing time up a steep slope and the path suddenly closes in as the area is so over grown. The trail leads through what looks as if it could become some ones back yard, then onto a road which leads onto the A629.
Our battle of giant weeds nearly over we travelled on some very good paths that had excellent surfaces and were a joy to ride on. We carried on until finally we passed Barnsley stopping further along the route at the Old Moor RSBP Centre for refreshments then onward. Passed Doncaster area, Bentley, Braithwaite, Sykehouse and stopped at Carlton for our B&B. The Forrister Arms.
This B&B is highly recommended, clean, comfortable and would you believe a great breakfast at the time we asked for it. The staff were hospitable and friendly, our only wish had been that The Forrester Arms did evening meals as we were lucky to find a place that sold hot food. It would appear that all eating establishments in Carlton close at 8.00 pm.
Our final day and fully fuelled up we cruised along to Howden on a well signed trail until we came to the delights of the village hall at Blacktoft. Free tea, coffee or juice and biscuits. There is an honesty box and of course its DIY but certainly for a break it was ideal. The money collected evidently goes towards a restoration fund for the old school hall.
It was then a case of travelling along some long country lanes (the Romans must have had something to do with building them) and just when you think that the day before you had seen the last of anything resembling a hill up comes at least two near to Ellerker and Welton. These conquered, we passed through North Ferriby then along the River Humber and made a stop for lunch at The Country Inn in the shade of the Humber Bridge. Our next challenge was to negotiate Hull. Normally it would not be a problem but as this city is preparing for 2017, The City of Culture, many of the roads and paths were dug up and there was a lot of re-routing that had to be done. Fortunately 2 of the team in June had shown a group of riders from Sheffield the way through and therefore there were no hold ups. From Hull the well signed trail showed us the way to Hornsea and arrived there 2 hours later.
Final stamp, final photographs and finally we parted to go our separate ways after three and a half days riding and notching up 232 miles.
The team was 4 men and one woman who, as a collective team, had only met once the week before. We claimed our start stamp from the Travel Information Centre now located in the large public library in Southport. We ended up collecting 6 stamps and the final one at Hornsea. The extra one stamp was a DIY one at Blacktoft village hall. The importance of training for such a ride is paramount. Especially if you have never ridden any further than 20 miles in one day. A decent well serviced bike with spare inner tubes to fit the wheels that you are riding (yes I know, that is obvious but believe me, not to all) Good padded shorts or trousers and a saddle that remains comfortable even after hours of riding. Riding West to East, if one is lucky you have a South West or Westerly wind helping you across the country.
The TPT is a great facility. A challenge in many ways but invigorating and the euphoria when the ride is completed is there for all to experience.
Michael Blake 01482 887200
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.