Three Intrepid Explorers
Three intrepid explorers cycled the full 215 mile Trans Pennine Trail (with no punctures!), all in aid of The Christie charity and raised £3000.00
At 7.00 am on Friday morning under grey skies Dave Prole, Stuart Sinclair and Guy Mason headed off on the first stage, a 30 mile leg through Hull city centre and under the impressive Humber Bridge, before moving inland to the first meeting point in Brantingham. After a short 30 minute break for breakfast prepared by Gary (Gaz) Hill in the “Trundley Bus” kitchen, the 3 riders set off again into a strong headwind, which stayed with us for the rest of Friday. The second stage took us inland up to Selby before heading South to Gowdall, and, after 35 hard miles we once again met up with Gary for hot mugs of tea, hot pasta and another 30 minute break.
The headwind was starting to take it’s toll as the team were now running over an hour behind schedule and the prospect of riding the Pennines in the dark was looking like a distinct possibility as we set off on a 30 mile leg towards Doncaster before heading over to our next stop North of Mexborough. Never more glad to see Gaz after battling against the wind for another 3 hours, it was obvious that the most difficult section of the journey would now be done at night. More hot food and hot drinks were gratefully received as the bikes were prepared for the night section. The weather reports from our Heathside colleagues suggested that the heavy rain during the day was possibly heading our way, but at the very least the surface on the West side of the Pennines would be extremely wet and muddy. Some minor tweaks to the route planning were completed allowing us to meet up with Gaz before the main climb just in case the weather closed in.
As we set off this time we knew that the next 33 mile stage would see the toughest climbs, darkness close in and the 100 mile marker pass! Skirting Barnsley and crossing the M1 we could see the dark outlines of the Pennines ahead of us, but surprisingly the wind started to drop and the skies started to clear. The first of the climbs came just before dark and saw our only accident of the whole ride, Dave’s front gears finally gave up after struggling for the last 40 miles, and as the chain came off it caught his boot and sent him crashing to the floor. Fortunately it was only pride that was really damaged, although he would have to ride the last 100 miles with only 9 gears. We were soon in complete darkness and enjoying the sight of rabbits fleeing ahead of us as we headed over to meet Gaz at Penistone and after a 10 minute stop carried on along the Trail to start the main climb up to the 1500 foot summit just off the Woodhead Pass. Once again Gaz was waiting exactly where we expected him and we quickly decided that the safest route off the hills was a short blast down the A57 before picking up the Trail again at the Woodhead Tunnels. However, the road was still busy at this time of night so Guy came up with a plan that would see the 3 of us ride ahead of the bus which would act as a rolling roadblock preventing any cars or trucks ploughing into the back of us! Unfortunately as Gaz reversed off his parking spot his exhaust hit the soft ground causing a crack at the manifold resulting in the nosiest sounding exhaust you can imagine and would mean disturbing lots of local resident between here and the finish line in Southport! Once again we left Gaz to make his way to our overnight top as we started the 8 mile descent to Hadfield where we arrived just after midnight. Guy carried on to find a Chinese still open and we settled down for an hour of food and drink and upsetting local couples who arrived in the car park, saw the bus with 4 blokes sat in deck chairs and about turned!
At 1.00 am we finally settled down in Gaz’s bus and got our heads down for a couple of hours, before we knew it though the alarm was going off and after a quick change of clothing, some Beef Big Soup and a brew we gingerly got back on our saddles and set off on stage 4. Although very early and still dark, we actually enjoyed the next section despite it being far more hilly than we remembered and as we finally dropped into Stockport the sun was coming up and McDonalds was open! So after an unscheduled stop for a Sausage and Egg McMuffin we rode past the back of Heathside Park and through Didsbury before meeting up with Gary at Carrington just after 8.00 am and taking on a bacon butty and more tea!
With only 2 more stages and 54 miles to go we were feeling confident that we would complete the ride but it was now warming up and we were getting more tired with every turn of the pedals, and we had to get through Liverpool! After working our way through Lymm we had a long ride along the Ship Canal which turned into a long ride down to Widnes, with legs aching and backsides hurting more and more we eventually dropped under the Widnes bridge and skirted the Mersey estuary to meet up with Gaz for our final rest stop. We all felt wiped out at this point and decided to extend our stay and make sure we were as rested as possible before the ride through some of Liverpool’s less delightful areas. After almost an hour and some of Gaz’s porridge and amazing cuppa’s we finally set off for the final 31 mile stage.
The beautiful thatched village of Hale soon turned into a drab Speke housing estate where we picked up the pace, dodged the broken glass and kept our wits about us! Before we knew it we had found our way onto a wide, hard surfaced dis-used railway track that whisked us through the rest of Liverpool before throwing us out onto a canal at Aintree. The canal slowed our progress and dropped our spirits as the riding became more difficult, but knowing we had just over 10 miles to go before we could celebrate brought us back round. We finally hit “Coast Road” with 5 miles to go but it was a lonely ride in a long a single track pavement, eventually spotting the marker post that signified the end of our journey and Gaz, waiting with camera in hand to record the moment we completed our epic journey.
Finally we had done what we set out to achieve and the feeling was incredible, we were filthy, tired, sore and once again starving but also completely amazed at what we had achieved.
Our massive thanks go to Gary Hill, without him we wouldn’t have stood any chance of completing the journey. He kept us going with messages of support from twitter, he kept us fed and watered, provided us with a place to get our heads down and kept us going with words of wisdom!
We’d also like to thank the “hundreds” of people who sponsored us and for the words of encouragement on the web site, we have now raised over £3000.00 for The Christie.
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.