Welcome to the Trans Pennine Trail
A national coast to coast route for recreation and transport – for walkers, cyclists and (in parts) horse riders
To Hoylake with a twist in the tail – The end of the trilogy
Following two previous trips along the TPT (published under The Fatman cometh, and I’ve been to Hull and back) this is the story of my third and probably final adventure on the TPT, as I now live in Scotland.
Earlier this year, the wife of a friend of mine died and I decided that I would do another bike ride to try to raise money for the Trinity Hospice in Blackpool in her memory. I set up a website www.justgiving.com/fatblokeridesagain and got back on the bike.
I hereby declare that I have no connection with any commercial establishment mentioned in this account, but if any of them would like to give me a freebie of any description….. I should also note that Bollinger is my favourite champagne J
This trip promised to be a bit different as I no longer had a home base in Barnsley, so would have to carry a lot more with me than I was used to. I therefore purchased a set of panniers to go with the trekking bike that I had already in the garage and set about pounding up the Galloway hills to get some training in. The panniers were not too much of a burden in training, but more of them later.
I spent some time on the internet scouting hotels and train timetable to plan my trip and I can recommend the National Rail enquiries and Travelodge websites for the cheapest travel and accommodation that I could find (Note. Book early and the deals are remarkable).
I dropped my car off at my parents’ house on the Wirral on June 28th, took on fluid and sustenance and had an early night.
June 29th Doncaster to Penistone 28 miles.
Middle section of the main ride.
Day one. After travelling over from Hoylake to Sheffield and across to Doncaster, I did a warm-up ride across the middle section of the TPT to knock off some of the steeper sections whilst fresh and get some miles in my legs.
Leaving the town and heading out towards Sprotborough on a hot day, and despite the application of cream, I ended up with sunburnt legs. Judging from the number of flies attracted to my shirt, it appears that my sun block is attractive to insects.
There was a section of newly (new to me anyway after being out of the area for 18 months) surfaced trail from the Old moor area up to the Dove Trail turn-off and this took the sting out of some of the climb up towards Silkstone Common.
I set off up the familiar path at an easy pace but it is still a steep hill up to the Travellers Arms. It was a bit tricky with the panniers on the back as I wasn’t used to the extra width at the back and it would be a day or so before I stopped catching them on things. I rolled along to Penistone on another resurfaced area before returning to Sheffield for the evening. It was a good ride and a decent warm-up for the major mileage to come.
I picked up a new helmet and bandanna at Decathlon and joined a friend in Sheffield for a
meal and a few beers.
June 30th. Barnetby (South Humberside) to Bentley. 79 miles.
Eastern half of the crossing.
Day two. After an early wakening to get the train to Barnetby, I then followed the signs for the Humber Bridge. It was about 9 miles uphill along the A15 to get to the bridge and many thanks to the numerous drivers who moved out wide to avoid me. They obviously recognised somebody who needed help. The Humber Bridge doesn’t look that impressive when first viewed from the road at a distance. It is when you get closer to it! (Photo 1)
I got onto the TPT and had breakfast under the span before setting off westwards. Within 200 yards of hitting the exposed section of the path it became apparent that the headwind was going to be a major factor on the day. It was a capricious beast that leapt out of unexpected gaps in surrounding foliage, appeared capable of turning through ninety degrees with me and was an ever present drain on my legs.
I continued on and made it to the top of Elloughton Hill without stopping (crawling along at 2 mph is not stopped) and then onwards towards the river again with the distant cooling towers a target for later in the day. It always seems that there is a corner immediately after a hill, so you don’t get the benefit of a roll-out after slogging up an incline.
I stopped for refreshment at the church hall at Blacktoft and decided that tea with Coffeemate is not a marriage made in heaven, but it was warm and wet. Lunch was taken at the tidal barrier before passing on through to Selby and beyond.
I had learnt my lesson form previous trips and was re-hydrating frequently but thought I must have been hallucinating when I passed a paddock with a pony and sheep in it who seemed to be having a slanging match, which the sheep obviously won.
I got to Doncaster with a couple of minutes to spare before my train and, in my hurry, followed the cycle path through the underpass just outside the station and ended up at the wrong end of a one-way bus lane with railings either side and had to run the gauntlet of a sprint up the bus lane to safety.
I made it to my hotel in Barnsley, who took pity on me and gave me a ground floor room, and took on refreshments before retiring for the night with another good day behind me.
July 1st. Penistone to Hoylake. 102 miles.
Day three. A gentle entry to the day with a leisurely ride uphill to Barnsley station before taking the train up to Penistone and setting off on the area with which I am most familiar on the TPT.
Another headwind on the exposed section up to Dunford Bridge, and thence to the bottom of the hill up to Windle Edge. I pushed the bike up and found the real difference in weight with the panniers on. It was like shoving a tractor uphill and it took me a few stops to finally get to the top, where I could look down from the official highest point of the trail.
The headwind was so strong that I only got up to about twenty mph on the road down to Val’s butty van on the A628 where I stopped for breakfast. A massive bacon sandwich and cup of tea later, I pressed on down the road again before following my favoured route across the reservoirs at Crowden and on down the Longdendale Trail. I took the road route again to avoid Broadbottom and pushed up the hill to Mottram and the LS Lowry statue thence on to the top of the M67 and along to Hyde. (Photo 2)
The un-surfaced track down to the trail from the top road is massively uncomfortable but lightened by the presence of several fields of horses and ponies, who all seemed pleased to see me. I passed quickly along the familiar route into Stockport (those horse steps are a killer with a heavy bike) and took a two hundred yard diversion from the trail into Decathlon for a new pedal and decided to get a late lunch at the burger van north of Sale.
When I reached the lay-by the van was gone, obviously only there till just after lunchtime, and proved to be but the first of three disappointments in a row on the western part of my route. The sun was out strongly again and I took on plenty of fluid, but desperately needed something cool. I topped up my bottles at the Co-Op in Lymm and aimed for the Ferry Tavern for a pint of stimulant. I kept going through Warrington and pulled up to the hostelry to find a sign saying that there was a function on and the pub was closed until half five. If I could have spared the liquid I would have wept!
I continued past the Runcorn Bridge and fought my way down the ramp to Pickering’s Pasture. Whoever designed that thing has obviously never tried to get down it with a trekking bike too high to go under the wooden barriers and with panniers on making it extremely difficult to manoeuvre through the diagonal gap and I apologise to those passers-by offended by my expressions of discontent at this point.
It then transpired that I had bought the wrong type of pork pie and had got the ones with pickle in them that I loathed. Fortunately the hundreds of black flies that descended on me when I stopped pedalling weren’t as fussy as me and tucked in.
I left them to it and accelerated on to try to get the last ferry from the Pier Head. The long incline up past John Lennon Airport took its toll and I was moving quite slowly through Liverpool until I rejoined the trail at the promenade at Aigburth. Then the headwind reappeared with a vengeance and I had to stop for a breather. Unfortunately, this meant that I missed the ferry by minutes and had to take the train through to Hamilton Square.
I crossed the Four Bridges and regained my planned route at Seacombe Ferry Terminal before cycling along the coastal path to New Brighton to be met with the glorious evening sunshine and that headwind again. I refused to be beaten at this point and carried on past the off-shoe windmills (Photo 3) to the delights of the sand-strewn path by Leasowe golf course and onwards to Hoylake. I immediately headed for the Lake Hotel and finally got my pint (or two).
A big meal and a bath completed a fine day’s cycling and, with the prospect of a day off, I retired to my bed.
July 3rd. Birkenhead to Liverpool to Chester to Liverpool. 58 miles
Mass bike ride http://www.pennineevents.co.uk/EntryPages/LCL2011.aspx
Day four. After a rest day spent playing cricket for Caldy 4th team I switched to my lighter bike, garaged at my parent’s house, and started early to get to Birkenhead to park the car and cycle through the Mersey Tunnel to the start point of the ride. Going through the tunnel with nobody else within a mile of you is exhilarating (on the down-slope).
I made sure that I was on the front row of the grid as I had to drive back to Scotland later that day and after the Sportive riders had set off on their 90 miles, we were given a splendid send-off by the crowds of supporters and Radio Merseyside and I headed off into the tunnel and out into a lovely day’s ride.
It was quite claustrophobic to be in a group after so many miles on my own, but this was resolved by the fact that everybody was overtaking me. This was understandable as I am built for comfort not speed, but was disheartening as I have always managed to pass some riders on previous rides. It took me over an hour to work out that those I would have overtaken were already behind me as I started at the front!
It was great to see so many people along the route who came out to support us all and some even left out refreshments. The whole event was superbly organised as ever and a big thank you to all the marshals.
After the halfway stop at Chester for food, liquid and to get cream smeared on my body by some obliging young ladies, I headed back along the route towards Birkenhead and even felt good enough to overtake a couple of riders on an uphill section, although the sportive riders were streaming past me after an extra 40+ miles. I learnt a few new words from a farmer on a tractor who seemed quite upset to have to give way to cyclists and made it back to the tunnel entrance after 4 ½ hours despite a couple of pushes uphill towards the end.
I gathered myself for the last slope of the day and, a few minutes later, emerged into bright sunlight with the cheers of the many supporters ringing in my ears. What a great feeling. (Photo4)
Train back to Birkenhead to get the car, back to Hoylake for a shower and then drove back to Scotland for pie, chips, beer and bed!
All in all it was a very successful trip, lots of good things and raised a few quid for charity, but a few days out of the saddle for me I think.
Some observations :
- Despite the panniers feeling fine on the flat, you can’t fool a hill.
- Better hydration meant I was in decent shape throughout the trip.
- Great to see so many familiar areas that I haven’t cycled across for a couple of years, even if I don’t get back there again for a while.
- The headwind would explain why so many of the TPT stories are about west to east crossings, but when was I ever one of the herd?
- The Humber Bridge is spectacular close up and great fun to cycle over.
- Safe to say I’ve done the Mersey, crossed over it and under it about a dozen times by bike
- The TPT is still in great condition, but the nettle cutters need to be in constant use.