Wind, Rain, Hain, Sleet and Snow
…and we still did it!
Departure: Irish Sea – Southport. Good Friday 21st March 2008
Arrive: Hornsea – North East Yorkshire. Easter Monday 24th March 2008
I decided to ride the Trans Pennine Trail after discovering that the route spanned the width of the country from the Irish Sea to the North Sea. I saw it as a challenge and an opportunity to raise some money for Marie Curie Cancer Care Charity. The people who work for this charity are remarkable people who looked after both my mum and dad in the early 2000’s.
I needed a partner to travel with me and could think of no other person as mad as myself other than Mr. Kevin Millington. The very same Kev I know who would laugh at my plan. However after some gentle persuasion he agreed to ‘tag along’!
We trained from about ten weeks before the set off date: 9.00am at Southport on Good Friday morning. We were prepared, with maps, energy drinks, accommodation paid for and the right equipment.
SOUTHPORT TO SALE
Most people will remember Easter 2008. Blizzards hail storms and high winds were forecast and we were to expect the worst weather at Easter for over 40 years. Brilliant! 40 years and we were cycling in it on what we considered one of the easiest legs of the route. The wind generally assisted us in the open spaces, but in the main, it was hard work in the hailstorms and gusty winds.
The route along Southport Coastal Road is comfortable as was the rest of the route up until Warbreck Moore / Aintree access point. This was confusing but after getting on at the right point it’s a great cycle to Halewood Park. At the end of this off road section the path goes through Speke and onto the village hamlet of Hale. Onto Pickering’s Pasture and along the Mersey Estuary. This is an enjoyable part of the trail but you are met at the end of this section with a serious flight of steps, which, with panniers, can prove awkward. On through Runcorn and along the canals in Warrington. We had lunch at the Fiddlers Ferry pub and received over £5.00 off people just putting their hands in their pockets and giving us their change. Thanks to those guys. Further along the trail we rode along the Manchester Ship Canal and this was amazing. The trench cut out of the rocks and the high bridges makes for an impressive sight.
Lymm to Altrincham was along a very muddy trail and was energy sapping, as were other parts, but not as bad as this section after all the rain. The rest of the journey was not too bad. Only a few navigational errors and we arrived in Sale around 5.00pm, approx 58 miles later.
We stayed at the Eskdale Lodge on Harboro Road and met some great people. The food was lovely and the staff were great. There was a family feel to the pub and we were made to feel very welcome particularly from an elderly gent (50’s I reckon) cracking ancient ‘one liners’ one after another. We didn’t catch his name but Kev & I decided Les Dawson was most appropriate. Thanks to the guy with three kids who very kindly, gave us a fiver for our sponsorship, wished us the best of luck for the rest of our journey and then winked and enlightened me on what Manchester United were going to do to Liverpool. Unfortunately his prediction was all too uncanny. After day one we ate, had three beers and were in bed early. We were tired and knew tomorrow was going to be tough.
Be prepared for this section of the trip. I was a little concerned about covering this part of the trail and the weather wasn’t looking great. The journey through Didsbury was OK and Stockport was a little awkward but we moved confidently onto Hyde. We got to Hyde and became totally lost due to a 6-foot metal fence stopping our progress. We tried various routes through the woods but to no avail, and we were being battered by a hailstorm. I was not having an enjoyable moment! Kev was hopping around with one leg in his waterproofs and the other seemingly stuck fast at the top of the other leg. We were in a small wood wishing we knew Ray Mears! We found our way through to a main road and followed this right through to the foot of Woodhead Pass. We were not sure if we were on the trail but we new that Barnsley was on the other side of this hill and time was not our closest ally. We had always planned to eat a healthy carb filled meal at this point and came across a sign for a pub. We asked a local for clearer directions. I think the poor lad was a bit startled as he flapped with his answer. “Yes there’s somewhere up there about a mile up” Afraid not mate.
We did not eat and this proved our near downfall. We set off and we were not prepared for the length of the upward climb, into a head wind, with snow and hail storms in our face. We did not cut onto the trail some miles later up the road and considered it safer and quicker to proceed to the top and rest on the way down. We did not know that this road would not have somewhere to eat for nearly 10 miles of which the majority were clearly more uphill than down hill. The weather was truly horrendous. I have no idea which was harder, the road or the trail at this point as it was too dangerous to attempt the trail and I only have experience of the road route and take my word for it, even for strong cyclists, I think they may find this road difficult. Onwards and upwards. Kev walked a lot and I joined him. We were shattered, however I have seen some awe-inspiring sights of the Pennines in winter and the sights were truly magnificent.
We still had a number of hills on the other side of the Pennines, strange really when you feel like you have just cycled up a ‘small mountain’ and it should surely be down hill from here. We arrived in Wombwell, a suburb of Barnsley some 68 miles and ten hours later. We left Sale at 9.00am and arrived at our hotel at 7.00pm but did break for an hour after the Pennines. A big bath and big dinner was the order of the day.
We stayed at the Premier Inn and the rooms were fine, food was fine and in fact everything was fine apart from the weather. When we woke up at 7.15am there was four or five inches of snow on the ground.
BARNSELY TO SELBY
We viewed the trail and considered it to be a little precarious to cycle it on the grounds that we could not see it! The road it was then. After a large healthy breakfast and an intake of energy bars and drinks we decided to do the full journey none stop. The wind was quite strong, nothing as bad as the previous day, but it was constant. The road was long and then longer still. I did not enjoy this section as we were on the road but it made sense. In just over four and a half hours we had completed 54 miles and arrived in Selby. The weather on the out skirts of Selby was very wintry and very cold. We stayed in the Londesborough Arms Hotel next to the Abbey and in the main it was a pretty good hotel. The rooms have all been OK on route but this was much bigger and we arrived in time to watch the second half of a certain football match that Sunday afternoon. The less said the better. I took a bit of stick but it was jovial (in their eyes anyway). Thanks to the guys eating fish ‘n’ chips for the fiver. Truly appreciated and very generous of you. Thanks very much.
The evening time completely transformed the pub as it became heaving with party people on a night out on a bank holiday weekend. To be honest it was quite lively for a small town and great for people watching. We realsised as this point we did not stand much chance of a meal in the bar. No problems, we decided to be risky and have a Chinese. The restaurant was find and the food was as expected. I’m not a huge fan of Chinese food but it was a pleasant change from our ‘healthier’ attempts the previous two evenings. We wentback to our ‘lively’ hotel and enjyed a couple of beers in the back room of the bar and it was sound. the front of the pub was busy but it didn’t bother us. We’re cyclists who had just conquered the Pennines in crazy storms and were too exhausted to care.
It was hard to be enthusiastic about this part of the journey due to being unable to cycle the Trail. I feel a little cheated for not completing this part but our decision made sense.
SELBY TO HORNSEA
At last, we can get back on the trail. The snow had gone and the sunshine was bright. We set off with the knowledge that we had approximately 60 miles ahead of us and the end of our mammoth ride was in its’ final leg.
This part of the trail was quite pleasant and with a slight tail wind we gained good mileage for not as much leg work (about time). We rode through some tiny villages and to be quite honest, they were really beautiful little places. We rode on through some farms, and then through some more farms. I just noticed a lot of farms. For lunch we stopped at the Triton Inn on Ellerker Road in Brough and I would highly recommend this place. The food was excellent and the settings, staff and patrons were wonderful. Special thanks go to the gent who gave me a tenner towards our sponsored ride. Thanks mate. This was easily the most pleasant part of the trail. Everything I thought it should be like.
Anyway, less of the sentimental stuff, the approach to the Humber Bridge was spectacular if not bumpy. The track is dirt with raised stones, which with panniers can be a pain; however, the sight of the bridge drives you on. And the bridge is a bridge. It’s Massive!
We set off. Not far now. We followed signs and seemed to be heading somewhat away from our destination. We were once again lost and had somehow managed to cycle our way back to the other side of the bridge and to the top of a very long road. Where the hell are we was the most frequent question. At long last, and during just another *@!!!@* snowstorm, a cyclist arrived in all the right gear and just like a ‘Sat Nav’ directed us back to the trail some 13 miles later. I know I know. I have no idea how we managed to get lost by such a margin but we did follow the signs!
Right, we are now on the final 14 miles of our journey. We felt lifted. We felt invigorated. We felt…NO! Another head wind. The full length of the trail has been met with windy days but I thought it particularly unfair for this one to slow us down and sap our energy at the nearing of the end of our journey. Well the words ‘luck’, ‘mate’ and ‘tough’ spring to mind. That’s the weather for you.
We reached the North Sea at 6.00pm some 70 miles later and were well and truly shattered. We’d done it. I couldn’t believe it. The weather. The amount of times we got lost. Just the sheer size of our task still makes me shudder. But we did it.
We checked into the Marine Hotel on the sea front and this was just what we needed. The welcome was fantastic. They knew I was coming to stay but were unaware that we had set off from Southport. Special thanks go to Andy and Dawn, the owners who were just simply wonderful people. Leanne (hope I’ve spelt that right!) was sound behind the bar as was the dead happy blonde lady who brought our dinners over. Joanne (I think that was her name) managed to get a collection together from everyone in the pub and raised £53.15. Fantastic. Tommy the cook knocks up a ‘top scran’ (food if you’re not a scouser) and the general welcome of the place was brilliant. I felt like a celebrity at the Marine Hotel and would like to take this opportunity on behalf of myself and Kev, to sincerely thank them for their hospitality. The Marine has everything you need and allows you to unwind and reflect on your thoughts. Thanks very much to everyone.
We travelled a total of 250 miles over four days. I have personally seen things that have, at times, left me overwhelmed. The generosity of people I will never meet again has touched me and made every mile well worth it.
That’s it. We trained. We planned. We saw it and we did it. Special thanks have to go to my cycling partner for being with me. I could not have completed it without him. Thanks also to Cobham Murphy Accountants for paying for my accommodation, and Coast Cycles for very kindly donating some cycling equipment for my journey.
Big thanks also to my wife and two boys for their belief and support. I am proud to have made you proud.
Finally, a truly sincere thank you to all the people who have sponsored me and helped me raise over £2,400 for Marie Curie Cancer Care.
Note: Anyone who is contemplating doing the whole coast to coast thing over a number of days, think of this: if a 43 year old and 39 year old can do it in weather more akin to the arctic, a 39 year old who had not been on his bike for two or three years and a 43 year old ex smoker, if we can do it, then most super human heroes’ of comic book proportions can!
Steve Nimmo aged 43
Kev Millington aged 39
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.