This adventure started in Southport on Thursday May 23rd 2013. It leads to the East coast town of Hornsea 215 miles away where I arrived the following day via Liverpool, Stockport, Penistone, Selby and Hull using the ‘Transpennine Trail’ (Tpt). This is a trail that follows canal and river banks, country parks and disused rail tracks. Funding for the Transpennine Trail (Tpt) has been provided by the ‘National Lottery’ and further information about the route and places of interest can be found by visiting this website: www.transpenninetrail.org.uk
Planning for the adventure involved getting route maps and a stamp card from the Tpt head office in Barnsley. The card requires official stamps at the beginning, end and at 5 points along the journey. This provides Tpt officials with proof that the trail has been undertaken. They will then issue an official certificate of completion.
I booked 3 bed and breakfast stays. The first B&B was on the West coast by the Irish Sea in Southport; the 2nd at Wordsey 105 miles away. The last B&B was in Hornsea, the furthermost point of the Tpt which is situated by the North Sea on the East coast.
At Southport I had made a pre-booking gentleman’s agreement to leave my car at the B&B until returning from Hornsea by train on the Saturday.When I arrived and reminded the proprietor of our agreement he welched on the deal, saying that he now needed all the car parking spaces for other guests. The road outside the B&B was wide and allowed unrestricted parking so I parked the car there and unloaded my bicycle. I left the B&B business card in view on the dashboard hoping that if anyone thought the car had been abandoned, they would connect its presence with a B&B resident.
At 6am on Thursday 23rd May I arrived with my bike in front of the Southport starting point and marked that moment in time with a traditional photograph.
The previous day I had my record card stamped at Southport tourist office to officially register the journey. The weather was dry and 7 degrees C. Nobody was about and conditions were ideal. Signage read that Liverpool was 25 miles away so I started my journey along the way-marked cyclist route towards Liverpool.
The trail was good and well signed. Within a couple of hours I arrived in Bootle to photograph a factory where I spent many years of boredom looking out of the window, not knowing that today I would be looking back at the factory doing something more interesting.
Beyond the factory the Tpt goes to road level where I was really pleased to discover a channel to the side of a flight of steps where bicycles could be wheeled. The top of the steps surprisingly opened onto a road that overlooked ‘Aintree’ – the home of the Grand National with a Bar named ‘Red Rum’ next door.
The Tpt then follows designated cycle lanes and well signed quiet roads through parkland to the picturesque village of Hale – a jewel in the crown of an otherwise urban jungle. Onwards from Hale the Tpt goes past Halewood car factory (presently making Jaguar motor cars). The sound of aircraft could be heard in the distance. They were taxiing along the runway at Speke airport (now the John Lennon airport serving Liverpool).
The Tpt then followed the River Mersey towards and past the green bridge at Runcorn, then over the motorway leading to and from Manchester and Chester/ North Wales.
Over the years I have made countless journeys along that motorway and been stuck in traffic driving at a snail’s pace over that bridge.
The misery of those journeys was not any better this day. Rain clouds were rapidly approaching as the route then followed a road passing the ‘Patten Arms’ in Warrington. This is where the Rt Hon John Prescott once worked as a Sous chef (which is a second in command position that seems to have been his role in life).
The Tpt then skirted around Altringham and was slower due to its narrowness and uneven ground. Those dreaded rain clouds then emptied out of the sky and made the water too wet for ducks. The route I took went passed those ducks who protested very loudly at having to get back into the water.
Continuing to Stockport the route gave a choice of cycling through or going around the outskirts of the town. I chose the most direct route and went through the town centre, following Tpt signage until reaching the other side. The route then went through Reddish Country Park – a hilly, muddy and bumpy track that was well signed at the beginning.
Out of sight of the main road cowardly vandals had spoilt everything. Some Tpt signs were bent in the wrong direction; others were snapped off their posts. Stickers which arrowed the route to take where paths crossed had either been scratched out or were unreadable. When trying to get a bearing from my Tpt trail map I found that was also missing. It must have fallen from my pocket along the route. I was lost.
One of the thrills of touring by bike is getting un-lost. By listening to traffic sounds I rode in that direction to a main road and then a petrol station. Asking the way to Hadfield (where my recollection of the Tpt route continued onward to the Woodhead pass) nobody knew the way. The choice was either to abandon the ride or find a way around the dilemma. Reaching into the ice cream freezer the solution was found half way through a delectable choc ice – let the train take the strain! I cycled off to Stockport station where a short rail trip to Penistone made up for lost time.
The Tpt route was well signed from Penistone railway station and what a grand route it is – smooth and fast. Having rested on the train, the energy boost of the choc ice powered the last 10 miles to my overnight stay in Wordsey where a B&B had been pre-booked. Arriving at my B&B at 7pm I had cycled 78miles from the 105 that would have been completed had I not got hopelessly lost. Celebrating the ½ stage was done in great style with a gammon steak at a pub which is also a card stamping station. Afterwards I retired to the B&B.
Although my mobile phone alarm was set for 5:30am I woke earlier to the sound of strong gales and rain rattling and lashing against the bedroom window By 6am I was on the road for the last leg of this adventure. The temperature on my bike computer was reading 2.5c. Fortunately overshoes, a double layer of trousers, triple top layer of clothing, sealskin gloves and a porridge breakfast kept the early chill away. Central heating for the next 10 hours was from cycling body heat.
Turning left onto the lane outside the B&B the route took me to a major road and past a further route stamping station, a hotel one outskirts of Barnsley.
By 8am I arrived at Worsbrough Mill museum and would have loved to go inside for a warm mug of tea – no chance, they were closed.
Further cycle tracks took me alongside the river Don to Doncaster where the rain and gales were unceasing. A midday telephone call home and a further card stamp stop was short – by not cycling, warmth was not being generated and coldness quickly set in.
The journey of enjoyment risked being one of endurance and was close to exhaustion. Seeing the Humber bridge at Hull spurred me on for further card stamping in the City tourist office.
The final leg of my adventure followed the route of a railway line once linked Hull with Hornsea. The rain had stopped but I was cycling into a strong and cold headwind.
I noticed high visibility jackets being worn by 2 distant cyclists, then after a mile or so they disappeared from view. Further along the track I cycled towards bicycles laid on the ground. In the hedgerow were two ladies answering the call of nature. I don’t know who was more surprised (or embarrassed). I cycled past without comment.
Arriving at my Hornsea destination I was approached by a chap with a Scottish accent who asked: ‘ Have ye seen 2 wee gals on bikes travelling in this direction?’ Having just seen a sight for sore eyes I answered:” Yes, they will arrive shortly; would you mind taking my photograph at the finishing post?’…….and he duly obliged:
I then cycled to the Hornsea council/ tourist office for the final stamp on my Tpt route marking card and then went to the B&B where I bathed twice. The 1st to get warm, the 2nd to get clean !
The next day I cycled by road from Hornsea back to Hull railway station to catch a train back to Southport.
Advice to followers:
- Do it in 4 days. A 2 day trip does not allow time to enjoy the places being cycled through
- This uneven trail is not suited to road bikes. My tourer did it without damage or punctures
- Send the stamped card off to the Tpt and they post a certificate confirming you have succeeded in completing the trail.