Monday, 25 April 2011

“Mersey 2 Humber C2C” - Bike Ride 18th April to 21st April 2011


“Mersey2HumberC2C” - Bike Ride

18th April to 21st April 2011


A lot of planning went into this trip and not being hardened cyclists we gained a lot of good advice from Gordon Short owner of Cyclone Cycles at Winsford, Cheshire. He also serviced and upgraded our bikes to deal with this 261Ks trip over four days. We were blessed with good weather.

We used National Cycle Routes: 5, 62, 6, 67, 62, and 65 with an overall Difficulty of 5 (but each day was different with day 1 and four being a 1 or 2 (easy cycling), day two being an 8 (over the tops of the Pennines), and day three an easy 4).

Day One – Sandiway 2 Runcorn and onto Stockport – Total Ascent 411m

This was a most enjoyable day making our way along the pretty banks of the Weaver River and into Runcorn to cross the Runcorn Bridge where we picked up the well sign-posted and delightful Trans Pennine Trail (“TPT”) via Fiddlers Ferry and onto Stockport. At 12 noon we were passing under the M6 near the Thelwall Viaduct and at 2pm we were crossing the M60 at Trafford. By 3.30pm we were in Stockport where we got the train back to Cuddington. We did a total of 81.3Ks and having left Sandiway at 9am we were eighteen minutes outside our estimated time.

Day Two – Stockport 2 Wortley – Total Ascent 1,329m

We were on the 8.30am train bound for Stockport and on a sunny morning we left the station at 9.20am, once again picking up the TPT signs. We knew we were in for a hard day as we were to pass over a lot of mountainous terrain. At 10.16am we passed over the M60 ring road and we were out into lovely countryside with spring bloom in abundance everywhere. By 1pm we arrived at the first Reservoir of five in the Upper Longdendale Valley which is very picturesque and surrounded by high moorland. By 2pm we reached the Woodhead Tunnel where we had to push our bikes up a long and steep hill which we thought would never end. By 4pm we were in Penistone and a welcomed stop at a café for coffee. At 5pm we arrived in Wortley (here you need to take the Timberland Trail (“TT”) off the TPT if you wish to continue West to East, as the TPT goes South towards Sheffield) and were welcomed to our great value B&B by Su and Tony owners of Wortley Cottage Guest House. This is a lovely village with two excellent hostelries – The Wortley Arms (where we ate) and the Men’s Club. Again we were only 8 minutes over our estimated time of seven hours, thirty two minutes! The trail today, totalling 71Ks, was reasonably well sign-posted but was badly pitted throughout the route, making for a bone-shaking, if enjoyable ride. The section from Penistone was much better, and with a long gradual downhill section was a joy towards the end of a hard day (we still had a bit of a climb to Wortley, but it was worth the effort).

Day Three – Wortley 2 Thorne – Total Ascent 265m

After an enjoyable breakfast from Su, we were away at 9.25am. We envisaged this was going to be a difficult day with navigation as a number of trails cross each other and the prominent TPT goes in different directions (N/W as well as W/E). On seeing the M1 ahead of us and knowing we had to go under it we were nevertheless outwitted by the numerous prominent TPT markings and we found ourselves on the outskirts of Chapeltown, heading south for Sheffield!! We soon rectified the position by plotting a route back to the TT. We were warned that trail markings were confusing in this area and we can verify this. By 11.30am we stopped for a well-earned coffee break at the RSPB Centre at Old Moor and were impressed with the facilities afforded to visitors.

Along the entire route we found there were very few eating and accommodation facilities (close to the trails) so you do need to have your own supply of water and food. We had another stop at a small roadside café in Braithwaite before arriving in Thorne at 5pm. We had done a total of 69.7Ks on the hottest day of our trip. We were well out with our expected time of 5 hours and lost around half an hour in going off route but we also had two coffee stops, met and chatted to loads of interesting folks and were held up at around 4 railway crossings.

To get to Thorne, we had to go off the TPT, for about three miles – not a lot to recommend Thorne to the traveller; despite some interesting people we spoke to, sorry Thorne. We had booked (and paid for) two rooms at the Thorne Central Guest House but they had double booked us (caused they said by the booking system or internet connections being faulty). The owners of the B&B paid for us to stay at the Belmont Hotel, which is about as basic as it gets, and was the low point of the whole trip.

It is key that you plan your route carefully.

Day Four – Thorne 2 Blacktoft – Ascent 22m

After a reasonable breakfast at The Belmont (where you had to ask for everything), it was a misty morning when we left Thorne at 9am and we were to be on side roads for most of the morning. By 9.30am we went under the M62 for the first time and rays of the sun were filtering through as the mist began to lift. We were in for a major surprise as we arrived to cross the river Ouse by bridge at Boothferry – but disaster, it was closed for essential repairs. A notice we finally spotted advised that a bus service every hour took you across the M62 viaduct – we had five minutes to find and catch this “lifeline” which we were able to do. It was then onto Laxton, Yokefleet and to Blacktoft and we arrived here at 11.20am after doing 33.5Ks and well under our estimated time of 2.47hrs.

Our goal had been attained and our first C2C bike ride was achieved.

It was now a further 5.9Ks to Gilberdyke for the train to Doncaster where we would change for the Manchester train to Stockport and then onto Cuddington, our final destination. Leaving Gilberdyke at 11.45am we were back home at 3.30pm and the first thing we did was clean our very dirty bikes and allow them to dry in the sun.

Thankfully, we had no problems in taking our bikes on the various trains we did use. As it was the day before the long Easter break, we envisaged there would be demand for the very limited bicycle spaces on the trains, so we had contacted the train operating companies to enquire about reserving our bikes on the trains. We were informed that they didn’t do that – however we met someone on one of the trains who did just that, so we would insist on booking for the future.


This was a wonderful trip and around 90% was off road, passing through the Pennines, alongside rivers, canals and reservoirs and through villages and towns. We saw breath taking scenery and met a lot of lovely people along the way. You need to train for such a challenge and you need to be “bike fit”. Attention needs also to be paid to your bike to make sure it is in good working order, and you have all the spare kit with you that you may need. Our strongest tip would be to ensure the tyre pressures are checked (on our mountain/hybrid bikes we inflated to a pressure of 50psi) – which helps to cope with the sometimes very rugged terrain. While you want to travel as “light” as you can, here again you need to carry essential clothing, all adding to the weight of your bike.

Fraser Mackay

21st April 2011

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