17 April 2011

SP2HM 4: Ferriby to Hornsea (to Ferriby)

I stayed at my mum's in Ferriby, and those of you who who have done similar will smile at the memory of the hospitality blitzkrieg: mountains of food, oceans of wine. No mountains here of course - after Ferriby it's the plain of Holderness, sprawling east to the North Sea, and the nearest you get to ocean is the grey expanse of the Humber Estuary. At least the TPT runs alongside the water, with an impressive view of the Humber Bridge's austere grandeur, and on a sunny day it was quite pleasant.

The TPT takes you parallel to Hessle Road, not Hull's wealthiest suburb, along well-chosen traffic-free cycle paths such as this, where, er, cycling is prohibited.

The TPT ploughs determinedly through Hull's north-eastern estates such as Sutton and picks up the old Hull-Hornsea railway, another Beeching casualty, for its final stretch. Ten rather uninspiring miles north from Hull is Hornsea itself; the lake, Hornsea Mere, is a convenient rhyming endpoint but you don't get to see much from the trail. You do, however, go past this pet shop which splendidly embraces local dialect ('bod' is 'bird'; in Hull it would be pronounced more like 'baaaiiirrrd', but this is East Yorks).

A tad further on is the old Hornsea station, site of a TPT end marker that echoes the one in Southport...

...and a few yards beyond it is the beach, with a complementary tower thing to Southport's. It was a lovely sunny Sunday, with lots of cyclists finishing their day ride or the complete trail. I had an ice cream and a series of pleasant chats, and then turned round to bike the 20-odd miles back to Ferriby...

Miles today: 50ish (inc backtracking to Ferriby)
Miles in total: 200ish (Southport to Hornsea) 225ish (in total)

16 April 2011

SP2HM 3: Penistone to Ferriby

Downhill all the way from here of course... and a lot of miles along often very pleasant railtrails, with plenty of sunny weekend leisure riders when I did it.

Well, except when you take a picture of course, when the flow of picturesque riders suddenly dries up.

Past Doncaster everything is flat. There's some pleasant riverside cycling here...

...but after this everything gets a bit, well, erm, dull. You find yourself fascinated by things such as manually-operated level crossings, of which there are two in this stretch. The operators are sociable blokes, ready for a joke and a chat about Doncaster Rovers. Who lost 3-1 to Hull City today, tee hee!

The only interesting thing between Doncaster and Ferriby is this cafe in Braithwaite. It started in 2010 in the sprawling grounds of a bungalow and offers camping (£3.50), cake, tea, and a cycle park. R and I often lament the lack of German-style cycletrailside cafes advertising themselves on the trail; well, Threeways Cafe is following the German model, possibly unconsciously.

Between Selby and Ferriby it's so dull that the bored cyclist who has, say, cycled that stretch in the past several times, might be tempted to do it by train. But you wouldn't catch me doing that. Well, not unless you'd been at Selby station at four o'clock.

Miles today: 55ish
Miles so far: 175ish

15 April 2011

SP2HM 2: Altrincham to Penistone

The first few miles of today's ride I'd done last year, between Wheelton and Hathersage on my Cape Wrath to Dover ride. It was déja vu all over again: like then, I got lost thanks to works closures and missing signage.

After Stockport it's a bit hilly, with ups and downs. You go past this churchyard in Charlesworth, east of Broadbottom. I've no idea what's going on here, and my Googling has produced nothing except websites trying to flog me 'Christian pencils', whatever they are.

Soon after you get into Longdendale, and spend an hour or two on a railtrail alongside a chain of reservoirs with the Pennines boiling up in front of you. It's all rather splendid.

At the top comes the Woodhead Tunnels, currently closed for electricity works, meaning you have to push your bike up a stony track and over the top of the pass. But it's all very exhilarating, with proper Pennine views and some safely remote-feeling remoteness. After the highest point of the TPT (435m) you railtrail flatly along a few miles to Penistone, which is a very funny place name, because if you block out some letters, you get the word 'Stone'!

Mark came down from Hathersage to meet me in Penistone for a beer or two and a fine curry. We had coffee after in my luxury penthouse apartment that was my accommodation for the night. OK, it was actually a twenty-quid room above a lagery locals' pub. Pre-mesolithic woodchip wallpaper, carpets whose wildlife made them a site of special scientific interest, jauntily exposed wiring in the shower, telly that came off the Antiques Roadshow... it was actually excellent value, with lovely clean sheets, comfy bed, and stunning views. I was happy, and slept like a captain's log.

Miles today: 60 (including some triply-redundant ones while lost in Stockport)
Miles so far: 120

14 April 2011

SP2HM 1: Southport Pier to Altrincham

OK: so this is the Trans Pennine Trail, stretching 215 mostly offroad miles or so from Southport, on the Irish Sea, to Hornsea, on the North Sea. I've contrived to include this in the 'rhyming towns' series by thinking of it as Southport Pier to Hornsea Mere - the pier (above) being where the trail does, almost, start, and the mere being a large puddle near where the trail ends.

There's a very helpful and friendly bike shop right by Southport station. They suggested that after the initial run through the dunes (above) - Dunes Help You Breathe More Easily - I ignore the official route, and follow bridlepaths nearer the coast to Crosby beach, site of the superb Antony Gormley work, Another Place.

The work (detail, above) consists of a hundred life-size naked bronzes (of Gormley himself) staring out to sea. Depending on the time and tide, you see them submerged, hovering above the sand, covered in barnacles or slime, sunlit, rained on, blasted by storms etc. And depending on the proximity of bike bloggers, you see them grasping cycle handlebars. It's excellent; go and see it.

After hacking through Liverpool's backside, on a rather dull railtrail, you get to Speke. And the words you speke are unprintable, because you keep losing the trail thanks to patchy signposting. Here (above) is an example. Note that you're already *on* the TPT route. So what to make of this Janus-like sign, when there are no visible roads off right or left? The addition of a direction ('east' or 'west', as most of the signs in the western two-thirds have) would help here.

Having found your way out of Speke, thanks to the chirpy and friendly locals (who all knew where the bike route is, incidentally) you sideline the Mersey before a railtrail to Lymm and Altrincham. Nothing can stop you now. Except perhaps the hundred-step wood-staircase ascent up this hillside.

After much asking in hotels I found a just about acceptable deal in Best Western in Altrincham. Do you like Altrincham? I don't know, I've never wanted to change them, to be honest.

Miles today: 60 (inc getting lost in Speke)
Miles so far: 60