I had been looking at riding the Sustrans “Trans Pennine Trail” from east coast to the west coast, then somehow getting back to the East coast, without retracing my steps……..enter the Way of the Roses.
One of my son’s lives with his family in Hornsea, at the North Sea end of the Trans Pennine Trail (TPT), so I figured the best thing to do is leave my car there, head West to Southport. From Southport it is then a matter of riding up to Morecambe to start the Way of the Roses (WotR).
The TPT is 340Km, and the WotR is 270Km, plus the ride up to Morecombe and back to Hornsea from Bridlington, probably another 100Km. That rounds up to 700Km, as a best guess.
My first leg of the TPT was only 40Km, and gave me a chance to make sure the bike works with the luggage on. From Hornsea, it heads through Hull, then West along the edge of the Humber. My mum lives West of Hull, so the most logical start would be to leave my son and the grand kids on Sunday afternoon and take a steady spin to Hull, then get a big day in on Monday.
I had gone for two rear panniers and a bar bag with map pocket, and it seemed to handle well in this configuration, so I felt confident for the coming days, as I knew a lot of the TPT was off-road on poor surfaces.
Most of the route from Hornsea to Hull is on the route of the old railway line, and in most places it was easy enough. There are sections where the roots of the trees are breaking through the asphalt and that is bumpy.
Once you hit Hull the signage becomes poor, then I discover part of the route under repair. The detour is too narrow to get my bike and panniers through, so I therefore head straight through Hessle to the Humber Bridge, where I call it a day and head to my mother’s house.
Total 40Km, 1:56 minutes riding
I have a room booked in Elsecar near Mexborough for Monday night, it’s a good distance, but should be reasonably flat.
I leave Willerby and head for the TPT, aiming to pick it up near South Cave. The left turn I was looking for was well marked and took me off the busy road and on to a network of roads with very little, if any traffic at all. It felt great to be on such quiet roads and just following the signs and the map. The maps are supplied by Sustrans and are well worth the investment.
The route follows the Humber until it meets the Ouse, and the route jumps from small roads to off-road. I head towards Howden, then on to Long Drax, where the large power station sits on the edge of the river. There is a tidal barrage, with a lock gate where the River Derwent meets the Ouse. I stop here for a cereal bar and get chatting to the lock keeper, a keen cyclist, who is currently training to do the WotR in a day. I wish him the best of luck and head on to Selby, where the route changes from the NCN 65 and I join the NCN 62, which turns south to Snaith.
The NCN 62 starts with a nice section along the Selby Canal, before I jump back on to small, quiet roads again. About 16km further on at Sykehouse the route picks up the New Junction Canal and I have 20 minutes breezing down the edge of the water. So relaxing.
I grab a Coke and fill my bottle at a house, come pop-up cafe stop in Braithwaite, gather my thoughts, then hit the road again.
Once I hit Owston Wood the road sections stop and it turns to trail, either cinder covered or just hard packed mud. The weather was stunning, so the mud was solid and easy rolling. It could have been very different if I had attempted it back in April when I had planned to, but I was put off by bad weather.
This next 30km plus was all trail, through to Cusworth, at which point I lost the sign posts and popped out in Sprotbrough. I searched for a while, but rather than lose time I used the main road to get to Mexborough, then on to Elsecar, where I found my room for the night.
The pub was very old school and in the beer garden at the rear was a structure split in to two room, one of which I occupied with my bike. I found a meal at a local pub and settled in for an early start.
Total 137Km, 6:56 minutes riding
Tuesday morning and the sun is still shining and so I leave the room early, without breakfast, as I find nowhere to get one. Breakfast is my most important meal….I needed to find some!
I drop out of Elsecar and immediately pick up the TPT heading for Hoyland, along the Timberland Trail to Wortley, where I pick up a sausage sandwich and a brew…..human again!
After Wortley the TPT uses the Upper Don Trail, disused railway lines running for almost 20km, past Penistone, with great views and just a steady 1% to 2% incline until you leave it at Dunford Bridge.
Once back on to the roads I head for the highest point of the TPT, Windle Edge at 435m, and it doesn’t go unnoticed…ouch!
On the Way up Windle Edge I meet Steve coming the other way. He is heading for the cycling festival in York and using the TPT to get there. He is fully loaded and informs me that it is a bit sketchy ahead and I may need to push (challenge accepted 😁).
I cross the A628, Woodhead Pass, and hit some single track, which keeps me off the busy road, and is a bit tricky, but I actually enjoy it. There becomes a point at the next junction where it appeared that the best thing to do was blast down the A628 until I picked up the Longdendale Trail. This trail is a stunning journey of 13km along the edge of the reservoirs all the Way to Hadfield. Its here that I will leave the TPT for today in order to get a short day and find/book rooms for my return next week.
I come off the trail at Hatfield and use Google to direct me to the room for the night. When it states “turn left on to Post Street” I look up and all I can see is a wall. So glad I retained a sense of humour. It’s only a short road, but it hits 20% plus. The climb continues until I reach the overnight stay.
I received amazing service at Windy Harbour, they shuffled my bike in to the bar, where it would stay for the night, and took and order for coffee and lunch. The rooms were comfy and clean, highly recommended.
Total 52Km, 3:06 minutes riding
Yesterday was a real short ride, by intention, as I knew today would be a long one, although not too lumpy.
I dropped back to Hatfield, then up and down through some small towns until just after Hattersley, where I picked up an off-road trail, which meandered through woodlands for around 20km, past Stockport and on to Didsbury. In Didsbury you pop out near the metro station and directed to a main crossroads in the town centre. I lost some time here as the TPT signs just vanished and there was no obvious route.
Once back on route I was now on map 4, counting down from 12 at Hornsea, so I was feeling good. Onward and westward, and back on to off-road trails for 15km to Ashton upon Mersey, through woods and nature reserves with stunning views. There is a small section low traffic roads linking to Altrincham, then the NCN 62 uses a trail through the Dunham Massey National Trust for 16km along the Lymm Trail.
Once I reach this point it starts to rain for a short while and I take stops every 30 minutes to take on a bit of food, but I never get really wet, I don’t even put my sleeves on, it is so warm.
After Wilderspool and Sankey Bridge the trail runs along the side of the River Mersey, nature reserve to one side, St Helens Canal and heavy industry to the other. Such a great mixture of sights along the trails that you forget how long you have been riding.
As the route progresses the Mersey gets wider until I reach Runcorn and ride under the A533 road bridge and on to Dutton Marsh. At this point Dutton Brook meets the Mersey and there is a set of amazing steps down to the next part of the trail. I have to dismount and manhandle the bike to the bottom, but what a structure.
There is a couple of km round the back of Halewood which is on roads within a housing estate, but its not long before I find the Liverpool Loop Line, 22km of trail up to Aintree. Along this trail I spot and dive in to a supermarket fuel station for some more water and a bottle of Lucozade, as I am running low and the trail is so remote I have hardly seen a shop all day.
I continued up the Loop Line to Aintree, where I had a bit of a navigation glitch, but three lads on mountain bikes pointed me to the railway station at Old Roan, which in turn led me back on to the trail.
Just North of Aintree is the Cheshire Lines brook, and alongside it is a trail lasting about 15km, which eventually drops you off on to a roadside cycle paths all the way in to Southport, along the coastal path for the final 8km.
I found the TPT monument on the seafront and take the obligatory photo before aiming fo my hotel, the Albert & Victoria. A cosy little room, but big enough to get the bike in for safety.
It was a long day, over ten and a half hours since I left the hotel, and due to the surfaces it was steady, but mostly traffic free and beautiful.
I have two nights in Southport, so sight seeing tomorrow.
Total 153Km, 8:37 minutes riding
Southport is a strange resort, the seafront is reclaimed land from the early 1900s, and there is a lagoon, with an Italian style bridge over it, where they used to have Venetian evenings in the ’30s. There is a long pier heading out over the long beach, where the tide disappears out of sight.
The promenade, which you would expect to be by the sea, is actually half a km inland at the other side of the lagoon. Behind that is a street of shops, each with glass pitched veranda style roofs held up by ornate posts running along the front, so you were sheltered from the rain while looking through the shop windows. There is also a beautiful renovated shopping arcade.
The town has a real old feel to it and gives you a taste for what it must have been like, at its height. It also has some cool modern artwork dotted about and a stylish bridge on Marine Way.
It’s Saturday and I’m back on the road again. This time up to Morecambe for the start of the Way of the Roses. This was going to be purely functional ride, and due the roads infrastructure, there are few route choices. I head for Preston on some lovely quiet roads and as soon as you get near Preston there are good quality cycle paths round towards the direction of Lancaster. About 10km out from Lancaster on the A6 there is a left turn at Galgate. I then pick up the NCN 6 from Condos Green, a small section of trail that runs along the edge of the River Lune. When you hit Lancaster you cross the river and the NCN 700 whips you left for the final 5km to Morecombe.
When I arrive in Morecambe I am really surprised. Not sure what I expected, something like Blackpool I guess, but this was more like Grange over Sands, on the other side of Morecombe bay. A really nice small town with a stunning seafront, looking over the bay to the Lake District hills.
I found the pub on the sea front where I had booked my room, but it turns out what I had booked was an apartment, so kitchen lounge and space to park my bike. Not bad for £45.
By this point of my journey I had got in to the habit buying pack-up to take with me as finding somewhere en-route was not always possible, or hadn’t been on the TPT. In this instance I bought breakfast too, now I had a kitchen.
Total 85Km, 3:47 minutes riding
I woke early on the Saturday, made my own breakfast and was on the road early as I was meeting my friend Gordon just to the west of Lancaster at 08:45, and needed time just in case Lancaster proved hard to navigate. I was right, and made a few blunders because the NCN route was blocked at Sainsbury’s and once I had gone off-piste I hit the one-way system. Nightmare!
I eventually picked up the NCN 69 via canal paths through town, popping out in Halton, where we had agreed to meet at 08:40, perfect.
Gordon was there waiting for me at the prearranged spot and we hit the road. It was great to have some company after flying solo for seven days. We had a good chat and the km’s passed under the wheels quickly and we soon reached a small village called Clapham, where there is a great little shop. They made us some fresh sandwiches and a coffee, so we sat outside and enjoyed them.
It was in Clapham that we parted company, 50km in to the day, Gordon heading home and me heading for Pateley Bridge.
I made a loop round Wharfe, Helwith Bridge and down to Settle, so far so good. However, I spoke too soon, because as the road heads out of Settle the signs point you left in the direction of Airton, starting with a climb of High Hill Lane, with pitches of 20% and goes on for 4km. Up the road I could see people pushing bikes, just bikes, not bikes with 25kg of luggage. Eeek!
I managed to get both me and the bike up to the top, but it was slow and steady. Thankfully there are only a couple more hills marked up like this on the map, so hopefully, it should not be too tough.
I am also using the Sustrans map for the return journey, very useful.
I continued to roll up and down to Airton, then on to Winterburn, up the second of the steep ramps, which actually wasn’t too bad, then I rolled on to Cracoe.
There is a short pull out of Cracoe and at the 80km point I found an ideal spot to stop for lunch, down by the river, surrounded by hills in Burnsall.
After lunch I knew I had the climb up to the highest point of the WotR, which is Greenhow at 404m. The climb started just after Appletreewick, but it was short and steep, and soon overcome. The rest of the climb settled and became a steady drag all the way to the top.
From Greenhow it is is all downhill to the Crown Inn, in Pateley Bridge, my room for the night. When I say down hill, it’s drops at 14% to 16% for several km. At this point in the day I am glad I was going down it and not up it.
The pub food and room was great, but it was the first location where I was parted from the bike and I had to leave it in the vegetable store overnight.
Total 105Km, 5:52 minutes riding
It was a late start being Sunday, late breakfast, then getting the bike out of the store etc., but today was hopefully an easy and short one, as I intended to be in York in time to have the afternoon sightseeing.
Any hills today were going to be in the first part, and as we drop towards York it should be just rolling hills.
The climbing starts as soon as I leave the pub and head up the high street. The climb lasts for about 10km and takes you past an area called Brimham Rocks, which have a really unusual formation compared to their surroundings.
The roads start to roll nicely now as I head towards Ripon, nothing too steep. Just before Ripon the route takes a turn towards Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, a stunning piece of park land with a series of traffic free roads.
From Ripon I roll through a number of small villages until I dip under the A1 at Boroughbridge, then head South East on towards York. The roads used on this part of the route are very quiet with many picturesque little villages along the way. Near Skelton I find the riverside path, that runs all the way in to York and keep going until I see sighs for Clifton, the part of York where my B&B is.
The Bloomsbury is a cracking place, and I was greeted by Malcolm, who pointed me in the direction of the garage, where I could store the bike, he then made me a fresh cuppa, before leaving me to get myself sorted.
I got sorted, lubricated the chain, and adjusted the gearshift, before heading off in to town. The first port of call was the National Railway Museum, always a good place to go and a good café to top up with food.
Interestingly, instead of doing the TPT in April I had a short ride to York and where they are all sat outside the pub (above) was under about a meter of water. I am glad I postponed this trip.
Total 77Km, 3:30 minutes riding
This was to be my final day on the road and I was looking at all the possibilities regarding getting back to my car. When I set off, my intention was to dodge the road from Pocklington to Milington, as I remember it been a steep one, then I figured it would more effective to turn at Burton Agnes and head to Hornsea and pick up my car. That should be around 100Km, a good way to finish,
The route through York was easy considering it was Monday morning, and helped by clear signposts and lots of cycle friendly routes. Within a short while I was on traffic free roads out to Dunnington, at which point I got a great reminder that I was on Route 66.
After Dunnington I ride the track past Hagg Wood, then on the Stamford Bridge. What has become clear on this trip is how well the have planned these routes so that despite touching these bigger villages, you never seem to go through the busy centres.
Stamford Bridge to Pocklington is a straightforward stretch with great views on this clear blue sky day. By the time I get to Pocklington my curiosity gets the better of me and I go against my original plan and head for Millington Woods.
I am so glad I did, as it was stunning. It was quiet with wildlife all over the place, keeping my mind off, what turned out to be a steady climb. As it turned out this was not the road I expected and nowhere near as steep as I thought.
As I came out at the top there were two guys on mountain bikes who were doing the WotR from a van base, riding a section, then riding back and moving the van forward. That seems like an odd way to do things! Good luck guys.
The next stage through to Driffield and Nafferton was trouble free and slightly downhill. However, after Nafferton I lost the signs and finished up further down the road in a village called Wansford, which if you look at the map could have been reached 30 minutes ago with a shortcut.
I have a chat with a passing cyclist who assures me that the road I am on will take me to Burton Agnes, albeit over a few unmanned railway crossings. I seem to have seen so many unmanned crossings on this trip and mainly in East Yorkshire. Very sketchy, as I crossed this and it was completely clear, but by the time I had shut the gate, sorted my bike out and had a quick drink, a train came shooting past.
Sure enough, the guy was right, I had popped out at the point where I planned to turn right to Hornsea. You guessed it, I turn left and headed to Bridlington; it would have been stupid to get this far and not stick to the route, although it is going to push the mileage up by about 30km.
I had noticed that the wind direction had shifted to a North Easterly since Driffield and I guess this is because I am getting closer to the coast, where it is always windy. As I turn North at Burton Agnes I am full-on in to the wind and my speed drops. The only consolation is that this should be behind me on my journey back to Hornsea.
I reach Bridlington and search North Beach for the WotR marker, for a photo, but no luck, so a quick snap near the town sign, then South to Hornsea, where I feel there is an ice cream with my name on it.
I was right, the wind was behind me and the final 30km to Hornsea pass very easily and before I know it the journey is over and down by the TPT sig that started this voyage I find a lady selling ice creams……the perfect finish.
Total 130Km, 5:58 minutes riding
My original estimate was 700km, but it was 775Km when detours, bad navigation and off-piste trips to hotels were included. Who’s counting when you are having so much fun.
It has been a great ride and inspired me to do more of this, and I think the way the bike was set up is ideal for a week away anywhere.
Time to get planning the next one.