Sunday 27 August 2017

Coast 2 Coast, following the Trans Pennine Trail (TPT) and wild camping to boot!


PROLOGUE: My adventure really began once I had left my front door. However, my CTC adventure did not begin until I had cycled to Birmingham, caught a couple of trains and reached Southport. An old commute seemed the best way to begin. With less than 5k in my legs, my first stumbling block appeared - a fallen tree blocking my path.
This was no bother, just meant I had to go off-road for a spell. Maybe it helped to get a little practice in, as most my onward journey would be off-road. So nice to cycle these familiar paths, especially knowing that a day at work was not at the end. The rain was lightly falling but the forecast in Southport looked promising. Lots of animals came out to say 'hello' today including rabbits, a stork and a friendly fantastic fox.
Before one could say 'alright our kid', I had reached Birmingham. Strange how Birmingham seemed much nicer now that I didn't work here and visit almost daily anymore. The times they have a-changed. 
For whatever reason, Birmingham looked bright this fine day. Maybe my bike lit it up? Maybe it was the bear. What's with these bears?
My completed prologue covered just shy of 30k, as demonstrated by the Strava pic above. All good after 30k, really hoped the next few hundred k would be fine too. The map below is loosely what I planned to cycle.
Next step involved boarding the train and heading to Wigan. My bicycle shared a carriage with another cycle. This whole carriage felt safe and secure as it was locked and only bikes with reservations were allowed in here.
Both bike and I safely made it to Wigan North Western. We had a short trip, over the road to another rail station (Wigan Wallgate) and boarded a further train to Southport. Southport would be the first coast on my coast to coast (C2C) trip.
Now, food is a very important part of any adventure. So once in Southport, I spotted the nearest KFC and gouged away. Meal was a rip off at £6.89 but I did feel better for eating.
After lunch, I headed for the coast. Apparently it's 'good eggs' to dip the rear wheel of your cycle in the sea when leaving a coast and 'good eggs' to dip the front wheel when reaching the next. We would sea ('see'), ha! I remember when I was a child, I used to think how ace it would be to cycle a trip with loaded panniers and all. So cool that I was doing that just now (maybe not loaded panniers, the times move on, but you catch my drift).
Being at Southport reminded me of my Iron Man adventure last year. We stayed here just before (and after) the event. I ran some training miles on the self same beach. I even collected some shells and ran a while with said shells in my pocket - the one had a crab in it too! (Did not know about poor crab until the shells were washed in the sink).
Without further ado, found the official start to the TPT and took the obligatory photo's. Wow, I was about to begin. Had so looked forward to this adventure.
Was great cycling these initial paths (cycleway) of the TPT, as again, I had cycled some stretches whilst training for my Iron man event. Today's bike was slightly heavier, less aero and fully loaded. The fun factor was about the same though.
Felt like I was a wide load on a narrow cycle track. Surprisingly empty tracks with few cyclists seen. More runners and walkers were common.
These off-road tracks were just great. Largely empty and traffic free. Oh, and relatively flat and fast (though I was not racing at all).
Scenery was so splendid. God's creation just truly awesome. To prevent me stopping every couple of k to take a photo, I decided I would just loosely take a pic every 25k or so.
Oh, such a pleasant experience. Good weather, great tracks. Would could possibly go wrong?!
Pssst! You got it - a puncture. No real bother, it was a front one and soon fixed. Off we went...
Was not too long until I reached Liverpool. Was good to see 'Hope Street'. I had 'dear old lady you're looking thin, got a shopping bag with your life in' ringing around my head for a while. 'There's a young boy sniffing glue, not much else here for him to do' - if only these characters had bikes! Lot's to see and do in Liverpool. Like visiting the Albert Dock...
...or Pier Head.
Sounds crazy but I had to check the Mersey was in actual fact the Mersey. It was. Wow, I had reached the Mersey!
Two folks saw me snapping pics and asked if I'd like my photo taken. Why not?! Me, bike and the Mersey!
Back on the bike and more miles cycled. The Mersey must be massive because despite cycling more hours, the Mersey stayed by my side. The paths travelled changed from cycleway gravel, to tarmac, to grass - ever changing!
From the grassy tracks, I took another photo of the Mersey. It really was massive. My adventure seemed massive too, how brilliant.
And then, psst! Grr, puncture no. 2. This was a menace rear wheel job. Worse still it was raining a little. No real bother, found a wooded area and fixed bike back up. Thought this would have been a nice area to bivvy.
Puncture fixed and continued cycling to Widnes (wherever that is). The weather was turning drizzly but my spirits remained high. Just look at the path ahead and not at the sky...
Sure enough the weather brightened. What could possibly dampen my spirits now? You got it, psst! Another puncture. Puncture no. 3! This was a menace because I had now used all 3 spare tubes.
Figured, despite it not being too late, I would either find a bike shop (to purchase tubes) or find a suitable spot to camp. Did not find a bike shop or camp spot for a long time.
Instead, cycled more and more k's. In the back of my mind I was thinking I should have stopped ages back and pitched my tent where the fisherman had theirs pitched. Too late now, now where was I gonna pitch?

Whilst thinking so much, I did stop at a garage to collect water and chocolate and gather my thoughts. I stopped again a while later at a Co-Op and purchased the 'cheap' food - peanuts and chicken strips for 50p. It was raining harder now and getting dark. A kid (who looked like Ron Weasley) asked 'are you bike packing?' - yes, yes I was!

Climbed back on the bike and was desperate of find somewhere to pitch camp. And then, psst! Grr, puncture no. 4! Oh no, no spare tubes. Raining. Getting dark. Figured I would just camp now. Clambered into a field and ugh, there were slugs everywhere. Not camping here! I pushed my bike for a while through different fields (and brambles and nettles). Eventually, I found a more desirable field and pitched tent. My legs were covered in scratches, cuts and mosquito bites. So knackered was I, I couldn't be bothered to cook a meal and promptly flaked out. I woke a few times in the night and could see a massive spider walking across my tent roof at one point. Eek!

When morning came, I awoke to find 3 slugs on my tent. Thankfully, the field was not full of them. The above picture was taken and wow, I realised, I had survived my very first ever solo wild camp experience. Woo Hoo! Flies were trying to suck blood from my wounds so I ensured I wore leggings this morning. Pushed my bike a little way (out of the field) and sat down to fix punctures (with patches). Cycled a tad further and stopped at a suitable place for breakfast.
Breakfast was DIY style and consisted of porridge and green jasmine tea. Delicious. Breakfast was great but my puncture was not fixed. Re-patched tube (puncture no. 5?) and off I went.
Lots of off-road trails. Lots of k's cycled. The whole time hoping I would not puncture again and wishing for a bike shop.
The next land mark reached was Stockport. Stockport was great and allowed me to stock up on sausage rolls and water. Better yet (despite it being Halfords), a place for tubes was found - purchased 3 at £3 each.
Felt great to be fixed, fuelled and prepared! The weather had gotten nice too. Lots of open woodland followed and took me into Brinnington Park.
The above poem was very apt. Am sure it was written about me. This poem featured on a TPT sign point. Hmm, now which way was I travelling?
Good grief, I reached Glossop. Good Glossop. Stunning.
I was following the TPT trail to the East. It was good to know which way I was travelling when signs showed TPT in opposing directions. My head-space was singing 'I'm an East Coast Monkey, a West Coast Junkie...'. More often than not, the TPT signage had the picture below impressed on them.
The sights, sounds and smells (*not me) were wonderful. The photo below does not do the pinky/purpley brightness of the heather justice. It was like fields of Parma Violets.
From here the route got hilly. Mountain bikers became frequent and much off-road single track was followed. I must have been whacked because I didn't take photo's of truly wonderful scenery. I remember climbing up a long, slow hill and stopping to both rest my legs and butter my bum. 'Button Hole' was my butter of choice and boy did it feel great when applied. A lovely mint sensation! A mountain biker climbed up to me and we had a natter. We were both running short on water but he indicated, water was only about 1k away. This news was great and got me to top of hill and speedily down other side. Before so long, I reached Sheffield and had to climb through one of those 'bike things' at the end of the cycle path. These 'bike things' vary in width and are commonplace. One was particularly narrow and whacked my bar levers out of shape.
Stopped at  a super posh Bistro Bar and had a lovely American burger and coke. Delicious. Looked at my map here and had passed spur for Kirklees a while back. Figured I would head to Leeds from here. But for now, I would eat!
Heading to Leeds, I passed through Wakefield. Sandal Castle looked like a giant rabbit as I passed by. I wasn't hallucinating this time.
Arrived at Leeds and treated myself to a chocolate nourishment drink in the Town Centre. Ok, I had chocolate bar too. Next, I headed to the train station just to pick up the TPT trail again and continue my journey.
Tarmac turned to tow path as I cycled alongside the River Aire. Cycled through Rotheram and Rawmarsh. Then rested.
Was pleased with my 2 days thus far and was happy to find another suitable wild camp spot. I felt like a gypsy camping this night because I was just off a main road camping on the side (hidden behind some trees). Just like the night before, I was too tired to cook and settled down to sleep instead. My cheap Chinese pillow kept going down in the night and it rained hard but otherwise sweet dreams.

Bright morning followed rainy night. The flies always seemed to like meeting and greeting me in the morning hours. Packed up camp and moved a few feet to nearest bench for breakfast.
This was another DIY breakfast. I cooked beans, sausage and unidentified other meat in a packet. Yummers! Washed down with a cup of jasmine green tea.
Back on the trail and passed through Sheffield and Beighton. Great tracks as usual. Next stop Chesterfield.
Chesterfield was the Southernmost point I reached. Stopped for an extra breakfast which consisted of jam toast and further tea. My Northernmost point would be York, but that was some distance ahead.
Left Chesterfield and picked up great tracks that passed through Staveley. Sheffield made a re-appearance too. Deja vu!
The below signs were becoming a regular feature. Helpful, especially due to my history of mis-navigation. My back-up Garmin was working great too, though, it would read 'calculation error' when I typed a search address in. At least the blue and purple lines were where they should have been. On the subject of errors, today was the day that I bashed my handlebars in. 

Tinsley Park was glided through. Truly Wonderful. What an adventure.
What could possibly dampen the day? Psst! Ugh, you got it - puncture no. 6. This happened when I reached Sheffield. Got sore hands from all the pump action. Felt better by treating myself to a 12'' Subway a short while after.
Had never been to Sheffield Arena. No time for a visit today but at least I'd cycled past it now. Maybe stop for a gig another day?!
Left Sheffield and headed for Doncaster. Doncaster was a split in the TPT, one direction heading North towards York and the other East towards the coast. I planned to cycle both.
Many a time, a rail crossing was crossed. Most times the path was clear. However, on occasions, a train would pass through while I caught a sneaky rest.
Quite lanes and single track took me further through Doncaster. So quiet and peaceful. Eventually, I reached Goole (wonder how that is pronounced) and found my bed for the night.
Yes indeed, my bed for the night would be a church porch. This reminded me of the Windsor - Chester - Windsor 600k event I cycled with my buddy Chris H. We slept in a church then too, only for about 20 mins though, rather than a whole night.
I felt this was a perfect spot. Ready made seating and table. Decided to cook dinner here - a DIY stew. Delicious! No nice cup of tea though - had lost my tea bags! Today was a day of losing things - I had lost my cycling gloves at some point and a tent peg too. Instead of tea, I drank Malteser chocolate drink (nice) and Cadbury Options chocolate drink (filth). All tasted so much better when I had a swig of rum from flask.
Was real pleased with my abode for the night. No tent and no bivvy - does this mean I had slept rough?! There were a few spiders webs about but none of the creatures lurking. A bird was flapping above my head and I was hoping he would not poop (he didn't). The bird had pooped prior though, I covered up the mess with the church mat.  Have said it before, but I'll say it again - the sleeping bag SJ made me is awesome. Well done love! Oh, and talking of stars, the stars came out this night too and looked stunning.
The church I stayed in was the 'Holy Trinity Church' in Sykehouse. I hope the vicar or similar did not mind me crashing out here. Was not that I was 'like faith', I do believe in Jesus but certainly do not accept the doctrine of 'the trinity'.


Slept well last night, probably my best yet. Rose up and made myself porridge and Cadbury Options (no t-bags). Today was the day that I changed my cycling shorts too. Up and ready, off I cycled.
Selby was my next stop. This was another fork point - one way to York and another to Hornsea. Again, I figured I'd cycle both. Was beginning to wish I hadn't changed my shorts as my bum was not feeling too happy. To make myself happy, I stopped at a local shop and ate rubbish and purchased liquids.
York was the next destination. Cycling to York made me think of Jamie and Toll, as we had cycled here only a couple of weeks back. No pink dot (or blue for that matter) to follow this time around.
Nice long straight cycleway led to York and the weather was great. My POD rack was becoming loose though and I couldn't tighten it as it needed 2 allen keys the same size and I only had one. Once in York, I met another cyclist who had been travelling for 2 weeks and used his tools to fix my rack - bonus.
Great to reach York. Every good boy deserves fudge. I didn't bother, had chocolate instead.
Lovely to view York castle too. Had seen a few castles and places of historic interest on route. This tour was somewhat educational.
Turned around in York and headed back. Much of the cycleway I had cycled before was re-ridden. This cycleway had signs pointing to the planets (such as Pluto, Uranus, etc) and stated the distance away. Sadly, 4 photo's I took did not come out.
My 'Grand Designs' photo came out though. Might be a water tower to you, but to me it's a future home. I showed my daughter Melody this photo on my return and she told me that she lived there. Great minds think alike.
Nice stretches of single track took me back to Selby. Ah man, by now my butt was really starting to suffer. Only one thing for it, change back into my dirty shorts. Bliss = so much better! No doubt about it - Rapha vs Assoss - Rapha wins!
By now I was hungry again and looking for a pub. Found a few but they were all shut. Most pubs in this part of the world did not open until after 4 p.m. Found Dave Taylor's hog roast but sadly this was not my brother. After a stretch, finally found an open pub - the 'King's Head'.
The pub was warm and welcoming. The pin-board seemed to be expecting me and Jamie (no Toll) to rock up. I ordered a rather large meal and tucked away.
Was miffed the meal was not as large as I was expecting. Rip off! Tasted ok though.
Continued on my way passing through some wonderfully named places. Places like Brough. Places like Broomfleet. Cool, eh?!
Passed some bears in Hessle. What's with these bears? Though I'd left them behind in Birmingham.
Reached Hull, which I though was a little dull. Despite being a city of culture, I did not find it particularly diverse. Granted, I have seen worse.
Some of the cobbled streets were funky though. My bike and it's tyres had cycled over so many different surfaces now. Not sure which surface I preferred.
Lots of long straight stretches in Hull. Not sure what was wrong with my right calf but it felt weird. Like a strained or pulled muscle, or maybe cramp. Not sure what it was, but it was a little uncomfortable. Took Ibuprofen and carried on.
The k's went on. The pain went on too, well discomfort anyway - just wish I knew what it was.  Was sure I was nearing the sea. How could this be?
Well, it kinda felt like I was 'tripping'. This stretch just went on and on. It didn't appear to have an end.
Then all of a sudden the surface changed. As I crossed over a road, the place name made me chuckle. I was in a place called Swine.
Passed Swine and everything continued just fine. From Swine, I saw a post saying 'Trans Pennine Way'. What, wow, I had virtually completed a coast to coast trip!
Golly gosh! I could see, smell, taste and hear the West Coast. I few pedal strokes more and I could taste it too!
Woo Hoo! I had completed my C2C trip and cycled virtually all of the TPT. Now to throw my cycle into the ocean for 'good eggs'!
Oh Hornsea, how good it was to meet thee! I have always liked cycling by the coast and this was no exception. Was funny to think that Jamie, Toll and I were only 12 miles away at Bridlington Coast the other weekend when we cycled C2C2C.
When at the beach do what the beach doers do! That's right - fish and chips. Mmm, delicious!
Next plan was to find a camp site. I had finished my C2C a day early, so figured I would 'camp proper', allow my tent to dry and make use of shower facilities etc. Found a site and pitched tent - yay! There was no facilities, save a single toilet - boo! The camp site had just 2 camper vans on the site, plus me and hundreds of rabbits. The site 'Northorpe', was up for sale and in a state of semi-neglect. No bother, my home for a couple of days. Cracked open my hip flask and celebrated completing my TPT C2C.


Awoke after a great nights sleep. Must have been the rum from last night. Oh, my adventure, what a delight!
I did not cycle at all today. Never planned a rest day, it just worked out this way. Was great re-living my adventure thus far and comparing my planned route with the actual one. The 2 can be compared below.

My C2C TPT route, 605k
Had plenty of time to think today. Was thinking and considering if tent beats a bivvy? There are pro's and con's with both. My tent was a little condensed and I hate putting away a went tent. The weather app suggested it was going to rain tonight which meant a wet tent to put away tomorrow. So much thinking...

To stop thinking so much, took a walk to the seafront. Before I got to the sea, I spotted a leisure centre. Hmm, figured they'd have showers. Without too much thinking, I purchased a pair of trunks and went for a swim! Oh, how great to be clean - had not showered in 5 days! Had no towel to dry but hey, it was warm and sunny and soon sun dried anyhow. (I did have a towel with me, it was attached to my bike, back at the camp site and never used whole trip).
Felt good to be clean. Was nice to wash my hair, despite it being only with chlorine and shower water (no shampoo etc). Probably beats the sea water though, which is where I walked to next. Oh the ocean breeze.
After my walk, I purchased some fruit. I hadn't eaten fruit for five days and had a craving. Craving quashed with a peach and satsuma. Purchased lunch from Co-oP (sandwich, crisps, pork pies) and sat and watched the waves. Nice walk back to campsite where I sun-basked a while and further dried out my clothes.
The folk on the camp site seemed nice enough, one block asked 'are you on your own?' - not sure how many folk he thought I had in my tent. Another chap kept calling me 'lad' which made me feel young. Guess I'm young at heart.

Whilst drying out my stuff, I noticed how many simple repairs I had made using (inner tube) patches. Who'd have thought?! I fixed my shorts, tubes, kit bags x 2, tubes and even used a patch as a tyre boot. Handy little things - definitely on future pack lists!
Is great when things have more than one purpose. My tent was my abode and clothes drier! Ha!
Not too far away was a shelter for my bike. This worked well enough and my bike was suitably hidden too. Oh the joys of bike-packing.
Being on holiday allowed me to treat myself. Of utmost importance was replenishing my lost supply of jasmine green tea. I didn't purchase any new gloves (had spares at home). My missing tent peg re-appeared.
In the evening, I went for a further walk about Town. Spotted another tempting sleep spot. Hmm, maybe the tomb stone put me off.
Was hard to stay away from the sea front. Something quite special, almost magical about the sea. Only God knows the number of specs of sand on the beach. Amazing.
South view above. North view below. All views awesome.
Whilst viewing, I spotted another, perhaps 'the' official TPT start/stop post. Argh, must visit here again tomorrow with my bike to ensure photo is taken. How did I miss this yesterday?
Being on holiday, I decided to indulge on a balti. I had lamb balti and it was delicious. Phoned SJ and told her all about it and my plans to have an early night. I was on holiday and my plans of an early night disappeared as I spotted JD and coke in a shop window...
Sweet dreams again. How did my last night arrive so quick? Home tomorrow..


Awoke feeling quite fresh, the discomfort in my right calf remained but otherwise okay. Started day with another porridge breakfast and delicious jasmine green tea. This was followed by a run to the loo. Whoever though a curry the night before a cycle was a good idea?! AE!
Before I packed up camp, I took a quick cycle back to the seafront. Took photo's of the TPT signage, complete with bike. My C2C TPT was officially completed now!
Back at the campsite I swiftly packed up and headed for the Humber Bridge. For whatever reason had really wanted to cycle over this bridge on my return route home. This was going to happen today.


Sure enough, my return leg home, well to Scunthorpe, followed some parts of the TPT that I had already cycled plus random bits of route I hadn't. Kinda strange how my route took me right through an allotment.
Much of the TPT trail was dis-used or previously used railway. Evidence of old platforms were common place. No rail track however.
Cycled through Great Hatfield which as the name suggested was great. Hull was my next destination. I said Hull was dull earlier. Perhaps I lied.
Had more of them 'bike things' to pass through. The widths varied. Some were passable, some were not. Menace!
Stopped in Hull for a Maccy D's. Nice enough but felt bloated after. With heavy stomach headed for the Humber Bridge.
The bridge was soon found. Navigating onto it proved difficult. Other times I have crossed this bridge proved hard to get onto it to (knowing which side leads which direction spins out my head).
This bridge always reminds me of London-Edingburgh-London (LEL) which I cycled years back, only in the dark. Same bridge always makes me think of Jamie and Toll too - I passed them both sleeping here on the afore-mentioned LEL. Ha!
Great views from up on bridge. Nice to see over the edge in day light. Wonder when I might cycle here again. I know Graeme Holdsworth is holding a couple of Humber Audax events soon...
What better place for a selfie. Did I really look like that? Crazy is as crazy does.
Continued my way along nice paths through Barton-Upon-Humber. Nice tracks soon turned to nasty tracks though once I got to New River Ancholme. Very nasty indeed.
The track here was clearly overgrown and cycling through it was impossible. I had a go and fell off my bike for the first time this adventure. On to thorns and brambles too. Ouch. Was hard to get back up as bramble had tangled my bars. Cycled across the ploughed field instead which also required much energy.
The menace did not stop here. My Garmin track led me to a level crossing near Scunthorpe but not Scunthorpe Rail Station. My destination was still some 4 miles away - good job I had my mobile and google maps. Good job time was on my side too as I didn't feel like racing anywhere. Pleased to inform that Scunthorpe Station was safely navigated too!
Could not find my bike reservation tickets but thankfully no bother. I had rail tickets and that was enough for me and bike to travel to Doncaster. Hadn't I been there before?
At Doncaster it was simply a task of swapping trains. The next train took me to Birmingham. I forgot to take further pictures. My bike was held up by front wheel in the rail carriage this time. Bike carriage was not standardised on the rail network. Spent the journey chatting to some old woman knitting an intricate scarf and a Scottish couple heading for a motor show. 90 minutes later was back in Birmingham. Didn't care for the bears this time, just wanted to get home and see the wife and kids.
Epilogue, part 1, 81.3k


A rather un-eventful trip from B'ham City Centre along the canal took me to Kings Norton. From Kings Norton I joined country lanes and cycled to the Arrow Valley Lake in Redditch. I was proper 'Hank Marvin', so I stopped to order a pizza from Mario's. A few moments later, I cycled through my village, collected pizza and returned home to the wife and kids. Another completed adventure.
  • Total distance - 745k
  • Coasts visited - 2
  • Wild camp nights - 2
  • Rough sleeps - 1
  • 'Traditional' camping nights - 2
  • Punctures - 6

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