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Trans Pennine Challenge

By Janet Fairclough

Last year after completing the Leeds to Liverpool canal in 15 hours 3 minutes started to think about what my next Challenge could be! Hmmm What about cycling the Trans Pennine path from Southport on the West Coast to Hornsea on the East Coast in 1 day, a total of 215 miles? I managed to talk a work college Phil Wall into doing the challenge with me. So early in the year we set a date for 19th July and scheduled in some training sessions.

Our first training session was on 11th May we cycled from Bickerstaffe and joined the Trans Pennine path at Maghull. The path had been closed off near Aintree and it took us some time to find a way to rejoin the path as there were no diversion signs. We then missed a turning near the airport and went slightly off course.   Our aim was to cycle to Fiddlers Ferry and back. We completed 50 miles in 4 hrs 18 minutes. On Monday 12th May I decided to re-do the route from Maghull out to Pickering Pastures to ensure I knew the route and made sure I didn’t miss the turning at the airport. Our second training session was to cycle from Phil’s in Warrington to Woodhead Pass completing around 100 miles. I have to say we got lost quite a few of times in Stockport and Didsbury as the path is not clearly marked.

Our original date for the Challenge was 19th July but unfortunately we had to reschedule to 2nd August.   However I thought this was a good opportunity to use that weekend to do some extra training. So I had two days to cycle from Woodhead Pass to Hornsea. So I set out on my own from Dumford Bridge at 11.06 on the Saturday heading to Sprotbrough about 30 miles. I had expected to get to Spotborough around 1.30pm however I got lost and by the time I got to Sprotbrough it was 3.45pm. I got changed, had some food and put the bike in the car, Then the sun came out so I decided to do an additional 23 miles to get me to Snaith.

So I got changed again and set off….. What a big mistake!!! I got lost, got caught in thunder and lightening and an almighty down pour of rain. I had gone so off course and had to back track to Bentley. On my way back to Bentley Alan rang to say he was at the next meeting point however no one in the pub knew where the Trans Pennine trail was. As I was so off course I told him to go back to Sprotbrough. On my way back to Sprotbrough both my brakes failed which was really scary but I had no option but to carry on. I did learn a very vital lesson that day “DO NOT GO OUT ON YOUR OWN ON A COURSE YOU DO NOT KNOW”!!!

My initial plan was to also cycle on the Sunday but after Saturdays nightmare I decided to cancel that idea and went on the club ride to the Cat and Fiddle. At this point I had come to the conclusion that the challenge was not achievable not only due to the number of miles but the fact that the signage was so poor!! However the next time I saw Phil in work he was still up for the challenge so we decided to go ahead.

On Friday 1st of August I checked the weather forecast for the following day which was not good indicating heavy rain all day. Friday night I drove into Southport just to check the route from Southport Pier to Formby.   I really wanted to cycle the section from Formby to Maghull just to make sure I knew the route but Alan talked me out of it!!!!

We arrange to meet at Southport Pier at 3.30am with a start time of 4am. We set off at 3.55 in the rain. As we entered the woods at Formby there was a path to the left with a farmers gate across and a path to the right that was sign posted Cheshire lines, unfortunately we took the wrong path and ended up at the Formby by-pass, so had to back track about 1 ½ miles. I have to say I was a bit annoyed with myself for not doing the trek the night before. Our first stop was at Latchford Locks in Warrington 40 miles in. We arrived there at about 7.35 wet and thirsty. Got changed and a really nice cuppa and a bite to eat and set off again.  After we had been cycling for about 5 hours I came off the bike hurting my knee.

At about 4 miles from Glossop Phil got a puncture. He had some of that “gunk stuff” to inflate the tyre and we carried on. However as we got into Glossop the tyre was flat again. We found out that there was a Tesco store about 2 miles away, so Phil took my bike and went off in search of an inner tube. At this point it was raining so I found a bus shelter to wait in. Got talking to a local lady waiting for the bus into Glossop she saw my knee and said I have just the thing for that, I only live across the road and my bus is not due for another 5 minutes I will nip back home and get you an alo vera leaf. Phil managed to get a couple of inner tubes from Halfords. At this point we rang Alan to say we would be later than planned at our meeting point, he informed me that he had been stuck in traffic on the M56 for a number of hours. We carried on to our next stopping point Woodhead Pass at 90 miles. We were wet so got changed again had a bite to eat and then set off for Dumford Bridge where we expected to see Alan.

When we arrived at Dumford Bridge there was no sign off him and we had no phone reception so we carried on. A few miles later we managed to get phone reception and rang him but he was still stuck in traffic on the M56. We told him we had past Dunford Bridge and to now meet us at Spotborough. We arrived at Spotborough at 6.30pm, Alan had got there about 20 minutes before us (he had left Bickerstaffe at 10.30 so it had taken him almost 8 hours to get there). We had a bite to eat and then set off for Selby. On the stretch to Selby we were doing well until we had to cycle across some farmers fields where the signage was not existent and this really reduced are miles per hour.

Around 9.15 it was starting to go dark so switched on my light.  We were about 4 miles from Selby when the light ran out of power and we were then cycling in the dark with just the bit of light off Phil’s phone. It was really difficult to navigate across an airdrome with lots of pot holes and virtually no light. We arrived just outside Selby at 10.25pm having ridden 161 miles. Unfortunately we had to call it a day at this point as we still had another 54 miles to go and I only had one more light with an estimated 2 hours of battery.

It was a very tough challenge and we were disappointed we had not reached the end. Physically we could have made it but the hours of light stopped us!! It’s a great challenge so I have put it in the diary for next year Saturday 20th June when we will have more hours of day light.

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