Tuesday, rose almost bright and fairly early. With remarkably unstrained legs on my part, although I can’t speak for Andy, we set out to load the bikes and prepare for the off. (There is no need to speak of breakfast, as that is pretty much all the morning consisted of.)
Regardless of the ‘short’ distance of the day before, remounting did have its uncomfortable moments! But we were off, and cycling into an overcast but fairly pleasant day following the trail wherever it took us.
In the first instance, the road led us out of the village of Hale, up a barely perceptible hill (or it would have been in a car but clearly had an impact on already tired legs)
Veering from the road, the path took us through the Pickering Pastures nature reserve, in itself not a spectacular reserve, but the views it provided along the river Mersey and along to the Runcorn bridge (some might say the best bit of Runcorn) were simply stunning.
This beautiful, smooth, pressed sand section was short lived, and we were soon faced with a ‘wonderful’ set of steps to climb. Just what you expect on a flat riverside. The shallow timber steps (with momentum breaks half way up – naturally) zigzagged up a cliff face, and were not designed for the heavy bike with full panniers.
Reaching the half way point, Andy discovered the advantage of his Carbon Fibre bike, and simply carried his bike (one handed!) up the stairs and over the gates, before returning to very kindly pushing my bike up the remaining treads.
Continuing through Runcorn, we took a minor diversion as we somehow doubled back on ourselves and started to return the way we had come (we still don’t know how!). Returning to the real route, we avoid the slicing force of a strimmer (as it’s owner crossed a bridge with it still on, with barely any move to avoid our bike tyres) and progress from riverside to canal path. As we avoided the diggers, we found directions to the local view point, and paused to admire the local sculpture – Future Flower – and the view back down river the Runcorn.
We passed along the canal, where brazen Heron’s stalked submerged beams, or waited by the trail.
As we progressed further along the trail we grew increasingly adept at weaving round the large puddles that dotted its length. There were places where taking a shower in muddy water was inevitable, but with the delights of mud guards, I was kept fairly clean. Even if my brakes didn’t always appreciate the new mud coating.
On route, we paused twice to collect stamps from bike shops. Lyme was also where I started trying to arrange to catch up with my brother, who we thought may be interested in joining us for a stretch. We stopped for lunch (and other useful facilities) a mile out from Altrincham near Manchester. As it turned out, in another ‘unusual’ lunch venue.
Seeing a board dancing in a slight breeze, we eagerly veered off the road and into a business park. Not a delightfully attractive location, but much needed refreshment at the Take 5 cafe. My Jacket potato followed by a wedge (a door stop of a wedge) of homemade lemon cake fuelled the next stage of the journey. Which consisted of more weaving – puddles, trees, other cyclists, roads and momentum breaks. This time, I had to stop increasingly frequently to check the alignment of my breaks, and to clean the mud off my rear wheels. Fair is only fair after all – my turn to ‘suffer’.
We rejoined the Mersey for a short while, cycling along the pressed dirt river track, glorying in the increasing honour the sun bestowed on us. The river streamed down its channel, and pedestrians, dog walkers and cyclists alike followed its course through the urban districts at Greater Manchester’s edge.
To further our trek, we had to cross the rather large hurdle of the M60. Thankfully, a beautiful white bridge (one both of us had seen many times before through our respective windscreens) was provided for the benefit. About this point, we joined a section of the Transpenine trail that I had discovered last summer on a visit with my brother, indeed it was the section of the trail that inspired me to try this adventure. As such, I had thought that Chris would be cycling with us at this point, however with a bank visit and a dicky phone (dropping this electrical device into a gallon of beer at work served to make communication challenging), my brother decided that finding us would be inviable, and suggested instead that he met us in Hadfield – our designated over night stop.
Turning away from the Mersey we found the last of the sections that seemed more puddle than path, even finding a tarmac stretch that gave us a shower and our bike wheels a thorough wash as we turned the bend. Shortly after this, we paused for a banana break at Northendon Riverside park, before continuing to Didsbury for a coffee. This was much later than we had anticipated, in fact we didn’t leave there until half past three, with the hopeful intention of arriving at Hadfield at about 6 and arranging to meet Chris at half past ish.
Almost immediately after setting off, we were diverted. Following the yellow signs, we swung down a gravel path and back onto the blue sign route. The path led us towards our first serious climb of the trek, through park and town and past a bombed out church in Heaton Norris.
Sweeping through the town making the most of gravity’s assistance we zoomed along the main road. Seeing a glimpse of blue glaring from the top of a sign I spotted the route to the city centre. Andy followed my bellowed direction (gravity doubled his speed, over taking my natural caution) to curve round the corner. It was a pity that the city centre sign that this led us to quite a sizable diversion, completely bypassing Stockport (and two stamping points!). The route was simply a more accessible one, but as we crested another hill, coming out of a hilltop housing estate we missed a sign and headed in the direction of Heaton Cheadle. It fell (once more in the Bentley Morral adventure scheme) to Andy’s Blackberry (phone) to find our way back to the trail. The Transpenine trail maps showed limited scope past the remit of the trail itself.
Day two of the cycle journey along the Transpenine Trail, this April (2012).