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Cycling light, along the TPT coast to coast – Jenny Gibson (June 2024)

Cycling light, along the TPT coast to coast – Jenny Gibson (June 2024)

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Welcome to the Trans Pennine Trail

A national coast to coast route for recreation and transport – for walkers, cyclists and (in part) horse riders

Welcome to the Trans Pennine Trail

A national coast to coast route for recreation and transport – for walkers, cyclists and (in part) horse riders

Welcome

A national coast to coast route for recreation and transport – for walkers, cyclists and (in part) horse riders

Cycling light, along the TPT coast to coast – Jenny Gibson (June 2024)

Jenny getting ready to set off on her bike

Credit: Jenny Gibson

I set out to cycle coast to coast via Doncaster on muddy tracks, dodging nettles and sheep, with just achange of clothes, a toothbrush and a couple of Airbnb reservations, and this is how I got on

I guess we can all agree that Doncaster is the centre of the universe. But did you know that the city is also the midpoint of the much loved Trans Pennine Trail that links the East and West coasts of England?

And that if you set off in either direction, and pedal for a bit more than 100 miles, you will reach the seaside – via mostly flat, tree-lined and traffic-free tracks?

I decided to ride the whole thing from Southport to Hornsea – the two equally fun-loving, Victorian holiday towns that bookend the Trail on either coast – in four days.

The Ultimate Trans Pennine Trail Guide says it’s 216 miles, but I ended up doing 266 in total, due to wrong turnings, the difference between Strava’s calculations and the official distances – and the need to loop back from Hornsea to get a train home from Hull.

Underpass of Mersey Gateway Bridge over the River Mersey.

Credit: Jenny Gibson

I only have short legs and I’m nearly 50. If I can manage 80+ miles a day on my very ordinary, tough-tyred touring cycle, without doing any training to prepare, I’d say any relatively fit adult could do the same, or indeed take a bit longer and ride a little less each day.

There are lots of interesting stop-offs along the way from Spike Island in Widnes to RSPB Old Moor in Dearne Valley to the elegant suburbs of South Manchester and the sparkly city delights of Hull.

I’ve done quite a few multi-day trails now and find the whole process of getting from A to B over quite a distance, under my own steam, very satisfying indeed.

Some relaxed riding amid the uniquely green and pleasant lands of South Yorkshire in particular – yes, Barnsley and Penistone, I mean you – is simply a lovely way to spend a day.

A good tip is to carry as little as possible, avoiding the temptation to pack heavy and voluminous panniers. My bare necessities were one change of clothes, a washbag of tiny toiletries, flip flops, some essential bike tools – a spare inner tube, tyre levers, Allen keys, bike lock and a pump – and my phone. You’ll also want snacks as well as water, as you can go a long way between shops on some sections.

While some hardcore cyclists might bring full camping gear, I opted for Airbnb rooms in Stockport and Doncaster, and a lively pub in Selby. The Airbnbs were a nice part of the trip in themselves, with friendly hosts to welcome me and wonder why on earth I wasn’t on a relaxing spa retreat.

In Doncaster, my landlady recommended her local pub where I enjoyed some very fine Thai food while watching Rangers v Dundee in the bar – an unlikely combination that made the evening memorable.

I got to my start point in Southport via train. If you haven’t taken a cycle on a train before, it’s very easy. It’s best to book a free bike reservation – without one, they can refuse to let you board if they’re busy, though I’ve never seen this happen.

When the train arrives in the station, look for the carriage door with the bicycle symbol, via which you’ll find your space. Getting home again was a little trickier as there’s no station at Hornsea, so as mentioned I simply pedalled back to Hull Paragon Interchange.

Trans Pennine Trail running along a canal towpath

Credit: Jenny Gibson

Most of the trail is flat, often on reclaimed railway lines or canal towpaths, and shrouded by greenery plus blowsy blossoms and wildflowers at this time of year. There are impressive metal sculptures at each end and public art along the way to remind you of the grand journey you’re undertaking.

It’s generally easy terrain, and some of it is on tarmac, but parts were rocky, muddy and arduous. While crossing the Pennines was hardly an uphill struggle, beware – there was a degree of tricky, bumpy, up-and-over, passing nonplussed moorland sheep in the drizzle.

A particular low point was hitting slimy, slithery dirt at speed, falling off into a ditch and nettling one side of my face. My jaw didn’t feel right for a couple of days and I still have the bruises.

Blue finger posts pointing the direction of the Trans Pennine Trail along route 62.

Credit: Jenny Gibson

More frustration involved absent-mindedly missing the signs at intervals – a sure-fire way to add unwanted extra time to any journey. In places, the markers were non-existent or ambiguous. However, I could always, eventually, figure things out using both the maps in the book and on my phone. After such trials, reaching Hornsea in lashing rain was a great moment.

Overall, those little blue Trans Pennine Trail signs with a white bicycle graphic, pointing out route 62 from the West coast to Selby, then route 65 for the rest of it, became reassuring touch points. Once you notice these, you see them wherever you go … now, where to next?

Jenny Gibson – June 2024

Interactive Map

See our interactive mapping for detailed route alignment and route diversions.

Distances

Using the tables below you can work out how far you want to go on the TPT.

Useful Links for Information

Check our useful links regarding accessibility

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