Chris and Sile, our neighbours across the road from our field for the night served us up a very generous cooked breakfast: rashers, eggs, sausages, beans and coffee. Whith such a feast in our bellies we raced on to the next town of Barnsley.
From Bransley we traced a nice route along back roads to what we presumed would be our lunch stop at Pontefract. Arriving in Pontefract we realised that, given the time it took us to get here (a lot less than we thought) it might be possible to get to Hull in time to change our ferry booking to today and get into Belgium a day early.
I called up P&O, they said it would be a €50 charge to change the day. Finn recommended we just try and get there and do the change in person. So we wolfed down a subway sandwich and pelted it out of Pontefract onto Hull. With four hours to get there and a bit less than 40 miles to cover we figured we would be there in no time.
Flat roads and tailwind brought us to what we presumed to be about halfway to Hull in a little over an hour. We crossed the River Ouse and followed the motorway onwards to Hull.
We followed another B road until we joined up with the motorway, now just an A road towards Hull. The first sign we saw said we were still 16 miles from Hull and only an hour to get there. We raced as fast as we could into the city, check in closed at 5. 60 long minutes later we arrived at the ferry terminal sweaty, sunburnt and out of breath but just in time to change our tickets. And for only £10.
When we got in the boat we found our cabin and the luxury of two beds, a shower and a power outlet. It had been a hard ride to get to the boat early but now, certainly worth it. Next stop: Belgium
Now on the Trans Pennines trail to Hull the rest of the ride across England should have been easy. It was at first, the TPT helped us navigate Manchester by leading us through green parks and leafy suburbs. A brief Lidl pit stop was the only delay along an otherwise simple ride.
After our Lidl stop (which also included a completely unhelpful trip to a nearby outdoor store to get our tent poles replaced) the trail became a bit tougher. The route was to be shared with horses and after passing into Reddish Country Park the path became a sandy, rocky trial that slowed the loaded bikes down. There were also stiles every couple of meters and after lifting our bikes over maybe the tenth stile of the day we decided that maybe the TPT wasn’t for us.
After lunch we were to cross the Peak District and then find somewhere to camp at the end of the day on the other side. We gave up on the Trans Pennine Trail and instead followed the road over the northern pass. The Peaked Didtrict, despite having worried about crossing it, turned out to be a pretty gradual climb, only to about 400m in the end.
An exhilarating descent later led us into the valley of Penistone where we found a field to camp in after asking around. The people who lived opposite the field we camped in, a friendly couple named Sile and Chris offered us water. And then, after a short conversation during which we divulged our breakfast situation (porridge for me, pasta for Finn) offered us a cooked breakfast in the morning.
“Well, if it’s not too much trouble…”
Our host told us in the morning that we should be able to pick up the Route 5 outside Flint, the town he lived above. We thanked him for the use of his field and rode downhill into Flint. We had a bit of trouble finding the Route 5 at first but got directions from a train station attendant in town and were soon on our way to Chester.
The Route 5 to Chester was pleasant and uneventful most of the way. The cycle track was an old railway line that followed the canal so we had an easy ride all morning.
We lost our bearing a little bit coming out of Chester but another passing cyclist put us on the right track to Frodsham, where we stopped for lunch. Here after a bit of wifi research over lunch we found out about the Trans-Pennine Trail, a cycle route just north of us that could take us all the way to Hull.
We were recommended a nice route from where we were to the trail by a bike shop worker. Another short ride through typical English country side later and we had arrived at the trail.
We joined the trail an hour or two after leaving Frodsham and it was just a long, straight path that skirted Manchester. Quite different from our afternoon ride of stopping for directions every couple of hours, now we were on the path that should take us all the way to our end destination of Hull.
Around 7, a couple of hours after joining the trail we turned off to find somewhere to camp and came across a perfect secluded, vacant field almost immediately. Filling up our water at a nearby sports ground we settled down to a calm, sunny evening.
We had a few mishaps at the start of our trip. Finn had left the poles to his Bivvy bag back in Dublin, but we had brought a tent also that we could use in an emergency such as this. Well, we’ve had the tent for a while, too long it turned out as while Finn was setting it up on the first night the poles snapped.
We also discovered at the end of the day yesterday Finn had a flat rear tyre. Fixed it in the morning, packed up and got ready to go…only to find it flat again. This time as we were changing it an coupl on tour came up the road and gave us a hand while letting us know a bit about the road ahead. Apparently there was bike route that would take us all along the coast of North Wales and into the uk. As they rode off we got packed up again and set off. After a while Finn had another flat. We gave up on trying to fix it, we had searched for whatever debris was causing the puncture and couldn’t find it. It was a slow enough leak so we pushed on to the next town to find a bike store.
The route the couple had suggested, the national cycle route 5, turned out to be really nice following the coast and then turning inland for a bit over rolling hills.
The ride from Colwyn to the bike store was short enough and here we found the culprit: a tiny piece of gear cable, about the width of a hair. After it was all sorted we joined back up with the route 5 onward towards Chester.
From Colwyn the ride was easy and pleasant along the coast with a strong tailwind the whole time. We passed through beaches, caravan parks and old British seaside resorts.
We had hoped to get to Chester today but the difficulties in the morning had delayed us by quite a bit. The route 5 turned inland and at 7:30 we found ourselves riding through the settlement of Flint. A local very kindly agreed to let us camp in his field for the night and we settled down to lentil dinner overlooking the green hills of North Wales
The sun was shining this morning so there was no way our ferry could be cancelled. I got everything packed, said some last goodbyes and went off to meet Finnian at the ferry terminal. It was a strange feeling leaving the house fully loaded, with the bike packed up as it would be for the next year. Every other tour I’ve been on has started after a plane journey where the bike is taken apart and all the gear forced into a checked bag. Cycling from my home with everything as it would be for the whole journey was new, and an exciting way to start the trip.
I met up with Finnian at the ferry and we checked in to the host that would take us to Hollyhead. A short while later we got off the boat in Wales and realised we didn’t really know where we wanted to get to today. It was about 5 when we arrived so we could make a bit of distance on the bikes. We swung by the library to get a bit on info before heading on.
We hadn’t done too much research before we left (hadn’t even decided what port we would leave England from). A bit of time in the library and we decided to leave out of Hull and cycle across the north of England, we were quite keen to get onto the mainland and get going and this route was the most direct. From Hull a ferry ran to Belgium and that seemed prefect. For the time being though, we figured we could make it to Bangor before it got dark. we hit the road and followed an A route out of Hollyhead. It still didn’t really feel like the tour had stated at this stage, it kind of felt like we were still in Ireland.
It was an easy straight shot from Hollyhead to Bangor. At Bangor we stopped for dinner and then grabbed some supplies in the supermarket before heading out of town to find a field to camp in for the night.
The rain started to come down towards the end of the ride. Camping in a field in Wales in the rain…a not so glamorous, but probably fitting, start to our journey