Over The Hill

Yes, its time to admit it, I am over the Hill. At 50+ years I can safely say I am over the Hill.

I am of course referring to the Pennines and in particular The Woodhead Pass.

Saturday’s  bike ride was supposed to be a shirt but hilly 30 miles from Mottram in Hyde to Barnsley. It turned out to be a lot longer ride than that for reasons I will explain below.

So after leaving outer hotel  we rapidly picked up the Trans Pennine Trail  (TPT) and almost immef5lost it because of turns not being signposted  ( a common problem). We took the Road towards Glossop instead. And found the TPT again and started climbing up towards Woodhead Pass, firstly passing up and over a reservoir at Hadfield ( the first of many). It was spectacular by the amount of water flowing off the hills, causing a large fountain effect.

More climbing on rough surfaces led us to the main trail up to Woodhead. It was in the region of 8 miles of solid climbing to Woodhead Tunns. It was a steady gentle climb, but a climb all the same. Two noticeable things on reoute were the number of families out walking & riding together and the number of twichers ( bird watchers) we saw.

When we reached the remains of the old Woodhead Railway Station at the entrance to the sealed Woodhead Tunnels we were chatting to a couple of dog walkers who advised us the twitchers were hoping to see a rare vulture with a 9″ wingspan that had apparently been seen locally

What Times Is the Next Train From Woodhead?

Because the three tunnels are sealed off, it is necessary to go over the top of Woodhead Pass. Helpfully, there is a sign at the end of the railway platform directing you up a hill for the route. Once we had reached the top of the hill, we were on the busy A628 road. This was not the TPT. We knew it was about 2 miles on the road to where the TPT crosses the road, so like fools, we rode on the main road, which turned out to be not too busy or too steep and took us over the top.

We continued from there to Dunsford Bridge and found the old railway line which took us the last few miles into Penistone where we had lunch with my parents.

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I was able to chat via text whilst having lunch,  with my friends in Ohio who celebrated their 28th Wedding Anniversary that day. An Great achievement given the started married life with me as Best Man.

Back on the bike. It was only a short ride from Penistone to our hotel in Wombwell. An early finish beckoned.

The rain began to pour as we took the TPT along the railway tracks and through woods along great forest trails following the TPT trail signs until I stopped to check where we were and discovered had gone a long way south and were neatly in Sheffield not Barnsley! So much for the TPT signs!

We joined the Main Road at this point and found ourselves on the Cotè d Oughtibridge which is a hill that hits a 20% gradient and is said to be one of the top ten climbs in Britain! Several other sheepish hills later and we found ourselves back on the TPT trail again for the last 2 miles to the hotel, but struggled to find our way because of missing or inaccurate signing.

Event we arrived at the hotel about 2 hours later than planned and soaking wet having done an extra 12 or so miles owing to our detour. Still it was nice to tick off another of the top climbs in the UK.

After checking g into the hotel, I met my mother who game me a bag and we walked to our rooms. They were opposite each other. We were in 107 and my parents were in room 106, so my mother said, and as I went into our room, my mother was swiping her card to go into 106. After a shower etc. we headed out for dinner. I knocked on 106 to get my parents. A young lady answered the door and said I was the 2nd person to mistakenly call there. The other was a lady.. yes, my mother had got the wrong room! The occupant said we were welcome.eto koin her, but she was heading out to a party with a bottle of champagne in her bag! An interesting proposition, but food appealed more.

After dinner in the hotel pub/ restaurant we were joined by my friends from Barnsley for a convivial evening of alcohol. So much for a quiet early night.

A long day beckons again today as we continue towards Hornsea. Also my parents are heading home today, so its just the 2 of us for the next two days

The Beautiful Day …it didn’t last
Lunch With My Parents
Spot the Extra Detour we made

It’s Grim Up North

So, Friday saw us set off on our epic adventure or as some would say it, a bloody stupid trip.

Firstly, Southport is the costal resort for posh Scousers they tell me. It was obvious there was a strong Liverpool influence on the place, starting with the view from our hotel room….I mean, some Scouser had stolen the view

Someone Had Pinched the View

Then there was the hotels famous breakfast. Famous for coming in a cardboard box.

Actually for a takeaway breakfast box it wasn’t too bad.cereal, juice, flap jack, pain au chocolate. I’ve had worse.

A short ride from our hotel took us to the start of the Trans Pennine Trail. After the obligatory photos, it was time to set off and almost immediately we found the route closed for roadworks. This could be a long day!

The first few miles were on tarmacadam surfaces and relatively quick, until we turned onto trails and canal paths all the way into the Aintree area of Liverpool.

By the time we reached Aintree, Drew & I looked like we had ridden the Grand National Course on a very wet day.

After Aintree we joined up with the disused rail beds. These varied in quality between excellent and very good. The biggest issue was some interesting and missing signposts.

We had intended to stop every 20 or so miles for a cake stop. However after 20 miles the number of cars we saw were limited.

We did add a few miles on trying to circumnavigate Liverpool Airport We also found a pub that reminds me of a football club of a similar name

Last Orders?

We eventually stopped after 38 miles for a spot of fine dining at McDonald’s in Widnes. By this time we were so hungry anything tasted nice.

Back on our bikes and a strange afternoon of rain, huge flooded sections, missing sign posts, missed turns. At one point were were going through water deeper than the bottom bracket on the bike, and of course there was the mud.

The afternoon session proved a bit troublesome. I thought we were meeting my parents in 22 miles, turns out it was 32 miles away, but the surface was poor with lots of mud & water and lots of wrong turns due to missing or misleading signs.

We ended up meeting them about 2 hours later than planned. Sorry mum & dad! ( again!).

Never mind, it was only 11 miles from there to the hotel, but as Drew will attest it was almost all uphill and in deteriorating weather, especially the increasing wind.

It was a relief after 80.93 miles to reach our hotel, welcoming showers and lots of food and good company.

So today the enemy is a hill. I think its called the Pennines.

A hard day rounded off by cleaning bike in hotel room and replacing brake blocks on my bike. Thanks to my parents for tracking down replacement brake blocks, wet wipes to clean bike and oil to lube the chain.

A big shout out goes to Premier Inn who have a policy of allowing cyclists to store their bikes in the hotel bedroom. The staff at our hotel at Mottram near Hyde were excellent, friendly, welcoming etc

Oh I do Like to be Beside the Seaside

So, the adventure begins in the pouring rain. Today we travelled up to Liverpool and onto Southport where tomorrow we start the Trans Pennine Trail.

As ever, packing was a last minute affair. One pannier bag only & a rack top bag was all I needed to take for 5 days away. Travel light!

The problem was the 2 bags do not sit comfortably together on the bike. Damn, I should have checked that first.

Its a bit late 2 minutes before I set off. Still I will learn for next time or maybe not.

We headed on Merseyside train to Southport from Liverpool Central where we had a lovely chat with a passenger who had seen the Police Unity Tour kit. It is always good to speak the word about the UK Police Unity Tour ( see the page on my blog).

My parents have joined us in Southport and are going to drive support for the first two days. Its good to get to spend sometime with them after not seeing them for neatly seven months this year owing to the Covid-19 lockdown.

In keeping with the British summer tradition, its cold wet and miserable in Southport, but fortunately we are only here for the night, and the meal in the Dukes Folly Hotel was excellent & service again was excellent. A place I would eat at again. A nice hotel. Its a shame its only my parents staying there. We went up market instead & stayed at the Travelodge nearby for a wallet busting £30 for bed and breakfast for two. Yes, a total of £15 each for bed & breakfast and the bikes get to stay in our room for free.

Tomorrow the adventure begins. We set off from Southport towards Hornsea.

There will be a livetrack link (hopefully!) Posted on the Spennymoor Town London Branch twitter account each day which is @ spennymoortownl (remove the space). Following this and refreshing will show where we are upto with our ride.

Panorama of Room
My Nemesis

Why Does It Always Rain On Me

So this coming weekend I am supposed to be cycling the Trans Pennine Trail. I have hopefully sorted out my Mountain Bike, fitting a rear pannier rack to carry my luggage and even fitting new slicker tyres. So you may think all is set for the off.

Sadly, since I sorted out my bike, it has either been very windy or very wet and I have not been out on my bike to check all the modifications are ok. Its the middle of August, and football matches are being postponed because of wind and rain….yep welcome to the British summer.

I suppose its all my fault. we have had fantastic weather since lockdown started in March and it only breaks when I am planning a cycling holiday! I know the solution to the rain is to put on my cycling rain jacket. Every time I put that on when out riding, the rain stops and I am left wet from the boil in the bag effect of the jacket.

I am due to travel up to Southport on Thursday afternoon courtesy of Avanti West Coast, and Mersey Rail preceded by a bike ride to Euston Station. Then a night in hotel in Southport before an early start on Friday and riding circa 75-80 miles off road that day. Its a long distance to ride on a mountain bike in a day, especially off road. Still they say no pain no gain. However, I am not sure what the gain will be, but I do know what the pain will be!


Travel Documents

The biggest task at the moment is trying to remember where I put all the train tickets and bike reservations for the journeys up and back. It seemed a good idea to book the tickets in advance and I know I put them somewhere safe, but where was it?

Then there is the hotel reservation for the first night. Its the only accommodation booked so far. Hopefully we won’t have problems finding accommodation for the other 3 nights! If no room at the inn, we will have to keep on cycling until we find somewhere to stay. I am relying on www.booking.com to save me

Power Leads

The Next task is to remember to take all the plugs / charging leads I will need. That includes the following leads:

  1. one for the GPS device on my bike
  2. one for my watch
  3. one for my bike front light
  4. one for my bike rear light ( will be riding home from Euston in dark on Monday night
  5. one for my bike camera
  6. one for my mobile phone

It is quite scary how many different leads I need to take, and that is with me travelling light, or attempting to. How dependant I am on powered devices these days is scary.

Medication & Toiletries

Need to remember these, which also includes glasses, contact lenses as well as 5 days medication. I am relying on the hotels/ bed & breakfasts  we stay at to have shower gel and towels, so won’t be taking these, but will need deodorant, toothpaste & toothbrush. At least I don’t need shampoo or a hairbrush – and haven’t for well over 25 years.


This is where I can try to be clever. My cycling shoes have recessed cleats and are easy to walk in , so I am not going to take another pair of shoes, but will take flip flops.

Similarly, I will have a long sleeved cycling top that i can wear on an evening if it gets chilly when in pub or restaurant.

I have a couple of pairs of baggy cycling shorts which have a padded removable liner so i will remove that and wear the shorts on an evening with underwear and a lightweight t shirt. We will be cycling to / from Euston station to/ from our homes at either end of the trip, so will travel on the train in cycling clothes.

This then just leaves the cycling kit to sort out and that will include waterproof shoe covering, spare socks and probably a couple of cycling tops. Then of course, gloves, helmet, cap under helmet, glasses etc.

The most important items of course are the water bottles and the snack bars. anyone into cycling knows its all about the cake!

Annotation 2020-08-25 215534

I hope the wind eases off overnight so I can take the bike for a test ride in the morning. I have a café stop arranged for 0800 in the morning with my ride companion. So hopefully I can get some miles in before that meeting.

Sunday Bloody Sunday

With apologies to U2

I can’t believe the news today
Oh, I can’t close my eyes
And make it go away
How long?
How long must we sing this song?
How long, how long?
‘Cause tonight, we can be as one

Broken bottles under children’s feet
Bodies strewn across the dead end street
But I won’t heed the battle call
It puts my back up
Puts my back up against the wall

Sunday, Bloody Sunday
Sunday, Bloody Sunday
Sunday, Bloody Sunday, Sunday, Bloody Sunday (alright)

For broken bottles, read broken motor vehicle parts

For children’s feet read bike wheels

Now, you start to get an idea of my Sunday morning bike ride. Just out for a short 25 mile ride, when after 15 miles, on a roundabout, I hit a piece of metal in the road. With the benefit of later examination, it looks like the track rod from a motor vehicle.

Somehow that metal rod caught up in the rear mechanisam of my bike, destroying that and then wrapped itself round the back of the rear cassette on the bike, damaging the cassette.

Then to rub salt into the wound,  my rear bike light fell off and was smashed by a vehicle following me.

I was left with a 4 mile walk home, in road bike shoes which have protruding cleats on them and are difficult to walk in. As a result, I need new cleats on those shoes as well.
A Sundat ride that is likely to end up costing me in the region of £300 if not more to replace all the damage.


Trying to source the relevant rear derailleur is proving more difficult than it looks.

The good news is I got back home in time for the Sunday dinner and bottles of wine my neighbour had cooked for me. A most pleasant afternoon to make up for a miserable morning.

I suppose I should be grateful I was uninjured  even if the bike wasn’t so lucky.

Over the Hills and Far Away

Time for a cycling related blog post I think.

The title of the blog does not despite what many people might think, a comment on my mental state, but more a reference to where I hope to be this time next Saturday. Covid-19 restrictions permitting, next weekend sees me attempting to ride the Trans Pennine Trail. This is an approximately 200 to 220 mile bike ride from Southport to Hornsea and have 4 days to complete the ride.

That probably doesn’t sound that far for somebody who is a road cyclist. However what I have not mentioned is that this is an off road bike ride. The ride is mainly along disused railway tracks. It means that I will be riding a mountain bike. This is not something I do very often. I certainly have never written As far as 200 miles in four days on a mountain bike.

So, if I am not a mountain biker why am I doing this ride? Hmm, good question and if I find a sensible answer I will let you know. The only real answer I have got so far is because it’s there and I haven’t done it before. It’s a challenge and I like a challenge.

I am riding with a friend who is a keen off road cyclist. Two years ago we rode the Coast to Coast bike ride from Workington to Tynemouth. That was an on road ride and involved a lot of climbing. It was a challenge, especially as we did all the climbing in one day. Guess what? Yes, we will be doing all the climbing over the Pennines on the Saturday next week. Friday, Sunday and Monday are all going to be relatively flat. The graphic shows the route and also the topography. Hopefully we will do 75 miles on Day 1, mostly flat. Day 2 should be circa 50 miles, taking us to the 125 mile marker. Day 3 is likely to be another 50-75 miles and day 4 the remainder of the mileage to Hornsea, then riding back to Hull for our train home.

TPT Route/ Elevation Profile

We had decided that once lockdown had eased we would do a ride somewhere, I was thinking perhaps Devon/ Cornwall when I came across the Trans Pennine Trail. As its on a Mountain bike and  until the end of last year, I did not even own a mountain bike, it seemed to be a challenge and would push me out of my comfort zone ( literally).

Detailed planning has gone into this ride…by that I mean we have booked a train to Liverpool and one back from Hull and booked a hotel in Southport the night before we set off. No other accommodation is booked, no planning done regarding luggage etc. 2 bikes, puncture repair kits/ spare inner tubes and multi tools are the important things (and a face mask for the train).

I have got plenty of miles in my legs this year, over 6000 so far, but all have been ridden on the road and all but about 150 on road bikes, so let’s see how it goes. Anyone interested in the progress I’m making can follow me on twitter @spennymoortownl where there will be a daily link to the live track progress guidance showing where I am at anytime.

2020 Mileage Chart

One of the ways i have managed to increase my mileage this year is by incorporating cycling into my other activities. today, I was due to meet a friend at lunchtime to plan an event, so i cycled to the cafe for the meeting. I then cycled from there to watch my first football match of the 2020/2021 season. I watched Frenford FC v Coggleshall Town in what marked the return home of Frenford FC to their newly improved and refurbished ground in Ilford. I simply took the bike into the ground and ensured it socially distanced from others whilst I watched the game. This allowed me to get 35 miles ridden today, meet my friend and watch a football match. It also meant I didn’t need to either drive or use public transport.

The above mileage chart showing since 2011 I have ridden over 42,000 miles was put into context the other day by a friend who said it was equivalent to cycling 1.75 times round the earth!

Black Lives Matter

The story below of James Brown and his non violent protests and bravery when facing persecution and prosecution for standing up for his beliefs in the face of racism and an establishment determined to silence criticism.

I make no apologies for publishing this article from the Isle of Man Today newspaper website. Read the article and I will explain more about why I have chosen to publicise the story.

James Brown – a pioneer for many reasons

The scenes in the House of Keys in 1864 were worthy of a big-budget historical drama.

On March 16 that year, a certain James Brown, the mixed-race grandson of an American slave, stood before the House charged with contempt for a series of ’scandalous and libellous’ articles.

The defendant – a newspaper editor, activist and soon-to-be political prisoner – offered absolute defiance.

’Who, may I ask, do you represent?’, Brown asked the unelected clique of landowners.

’Not the people. No, you represent yourselves.’

Contempt, the members discovered, didn’t cover it.

Brown did everything he could to aggravate his audience. He dared the court to hang him from the top of Castle Rushen.

’You may imprison me,’ he said, ’but I tell you fearlessly that I will never retract one iota of what I have said or published.’ He was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment.

Last week UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak lent his support to the ’Banknotes of Colour’ campaign, which will see non-white figures appear on British banknotes and coins for the first time.

The news arrived in the same week as the 205th anniversary of the birth of James Brown – if his story was better known, perhaps he might find a place on the shortlist.

Despite the Isle of Man’s claim to the ’oldest continuous parliament the world’, its members were not elected by the people until 1867.

Brown’s imprisonment began a series of events which saw the old order crumble. By the time the dust had settled, the House of Keys was finally elected by public vote.

It was a watershed moment in the road to democracy in the Isle of Man and an extraordinary event in black British history.

Even without the climactic events of 1864, Brown was a rare example of black social mobility in Victorian Britain.

Born into the black and mixed-race community in Liverpool in 1815, he moved to the Isle of Man with his Manx-born wife Eleanor in 1846 and eked out a living as a jobbing printer.

He went on to make his reputation – and a good living – as a newspaper proprietor.

When the first issue of the Isle of Man Times was published in 1861, he was living with his extended family in a large townhouse in Upper Douglas.

The colour of his skin might have set him apart but Brown fitted perfectly into a Manx tradition of radical journalists campaigning for political reform.

The Times made its intentions clear from the outset by demanding a democratically elected House of Keys: ’How much longer will [the Manx people] be content to have no voice in the working of those laws which are to bind them and their children after them?’

He stood on the shoulders of campaigners like Robert Fargher (pictured), founder of rival newspaper Mona’s Herald, who was imprisoned three times in his campaigns for popular elections.

When Fargher died in August 1863, the reform movement needed a champion. It was James Brown who stood up when the moment came.

On paper it was a simple thing. Douglas Town Commissioners needed new powers to manage the infrastructure of a town which was rising to become the de facto capital.

But it cut to the heart of the democratic problem in the Isle of Man: the directly elected Commissioners were overruled by the unelected House of Keys, whose members refused to ’invest individuals, who are merely tradesmen, with royal authority’.

The Times didn’t hold back in its reporting: ’The Town Commissioners and the inhabitants of Douglas should at once represent to the British Government the tyranny exercised by the House of Keys, and apply henceforth that the members of that house shall be elected by the people, so that taxation and representation may go together.’

This was one of the articles which saw Brown summoned to the House of Keys.

Brown’s ’Diary of a Political Prisoner’, which he wrote while incarcerated, was rediscovered by chance in 2008.

It is reprinted in full in the fascinating book ’The Struggle for Manx Democracy’ by Dr Robert Fyson, which deserves a place on every Manx bookshelf.

One of the highlights of the diary is Brown’s first-hand account of his day in court: he insisted that the members had no right to put him on trial and spent more than an hour reading out the offending articles, one of which ended with a call to arms: ’Let the people at once, this very day, meet and protest against the despotic power exercised by these self-elected noodles’.

Brown was the right man in the right place. You get the sense that he knew what he was doing – provoking the members into making a fatal mistake. They took the bait and sent him to Castle Rushen.

Brown’s advocate appealed to the British courts, which ruled that the House of Keys, sitting in its legislative capacity, had no powers to commit Brown for contempt.

He was triumphantly released from Castle Rushen having served seven weeks of his six-month sentence. When he sued for damages for wrongful imprisonment, the members who had convicted him were forced to pay their share of his compensation.

They were out of pocket and out of time. The pressure for an elected House of Keys had been building for decades from the British Government and the Manx public.

The rotten system had no defenders left after this humiliation. The self-selecting clique of legislators finally submitted to democratic elections. The first took place in 1867, with roughly 40 percent of the adult male population eligible to vote.

Despite his key role in the campaign for reform, Brown was never a hugely popular figure.

His position as a newspaper proprietor left him exposed to the petty jealousies and rivalries of the trade; other papers didn’t celebrate his victories to avoid endorsing one of their competitors.

He also faced racist abuse, with some of the worst examples coming from an unlikely source: Mona’s Herald published outrageous attacks on Brown in the aftermath of his triumph.

There was a deeper story underneath: Brown wasn’t the only editor put on trial by the Keys on that fateful day in 1864.

Also charged with contempt was the son of the pioneering campaigner Robert Fargher, who struck a very different note before the House: after apologising and promising to retract his stories, he was released with a warning.

In hindsight, Fargher had missed the chance to fulfil his father’s life’s work. So when Mona’s Herald attacked Brown, it seems that the owners weren’t so much reflecting public opinion as stoking a family feud.

For his part Brown toasted the shining example of Robert Fargher for the rest of his life. Fargher’s descendants, however, didn’t always show Brown the same courtesy.

Profound democratic change is never instantaneous; in this case it was decades in the making. But between March 1864 and June 1865, Brown struck an irrevocable blow against the unelected House of Keys and set the island on the road to democracy.

But when the crucial moment arrived, it took James Brown to fearlessly speak truth to power

He wasn’t the first editor to be imprisoned in the Isle of Man, nor would he be the last – that distinction went to Samuel Norris in 1916, at least as the Examiner went to press. There were many more battles to come in the fight for reform.


Right, hopefully you have read the story of James Brown, a man who was prepared to and did go to prison for his beliefs.

Despite all the unfair treatment he suffered , he never resorted to violence or physically destroying property.

Unlike other more violent protestors, James Brown actually succeeded in changing the law. Very rapidly after his stand, the Isle of Man introduced proper free and fair elections with universal suffrage.

As a lawyer, I admire his bravery in the face of a kangaroo court in reading all the “offending” articles out so the court had to hear them again, and they were entered verbatim into the court record.

“Stand Firm Brave Defender”

There is another reason for my publishing this story….James Brown is a direct ancestor of mine. It is an honour to be a descendant of such a brave and honourable man who effected change by peaceful meand