Cycling with children Family cycle touring Uncategorised

Trans Pennine Trail with our kids: Penistone to Hull

After the success of our trip along the portion of the Trans Pennine Trail from Liverpool to Sheffield, we were keen to continue our adventure and cycle from Penistone to Hull. Having cycled the spur from Penistone back home to Sheffield on our last trip, we took the train to Penistone to begin where we left off last autumn.

The conditions were near-perfect. The children were a few months older (almost eight and ten) and consequently more confident cyclists. The August weather was dry and warm which presented less of a challenge than the first trip taken at the end of October. Light evenings were a bonus and the wind was at our backs.

Penistone to Mexborough (18 miles)

Dove Valley Trail on the Trans Pennine Trail
Muddy, traffic-free path

Our first day involved cycling 18 miles from Penistone station to Mexborough. Soon after Penistone station the route splits and we took the more direct option along the Dove Valley Trail. The previous day had been one of those ‘month’s-worth-of-rain-in-a-day’ kind of days and the untarmacked path was pretty muddy in places. Three of us dodged the puddles but our youngest delighted in whizzing straight through them. To my amazement, he only got stuck a couple of times!

The route was predominantly downhill so we made reasonable progress, only slowed by the mud and the number of chocolate breaks insisted upon by the children. The trail was typically wide enough for us to cycle two abreast, although we fell into single file in places. This section of the Trans Pennine Trail did not provide many long views; we mostly cycled on closed-in paths with trees or bushes on each side. We stopped for lunch in a pleasant field and enjoyed picking blackberries to supplement our supplies.

Pause for lunch on the Trans Pennine Trail
Pause for lunch

Well-signed route

We were all happy to be cycling on the Trans Pennine trail again. The children enjoyed spotting the signs and although this was a new path to us it felt somehow familiar. The route is very well signed and we appreciated being able to navigate without stopping to study the map.

Around Worsbrough, the surface improved and our speed increased. We stopped at the RSBP reserve at Old Moor to sample their cafe. The hot chocolate and cakes on offer did not disappoint. There is a playground here but our children were more in need of a rest at this stage.

After the cafe stop, it was another six miles to our designated campsite. We were all getting tired as it had been some time since we’d ridden this far in a day. Still we peddled on with the wind behind us, glad to have been on a traffic-free route all day.

Flat, well-surfaced traffic-free route on the Trans Pennine Trail
Flat, well-surfaced traffic-free route

Arriving in Mexborough on the Trans Pennine Trail

At Mexborough, we left the trail to cycle the mile and a half to Ferryboat Farm Fisheries. This is a Camping and Caravanning Club site and you have to be a member to stay there. Both Google and CycleStreets suggested the quickest route was over a railway bridge which would bring us out just next to the campsite. When we arrived at the railway bridge it was actually a pedestrian bridge with a huge number of steps. Dismayed as we were to see the steps, there was no way we were going to cycle the 2.5 miles around the road when we were only 200 metres from the campsite. So we unloaded all the panniers, unhitched the trailer and set about carrying the bikes and luggage over the bridge. We were impressed the children managed the (empty) trailer between them.

Mexborough to Sykehouse (22 miles)

After a puncture repair, a game of football and a speedy pack-up, we set off via the road rather than the rail bridge back to NCN 62. We rolled along in the sunshine, enjoying wider views than the previous day.

The route continued to be well-signed. Our only moment of hesitation was near Conisborough castle where the actual trail forks off to the left. It would have been easy to carry on along the Conisborough viaduct but fortunately we didn’t get caught out. The path was slightly more undulating towards Sprotborough which was fun and the section alongside the River Don was beautiful.

Sprotborough Lock

Our first stop of the day was at Sprotborough lock. The ice cream van was conveniently located next to the coffee cart so everyone was happy. We chilled out in the sunshine, chatting to passing walkers and cyclists.

Looking for fish at Sprotborough on the TRans Pennine Trail
Dropping stones at Sprotborough

After Sprotborough, we whizzed along a traffic-free tarmac path which took us to the outskirts of Doncaster. This becomes the Doncaster Greenway. There is a short section on road just outside Bentley. A 100m detour to a nearby Spar meant we could stock up on chocolate and also squeeze in some supplies for the next couple of days as we knew there were no shops close to the next campsite. We always try to have some extra capacity in our panniers for this eventuality.

The route soon became traffic free once more and the children sped off ahead, engrossed in explaining to each other exactly what they were going to build in their Minecraft worlds once they had the opportunity. We love the fact that we don’t have to negotiate screen time when cycling as a family, but the children don’t always manage to forget!

Beautiful countryside along the Trans Pennine Trail

The TPT then took us onto a minor road, followed by a track next to Tilts West Farm. We crossed the railway at a level crossing, with wide flat views of lovely countryside. A passerby told us we were only a couple of miles from Braithwaite where we needed to join the New Junction Canal. However, a sign a few miles later told us we still had five miles to get there. It’s always disheartening to realise you haven’t ridden as far as you think you have! Still, we topped up on snacks and cycled the on-road section to the start of the canal towpath.

Swing Bridge

The swing bridge was in full swing as we arrived at the canal. It was interesting to watch a boat pass and the bridge move back into place. We weren’t expecting to be reminded of our Netherlands cycling trips just outside Doncaster but that’s how it was!

Swing bridge on the New Junction Canal on the Trans Pennine Trail
Swing bridge on the New Junction Canal

After a pause to watch the bridge, the children set off along the straight, flat canal towpath at full speed. They knew the campsite was about three miles down the canal and they were excited to see our friends who were waiting for us there.

Sykehouse lock
Sykehouse lock

Oakside Camping

Oakside Camping is a small, brand new campsite at Sykehouse, north east of Doncaster. We were impressed by the immaculately kept facilities and particularly appreciated the fridge, freezer and kettle available for campers’ use. In fact, we felt so relaxed there that we didn’t leave the campsite at all during our two night stay. The football field and swings provided enough diversion for the children and their friend, along with den making, Top Trumps and time to chill out with Harry Potter. The grown-ups enjoyed chatting in the sunshine, playing games with the children and space to read a book. Getting the laundry done by hand, however, was a less pleasurable task, which took a surprising chunk of the ‘rest’ day.

Sykehouse to Selby (17 miles)

Fully rested, we embarked on the longest cycling day of the trip. Before we set off, we calculated that each day would be roughly 20 miles. When we checked the route we realised today’s journey would actually be 36 miles. We decided not to tell the children unless they specifically asked.

The route from Sykehouse to Selby on the Trans Pennine Trail is mostly on quiet roads, with almost no vehicles in sight. We pedalled along making good time and enjoying another day with the wind behind us. The highlight of this stretch was cycling alongside the airfield used by Burn Gliding Club. We got to watch gliders take off and land. It was fascinating to see them launched high in the sky through the use of a cable and then glide over the countryside into the distance. A well-surfaced canal towpath then took us the last three miles into Selby.

Lunch at Selby

Picnic at Selby Abbey on the Trans Pennine Trail
Picnic at Selby Abbey

Selby Abbey grounds provided a tranquil place for a picnic. The Abbey itself offered a decent toilet stop and warm drinks for the grown ups. The children opted for chocolate eclairs from a nearby bakery, with extra gingerbread stashed away for later. We were almost halfway now and so felt optimistic about making it to the next campsite before everyone ran out of leg power.

Building Momentum

We decided to work with the children on keeping the momentum going. This meant having a decent pauses every so often to eat, drink and rest but the rest of the time building up a steady speed and rhythm. That is, we keep going and resist the temptation to adjust our clothing or ask for snacks every five minutes, or stop for water in the gaps between. This then gives us time for a proper rest.

Selby to Howden (11 miles)

The River Ouse led us out of Selby and we followed its pretty banks until we crossed the River Derwent which flows into the Ouse. At this point, walkers on the TPT carry on along the river but us cyclists were back on quiet roads into Howden.

Howden is a bustling town with plenty of shops and cafes. We loved the cakes at Kitchen and the hot chocolates were actually too big for the children to finish; a rare event. At this point the children asked how far we’d come and how far was still to go. They were a little indignant when told they had cycled 28 miles already and only had 6 more to go. Still, they were proud of their achievement. We shopped at Annie’s Fruit Bowl and the local Co-op for enough food to last us the next 24 hours.

Howden to Blacktoft (8 miles)

8 miles remained and we all had weary legs. However, fuelled by warm drinks and the promise of a chill out at the campsite we continued on the Trans Pennine Trail towards Blacktoft. The landscape once again had us reminscing about cycling in the Netherlands with its flat, open vistas and huge skies.

Just before the Ouse meets the Trent and they both join the Humber is the tiny village of Blacktoft. The Church Hall there is open for passing cyclists to use the toilets and help themselves to a cup of tea. There are interesting displays on the walls about the local area.

Immediately next to the church is Trinity Camping And Caravanning club site. They don’t insist on you being a member to stay there. It cost £5 for the night for all four of us. The only facilities are clean toilets and cold water but that was sufficient for us for the night. We had the huge camping field to ourselves; only having to share it with its resident hedgehog.

Blacktoft to the Humber (16 miles)

River watching on the Trans Pennine Trail
River watching

Before we got going on our twenty three mile ride into Hull, we paused to admire the River Ouse, just before it meets the Trent and becomes the Humber. Blacktoft Jetty is a resting place for ships travelling up the Ouse to Goole, who need to wait for the tide to be high enough to continue their journey. A great place to spot interesting river traffic from all sorts of countries, especially the Baltic.

The Route follows the river until just before Ellerker, where it goes inland. This is where the going gets a little steeper and we found ourselves slogging uphill for the first time since leaving Sheffield. Still, used to cycling in Sheffield, we clicked down our gears and pedalled on upwards, pausing for another picnic lunch near Elloughton.

Hilltop picnic near Elloughton on the Trans Pennine Trail
Hilltop picnic near Elloughton

After a brief downhill, we were climbing again to Welton. We enjoyed the descent through Melton and back down to the water at Ferriby. Excitement rose as we glimpsed the Humber Bridge. We had just about made it: a two part, two hundred mile cycle trip from one side of the country to the other. Quite an achievement for a seven and a nine year old. Though we met and chatted to other cyclists, we didn’t meet anyone else doing the same journey as us the whole way. Neither did we meet any other cycling families. We’d love to see more, as this is a fab route for cyclists of all ages.

Humber Bridge to Hull (7 miles)

It was time to celebrate. We stopped at The Country Park Inn which is almost under the Humber Bridge and toasted ourselves with ice-cream, cold fizzy drinks and cups of tea. No hot chocolates this time!

Fully replenished and after admiring the architecture of the bridge, we pedalled the last seven miles into Hull city centre. This was the least enjoyable stretch of the Trans Pennine Trail as the traffic got busier and the buildings more dense as we approached the city.

Having caught the ferry from Hull to cycle in the Netherlands the previous three summers it was interesting to join up the dots and arrive into Hull after a UK cycle tour. It would have been extremely satisfying to board the ferry and continue cycling on the continent but unfortunately time did not allow- this time.

Instead we treated ourselves to a hotel for the night. We had a train to catch to a festival the next morning and there are no campsites in Hull City Centre. Everyone enjoyed a big meal, a soak in the bath and a comfortable night’s sleep.

Trans Pennine Trail stone route map
Trans Pennine Trail stone route map

For us, cycling from Liverpool to Sheffield in October was more of a challenge because of the cycle gates around Manchester, the cold weather and actually traversing the Pennines! Penistone to Hull was easier as it was August, much flatter and our children had grown in confidence as cyclists. We’d love to hear your experiences of the Trans Pennine Trail in the comments below. Or if you have any questions, we’d be very glad to answer them if we’re able.

Jem and Louise

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3 Comments

  1. What an epic family adventure – thanks for sharing! #fearlessfamtravel

  2. Oh WOW! Posts like these really get me inspired for what I can achieve when some of my kids get older. I’m keen on long distance hiking but maybe biking would be easier! This sounds so awesome and I had never heard of it before. #fearlessfamtrav

  3. Wow, just wow. I remember reading your first post and being in awe but this is amazing. And fair play to your children going all that way. Thanks for sharing this amazing adventure! #fearlessfamtrav

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