Sunday, 21 September 2014


While I have been neglecting this corner of the internet, things have been happening elsewhere. Mine and Mrs Langsett's time in Manchester has been running out. I'd always assumed it would be a life sentence, but there's a finishing line in sight (although it is moving around a bit at the moment).

So I've been trying to do a few things on the bike that I somehow managed to not do very often in all the time I've spent in Manchester. The middle of August was soggy, and I headed out to Longdendale early one Sunday morning to ride the Transpennine Trail from Hadfield up to Woodhead and back.

If you've never had the pleasure, Longdendale is a beautiful Peak District valley. At its lower end you can see Manchester taking up the  whole of the horizon, and sometimes Wales off in the distance. It's upper end twists and turns into the heart of the Pennines. The Woodhead Pass climbs up though the valley on one side, but you can also ride up the other side on the Transpennine Trail. 

The Trail used to be the main railway line between South Yorkshire and the North West, but it was closed and lifted in the early eighties. It is very hard not to ride this section of the Trail without chewing over the stupidity of not just closing this line, but also making it impossible to ever re-open it. But it is still a lovely place to ride a bike. Particularly, as it turns out, on a rainy August morning when the heather is in flower and there are clouds the size of Jersey rolling heavily over the surrounding hills. 

Hadfield looked great in the grey, early morning light, yellow sodium streetlights still lit, like the aftermath of some epic night out. There was a bit of sweating and huffing and puffing to heft the Inferno up the main street of the village to the station, where the railway line finishes and the trail begins.

It's uphill all the way to Woodhead, but the trail was graded for heavy freight trains to use so you'll be aware of the climb but not troubled by it.

One of the great things about this ride is the way that the hills unfold and change around you as you ride higher. On a quiet morning, you'll be able to hear each car passing on the road on the other side of the valley.

The trail is surfaced in limestone gravel and as it was wet, a soupy spray of the stuff ended up all over the Inferno and me.

Towards the top of the valley, the hills crowd in until all of a sudden, you're there at the summit. There are two utterly terrifying Victorian tunnel mouths; Gothic, dark and exhaling rotten, clammy air straight out of a graveyard crypt. And one larger, less scary tunnel which the National Grid are converting to carry power lines under the moors. If you climb to the top of the tunnel mouths, this is the stark, beautiful view back down towards Manchester.

The ride back down the hill is brilliant. You have the gradient with you, and it feels marvellous sweeping round the old railway line's graceful curves, hugging the shores of the reservoirs.

Heading back into my bit of Greater Manchester, I noticed that the local authority had burned off the cycle lane markings down one side of this road. The Transpennine Trail runs fairly close to my bit of town, and this road is how you reach it. You can see that the centre line of the road has been moved over, forcing cars and bikes to compete for space on one side.

And here's why the bike lane is needed. Most drivers clip the corner. If the markings were replaced instead of being removed, it would remind drivers that there's a good chance of finding someone on a bike just around this bend. Taking the changes at face value, it's hard to see how they can be in anyone's interest. If you're on a bike, they are just unsafe.

The Greater Manchester authorities are all supposed to be encouraging cycling. I haven't seen any kind of consultation or explanation of these changes. It will be interesting to see what the motivation is.

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