Going for a stroll in the countryside (and ranting about cross-border train fares)

The Trans-Pennine trail above Woodhead Tunnels

The Trans-Pennine trail above Woodhead Tunnels

It’s been a little while since I’ve been on a long walk – one that’s over 14 miles – so when Chris suggested walking the Woodhead route I was very happy to say yes. The route is 16-and-a-bit miles of the Trans-Pennine Trail from Hadfield in Derbyshire to Penistone in what is just barely South Yorkshire. Clearly this isn’t a circular route, so single train fares it is; fortunately there’s a train station at both ends.

It was when I looked up the fares from Leeds to Hadfield that I had a minor choke; £23, more or less, for a single to somewhere just over the Pennines. £23! That is quite a lot of money. Also, it required going into and out of Manchester, adding about an hour onto the train travel time. So after looking at a map and realising Hadfield was 4 miles from Stalybridge – which the Transpennine Express stops at – and figuring there’s going to be a taxi and it’d cost less than (2x(fareHadfield - fareStalybridge)) (which worked out at £18), then we may as well get singles to Stalybridge and a taxi to the start point.

The cost for a return from Leeds to Stalybridge, by the way, is 10p more than the single. I wish I was making that up. It’s ten blessed pennies. Tenpence. Yeah, rail pricing structures working well, there. It staggers me that a train from Leeds to anywhere in West Yorks costs under a fiver and as soon as you cross over the border – to Lancs, North Yorks, York itself – the fares magically gain an exponential growth multplier, like the train costs more to run the closer you get to Manchester.

Anyway, the taxi driver was very nice and gave us a running commentary about the area on the way to Hadfield (including pointing out the Mottram Frog Stone, which I seem to remember being told about at school) and I got a very good idea of where the upcoming bike race will be going on Day 2 after it leaves West Yorks.

The walk itself was pleasant. Flat (or a very gradual incline) for the most part with the only proper hill being at Woodhead Tunnels, three trans-pennine tunnels dug for rail, now filled with electrical cables and never to be used as a railway again, where we had to gain a few hundred feet to get over the Pennine tops – although we were fairly high up anyway.

The cycle path bits of the trail were bike killers, though. Sharp stones, skittering under tyres, punctures were a common feature and although you could get some speed up the consquences of falling off would be painful. I was fine in trail shoes; boots might have been a bit tiresome as none of the trail was arduous. There were moorland cows the colour of sheep as we got above Woodhead and they made me wonder if the colouring of everything on a moor is a facet of environment, or diet, or whether just living up there makes everything grey.

We stopped for lunch a little bit off Holme Moss watching cyclists make steady progress amongst huge numbers of cars and vans – there was no way I’d be comfortable doing that in traffic, although I expect after the TdF has shown it on t’ telly the number of bikes attempting it will go through the roof for a few weeks in July and August. The pace was picked up again once we’d made it to Dunford Bridge, although the path was apparently closed it was a good five miles along (we sort-of ignored the signs telling us that it was shut) before we found anybody working on it, and they were fine with us and the many cyclists who’d passed us on their fresh tarmac-and-grit. We made it to Penistone with plenty of time to spare for the train, with even more time to spare at the Head of Steam in Huddersfield.

If I’d been by myself I might have jogged along some of the flatter bits, but I enjoyed the stroll and the company, and the countryside that it passed through. We’d never been walking in that part of the world before and it was lovely, but now I’m a bit tempted to see some more of it, and (maybe) more challenging routes at that.

But if you ever joke about needing to use your passport or get a visa when crossing from Yorks into Lancs (or vice versa) then yes, that’s funny, but you may as well be paying for a visa stamp with the rail fare differentials when you cross the border…

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