Sometimes when I’m out cycling, I get a song stuck in my head. More often than not, it’s one of those hideously annoying songs I somehow know all the words to but will never freely admit to recognizing and would certainly never buy a CD of, not in a million years.
My most recent earworm was the unfortunately apt Ferry cross the Mersey.
Why was this song going through my mind over and over and OVER AND OVER? Well, it just so happens I was cycling along the banks of the River Mersey and, like a bleeding tourist, stopping to take photographs like these ones of the Silver Jubilee Bridge in the Mersey Estuary.
BEHOLD: Trollfest #2:
Yes, the Northern Walker and I had somehow managed to convince our respective other halves to let us escape for the day so we hopped on a train at Manchester Piccadilly to the somewhat underwhelming start point at Southport. We decided not to dip our wheels in the sea (what with it being about 5 miles out), much to the relief of the RNLI guy who looked like he’d had to rescue far too many cyclists from the mudflats.
Instead, we set off into a relentless headwind on the exposed coastline which, coupled with the dull route, made the initial part of the ride a bit of a chore.
Eventually, we turned slighty inland and enjoyed miles of deserted trails and country lanes as the early morning sun started peeking through the grey clouds overhead… until we reached the start of the Liverpool Loop Line which was closed apparently due to asbestos being removed from a bridge.
We were not amused. Not least because the diversion was poorly signed but when we could navigate our way through it, we increasingly found ourselves riding through some of the worst neighbourhoods and decrepit industrial estates in Liverpool.
Just when we were at our grumpiest, we happened across a HUGE supply of the plumpest, sweetest wild blackberries which we scrumped until our bellies were full and our moods improved.
Back on track and after a couple of unplanned diversions (thanks to whoever turned the sign around), we eventually made our way onto the Liverpool Loop Line proper which is an old railway bed carved directly out of the sandstone. Purty.
We paused for an apple and some questionable yet strangely morish jelly sweets and discussed the pros and cons of Surly Open Bars vs Jeff Jones Loop Bars.
Last time we rode, Matt’s Troll was sporting some el cheapo riser bars and I had a set of Jones. This time, Matt had a brand new set of the Loop Bars and I’d switched to the Open Bars.
Which is better? Well, I still love the Jones bars but, boy are they expensive. Sure, I got a killer deal on my Surly bars but even at full price they’re considerably cheaper and I still have plenty of hand positions. Plus, a small Carradice bag sits neatly underneath, giving me ample room to stash a spare tube, some tools and whatever strange munchies I can lay my hands on.
We pushed on through Merseyside, wondering if we’d ever make it Warrington and starting to question the advertised mileage on the map as time marched on and our curfew approached.
The bullet holes in the TPT signs in Halewood helped motivate us to pick up the speed until the thatched cottages in the beautiful Hale Village almost stopped us in our tracks. The wild plums I found at the roadside were enough to stop us completely for a few delicious minutes.
A little further on and I spotted yet more trail side foraging and set about grabbing myself an apple.
Matt wasn’t convinced they’d be ripe just yet.
We neared home via the Bollin Valley Way, stopping only to avoid mowing down small children, double check the route and eat a huge slice of fruit cake.
At Sale, we decided to skip off the TPT in favour of the Bridgewater Way which I knew would take us home to yet more cake. What I didn’t know was that just about everyone else had the same idea which meant the trail was uber busy, hampering our progress.
Even worse, the trail was blocked in places and rough all the way which slowed us down even more. At Salford we realised just how late it had gotten and agreed it was better to part ways than face the inevitable “where are you?” phone calls from the bosses.
I checked the mileage when I got home, almost 70 miles total for the day. The maps suggested it’d be a little over 50 miles… Ah well, at least we know why it took so long!