The TPT is a great sprawl of a (mostly) traffic-free route, with arms stretching from Liverpool to Hull, down to Chesterfield, up to York, and of course to Leeds. Sounds great – but where do you start? When you look at the map, the straight route up to Leeds from Sheffield doesn’t look obvious. You might think, head up to Oughtibridge and get it on it there – but Langsett Rd has the tramway and at the time of writing Penistone Road is in upheaval. We recommend the Chapeltown Link route from Meadowhall to Ecclesfield (incidentally the Forest Loop through Concord Park gives you a great view of Tinsley Viaduct, but forget it if you’re in a hurry) Come off to the right near Ecclesfield and head for Thorpe Hesley, then Wentworth with it’s links to the the Fitzwilliam family – take quick detour to look at the Stately Home – which has some good pubs, an interesting church and a useful sarnie shop. There is a network of trails here – the Timberland Trail – which is worth exploring. Next stop Elsecar with its Heritage Centre, – you can take the Incline but it’s a detour and a bit rough, if in a hurry stick to the road- and the Elsecar Greenway will take you through to Wath Wetlands. Turn left here and head for Barnsley, following the route of the Great Central Railway.
If time and distance are not an issue then head take a left off the Chapeltown Link for Grenoside through Wharncliffe Woods or Woodhead Rd to Wortley where the old Woodhead Railway Line (which may be re-opened, so enjoy it while you can) will whisk you up to Penistone, especially if there’s a southerly wind blowing. A well-signed right turn here takes you across the Don Valley and onto the Dove Valley trail, with a gentle gradient to take you down to the badlands of the Dearne Valley. This is a long way round though. Don’t miss the sharp left turn at Wombwell.
If you want to catch the train out of the urban sprawl, you can go to Wombwell – turn left out of the station, first left again through the estate, and carry on until you see signs for the trail – or Swinton, and use the cycle routes through the new Dearne Valley industrial zone which link up with the trail.
Either way, the trail will take you past the Eastern side of Barnsley. If you meet motorcyclists on the trail in this area, don’t engage with them, but do ring Barnsley Police control on 0114 2202020.
The Trail entering Barnsley has a nice example of provision for non-motorised traffic with an alternative route running alongside the road. You bypass the town centre by a fair way – be aware of this if you’ve had enough and are heading for the station. There is one key junction where you need to go right to stay on the main trail, left for the town centre – if you find yourself alongside the working railway you’ve gone wrong, best to head back to that junction.
If you find yourself swooping across a viaduct and away from the town you’ve gone the wrong way again and are heading for Cudworth – don’t worry though ‘cos it’s easy enough to find your way back on. Once again you may find yourself coming into conflict with motorcyclists – stay calm. Imagine what it must be like to be walking your dog on your local trail and be buzzed by these idiots, and phone the police! (101) The section of the trail in North Barnsley is the worst part of the trail and you may find yourself carrying your bike in sections to avoid broken glass.
The route follows a freight line which was earmarked for re-building as part of HS2, a high-speed route between Sheffield and Leeds but now appears to be abandoned in favour of a more easterly route and then after some bad-smelling industry at Royston switches to the old Barnsley Canal, where the scenery starts to recover from two hundred years of heavy industry and mining and becomes quite pleasant. Passing through some woods, alongside Cold Hiendley fishing lake and through some very pleasant water meadows, the route skirts Wakefield by taking you through the rather posh village of Heath, before dropping you through some woods to cross the River Calder.
Take it steady up to Bottom Boat where there’s a pub servicing the boating trade, and through Stanley – pass under the M62, with Ikea’s huge distribution warehouse on your right, and you are officially in Leeds. However, there is a bit of ducking and diving to be done, before you find yourself on the path alongside the impressive River Aire – quite a big waterway at this point. Note that although the TPT signs take you along the rough path on the East side of the river, there is also a small tarmac road on the other side of the river which is preferable – it’s easy to cross the river at the various locks en route.
Make sure you go left to head west towards Leeds – if you cross the river and turn right however, you may find yourself on an attractive Green Lane system which will take you up to Garforth, which could be useful if you are heading on towards Harrogate. If you take this route and then turn off towards Leeds you will probably find yourself entering the city on the A64, which is an interesting object lesson in urban trunk roads.
The quality of the surface as you enter Leeds was very poor when we last did the route and there is a bridge where you have to lug your bike up and down steep steps near Thwaites Mill. (as interesting-looking industrial museum)
The river path, meanwhile, will take you through the new “Waterfront” area in Leeds – this is a pathetic attempt to inject some civilization into the place, which is of course doomed to failure.
Because there is still development work going on here you may get diverted.
Eventually you will arrive at the Royal Armouries – how fitting that Leeds’ premiere attraction should be a display of weaponry – and it’s not too far from here to the Station, where you can make your escape.
Or, you can cross Neville St at the cycle crossing, staying on the right-hand side of the road where there is an off-road cycle lane, and take the first right into Canal wharf to access NCN66, essentially the Leeds Liverpool Canal towpath which will take you up to Skipton past Kirkstall Abbey, Saltaire World Heritage Site, Keighley home of Timothy Taylors (Madonna’s favourite tipple) Bingley Five Rise locks and many other interesting sites. A circular ride is possible taking in Bradford, the Spen Valley Greenway, the Rhubarb Route into Wakefield, and the TPT back into Leeds.