It seems to be a bit of a cyclists’ tradition to have a New Year ride to get rid of that festive fuzziness and start the year as one means to go on. With this in mind, me and my three sons (Tom (18), Sam (also 18) and Harry (11) met up in Liverpool’s languid Leaf tea bar with a plan to ride the Wirral Way – a 12 mile traffic-free former railway path that follows the track-way of the old Hooton to West Kirby branch line, which closed in the 1950s. The trail is a mixture of gravel, compacted earth and shale and is always fun to ride on a road bike.
It was a cold day, only scheduled to reach 2 degrees Celsius at best, so we wrapped up warm (apart from Sam!) and hopped on the train to Hooton, our starting point. The train journey was quick, but not too quick that I didn’t have time to fix Tom’s loose front cone (Tom and Sam always present me with a mechanical puzzle on every bike ride – I think they think that I’m their team mechanic).
Once on the trail, we rode out to Hadlow Road station, a fully restored time warp station, preserved as it was circa 1952. We took a look around the ticket office, checked out the old fashioned points shed and stood on the railway tracks that had been re-laid in front of the station, safe in the knowledge that no trains would come.
We pressed on along the trail, with a few grumbles from Harry the Younger, who was finding it hard to rediscover his cycling Mojo. The sparingly dressed Sam, who always chooses style over practicality, was beginning to suffer in the cold. We stopped at Thurstaston nature reserve, looked out over the Dee estuary to the Welsh hills, and ate jam sandwiches (which perked up Harry no end).
From Thurstaston, it was only another few miles to the end of the Wirral Way at West Kirkby, where we jumped on the train and headed back to Liverpool and home, where a warm pot of beef stew awaited.
I usually ride alone, but every now and again it’s great to ride with the family and share some of the places and experiences that I usually covet for myself. I plan to return to the Wirral Way soon, with the aim of putting together a video ride guide for the Way and the Wirral Coastal Path. Watch this space…