Andy Wight, a participant on our Coast to Coast cycle tour in 2018, shares his fond memories during the trip.
Most of us have, at some stage of our lives, used a bike, whether it be a three-wheeler as a tiny tot, a Raleigh sports bike with drop handlebars as a youth (eg. in the ‘60s) or one of the more modern, lighter road bikes with 21 gears, or these days, an electric bike. During lockdown, many people have taken up cycling, either to work or for recreation, which has greatly increased public knowledge about not only cycling but both physical and mental health. We have gained a new freedom - released from the constraint of walking at 3 mph, now we can glide down country lanes and through towns, exploring our own areas geographically and also pushing our own physical and mental boundaries!
If, like me, you had not previously cycled a long distance (say tens of miles/km) nor cycled for several days in a row to a faraway spot, this ‘C2C’ trip is just the ticket! My own experience of the Whitehaven to Tynemouth, (length ca. 136mi/220km) trip was amazing. In turn, it was: wet, miserable, snug, comfortable (day 1 into the hills and first accommodation), bright and breezy, one difficult hill then swooping down into Keswick like a stooping falcon and huge relief over a BBQ in the sun.
Our second night stop was a lovely, serene campsite by the river and it even had a hot tub – how cool is that? Next day, well refreshed, came alternating puffing ascents and hair-raising descents (depending on the speed you want to go) into and over the Lakes and the wide expanses of the Pennines, through stunning scenery and relaxing overnight and with well-deserved rests during lunch interludes.
There is something very satisfying about reaching the top of a big pass, like Hartside Summit (ca. 1900ft) at the head of Teesdale, it is a testing challenge and could be a personal best for many riders. From then on, it’s swooping downhill, following the River Tees, (and by the way, passing High Force waterfall - do take a short stop to see this wonder), after which you roll along an old railway track over high bridges and soft earthen paths. But now as we near urban centres, we share the path with pedestrians – beware of dogs which tend to run across the path to their owners, potentially causing near-misses! The last descent is into and through bustling Newcastle city and its interesting bridge, but watch out for punctures here, some of the paths have nasty litter. But the urban life is soon forgotten when you reach the beach at Tynemouth, next to the invigorating North Sea and Riley’s Fish Shack. Then its time for a wonderful meal relaxing in a deck chair and re-visiting the trip highlights.
One neat part of cycling the back roads and trails is to travel along old train tracks and paths recovered from our industrial past and sometimes to travel parallel to busy ‘A’ roads and be able to pity the folk roaring by in their metal cages with no exposure to the birdsong, scents of flowers and trees and an uplifting sense of being free and closer to nature. Another joy was travelling with a few like-minded people, gradually to form a squad of by now, saddle-hardened adventurers, and to be able to share parts of our lives. I cannot recommend it enough for anyone seeking adventure and a relief from our lockdown syndrome to undertake a trip like this, it will be one the highlights of your life!