Coast to Coast 2007 - by Nick Gough (photos just added)
Biking Coast To Coast 2007
by Nick Gough
Over the weekend 7-10 Sept my 18-year-old son, my brother, a friend and I rode the 145-mile Sustrans C2C (Coast To Coast) route from Whitehaven (Irish Sea) to Tynemouth (North Sea). We travelled there and back by train and stayed with friends at the start and then B&B in tiny villages Greystoke (where Tarzan came from!) and Rookhope. The scenery was breathtaking and the weather was really good, which made a big difference, I'm sure.
To plan this over the internet and reduce the number of long emails we set up a Google document at http://docs.google.com. We found that the essentials for doing this are The Ultimate C2C Guide book by Richard Peace (£7.95 ISBN 1 901464 17 2) and Sustrans route map (£6.99 ISBN 1 901389 65 0). There are, as always, a range of good websites too. I list a selection of these at the end of this account.
We live in Hertford so the east coast main line from Stevenage is the most direct link with the north. In addition GNER seem to be easier to deal with about bikes than Virgin. So we went up the main line to Newcastle. From there we took the scenic route west to Carlisle and down the coast to Whitehaven courtesy of Northern Rail. Strictly speaking they operate a 2 bikes-per-train limit but in both case the guards were understanding and we didn’t have to split up.
We set off at 9.15am on Saturday morning from the quay in Whitehaven harbour. While we posed by the C2C start marker we saw our first gaggle of fellow riders there as they unloaded their mountain bikes from a Transit van. The route is very popular, especially at weekends. That means you can meet up with people several times and swap stories. There are plenty of bike-orientated shops, cafés and overnights stops along the way. The other thing to say is that by far the majority of C2Cers do it on off-road bikes. But that’s life, nowadays, isn’t it? As you can see from the photos, we are traditionalists and had narrow tyres and drop handlebars. Most of the route is on-road with some old railway track routes in and out of the urban areas. The dedicated off-roader can take route options with more serious rough stuff which quite a few of the MTBers we saw were avoiding. We coped well until (inevitably) the last day when I had 5 punctures on the nicely graded old railway line into Consett. Two of these, I should admit, were due to haste in pulling off the pump and tearing a hole in the inner tube at the base of the valve!
We reached the highest point of the ride, Black Hill (609m), just after lunch on Sunday and marked our visit by adding a stone each to the cairn.
Earlier on Sunday we had conquered the major climb to Hartside. Travelling on that day introduced us to the motorcyclists from the area who race up and down the hill to the café at the summit. Later, on the stiff climb out of Garrigill, I came across an ambulance stationed there in case of motorbike accidents. I stopped for a chat (and a welcome break) and opened by asking if he could spare me any oxygen.
Once past the magnificent Newcastle city centre waterfront the end of the ride was frankly disappointing. Following the route along the north bank of the Tyne through dockside suburbs wasn’t easy. This was not helped by our having split up and being in a rush after our multiple puncture morning. The easternmost Sustrans route marker is not at the water’s edge at all so the ceremonial dipping of the wheel would have meant a further detour when we knew we ought to be heading back to Central station.
What next? We rather fancy Coast & Castles (NCN Route 1). But it’s my brother’s 50th next year so we may do something more challenging – to get him back for his dragging me along a mountain stage of the Tour de France in July 2006.
C2C Guide website http://www.c2c-guide.co.uk/
Carlisle station http://www.visitcumbria.com/carlset/carlstn.htm
Castlerigg Stone Circle http://www.visitcumbria.com/kes/casstone.htm
First Capital Connect http://www.firstcapitalconnect.co.uk
GNER bike reservation procedure http://www.gner.co.uk/GNER/YourJourney/cycles+on+gner.htm
Google Maps Pedometer http://www.gmap-pedometer.com/
Keswick weather webcam http://www.georgefisheronline.co.uk/gf_webcam_1.shtml
Northern Rail http://www.northernrail.org/
Sustrans long distance rides http://www.sustrans.org.uk/default.asp?sID=1150730270095
Virgin Trains http://www.virgintrains.co.uk/
W Cumbria wind turbines leaflet www.windspots.org.uk/Resources/wind-turbines-leaf.pdf