Friday, November 1, 2013

Coast to Coast - St Bees to South Shields in Two Days.

Minipips had a plan. We were to do the classic C2C in two days during his half term holiday. The weather forecast for most of the week was rubbish.

We are supposed to be getting up at 4:30 am. It is 1:15, I am lying in bed, and the rain is hammering down on our velux windows. A combination of the noise and thinking about what is to come in a few hours will not let me sleep.

I get up and go downstairs. The bags we had packed I remove from the bikes.  I take the bivy bags out, and replace them with some extra warm clothes. The weather could do its worst later, and we would find somewhere warm to spend the night. Bivying may be too much of an ask.

At 2 am I return to my bed for sleep. 5:15 am and we are in the car, and on our way to St. Bees.  My daughter makes us stop a couple of times to practice her vomiting skills. We're behind schedule when we arrive and it's 9:20 am before we leave a wet and windy West coast. A couple of pictures first though.

There's a nice little hill out of St Bees, and it wasn't long before we'd warmed up in spite of the rain showers.

One last picture and then we had to crack on.

Our goal for day one, was to get to Nenthall. I knew already that if we were to get there, that we would run out of daylight. The only question was how much riding would we be doing in the dark.

My lovely wife had made us cheese scones, raisin scones and flapjack. There'd be no cafe stops today. In fact there wouldn't be much stopping at all. We would eat as we rode our bikes.

We'd sort of arranged to meet a friend Adam at St Bees, but he got there at what he thought was a bit late, which was actually early. (No phone signal) However as we started up the climb to Whinlatter he spotted us. We chatted for a short while, and then we were away again. (Thanks for the pic Adam)

That sunshine pictured didn't last long. Before we'd made the summit we got soaked in a hail storm.

Keswick was rammed as ever, as was the disused railway track that took us East towards Penrith.

Once past Threlkeld there were few people about again. We stopped for tangfastics and scones and the chickens checked my bike out.

As the miles passed and we left the Lakes behind, the rain left us alone which was good. What wasn't so good was our average speed. Minipips usually averages around 10mph, but a combination of a bit of weight on his bike and probably the weather had left us 1mph down. As I ride I do the math. It's going to be a long day.

We stop briefly in Penrith for food. The time is 4:16pm and it will be dark in well under an hour. We discuss our options. Minipips says he's good to get to Nenthall. We put our lights on. There were 24 miles to go.

24 miles on the flat on a good day when fresh, takes roughly 2 1/2 hours. In the dark, and after near 60 miles and with Hartside pass to climb I really didn't know. What I did know though was to check with Danny at the bunkhouse we were planning to stay at, as to what the food options were. A quick phone call confirms there is food tonight at the Nent Hall Hotel.

There was no more stopping. Darkness came and we rode on deserted roads. Sometimes together, and sometimes a little apart. Minipips sings songs as he rides.

Climbing up Hartside seemed to take forever, but once we were at the top we zipped up our tops and raced down the other side. The stars were out. 5 miles of downhill and we were both cold. Another 3 miles though along the valley bottom, and we were done.

Danny had kindly offered to drop us at the Nent Hall once we'd arrived at the bunkhouse. The bunkhouse was further up the road though. We stashed our bikes in a hedge then entered the nirvana that is a room with an open fire on a cold night after a long day. Food and drinks were ordered. I popped outside to phone my wife to say that we were still alive.

On my return Minipips was chatting with a couple on a nearby table. They needed clarification from a grown up apparently though. Yes, 83 miles St. Bees to Nenthall, and yes he is 8. They were horrified.

Starter, main course pudding and lots of age related drinks.

Minipips sat in front of the fire whilst cultivating his 1000 yard stare look. Danny came down from the bunkhouse to show us the way there. Two cyclists needed their beds.

We were both fast asleep before 11pm. The alarm was set for 8:30am. Tomorrow would be an easier day.

My alarm woke me, but Minipips was already up. We had a fine breakfast courtesy of our host. If you are ever in need of accomodation in the Nent valley then the Haggs Bank Bunkhouse is the place to stay.  Danny the owner was an absolute star.

At around 10am we left for South Shields.The morning was spent either going up, or down hills in a very pretty part of our country.

Minipips was no longer wishing to eat scones, so when we got to Stanhope we found a cafe and had lunch.  I thought it was downhill all the way from here, but there was just one more hill to be climbed first.

From the top we could make out the sea in the distance. We had less than 40 miles left to ride and the first 20 of those were downhill. The sun was shining. We were happy boys.

A random trailside theodolite.

Minipips' favourite bridge.

Not long after we left Gateshead darkness fell, but soon enough we arrived in South Shields to be greeted by the rest of our family. Two days and 143 miles after we last saw them.

There's no picture of us on the beach, as it was fenced off for some reason.

Minipips says next year we are doing the Reivers C2C, I suggested we might do it in the summer when there is more daylight and better weather. He said it wouldn't be as much fun then.


  1. Well done both, Tom is going to be one hell of a rider when he grows up

  2. I read this with my 11 year old daughter who is both gob smacked and motivated to get on her bike. A great read. Well done both, especially Minipips.

    Sarah & Ellen

  3. Superb stuff. Sounded like a proper adventure. Chapeau, chaps :o)

  4. Sarah and Ellen glad you enjoyed our write up. Ellen I have learnt that kids are much tougher than adults. Make sure you wait for your Mum on your big bike ride. :)

  5. Hey, found this link at Haggs Bank Bunkhouse´s facebook-page and enjoyed reading - tough guys :-) I stayed for a night at Dannys Campsite in September and loved it, meeting Danny and Co was the cherry on top of my motorcycle holiday! Hope I´ll make it there next year again... wish you lots of fun on your further trips :-)

  6. Brilliant commitment guys, experiences like this will undoubtedly make for a well rounded young chap.

    Well done and keep on exploring

  7. Wow, amazing! Well done to both of you!

  8. Looks a LOVELY way to spend half term - what great bonding. Ace.

  9. Wow! I did the coast to coast with some colleagues a couple of months back but that was over 3 days. Much respect to the both of you.....especially the next Bradley Wiggins!

  10. Huge respect to u both but especially the lad... very well done

  11. Thanks everyone. I'll pass your comments on to Tom. ;0)

  12. Impressive. Although I'm not sure I should even tell my son about this- he's very competitive!
    We did the C2C in four days at the end of August - not bad for a seven year old.
    We diverted from the 'official' Whinlatter route to go over Honister, now that's a mountain pass.....