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How we did the C2C cycle route—Russell And Anne Beresford

 

Due to the inconvenience of using public transport with heavily laden cycles, we decided to go for a one way car hire deal to get into the area .  The cost was approximately the same as 2 train tickets and much less hassle, (ok, so not so good for the environment) it was an estate car, so both bikes and the gear easily loaded inside.  The car had to be returned to the depot in Carlisle, so we decided to make our way to the start on the bikes from there.  We had a tent with us, so after a pleasant ride through the back-lanes we located a good campsite at Allonby which is about 12 miles north of the start at Workington.

 

Workington- Keswick

The route to Workington was not the most pleasant, it was on the busy main coast road passing through Maryport.  An interesting feature on this section is the abundance of  windmills near to the road (the modern electricity generating type).  On the outskirts of Workington, the struggle to find the start of the C2C began.. luckily, as we pondered over the map, a local man leapt to  our assistance and pointed us in the right direction (he said he did this regularly)..  The route was partly signposted (one or two were missing!).  We came to a bridge across the river that was not constructed with pannier carrying bicycles in mind, it was so narrow that there was barely an inch to spare at either side and it was impossible to walk the bikes across.  I found the best method was to pull myself across with one hand on the side rail and the other steering the bike—still very tricky though.  Eventually found the lighthouse, not a particularly nice example as lighthouses go!  We hunted around for a sign or a plaque, or something that might have marked the official start—disappointed, there is nothing!—had to make do with the lovely lighthouse and the sea for the backdrop of the start photograph.  Dipped the wheels in the sea picked up a small pebble from the beach, and headed Eastward.  Made rapid progress on a purpose made traffic free section  (an old railway line I think) followed by some quiet back roads.  Due to the Foot and Mouth problems, the section at Wythop Mill was closed off with no clearly signed diversion in place, we ended up on the busy A66 heading towards Keswick for about 3 miles, but luckily picked up the signs for the C2C again and continued again on quiet roads.  Finished that day in Keswick, decided on the Castlerigg campsite because it  is right through the town, on top of a big hill and we hadn’t suffered enough pain yet!  Its actually a good site that we have used a lot, its also handy for the Crag Bar nearby that serves great food and beer.

 

Keswick to Nenthead

Had a poor night sleep due to a big hairy bloke in a nearby tent who could snore for England—he had a good sleep anyway, he was very cheery in the morning, wondering why everyone was bleary eyed.  I pitied his wife and kids, they had a sort of glum zombie like gaze on their faces- resigned to the fact that they would never achieve the joy of a proper deep sleep.  Because it was a long day ahead, I bought a muesli bar for breakfast, and foolishly started to munch it whilst on the bike, inevitably, I dropped it into a clump of grass which looked like a typical dog fouling area—anyway, Anne wouldn’t let me pick it up. Had to divert to the garage nearby to obtain a replacement- had to have food!.  We weren’t even on the route yet!!  The route to Penrith is via a disused railway track and quiet lanes that are reasonably flat, arrived there at around noon and feasted at a coffee shop by the church.. it was all very pleasant up till here, we weren’t prepared for what lay ahead after lunch.   We knew it was going to be uphill, but this was never-ending uphill starting immediately from Penrith.  After this, there is a climb up to Hartside Café (the highest café in England) which was tortuous enough with the weight of the panniers on the bike, but the worst was yet to come. Beyond here, we were returned to what felt like sea level via a long descent, surely, it would be fairly leisurely from here?  After passing through the pretty village of Garrigill, the route took a right turn, and  ran us into what seemed like a brick wall, this was the steepest climb on the route, and a zig-zag technique had to be employed until it levelled off – a bit.  It continued upwards for what felt like an age, it was taking longer due to frequent stops, but we never walked!  Finally, we reached Nenthead exhausted, and had a brief scan around for the campsite, but all roads out of the village went upwards, and we didn’t want to face another hill.  The Miners Arms, we noticed, had a bunk house attached,  we made enquiries, and there was no-one else booked in,  after last night, we could enjoy peace and quiet.. Imagine our horror when 5 rather loud, arm waving young Italian cyclists pulled up at the pub, our hearts sank as we imagined what sort of night lay ahead (predicting they’d be booking into the bunkhouse).  We had our evening meal at the pub to the sound of Italian chatter—they really were quite loud!  After the meal and a few pints, an early night was in order, hopefully we could get some sleep before the now well lubricated group of 5 retired.  As I closed the bunkhouse curtains, I caught  sight of, 5 cyclists riding off into the night, --we never saw them again—had the best nights sleep I have ever had!

 

 

 

Nenthead to Rowlands Gill

 

It was a miserable misty start to the day, and knowing that the highest point on the route was in the next section, pain, suffering and discomfort was inevitable.  Actually, this bit wasn’t too bad, perhaps this was psychological as we couldn’t see far ahead due to bad visibility.  Once over the highest part, it brightened up, and there was a cracking long descent to Stanhope.  Unfortunately, there was a bit of a shock upon taking a left in the village, another whopping great hill, one of those with an escape lane at the side to catch runaway trucks.  It was very steep at first, then eventually levelling a bit, but still heavy going.  Once up on top, the route takes a right, where someone was building or renovating a house, round the back was a welcome sight, a caravan offering tea/coffee etc—.  It belonged to the people doing the building work, they were going to set up a proper café, but in the meantime, the operation was confined to the caravan.  We met a couple of local cyclists inside, we could tell that we were getting into the North East judging by the accents, we had a good chat with them, and they assured us that the way would be mostly down hill and easy from now on.  Of course, we didn’t believe them, but it turned out to be pretty well true. From the caravan, it was an old railway right down to Consett—all downhill, we were doing 25-30mph without trying.  At Consett, there is a choice of whether to take the Newcastle or the Sunderland route.  We took the Newcastle one (yes intentionally!), and soon got confused as the route didn’t resemble the map, but we followed the signs, then they disappeared, we made a couple of lucky guesses, and it turned out that we were still going the right way.  It was plain sailing from Consett on the Derwent Walk to the excellent Derwent campsite at Rowlands Gill. The site had good facilities, it was flat, and the people were very welcoming—what more could you need?—well, a nearby pub would have been good, but as it was the last night for us, we pushed the boat out and had a brilliant meal at Bellinis Italian restaurant- the chippy was shut!

 

Rowlands Gill to Sunderland

 

Started the day with a trip to a tea shop called ‘Tea for Two’, this was very civilised and pleasant, we drank from bone china cups and enjoyed toasted teacakes to the sound of ladies exchanging cake recipes.  We were soon returned to reality as the first section of our route was uphill, our fault really, as we had to cross over from the Newcastle section to the Sunderland route, so the first 5 miles were not part of the C2C.  We picked the route back up at Stanley, had a bit of difficulty in gaining access to it, and had to ask a local man as there were no signs evident.  It followed an old railway track again, and we made good progress to Washington but thereafter, it started to get a bit twisty turny, and up and down,  nothing  difficult, but we found it a bit wearing as our tiredness was starting to catch up on us.  Eventually arrived on the outskirts of Sunderland where street sculpture and art is a noticeable feature, infact, the route designers seemingly don’t want you to miss any of it by directing the path past every piece.  Finally emerged by the Stadium of Light (a football ground or something?) , negotiated a few industrial backstreets, then arrived at the impressive recently developed riverside.  Followed the signs past more sculptures and the National Glass Centre—all very nice, but we just wanted to get to the end.  Upon locating the finish point, we expected to find a plaque, statue, flag or something, just to mark the end of our expedition across the country—but again, there is nothing.  As we stood there disappointed and looking around, as often happens a times like this, a local man appeared- (like on Mr Benn as if by magic!) On requesting what we were looking for, he directed us to where he thought the official finish was—he sent us to the local C2C stamping station (where you can have a card stamped to say you have done it)—but that’s not really at the end, so we made our way to the sea.  We made the most of it by ceremoniously dipping the wheels into the sea and collecting a souvenir pebble from the beach, after a photo, it was food time.  Because it was a marina style development, it was easy to find a café that charges extortionate prices, so we had a couple of toasted sandwiches with coffee and were delighted to hand over large sums of money for the pleasure.  We backtracked to the car rental depot in Sunderland, and made our way home satisfied that we had completed the journey from coast to coast.

 

 

 

 

 

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