Bicycle Network: Ride On magazine
Grandpas' grand tour
A group of four friends who had been riding together in Melbourne for many years rode from the Irish Sea through the Lake District to the North Sea. Jim Pollard reports.
Our group of six had been riding for several years on a Tuesday, together with the occasional Round the Bay and other such events, but it was decided that we needed a different challenge, a goal. Lands End to John O’Groats in the UK was suggested but on examination, the logistics proved too much. So we settled on a variation of the famed C2C route through the Lake District. Peter Corson and Christine of Trailbrakes set up a wonderful trip from Barrow-in-Furness to Sunderland. They provided the bikes, helmets, spares and maps, and booked all the accommodation in first class B&Bs or hotels.
As it happened an acronym of our names gave us ‘GRAMPS’ so we had jerseys made to highlight the event and a map on the back to illustrate our journey. Unfortunately not all could make the trip, but four riders and three wives made up the touring party. The wives weren’t interested in riding, so they agreed to drive the “support” vehicle and transport the luggage. They did their own sightseeing and met us at designated spots or at the end of the day.
Peter delivered the bikes to us, and, in a windswept car park, we prepared for the ride. Although the day was overcast and chilly our spirits were high as we rode across the Isle of Walney to dip the wheels in the Irish Sea. We then began the ride and headed towards Ulverston, where we had spent the previous night. At this point our map reader became a little disoriented and it is not surprising that we passed several different signs each reading, ‘Ulverston 2 miles’! Once cleared of this obstacle we headed to the bustling town of Ambleside which is situated at the northern tip of Windermere. The scenery was beautiful and the ride on the off-road bridleway around the lake was a challenge and not to be missed.
Next day was a short trip to Keswick so we were able to laze in the sunshine at Grasmere and enjoy the coffee. William Wordsworth once lived here and described it as “the loveliest spot man hath ever found”. We couldn’t agree more. We had lunch at a pub that displayed a stuffed “Bogart”. This was a cross between a fox and a badger that is said to have roamed the cumbrian fells! What a great conversation piece. In our hotel that night we were entertained by the locals, some of whom broke into their dialect, and we had competitions to try and decipher the meanings.
On day three we headed to Penrith and passed through the quaint village and castle of Greystoke, the legendary home of Tarzan. This famous 11th century castle sits on a hill overlooking 3000 acres and was used as a prisoner of war camp during WWII. Within view of the castle is a small cottage with a roadside barn. It is a haven for cyclists, providing tea, coffee and hot chocolate on an honesty system. There is even a spot to relax on easy chairs or to fix a puncture.
We awoke to grey skies and the threat of rain. Unfortunately, the Bureau got it right. It poured for the first two hours and we rode through driving rain. It wasn’t cold, but hazardous on the narrow country lanes. Finally, the wind blew the clouds away and we climbed in sunshine from Renwick to Hartside Summit, which has an elevation of about 580 metres.
Our support ladies were waiting at the summit cafe, so after lunch and a photo shoot we continued down the hill to Alston. The shower and dry clothes were most welcome. A tour of the town revealed a bowling club and as four lawn bowlers, we made ourselves known to the members. With the limited time available we were able to play a few ends and enjoy their hospitality.
Next morning we awoke to sunshine but after breakfast the clouds and wind put paid to a sunny day. A puncture delayed our start but we were soon on our way. The steep cobblestoned sweeping road out of Alston continued for about a kilometre. Not recommended after a full English breakfast. At the top of the hill we felt the wind from the East in our faces and it was there all the way to Stanhope. The undulating hills provided a challenge and it felt worse than the climb up to Hartside. We crossed the moors from Cumbria to Northumberland where the route peaked at 609 metres. Although it was freezing, the views were breathtaking and this was still four days from the official start of summer! The friendly pubs on the way provided coffee and sustenance and again gave us the opportunity to chat with the locals. Our supporters followed our route and we met on several occasions, finally arriving at Stanhope, weary but dry. After a great meal at the pub we played a darts competition, but not very successfully.
It rained most of the night and it continued all the way to Durham. Fortunately there were only a couple of steep climbs, but the run down was not as exhilarating as it could have been. No good for photos and when we arrived at our lodgings we were too early to check in! However the host made one room available so that we could shower and change. The hot shower was most welcome. After a tour of Durham Cathedral and Castle we settled in for a sumptuous meal at the hotel.
The final day and brilliant sunshine with no wind, for our trip from Durham to Sunderland. We had no definite route planned so to avoid major roads on a Sunday morning, which was also Father’s Day, we took back roads to the rail trail at South Hetton. After morning coffee at Seaton we continued on to the beach at Sunderland, and the North Sea. We arrived at the same time as the ladies so we all walked across the sand to the waters edge for photos. Four elderly lads had completed the C2C without mishap. The cameras clicked, and then the misty rain began!