2012.04 C2C ride

Gentlemen of the FGCC. Two articles on the C2C ride below, the first a fine contribution from Zach, and the second being my more basic summary – the “notes from a Thai Curry house”. Richard

I really enjoyed my recent cycling venture! It was well organized – thanks to Richard, our super-efficient ‘Project Manager’. We suffered no major mishaps and – along with others in the Group, keen to do so if they could (thanks to those prepared and willing to assume much more than their share of driving duties) – I managed to complete the entire route of the C2C, including the more challenging off-road sections.
On Day 1, we were very lucky in that the relentless rain forecast for almost all the UK on 26 Apr largely missed West Cumbria. We set out rather later than would have been ideal as we hadn’t quite got the logistics worked out that morning as to how we were going to manage the vehicle movements between us (3 vehicles, 9 group members). But once we got going (c.11.30) – following the customary photo-opportunity on the beach with the tide coming in(!) – after the steep pull out of St Bees, the C2C follows an old railway line to Rowrah, where it joins winding country lanes through Lamplugh and round to Loweswater. From here there is a lovely section through Lorton Vale with stunning views of Buttermere, and Grasmoor, rising steeply above it. Those of us who had done the route previously found ourselves standing on a fine new bridge in Lorton, where the old one, spanning the River Cocker, had been swept away in the floods of November 2009. I was captivated by the flight of a dipper, working that stretch of the river in search of its lunch. Climbing the Whinlatter Pass tested the majority of the Group, but the cafeteria at the Whinlatter Forest Centre serves wonderfully reviving home-made soup (rather a late lunch – 16.00!). From there those continuing (Andy and Paul were happy to re-assume driving duties…) enjoyed the exhilarating off-road downhill section through the Forest to Thornthwaite, then on minor roads into Keswick and west along the old railway line, crossing the swollen River Greta six times in about 4 miles, to Threlkeld, and our billet for the night – the Horse and Farrier, once an old coaching inn on the road from Keswick to Penrith (18.30) – 39 Miles.
By Day 2, yrs truly was feeling rather below par – not from an excess of Jennings (although I did enjoy a pint of their excellent Snecklifter!) – more a sore throat, and the beginnings of a cold. I was all for heading off on- road to Greystoke, via Mungrisdale, but the fact that the day dawned sunny and bright, the lure of the challenge of the Old Coach Road (described on the Sustrans route map as a ‘Very rough alternative off-road route’) and the encouragement of other Gentlemen persuaded me to give it a go. Although it was tough, the views of distant Skiddaw, and nearer Blencathara, each still with small pockets of snow on the ‘tops’ were breathtaking. To the east we could make out Cross Fell in the distance, the highest point on the Pennines. Once back on country lanes, the route is still pretty ‘up and down’ through Thackthwaite until it crosses the A66 and heads for Greystoke (lunch at the Boot & Shoe 12.30-13.30). I was all for a tea-stop in Penrith, but other Gents were either oblivious to the charms of said Cumbrian market-town, or too anxious to press on towards Melmerby (arr 16.30). There must be something about the Eden Valley because the current Vicar of Langwathby (and several other villages besides), the Revd Richard Moat, was in post when I was Vicar of Holy Trinity, Carlisle (1986-90). Later that evening, in conversation with our hosts, Kenneth and Margaret Morton (at whose B&B Mark and I were billeted) I learnt that Rev David Fowler is still Vicar of Kirkoswald et al, upstream. David held that post too all those years ago – I do think the Eden Valley is aptly named indeed! Saw a heron, just before Little Salkeld – 34 miles.
Those of us who had cycled the C2C previously (either in 2007, or 2009, or both) knew that Day 3 invariably proves to be the most challenging day of all. It begins with a long (4.5mls on-road, probably longer – and even harder – off-road) uphill ride up the Hartside Pass. What made it even harder was an evil North-easterly wind, blowing right into our faces. How glad we were of an opportunity to re-group (3 had undertaken driving duties, 3 taken the on-road route, and 3 the off-road route) at the cafe at Hartside Summit – 1903 feet – and enjoy a brief respite from the wind (11.00-11.45). The scenery throughout Day 3 is absolutely stunning as the route takes you from Hartside down into the valley of the South Tyne to Garrigill, from where all 9 of us took the ‘Alternative off-road route’ high over the fells and down to Nenthead (c. 14.15) past lots of old mine workings. The warbling cries of curlews and the ‘pee-wit’ of lapwings accompanied us much of the day. Offering to undertake vehicle moving was hardly onerous as it gave Paul and I to enjoy again the wonderful views as we drove back through Alston to Hartside to collect ‘The Van’. We were back at Nenthead in time for me to quaff a ice-cold pint of lime and soda before rejoining the Group (now less Andy & Paul) tackling another ‘Alternative off-road route’ which takes you up to Black Hill, the highest point on the C2C (609m). Now into Northumberland and rejoining the road, we passed beneath Killhope Law (673m) through the North Pennines, known to many as ‘England’s last wilderness’. After the obligatory photo stop (because of my surname!) as we entered Allenheads, and a bit of indecision as to whether to stop for a cup of tea (it was now after 16.30, and still some miles to go) we began the day’s penultimate climb up out of Allenheads. Thankfully the wind was less of a factor as the day wore on, although, on the long downhill following the Rookhope Burn past more old mine workings, the hailstorm which the seasoned C2C riders amongst us have come to expect, duly arrived (thankfully not nearly so sharp and so sudden as in 2009). We’ve had reason to be glad of the pub in Rookhope on previous rides, and rarely has a cup of tea, taken by a blazing fire, been so welcome. Thus, we began (c.17.40) the final climb of the day, marked on the Sustrans route with the words, Very steep and rough incline; please take care. The tyros amongst us were some way ahead of the rump of the older (‘Foundation’) members still riding (3 no.), though they kindly waited for us to catch up, sheltering from the wind, just after the summit. Knowing that we would be continuing to follow the old railway line from that point, and that Park Head (a former railway station, where we were booked in for the night) was no more than 5 mls distant, we
summoned up the wherewithal to pedal around the rim of Stanhope Common to our destination.
Now we were 10, as John had travelled up by train to Durham, having been to visit his brother in Yorkshire. We were so grateful to be out of the wind, and enjoying Lorraine and Terry’s warm hospitality (plus a few pints of a local brew – Curlew – a ‘polypin’ of which had been procured especially for the visit of the FGCC!) – 36 Miles, 12 of which were climbing!
Day 4, being a Sunday, we encountered numerous other cyclists out enjoying the Waskerley Way (another former railway line), despite the wind. Thankfully, as we came down from off the moors, the wind was not as strong and we made good progress to the Hownsgill Viaduct. At the junction just before Consett, we parted with tradition in that we took the turning sign-posted Newcastle, rather than continuing on towards Sunderland (as in 2007 & 2009). We followed a very pretty, and – thankfully – well-sheltered former railway line through the Derwent Valley stopping at a pretty ordinary looking pub serving Sunday dinner for a fiver. On reaching the River Tyne, we crossed at Gateshead, stopping to look at the amazing bridges, ancient and modern – the latter including the ‘blinking-eye’ bridge, built for the Millennium. By now it was raining hard, and the wind was a factor once more as we headed through Wallsend and North Shields to Tynemouth where we descended down to the beach for the customary ‘wheel dip’ in the North Sea. From there it was a short ride north past St George’s, Cullercoats (a famous Victorian church) to our hotel in Whiteley Bay – 41 miles. Relief and joy all round at having completed our C2C ride 2012… 150 miles!!
ZA 12 May 2012

Weds 25th April
8 Tudor Close at 8.00am to load the van and cars, fortified against the pouring rain by large cupfuls of Malaysian Tea. ZA kindly offered to count the number of wheels, but was politely refused. Waved off at 9.00am by JR with the FGCC salute.
Tea stop at Oxford Services, cars went up M6 toll, but LSV missed the junction and went up M6. Lunch stop at Lym services. RT/ZA/KBS diverted via Lancaster to collect CB. Lost KBS when he went to find CB.
All arrived at Fairladies Barn around 5.30- 6.00pm.
Dinner in the …..pub during which logistics for the next day were discussed centering on who was going to ride the bishop and when.
Nightcap in the salubrious pub with sparkling service opposite the digs.

Thurs 26th April – Ride to Threlkeld
RT & FL delivered one car to Threlkeld whilst the van was unloaded and bikes assembled. CB drove LSV2 to Winlatter Park centre and RT/FL collected CB on the way, extracting JR’s bike from LSV as MA’s free-wheel device had failed.
JR’s slightly (!) muddy wheel assembled onto MA’s spotless bike. Down to the beach at St Bees for the C2C start. Tide was out so cycled out to the water’s edge for group photo. Faffing around setting up cameras resulted in several gentlemen getting wet feet as the tide had turned.
On the old railway track AM had a “blasteet”. Later JR’s wheel suffered a new experience – going at over 35mph, leading to suggestions that it might need open hub surgery.
Minor temperature and weather changes caused MR to start a “changing habit” including one change in a glass bus shelter.


Going up Winlatter pass excess of tarmac proved too much for KBS, who uttered the surprising statement “oh you go on ahead Richard, I’ll catch you up” (which he didn’t – resulting in severe Danish depression).
Reviving very late lunch in Simkins cafe at the Winlatter centre, followed by an excellent long dirt track descent during which FL was mostly out of control. Very muddy:


PT and AM had kindly agreed to collect RT at the bottom of the hill to then recover car from St Bees.
Shirts distributed at the Horse and Farrier, followed by a hearty meal, most notably the lamb. However, it was noted that CB and KBS were lodged in the dog-house.

Fri 27th April – Ride to Melmerby
Woke up to a bright clear blue sky, though with a little bit of snow showing on Blencathra and Skiddaw.


AM & PT decided to drive the LSV to the other end of the old coach road and ride back, whilst the main peleton set off for the climb. Several stops to enjoy the view (ok recover one’s breath)


and meeting as planned with AM/PT.


Hordes of paparazzi at the ford were disappointed by the last rider (RT) walking across the bridge instead. AM/PT returned to LSV duties to go and sort out MA’s free-wheel – no joy at Halfords, but local cycle shop identified that all that was required was tightening up of the free-wheel casing, much to the TM’s shame. Lunch outside in the sun at the pub in Greystoke, joined by MA & PT who proceeded to give a masterclass.


Some members of the peleton passed up the opportunity to enjoy the historic town of Penrith as well as a ZA geography masterclass at the River Eden bridge. Greeted at Melmerby by the 80 year old Mrs James (Edith to Paul) who had suffered a broken shoulder late last year, but still welcomed the FGCC with jugs of tea and home made cakes. MR/FL at B&B in Gamblesby with MR taken on a tour of the bedrooms by Eileen. Dinner in the Shepherds Inn in spite of running out of fuel, and where we met host from lunchtime pub stop.

Sat 28th April – Ride to Parkhead, Stanhope


MA & FL had blasteets to repair before setting off – peleton divided to go up Hartside pass with ZA,CB & MA going road route and MR/KBS/FL taking soggy off-road route. All had to fight against very strong wind.


Meanwhile PT/AM/RT took vehicles to Nenthead, returning with one car to top of Hartside in time to join riders for a tea stop and warm up.
All then set off downhill, with such a strong wind that low gears were required, with AM doing a Mark at the expense of his bike due to the lack of enjoyment, before recovering his bike and pressing on.


Lunchstop at Nenthead – spaghetti bolognese almost of a style to encourage Bruce of the Dales to think he is a masterchef, but sufficiently nourishing for the next phase. ZA/PT recovered RT car and then PT/MA resumed LSV duties to get all vehicles to Parkhead.
Peleton then climbed to the highest point of the C2C:

and, still pushing hard into the wind down to Allenheads where MTB gears enabled RT to overtake a roadie downhill. Next climb to Durham/Northumberland border,

and traditional hailstorm while cycling down into Rookhope for cup of tea.

Welcome tea by Lorraine and Terry, followed by excellent pint of Curlew’s Return specially acquired for the occasion and fine dinner. JR had also arrived from Durham, collected from station by PT.

Sun 29th April – Ride to Whitley Bay
Even stronger and colder east wind set the scene for the supposedly easiest day’s riding!

The going eased on the lower levels of the old railway, reminding of Downslink
Lunchstop at a stylish Northern pub – most opted for a hot “baguette” which proved to be interesting!!


AM/PT resumed LSV duties to get all the vehicles to Whitley Bay. Started to rain. Photo stop in Newcastle:-


Then very wet and cold ride to the end at Whitley Bay :


York House B&B Hotel proved to be an excellent find. Bikes washed and safely stored, all dried out and warmed up, we proceeded to try to find pub for re-hydration. Newcastle had lost badly during the week, and first pub recommended by our host, turned out to be in a drunken state. Another ok, after which dinner taken at Thai Curry House.

Monday 30th April
Initially a bit foggy, but otherwise bright sunny day’s journey home to Findon.

Another excellent FGCC event.

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