Paul’s Two-Tyred Blog Part II
The preparations all behind him, PAUL HENDERSON and his cycling partner Andy begin their 151-mile charity ride from Walney to Wear…
Daunting. We were eternally grateful to Andy’s pal, Paddy, who drove us across to Walney Island. He was great company and helped us feel relaxed at a stressful time.
Having set off at around 8.30am, we were on t’otherside by 10.30am. I’m not sure if we were trying to put off the inevitable, but it took us no less than half-an-hour to get two bikes and two rucksacks out of the van and walk 50 yards to the start!
When we set off after a quick photoshoot – neither the Walney Weekly nor the Cumbrian Cyclists’ Chronicle made it, they must have forgotten their press passes – our hopes of a quick getaway were dashed.
Panic set in as I couldn’t get out of first gear (a bit like Monday morning at work). Turned out the gear cable had disconnected. Quickly repaired and panic over.
The route was very good. Through the town and then quickly into countryside and past Furness Abbey. Up into the hills then down to Grange-over-Sands and eventually off to Kendal to end the day. It was a lovely sunny day and a nice ride, but we felt shattered as it was a long way (45 miles).
Horrendous. The first hour wasn’t bad but then the rain came and didn’t stop until we reached the Tan Hill Inn, famously the highest pub above sea level in the British Isles at 1,732 feet (528m). Ted Moult filmed the Everest Windows ads there in the 1980s and bands including the Arctic Monkeys have played there.
Half-drowned, as we rode literally the last 50 yards, the sun came out. We were soaked right through. Soggy trainers. Soddy clothes. Soggy everything.
Before we got anywhere near the end of the day I saw a sign saying, “Tan Hill 6¼ miles”. Just at that moment, a 65-year-old lady sped past me. To say I felt my lowest ebb would be an understatement. To be honest, we walked most of the last couple of uphill miles, but it was worth it. A roaring log fire, a warming chicken curry and a comforting pint or two of Theakstons Old Peculier sorted us out.
Rewarding. After a wonderful full English at Tan Hill, it was free-wheeling downhill for a good few miles and we were across the A66 before we knew it.
Despite a challenging uphill through Bowes (Andy cycled all the way to the top – I walked some of it!) it was a breeze all the way to Barnard Castle. From there, back out to the countryside and to a lovely pub in the middle of nowhere for sarnies and a decent Strongbow or two. By this stage we’d racked up about 120 miles. Another 15 or so the next day and we’d be back at Andy’s in time for the F1.
Triumphant. A difficult uphill start and then on to Bishop Auckland. An old railway track for miles provided an odd experience – mainly downhill but it felt flat due to the gravel-soil surface, so was quite a slog to Durham.
After Durham came some pretty unattractive villages to be fair, and we scampered through them swiftly before reaching the A19 (after a pub stop at Pittington, of course). We had some more uphills to cope with before passing under windmills (too close for comfort) and then, eventually, seeing the sea on the horizon.
That was a moment to savour. Okay, it wasn’t The Med, but the end was in sight, nevertheless. At that point we still had about 15 miles to go but it was mainly downhill. I was pleasantly surprised at how smart the docks and marina was at Sunderland and the last mile or so was fantastic. We were met by a few of the family at the end. It was emotional.
My backside has nearly recovered. I’ve used up a years supply of Sudocrem. But my thighs have stopped throbbing now. And I can’t complain, I have legs after all. What an experience. I strongly recommend it.
Andy and I said on the train home the day we finished that we’d never do it again – but we’ve both since changed our minds. The beauty you see over the four days, and the sense of achievement, is worth the pain.
Again, many, many thanks to everyone who sponsored Andy and I. We were overwhelmed by the support we received and I smashed my £250 target. I shall visit my dad’s tree on Fathers Day and tell him all about it.
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