In November 2013 Seaton Sluice Backpedalers decided that their next cycle challenge would be Hadrian's Cycleway, a 180 mile route starting at Ravenglass and ending at the Delaval Arms, Seaton Sluice. Seventeen riders signed up and a three strong support team was recruited. This is their story.
Day 1 - Ravenglass to Silloth
The day began early. WATBus had been hired to transport bikes and their riders from the Delaval Arms to Ravenglass leaving at 6 am, so on a grey and miserable Saturday morning, bikes, riders and their luggage were loaded onto the minibus and its trailer.
In under three hours the team had arrived in Ravenglass. To everyone's surprise and delight, the sky was blue and the temperature warm, so bikes were unpacked and prepared for the first leg of the route.
At 9.44 am the team saddled up and set off.
Once the rather tricky bridge over the River Mite had been negotiated the cycle path was easy riding in ideal conditions.
Good time was made along a track which was well signed and despite the first puncture of the trip......
....... the team reached Whitehaven just before midday. Once in the town, one member of the team decided that staying rubber side down was for wimps and promptly fell off his bike. Coffee was needed.
The next landmark was Workington and again the path was easy to follow and easy to ride.
The path beyond Workington was equally straightforward and Maryport was soon reached. There is a newly opened section of the route just outside Maryport which runs alongside the B5300 and is traffic free but cyclists still need to be aware of potential hazards!
The next stop was Allonby where refreshments were available at the friendly local cafe.
By now it was late afternoon and the sky was grey with a hint of rain. The ride into Silloth saw the weather deteriorate and the rain arrive but not enough to dampen spirits or even require waterproof jackets. The team arrived in Silloth just after 5 pm.
Prior to the trip, Silloth Golf Club had been contacted and an evening meal booked. This proved to be an excellent choice particularly since Silloth does not have a wide choice of restaurants.
53 miles completed and everyone was in fine fettle.
Day 2 - Silloth to Haltwhistle
Despite overnight rain, the morning was fine and clear. Once a member of the team had changed his tyres the group headed out of Silloth at 9.40 am.
A couple of hours of riding got the team to Bowness-on-Solway where a short diversion took them to the Wallsend Guest House, an excellent stop for refreshment. They coped very well with the arrival of seventeen cyclists and their support team and even made a donation to the team charity, the Great North Air Ambulance.
The next section followed the Solway Firth and was mostly on quiet country roads. It was on one of those roads that the first navigational conundrum was encountered.
Decisions, decisions! After some debate the team headed straight on and fortunately that took them to Hayton, their next rendezvous with the support team. Some of the team took the opportunity to make new friends.
On leaving Hayton it soon became obvious that the terrain had changed. For the first time the team were having to cycle uphill as they began to traverse the Pennine watershed. Carlisle came and went without too much trouble but the route onwards to Haltwhistle became more demanding. Brampton, Lanercost and Gilsland all presented uphill challenges and to make things worse it had started to rain.
After 100 miles of easy cycling in pleasant conditions the hills and the rain came as a bit of a shock but teeth were gritted, granny gears engaged, thighs were pumped and inclines were conquered. The rain stopped in time for the slog up Greenhead Bank and a relieved team began the long descent into Haltwhistle, the Centre of Britain.
It was Bank Holiday Weekend in Haltwhistle and the entire town seemed to be out celebrating. It was only polite to join in.
The toughest day so far but 60 miles completed and everyone was still raring to go.
Day 3 - Haltwhistle to The Delaval Arms
Before the final day could be started, one member of the team had to sort out the first (and only) mechanical problem of the trip. Front wheel bearings were making unhealthy noises and this was resolved by a kind Haltwhistle resident loaning a replacement wheel - a good example of the support and help the team encountered throughout the weekend. Day 2 had ended with some stiff climbs and Day 3 began with the same. Soon after the start, the puncture fairy paid another visit.
The ride from Haltwhistle to Hexham was tough. Steep climbs followed by steep descents followed by more steep climbs. The ascent from Vindolanda was a real beast. On the plus side, the weather was good and the Northumbrian countryside was stunning. Everyone was going slowly enough to appreciate it. Eventually the team arrived in Hexham and regrouped at Tynedale Golf Club.
From here, it was on through Corbridge towards Bywell. At Hexham the support team had picked up warnings of traffic delays at Bywell due to the Northumberland County Show. There was no option but to press on and hope for the best. Sure enough, as the team approached the site they were advised by a man in a high viz jacket that the road was closed. The team advised high viz jacket man that that the road may be closed but the cycle route wasn't. They cycled through slowly and carefully with no problems. Unfortunately, two members of the team, who had become detached from the main group, were persuaded by high viz jacket man to set off on an unnecessary detour.
The route then led to down to the bridge over the River Tyne at Ovingham and into the Riverside Country Park. It was Bank Holiday Monday and the path through to Wylam was very busy with walkers and cyclists.
Arrival at Wylam car park allowed a break for refreshments.
By now, the team felt they were on home ground so it was on through Newburn and Newcastle Quayside to the Cycle Hub for the obligatory team photograph and the final visit of the puncture fairy.
The track from the Hub to the Delaval Arms is well known to members of the team and passed remarkably quickly. Eventually the familiar sight of St Mary's Lighthouse came into view and then the short climb up to The Delaval Arms to be greeted by friends and relatives.
64 miles completed on Day 3, 180 miles in total, money raised for the Great North Air Ambulance and a fantastic time had by all. Not a bad weekend.