The next challenge – The Way of the Roses

Way of the Roses Map

It winds across 170 miles of some of Britain’s most spectacular countryside. The new Way of the Roses Cycle Route has just opened and I’m itching to get into the saddle to conquer it.

The route passes through places that are deeply embedded in my life – Ripon and York, places where I have lived and now live. The roads outlined in yellow on the map are both familiar and new. I have probably traversed the whole route at one time or another – but never strung together in one long trek from the Irish Sea to the North Sea. Altogether it looks to be better than the C2C which in my experience loses it’s charm as it crosses some of the more industrialised parts of county Durham and on to the sea. The Roses in contrast skirts the Yorkshire Wolds and heads towards Bridlington in its closing miles.

I have another reason to face the challenge of the ride. I am involved in setting up a new charity to provide homes for homeless people in York. It’s a daunting and challenging project in itself, but we need to some seed funding until it becomes self sustaining.  At a meeting to form the charitable trust this week I raised the prospect of riding the Way of the Roses, and the challenge was immediately picked up by my relatively new friend Ed Hambleton. Ed and I separately had the vision to provide housing and support for homeless people and were brought together when, in the same week, we contacted Green Pastures Housing for some help and guidance. That was at the end of last year. Now we are working together with other Christians in York to breath life into the vision.

So expect another invitation to visit a giving website and donate to our cause.

One thing puzzles me about the Way of the Roses route. Next to the village of Clapham just off the A65 there’s a puzzling warning. “Steep hill, poor surface, pedestrians, children, dogs and dark tunnels” Just what awaits us there?image.jpeg

Love my bike – compact version

IMG_0054.JPGI love this bike even when it’s standing in the hallway awkwardly folded up with it’s wheels side by side. I had to leave it at the cycle shop earlier this week because a spoke in the back wheel had broken. I was loaned a Giant Expression full sized bike to keep me mobile, but when I collected my orange Dahon this morning it was like being reunited with an old friend.

I had briefly thought perhaps I should change the folder for a “proper” bike, but sitting back in the saddle this morning I just felt right. Welcome home old friend! Perhaps you should have a name?

Going for a song

IMG_0190.JPGAmazing, fantastic, exhilarating, enjoyable, strenuous. Just some of the words I’ve used as people have asked me how the C2C ride went.

Many are surprised that I’m suffering no after effects from the ride, but to be honest it’s not really the marathon people think it is. I’ve talked to several people since Friday who have also completed the ride – just a few among the twenty thousand who complete it each year.

If you were one of the people who sponsored me I am really grateful for your support. You may like to consider giving regularly to either of the charities I was representing.

logo_100x122.gifRiding Lights Theatre Company has a membership scheme for regular givers. It offers a number of benefits as well as the confidence that you are supporting a very special professional and Christian Theatre Company.

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The Funzi and Bodo Trust is engaged in long term projects in those communities on the south eastern coast of Kenya. Regular support allows them to plan their educational and medical projects with confidence.

If you didn’t sponsor me it’s not too late. The Justgiving sites are still open for business. Click on the links and you can join in to help.

Riding Lights Theatre Company
The Funzi and Bodo Trust

On Black HillWhere to next for me and my machine? I’d love to do John O’Groats to Lands End but that would carve a huge hole in my diary. Possibly Liverpool to Hull – I’d need to borrow a hybrid bike for that one because of the many off road sections. Be sure I’ll let you know when it’s being planned.

Thank you for following my adventure – I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. The memories will stay with me for a long time. One thing I discovered as I drove my bike upwards in the Pennines. Singing is a great way to control breathing on the inclines. So if you were somewhere near the summit of Hartside or Black Hill and thought the local chapel was having a choir practice it was possibly me belting out hymns and songs of praise in the strange rhythm my panting heart demanded. I can recommend it – not just on the hills. Singing is good for you – body, soul and spirit. Especially if you have someone to praise for your very existence.

Descending

In the guide I was using, today’s ride was “mainly downhill” and there is one of those gradient maps that seemed to confirm it. Choosing the road exit from Rookhope to Stanhope I turned left to face a gruelling climb. Crawleyside Bank. I confess I pushed the bike up the steepest section. Despite a 100% record of staying in the saddle up to this point my mind was not engaged for this challenge. The rest of the incline up to the start of what’s known as the Waskerey Way was fine as the views opened out onto the now familiar North Pennine Landscape.

Waskerley Way

The start of the Waskerley Way

It was a fascinating ride all the way to Consett and then it became a pursuit for the coast. The bits and pieces of off road cycle track created a rather unsatisfying ride for most of the way with just short glimpses of open country. The old tracks were often dusty and dirty with loose surfaces that made riding a chore. I longed for the open roads of the previous days.

Puncture Repairs

Puncture Repairs

As the Stadium of Light came into view I was aware of a soggy back tyre – a slow puncture. I inflated it determined to get to the finish before changing the tube. Just as the last of the air leaked out I dipped my front wheel in the North Sea near Roker Pier. I was home. The cycle computer read 143 miles.

Dipping tyre into the sea

Dipping in the North Sea

I still had to wind my way back to Chester-le Street for the train home. The computer read 158 miles as I sat on the platform there.

It had been a good ride, I felt sad that it was over and that the next few days would be saddle free. I enjoyed the freedom of the open road and the challenge of it all. Not once did I have to toil up hill in the pouring rain wondering why I was doing this, the weather was ideal.

So at the end I’m thankful to God for answering the prayer of the first day and to all my sponsors who grew in numbers as the ride went on.

If you want to donate or check on the latest totals here are the links

Riding Lights Theatre Company
The Funzi and Bodo Trust

So now a line full of cycling gear is drying in the sun and a very dusty bike needs some TLC.

Steep calls unto steep

Long fast descents are consistently reached by a steep gradient. A very, very steep gradient in the case of this section of the Coast to Coast ride.
I’m not complaining. It’s been a really enjoyable day touching the two highest points on the ride. Both sections of road rise above 1900 feet.
Now I’m waiting for dinner at the Rookhope Inn and I feel I’ve earned it!
Last night I stayed at a hostel in Penrith run by a charming couple from Otley. Alasdair and Jackie. They were so kind to me. Their hostel was more like a family holiday cottage. I was the only guest last night – truly comfortable.
I met two other groups of C2Cers today. A pair of lads were thrashing along the whole way in a day. The other group of six men were on a four say pub crawl! Over twenty thousand people ride this route each year and the numbers are still rising.
Lunch was at Hartside Cafe. 1900 feet above sea level. It was a welcome sight after the long climb.
So the final stage is tomorrow. It starts pushing the bike to the top of a rough track too demanding for my road bike. After a mile I’m told it turns into a perfectly rideable moorland track and it’s downhill all the way from there to Sunderland.
Thank you to all the people who’ve made donations today. If you still want to sponsor me these are the links.
Riding Lights Theatre Company
The Funzi and Bodo Trust

Fellfoot Cyclists Hostel

Fellfoot Hostel, Penrith

garrigill

Garrigill

Black Hill Summit

Black Hill Summit

Hartside

Looking up Hartside from Renwick