On Friday 5 June a team from David Allen embarked on the almighty challenge of cycling the Coast to Coast route to raise money for the much loved, local charity Hospice at Home Carlisle and North Lakeland.
The day began early with our team, consisting of Alison Allen, Lisa Irving, Vicky Johnston, Robert Nordon and I, arriving in Whitehaven for 8am. Fully kitted out in our lycra and cycle helmets we got into our cycling groups ready for the weekend ahead. Our adventure began as we dipped our bike tyres into the Irish Sea at Whitehaven before setting off on our journey across the breadth and backbone of England.
All of the riders taking part for Hospice at Home were split in to four groups: Red, Yellow, Blue and Green, with each group being accompanied by two support riders. We were all put in the Blue team along with fellow cyclers, Willy, Paul and Jo, and our wonderful support riders Stewart and Dan.
The first day saw us bike 53 miles from Whitehaven to Penrith, through the breath-taking scenery of the Lake District. Our first refreshment stop was 21 miles into our journey at Lorton Village Hall and it was following this that we encountered our first real challenge… Whinlatter Pass near Keswick. It’s fair to say that after this climb the realisation of the challenge we had taken on truly hit home! We were all relieved to arrive at Mungrisdale Village Hall for a hearty lunch and a re-group, especially after Vicky had suffered a massive tyre blow out half way down the pass!
After lunch, and full of energy, we set off cycling through Greystoke and on to Blencow finishing our day in Penrith. Our first day did end with a little bit of drama as Robert skidded off his bike going around a corner only a stone’s throw from the finish line, luckily he only suffered a nasty graze to the knee which was kindly looked after by his own nurse Julie from the Hospice. Despite a couple of hiccups our team spirits were high and everyone was pleased to have conquered day one – but there were still two days of our adventure to go…
We made the decision to stay locally at The Roundthorn Hotel in Penrith on the first evening, and after enjoying our dinner we all settled for an early night in order to get plenty of rest in preparation for day two.
Following a delicious breakfast the next morning we made our way back into Penrith to meet our fellow cyclists. We were all a little nervous and apprehensive, strong winds were forecast for the day and we were fully aware that whilst day two covered a shorter distance than day one, the majority of it was cycling uphill over the roof of England, across the Northern Pennines and would see us face Hartside Pass and Garrigill – two massive uphill pulls!
The winds were so strong from Hartside to Allenheads that at this point the Hospice had to take the decision to officially cancel the second day of the event in the interests of health and safety. A member of the Red team had suffered a nasty fall which had ended with a trip to hospital, and other riders were only able to continue on their journey at their own risk. About two thirds (including the majority of the Blue team) battled their way through the final, gruelling 16 miles of day two. To say that Saturday was punishing would be an understatement, blood, sweat and tears were all shed but thankfully we all made it to Allenheads in one piece (even after Alison was blown off her bike into a patch of nettles!).
On Saturday evening, after checking in at our accommodation, the full Coast to Coast team met at The Allenheads Inn to enjoy food and drinks together. This was a great opportunity to get to spend some time off our bikes with our fellow team members and support riders to reflect on the journey so far and the amazing cause we were raising money for. After what had been a tough day for all, the evening offered some much needed joviality and lifted everyone’s spirits back up – the comradery really was priceless! We all went to bed in high spirits with the end in sight, knowing there was only one day left of our challenge.
The atmosphere on Sunday morning was electric (and less far blustery) as everyone was keen to get going and accomplish the final 50 miles of our challenge. After a couple of hills in the morning and one final steep ascent up Crawleyside Bank, the hard work was done and the remainder of our cycling was spent coasting downhill on beautiful cycle paths. This final descent was glorious and took us all the way down to Lloyds Quayside Bar in Newcastle where all of the groups of cyclists joined together to cycle the final 14 miles to the finish line at Tynemouth on the East coast.
There are few words that can describe the way we felt, as five non-cyclists, when we crossed the finish line. What a feeling… what an achievement! We were all smiling and laughing (and crying), we had done it – we had cycled 137 miles coast to coast, across our beautiful country.
Through gale force winds, sunshine and even the occasional spot of rain, we had conquered the elements and our full team successfully finished the challenge raising in excess of £3,500 for the charity. Hospice at Home Carlisle and North Lakeland is a wonderful local charity offering free and invaluable support to those at the end stage of life who prefer to be cared for in their own homes and it was an honour to ride for such a worthwhile cause.
Huge thanks have to go out to the organisers and the support team for looking after us throughout the event, they were truly amazing and we really couldn’t have done it without them. We would also like to thank all those involved in our fundraising activities in the run up to the event, it was your donations of money, raffle prizes and overall kindness that spurred us on when times were tough.
It’s fair to say the team will be putting their bikes away for a couple of weeks now, but all have agreed it was an overwhelming experience, and one that will never to be forgotten, some are even planning ahead for next year’s event!
If you would like to support Hospice at Home visit their website at www.hospiceathome.co.uk.