Coast to Coast to Coast

In September 2010 my first overnight ride was a self guided, solo Coast to Coast to Coast which started out life as a hope to ride the C2C route in one day.  While planning for the C2C in one day I kept coming back to the challenge of getting to the start which combined with keeping costs down was difficult.  There wouldn’t be an early enough train so it was going to involve a B&B and a train journey or it was going to involve driving over to the start and then having to go back later and pick up the car.  All of this seemed nonsense and the obvious was beginning to dawn on me. I had to ride to the start.  So as I was examining maps I also thought, why should I end in Sunderland or Newcastle.  Redcar is on the coast and round the corner from me, and it soon followed; why ride to Whitehaven there are coastal towns further south which would make more sense.  Walney island was a target for a little while until it became obvious that I’d be riding 40 miles next to the coast.  So slowly the route coalesced to Redcar / Arnside / Redcar, here is an overview:


From the elevation chart (one direction only) you can see that the high point is Garsdale head and I found that very encouraging.  When riding the Darlington Council “Hell of the North” we ride out of Hawes almost to Garsdale head before turning right at the Moorcock Inn, so I already knew the climbing was going to be fairly easy.

I finished work on Friday September 23rd and packed my bicycle into the car.  Carol wanted to see me off from Redcar and although I toyed with the “ride to the start” idea, it was quickly quashed by the pleasure of spending time with Carol and having her encourage me as I leave.  So we drove down to Redcar (about 15km) and got ready in the car park.

I decided that a 7pm start would give me a little daylight to get through Middlesbrough and then once I was into the countryside the dark and quiet lanes would be pleasant to ride through.  I was also happy that I knew the route to Hawes by heart anyway and therefore wouldn’t be getting lost.

Dusk was falling as I passed Wilton.  Those two cooling towers have since been pulled down.  It is interesting the way the Wilton area is changing, from the air you can see that most of the Wilton site is flattened now and it used to be a hive of human industry – all those jobs and all that work, granted with all the pollution and environmental damage.  But the area is rejuvenating and the only questions for the thousands of people in Teesside is what work will replace the mass industry.  I guess we need more entrepreneurs.

Darkness came a lot quicker than I was expecting, the 23rd September being the solstice it was half way between the longest and shortest days, but it was mild and there was no noticeable wind.  This was going to be a good night to ride.

My first stop of the ride was within collapsing distance of home, here is the Fox Covert, just on the outskirts of Ingleby Barwick.  Fitting place, after about 1 hours’ riding to stop and grab a pint of Double Maxim.  There were unspoken goals at this point, although the main goal was Coast to Coast to Coast, an unspoken goal was “in less than 24 hours” and another one was “and enjoy myself”.  By stopping for beer I’d turned this into an arduous pub-crawl.

From the Fox Covert I made it to the Tythe Bar in Northallerton by 9pm.  The route was so gentle and easy, through Hutton Rudby and East Rounton to Brompton and into Northallerton.  From here I was planning to stick on the A684 all the way to Sedburgh.  I talked to a couple who were smoking outside and they seemed fairly impressed I’d ridden from Redcar, they couldn’t quite take in the rest of my plans and the conversation was a little difficult.  Mind you, they’d been enjoying the Tythe Bar for some time.

The A684 was almost deserted and as a reliable road without too many potholes and going in the right direction I relaxed a little too much.  Once past Bedale I was looking for photo opportunities and unfortunately forgot I was clipped in to my pedals.  So just outside the church and The Green Tree at Patrick Brompton I toppled sideways and caused some mechanical issues with the bicycle.  The rear mudguard and brakes were rubbing and not letting the wheel spin freely.  I spent about 40 minutes disassembling the brakes the whole unit from the frame, adjusting and refitting as well as adjusting the mudguard until I realised the wheel had simple twisted slightly and just needed the QR lever released and retighened.  Darn it.  So then another 15 minutes undoing all the previous (and unnecessary) fixing.  I was cold from being out and not moving very much, so decided that another beer was called for, so I made straight for the Three Horseshoes just past Leyburn.  This pint of Daleside Blonde went down very well.

There were three others in the pub, but I must have been a little too outside their comfort zone because they didn’t want to talk to me.  Mind you, I was a little grubby from my mechanical and I didn’t hang about either.  Just before 11pm I set off again.  I would describe the route as “rolling hills” between Leyburn and Hawes, but in the dark you don’t get time to worry about hills, you just deal with the road under your tyres.

On this evening there was a NASA satellite due to come back to Earth and I’d heard there was some wild statistic about the probability of a person being hit.  As I was the only person out and about I hoped it wouldn’t be me.  You could see the falling satellite clearly as a bright smudge in the sky, brighter than the starts and planets and I felt as though I was being accompanied on my ride by this lost piece of metal.  Comforting in a geeky kind of way.

I arrived in Hawes at midnight, and as expected it was completely deserted.  I stopped for a snack of ginger bread and then ploughed on.  Just outside Hawes things started to get creepy.  Just behind my left shoulder and almost in my ear I heard a distinct “huff” noise – someone exhaling quite loudly.  Now I instantly assumed I’d imagined it and told myself not to be silly, but 100 meters down the road – again, “huff”, and right behind my left shoulder.  Crikey it made me jump!  But almost as immediately I realised I was passing a field of cows and perhaps they were more startled than me.

I found a stone bench in Sedburgh.  Through the “yet another cycling forum” website I had arranged to meet a friend in Kirby Londsale.  Bill had offered to lead me through the dark and unfamiliar lanes to Arnside, so I called to let him know where I was.  The route to Kirby Lonsdale from Sedburgh is a gentle downhill.  Really nice to ride in the early hours with no traffic.  Bill met me with coffee and I hadn’t realised quite how lonely night riding was until I found a friend to talk to – Bill probably couldn’t shut me up.

He chatted to me all the way through the dark lanes until we reached Arnside.  We stopped for the photo opportunity at the end of the pier – one half of the Coast to Coast to Coast was complete!

Bill invited me back for beans on toast at his home which was very welcome and I just talked at him like a babbling fool – I was excited with what I’d achieved so far and enjoying having some company.  Once warmed up I set off again, back the way I’d come.

I think it might be possible from this photograph to see that I was slightly tired, and I arrived back in Sedburgh for the second time in the day.

Climbing back to Garsdale head from Sedburgh was a lot harder this way round, the previous 9miles downhill was now more challenging, but at least I was now able to appreciate my surroundings and the beauty of the Pennines.

It started to rain a little here, but in a fresh way.  The night had been warm and the rain was not a problem, the weather had really treated me well so far.  It was definitely time for second breakfast though and I arrived in Hawes again to stop at the bikers cafe.

I ate everything!  And had more coffee.

There was blue sky and sunshine in patches for the final leg.  Riding back the way I’d come made the trip psychologically easier – roads I knew and have ridden plenty of times.  From Hawes, even though I had 70 miles to go, I pretty much felt at home.  This was the easiest overnight coast to coast to coast ever undertaken!


And the joy of touring an extended pub crawl was kicking off again as the pubs opened!  Northallerton’s Tythe Bar (again) followed by Hutton Rudby’s Bay Horse.


I was doing some mental mathematics to work out the distance remaining and decided that it would be nice to do slightly over 350km rather than slightly under, so took a winding route back to the Fox Covert – a winding route because I felt really fresh.

And so my very first overnight bicycle ride, a Coast to Coast to Coast finished where I had started 21 hours previously – back at Majuba Road car park in Redcar.  221 miles covered in 21 hours – with plenty of beer and feeling fantastic.  The weather really had been good – but this route is certainly worth considering for an easy way to complete a C2C2C in less than 24 hours.


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