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W2W

The 151 mile cycle route links Walney Island, just outside Barrow-in- Furnace with the mouth of the River Wear in Sunderland. Between these points, the route traverses the Lake District, the Orton Fells, the Eden Valley and the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and the Land of the Prince Bishops. By the time we accounted for cycling to the start and diversions to our accommodation we cycled over 160 miles during the weekend.

 

Thursday 13th April

Russell kindly transported 12 of the cyclists together with their bikes to Barrow-in-Furness for our overnight stay. Myra and Roy were waiting for us having arrived by train. After booking in to the B&B, The Infield Hotel, we had dinner at The Brown Cow, where Enid took the Alzheimer's collection box round.

 

Day 1 - Friday 14th April-Walney Island to Kendal-46 miles

14 cyclists aged between 41 and 81 set off at 9.00am with over 160 miles of gruelling cycling to look forward to. Unfortunately we had to cycle an extra 3 miles from our B&B to the start of the W2W at Walney Island meaning we would be cycling 46 miles on our first day.

The route begins along main roads before transferring to country lanes. Soon after leaving the town and after a fast descent we rounded a bend to see the stunning red-sandstone ruin of Furness Abbey.

Stan climbing out of Barrow-in-Furnace

Steve cycled back and forth, shepherding, making sure everyone was OK. At 11.00 am we reached Ulverston for a coffee break at the quaint 'Sticky Fingers' tea-room, arriving just as the local brass band was packing up after playing for Good Friday. We set off again at 12.00 noon for a climb out of Ulverston for the next stage to Grange-over-Sands. Ray fell off bike due to an inconsiderate sports car driver not slowing down when driving up a narrow lane - Ray was relieved to find his Rohan jacket was OK, he was less bothered about the nasty graze on his arm!

At Grange-over-Sands we settled down in a pub's beer garden only to find it didn't serve food. Enid and Syd made an excursion for sandwiches at the 'Butterfingers' café. We started the final leg at about 4.00 pm, arriving at Kendal at 6.00 pm.

We were very tired and some of us were wondering how we were going to complete the ride! The first leg, said to be the easiest section, turned out to be hillier than we had expected. Most of us walked up any steep hills but Stan, Myra, Steve, Ken and Ray were always successful at cycling to the top.

We had evening dinner at Weatherspoon's - usual good quality and value-for-money - then on to the Shakespeare Inn where Steve took the Alzheimer's collection box round.

 

Day 2 - Saturday 15th April - Kendal to Kirkby Stephen - 31 Miles

We set off at 9.00 am on another dry and sunny day commencing with a long climb out of Kendal to re-join route 20. We had a welcome rest at the top while sorting out a problem mudguard on Margaret's bike. On route there were wonderful views of the Langdales, Old Man of Coniston and Crinkle Craggs capped with snow.

After a coffee stop at Becks Foot, a delightful spot, Ray had another puncture while climbing out of the valley. The weather was extremely warm by now. We rode along the country lanes with occasional glimpses of M6, before joining a lane for the long ascent towards Orton. A 'helpful' farmer suggested the lane was unsuitable for cyclists and he suggested another road lower down - I think he meant the M6!

Steve has a rest on the Orton Fells before dropping down to Kirby Stephen

Lunch in the pub at Orton before the final section of the ride to Kirkby Stephen where the Youth Hostel was a lovely old Methodist church with rooms appropriately named, Pulpit, Aisle, Lectern etc. The evening meal was in the Pennine Hotel with karaoke at 8 pm where Ray gave his rendition of 'Dancing Queen'.

Abba may not have been impressed but the cheers he got raised the roof and he received many generous contributions to the Alzheimer's fund (perhaps payments to prevent a repeat performance?).

 

Day 3 - Sunday 16th April - Kirkby Stephen to Ramshaw - 44 miles

The start of today was cold and wet and the high ground towards Tan Hill did not look inviting. We prepared with some trepidation for the 11 mile ascent to the Tan Hill Inn - Britain 's highest pub at 1762 feet above sea level. The rain stopped but there was a strong cold wind which fortunately was mainly behind us and assisted with the ascent. At Tan Hill we were joined by Graham and Kath, Graham accompanying us on our journey to Ramshaw.

We had a pleasant lunch stop at Tan Hill where Myra cuddled the pub's pet baby lamb, Tan, which had been curled up with the pub's pet dog at the fireside. On setting off again we followed the rough track across Sleightholme Moor where there was a bitterly cold wind blowing. It was Bernard's turn for a puncture.

Some of us stopped at Barnard Castle for coffees, where Ray managed to have another puncture. We all met up at the Bridge Inn at Whorlton where the generous locals contributed to the cause before we set off on the final leg of the journey towards Ramshaw. Time was getting on and we were all getting tired, only Enid, Pat and Margaret took up Kath and Graham's generous offer of tea and fruit cake at their cottage near Evenwood.

We arrived at the Bridge Hotel at Ramshaw for our overnight stop where we were joined for our evening meal by Kath and Graham. Portions were enormous and the meals were excellent - beef and chicken sizzlers were popular although Myra had Tan - sorry, I mean lamb! How could she?

 

Day 4 - Monday 17th April - Ramshaw to Sunderland - 42 miles

The breakfast was mind boggling, 2 rashers of bacon, 2 sausages, tomato, beans, mushrooms, black pudding, hash-browns and fried bread topped with 2 fried eggs. Even big Stevie Payne was unable to clear the lot and Ray even refused a sausage!

Graham kindly collected most of our luggage to save us carrying it on the final leg! We decided to join the northern loop. The route took us to Witton Castle where some mischievous persons had turned the signs round and we spent around 30 minutes trying to work out the direction. It was suggested that the culprits were Ken and Sue, who had gone on ahead, but this was later hotly denied!

Eventually we were on our way again to Willington, where we stopped for refreshments mid-morning at the 'New Inn' before carrying on to Durham. The off road track was mostly very good apart from a very steep descent on a loose ash surface to a stream and bridge followed by a sudden very steep ascent - the only climb even Stan, Myra, Steve and Ray didn't manage. Worries about negotiating the Durham City were unfounded as the route was well signposted and eventually followed the river for a while before ascending to Belmont.

We stopped for lunch at 'The Cross Keys', Sherburn. The pub didn't have food but sandwiches were available at the nearby Co-op. Sue took the collection box around and found people to be willing contributors. Everyone seems to know of someone who suffers from this dreadful disease.

For the final stretch we diverted from route 20 to follow route 14 and 1 through Haswell and down to Ryhope. The journey through Sunderland was extremely difficult due to a head wind and the traffic being heavy as the football derby match between Newcastle and Sunderland had just finished.

Crossing the Wearmouth Bridge was a nightmare as we walked our bikes across against the flow of masses of chanting Sunderland fans who were being escorted across by police dressed in riot gear. Eventually we got through and arrived at the Marina to complete our journey.

After dipping the cycle wheels in the North Sea and a final photograph we had a celebration drink in the Roker Hotel.

Myra produced a box of Celebration chocolates which were readily consumed by everyone, before final farewells and everyone dispersed to wearily cycle off to their homes. A brilliant weekend with great weather, company and cycling.

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