Land's End to John O'Groats 2012
Stockton on Tees to Berwick upon Tweed - Thursday, 2nd August
Dave had obviously had a longer sleep than the rest of us and was up and off early.
The Lodge staff were there to make breakfast and they very kindly put several loads of dirty cycling kit through their washing machine and tumble dryer. After full cooked breakfast there was considerable activity. Gav's bike had new tyres fitted, the other Lodge guests had their pictures taken with the torches, Haydn refitted his wheels after a bearings rebuild, we were put through an intensive warm up routine by Jen and did some extensive faffing whilst the laundry cycle completed. We eventually left just before 10.00 am.
We followed the A177 north, diverting off briefly through Sedgefield, then climbed the hill over to Coxhoe and down to cross the A1(M) at Bowburn. The road continued down through Shincliffe to meet the River Wear before climbing up and over into Durham itself, crossing the Wear once more on New Elvet. We navigated round to the Market Square, our first planned stop.
The square was very busy with shoppers enjoying the warm sunshine, an American Indian music troupe were performing in the middle. It wasn't immediately obvious where to park the van and this was made more urgent when Alex arrived followed by a Police car. As gridlock ensued, Rob went to talk to the Police and they kindly pointed to a spot at the bottom of the Square and told us to reverse in. What followed was one of the highlights of the tour.
People of all ages waited to have their pictures taken with the torches and were so kind and generous. Joanne and John arrived with Rebecca and we took more photographs. The American Indians joined-in with some of the pictures and it was just a wonderful atmosphere, I never stopped smiling. The Durham Constabulary were brilliant, as well as allowing us to park in a largely pedestrian area, two Officers had their pictures taken, swopping truncheons for torches with Rob and Haydn. Our fundraising for BTRS took a significant boost, with hundreds of donations posted into the buckets. Regrettably, after about an hour we had to leave. We arranged to meet Joanne and John again at the Angel of the North.
Alex pulled out of the Square and we followed along the A690 across the River Wear for the final time. The A691 took us up Framwellgate past the Council Offices and Dryburn Hospital to meet the A167 at Aykley Heads roundabout. It was a very pleasant ride along the A167 dual carriageway past Pity Me and Plawsworth. After Chester le Street, the road ran parallel to the A1 through Birtley and up Newcastle Bank to a large roundabout. We stopped just the other side of the A1 in a lay-by at the splendid Angel of the North.
photograph by John Ashton - team at the Angel of the North
Joanne and John were there together with Gav's family who had brought food including some very tasty tea-loaf. It was another enjoyable interlude, sitting on the Angel's feet posing for pictures and enjoying the sunshine. I discovered that my rear mudguard was catching on the tyre whilst pushing the bike back to the road. I found my tools in the van and adjusted the mudguard away from the wheel.
My fresh laundry was retrieved from Joanne and we said our good-byes, it'd be at least another week until I saw her again. The team thanked John for his support, especially during the previous evening illuminating the way into Stockton. There was another faff whilst we agreed the plan for meeting Rob's Newcastle colleagues who were providing food and support somewhere in Gateshead.
We cycled through Low Fell and on down through Gateshead to reveal a fine view of the magnificent Sage Theatre. Alex took us on a short tortuous route to the ramp leading up to the Sage's car park where we found Rob's colleagues on top on the right. It was very kind of them to supply us with food and drink and advice for the next stage of the journey through Newcastle. It really is a wonderful vista along the Quayside with the Millennium Bridge, Baltic Gallery, Tyne Bridges and of course the Sage itself. It was our ambition to cycle the Tyne Bridge and we could see the Olympic Rings emblazoned on its side.
It seemed that Alex and Jen would have to drive the van around the city centre so we arranged to meet them again somewhere north of Newcastle. Just after 3.30 pm, we cycled across the Tyne Bridge then across a roundabout up to Pilgrim Street. This morphed into the pedestrianised Northumberland Street, so we dismounted and pushed the bikes through the throng up to Haymarket. Cycling again, we joined the Great North Road out of the city through Gosforth. Still heading north, we eventually reached the A1 at North Brunton and rolled round to the McDonalds opposite the Marriott Hotel, both landmarks which we could use to guide Alex. Given the opportunity, I had the usual deli chicken large meal to top up the calories.
After the van arrived, we set off again but I soon discovered that my rear tyre was flat. Instead of messing around, Haydn helped me switch wheels and my spare was utilised again, we were soon underway. Following the van, we made a slight navigational blunder and instead of heading up to Seaton Burn and Bedlington we were on the A189 cycling into Cramlington and a minor road 'cul de sac'. We realised something was amiss when we left the A189 then a mile or two later rejoined it again. Perhaps the sat nav was favouring an A19/A1 route, eventually we pulled up beside the A192/A189 roundabout at Shankhouse for a chat. Looking at the map, we really had no alternative but to blast up the A189 dual carriageway around Ashington.
Soon we reached the A1068 and our intended route up the Northumbrian coast. We passed through Widdrington and Amble before stopping on the bridge in Warkworth for our 60 mile break. This was a lovely spot, Jen made us some protein shakes with whole milk, egg yokes and cream. They were lovely as long as you avoided the egg whites running down the road. There then followed another navigational discussion. After the Durham, Angel and Gateshead stops, we didn't have enough time for the longer coastal route around Seahouses and Bamburgh. With regret therefore, we agreed to join the A1 at Alnwick and once more blast up a dual carriageway.
Despite this, it's a lovely ride through Lesbury and Hawkhill up into Alnwick. We followed the A1 signs in Alnwick and completed a large triangle by turning left and passing underneath our starting point after a few miles. With Alex and the van as protection, we made excellent progress along the long climbs and sweeps of the road. It was getting late so we agreed that we should find an evening meal en-route to save time on arrival in Berwick. Alex and Jen drove off ahead on a scouting mission and soon came across the Purdy Lodge at Adderstone. We parked the bikes outside where we could see them and had an excellent meal in the restaurant.
Now it was becoming seriously late. It was a 'head down' job as we piled into the darkness past Easington, Fenwick and Haggerston. It was ironic that I'd tried so hard in my route planning to avoid the A1, now here we were taking advantage of this main highway in order to reach our destination in any sort of reasonable time. I remember bowling along as a foursome, trying to maintain the pace, not much of a view, reprising John Denver to maintain moral.
The Berwick turning emerged out of the darkness and we rolled into town and across the Tweed. The Travelodge was on the road out of town to the north, on the left near Morrisons and a McDonalds. We unloaded the stuff, performed the usual room allocation ritual and retired to bed.