9th July 2017
On the 9th of July six teachers set off to meet thirty six students in St Bee’s. The students were in Year 9 to Year 10 and five students from Year 11. Their mission was to cycle from coast to coast. A handful of students had cycled with us last year when we did the Way of the Roses coast to coast route, but to many this was all new. All of them had the extra challenge of carrying their gear and food and cooking their own meals on this trip. As we got to St Bee’s school we started to unload the bus and the students started to rock up just a couple of minutes later. Everyone was allocated a tent and they got in their sleeping groups and started to put up their tents and some parents stopped to help them out which was great. The images below shows us setting up at the school, which they so graciously let us use for free.
After they had set up the tents we ran through the safety of using the stoves and the students made their tea. They had kept their meals simple and some even had to ask how to cook Super Noodles, but this was soon to change once their knowledge and confidence grew. After they had made tea we took a one mile practice trip down to the coast to dip our toe, as in the morning we could then just set off from the school.
After we got back from our little trip to the coast it was time for a brief about the ride and the students used the stoves again to make hot drinks.
10th July 2017
When we woke the weather was horrible. Wet and cold. We found some shelter by the tennis courts and made our breakfast we then dropped our tents and loaded up our bikes ready to go.
When we were ready we posed for some group photos.
This day was going to be some hard riding. We had the Winlatter climb to do which takes you through some beautiful places. In the first couple of miles we had a few tears due to a lack of confidence and some self doubt about what they had taken on but once we settled the nerves we could crack on and prove there was nothing to worry about.
We went past some stone circles at the top of a steep climb and I told the kids to choose a stone and choose a pose.
We got to our first campsite which was Gill Head Farm. It was lovely and after the mileage we had done a shower was most welcome.
As soon as the tents has been erected we started with our cooking and the food they were concocting was getting more and more adventurous. The students bought supplies everyday at the final stop which we always ensured was a supermarket.
As you can see from the image above one of the 6th form students had packed away a small pizza oven which was used to create a whole manner of meals. Mr Robinson took advantage and heated up a rump steak.
11th July 2017
In the morning we woke up and got ready for the day ahead. It was a students birthday and her dad had given us a cake so we could celebrate the occasion before we set off.
Today we were making our way to Crossfells Campsite in Penrith. We stopped off at a cycle friendly cafe in Greystoke called the Quirky Cafe. They had laid out table and had a few quirky little chickens walking around.
When we got to the site the students got into campsite routine and put up their tents. There was never any complaining the whole trip about their routine each day, they just got stuck in and worked as a team to get the mission complete.
12th July 2017
The students woke up to sun after going through rain and cold each morning. This was a lovely surprise but they did need to get up Hartside today, so this new heat would add greater difficulty.
The students got into cooking breakfast once more and it was getting a slicker and slicker process each day.
The students worked hard and the pace was just right to get them to the top where they could stuff their faces in the cafe at the top to replace the lost calories.
In the evening we were to stop at a lovely campsite called Haggs Bank in Alston. This site had showers and we needed one after tackling Hartside in the sun.
As it got darker the midges started to come out and there were loads of them, a thick cloud of biting insects. Again, the students handled it and got in their tents after hot drinks.
13th July 2017
In the morning the midges were still vicious but we needed to put up with it, get our breakfast and set off. Today we would do a few climbs and one of them, the final one of the whole trip is a steep hill out of Stanhope.
Some beautiful cloud formations in the morning. Hopefully meaning good weather.
We stopped off in Allenheads for some snacks.
During the course of this ride the students rode through two counties within about the space of two hours.
We had lunch in Stanhope and did the steep climb out. When we got to the railway track at the top, the students were told by Mr Robinson that they had just completed the last climb of the trip. This resulted in a big cheer.
We rode into Consett which was our final nights accommodation. The rugby club were letting us use their facilities which was very kind of them. The club is very well managed and it was a nice place to put up a tent, but I have to admit the urban environment took a bit of getting used to. The students did have the pitch to kick around on, but it did start to rain which cut short the evening.
14th July 2017 – Final Day
We woke up wet and cold, but the rain had stopped. We packed up and made simple breakfasts as we needed to get rolling by 0800 to be on target to meet the parents between 1200 and 1300. We had realised over the last few days that our morning turn around time is two hours so we got up at 0600.
As we were riding the day just got warmer and warmer so we had to strip layers off as we took breaks.
As soon as we got into Newcastle by the Tyne it was time to start to take pictures.
We stopped in a cafe called The Cycle Hub, it is on the Tyne about 11 miles from the finish. At this location we gave awards and speeches to the students that had really stood out over the week. Everybody did an amazing job, but there were some students that had really become part of the team and realised that there was a bigger plan that needed to be finished and these students were rightly recognised for their effort. It was a brilliant location for the awards as we had outside seating all together in the courtyard.
The finish was getting close and like last year I picked some students to lead the team to the finish. On this ride the team were the Year 11’s as they had done both C2C rides and I really believe they love the lifestyle and zen of cycle touring. About 500 meters from the end I stopped the group and shook their hands. I could see parents in the distance. The Year 11’s took over and rode us in in style. As the students had to ride as part of a touring team they have to ride to the pace of the leader which is slower than they would like to ride. This is so we keep as a group, but also a pace to get them from one end of the country to the other in one piece and in a condition to enable them to ride again day after day. So at the finish I told the students to “unleash the beast” that had been tamed during the rest of the ride and they sprinted to the finish.
This was an amazing experience for the students. They were self sufficient and were trusted to look after their meals and to think about other people before thinking of themselves. The students returned that trust by behaving brilliantly. I was told by cafe owners how well behaved the students were and I was told by other cycle tourers how organised the students were to work together on the road to make an incredible team. I have always believed, but it highlighted to me how silly our modern ideas are. We blame, protect and restrict at all the wrong times and narrow the experiences and enjoyment of ourselves and our students. We need to be out and enjoy the world more and stop the fixation with man made systems within every sector of our world. Within education these are targets and qualifications, if they are enjoying what they are doing the rest will come automatically.
I need to thank a few people. Firstly the parents for allowing your children to undertake this task. Thank you for all the effort you put into fund raising and buying plus setting up bikes and gear. Your trust is greatly appreciated and I hope they have had a good time.
The students for responding to advice, working as a team and keeping us all safe on the road. I told the students at every opportunity, cycle touring is all about being professional from start to finish. We can’t just ride care free as a big group. We need to be organised and look out for each other. The students followed that advice and that is how we came over the line as one pack of fully trained cyclists, everyone that started, finished.
I would like to thank the leadership team at school that allowed the trip to go ahead. The finance team have been great keeping a track of the fund raising efforts and Debbie in the kitchen was brill getting her supplier to gives us some spare food for the journey.
The staff team Kirsty, Nic, Robbo, Andrew and Sue. Thank you for your effort, thank you for believing in the principles of a cycle trip. Your professionalism and zen is why this trip can go ahead.
A ‘normal’ bicycle does not need recharging and it does not prompt you for an update. With a simple bit of knowledge you can fix most breakages or get to some where to get it fixed. It saves our planet, saves our resources and can take you places you only dreamed of. So my advice would be don’t dream, ride bikes, have fun and see the world and empower yourself with the knowledge it is all done by you!