Today has been a tough day… especially a tough afternoon. The morning was like a roller coaster as we had 6 big climbs… up down, up down, up down… you get the picture. Then, on the last and steepest hill, just after lunch, Ruby’s battery failed. You can imagine the tantrum… but I did it… eventually. We are now at the hotel in Stanley… in bed… full of Italian food.
After breakfast, we packed everything away and left the B&B, heading straight uphill through Alston… a bit of a shock to the system! On Alston Moor, there were signs warning us about the steep descent into Nenthead, which is a cycling accident back spot. We summited Nunnery Hill before dropping down and, surprisingly, it wasn’t too bad, thanks to our bikes’ disc brakes. Phew! In Nenthead, we stopped at the Hive cafe, which is in a beautiful, old Wesleyan Chapel.
The second climb was up Black Hill to the Cumbria Northumberland border. This is the highest point on the C2C at 609m and the moors seemed to stretch for miles in every direction. Once we had time to get our breath back, there was yet another climb over Swinhope Moor. At least this one was shorter. After this we dropped down into Allenheads, another pretty village. Unfortunately, it wasn’t time for another cafe stop yet!
The fourth climb from Allenheads was a long one, up to 536 metres and the County Durham border… 3 counties in one day! We’ve seen lots of interesting landscape, with lead and coal mines and lovely scenery in all directions. We discussed coming back in the campervan to explore properly.
In the meantime, the ride downhill to Rookhope was very enjoyable, with a perfect gradient for coasting downhill, without clutching at the brakes. We didn’t stop here, deciding to head to the next town, Stanhope for lunch… climb number five, which we could see stretching ahead of us for miles!
We rode through Stanhope looking for a cafe. It looks a pretty place, with lots to see, including a castle and gardens. After a break for lunch, it was time for the final climb…what a nightmare!
I was convinced Ruby had enough battery left to get up this hill. I’d been very careful, not using the red setting, which I know drains the battery unless I had to. The road out of Stanhope became very steep very soon, and I put the battery on red and was doing ok. Then, all of a sudden, I felt the power subside. I looked down and could see the motor light flashing. The battery had practically run out.
I could have cried! How did that happen? I ground to a halt, my legs and lungs burning, and John pulled up beside me as I tried to explain what had happened. ‘It’s ok’, he said, ‘we’ll push the bikes until it flattens out’. ‘We can’t!’ I wailed, ‘there are 4 kilometres of climbing to go!’. He did his best to try and calm me down, offering to push his bike all the way to the top and then come back for mine. Then I had a tantrum ‘don’t be stupid’ you can’t do that when the hill’s so steep and long’. Somehow, he calmed me down and , when we reached a flatter section, I got back on the bike and started cycling again.
I just did a bit of the hill at a time, peddling hard until my legs and lungs gave out, climbing just 25 metres of ascent at a time, until I had to stop again to recover. At one point near the bottom of the hill, a motorist had shouted to warn us that the road was covered in gravel for miles. He was right and lorries and trucks kept passing us at speed, spitting gravel at us, while we tried not to lose our grip and ground our way uphill. It really was unpleasant! I did it though, and we finally reached the turning for Parkhead Station.
From here, we followed the Waskerley Way, which follows the route of the former railway that transported coal between Stanhope and Tyne Dock in South Sheilds. It was a fairly easy ride on cinder and tarmac trails, with a gentle downhill gradient. At first the view was over moorland and Waskerley Reservoir, but it gradually changed to farmland and became more urban.
As we approached Consett, we crossed the Howsgill Viaduct which was built to take the railway over a dry ravine in 1858. By now, I was really tired and struggling… my hands, legs, back and bum all hurt! I really didn’t do enough training for such long and difficult days. At one point, I felt like crying, especially when the signpost indicated that it was further to Stanley than I thought! Then, at Consett, we kept having to stop to go through gates and cross main roads and it felt as though we were never going to get to our hotel.
Finally, after a stop for a drink and some ginger nut biscuits at an interesting sculpture, we reached Stanley. It wasn’t over yet though…. I’d booked a hotel up yet another hill! I switched my motor back on, hoping the dregs of the battery would help me, and I dug deep. We peddled hard up to a roundabout then, after a rest to get our breath back, turned up toward the hotel and, finally, we had finished!
We have a very long day tomorrow… 100 kilometres… to Sunderland, Newcastle and back inland to Hexham. At least there won’t be as many hills! I just hope my poor aching body can manage it. Time will tell!