Thank you. Over and out.

Every stop we made

Every stop we made

Some people cover the miles we’ve done twice as fast, some do it slower. Some do a lot further, some do shorter. Some cycle, some may rather swim or walk or climb or run. Some people camp, some b&b it, like us. Some carry tons, some get sherpas to carry it for them, others just smell…like us!

However you do it and whatever personal challenge you do, it’s an adventure that is unquestionably enjoyable. Whether you sweat blood and tears to achieve it or do it more leisurely and luxuriously, the sense of achievement is worth every metre or mile, every pound (£ or lb) and every swear word.

Thank you so much to the many people who have supported us, with sponsorship or texts or comments on the blog, or both. We really appreciated that! You get such a boost from people you know and love, or met on the way, cheering you on.

It’s so crucial to feel supported – and in life generally, too. Everybody has proverbial hills to climb and challenges to conquer and we’ve surely all felt the benefit of having people there to help push you through.

Many people have even told us that they’re proud of us. That certainly adds to the sensational feeling of achievement and is wonderful to hear.

The best thing of all, though, is being proud of yourself.

Going back to Ecotherapy- that’s a common problem with depression. Everyone may perceive you as a successful individual that they like or admire or are proud of but that individual may FEEL entirely the opposite about themself.

Doing something like this redresses that balance and allows you to bask in your own sense of self satisfaction. And why shouldn’t you?!

So, whilst we wholeheartedly endorse Ecotherapy, we’ve come up with our own, slightly altered approach:

PhysicalChallengetherapy
1) Get outdoors to clear your mind and put things into perspective
2) Find an activity you gain a lot of enjoyment from
3) Get your endorphins and adrenaline pumping
4) Get people you love coming out of the woodwork to cheer you on from the rooftops
5) Achieve something to be proud of and, most importantly…
6) Get self-satisfied!

So… in case you’re feeling inspired or depressed or just temporarily delusional, we thought we’d write a few hints and tips for you, should you want to do the same, or similar:

– Don’t avoid areas of natural beauty because they’re hard! If we did it again we’d go straight through the heart of the hilly Peak District and Yorkshire Moors; some of the most enjoyable moments of our trip were the hardest- Cornwall, Devon, Northumberland.

– Treat yourself to a day of luxury at the end.

– Do it for charity. Why not help a cause you’re interested in whilst you’re enjoying yourself?

– Do a blog. It’s a great way to gain support and to show people who sponsor you what they’re doing it for.

– Stretch yourself but make it achievable for you. Don’t bite off more than you can chew but remember that if you have time to train, it’s surprising how fit you can get before you go.

– Obviously, planning makes it all the better. Being married to Tim means we were meticulously organised (spreadsheets at hand!) and all set for every eventuality, but that made such a difference to the ease of it.

Thank you again to everyone for your enthusiastic interest and support. We had a wail of a time but you made it even more special for us. Here’s to generous people, gorgeous English countryside and the work that Mind do to help people live happily.

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Day 15 – Alnwick to SCOTLAND!

16 Alnwick to Scotland

Greetings from Scotland…

We’re here in Berwick after reaching the Scottish border on the A1 this afternoon-the most northerly point of England accessible by bicycle.

It’s been a really lovely day of cycling, putting us in mind of our time in Cornwall and Devon and reminding us how much we love Northumberland and it’s vastness and remoteness.

Climbing out of Alnwick, it’s little time before you’re in the quiet Northumbrian back lanes.So quiet, in fact, that you can hear the whirr of your bike chain over what little wind blows in from the sea. It’s been at least five or six days since we’ve enjoyed a ride this peaceful, without the drone of distant roads or the thunder of motorcycles from across the valley.

We’ve cycled here before and it’s not hard to remember why we love it so much; open landscapes, gentle coastlines and remote,stony lanes only farmers usually see.

We were accompanied by Lindisfarne in the distance from lunchtime onwards and gained a peek or two at the odd castle turret, as we followed the NCN1 ‘Coast and Castle’ route further north (a detour from the planned route pictured above, after realising we’d have spent most of the day on the A1).

Reaching the cost for the final five miles to Berwick, Gill likened the feeling to the end of the Manchester 10K. You can see the finish line from the other end of Deansgate, the adrenaline starts pumping as you finally reach the vicinity of your end point, the excitement builds…then you realise you’ve still got some work to do to get there.

Seeing Berwick appear around a coastal corner was a great moment though and worth taking a minute to let sink in before we pedalled on.

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A quick offload of our baggage in No11b and we’re off to make the final four miles to the Scottish border.

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Post curry and beer and it still hasn’t really sunk in. It feels like we could have just as well arrived here on the train in time for tea. Apart from how utterly knackered we are. It does feel fantastic to be here though and as the reality of what we have achieved starts to emerge, we’re sure there’ll be lots more to reflect on in the coming days.

For now though, all that’s on the menu is a relaxing coffee, a stroll around the walls, a cream tea and lots and lots of sleep.

Day 14 – Durham to Alnwick

15 Durham to Alnwick

A day of variety; cities and coasts, old and new, peaceful lanes and busy roads, beautiful sunshine one minute and lashing down the next. But the rain had gusto which brought with it adrenaline and lots of fun as we “Woo-hooed!” through the puddles.

Leaving Durham was a hilly start that our bed heads weren’t quite ready for but the lovely views across fields back to the castle and cathedral soon woke us up. Regardless, we couldn’t have stayed blurry eyed for long; freewheeling down the hills at full pelt and flying up the other side, until momentum slowly dwindled, was like Blackpool’s The Big One, where you just hope to God the ride doesn’t break down before you reach the top.

Very soon we spotted the Angel of the North in the distance as we rode through a few suburbs and before we knew it, it was right in front of us. Similarly, only a few miles on and we were suddenly riding over the Tyne Bridge in bustling Newcastle where we stopped for a cappuccino and chatted with a lovely couple from Stoke.

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After a taking a long cut to avoid prolonging a dodgy, unintended moment on a fast, wet dual carriageway, we rang our bells in joy as we passed the sign welcoming us to Northumberland-our final county.

Finally the sea came in to view, slowly rising up from behind sand dunes as we rode uphill along the coast for a well earned lunch break overlooking the waves, which we hadn’t seen since Padstow.

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Gill’s knees were getting a bit grumpy for the last few miles but a long stretch of beautiful coastal path took her mind off it…

…and then lovely Warkworth Castle and village eased us along and in to the familiar, much-loved Alnwick.

Round every corner today we’ve been looking for a rainbow but it proved elusive until we arrived here in Alnwick, where it shone boldly, saying: “One day to go!”

Day 13 – Thirsk to Durham

14 Thirsk to Durham

It’s Gill in charge of the blog again tonight:

The chap at tonight’s hotel in Durham has just described today’s journey as “a ‘canny’ ride,” which means one thing-we’ve made it to the North East!

This morning we thought we were winning as we flew through the first 26 miles, really enjoying the landscapes which were, at times, not unlike the quintessential shots of Tuscany or Provence, with terracotta roofs nestled amongst bottle green trees at the edge of sloping hayfields bathed in sunlight. All this pleasantly punctuated by the lovely market towns of Northallerton and Yarm which we rubber-necked at as we whizzed through them.

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Was it more downhill than yesterday or were we just feeling the benefit of Colin and Heidi’s home-cooked lasagne?! Who knows? But unfortunately our fuel ran out soon after half-way. Perhaps after cycling around 550 miles, this isn’t surprising.

So, after scoffing some more calories we struggled along roughly 20 miles of a National Cycle Network route; a pleasant, flat, disused railway line, now a tunnel of trees, that would be perfect for a little 5 mile jaunt but was actually a bit relentless for today. Although it’s great to have these routes (they’re super convenient, far better than being on a busy road and picturesque) you just can’t help but think of the countryside that you can’t see, lying just outside of the narrow endless stretch in front of you.

Eventually we turned off it but then headed in to a dubious area called Haswell. I’m not sure if it’s my imagination born of snobbery or a fact true to many small, isolated towns (be they poor or affluent) but I felt no more welcome than I wanted to be there as people flicked they’re eyes over me, smile-lessly. Then the town abruptly ended and spat you out, like a McDonald’s wrapper tossed out of a car window, only to land in a vast expanse of country hills below you.

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Once again we zoomed down country roads enjoying fresh air in our face and watching our odometer click closer and closer to 53 miles. And suddenly, there was Durham Cathedral, towering above everything around it, dominating the valley below us. Coasting further towards it through Old Durham Gardens, we commented on what a lovely approach to the city it was.

At last, with only a mile to go, we reached the river path that would take our tired legs all the way to the… uh-oh! River path closed! Diversion?!

Ugh!! So we forced our bikes up and up and up a steep bank of forest, nettles stinging and bike peddles smashing our legs, shoulders trembling from the strain of pushing our heavy, pannier bearing bikes over such bumpy ground and up such steep gradient. We cursed and could have cried but eventually the forest descended back to the river path and we arrived in this exquisite city to find a four-poster bed and a bath waiting for us! Not forgetting a stunning city to whet our appetite for a future weekend break and to remind us how much we love this country- warts and all!

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Day 12 – Selby to Thirsk

13 Selby to Thirsk

Passing right through the centre of York and past Easingwold on the way to Thirsk, we managed to pass by not one but two friends, without (intentionally) going miles off route, and made the most of the relatively short day to spend time relaxing with pals.

A GPS/planning fail meant our 47 miles turned into something more like 52 but thankfully the Vale of York has little in the way of hills.

A combined disused railway/astronomy lesson between Selby and York made for an easy start to the day, entering York literally through the racecourse track and following the Ouse into the city.

A splendid couple of hours in the sun outside the Minster with Andrea and Amber, to the accompaniment of the bustle of one of the country’s loveliest cities made for a perfect lunch spot.

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The sun shined for the rest of the afternoon, as we took in more hay fields, back roads and a prime spot to watch the practice manoeuvres of old war planes at RAF Linton on the way for some top hospitality with Colin, Heidi and Alda (their food is scrummy-if you want proof, visit one of their Dough shops; fluffy focaccia, crumbly cookies and gelato from the classrooms of the ice cream university in Italy!)

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It was just 15 miles more to our destination, as we took in the last of the evening sunlight along with the farmers, catching the last of the light to finish their work for the day.

Passing through lovely little Sowerby, near Thirsk, with the low glare of the sun and long shadows, we were greeted ‘good evening’ by late evening dog walkers, couples out walking to digest their tea and folk watering their flower beds after the day’s heat. It’s the best time of day to be outside. Everyone seems to have eased off the gas for the day – Ecotherapy at its best!

And so to another bed for the night, surprisingly luxurious on this occasion with a bath and with a large glass of red to wash the day down with.

Day 11 – Belper to Selby

12 Belper to Selby

We don’t do mornings with any finesse, and it’s getting harder for the both of us to wake up every day. However, when at 10am you already have 10 miles behind you and you’re standing on top of your first big climb, overlooking a stunning vista of the edge of the Peaks, you’ve forgotten how hard it was (and how very odd last night’s accommodation and this morning’s breakfast was!).

There’s also the strange sensation that, no matter how stiff your legs are over breakfast or how tired you feel, after 20 mins there’s nowhere you’d rather be than on the bike. All the aches and pains are gone. It’s as if your muscles are crying out to be back at it.

More satisfaction is gained from fitting in as many “Good morning!”s as you can to passers-by and other early risers. Our training rarely commenced earlier than 10am so it feels extra special.

Climbing away from the Peaks, through Chesterfield, it’s not long before you feel like you’re on top of the world…

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Unbelievably though, 500 yards later and we’re cycling over the M1, which we rode parallel to, and heard, for the following 10 miles.

It’s during moments like this, or along the final 20 miles of flat, straight road of today’s journey, that Tim is particularly proud to be married to, and sharing this adventure with Gill. It’s moments of monotony like this that you can always rely on Gill to perk things up with her dulcet tones as she composes a new song for us to enjoy…!

I like being on my bike
I really do
When there’s a beautiful view
But it doesn’t matter
If ever it’s flatter
Or if it gets crap
If there’s sun on my back
But I like the views more
Because they don’t make me
BORED!
Tim likes it too
If there’s a beautiful view
Oh, how I like
Being on my bike

Anyway, the two hardest days now done and we’re off to bed.

Day 10 – Warwick to Belper

11 Warwick to Belper

Twenty-five miles in and this was the picture…

And so it was leaving Warwick, working our way in and out of Coventry (won’t be going back in a hurry!) and finally getting back to somewhere scenic.

It was, and will be, our longest day (at 68 miles),we have burgers in front of us and we want to go to bed. As such, here are a few quick highlights:

– Receiving a toot from the Bosworth Battlefield Line steam train.
– Doing the conga in Congastone.
– The Heather scarecrow festival.
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– Drying-off in the sun over lunch and having it shine for the rest of the afternoon.
– The Cloud Trail helping us make up for lost time on the way to Derby.

What countryside we saw today was similar to what had gone before but approaching Belper, on the other side of Derby, the odd hill popping up showed hints of our return to the North and the closest we’ll come to home. We both beamed when we saw this…
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PS. Although we thought today we’d hit half way, it turns out that half way was actually Warwick.So…hurray!