Slightly off the c2c trail came something I’ve wanted to visit for literally, weeks. Oh yes, the internet is a wonderful place! Joining the north and south banks of the Tyne is a genuine piece of proper cycling infrastructure – the Tyne pedestrian & cycle tunnel.
Going down... or up!
Traffic is segregated allowing a safe passage for both walkers and cyclists, as well as allowing cyclists a short burst of speed.
It’s only a few hundred metres long below ground, but it is nice!
The escalators at either end are able to cope with both bikes and people.
With London now home to a tunnelling academy, any chance they could build a ‘practice tunnel’ for pedestrians and cyclists?
So yes, I completed the coast 2 coast run, bar about 2 metres on the route where I pushed to let a van past! It was pretty epic adventure of which I will get round to writing more of, but for now the “essential” statistics:
Whitehaven – Tarn Flatts
Tarn Flatts – Whitehaven – Keswick – Skiddaw
Skiddaw – Hartside – Alston
Alston – Nenthad – Rookthorpe – Edmundbyers
Edmundbyers – Derwent Water – Shotley Bridge – Tynemouth – Newcastle via Jarrow
This weekend I attempted my longest bike ride yet, the target a pint of Darkstar’s finest at the Evening Star. This was always going to be a challenge and sadly I gave in 15 miles short in Haywards Heath. But not without some adventure and some lovely Southern scenery. Heading out from home the first stop was Crystal Palace, 17 miles down the road from home.
It's that tele mast again
A short pause for a quick snack and drink before an excellent run down the other side of the hill. At this point I wasn’t following a route map, just trying to point in vaguely the right direction. This was probably a mistake! Seeing signs for Bromley and Beckenham I turned westwards and ended up on the edge of Croydon near Selhurst. Not something I really wanted – Croydon is a very motorised place, fully of dual carriageways and car parks. This diversion easily added 2 miles compared with the route I could have taken by heading towards Beckenham. Oops. Eventually I fell out of the urban sprawl and onto country roads.
Frylands Wood, New Addington
The next pit stop at around 27.5 miles was a pub called the ‘White Bear’. It looked pretty good – a reasonable selection of ale, busy but not uncomfortable and the food looked fine. Some of the reviews online are less positive and it was £2 for a blackcurrent and soda – daylight robbery! Still, an ample chance to sit and take on board more liquid before heading southwards again. Unfortunately I haven’t figured out how to work my new gps toy properly yet – so ‘mile 27’ apparently took 44 minutes to complete…
So here comes the ranty bit. In my planning I’d looked up a couple of routes, using CycleStreets and Sustrans. I really don’t know why I bother with the latter – I’m more and more convinced each time I try a Sustrans route that it’s been designed for someone with a 4×4 and bike rack who likes a slow pedal at the weekend.
This is 'national cycle route 21'
NCN 21 is Sustrans London to Brighton route, or more specifically Greenwich to Brighton route. So perhaps you might expect that connecting two cities it is a well paved, waymarked route allowing comfortable progress of 10-15 miles per hour. I’m not exactly Chris Boardman after all. Sadly it isn’t. Just 100 metres after finding the route at the White Bear, it turned into a muddy ditch. Since destroying my pedals on the way to Southend (and possibly the other rides before that) my bike is currently out of action waiting new pedals and retirement in the north. This mean’s I have Ruth’s Trek road bike – it’s not designed for this and this slowed me right down to 5-8 mph.
Spot the sign
The route is waymarked, but these are often small hidden dark coloured signs on dark trees. Admittedly not a great photo but if you can spot the sign good on you!
Sign in Context
As soon as the next sign pointed onto another track, I gave up on NCN 21 and took to using maps and minor roads. By Caterham (mile 32) I was getting ready for the next break – but instead I got held up, by a carnival! This 5 minute wait proved a useful little boost.
Just over 35 miles, the pit stop proper arrived – the Caterham viewpoint. It’s a great view with the M25 completely hidden from the top. You can still hear it though – in the distance, the South Downs and the next lot of challenges.
By this stage I had started to flag a bit – I’m not convinced I’ve got the diet right on a ride to provide the optimum level of energy. At mile 42 I found another pub to take on water, the Dog and Duck close to the village of Outwood. I was fast running out of afternoon and it started to become clear that I wouldn’t get to Brighton, at least, not if I wanted to get home at a sensible hour. So I switched the target to beat 55 miles so that at least I’ve cycled further in a day than I’ve walked!
Ouse Valley Viaduct
The Ouse Valley Viaduct just outside Haywards Heath provided a last breathtaking scene, this time man made countryside as the road dips down just above the river before climbing into Haywards Heath itself. Arriving just after 6pm, it had taken me 8 hours to travel the 57.6 miles – with stops. According to the GPS thingy, a moving average of 10mph, with my actual moving time being just under 6 hours.
Onto a train by half 6 and back in London sometime around 1915 leaving time for one last photograph.
Looking up - The Shard
It’s not long now until ‘the big one’ – the c2c ride from Whitehaven to Tynemouth. Our maximum distance per day is around 45 miles. Now it’s just the hills to worry about!
Having become rather engrossed in cycling in the last few weeks, I’ve missed out on all kinds of writing, including some about cycling. For a change, here’s a post about a highlight of our Paris trip: Versailles, specifically the palace. I can’t believe it’s been two months!
Feeding the revolution / Let them eat ice cream
About 40 minutes out of Paris on the RER train, it really isn’t Paris. Having learned a little of Versailles and it’s role in both French and world history, I don’t think I’d really seen any pictures before so the scale of the place was a bit of a shock. The gardens seem to go on for ever – actually in the shot below, the ‘official’ gardens (the bit you pay to get into) stop on the other side of the circular fountain pond in the middle of the photo. The long square lake is now outside of the grounds.
Down the garden
Apart from being famed for being the home of many King Louis and where the blame for world war I was decided, it is home to some ‘musical fountains’. The musical bit is rather cheesy to be honest – recorded classical music pumped through 3′ (1m) high speakers! I guess in the days of the French Kingdom, they were accompanied by live orchestra. Times have moved on, savings to be made etc etc.
The fountains themselves are very impressive. All manner of shapes created just through spinning and adjusting water pressure, synchronised with the piped music.
Only one of the fountains runs all day – so you should probably plan a trip better than we did if you want to really make the most of it. Having arrived around lunchtime, we saw the huge queues for the palace and headed straight for the gardens. We’d pretty much arrived as they turned the fountains off a few hours! It did mean we could wander freely and get a chance to feel the scale of the gardens and by mid-afternoon we could easily get into the palace anyway – and come back to the fountains, knowing where the more impressive jets were likely to be. Each fountain is different and there are few hidden behind tall bushy hedges.
Marble arch - expensive stone carvings around a fountain
Having taken on the size of both the house and gardens, I could really empathise with the French revolutionaries – no bread, yet the King had musical fountains, vast tracts of land and gold everywhere.
Cash my gold!
The inside of the palace is just as ornate and golden. We didn’t bother with an audio guide which meant we missed some of the key information on which rooms were historically important – just guessing and appreciating whatever information we could take in. Still, it was well worth the trip out of Paris for and good to take in a different French atmosphere for a day.
Finally, a helpful tip – if you’re under 26 and an EU resident, the EU pays for a lot of these attractions and even where they don’t you usually get some kind of discount.