Following our introduction to cycle touring by Pat, Bob, Su and Keith in 1997, we decided to give it a go ourselves. Having cycled along the Sustrans 'West Country Way' route last year we thought we would try some more Sustrans cycling. What is the route that had been in the news and was the best known part of the National Cycle Network? Answer: The 'Sea to Sea (C2C) Cycle Route'............That's it then.
Sustrans official introduction describes the Coast to Coast:
"Heather clad in Summer, snow capped in winter, this remote area may be wild on any day of the year. But, given good weather, the North Pennines have the most beautiful, empty countryside to be found in all of England. The C2C is 140 miles long, based on minor roads and 56 miles of traffic-free paths. It should ideally be ridden from west to east, giving the benefit of prevailing westerly winds - the hills are like waves with steep western faces and long sloping backs encouraging long downhills. Short sections may have to be walked; a pleasant experience, without heavy traffic to contend with. Some parts are high, rugged and exposed. The wild central sections will always remain a challenge. Even in summer please take note of the weather forecast, take suitable clothing and supplies."
We had been warned - "challenge" is the word.
So never having cycle toured carrying our own luggage before we bought two pairs of fairly cheap panniers to go with the 'Pink Peril', Sheila's hybrid bicycle and John's Trek mountain bike. And then packed far too much, mostly using the fairly heavy outdoor gear we took with us when mountain walking.
There are alternative starts and finishes and we opted for a start in Whitehaven and finish in Sunderland. We decided to travel by train - Lymington, Brockenhurst, London, Newcastle, Whitehaven, and return, Durham, London, Brockenhurst, Lymington.
With our planned extension from Sunderland back to Durham our total route distance would be 177 miles so we decided to split it into five cycling days, with a shortest day of 27 miles and the longest 50 miles. In addition to the official Sustrans map we bought a C2C guide book , which proved to be a useful aid to navigation in a few places and also had lists of accommodation. We booked B&B accommodation for six nights.