Biking Coast to Coast Family Adventure Capital

A journey’s never over til it’s over: C2C Sunderland

Written by Kirstie Pelling
C2C Sign

We followed these signs for a week across fell and moorland.
And then we reached the North East

A journey’s never over til it’s over: C2C Sunderland

A week after leaving the West Coast in Workington on our Winter Coast to Coast ride we were with reach of the East Coast near Sunderland. But a journey is never over until it’s over. And it’s not always when you expect it. But isn’t that the joy of adventuring. 

Never over til it’s over

Eight miles from the end of the Coast to Coast C2C Sunderland route and I get a puncture. I never get punctures. Except when I’m near the end of a ride and it’s getting dark. I blame the grit of the North East; there’s a glass shard of it stuck in my tyre. And it’s not just the tyre that’s deflated, so too are my hopes of finishing the C2C today. Although I sense Stuart may not feel the same. He never gives up.

In fading light Stuart works fast to fix the puncture, determined to finish the ride before dark

Does he never give up?

Puncture fixed we ride into Sunderland in the pitch black; pulling up at the Premier Inn; our hotel for the night. We’re out of repair patches now and Stuart notices an Argos store next door and insists we try and restock. How ridiculous with only four miles left to ride. While he browses through the catalogue for leeches and glue, the kids fill out forms requesting new Townsend Bikes and Boss Bikes. I love the naïve optimism they still have when it comes to their Dad.

“Must be a big Sunderland game tomorrow,” I say to Stuart after noting all the footie fans checking in. I’m worried about leaving the bikes outside the hotel. We’re only a mile or so from the Stadium of Light and the hotel staff have already mentioned security.

“We’re not leaving the bikes anywhere,” says Stuart. “We haven’t been to the sea yet.The ride isn’t over until we get to the sea.”

“But the kids have decamped. I think they’re already watching TV,” I say.

“Then get them out again, and we can get on our way.”

Arriving in the dark, the kids are tired and have had enough. And so have I!

We start to have a row, which is in turn interrupted by a brawl. But it isn’t the football supporters; it’s our own kids who are having a punch up in the hotel lobby. One is standing on the other’s head and another is lying on the floor clasping her knee and screaming. Stuart pulls them off each other while the football supporters look on in shock.

“Right, that’s it. We’re not going to finish the ride tonight!” shouts Stuart. He thinks it’s a punishment, but I can tell the children are relieved. He forces them to make a public apology to the lady on reception, who slips them sweeties, and gives them the keys to two rooms, with their own bed, delicious white sheets and a TV. Stuart is the only one left fuming.

The final countdown

River Wear and Stadium of Light

In the light we can see how close the River Wear and Stadium of Light are.
The end really is nigh.

Sunderland is different in daylight and so are we. For only the second time this week the sun shines on our backs, and our moods are transformed. We hop on the bikes and follow a gentle cycle path taking us along the River Wear. “How will we know when we get there?” asks Hannah.

“We’ll see the sea, simple as that. It’s how we started and how we end this journey,” I say.

In fact we are looking for a lighthouse and a C, as well as the sea. The route ends near the Roker Lighthouse where a C shaped sculpture marks the end of the route. We see the lighthouse but unknowingly cycle straight past the sculpture. Down on the beach we dip our bike wheels and toes into the sea in a ceremony that is a mirror image of that performed at Workington. Well almost. This time Cameron is first in. Having made the leap from a boy who was unsure whether he could even get to the end of the first day, to the child who has led us over the mountains, his confidence is sky high.

Beach at Sunderland

Down on the beach the closing ceremony takes place

You’ve got to dip your toes in to finish

“I’m not doing that,” says Hannah, who a week ago refused to dip her toes in at Workington. I reassure her she doesn’t need to. But she decides to play a game of chasing the wave and the wave wins. She wails about her wet feet all the way along the promenade.

We ask a local where the statue marking the end of the route might be, but he says he’s never heard of it. A few metres later we stumble across it. The information board says 15,000 a year do this route. Now it’s 15,005. We stick out heads through the C that marks the sea. It doesn’t look much like a C, but it’s no time to be picky. We can see a lighthouse. We have made it. We cycled from C2C. And it feels good.

C2C Sunderland

The final scuplture, not exactly a C, more like an O.
But who cares? We finished!

Have you taken on a family challenge?
Do leave a comment and tell us about it. 

See more of our Winter Coast to Coast (C2C) Photo Journals


We did this C2C ride across England, from Workington to Sunderland, as part of our Family Adventure Capital Season. We’re exploring different ways families can adventure together in and around Cumbria, sharing ideas and inspiration to encourage families to get out, get active and adventure together.<

Got some ideas for things we should try? Let us know.

About the author

Kirstie Pelling

Kirstie is the Editor of The Family Adventure Project. A professional writer and poet, she's the creative and journalistic force behind many of the stories and features published here. She's a co-founder and co-director of The Family Adventure Project and also works as the #poetinmotion producing and performing poetry for print, video and live performance.

1 Comment

  • I just love your scrapping, rows they are all a normal part of life but others don’t usually tell you about the bad times and the why do we do this to ourselves. Yu have made me laugh as we experienced the same thing years ago when we cycled with our kids.
    Brenda in the Boro Dan’s mam

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We're Kirstie & Stuart. We share an adventurous spirit, a passion for indie travel and 3 kids. The Family Adventure Project is our long term experiment in doing active, adventurous things together. Find out more...


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