Castles Relay 2010, Saturday, June 19, 2010

280 miles

Surviving Striders at the finish

Thanks to all…

Brilliant effort from all the runners who ran 280 combined miles: Geoff W, Dave S, Louise B, George Nic, Dave R, Barry Bird, Paul Gibson, Gary Davies, Mike B, Angela, John Everett, Andy Glass, Melanie, Keith Wesson and guy who ran same leg, sorry don’t know your name, Roz L, Ian Graham, Graham Daglish, Nina, Jan, Will H, Shaun, Nigel H. Barrie E. Steph. And supporters: Tony Young, Roz Roberts, Lynne, Heather, Lesley H, Ronnie, Bob Layton.

Biggest thanks to Geoff and Dave, our expert relay organisers, who spent weekends sussing the route, setting up maps! We were lucky with the weather, although Saturday was windy, we were blown along and the beaches were spectacular.

Total raised so far, £228. Next year, Whitby to Durham has been suggested, again incorporating coastal scenery and inland tracks.

Geoff Watson

Day 1

This year’s sport relief charity relay started on what turned out to be a very cold and windy day for June. An early start on Saturday morning saw the team van with David at the wheel leave Chester le Street at 7am with Louise, Graham and Geoff onboard. A swift journey north brought us to blustery Berwick upon Tweed at 0830 am. David and I were curious, as we had been on our recce’s, why so many farms in Northumberland have quite large industrial chimneys? Forges or other industry? Answers on an email! David suggested a bacon roll and duly went off to acquire some. Barry and Heather soon arrived. David returned with a bag of fresh pasties instead and the first leg runners, Louise and Geoff, went up onto the ramparts of Berwick town for the start at 9am (be careful of the sheer drop!).

Leg 1

The wind was blowing a gale and it was freezing. The north sea was a frenzy of white froth whipped up by the strong north westerly. A surfers paradise no doubt.There was not much time for standing around, so a few photo’s and with no sign of Will and Ronnie we sneaked off at 8:55am. Down Wallace Green, left onto Marygate, down through the centre, right turn and onto the old bridge over the Tweed. A great view of the viaduct to the right and out to sea on the left. We then ran along the quayside south picking up the cycle network 1. Along the main street before climbing up onto the headland adjacent to the main east coast line. Now past the town the coast path opened up in front of us witht the sea raging below us. Louise donned her head band to control her uncontrollable hair in the wind! We passed by Scremerston and onto road again towards the Cocklawburn nature reserve. Along here we passed groups of school kids on their Duke of Edinburgh expeditions. A few cyclists and walkers too. At the end of road we hit the track again, ran past a silent gun battery dating from World War 2 facing south across Cheswick bay. Soon we could see the van at Cheswick and we rolled in 5 mins ahead of schedule to hand over to George Nicholson for the next leg (accompanied by Louise).

Leg 2

George Nicholson, Dave Robson and myself set off from Fenham crossing a field and then carefully over the main east coast railway. We then entered a field of oilseed rape which was almost shoulder height. The farmer had made an effort to trample down a path but the plants were still a foot off the ground. We struggled through this for some 500 metres bouncing along on the spongy surface. We thankfully eventually got out of the field, passed through Fenwick Steads and through another field. A brief spell on the A1 took us to the Easington Grange turn and road for the rest of the way. George was looking a little tired now after his second leg and didn’t believe my reassurance that it’s “not far now”. At Easington Grange we handed over to Paul Gibson and Barry Bird.Miraculously we were still on schedule!

George Nicholson

Leg 2

9.50am at Cheswick Myself & Louise

Got to Cheswick in good time, not quite sure of exact meeting point so I was very relieved to see Camper Van, cars, and ‘support’ team already parked up. Very windy ( but thankfully blowing in the right direction ie at our backs ) Geoff & Louise soon came into view over the dunes – minimal delay on changeover allowed ( poor Louise ! ) and then she & I set off towards Golf club, past the beachcomber house. Geoff’s earlier words of ‘comfort’ were ringing in my ear at this point ” this used to be a military range and there may be munitions lying around “. Thankfully we survived, and carried on to follow the high tide line round the coast. Great views of Lindisfarne ( the Island, not the Group ) . Cars & Ice Cream van were lined up at the Holy Island crossing point waiting for the tide to ‘go out’. We did fancy stopping for a 99 but knew Dave & Geoff would object ! From here we followed the St Cuthbert Way path for a while before turning back onto the Coastal Path again. Electric fence to negotiate at one point- Louise coped, but I couldn’t get my leg over ( guess it’s an age thing ). Spirits were lifted by the warm welcome of the support team at the remote hamlet of Fenham.

Leg 3

10.45 am at Fenham. minimal delay again at this changeover (poor George !) and set off with Dave Robson & Geoff.

Geoff apologised for this being mostly a ‘tarmac’ leg, so I guess it shouldn’t have been a surprise after 5 minutes of tarmac to have to cross a very large field of waist high, ankle tugging, ‘triffids’ !! ( i.e unharvested oil seed rape) – walking was difficult, running impossible. Eventually emerged from this mini ‘jungle’ and we soon picked up the pace once back onto tarmac, crossed the main line railway ( oh no, more electric ) , until we got to .. yes more triffids !! Thankfully this was a shorter section and we quickly reached the busy A1. After 1/2 mile or so, we turned off the main highway and got onto a quiet side road leading the 2 – 3 miles down to Easington Grange. Geoff wanted to pick up the pace yet again to make up for lost time. Dave managed ok, but soon I was beginning to struggle. Not because of the distance involved, just I was not quite prepared for Geoff’s ‘4 minute/mile pace’!! ( OK, slight exaggeration, but you get the ‘drift’ ). After several times hearing his “ the camper van is just over there “…. I stopped believing him anymore. We entered the hamlet of Easington Grange at the same time as a rain shower, but again spirits were lifted by the wonderful sight just ahead of the support team. My body did finally arrive about 11.45am, and my mind followed a few minutes later. Thanks as well to Graham who drove my car down from Cheswick to here.

Nigel Heppell

Relay section: Alnmouth to Amble

A grey day and a strong, uninterupted, cold tail wind sent Geoff W, John E, and Nigel H scurrying along the beach and straight into the River Aln, fortunately no more than knee deep although it was hard to judge visually and locals had advised against it! John was quick to spot the noxious smell from the disturbed river bed and we were glad to get out the other side and begin the run proper. A rather ethereal quality to this remote stretch of dune-backed coastline was added to by drifts of wind-blown sand to mid-calf height and spume creating a hazy vista ahead. After a straightforward plod along the firm sands exposed by a very low tide we checked the map and guessed it was time to move inland over the dunes to avoid swimming across the considerably deeper River Coquet. Warkworth was resplendent in its spring/summer colours and a handy back lane led straight to the highest point near the castle. From there it was downhill to the river, lots of swans, 20-30 pairs, and on to the marina on the outskirts of Amble and a welcoming crowd of Striders.

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