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Uphill All The Way – Good Companions – (Darlington to Durham)

Published on: 9 Jun, 2014
Updated on: 10 Jun, 2014

UATW 002 470This is the thirteenth report on the author’s progress in his bid to cycle from Guildford to Edinburgh. The reports follow: Uphill All The Way – The Idea and Uphill All The Way – The Plan (Part One) and Uphill All The Way – The Plan (Part Two)

All Uphill All The Way articles can be found under the Leisure section heading on the front page, in their own sub-section called Uphill All The Way.

By Martin Giles

The thirteenth leg of my journey to Edinburgh was going to be a new experience.

For the first time I would be cycling with a companion, my son Tom. I warned him at breakfast, I don’t cycle as fast as you do. You will have to wait for me.

I knew it would be a challenge for me to keep up Tom. This was my view for much of the trip. Tom, arrowed, a dot in the distance.

I knew it would be a challenge for me to keep up Tom. This was my view for much of the trip. Tom, arrowed, a dot in the distance.

I knew it would be true. There is almost 40 years age gap between us. There is no way my 58-year-old heart lungs and legs could keep up with an 18-year-old. He assured me that it was okay he would simply stop and wait if need be.

Despite the bright start to the day, the forecast said that there could be rain after 11am. We wanted to start early but it was well after 10am before we got going.

My touring kit all packed up in its polythene parcels to give it double protection against the weather.

My touring kit all packed up in its polythene parcels to give it double protection against the weather.

I had carried out the daily ritual of carefully packing all my touring kit into polythene parcels ready to be put into my panniers. The system had worked well so far and kept even the heaviest rain out.

Our planned route from Darlington to Durham via Sedgefield.

Our planned route from Darlington to Durham via Sedgefield.

Our hotel was very conveniently placed to join National Cycle route 14 and navigating our way out of the town proved easy. We were soon into the fields once again enjoying some beautiful countryside.

We entered the County of Durham which confusingly no longer includes Darlington.

We entered the County of Durham which confusingly no longer includes Darlington.

After a few miles we left the cycle route and then a bit further on passed a sign telling us we were entering the County of Durham. This confused me. I had been sure we were already in Durham when we were in Darlington. Turns out that Darlington is now a unitary authority so the new county boundary is to its north.

We were on the road to Sedgefield which, I recalled, was Tony Blair’s old constituency. I wondered what it would be like.

The rain was keeping off, making it a pleasant cycle on our undulating route.

The rain was keeping off, making it a pleasant cycle on our undulating route.

As we were simply following the undulating road to Sedgefield navigation was easy. The undulations meant there were some climbs but, by and large, they were gentle.

Tom was a patient companion. He often raced ahead but always  paused and waited for me to catch up. We only had 20 miles to cover and there was no particular rush.

Tom was a patient companion, often waiting for me to catch up.

Tom was a patient companion, often waiting for me to catch up.

Even the weather was behaving. 11am the stated hour from which showers might occur, came and went with the sun maintaining a frequent, if intermittent, appearance through the clouds.

The racecourse at Sedgefield came into view. There was a car boot sale under way but sadly no race meeting, well there wouldn’t be on a Sunday.

Sedgefield itself had a pretty centre. Frankly I don’t think most observers who were not in the know would imagine it to be a Labour stronghold. it certainly was not an industrial heartland. The ubiquitous new development was in evidence but as these things go it was quite a tasteful one.

Sedgefield, Tony Blair's old constituency, seemed quite a pretty place.

Sedgefield, Tony Blair’s old constituency, seemed quite a pretty place.

After Sedgefield a ridge loomed on the horizon. Tom, who had cycled across the Pennines to join me, was scathing. “That’s not what I would call a ridge,” he said. And, in actual fact although, we did climb to almost 500 feet above sea level it did not seem to be much of a challenge.

"That's not a ridge in my book," said Tom scornfully.

“That’s not what I call a ridge,” said Tom scornfully.

Soon after passing a large sand quarry we were across the summit to emerge on a dual carriageway. Misreading a road sign Tom shouted: We are heading for a dual carriageway”. “No we are on a dual carriageway!” I shouted back. Luckily there was little traffic.

"Tom this is a dual carriageway."

“We are on dual carriageway.”

Following two glorious downhill sweeps we pulled into the Seven Stars pub, our accommodation for the night at Lower Shincliffe, just south of Durham.

The cosy, friendly and comfortable Seven Stars in Lower Shincliffe near Durham.

The cosy, friendly and comfortable Seven Stars in Lower Shincliffe near Durham.

It was quite busy with Sunday lunchers. We joined them ordering sandwiches with chips and two lovely pints of cold cider to quench the thirst we had deliberately allowed to build up in anticipation of this moment. The first few gulps were, as usual, sensational.

The pub itself had a nice cosy and traditional feel although the restaurant parts were laid out elegantly in small scale rooms. It reminded me a little HMS Victory’s ward room. Upstairs a narrow wood panelled corridor led to our two rooms which were similarly compact but practical, with everything we could need for a comfortable stay. £60 per head for dinner bed and breakfast seemed good value.

In the afternoon I busied myself finishing my previous report and getting it published while Tom headed off the couple of miles into Durham to meet up with university students and former school friends, Gina and Adam, he had arranged to visit.

The three returned at 7.30pm to join me for dinner at the pub. It was great to have some company and good company they were and suitably good food was served.

The dining area had a good feel.

The dining area had a good feel.

Adam who is studying economics at Bath (he was visiting Gina) explained that he came from Wonersh and started to explain where that was. He was surprised I knew. Evidently many of his school friends did not even know about the whereabouts of Shalford.

He was studying economics because he was fascinated with the circulation of money and was considering a career in investment banking. “You won’t mind being hated by everyone?” I asked. “No,” he cheerily replied.

Gina was studying history at Durham. I would like to have talked more to her about her subject but I had to fend off remarks from Tom such as: “You must remember Gina Dad. She has been in the same classes as me since St Nic’s. We were in Frosties together.”

Embarrassingly I did not recall her, nor many other of Tom’s school friends. But I did remember Frostie’s at St Nic’s infant school. It was a Christmas play where all the children were dressed and made up as snow flakes or similar. We have some photos somewhere I wish I could share. I am sure Gina and Tom would love that.

The three related their different experiences at their three different universities. By the sound of it there were many differences too. But none of them seemed to regret their choices and in my biased opinion (when it comes to Tom at least) are good adverts for their Guildford schools (they were all at Guildford County School) and Guildford youth.

As we turned in I realised that I had not yet even seen anything of Durham. “You could always spend the morning here before cycling on to Newcastle.” suggested Tom adding that the forecast showed a higher risk of rain in the morning than the afternoon. It seemed a good plan.

08.06.14 UATW computer data:

Miles cycled: 23.27 miles

Average speed: 11.2 mph (fastest yet again. Tom says it was his influence – it probably was)

Cycling time: 2 hours 1 minute.

Next report: On to Geordie land and possibly my first view of the coast.

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