Planet   Backpacker
  "From flying monkey gods and amorous donkeys to tales of a bus caravan speeding through a terrorist-infested desert, Downes puts you right there with him."-- Ben Gohs, Charlevoix Courier
  "From flying monkey gods and amorous donkeys to tales of a bus caravan speeding through a terrorist-infested desert, Downes puts you right there with him."-- Ben Gohs, Charlevoix Courier

Cycling Sea-to-Sea across England on the C2C

C2C Trail, England, Britain, Whitehaven, Newcastle, cycling, Planet Backpacker
You wouldn't be a bit surprised to see Robin Hood or a knight in armor on the C2C Trail.

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By Robert Downes
Copyright Planet Backpacker

   Whitehaven is a sleepy seaside town that’s not quite making it as a resort, located up near the Scottish border in northwestern England.  The town marks the start of the C2C Trail, a bike path which runs across the country to the North Sea.
   It was here in 1778 that commander John Paul Jones attempted to seize the harbor and burn a British fleet during the American Revolution.  But some of his crew got a bit tipsy while reconnoitering the town and the raid was something of a flop.  
   Jones was a Scotsman who apprenticed as a seaman in Whitehaven before moving on to America and the Revolution.  His raid was the only successful invasion of Britain since 1066, and though the English pooh-pooh it now, apparently it gave them a pretty good scare back in the day.
  Last night was a bit of hell, arriving here after 10 p.m. from Carlisle with my bike broken down in order to stuff it into the cargo hold of a bus  (which served as the final link of the train trip from Wales).  I assembled it in the dark and rode up and down the waterfront along the Irish Sea in the cold rain, looking for a campsite.  No go, Joe -- so I had to resort to paying the big bucks (about $40) for an old hotel.  I feel like a traitor to the spirit of roughing it for staying in a hotel instead of a campsite or a park bench. But not enough to hazard a night in the chill sheets of rain by the sea.
   Today I will pedal through the Lake District, which inspired poets such as William ‘Lonely as a Cloud’ Wordsworth.  These romantic brooders on the heath invented a form of poetry which has been a mainstay of high school poets ever since.
   
The Mountains of Cumbria
Keswick, England


   Keswick, the world-famed home of the Cumberland Pencil Factory, has the look of a town you might expect to find in Switzerland.  Quaint shops overlook a broad pedestrian mall that’s packed with tourists visiting the Lake District.  
   At a campground on the lake outside town, I meet a swarthy long-haired Scotsman who is backpacking across Britain with a huge army pack that dwarfs his five-foot-tall body.  Since my tent is next to his, I give him a shout-out and am then completely mystified by his cartoon language, which doesn’t sound a lick like English. 
   “Kerflugely blooey bodola pooty snade,” he says, or something on that order, nodding with animation. “Yar flagel berf snagger ma jockle.” At first, I think he’s spoofing me, but manage to understand every ninth word or so and deduce that he is indeed speaking our shared tongue. 
   Later, I learn that the Scots from the northern end of the country speak an English dialect with an accent as thick as axle grease that is incomprehensible to the untrained ear.  This is probably why I didn’t understand a word of the hit film, Trainspotting, starring Ewan McGregor, and would also appreciate subtitles on British films such as  Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.  The Brits just don’t know how to speak English.
   The C2C Trail is luvly, as we say here in England -- no cars for much of it -- it runs mostly along bike paths through storybook scenery that conjures thoughts of Robin Hood, knights and highwaymen.  It’s like riding through a fairy tale. 
   On the other hand, it’s quite cold here -- in the 30s at night, and I had to get up at 4 a.m. to put all my clothes on.  Not that it helps much, with my shivering knees banging together.  One stretch, through Britain’s only mountain forest, was very much like the trails of dark, rainy Alaska.

   ...The 190-mile Coast to Coast Trail was charted in 1972 by Alfred Wainwright, a “fellwalker” who mapped the route from St. Bees in Cumbria to Robin Hood Bay on the Yorkshire coast.  The script of his hand-written manuscript was published as one of his seven Pictorial Guides, which are still used to steer hikers across England today.
   The Coast to Coast is one of 15 national trails which crisscross England, including the Yorkshire Dales Trail, The Pennine Way, and Hadrian’s Walk.  Happily, an outfit called SUSTRANS (Sustainable Transportation) got the idea to create bicycle routes paralleling the foot trails, making it possible to journey the same route on two wheels. I’ve taken the easy way out by biking the alternative C2C.
 
Misty Mountain Hop

   Oops, forgot I have to climb Britain’s highest mountain range -- the Pennines.  I spend more time walking than riding and reach the top of the highest pass at the limit of my strength...  Ahead lie the Moors, Roman encampments and the North Sea...
 
   FOR MORE INFO on the C2C Trail, order 'Planet Backpacker' on Kindle ebooks from amazon.com or through Apple iBooks.

 
GETTING THERE: Ship your bike by train and bus to Whitehaven in northern England and start ridin'. You can obtain a map of the trail from SUSTRANS in Britain and order guidebooks via the British version of amazon.com.  Count on it taking three days or so to reach Tynemouth or Newcastle on the east coast, about 190 miles.

   GEAR:  Various companies can rent you bikes and transport your gear on ahead by sagwagon. Expect to pay dearly. 

   DON'T MISS:  Long Meg and Her Daughters, a Druid ring of 65 boulders just outside the village of Little Salkeld.  Long Meg is a 12-foot-tall monolith presiding over a 4,500-year-old site. For the full story, read the book, "Planet Backpacker."

   For more biking & backpacking adventures, read 'Planet Backpacker' by Robert Downes, available as an ebook at  amazon.com or Apple iBooks.

Click on the logo to order 'Planet Backpacker: The Good Life Bumming Around the World" from Amazon Kindle -- $4.99 for the illustrated ebook.