Grab life by the handle bars! (Unabridged)

It was a typical Thursday lunchtime; the latest pupil had just been into the staffroom to deliver their reason for not participating in games that afternoon.  I can’t quite recall whether it was the stubbed toe excuse, or their trainers were simply too wet to play rounders in.  Regardless, this had started to become the norm for far too long.  It was not the poor excuses that particularly bothered me.  It was the effort that pupils were going to in order to not take part in something, which should ultimately be fun!  Enough was enough . . .  something had to change!

The PE department got together and looked at what we could do to inject new life into the sports curriculum.  A meeting with the senior management team was scheduled for the following week and this is where idea #PEwithaDifference started.  Activities such as golf, outdoor education, handball, trips to the gym and mountain biking were all put forward.  Whilst the meeting was largely a success, and everyone thought the ideas were good, it was clear that one element was lacking, MONEY! How were we going to provide these activities especially the mountain bikes on our current budget?

With only four weeks left of the term and time running out we knew that we had to act quickly.  I had an idea!  Would Simon and Justin join in?  Knowing that Mr Allen had previously ridden the Coast to Coast route I asked his advice.  “It’s tough!  The hardest thing I have ever done, but if you need a support driver, I will help, ” he said.

With Simon getting married towards the end of the holiday, Justin departing for Australia and my wife heavily pregnant, we only had the first week of the summer holidays free to take on the challenge of the coast to coast mountain bike route.

Campsites were booked and luckily my Dad, who was once too a pupil at Fyling Hall, lent us his campervan for the journey.  Lisette from the junior school heard about the challenge and volunteered for some support driving as well.  With the Go Fund Me page launched it was official!

Now it is at this point I should give you some facts about the Coast to Coast.  It is 220 miles across moorland, mountains, marsh and pretty much any other terrain you can think of.  Starting in St Bees cutting straight through the Lake District and finishing in Robin Hood’s Bay.  You climb just over the height of mount Everest in altitude, almost the same cruising height of a jumbo jet. You would normally allow seven days to ride this.  We were aiming for four! It was at this point Justin said, “About those gears.  How do you use them? I have never had a bike with them before!”

Three weeks before the Coast to Coast a few friends, and I headed over to Dalby Forest for a ride, which Simon joined.  For those of you who have not been around the red route it is about 21 miles long.  Simon managed 12!  It was here my friend, Ben, looked at me and said, “Dude, he’s not riding the Coast to Coast in three months let alone 3 weeks!”.  I was starting to think that maybe he was right, but we had to try as people had already started to donate money.

With a busy end to term I was riding into school from Whitby as much as possible.  Justin and Simon were heading to Ravenscar and beyond most evenings, but our first ride together would be on the Coast to Coast.

With Prizegiving out of the way, it was time to pack the camper van and the all essential items for the trip and the four-hour journey to St Bees.  It was just a shame that Simon forget to pack the food we had bought earlier that day, apparently whilst we were busy getting things ready he was catching another 20 minutes of Netflix!

Day 1 £300 raised! St Bees to Ambleside 60 miles

It is tradition to dip your wheel in the Irish sea before setting off and take a pebble with you to throw into the North Sea, (I took two).  The slipway proved difficult for the other two setting off, something which Mr Allen found highly amusing!

I’m not going to give you a blow by blow account of the ride, but 10 miles in it must be said it was pretty easy, and its at this point I should have got back in the camper van!  From Ennerdale to Ambleside it was tough, really tough!  Four mountains in one day is not easy, you can’t ride up most of them, you either must push or carry your bike.  Plus, it was hot, carrying a pack with all the tools in case of a mechanical problem, plus 5 litres of water, it can get quite tiring!  Time was flying, but we were not covering many miles.

That evening we did make it to Ambleside around 8:30pm, where we headed to the pub to meet up with staff from school who were in Ambleside for a few nights, (at a spa it must be pointed out!).  Now if you have ever met Justin, you will probably have made several judgements.  Firstly, he is Australian, and secondly, he is loud!  That evening there was an eerie silence! Proof that we were all exhausted.  Back at the camper van my head didn’t even touch the pillow before I was asleep.

Day 2 £800 raised! Ambleside to Shap 25 miles

Although it was hot this probably helped.  Large parts were marsh but fortunately it was quite dry.  We passed the most amazing house literally in the middle of nowhere, with access only by quad bike.  Day two also saw Mr Allen depart for his daughter’s birthday and Lisette take over the driving.  This could potentially have been a problem as she was used to driving a mini but not a campervan, but I’m glad to say she was waiting for us in Shap, and had all the items for a BBQ!

Day 3 £1000 raised! Shap to Osmotherley

This was the big one!  90 miles in one day, after what we had been through on the previous two days it was fair to say I was rather apprehensive about the ride ahead.  However, we saw some amazing views.  The Pennine way was stunning . . . and then it happened.  About 20 miles from Richmond (40 miles from Osmotherly) Justin’s bike broke down.  It was getting late in the day, and we did not know if we had time to get it fixed.  Lisette was in Richmond and had to navigate some pretty narrow roads to get to him.  At the same time Simon and I rode in the opposite direction to get to the bike shop to see if they could fix it. At the time I was not really thinking of much but it’s probably this part of the day which really took it out of me.  The fact that we had to try and up the pace made it really tough on the legs, not to mention that the bike shop was located at the top of a steep hill!

Scott from Arthur Caygill’s Bike shop waited until the bike arrived at which he looked at it and said its fairly bad, the derailleur had taken a whack and the back wheel was severely buckled.  However, 45 minutes later he had it all fixed up, and we were back on the road with some complementary protein bars and a free bike repair!  We made it to Osmotherley just in time to see extra time and England get knocked out of the World Cup.  It was at this point I got some bad news from home, Leanne (my wife) had been for a routine baby scan earlier that day at which she was told that she must stay in hospital until the baby is born.  She was not due to give birth until 22nd September.   Being only the 11th July, things were not looking good.  It was already a sore point me being away as our wedding anniversary was on the 12th July (10 years!).  I spoke to her that evening and she said just keep going.  It was probably the bit of encouragement that I needed at that point.

Day 4 £1200! Osmotherley to Robin Hood’s Bay

By now it’s fair to say that my backside was getting quite sore and at times numb! Mountain bike seats are not exactly built for comfort!  However, with 60 miles until we reached our goal, we dug deep and kept going.  The last big climb out of Grosmont was difficult, we were overtaken by a group of Dutch cyclists, who were doing a tour around the villages.  However with Whitby in view we knew it would only be a couple of hours until we would be in Bay.  Then Justin’s bike decided to have its second puncture of the trip!  After this was fixed it was a steady ride from Harwood Dale to Ravenscar and then into Bay.  Coming towards the Victoria Hotel it was great to see so many people, even though we still had to go down the bank!  At the bottom we dipped our wheels in the sea and threw the pebble in as well.

Thankfully my wife was able to hold on until I got home, we had a baby boy the week after (10 weeks early!).

As for the second pebble I took from the beach in St Bees, it proudly sits on my mantle piece at home, to most people it looks just like any other pebble, but to me it means so much more.

By the time we had finished the ride we had raised over £1800 towards our mountain bike fund. 

Knowing that we still needed to raise more money the PTA stepped in and organised a race night at the Fylingdales Inn.  Spearheaded by Lisette Vincent-Jones, Tina Hodgson and Angelique Russell another £800 was raised.  It was quite fitting that the last race on the night was won by the Fyling Hall staff with the horse’s name being “Sore Arses”!  £130 winnings which was put back into the pot.

The school tuck shop has also contributed nearly £1,000 towards the mountain bikes.

I would like to thank everyone who has donated towards the raising of funds for the mountain bikes, without your contributions it would not have been possible to raise the money required to purchase them, and make a real difference to the curriculum we can deliver to the children in their PE lessons.

I am delighted to say that on Monday of half term we have been to collect 10 bikes for the school, from Arthur Caygill Bikes.  Due to their help during the Coast to Coast ride we felt it appropriate to purchase the bikes from them, a family run business, which really helped us out on the ride.

To watch the video of the Coast to Coast click here!  Watch this space for more news on #PEwithaDifference!

Marcus Coates

Head of Games

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