Trek sees Mark smash target time and raise £1.3k for school

Mark Barr at the top of Black Hill during his fund-raising coast-to-coast cycle ride.
Mark Barr at the top of Black Hill during his fund-raising coast-to-coast cycle ride.

A north Northumberland cyclist tells the story of his epic coast-to-coast ride from Irish Sea to North Sea in one day:

My face frozen still, against the wind, there’s no going back. My hands hard as steel and my heart feels like stone, I know my labour day has come, but I’m still waiting and I’m hanging on, wounded by fear and injured in doubt. I’ve pedalled all day to reach so high, and for this moment to come, and it comes, like a hunter.

“Where’s Dave?”, “He must be lost”, “Is he at the top?”, “When is this rain going to stop?”, “Why is the wind getting stronger?”

The mist is getting thicker and the landscape is changing to an unforgiving, harsh and desolate environment, which welcomes nobody. There is nowhere to hide, no shelter, no trees, no civilisation and at over 2,000ft altitude the gusts of wind are unbearable. I’m cold, wet, tired, and hungry. All the other cyclists in the area have abandoned their rides, rescued by vehicles, taken shelter at the last village. The road is brutal, never-ending, climbing further into the endless mist, and at 81 miles in I want to pack in. What’s the point?

“Where’s Dave?” Suddenly, in the distance I see headlights. A car. A red car. Hallelujah. “You ok?” asks Dave. “Yeah. Just stay in your car mate, don’t get out, I’m fine. Stay warm and dry,” I respond, broken. It can’t get any worse. Surely it’s better on the other side, I think to myself as I rise above the old mines of Nenthead and leave the place time forgot. Finally, finally I see what I’ve been looking for.

This is Black Hill. Not the most difficult hill on the coast-to-coast cycle challenge and not the steepest. But it will test your metal without a doubt. After leaving the old mining village of Nenthead, it’s only 1.4 miles to the summit of what is the highest part of the bike ride and the most important. Northumberland! To get there though, you have to endure the most exposed part of the ride and the elements are not forgiving. If you ever get to cycle up Black Hill in good conditions, think yourself very lucky.

But I love it. This is what this part of the country is all about for me. Wilderness, isolated and timeless moorlands, harsh testing landscapes and endless beauty. The world is getting smaller these days and you can travel all over to find what you are looking for, but for me, nowhere can give me the feeling I get reaching the summit of Black Hill and seeing the Northumberland sign and the beauty which lies ahead.

And if you’re wondering what was the point? Why did I cycle from the Irish Sea to the North Sea in one day? I did it to raise some funds for our little school charity here in Felton. And I couldn’t let them down could I?

The charity, Felton School Friends Association, is an essential part of the school’s success and looks to support the work and activities of the children at the school. It runs a range of activities throughout the year to add to the life of the school as well as to raise funds for additional resources.

On August 20, I achieved something which has been on my bucket list for some time now. I cycled coast to coast from the Irish Sea to the North Sea in one day. In total, I cycled 123 miles and climbed over 9,000ft of hills.

The conditions can only be described as horrendous. Cold, wet, windy and lonely all the way. Despite this, I smashed my target time and completed the challenge in 9hrs 30mins.

Thanks for all of your support

I am forever grateful to everyone who has donated.

Shirt sponsors: Northumberland Arms, West Thirston; Pumpkin Pie Childcare, Felton; Read & Gibbons Ltd property development; Running Fox Bakery, Felton; Hilton Media, Swarland.

Others: Kings Arms, Seaton Sluice; Carol Carter; Ian McAllister; David Redden; my amazing wife Jill and daughter Daisy.