Day 1

An Inspirational Beginning

We were woken at 5.45am by Bruce Springsteen singing Promised Land. Those who’ve read blogs from our other challenges will know this is set as my alarm. We spent 10 minutes slowly waking up and reviewing the met office forecast ( we’d abandoned the BBC yesterday as it had looked far too negative).

The room we were in was an attic room with velux windows which were so high we couldn’t see out of them. Consequently we didn’t know what the weather was like, other than the heavy rain which had persisted through the night must have stopped as we could no longer hear it on the windows. In addition to our usual preparations, we’d decided to go for ultimate CRUK branding and dye our hair CRUK pink with a spray which promises to wash out with one wash. Having got ourselves fully branded we went for breakfast. Knowing that we had 86 miles to cycle should have made us hungry, but we both felt emotional about the challenge, thinking why we do these things and we were nervous and apprehensive about the physical task ahead of us. Consequently we weren’t particularly hungry. We each forced a bowl of bircher muesli and a slice of toast down and then met up with Sue’s friend of more than 40 years, Geordie Jonny, who was cycling the first part of the day with us. It was a cool, damp, grey morning, but it had finally stopped raining. The three of us pedalled off to the Freeman Hospital, just over a mile up the hill, to the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Research Trials Centre – the official start of the challenge. Listen to Patrick’s thoughts on arrival here…

Patrick’s thoughts with 1 mile done

We were met by Ben Hood, Senior CRUK Research nurse in Newcastle, and Professor Ruth Plummer, Lead for the CRUK centre in Newcastle and Director of the Sir Bobby Robson Cancer Research Trials Centre. The centre conducts early phase trials. Generally this involves patients who’ve run out of other treatment options and who are prepared to take an experimental drug.

It was heartwarming to meet some other members of the team, including the research nurses and hear about the progress being made and successfully introducing new treatments into clinics, improving outcomes and giving hope to patients and their families.

Watch the videos below to hear from Ruth and Ben about the groundbreaking work at the centre

Thanks Sam Moralee for the photos!

Professor Ruth Plummer
Ben Hood – Senior CRUK research nurse, Newcastle

Having said our thank yous, we scooted off towards our second Newcastle Research Centre, 3 miles down the road. this involved cycling across the Town Moor – a huge piece of common land with cattle grazing on the edge of the city. There was a great tarmac path and no traffic – this would probably be our easiest cycling all week!

On arrival at the Northern Institute for Cancer Research Amy (CRUK Research Engagement Manager) introduced us to Professors, Jim Allan and Craig Robson. Craig had been supporting our challenge for the last week by tweeting regularly so it was good to meet him in person.

Jim explained that the centre develops new drugs. One of their success stories is a drug called rucaparib which is now used for breast and ovarian cancer. He took us into the lab and showed us cancer cells. It’s a shame that you can’t see the whole of Patrick as his chicken legs sticking out of the bottom of his lab coat was a sight to behold.

We met some of the other researchers who work in the centre, who were passionate about their work.

Thanks Amy for the photos!

Listen to the videos below to hear Jim and Craig talking about the work of the centre.

Professor Jim Allan
Professor Craig Robson

We’re always humbled when we visit research centres to experience first hand their passion and commitment to improving cancer outcomes. Todays centres were no exception. Thank you so much to all of you at both centres for taking time out from your busy schedules to meet us, we really appreciate it. Thank you for everything you do to improve both the prognosis and quality of life of cancer patients. You’re all heroes in our eyes!

Our research visits motivated us so much, that the nerves we had at breakfast disappeared as we cycled through Newcastle, over the High Level bridge to Gateshead and southwards.

Despite feeling that we needed to pedal on quickly, we had to stop at this icon. If you look closely you can see the Angel of the North and behind her is a huge rusty piece of sculpture.

Our first 28 miles were relatively uneventful. we’d arranged to meet Jackie at this garden centre. We were provided with sandwiches from the local deli and a hot beverage from the cafe at the garden centre. However, the best bit was the millionaire’s shortbread. This week is one of guilt free eating.

By the time we stopped at the garden centre, Patrick had developed a corrugated helmet head which gave him a punkish appearance.

The next part of our journey was through quite a bleak landscape of old pit villages – the grey clouds didn’t help. One of the villages was called Sherburn Hill. I’m not sure what Sherburn means, but ‘Hill’ was definitely appropriate. As we neared the top of the hill there was a group of 5 boys, age approx 13. One of then shouted “Keep gannin’, I believe in you”. Not quite the same motivation that we got from the research centres, but welcome nevertheless.

Whilst we were cycling, Jackie was exploring by car and came across this sign, which amused us.

Further south we discovered that the village of Sadberge was also on top of a hill. I shouted to Patrick that I needed to stop at the top. We were really glad we did as it was an interesting village – there was a plaque that informed us that there had been an airfield which opened in 1917 and closed in 1919.

Patrick and I made some new friends, although Patrick didn’t seem to get on quite as well with his friend. Rubes and Roberto made friends with a couple of metal sheep.

In the afternoon we made good progress along gently undulating roads. The weather improved all the time, which was helpful. Despite the distance we’d cycled, we were still feeling ok, although our thighs began to ache when we had gentle hills, the saddles were getting uncomfortable and our backs were beginning to ache.

Patrick’s thoughts later in the day

Our final stop was at the attractive market town of Thirsk where there were more than 30 knitted pieces on top of bollards, representing nursery rhymes. Guess which ones below. Jackie had identified a Caffe Nero (best coffee) and bought a ginger loaf from a bakery, which we ate covertly as we drank our flat whites

From Thirsk there was only 11 miles to go. We’re not sure how we managed to keep pedalling at a pace, but did! We were delighted to see the sign announcing that we were in Easingwold. Our B&B host Andrew at 93 Oower House, directed us to his garage as a safe place for stabling Rubes and Roberto and then offered us tea, which arrived with some delicious fruit cake. Cake seems to have been a significant feature of the day.

We were tired, but had arrived at our destination safely with 86 miles completed. Day 1 done. Who knows what day 2 will bring. No time to think about that know we’re too exhausted.

Sue at the end of the day

Patrick’s Trivia


Newcastle has seven bridges crossing the river in the space of half a mile. Tyne Bridge is said to have inspired Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia; High Level Bridge was the first in the world to combine road and rail; Swing Bride pioneered the use of hydroelectric power; and the Millennium Bridge was the world’s first bridge to pivot sideways in order to allow boats through.
 The faithful windscreen wiper was invented in Newcastle by a Newcastle United fan as he drove home in a storm from a cup final match in 1908.


  • Clive Woodwood the England Rugby Coach lived near Easingwold and actually went to Easingwold school
  • Chris Atkinson, who invented the Mobile bike storage system

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  1. Not everybody will appreciate the amount of work that goes into producing such an exciting blog at the end of a hard days cycling but we know how tough it is so good on you guys and your back up team in the form of Jackie. Great photos and commentary’s. Have a good night – can hardly wait for next blog!

    • Thanks Jock. It does make it a long day but we do enjoy doing it and feel so grateful for all the wonderful support we receive.

  2. A really lovely lunchtime read! Well done on making it through Day 1 – and what great photos. I’ll be thinking of you both this week. Here’s hoping the weather improves!!

    Sadie x

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