I have been involved with WAVE Adventure for several years now. The brainchild of Graham Wood, WAVE is set up to get people outdoors doing active things who may otherwise not find their way into the great outdoors. They use a variety of activities and adventure sports to facilitate this. After what will be 20 years next year doing this they are a great organisation with many success stories behind them.
My role has been on the climbing & walking side, taking groups of children and adults out and about, usually around the Bolton area, some times further a field and giving those individuals a break from their regular life, the chance to learn a new skill, develop confidence and self belief. At its most basic level its all about a few hours fun in what otherwise could be a very tough existence. In short: I love it.
I enjoy it so much that when I got a call from Graham in late Spring asking me what I was doing over the August bank holiday weekend my reply was that I usually work it, or, we are on holiday. As it happens we had just planned our family break, so I said I was pretty much nailed on for working it… The call carried on a bit like this: “why?” I asked, “can you work for us at WAVE?” ” uh, yeah I guess so – doing what?” “not sure yet, but probably a journey, may be a coast to coast” “okay, I could do support/logistics and that sort of thing – I’m not a bike leader as such…” “yeah but you can ride though, and we’ll need a support driver, camp setter upper and stuff”.
Being good at ‘stuff’, the decision was made. “I’m in.”
Over the coming weeks the plan was hatched, developed and finalised. Two of WAVE’s primary groups – the Young Mentors and Peak Connections were to set out on a sponsored Lancashire/Yorkshire Coast to Coast known as “The Way of the Roses“. Essentially Morecombe to Bridlington over the weekend, starting on the Saturday morning and finishing Monday tea time with a chippy tea on the sea front at Bridlington. Following the Sustrans cycle network and the route outlined in the Cicerone Press book “Cycling the Way of the Roses” Two camps along the way which I would be organising with support from some parent volunteers, grandparents and a young mentor or two. We would also put on a feed station on route each day as well as be the recovery team in the advent of any mechanicals, emergencies or other unexpected occurrences.
Now I love a project and couldn’t wait to get started!
Day One. Morecombe to Appletreewick and Masons Campsite. I was to meet the group in Morecombe on the Saturday morning, but on bike in order to support two of the younger Mentors, one of whom had only just learnt to ride a bike! In order that they could cycle some of the way on each day and be a part of the team supporting as well. Both knew they would be slower than the group so at the planning stage it was decided I could accompany them in order to not slow the group down. We would get to the Crook O’Lune picnic site where I had pre-parked the van as well as meet Debbie, the second van driver and mother to one of the mentors to then make our way to a feed station near Helwith Bridge in the Yorkshire Dales, just over half way in what would be a 55+mile day through some stunning scenery and some bloomin’ big hills! What a way to start the weekend, perfect weather, not to hot, dry and some stunning scenery on largely traffic free routes from Morecombe to the picnic site via Lancaster. I made sure I got there sharp so I didn’t have to rush, which was grand, I could take my time and of course go and pay my respects to Eric.
With the girls on board with Debbie, we set of in convoy with Graeme, another parent supporter in tow, Jackie and Terry, grandparents of another young rider through Bowland and onto the Dales. We wanted to move quickly so took the fast roads rather than using the C2C route on the quieter roads.
I have been a part of many races and events as a marshal, organiser, planner, first aider and general doer or stuff that this is all second nature now – The feed stations were to supplement the rations the group was taking with them. We were to provide lunch and afternoon snacks in bite size pieces to keep them going. Protein and carb heavy with some sweeter bits thrown in. Pork pies, Babybel cheeses, sausage rolls, sweets, nuts, malt loaf, flapjack (hand made by me a few days previous), chocolate bars etcetera with tea, coffee, cordial and water to boot.
I think we achieved our aim! The first riders in looked shell shocked and whacked. Once past the Lune it is essentially up hill all the way. At our station, approx 35 miles in, the biggest hills are still yet to come! the reality of what they were undertaking was well and truly rammed home. Now, it wouldn’t be right to type some of the language used, so I will para phrase: “gosh” and “golly” just about summed it up. Debbie and I were at pains to remind them that speed is not the issue, its all about keeping moving… one pedal turn, one step pushing the bike at a time… need another jelly baby?
We got to the camp site having driven through Burnsall on the day of the classic fell race – which I have yet to do as I am always working the bank holiday or we are away! One day… Anyway I digress. Masons is a great campsite. Well organised, great facilities, good location on the River Wharfe in the Dales and one to go back to for sure. BUT… NOT on a bank holiday weekend. Chocka would be one adjective. Stuffed another! The concern was noise from other (quite rightly) bank holidaying and relaxing campers. Our team were going to be goosed and would need to recover with a good nights sleep. We lay claim to a space and literally circled the wagons to give as much shelter from noise and playing children as we could and began to set up tents, the camp kitchen etc. The riders arrived about 15 minutes later!!! We sat them down, made brews, listened to the war stories (one crash), fed them cake from the ever illustrious Booths and generally “supported”. Some of the team were low in spirits. Having never done ANY kind of endurance event or journey before morale was ebbing… one lad had only ridden about 25 miles previous to today, but cake and a brew are truly magical things, along with showers and the promise of a pub meal and may be a beer for those who partook, morale began to claw its way back.
Day two. Appletreewick to just outside York. the Lancs/Yorks C2C takes you through the heart of York. However, it being a bank holiday weekend, accommodation for such big numbers had proved a problem, until that is Nurseries Caravan and Campsite had offered pitches and facilities for free for the team. Brilliant. (and they were!). The challenge was the site was several miles south west of York and we were not sure what the best way in to the site would be for bikes and some young riders. Fortunately not cycling myself this day we had time to be well in advance after the feed station (location tbc at this point but some where around Boroughbridge) so we could do a recce. We would be setting off some of the young mentors from here (the feed station), so they didn’t have to contend with the last of the Dales hills (notably Greenhow in to Pately Bridge) so we as a support team were confident of being better prepared for them – especially as I was cooking for the team that night! (Well reheating a pasta sauce I had prepared and frozen a few days previous…) Due to the uncertain nature of the last few miles we had agreed a re group point, pick up point and general do not go past *here* until you have spoken to me type plan. The game was on!
The second day saw us driving much of the route the team would be cycling, which I have to say was STUNNING and very very inspiring. I see myself doing this route as soon as I can procure a non mountain bike bike! Lovely villages, quiet lanes, hardly any traffic, several cafes, pubs etcetera on route. It looks like a real gem. Looking back I kinda wished I had driven more of the actual C2C route, having said that – it will come as a nice surprise when I get round to cycling it.
Replenishing feed station stores (we’d taken a request for jam sandwiches), finding a suitable location for a feed station and trying to suss out the route to the campsite were today’s priorities. Oh and fresh cake.
The feed station was the key thing. the weather forecast was for a wet day. not cold as such, but when you are riding tired and hungry, cold is the next step! so we wanted somewhere low and ideally sheltered. I had a big tarp that Debbie and I knew we could string between the vans if need be and with clever parking we could sit the group down on camp chairs and in the vans under shelter, but that was reliant on space to park of course. Having seen this forecast a few days ahead I knew this feed station would be critical… Half way on day day two, so effectively half way over all was a make or break point. Get through there and you would finish, bailing out in rough weather is a thought process I expected some of the team might go through so I played my trump card. The feed station would feature hot tomato soup as well as the usual (and jam sandwiches!). Location wise we got it spot on for the team… under the A1. out of the wind and the rain totally! For us (the support team) it was horrendous, three hours of god awful noise, splashes and traffic smell. For the cyclists, they were made up! My only regret for the whole weekend was realised here – should have bought more soup.
From here the roads really quietened down and we were able to follow the C2C route that the team took. Again a corker! The Aldwark Toll Bridge will live long in the memory in two vans and one 4×4! We got to the outskirts of York and the re group point and then began to find away to the campsite. Just as well we did plan this in – it was dual carriage way for much of the way and to make matters worse their were road works. cycling this would have been a night mare. So employing full navigator mode and consulting various maps we were able to relay a route to the main cycle team which kept them, out of trouble and kept them moving.
Day three. York to Bridlington. Sore is the word that best summed up the morning of day three. Aches would be another. Resolute would be my third place word. The team were resolute and BUZZING that the end was in site. The night before had been made special by the Nurseries Caravan and camping site owners popping over to meet us all and offer kind words of support. They were brilliant. They had accommodated us for free in a quiet corner of the site – on a bank holiday weekend. I urge you all to consider staying there if visiting York. Day three was largely flat, but was the longest day over 62 miles! Again with plans over where to introduce the younger riders to the route, where to support the main group – who were by now very much a ‘peloton’ and getting to the finish we set out having stuck camp with the weather back on our side and a very pleasing feeling in the pit of our stomachs. We were able to drive most of the route again – up until Bridlington, which again was just seemingly perfect, barely any traffic for many parts of the route and quaint villages, scenic views, farm tracks and old Roman roads.
We set off for Bridlington with ear to ear grins. Yes they were tired. Yes they were sore in places many of them never knew they had. Yes they were never going to do this @8&% again, but by Jove they were going to finish. We had set the young riders off well ahead of the main group so the group could chase and catch them and then they all would ride in to Bridlington together. Unbeknownst to us whilst waiting on the sea front that happened, perfectly naturally with less than 10 miles to go. Our next view of them was along the sea front in Bridlington….
I have to say watching it back I feel such a wave of joy and pride. these people, the youngest being 11, did something that they couldn’t even have imagined just a few days before. There was no prior experience. Nothing to draw from in order to achieve the goal. They just did it. And they did it in style. This is what charity can do. It can empower. It can inspire. It can allow people to do the unthinkable and allow them to reveal parts of themselves they never knew existed. The memories created those three days will always remain in those cyclists. The determination, the camaraderie, the humour, the pride. The feeling: “I struggled – but I did it”. in short….I CAN.
If that isn’t a lesson worth facilitating and supporting I don’t know what is.
Needless to say I am booked for whatever WAVE do August Bank holiday 2019.
Several members of the cyclists (Peak Connections) have taken up cycling. WAVE has been able to cobble some bikes together for them and can now be responsible for the addition to the street of more middle aged men (and women) in lycra. One has even been heard to want to enter a Sportive…
Liam, the WAVE young mentor who completed the full Way of the Roses C2C at the age of 15 was recognised by The Bolton Active Sports Awards with nominations for Young Volunteer of the year and Changing Lifestyle Award. The Peak Connections group for Sports Initiative of the year and WAVE Adventure has been nominated Club of the year. Peak Connections went on to win Sports and Health Initiative of the year 2018.
Bolton News write up here of the WAVE C2C