(From eyes of Laura)
Three days at the wonderful Green Gathering and a bit of a lazy morning, the two of us set off to our next destination a mere 20 miles away. The sun lifts our spirits as always and makes the journey easy. We decided to take the main road route as we set off so late which was pretty scary at times. But it got us to just outside of Durham in no time.
The next place we came to see was the wonderful Abundant Earth, a local food growing initiative tucked neatly next to the small but picturesque city. The warmth of Beth’s greeting was only matched by that of her family, which included and Wilf Richard who is the Permaculture teacher of the area and an expert Transition Town facilitator, and their two kids.
To our surprise they had two other WWOOFers there that I already knew. Emma and Joe had attended an organic gardening course in Edinburgh earlier in the year and had come to Abundant Earth to learn more. Together we helped Wilf in the garden with clearing and preparing growing beds, turning compost and sowing new seeds. The weather stayed dry but we joyfully got covered in mud from the wetter parts of the garden. It amazing how much you can achieve with so many hands and we got lots of work done that day. We also made seed-bombs with some children who were visiting the gardens for their educational farm day. Shy at first, they all came out of their shell once we got actually bombing!
Apart from Beth and Wilf’s amazing hospitality and numerous hilarious conversations, the Abundant Earth highlight for me was tagging along to Wilf’s Transition Town meeting. Wilf had originally set up Durham Transition Town which is now doing some amazing work in the area. They have working groups that span areas such as housing, food growing, local fruit growing, economics and local businesses, energy, research, outreach, events and much more. There are clearly alot of engaged people in the city which was great to see!! We appreciated greatly a glimpse into the actual workings of a functioning and highly successful Transition Town. Wilf facilitated an inspired and engaging visioning session for the city as well as celebrating their successes and a PNI view of their current office space issue. All valuable tools which I will take me into the future.
Top that off with a pint and a pickled egg in the pub and you have yourself a pretty perfect experience of all things Durham!! Sad to say farewell but the show must go on as they say.
Thanks to Wilf we have a few more contacts in the north of England as our own research was coming up with nothing. Our next visit was a short stop off in Newcastle to Scottswood Community Garden which has one of the oldest forest gardens in the UK. The stunning entrance way was dripping with art and sculpture made my the visitors that frequent the place. We were lucky enough to arrive on a work day so met many who were finishing off their art pieces ready for the grand reveal. After a quick cuppa, a chat with the lovely volunteer manager and a mooch around the beautiful gardens, we set off again.
And so, that was our last project to visit until we reach bonnie Scotland! Is it so that it will all end so soon? Noooo!!! Feelings are mixed. Excited to be reaching home but also sad that such a wonderful jorney may come to a close.😦
And so begins our sprint to the finish line………
That night we stay with a lovely couchsurfer, Susan in Cramlington, a very well travelled lady herself who kindly took two smelly cyclists under her wing. Scrubbed up and bellies full we get a happy knock on the door bringing us Camille back safe and sound. And two becomes three once again!
6am wake up brings sunshine as we quietly prepare for our longest cycle to date. We cycle from Cramlington to the coast, which of course meant a quick dip in the sea…. Well my toes anyway. Camille properly went for it! From there we follow the beautiful sustrans cycle route 1. Mostly off any main roads and occasionally over bumpy ground, the scenery takes our breath away. The sun is shining, our spirits our high and we lap it up. We even get to have a post-lunch siesta in the sunshine which was bliss!
We stay close to the sea until we reach Bamburgh an amazing village with a majestic castle who’s presence dominated the character and appeal of the place, igniting the imagination of time gone past. As we cycle round the corner we are greeted by hundreds of people all waving flags and plastic wavy things. Wow, did they really all hear about Seed-Bomb Britain by Bicycle? They all cheer as we come past so they must have! Sadly not. They are all here for the Olympic Torch that was due in the next half hour.
Time for a pint and we (pretend cynically Ela) join in the celebrations. 50 miles down and another 16 to go. Our aim is to reach Wooler by nightfall so tomorrow wont be so punishing.
After a struggle to warm our legs back up we heave up that last few hills as we head inland, nearing the Scottish borders to complete our 68 mile journey Phew! Wooler was a place that Ela already knew so she suggested a nice Indian curry as a treat and we debate where to sleep that night. I wasnt feeling amazing as I had picked up a cold somewhere but with the hostel full we had to go for the camping option. Armed with a small one and a half person tent and two bivvy bags we make camp in a desserted campsite and tuck into some homecooked rice and restaurant quality curry. The sleeping arrangements were two in the tent and one in bivvy bag with head in the entrance of tent. Brilliant idea Camille! I opted for the bivvy as the air is more fresh and I was excited to try it out. With all the clothes in my possession on my body I was determined not to get cold, but raindrops on my face at 5am meant I had to scooch my head up into the tent entrance and close the door, testing the waterproof capabilities of my bivvy which I am happy to say worked a treat!
Happily there was noone around to take any money from us in the morning so we sheepishly went on our merry way. But i guess we paid our dues as it rained on us all day. Another long day of cycling with a lot more hills than the day before we reach….. you guessed it………………Scotland!!!!!
And yes, you guessed it…… more hills. On taking a ‘short cut’ to Stow we actually cycle into the clouds! The toughest cycle to date without a doubt but then we are back on home territory so the feeling was good. Feeling pretty poorly by now I personally was more than happy to arrive at our penultimate destination; my friend Kirsti’s house in Stow. Time for some relaxation before we make our way to EDINBURGH and the finish line!!!!