Helen's story

In summer 2016, Helen Brazier cycled the Coast to Coast (C2C) in support of her birthplace, Thorpe Hall (which, before it was a Sue Ryder hospice, started life as a maternity unit), and in memory of her late mum.

“For many people, their experience of Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall is as end of life care; however, Thorpe Hall is where I started my life, as from 1943 to 1970 it was a maternity unit and this is why it has always held a special place in my heart.

“Sue Ryder was also a favourite charity of my late mother who sadly passed away in 2009 from multiple myeloma. Instead of flowers at her funeral, we asked for donations to Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall.

“As a full-time mature student, my brain gets plenty of exercise on a regular basis. But trying to relax when there’s a 3,000-word essay looming, or five hours’ worth of anatomy and physiology exams to revise for, is far from easy. I like to relax by walking, swimming and cycling.

“It was my love of cycling – combined with the prospect of a much-needed holiday – that led me to sign up to cycle coast to coast. I volunteer for Sue Ryder on an ad hoc basis at large events and thought it would be an ideal opportunity to raise some money for such a worthy cause.”

The trouble with training

“Finding time to train was my first problem. Although I cycle to my work placement three days a week, a round trip of six miles was not enough, so I devised a longer route that involved leaving home at 6am every morning to fit it in, taking my daily commute up to 15 miles.

“This solved the problem of extra miles; however, I needed to find some hills – not an easy thing in East Anglia! Eventually I had to cycle to Rutland to find some and devised a 40-mile route to boost my training.”

Day one

“After a six-and-half-hour train ride to Whitehaven in the Lake District, I found myself facing the challenge of my life to cycle coast to coast. There were 14 of us altogether from all over the country. On Saturday morning we headed to the harbour for the traditional wheel-dipping and photos at the C2C sign – and then we were off!

“To start with, it was beautiful sunshine and fairly flat; the weather held but the hills soon reared up and just kept on going. During day one we travelled from Whitehaven to Penrith, which included Whinlatter Pass, a four-mile climb to about 984ft.”

Day two

“Sunday kicked off with torrential rain that hardly let up all day. At one point there was a horizontal downpour combined with a head wind and fog.

“This leg of the trip included the steepest ascent, Hartside Pass at 1903ft, and also included a 25% descent – which was hair raising to say the least. We arrived in Allenheads in the late afternoon and, after about an hour, the sun came out.

Day three

“Monday started sunny and stayed that way. There was also the promise of some downhill cycling that day, but not before a 17% ascent into Crawley Bankside! We stopped for a well-deserved cup of tea and some cake, then it really was all downhill to the coast.

“After a break in Newcastle to have lunch and regroup, we set off together to conquer the last 11 miles to Tynemouth, where I was met by my friend Victoria and her family, who cheered me on and let me have a shower and change before heading back to Newcastle for the train journey home.

“Altogether I covered about 150 miles – slightly further than anticipated due to taking the scenic route (which is code for getting lost!) – I was predominantly powered by lots of cups of tea and some lovely cakes, which I am reliably informed is not how Chris Froome does it!”

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