Sellafield to Leeds

Our Sellafield team recently transported Kier Bear on an epic 164 mile journey through Cumbria from our Sellafield site to the Bear’s next site destination in Leeds, undertaking the challenging journey in just three days. They explain their adventure below:

“The initial cycling team of Matt Hutchinson, Rob Horan & Mike McCaul, plus initial support drivers Clive Goffatt & Stewart Walker, left the Sellafield site early on the Wednesday during a huge thunderstorm. The first leg of the journey was 25 miles to Cockermouth, through the more built up areas of hilly West Cumbria. Thoroughly soaked we stopped at Cockermouth, refuelled, gave our legs a good stretch, and then continued on towards Thirlmere, a distance of approximately 22 miles.

Our route took us past picturesque Bassenthwaite Lake, by which time the rain & thunder had eased considerably. The section through Keswick provided some alarm to a local shopkeeper, concerned over Mike’s cramp-induced stretching on the footpath opposite Wetherspoons… The sharp hill out of Keswick added to the leg fatigue, but support refreshments and improving weather at the top spurred us on over the remaining miles to the Kings Head pub, our meeting point for the next section of our journey.

Additional people arrived to participate in the hike over Helvellyn - experienced hiker Phil Scotchbrook and his wife Angie, Lee Campbell, and support driver Lara (who took over from Stewart).

With Lake District rain now having given way to glorious sunshine, we split into two smaller groups - Matt and Stewart proceeding to Swirl Crag to complete a rock climb with the bear, whilst Phil, Angie, Lee and Rob traversed the foot of the mountain through thick bracken and fern to an agreed rendezvous point with the climbers. Our furry friend enjoyed his first outing on Lakeland rhyolite, convinced that HVS stands for High but Very Sunny!

On completing the climb we had an unplanned ghyll scramble to re-join with the rest of the party, stopping to take a short break, and to take in the beautiful scenery. Once refreshed the whole team carried on upwards toward the summit of Helvellyn, where the sunshine eventually gave way to cloud. By the time the summit was reached, jackets were back on and the fabulous vistas presented below were sadly lost to cloud and mist.

Though not showing the Lakeland splendour that was behind us, we ensured a good photographic record was made of our team at Helvellyn trig point. Striding Edge pass was next on the agenda, as we headed towards Glenridding – it is a perilous hike over a knife edge ridge, offering beautiful yet dangerous drop offs to either side. The combination of walking, scrambling, and occasional bits of climbing made it an unusual and exciting traverse.

Once Ullswater was in sight, Phil & Angie said their goodbyes, and set off back towards Thirlmere, leaving the rest of us to continue along the well-defined path towards Glenridding. The long downhill trek eventually saw us arrive at Gillside campsite foot-sore and knee-sore, with Lee, the unaccustomed outdoor adventurer, suffering from a bad ankle (maybe a few more forays out onto site are needed!). Clive & Lara were there to greet us, having arrived in advance, set up the tents, and scouted out the local hostelry for a well-earned calorie intake.

Stewart, Lara and Lee then set off for home, leaving the trio of Rob, Matt & Clive to spend a night under the stars, resting tired limbs, and trying not to think too much about the journey ahead.

Thursday dawned dry and clear, and feeling refreshed after a decent night’s sleep, we packed away our tents and prepared for a further day of cycling, with Clive now the sole support driver & motivator. The first 2 miles were relatively flat and provided chance for us to get our legs working again.

Then came Kirkstone pass… a 2-mile long, 1500ft rise section of road, which is an incredibly hard bike ride, with gradients in places above 13%! Once reaching the peak, I think it would be safe to say both of us were slightly drained from the exertion! After a rest we headed down towards Lake Windermere - aided by the gentle downward gradient the 10 mile distance flew past.

After a refuel at the lake we collected our kayaks, and the three of us took the bear on a tour of Lake Windermere. He seemed to enjoy being out on the Lake, but resisted the temptation to do a ‘Titanic’ at the bow of Clive’s kayak! To celebrate a successful voyage a good portion of fish and chips were consumed before beginning the next leg, a distance of 35 miles.

With the village of Ingleton as the ‘Day 2’ destination, we left Windermere behind and headed uphill towards Kendal. Once there, the busy town centre proved difficult to navigate and we were separated from Clive by traffic for a short time. This proved costly for us, as we headed in the wrong direction, travelling East on the A684 and up the torturous 900ft rise (17% in places!) towards Sedburgh… Once realising the mistake, we headed down from Sedburgh to east of Kirby Lonsdale to rendezvous with Clive, and complete the final 10 miles to Ingleton - our slight detour had added a further 10miles to the proposed route.

 A well-earned barbecue, presided over by our furry friend, was our nutritional reward for a hard day’s activity. Needless to say we were sound asleep shortly after dinner…!

Friday was clear and bright again, and we departed the campsite ahead of schedule. Stretching ahead of us was 25 miles to Low Snaygill, Skipton followed by a gentle 30 miles along the canal to the Leeds office... or so we thought. Once the first 300 - 400m of flat smooth canal riding was complete the path deteriorated into a dirt track with overgrown bushes, roots and stones in the path, proving very difficult terrain for the road bike. Our Bear was soon heard to mutter something about knowing what a James Bond Martini felt like…

After 2½ hours of travelling just 22 miles the canal path finally improved, so much so that the final 8 miles was completed in under 30mins, and the Bear was successfully handed over to Ant Burrows, Site Agent at our Leeds site.

 Though thoroughly exhausted, we were pleased to have achieved our goal of reaching our destination via some of the most picturesque countryside in England.”


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