Sunderland

The home run The last leg of the route is scenic as it follows the north bank of the Wear, skirting Washington and passing the Stadium of Light. This route opened in 2000 and is reasonably easy to follow. The end is at the Marina at Roker, a grand spot to finish. Tradition has it that you dip your wheel in the briny – just as you did at the start.

The River Wear

The River Wear in Sunderland is estuarial, much of it protected for wildlife species and habitat including salt marsh. In the summer it is possible to spot salmon, as well as feeding kittiwakes, common terns, cormorants and herons. Much of the riverside is unrecognisable compared to just 20 years ago when it was dominated by col ieries, engineering works and dozens of shipyards. The C2C heads eastwards under the Leamside railway line, which crosses the River Wear via the Victoria Viaduct, so named because it was completed on the day of Queen Victoria’s coronation in 1838. The elegant design is based upon a Roman viaduct at Alacantra in Spain.

To mark the official end of the C2C 15 years after the route opened, Sunderland City Council officially unveiled a brand new sculpture by local artist Andrew Small. It is the final piece of his triptych of Wearside statues. His work culminates in a giant letter ‘O’ at Roker marina, and is designed to frame Roker Pier lighthouse for finish line photo portraits of the tens of thousands who come through every year.

About the City

Heritage, history and culture at your seaside rendezvous

Sunderland was once home of shipbuilding, coal-mining, glass blowing and rope making, but it has reinvented itself since becoming a city in 1992, and is now a fascinating mixture of history, heritage and modern facilities to welcome the rider on the last few miles of their voyage. It lies alongside the River Wear, and there has been a major trading hub here since Anglo-Saxon times, when it was one of Europe’s major centres of learning and education thanks to the twin monastic  settlements of St Peter’s (built in 674 with examples of the oldest stained glass in England) and St Paul’s. This is where the Venerable Bede wrote the first history of England and it was also here that the art of glass blowing was introduced.

By the middle ages, it was one of the biggest and wealthiest towns in England; and that was before the real boom times arrived during the Industrial Revolution, when its population exploded from 15,000 to 150,000 in just a few years. That was when the harbour, created to handle a few small fishing vessels, blossomed into the biggest international centre for shipbuilding, with as many as 16 working yards.

Then, in 1988, more than 550 years of history ended when the last shipyard closed. The coal trains and the heavy industry are long gone, but the grandeur of those Victorian riches can still be seen in echoes of the shipyards visible from the Wearmouth bridge; the elegant architecture, and the country parks at Roker and Mowbray.

Now, the dockside that was once filled with soot, coal dust and the sparks flying from the yards, is an elegant sculpture trail where tranquillity and works of art have replaced the thunder of heavy industry. Nowadays, it is a city in tune with nature. The country parks at Herrington and Hetton Lyons are worth the diversion and the route skirts the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust nature reserve at Washington.

When you reach the sea you are greeted by the longest stretch of cityside beach in the UK. Sunderland is also reinventing itself as a modern waterfront city, with bars, restaurants and a thriving nightlife (if you’ve got the energy for dancing after pedal ing over the spine of England) to welcome you. On the way you pass Washington village, the ancestral home of George Washington, winner of the American War of Independence: symbolically completing the loop since Whitehaven, the start of the C2C, is where his grandparents had their home.

Places to Visit

Arts Centre Washington Biddick Lane, Fatfield District 7, Washington, Tyne & Wear, NE38 8AB The Arts Centre Washington is a vibrant focus for arts activities offering a year round programme of arts activities includes exhibitions, theatre, dance, music, festivals, classes and workshops for all ages. 0191 219 3455 www.artscentrewashington.com

Sights on Your Way

Riverside Sculpture Trail Between the Wearmouth Bridge and the Marina, the promenade offers a connected trail of specially commissioned artworks in metal and stone that refer back to the city’s history and heritage.

Washington Wildfowl & Wetland Centre Pattinson, Washington NE38 8LE. This recreated wetland provides a ‘stop over’ and wintering habitat for migratory waterbirds after their passage over the North Sea and the Wetland Discovery Centre offers both a window on the wide range of wildlife and a programme of art exhibitions. 0191 416 5454 www.wwt.org.uk

Sunderland Museum & Winter Gardens Burdon Road, Sunderland SR1 1PP.

Winter Gardens

Sunderland’s museum is hugely popular with visitors of al ages and offers a range of fascinating multimedia installations to tell the city’s story from its early foundations to the present day and one of the gal eries boasts an extensive col ection of paintings by LS Lowry. 0191 553 2323 www.twmuseums.org.uk

Stadium of Light, SR5 1SU. Magnificent 48,000-seater stadium built on the site of Wearmouth Colliery that closed in 1994. Well worth a visit, tours are available. Alongside is the brand new Olympic standard 50 metre swimming pool, the only one of its kind between Leeds and Edinburgh. 0191 551 5055 www.safc.com

The Sunderland Empire High Street West, Sunderland SR1 3EX.

Opened in 1907, is the North East’s largest theatre and a splendid example of Edwardian architecture. Fol owing a £4.5 mil ion refurbishment the Empire now boasts 21st Century facilities and is the only theatre between Manchester and Edinburgh capable of staging large West End productions. 0870 602 1130 www.getlive.co.uk/sunderland

National Glass Centre Liberty Way, Sunderland SR6 0GL. Housed in an innovative glass- roofed building on the north bank of the Wear, the National Glass Centre is a fascinating experience and visitors can explore the full history of glass making in the UK and see cutting edge examples of the contemporary glass maker’s art. 0191 515 5555 www.nationalglasscentre.com

Opposite stadium: Park that was the end point of the first steam locomotive railway in the world, the Hetton Colliery Railway, ran 11 miles from Hetton-le- Hole to coal staithes at the River Wear from 1822. The staithes were used until the late 60′s.

Wearmouth Bridge Built in 1796 and seen as a catalyst for the growth of Sunderland. The previous bridge was at Chester-le-Street. There was a pedestrian tol until 1846, and for vehicles until 1885. The adjacent railway bridge opened in 1879 and carries both Metro and conventional rail.

Marine Activities Centre North Dock, Roker, Sunderland SR6 0PW. The marina at Roker is Sunderland’s main focus for all types of water-based sports and leisure activities and boasts an Italian restaurant with panoramic sea views. It’s also near your C2C finishing line. 0191 514 1847 86

City Centre Across the Wearmouth Bridge stands Sunderland City Centre, incorporating great places to eat, drink and shop and includes bike shops, the Central Railway Station and venues well worth a visit:

St Peter’s Church East of the Wearmouth Bridge, alongside the C2C and the University is St Peter’s church, home to the Venerable Bede until he moved to St Paul’s in Jarrow. There is now a walkway and cycleway linking the two, and you may spot the smal blue signs for it along the rest of the route.

Sunniside & Sunniside Gardens A large area of public open space in the eastern part of the city centre. The surrounding area is emerging as a cultural quarter with new bars and restaurants and over 100 listed buildings.

Roker Beach and Pier With its distinctive red and white granite lighthouse, Roker beach provides a wonderful seaside playground and is an ideal place for water sports, with the Marine Activities Centre and other facilities close by.

Places to Eat & Drink

There are a number of public houses near the C2C finishing point. The Harbour View, The New Derby, The Cliff, The Queen Vic, the bar of the Roker Hotel and a few others are all within walking distance. The Smugglers, on the promenade at Roker Beach, was voted the top music venue in Sunderland and they have live music most days of the week. Bar meals are available at most of these pubs. There are also a number of excel ent Italians in Little Italy on the promenade and Santini’s and Gabriel e’s by the Mariott. For snacks, try the Bungalow Café on the cliff top at Roker. It is a well-known landmark, an old- fashioned cafe in a tiny bungalow. Next to it is the famous signpost, marked: “To Beach” (pointing towards the beach), “To Vil age” (pointing into Roker), “To Bungalow” (pointing to the cafe), and “To Germany” (pointing out to sea).

Seaburn

Shagorika: traditional Indian, reliable feast.

Priti Raj: contempory Indian, highly rated. Deptford

(over the Queen Alexandra Bridge)

KING’S ARMS, 1 Beech St, Hanover Place, SR4 6BU. (off Trimdon St behind the B&Q) This is worth the diversion as it’s one of the best beer pubs in the North East. It’s a ten minute walk from the city centre and is close to the university. Regulars include Timothy Taylor Landlord plus a wide choice of guest beers. There are nine handpumps. Camra pub of the year 2005, 2006 and regional North East winner. Lots of wood panelling, a small snug and lots of pictures of old Sunderland . 0191 567 9804.

SALTGRASS, Hanover Place, SR4 6BY. Quite why two of Sunderland’s best ale houses happen to be tucked behind B&Q just south of the Alexandra Bridge is a mystery that will resolve itself after a pint or two of the many guest beers. Old fashioned and friendly. Beamed ceilings, lots of old pictures. Popular for Sunday lunch. 0191 565 7229.

Roker Pier

Trattoria Due: At the Marina.

Roker Hotel Tavistock: Thai and Italian.

Throwing Stones: Top quality food at the Glass Centre.

THE PROMENADE, Queen’s Parade, SR6 8DA Serves Caledonian, Deuchars and Tetley. Seafront pub with excellent views. Serves good pub grub and upstairs there are four single rooms and three twins. 0191 529 2226.

HARBOUR VIEW, Benedict Rd, SR6 0NL Good range of beers very well kept. As the pub’s name suggests, it has commanding views over the marina and harbour and is a short distance from Roker beach. Specialises in microbreweries from near and far and there’s a quiz night Tuesdays and live music on Thursdays. 0191 567 1402.

Cycle Shops

Cycle World, 222 High Street West, Sunderland, SR1 1TZ 0191 5658188 or 5141974, www.cycleworldshop.co.uk

Peter Darke Cycles, 1/2 John Street, Sunderland, SR1 1DX 0191 5108155, www.darkecycles.com

Halfords Bike Hut, Unit 3, Trimdon Street, Sunderland, SR4 6DW 0191 5140843, www.halfords.com

What next?

Up the coast to join the Reivers route back to the west There is a wonderful eight mile stretch of coastal cycling between Roker and South Shields, going through Whitburn and Marsden. Known as the Two Rivers Cycleway, this is part of National Route 1, which becomes the Coast and Castles route once across the Tyne, wending a spectacular and beautiful thread up the Northumberland coast and into the Scottish Borders.

It is also the connection between the C2C and Reivers routes, completing the ful circle in about 330 miles. This route fol ows the beautiful beaches on Roker and Seaburn before passing the Souter Lighthouse and Marsden Rock, descending to the old ferry link. Close to the Shields’ ferry are a number of great bars overlooking the active Tyne estuary, including the Alum House and bars around Mil Dam / Custom House.

If you finish in Sunderland but your car or train are from Newcastle, the Two Rivers Cycleway is the obvious route. Once at South Shields you have the option of taking the ferry across or taking the pedestrian and cyclists’ tunnel (note: do NOT attempt the car tunnel). Also note: the Metro does not allow bicycles, though mainline trains do.