North Shields pupils gear up for epic 1,400-mile challenge

Pupils from Norham High School's Ride to Rome team who covered 1,400 miles in just a week.
Pupils from Norham High School's Ride to Rome team who covered 1,400 miles in just a week.

A group of students have got on their bike to go the distance of an epic challenge.

More than 70 pupils from Norham High School tackled hill climbs and headwinds as they completed 1,400 miles in the Ride to Rome in just five days.

The challenge, supported by Bike4Health and Cycling UK, is part of a major drive by the school to encourage pupils and their families to cycle more to improve health and wellbeing, as well as reduce local congestion.

A group of ten young riders, named as Cycling Heroes for their extra special efforts, completing the final leg of the challenge, crossed the finishing line at the North Shields school to a heroes welcome.

The Ride to Rome has seen groups of ten pupils head out each morning and afternoon over the week to cover miles around North Tyneside and Newcastle using the Waggonways, Sustrans C2C routes and local roads, taking in sights including Tynemouth, Whitley Bay, the North Bank of the Tyne and Newcastle Quayside.

As well as covering the miles, the children hope to raise enough money through sponsorship to fund a new cycling hub at Norham High School that will include secure storage for bikes.

Assistant headteacher Sean Harris said: “Embedding a cycling culture here at Norham is so important to us.

“If we can get our pupils to love cycling, to ride to school, to encourage their families to ride, then they’re going to reap huge rewards.

“They’re going to be fitter and healthier, they’re going to be more alert and ready to learn when they get to school and we’re going to see fewer cars around.

“Our work to encourage cycling is all about opening our pupils’ minds to all of the opportunities and possibilities that are out there when you get on your bike.

“I’m a keen cyclist myself and I cycle to school every day, so I’ve really enjoyed this challenge.

“It’s been fantastic to see every pupil have a go, no matter what their level of ability.

“Our ambition is that if we can continue this work and raise enough funding, these Year 7 pupils could really cycle to Rome in Year 11.”

Year 7 pupil Jason Coates could not ride a bike with confidence at the beginning of this year. During the week, he cycled over ten miles from Norham to Newcastle Quayside in less than an hour, then back again.

Jason said: “This challenge has changed my life. I now absolutely love my bike and I cycle to school every day.

“Cycling is brilliant, it makes you feel great to be out in the fresh air, getting exercise and seeing new places and I’m so pleased I got to take part in this.”

The school has been working with Bike4Health this year to embed a cycling culture right across Norham.

Dave Buchan, from Bike4Health, said: “Norham High School has been working really hard to make cycling a part of everyday life for pupils and their families and we’re really proud to be part of that.

“Their commitment to creating a cycling culture is impressive and the whole school has really got behind it.

“The children who’ve taken part in ‘Ride to Rome’ have been amazing and I hope this challenge inspires them all to keep on cycling.”

Pupils have also taken part in Bikeability training and ‘GearedUp’ cycling skills courses this year and the school recently secured its own set of bikes thanks to funding from North Tyneside Council.

Executive Headteacher David Baldwin said: “This has been a brilliant challenge for everyone involved.

“I’m especially proud of those children who’ve worked hard to take part when they weren’t confident or familiar with a bike at the beginning.”

To read more about the changes at Norham High School, visit www.norhamhigh.com
To find out more about Bike4Health visit www.bike4health.org