Published: 14th FEBRUARY 2023

How volunteering led to romance on National Cycle Route 1

Sara joined Sustrans as an education volunteer in 2014 after she taught her son how to ride a bike. She found a friendly community of people who enjoy the outdoors, walking and cycling – and one special person.

Sara and Vince, Sustrans volunteers standing next to a millenium milepost.

Sara and Vince have a shared love of volunteering on the National Cycle Network

I had a brain injury and was unable to work, but I was keen to get active again so I decided to try volunteering.

I had recently taught my son how to ride a bike, so the Sustrans team suggested I could help out with teaching children to cycle.


I wasn't looking for love

The hardest part was going for the first time to meet people. But it was really fun.

I found I had a knack for teaching kids to cycle.

I met a lot of different types of people and made some great friendships.

I certainly wasn’t looking for love.

I first met Vince at a big celebration family bike ride in March 2014.

He was a volunteer ranger on the Sunderland to Seaham section of National Cycle Network Route 1, helping to manage the path and keep it litter-free.

He lived on the other side of the hill from me, where route 1 is at Ryhope.


You don't need dating apps

It was crowded so we didn’t talk to each other much then.

After that we started to see each other at the same events.

We were interested in the same things - we both attended a cycle maintenance course.

Because we lived close by we started travelling together.

We got on really well and made each other laugh.

I remember a Halloween ride at Herrington Country Park.

I was dressed as a zombie from Minecraft and he was in a gorilla mask. We didn’t take ourselves too seriously.

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Volunteer widening the path on the National Cycle Network

Volunteering with Sustrans

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Volunteering as a family

It's difficult to remember when we first got together as we just started to see more and more of each other.

We were already great friends, so we started to go out for dinner.

We later went for our first cycle camping trip together on a beautiful route from Sunderland to Alnwick.

Volunteering was ideal for introducing our kids to each other too - I’ve got a son and Vince has three girls.

We all went along to the Sustrans litter picking days.

It was a great activity for them to get to know each other, and it’s free.

It’s still a regular event for all of us.

We both love volunteering for Sustrans.

We often walk together and check our section of Route 1 at Ryhope for problems like fallen trees or flooding.

Or we help out with tasks like litter picking or hedgelaying.

Volunteering is a great way to get to know people from different backgrounds with similar interests that you wouldn’t normally meet.

You don’t need dating apps. I wasn’t looking for Vince particularly but I found him.


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