Thursday 28th July 2016 Day 1.
I decided to do another bike and bus pass tour but a little longer this year and this allowed DH to be able to decorate our house. I have to keep out of the way because of the spasmodic dysphonia I get because of certain products – fresh paint being one of them.
He offered to take me to the bus station so I was able to get on the X10 to Newcastle at 6.20am for the price of 30p plus my OAP bus pass. There weren’t too many other passengers and I was able to take my trailer on without taking off the wheels, making it easier when we arrived in Gateshead. I decided to get off there as it would be easier to get down to the quayside and route 72. I rode through the town centre as it was so quiet and crossed the river Tyne on the High Level Bridge. Once there, I walked passed the old castle keep and down the steep cobbled bank leading to the river. The weather was sunny at this time as I set off up the Hadrian’s Wall route. I have ridden this in previous years a number of times, and some of it has changed. The route has been resigned to avoid the old staithes area and as I approached Newburn, I was pleased to recognise it.
The monument in the background commemorated those who died in a battle fought here in 1640 where the armies of Scotland defeated those of Charles the first. It is sometimes known as the battle of Newburn ford.
This shows my set up. The Dahon Speed pulls a Radical Designs trailer and I have a couple of home made bags front and rear. My Ortlieb handle bar bag sits in the front bag and I can get a few other things in as well.
I continued up the Tyne passing over the bridge at Wylam and up the old wagon way which used to be for taking coal down to the river for transportation . I missed seeing the George Stephenson cottage. There is a particular part where you have to turn sharply by some cottages and there is a restrictor that was difficult. I was grumbling to myself about the stupidity of some of the barriers. However, it was a blessing as I noticed one of the trailer wheels had worked loose and I hadn’t noticed. Sometimes we get what we need rather than what we want. As I approached Prudhoe I could see work vehicles and there is still a lot of work going on due to damage from winter storms.
I crossed the bridge at Ovingham but it began to rain and I had to stop and put on my rainproofs standing in the shelter of the village hall doorway. From there I went along to Ovington and then got on the wrong road. I didn’t know it but then got to the A69 with its busy traffic. I coud see where I needed to be so being very careful I crossed the road. There was a bit of path but it soon petered out so I resorted to walking along the grass verge.
I was relieved to get off the main road and onto the quieter lanes. I got onto the B6309 and then turned onto the B6318 which is an old Roman road. It is straight but undulating and then I turned off to Matfen. There is a nice village store and coffee shop here so I asked if they would mind me going in as I was wet and fatigued. I had a reviving hot chocolate and a toasted teacake with jam and then it was out into the rain again. The hills really started now and I climbed and walked them passing through Ryal. There were some scarily steep hills to speed down to Halington and on over gated moorland and across bridges on Halington reservoir. There was a tiny hamlet called Throckington with the church of St Aidan built over 1000 years ago.
I met a chap called Andrew there and we had a chat about my rig and he said he thought I was very brave. He took my photo with the church in the background.
From here I continued opening and closing gates as I crossed open moorland without seeing any people but plenty of sheep and cows. In fact, as rode towards them , I shouted WHOOP < WHOOP very loudly so I could get them to move off the track. Sometimes they did but at others they just ran along ahead of me.
Crossing the end of Colt Crag reservoir, I had to cross the A68 but needed to ride about 200 yds along it. Well OK, ‘fess up’ , I walked as it was up a steep bank but then it was turn towards Bellingham. I met a postman and asked his advice on the way to go. I really think he was having a laugh at my expense. He told me to proceed down to the Heugh ( pronounced heeyuff in the Northumbrian dialect). I later learned this means a promontory. Well I did, but wish I hadn’t as it was a very , very rough track that went down through a farm and then further down to the river. What does down has to come up. It was tough pushing my rig up the hill on a very bad potholed surface. It might be OK in a post office van but believe me, no fun pushing a loaded bike and trailer.
When I arrived at a road , I wasn’t sure of which way to go, so turned and went uphill. WRONG!! I had to go all the way back down and into the village and then to the Camping and Caravanning club site on the Hexham road about half a mile from the village. In dialect the village of Bellingham is pronounced ( Bellingjum). I arrived about 5.00pm to this very well equipped site and was able to dry my clothes off in there beautiful drying room, make my evening meal in the kitchen and sit in comfort in the dining area.
I was so pleased to have a shower but got leg cramps most of the evening and night. I took some rehydration stuff and realised I need to drink more as I was sweating profusely up those hills.