The Yorkshire Wolds Sept 2019 (In double pants)

Why do they put themselves through this every year? Is it the sense of achievement ? The dopamine rush after tough physical exercise, or is it the figure hugging lycra and beer ? I know – but I’m sworn to secrecy.

So, this year it’s a circular (ish) tour of the Yorkshire Wolds. About 150 miles in total, completed in around two days, not bad going for a bunch of old geezers.

This year I just hope they stick to the planned route without getting lost – ha! fat chance of that !! Well at the very least I hope the weather holds..

Day One Friday 6th September

Stage One : Thixendale to Kirkham Priory

After the drive from home to Thixendale, it was not a well boded start (is boded even a word?). Our old friend the wet stuff was pouring from an angry sky as we left the little “curtain twitching” hamlet of Thixendale. Nothing much to say about it – very quiet and with an aura of “are you local” about it (possibly just my prejudice).

Kirkham Priory

After a mainly downhill ride into Kirkham, happily the sun burst through. For which I’m sure the riders were very glad. It’s never nice to start off wet. So what’s Kirkham Priory like? Well, Tynemouth has nothing to worry about in the Priory stakes – the one in Kirkham is, for the most part, a decidedly sad looking pile of rubble – good work by Henry VIII.  

Kirkham

Stage Two : Kirkham Priory to Settrington

Lunch was intended to be taken in Kirkham (sorry boys my corned beef and onion sarnies really do stink). And it would have been if they’d bothered to turn up. Of course they did their normal, and got lost. Is this a record, to get lost on only the second stop ?

At least we discovered that there was a phone signal in these parts, so Mike could ring me and confirm they’d gone off-piste and were carrying on to the next planned stop at Settrington.

Settrington looked like a nice quiet village – until all of the HGVs started running through. It must be on some satnav shortcut, and must be hell to live with.

Settrington Rest Stop

But that aside, the riders eventually found the route and arrived after several unintended detours. Sarnies were taken, as were (very old) jelly babies and other (semi) legal stimulants. The first mentions of Sorus Arsus were made by Mike – more of which was to follow. This being day one, with the time taken to drive to the start, meant that there was only one more stage left today.

Peaceful – beware HGVs

Stage Three : Settrington to Weaverthorpe

Refreshed and fed, off they set to Weaverthorpe, which was to be our first nights stay.

The plan was for this to be the end of day one, but as the weather was now so unaccountably good, they ruminated on an extension and to ride an extra section. This would of course depend on them not getting lost – so who knows.

Beers at Weaverthorpe

The drive down (up ? across ?) to Weaverthorpe showed some of the nicest aspects of the Yorkshire Wolds thus far, either very flat or gently undulating countryside, with patchwork quilting of fields, enough to swell Sir G Boycotts heart to twice its size (not his head though, as that would cause a significant danger to aircraft).

Outside The Blue Bell

Weaverthorpe The Blue Bell Inn

Weaverthorpe is not too inspiring – but at least it doesn’t have dozens of HGVs roaring through every minute. The Blue Bell is the best thing in the village. I was struck by the pungent aroma of excrement in the air, and supposed it to be from the farms all around. That was until I saw most of the houses had septic tanks, and so had to wonder at just how good their sealing arrangements might be……

By the time the riders arrived, any idea of an extension (ooh matron!) had been completely abandoned.

Weaverthorpe

Therefore several pints of Landlord were taken for the refreshing of mind if not body so much. Then a pretty good dinner of scallops and grouse, accompanied by various red wines to finish the day off well.

One slight hiccup however – the fire alarm went off in the middle of the night. Steve insisted it was my phone alarm – however the volume was painfully high, rattling the windows, and it turned out to be a real alarm. Like all good safety conscious citizens we did nothing at all and just lay in bed while Mike patrolled the corridor in his hi-vis tabard and wardens clipboard (well he would have loved to if he’d had them). Eventually it stopped – and as we couldn’t smell a fire, went back to sleep. It turned out that someone had been making toast in their room (how?) at two in the morning (why?). The rest of the night was peaceful – apart of course from Steve’s impression of a walrus being beaten to death. If ever there’s a world snoring championship – he’s a sure gold medal winner. Thank god for my ear plugs.

Day Two Saturday 7th September

Stage One : Weaverthorpe to Humanby

A Good full english was taken to try and put everyone right, however the grouse and copious red wines were playing havoc with my innards. It was lucky for them that I was alone in the car…

Mike revealed his cunning plan to alleviate his sore withers – two pairs of padded pants. Hope it helps.

A breather near Brid

The route to Hunmanby was uneventful and it turned out to be a very nice little town. There was a Co-op , a paper shop (which sold The Guardian!), a wine shop, a butchers and a bakery. What more could you want? Also on four occasions I was wished a good morning – very nice people. Coffees were then drunk at a nice pub – someone must train Mike that a cappuccino is not the same as a latte!. After they left I bought very nice looking fresh sandwiches and pasties from the bakery for lunch later.

Hunmanby Church

Stage Two : Hunmanby to Bridlington

Not a great section for me – nothing to see from the A-road, I just hoped their off-road experience was better. The weather was now perfect – cool, sunny and dry. It had looked a bit doubtful this morning, and there had been a brief downpour at Hunmanby too – but all good now.

The Wolds

The Bridlington stop was chosen to be on the outskirts, away from traffic. This proved to be a bit disappointing, as we had to go along a track that was home to “travelers” and it was really very badly in need of cleaning up. Anyway the lunch bought back in Hunmanby was excellent and my colon was behaving itself. Mike also reported that his double-pant strategy was working well.

Roger was managing to hold on well, despite having come to the ride almost straight from the Andes – and bearing the “Inca lung” cough, which we hoped wasn’t contagious.

The Lobster Pot

Stage Three : Bridlington to Lowthorpe

Lowthorpe is a pretty, small village with no sign of life – one of those places time forgot – until that is the local witches coven opens for cocktails at 5 (larks blood martini anyone?). But I’m looking forward to Hutton Cranswick – what a great name , just hope it doesn’t disappoint.

Jumping time in Lowthorpe

I shouldn’t have tempted fate, as Roger decided he’d had enough for the day and retired to the car – can’t say I blame him.

Stage Four : Lowthorpe to Hutton Cranswick and Flamborough Head

Lovely Hutton Cranswick

Hutton Cranswick in all of its charmingly named glory…..is a dump. The pub we met at was a rough local dive. Complete with screaming kids (in a pub??!!), and loads of violent looking ruffians (well they were compared to our metrosexual elite sensibilities). So we left there quickly – not even a single pint – that’s a measure of its awfulness – and drove on up to Flamborough Head for a look. Loads of sea, loads of gulls, loads of wind. But a nice view and a nice looking lighthouse. However the cafe/pub was also full of noisy kids eating chips – so again we decided excretion was the bitter part of valor – or something like that – and drove back to Bridlington and to The Lobster Pot, our accommodation for the night.

Flamborough Head

Drive : Flamborough Head to Bridlington

Flamborough Lighthouse

The Lobster Pot is a very new Premiere Inn type place – full of kids again (do you see a pattern here of my predjudices?). But the rooms are big, clean and comfy. Let’s hope the food and wine are OK

And they were fine – steaks a bit dry, but everything else was fine.

Day Three Sunday 8th September

The night before wasn’t particularly abstemious (finishing with some rather nice port – thanks Roger), but everyone seemed more bushy tailed than the day before, and Roger was fit for the final stages.

The drive back to Hutton Cranswick (or Ugly Bogshed) was uneventful and we reached the depart for 10:15. Off they set for Cherry Burton, another nice sounding place, just hoping it looks nice too….

Stage One : Hutton Cranswick to Cherry Burton

….and it did. Very pretty village with a rather nice church (St. Michael And All The Angels). There’s obviously plenty of money here – big houses and big cars – and just as I was remarking on this to myself, a TVR owners club paraded through – very appropriate.

Cherry Burton

I must say it became very noticeable that most of these villages sported an unusual number of union flags (don’t call them union jacks as pedants will beat you soundly), is this anything to do with the dreaded “B” word?….

Next stop North Newbold.

Stage Two : Cherry Burton to North Newbold

The weather was beautiful as I sat with a coffee waiting for them outside the Tiger Inn. Facing me was a very nice village green, with no HGV’s taking short-cuts. There were another 30 miles of planned route still to go today, a lot of it uphill.

North Newbold

Over the last couple of days they managed not to get “really” lost. However, they made up for it in spades this time. The section should have taken 45 minutes to an hour at most, however two and a half hour later they dragged themselves to our rendezvous. It turned out that they’d managed to end up in Hull ! I reminded them of how stupid pigeons are, but that even they know how to get somewhere. As they trailed in looking shattered they agreed as one “done – no more – finish” especially with the promise of a cold pint and a bag of crisps.

North Newbold

So that’s how it ended, as TS Elliot said “not with a bang, but with a whimper”.

However it needs to be emphasized that a great time was still had by all, regardless of where we finished.

The End

On the drive home we discussed next year’s ride, so they haven’t been put off any more punishments just yet. Scotland? Lincolnshire ? Who knows……..

Bloody But Unbowed in Bellingham – September 2018

The ride that very nearly didn’t happen really. Two out of three of the riders had suffered great physical misfortune and could therefore be excused from the normal gruelling trial. So rather than not do anything at all, it was decided to have a slightly more leisurely adventure.

Day One : Kielder Dam / Kielder Castle / Leaplish / Bellingham

We set off from Wylam and drove up to Kielder (Why do we always call going North “up”?) . This was uneventful, other than listening to the blood-curdling tales of Roger’s bike crash hospitalisation, plus calls from Steve of “I’ve had a bad back you know”.

Arriving at Kielder Dam and unloading the bikes revealed that Roger had broken his own puncturing record already, as he’d somehow managed to get a puncture while the bike was still on the car roof. So the first thing was to delay the “Depart” while he replaced his inner tube.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once ready, loins were girded etc. and off they set for a half circuit of the lake, with a planned meeting at Kielder Castle at The Angler’s Arms.

 

 

 

 

 

 

They all arrived at The Angler’s without incident. Well, what could go wrong ?, other than someone riding into the lake – which, given our history, I wouldn’t put past any of them. No punctures or additional physical injuries either – all very tame stuff.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now, let me try to describe The Angler’s Arms. Cinematic references can often be helpful here. So, if you imagine The Slaughtered Lamb pub from “An American Werewolf In London” (stop thinking of Jenny Agutter in the shower right now), crossed with just about anywhere/anybody from “Deliverance”, you’re on the right track. Is it something in the water ? If there’d been a piano player, he’d have stopped as we walked in, that’s for sure. Anyway the sarnies and beer were fine and prepared the riders for their next leg down the other side of the lake to Leaplish.

No problems again and all three arrived at Leaplish. Even after such low levels of rainfall Kielder still looks great, but it was clear that the level was lower than I’d ever seen it. At this point, Steve sensibly decided not to ride any further and risk his back deteriorating. He was worried that he’d not be fit to fly to Rhodes the next week, but mostly he knew that Lalage would have killed him if he’d not been fit to go.

 

 

 

 

 

So the final leg of the day was for Roger and Mike to ride back to Kielder Dam, which they did without incident. We then checked into the Riverdale Hall at Bellingham – an oft frequented haunt now.

Once showered etc. we took a stroll into the jumping metropolis that is Bellingham on a Friday. The first pub was shut. The next pub was plastered all over in St. George’s cross flags, either left over from the last World Cup, or else because it was run by the EDL. By the look of the clientele, I’d guess the latter. So after a very quick pint (no real ales at all – obviously too “foreign” looking for them), we used the excuse of being besieged by wasps to make our escape – The Slaughtered Lamb again came to mind. Back to the hotel, and after a rest it was into the bar for very nice beers, wine and an excellent dinner. The food and wine are always great here, with a very nice Californian Pinot Noir standing out for me. Even though the place looks ready to succumb to creeping disintegration at any time, it’s still comfortable and nicely remote from the land of the living dead back in Bellingham.

 

Day 2 : Rothbury / Darden / Elsdon / West Woodburn / Bellingham

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steve was brave enough to tempt fate (and Lalage’s wrath) by joining in this quite short ride. So after releasing them at the edge of Rothbury I agreed to meet them at West Woodburn. The scenery on the way is so attractive – in a tough and almost bleak way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We met up, again without incident (what no punctures Roger??) at The Bay Horse in West Woodburn, just on the A68.

 

 

 

 

 

 

While a definite improvement on the last two pubs we’d been in, it was still rather dilapidated, and for a Saturday afternoon, pretty deserted too. However, the beer was good and thanks to the hefty full-english breakfasts no one wanted lunch. We did discover a possible alternative accommodation for another time, just to the side of the pub.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steve reckoned it looked a bit too plush for us though.

Last leg, a short ride back to the hotel – all without incident.

After a wash and brush up, we decided to end the day with a walk to take the strain off Mike’s backside, reduce the risk of Steve annoying his back and let Roger’s ribs heal a bit more before tomorrow. So we drove to Otterburn and did the 5 mile “Otterburn’s Battlefields walk”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s an interesting walk up and down a hillside north of Otterburn, and was the site of Harry Hotspur’s English army getting it’s glutious maximus well and truly kicked by the Scots (hooray for our-side – well my side anyway).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some of the walk was through MOD artillery shooting range land, but luckily nothing was being detonated that day. One odd thing was that on the route we passed several warning signs that said “slow children were crossing” – it must be the after effects of all that ordinance. Over the whole route we didn’t see a single soul, just plenty of sheep and some angry looking cows with their calves that we gave a wide berth to.

So, back to the hotel, where they had warmed up the sauna for our return – very nice of them. It was just what was needed, Steve however never made it, after falling asleep on his bed. So two sauna sessions and a few lengths of the pool set us up for another very nice dinner, and some more excellent wines.

 

Day 3 : Chollerford / Corbridge / Wylam

 

Steve made the decision not to risk his back again, and so after breakfasts of full-englishes all round, only Mike and Roger kitted up for the (truncated) ride home. To reduce the distance we all drove to Chollerford and they started the final ride from there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Steve and I drove to Corbridge, had decent coffees, read the papers, and then we all met up for the last leg. To save time I took Steve straight home to Ponteland, while Mike and Roger rode on down to Wylam. Again it all went off without incident – boring no ?     I think I enjoyed the days of punctures and getting lost on previous rides better. There also wasn’t a spot of rain all weekend, which spoiled it for me somewhat – there’s nothing quite as satisfying as watching three exhausted, soaked riders approaching, while you sit warm and dry in the car.

All-in-all another very enjoyable weekend in good company. Even with the enforced shorter rides, it was still great fun, and we all look forward to next year – hopefully injury free, and as we say every year SOMEWHERE FLAT.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Biggar Than What?

Another year, another attempt to scale the heights, ford the streams, defy the elements – and get lost repeatedly when only 10 miles have been travelled on simple roads. But hey, that’s how we get our kicks man (that means fun to us young hep cats Roger).

This year it’s Biggar to Berwick via Melrose, a much shorter jaunt than in previous years. However you won’t be surprised to find that the “athletes” are already getting their excuses in early, “it’s very hilly”, “ooo, I hope it doesn’t rain” etc. Where would we be if Sir Edmund Hillary had said, “ ooo, that big mountain looks a bit high….. “

Day one Biggar To Melrose

A new member of the team surveys the route

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well who’d have guessed – IT’S NOT RAINING – that’s got to be a first!
Set off from Biggar CO-OP in lovely sunshine and had a very nice drive to The Botanical Gardens at Dawyck. Very lovely countryside all around – and did I mention the lack of precipitation?

Entrance to the gardens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, I’ll need to check my blogs, but I think this may be the first time they’ve got lost on the very first stop. Luckily there we actually had a phone signal, and so we were able to agree to carry on, and make the next stop Caledonian Road, just outside of Peebles centre.

Look ! Sun !

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peebles is really lovely, I’d forgotten just how nice it is. However the rendezvous proved not to be as easy as it should have been. Misunderstandings and map errors (by them!!) meant another late stop, but they got there in the end. Lunch was taken among some very nice houses.

Peebles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’d planned to meet in the car park across the road, but due to a Highland music festival, everywhere was absolutely packed with be-kilted bagpipe merchants (HOOTS! etc.). Interestingly (well to me anyway), the toilets in the car park have the most ridiculous system of entry and exit. Once you’ve paid your 30p (my God it was 2p only 5 minutes ago), you then have to go through numerous button presses, red and blue flashing lights and warning buzzers. All to take a pee!! I know who’s taking the p***.

Taking on water and other semi-legal substances at Craigmyle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, after lunch we packed up for the next section to Craigmyle Park. Now, you know how Hollywood stages it that people to drop incriminating evidence when they pull something out of their bag? Well, ask Michael’s why a pair of latex proctology gloves fell out of his bag at this point…… I have nothing to say on the matter (unless asked).

The Tweed valley is really easy on the eye

 

 

 

 

Perfect weather


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next 10 miles to Melrose were really beautiful, meandering up the Tweed valley. No one managed to get lost and the impeccable domestique (me) had cold pints waiting for the riders as they arrived at Burt’s Hotel. We didn’t see Burt , but the very nice reception lady was very helpful and the rooms were more than adequate. Dinner consisted of G&Ts, great gulps of red wines, port and, oh yes, food. The food was actually really very good, and a nice night was had by all.

Day Two – Melrose to Berwick

Melrose Depart

Excellent Full Scottish breakfasts provided good ballast laid down for the upcoming exertions, well that steering wheel doesn’t turn itself you know.

The buzzing metropolis of Makerstoun

 

 

 

 

Makerstoun Town Hall and Juke Joint

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First stop of the day was Makerstoun. My route from Melrose was mainly on boring A roads, but even then the beauty of the local area was clear. Makerstoun proved to be 10 red sandstone cottages and an old red GPO phone box. A very pretty and sleepy little village that time seems to have forgotten – lucky for Makerstoun.

….and still no rain….

Ednam War Memorial

Shhhh, don’t wake the spiders

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next stop Ednam. Another quiet village, with only a dilapidated bus shelter and a war memorial to note. There were 12 WW2 dead recorded on the monument, makes you understand how devastated such a small community must have been at the time.
No problems thus far today, but something tells me it can’t last.

On to Upsettlington. Well named, as there was something really unsettling about the place. Really immaculate cottages and a big manor house, but not a single person to be seen. The local coven must have been on a day out to Peebles.

Spooky Upsettlington

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last leg Upsettlington to Berwick. We decided not to actually go into Berwick and instead to meet at a nondescript A1 junction.

 

 

 

 

The end of the road

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sounds like a little bit of a anticlimax especially as there were no crowds stewing our path with rose petals. But the riders still appeared to be pleased to get here.

Well done men!

It had been another really good time for us all. And next year is already at the planning stage. Now where’s my map of Machu Picchu??…..

 

The Wrath of God (or Bellingham in the rain)

Kielder 2016

Day One

Stage One
Wooler to Alnham 16 miles

The start of this needs to be very mock-profound and very silly, but I can’t think of anything right now, as we’re all feeling deeply gloomy and thoroughly ashamed of the voting behaviour of our nation and it’s small minded xenophobic tendencies.  Maybe I’ll think of something more light hearted before publication.

A nice day in Wooler

A nice day in Wooler

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Biblical conditions on arrival in Wooler. Torrential rain,with thunder and lightening prevented us from even getting out of the car. I suppose it could have been worse, at least there’s no sign of a  plague of locusts or frogs etc.

The rain brought back worrying memories of Mike’s fetishistic rubber cape ensemble from last year, but thankfully he didn’t have it with him this time. His reason being that it “chafed around the neck” – hmmmm just hoping that was  only experienced during cycling.

The beginning

The beginning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once the thunderstorm abated the cyclists braved the clearing conditions and set off for Alnham.

Lovely countryside on the way,

Grey skies near Alnham

Grey skies near Alnham

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Altham turned out to consist of nothing more than a rather smelly farm, with the usually “friendly” farmer staring at a non-local like me and sharpening his scythe meaningfully. This was off-set by watching the sheep dogs “surfing” around the corners on the back of the shepherd’s quad bikes, looked like great fun (for the dogs).

Alnham farm

Alnham farm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The athletes appeared a bit late and struggled up a rather steep climb.

DSC_1296

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was clear on arrival that Steve was really keen to get amongst his drug stash already.

Roger is a hard line Jelly Baby user and shuns all of Steve’s illicit gear.

Sharing Steve's lunch

Sharing Steve’s lunch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At this point Steve also revealed his packed lunch (oo err matron!), which consisted of a large carrier bag full of sandwiches, pies, crisps and chocolate bars. Just as well, as all the other two had between them was a small Chinese take-away box half filled with nuts and raisins.

Stage Two

Altham to Elsdon 15 miles.

DSC_1299

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dry and warm now, if a bit heavy with the promise of another deluge. Fear not, gentle reader, I’ll be fine in the car, and after all who cares about the bikers?

Thus spake the oracle, for not 5 minutes out of Altham the heavens split asunder (anyone sick of the Biblical slant yet?) and I was smitten by an incredible deluge. After almost getting stuck in a couple of floods and then coming up against a closed road, I did the  decent thing and turned around to rescue them. After various life threatening adventures that I’m far too modest to mention, I found them two miles out of Alnham hiding, (sorry sheltering), under some trees looking miserable (what else is new?). We drove on through torrential downpours, during which, at one point, I swear I saw a Charlton Heston look-alike with a white beard and a big stick, who seemed to be  trying the part the waters for a bunch of scruffy urchins to pass through.

DSC_1301

 

 

 

 

 

Drove on to Elsdon.

Stage Three

Elsdon (ish) to Bellingham 16 miles.

Back in the saddle

Back in the saddle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful sunshine encouraged them to get back on their bikes (the vampire Lord Tebbit would have been proud), and I left them to it and headed on to the lovely Riverdale Hotel. When I checked in I found I had a really nice room with a balcony and nice views. It’s just a pity the shower was like being gently breathed on by someone with slightly damp breath.

Within minutes of arriving the skies darkened and the rained erupted in another deluge. I thought fleetingly of a rescue mission, but not knowing exactly where they were, I soon did the sensible thing and stayed put, well after all they decided to go bike riding in a British summer.

The riders arrived eventually and were absolutely soaked (again) and looked cold and miserable (some may say their natural mien).

However an excellent dinner of fillet steak with copious bottles of red did it’s best to make up for a fairly miserable day.

It seems pertinent to point out at this point, that this was the first event of this kind to which we had invited the WAGs. Is it purely a coincidence that the occasion was then slightly marred by the wrath of God ? I refuse to comment further.

Day Two

Circuit of Kielder Reservoir.  Around 27 Miles (and a lot less than they will tell you I bet).

After a great “full-english”, the riders set off for their day at the lake. I was given the day off, so I’ve no idea what they got up to, or how often they managed to get lost (they say never – believe that if you will). Meanwhile the WAGs went for a walk around the Lake, while the angered Rain Gods did their best to show their displeasure.

DSC_1304

 

 

 

 

 

 

I then had a nice (dry) time on the Kielder ferry (The Osprey) chugging around the lake in more torrential rain. The Captain was an interesting specimen. Long blonde mullet (going bald on top), diamond earrings, tight trousers and a shirt unbuttoned  to the waist, obviously what passes in these parts for a Lady’s Man.

Kielder Ferry

Kielder Ferry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The riders got back to the hotel early, the WAGs trailing in sometime later looking damp. So after we all had drinks another grand meal was heartily demolished. One or two “cold drinks” were also imbibed, leading to some slurred speech and staggering (on the part of the WAGs of course, we men being made of hardy stuff – well apart from Mike obviously – remember the big girl soft gloves?).

Day Three

Bellingham to Ponteland. 28 Miles.

While the cyclists headed for home, the WAGs and I went off for a nice 6 or so miles walk. This turned out to be mostly through a (very wet) peat bog, but did I complain (yes).

The cyclists had a nicely uneventful ride,  arriving back in Ponteland to beautiful weather, and we all celebrated with glasses of cold fizz in Steve and Lalige’s back garden.

All in all a grand weekend was had by all, despite the various downpours.

The fact that the total mileage was a little less than they had previously done in a day is nothing to do with their advancing years or lack of enthusiasm (honest).

As for next year, Spain has been mooted, sounds good to me (NO RAIN)!!

Old Men Reivers

Old Men Reivers

…..and the annual sweat-fest is with us again. Bums have (hopefully) been hardened, toned and oiled. Roger will no doubt (almost) silently slide through without a problem. Mike will have outlandish clothing to explain away, and Steve will be the tour’s Keith Richard, replete with “substances”.

Day 1

Kirkcudbright to Gretna

Day 1 begins with a car journey to Kirkcudbright to start the grueling Reivers route, it’s not beginning too well, as we drive through heavy rain, looking fairly bleak for the start of the ride.

DSC_1028DSC_1022Arrival in Kirkcudbright safe and sound and ready for the first section.

First stop is Castle Douglas. Can’t see a castle, and anyone could be a Douglas (even the females). Fairly grotty, not helped by incessant rain. Most uplifting aspect is that Mike has immediately unveiled this year’s embarrassing clothing statement.

His bizarre black plastic poncho making him look like a fetishistic gaucho. What larks!

DSC_1024Second stop is Milton. I believe the poet of that name was blind. Just as well if he lived here. The dreek mizzle continues unabated. I’ve hardly ventured out of the car in case I get wet – yes, I know, poor me.

No one ever takes my suffering into consideration. Riders, riders, riders, that’s all anyone’s interested in.

Next stop is the exotic landmark of a Tesco Extra car park on the edge of Dumfries. Wow, I think I’m having a spiritual experience, there’s a strange alien yellow glow in the sky…..oh yes, I forgot that’s sunshine – who knew?

 

DSC_1029

 

Next we pause at Ruthwell, a rather pretty village on an old single track road. Very quiet and pleasant. Helped enormously by the fact that the sun has squeezed out a bit more welcome warmth and the rain has abated somewhat.

DSC_1039

 

I need to note at this point that before they started all of the riders put on snazzy overshoes to keep their little tootsies dry. Steve had to go one better and produced a neoprene cover for his hat, intended to keep out the rain. As he said, “there’s nothing quite like nicely tight fitting black rubber stretched over the end of your helmet”. (fnar! fnar!).

The quaintness of Ruthwell is enhanced by the fact that it is home to a tourist attraction that you really couldn’t make up. “The Savings Bank Museum”. No, really. Unfortunately (fortunately?), it was shut, or I could have regaled you with tales from the wild edge of accountancy, double entry book keeping and franking machines.

DSC_1033

Next stop Annan. Which is quite a nice town, with a nice bridge. Right on the bridge is the Blue Bell public house, and for the sake of furthering scientific investigation we had a pint of Boon Doggo.

DSC_1040

Well, those who drink proper beer did, while Roger and Michael had lager !! They need to be trained in the finer things of life.

 

Now on to the final stage to the Gretna Hall Hotel in Gretna Green. The rain holds off for the entire stage, and we even get more sun. By the time we reach the hotel the weather is perfect. The hotel looks nice from the outside, set in good grounds and on a hillside. Inside is a bit different, very reminiscent of a cross between Acorn Antiques and The Crossroads Motel.

DSC_1047

A bit run down with a very eccentric layout, and weirdly uneven floors – death traps to those who need a bottle of Merlot with dinner – oh yes, that’s us. The other guests seem to be almost entirely over 75, thus making Roger feel at home. The dinner was very good and the 4 bottles of Merlot were just what was needed, especially when it turned out they only charged us for 3.

Day 2

Gretna to Bellingham

Lovely morning for the depart, sunny, with no wind and most importantly, no rain. After a good breakfast (including Haggis; and I know someone who knows what haggis is in French !!), a nice drive through lovely countryside to the first stop at Catlowdy – luckily not a cat in sight. I was particularly glad to have a stop, so that I could find the source of the smell wafting through the car all morning. I couldn’t find the rotting corpse that it smelled like, but eventually discovered the source to be from a wet and very stinky pair of Mike’s trainers, that he’d thoughtfully secreted under my seat. Just stopped short of binning them, but threw them out of the window to allow the sun to kill off a few bugs. This action was almost a disaster, as I drove off leaving them in the road. Once I’d realised, I quickly drove back to the spot, but unfortunately they were still there.

DSC_1048

And this is where it all goes wrong of course. Regular readers of this log of (mis)adventures will be wondering why there has been no mention of either party getting lost. Well that’s because everything had gone like clockwork, with every meeting being kept exactly as planned. Therefore, it was bound to go mammary glands to the vertical. I freely(ish) admit it was (mostly) all my fault, as we hadn’t checked through the itinerary for the day before the off. This meant that I was expecting them to travel via a different route to the one they were actually following. Which in turn basically meant we were separated for 4 hours, without any phone signals and with no idea of where either of us were.

Old fashioned technology helped, as there was a public phone box in Newcastleton, on which I was able to call Mike’s mobile and leave a message for him to meet there. This they eventually did, and three dehydrated and starving riders pounced on their crisps, sarnies and water.

DSC_1057

Overall, the drive this day was really beautiful and the section down to the lakeside of Keilder at the Leaplish Centre is no exception – very nice views of the lake and a very peaceful place. It’s funny but the water in the reservoir doesn’t really look Chinese to my untrained eye.

 

But then the vertical mammary situation returns. Roger’s svelte, lightweight bike can’t cope with the very rough terrain they encountered and he punctures twice. As we’re still not able to communicate, while Roger and Mike walk, Steve is volunteered to ride ahead alone and find me in the car park at Leapish. Having done so, he then sets off with the bike pump on his back to rescue Roger. The true spirit of Stanley lives on! Why is there no mobile signal in these wild parts? How do people live like this ? It really accentuates just how dependent we have become on technology in our lives. The situation risks eating into our much looked forward to sauna and swimming time at the hotel, and all because of O2 and Vodaphone. I think to try and persuade them to take a lift and cheat a bit, ensuring a prompt arrival at the hotel – but I know they’re just too principled and upstanding to agree to that – me, I’m just much more pragmatic (corrupt?).

DSC_1059

Once we got Roger sorted everything went fine, and we even had time to stop off for a pint on the way to the Riverdale Hall Hotel in Bellingham.

The pub we chose was great, really nice atmosphere and great beer. And even better, it lent itself to much scurrilous badinage, due to it’s name – “The Black Cock” – now, now quiet at the back, you smutty people!

Arrived at last at Bellingham, to find a nice hotel with it’s promised leisure facilities. So, after a swim and a sauna, it’s off to the bar for a swift pint, before dinner. The good beer was followed by a really excellent meal, with one of the best quality fillet steaks I’ve had. Everyone agreed that it was well worth the very reasonable rate, and well worth a return visit too.

DSC_1061

Day 3

Bellingham to Tynemouth

A good start to the last section of the route, with a very nice breakfast, and a bit of an earlier depart. The riders looking over the maps and not liking what they saw – climbing, and lots of it – all the way to Ponteland.

 

It’s raining again, but that didn’t persuaded Mike to get out the perverts poncho…. Thankfully. However, all the available rubber wear was being donned – allegedly to keep out the water.

DSC_1062

First meeting point was planned as the Colt Crag Reservoir – providing I could find it….Well, I had to travel on single track sheep-only roads, but I got there.

Rather scary and almost off road, but bleakly beautiful at the top.

DSC_1066Next stop Matfen; where the riders had just finished the heaviest climbing and will therefore need a rest and a drink – they really are delicate flowers you know.

Well the friendly landlord at the pub in Matfen quickly saw through me as not being “local”, or as some kind of ruffian, and swiftly saw me out of his car park. “It’s Sunday, we don’t open until 12” (it was 10 to). So I found the village coffee shop and had a pretty awful decaff, no make that really vile decaff. Matfen is quite picturesque, but there’s a definite feel of “local things for local people” about it. I’m taking bets there’s rampant witchcraft and sacrificial offerings in the evenings – after all there’s not much else to do. The riders arrived in good time and were grateful for the rest and a (less than vile) coffee, after the climbing and damp conditions. Apparently that’s the last of the climbs, and so no more moaning. Now on to Ponteland.

Meeting in the car park of Waitrose is typical of our social standing of course, and a nice lunch of Waitrose produce underlines that fact. Not sure what the great and good of Ponteland thought about our scruffy, unshaven, smelly bunch having a picnic in the Waitrose car park, but our natural poise and air of superiority came through.

DSC_1073

Next meeting point Backworth. Not much to write home about, an old pit village, looking a bit run-down. But the riders were looking remarkably chipper considering their fatigue, this was likely due to the knowledge that the next stop, is the last stop. On to Tynemouth.

Tynemouth – The End.

No last stage dramas, everyone arrived on schedule and in one piece. After a photo call under Collingwood’s column (ooh matron), a nice pint in The Head of Steam, a few philosophical remarks on life, the universe and sore bums. Then off home.

It’s been another enjoyable trip, albeit with a couple of dramas, but then, that’s what adds spice to the dish anyway.

Discussions underway of where to go next year, but one thing’s for sure, wherever it ends up, It’ll be a laugh.