It’s Dreek and Diseased Over The Devils Dumplings or Annan to South Queensferry.


Hard to believe I know, but It’s been three whole years since our last debacle expedition. As far as I remember (with an aging, wine soaked memory), the last ride Walney to Wear was pretty wet, and thus, at least we have continuity. That’s right, the main feature here is water, and plenty of it ; that which commeth from above – RAIN. Add to that steep climbs and very unpleasant illnesses, and there you have another couple of days of masochism…..

Annan – The Start

Driving from Wylam to Annan was uneventful, pretty dry and with splashes of sun. The closer we got to Annan however, things looked less pleasant, with the gloomy black clouds to our west becoming more threatening. Annan was a pretty run-down little town that had clearly seen better days – but to be fair, so had we all.

The départ was to be from Annan harbour, and as you can clearly see, this was a thriving, prosperous, hive of enterprise. Strangely, it wasn’t actually raining at this point, but don’t let that disappoint you, it soon kicked in and got the riders nice and wet.

The first meeting point was scheduled to be St. Mungo’s House. Unfortunately the good saint was keeping a low profile (well, if your parents had been cruel enough to name you Mungo, you would too), neither I, nor our intrepid adventurers could find the damned place.

Where are you Mungo ?

Perhaps it was a blessing from Mungo, but we actually had a phone signal – a very rare event on these rides – we therefore agreed to carry on and meet in Millhouse Bridge for our packed lunches.

Lunch at Millhouse Bridge

At this break another feature of the ride made itself known – the crackling of Mike’s nut bag. (No sniggering at the back please). He managed to make a big bag of nuts and fruit last the whole ride – for energy he reckoned. As usual Steve stuck to his spartan regime of (semi) legal gels and energy giving “substances”. Roger’s diet of almost neat Ribena seemed a more enjoyable one to me.

While the rain continued to fall, our next rendezvous was to be in Moffat. This turned out to be a pretty OK little place. It had a bakery and several pubs, although there were many closed and boarded up places. It looked as though Covid had been the last straw for many struggling businesses, and they’d never reopened after the lockdowns. Sadly an common experience in our weary little island.

Moffat In The Rain
The Buccleuch Arms

We therefore met in the car park at the back of The Buccleuch Arms Hotel. This had actually been selected by Mike as our first overnight stop. Sitting in the car park, it became clear to me that The Buccleuch was a magnet for big, butch, hairy motorcyclists. Thankfully, Steve had intervened earlier and booked us elsewhere, so we were able to avoid such ruffians. What they’d have made of Mike’s nut bag is anyone’s guess.

Next stop – the Devil’s Dumplings (please refer to Miriam Margolyes in Black Adder). This highly trumpeted landmark and viewing point near Moffat is actually called The Devil’s Beef Tub. Obviously a much more sensible name (??). It was touted as a wonderful viewing point for the local geography and topography of the Tweed valley. A-hem.

Devil’s Beef Tub – What a view
Nearly a view

As you can see, it was actually very dreek and the mist clung to the hillsides tenaciously. Whatever breath taking views there were, were avoiding us just like Mungo. There was however a thoughtfully placed tourist information plaque at the viewing point. This utterly failed to explain, or even mention, The Devil’s Beef Tub. Instead it rambled on about Robert The Bruce sticking it up the English – which is a good thing after all.

More rain on the way

By this time the riders were pretty soaked, and the long steep climb had them tired looking. Accept that is for Mike. His new electric bike gave him a bit of a smug look, as he cruised up the inclines almost effortlessly. Envious eyes were cast upon his equipment (oooh matron !). The possibilities of his bike exploding in the night and burning us all to death was hardly mentioned really.

End of the climb – A701 Tweed Valley

After cycling on further to complete the climb, I collected their wet carcases and we set off to Beattock for The Stables Inn. Luckily we weren’t lodged in the old stables – which looked a bit rough, but on the top floor of the main block. This of course gave the riders an opportunity to moan about carrying bikes up stairs. After a couple of pints and a few bottles of red to wash down the (rather good) pies, they were ready for their beds. I was sharing with Steve, and when we got back to our room at 9:30, he put on the TV and was asleep in seconds. However as he’d had to turn on all the radiators to dry out his gear, the room was like a sauna by midnight.

The Old Stables Inn

Starting day two at The Old Stables, the weather report looked a bit better, with only scattered showers, compared to the previous day’s continual rain.

Our first meeting point was at Rachan Mill.

Rachan Mill

The weather was better, with more sunshine breaking through the cloud. More Ribena, crackling nut bags and drugs were taken on-board. Then it was off to Peebles.

Better weather on the way to Peebles.
Mike’s selfie without rain.

The next meeting point was the main car park next to the River Tweed in Peebles. This had the great advantage of several public toilets. However these required 30p for entry. Who has cash these days ? Luckily Mike scraped some up (cash that is). Thus preventing Steve having to give the gentlefolk of Peebles an unpleasant alfresco mooning experience, due to the previous night’s VERY spicy buffalo wings, but we did warn the coastguard anyway.

Over the Tweed
Peebles, just before another downpour

Next stop was intended to be a nameless viewing point on the tiny B7007 – now, if that doesn’t sound like a disaster, I don’t know what does. However, while a disaster did occur, it wasn’t the expected one. Finding no where for a safe stop, I carried on up a very long steep climb and waited for them. At this point it’s worth noting that Roger (“I’m down with the kids”) had shown us how to “drop a pin” using WhatsApp. This therefore let them know exactly where I’d managed to find a safe meeting point.

Resting on the climb up the B7007 – Roger hadn’t fallen off

So, this is where the disaster occurs. Gentlemen know that, as far as bladder related issues are concerned, we have it easy compared to the ladies when attempting to take our ease in the wilderness. So, you take particular care of wind direction etc., before letting forth. Of course then the wind knows this, and immediately reverses direction and double it’s strength, resulting in very wet trousers. Luckily I had another pair in the boot, and had to change them in the rain, while waiting their arrival.

Approaching the B7007 meet
Steve arriving on B7007 – and that is sunshine behind him

Our next meeting point was another one impossible to find by car – very narrow lanes, none of which seem to be on the proper map or Satnav, while the paths on the cycle route map don’t exist on the proper map. At least that’s my excuse, and I’m sticking with it. Eventually the riders found a country house called Arniston House near Gorebridge and waited for me, this turned out to be no more than 200 metres from where I was waiting.

Arniston House

After a pleasant hour or so ride, we met up again near the delightfully named Bog Road. At this point sore limbs (and bums), meant we loaded up into the car and set off for The Craigie Hotel at Penicuik. A nice 30 minute drive on minor roads in the sunshine. On arrival, dropping the gear and bikes into the rooms – on the third floor with no lift !!, thence to the bar for refreshments.

Well earned beers

At this point it’s worth noting that Roger has invented a new way of making us feel ever so slightly embarrassed at the bar. He insists on drinking a lemonade with a lager top – Sandra really needs to have a word here. This was made more acute by the surrounding local clientele, who seemed mostly to consist of pissed Scots “ladies”, who were very leery and loud – it was a hen do of course. Luckily it was too cold outside for them, so we had a bit of peace.

The Craigie Hotel Penicuik

Another very good dinner with plenty of red was enjoyed before another early night – the old men just don’t have the stamina now. It’s from here that my own personal experience very quickly plummets off scale. Clearly something in the food was dodgy, as I awoke at 2 am and the world fell out of my rear. As it continued to do all night. The guys left me in bed and Mike drove them to their start point, comming back for me and then driving to the end point of the ride at South Queensferry. From here he rode off to meet the others so they could complete the ride together. Luckily there was a good, clean loo very near the car park, otherwise it would have been even worse for me. The constant smell of fried fish was not at all helpful however.

Resting on the way to South Queensferry
South Queensferry – ride completed
Two of the iconic bridges
The “new” bridge

In summary, it was actually another very enjoyable time spent with interesting things to see, and enjoyed in good company. Clearly, less rain and less food poisoning would have improved things a tad, but wouldn’t it be dull if everything went well. Nietzsche suggested that pleasure and pain were inseparable ; There is no pleasure without pain. Nietzsche knew a thing or two, as Monty Python told us : “There’s nothing Nietzsche couldn’t teach ya ’bout the raising of the wrist, Socrates himself was permanently pissed”. Now that’s what I call Philosophy.

Next year we have vowed – well I have anyway – to start planning earlier, and to try and be wherever the bloody rain isn’t.

Wet but happy

Walney To Wear – One To Forget?

I suppose we should have taken warning from the fact that Roger couldn’t make it and we’d not done it before without him…..

So we went ahead anyway, starting with a drive across to Walney Island.

Day One : 

Arrived through the streets of that wilderness know to the locals as Barrow – what a place. Then out of the other side of Barrow and down Walney Island to begin at the beach of Sandy Gap. The weather had been truly awful on the drive over, and it was still wet and unseasonably cold as the intrepid two set off in full wet-weather gear. Sadly Mike’s weird yellow riggers gloves again were absent, but they both showed off their latex rubber bootees, which look weird enough to make up for it.

Sandy Gap to Lindal-In-Furness 

A cold miserable start – it gets worse

Raining, cloudy and only 13C. As if that wasn’t bad enough, it very quickly went downhill from there, as not 200 m down the road, Mike’s bike decided it had already seen enough abuse, and cast him to the ground in a heap. Lucky he landed on his face, so there wasn’t anything to spoil. It was actually a rather nasty fall –leaving him with a bloody cheek and chin, a bruised hand and skinned knee. What a start ! We just hoped that the bruising on his hand was not going to be problematic later.

The walking wounded

Lindall-In-Furness turned out to be rather nice little place – not at all like the rest of the area.

You can always tell the nice places, as any residents stare at me loitering in my suspicious way. I’m pretty sure none of them noticed what my T-Shirt said “L’Infer est les autres” (Hell is other people – JP Satre) Maybe as devout Brexiteers they were appalled to see the French language touted so openly….

Lindal-In-Furness to Haverthwaite to Grange-Over-Sands

So, we already have our second SNAFU – a little early perhaps, but hardly unexpected given their appalling history of getting lost. The first stop agreed post-crash was meant to be Lindal-In-Furness, but they called to say they had got lost. Now this wasn’t just off-piste a bit, it was proper lost, like in excess of 10 miles off the route. If I was Mike I’d have blamed it on my injuries. Anyway, it necessitated me driving to pick them up and set them back on the route. This was a little serendipitous, as the drive along Barrow Sea Road was very pleasant, with many nice sea-view properties. Most unexpectedly a huge BUDIST TEMPLE hove into view. And here I was thinking the locals only worshipped at the church of beer, pies and casual racism. So, the next planned meeting was set for Grange-Over-Sands.

Freezing at Grange-Over-Sands

Grange-Over-Sands to Oxenholm

Grange-Over-Sands is quite a nice holiday spot, at least it has a toilet and an ESPLANADE. The weather was still very variable, alternatively hot sun and cold dark cloud and wind. No further dramas ensued, and they met me as planned on the Esplanade. The it was off to Oxenholm for the next meet.

More dark coulds and still really cold

Oxenholm to Castle Green Hotel

Unfortunately, the ride to Oxenholm included in the later section a couple of very steep climbs. Mike abandoned a few miles away, I think partly as a result of his crash earlier. Steve soldiered on, but also called it a day at the bottom of a steep section. The pub we’d chosen to meet at – The Station Inn – was on top of a high hill, well away from the train station at the bottom. The car park was completely full and the pub itself was a bit of a dump, so I’ve no idea why it was so popular.


By now it was getting late anyway, and so this meant that I scooped them both up and we headed off to the Castle Green Hotel outside of Kendal. 

Pretty nice generic hotel – a lot bigger than I expected, but comfortable and with good facilities. Unfortunately, the gastric problem (thanks to Al Bake Gosforth !) I’d been nursing since the start meant that I just wasn’t up to dinner and abandoned them for an early night.

Day Two:

Steve and Mike reported that the dinner the previous evening was a decent 7 out of 10. The wine and beers taken on board did a lot to salve the tired and/or damaged limbs.

A well provided breakfast (just toast and tea for me) was taken before driving the riders to Beck Foot to begin todays trials.

Perfect cycling weather

Beckfoot to Orton

The weather was getting worse all the time, but heavy rain just held off. Due to missed turns and being distracted with stomach issues, I ended up on ridiculously narrow roads to drop them at Beck Foot. My only route back to civilisation (of a sort) was across a narrow bridge marked a 6ft 6in, but with a hidden stone sticking out at the perfect height to scrap a car door – which it did. As if I wasn’t feeling ill enough. Sorry again Mike.

No more mishaps and Orton turned out to be a rather nice place. Another of these seemingly very well off villages with lots of good properties and big flash cars. Where do these people make their money ? – they can’t all be drug dealers or financial advisors. Unfortunately the weather was still cold and quite windy. 

Smiling through the fatigue?

Orton to Kirkby Stephen

Again no more aggro, and we met for sarnies in the Co-Op at Kirkby Stephen. Steve’s sports drink was saving my life, the glucose really helping me feel only awful rather than deathly.

We’d originally planned for them to cycle on into Oxenthwaite, before getting a ride up to Tan Hill, but the weather was rubbish, so they decided we’d drive up to Tan Hill from here.

Preparing for the Tan Hill descent

Tan Hill to Bowes Castle

The Tan Hill Inn is the highest altitude pub in England. It was really bleak up on top of the moors here. Unaccountably the place was chock full, with loads of motor bikers and mobile home drivers everywhere. Windy, dark, wet – how could this possibly be August ? Why, because this is England of course. Why wasn’t I in Majorca for god’s sake!

Injuries looking a bit better on the descent

Anyway after much grousing and wet-weather prep, the riders set off for their long decent down into Bowes Castle.

Bowes Castle was a bit of a damp-squib castle-wise, just a pile of stones really. While waiting for them near a kids play ground – never a very comfortable experience, I noticed that our hotel for the night was actually just across the road from me in Bowes, and not actually in Barnard Castle as it promotes itself. It looked OK anyway.

 Bowes to Barnard Castle to Bishop Aukland

No more getting lost, car damage or bike falling offs to report. The weather was still not great, but they were lucky not to be actually getting a soaking. We met up on the edge of Bishop Aukland and drove back to Bows and the Ancient Unicorn Hotel.

Make mine a Domestos please

The hotel was quaint and was the result of converted stables. It had comfortable rooms and a very nice looking bar and restaurant. However they clearly were a bit lax in the “let’s not poison the customers” area. Steve’s pint of bitter turned out to be more Domestos than beer and almost choked him. Obviously the landlady was a fan of the POTUS and was just giving him an anti-COVID dosing.

I actually managed to have a light dinner and some wine – again I think thanks to Steve’s energy drinks.

Day Three:

Bishop Aukland to Brancepeth

After breakfast, I drove them across to the far side of Bishop Aukland and they set off for a meeting in Brancepeth, followig an old railway line. Brancepeth itself was again very nice and well-to-do, with a golf course and big houses. I don’t think anything went amiss, but I know it took them a lot longer to get to me than we’d figured. Perhaps they had something to be ashamed of, if so they kept it to themselves.

The old railway line at Brancepeth

Brancepeth to High Pittington

The riders arrived into the car park of the Blacksmith’s Arms looking cold and knackered, and around an hour later than expected. The previous section having been tough on the limbs.

The original plan had been to carry on to Sunderland, but we couldn’t face the delights that Sunderland city centre has to offer, so we had a celebratory pint outside the pub and called it a day there. Like The Curate’s Egg, it had been good in parts, but reduced squad numbers, illness, accidents and car wrecks left a bit of a bad taste in the mouth – oh no that was just Steve’s pint.

FINISHED – medicinal beers (no Domestos)
Are you looking at my pint ?


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.  


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.


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… 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.









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.








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.








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.







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.








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?




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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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?).


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.


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.


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.


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.