Thursday, 22 August 2019

Whittingham to Netherton

I covered sixteen miles this afternoon, crawling westwards up the Aln Valley from Whittingham to Netherton, then flying back via Alnham (where the River Aln begins).

It was a gentle climb out, with a steady headwind pushing against me. As I set off a local warned "There's rain coming down the valley". There was indeed, but until I reached Netherton it just threatened. Drizzle started as I turned back.

On the way back I was confident about my route. Over-confident, because I didn't check the map at a key junction. That muddled things a bit. Nevertheless the gentle descent, aided by a tail wind, meant that things went a lot more quickly.

Unco-operative weather: but that didn't detract from the scenery at the head of the Aln Valley. The County Council has been out surfacing minor roads. Some of these were still pock-marked and covered in loose gravel, but others are now lovely and smooth. All were wonderfully quiet: I passed a post van, a couple of tractors, a lorry and about half-a-dozen cars.

Sunday, 18 August 2019

Rock on

After over-reaching myself on Thursday I covered an unambitious eighteen miles today. It was a minor variation on my standard loop. There were a couple of light showers, a blustery wind, and heavier traffic than usual for back roads on a Sunday afternoon. Nothing remarkable though: all went well, and various numbers have shifted slightly in the right direction.

Friday, 16 August 2019

Yesterday I rode to Scotland

Yesterday I rode to Scotland. That's not as impressive as it sounds, because I started from Etal. However, on a round trip of more than 30 miles, I reached the marvellous Union Chain Bridge, and rode across to pay a ceremonial visit.

From Etal I first headed east, beyond Bowsden to Lowick Mill. A strong following wind helped me up the climb. Then I turned north towards Ancroft. There followed a long stretch into a strong headwind, which wasn't a lot of fun. Then the drop down into Horncliffe and the River Tweed went more easily.

By now I was running late and getting tired. I skipped a planned stop at the Honey Farm, and when I reached Norham I called home to say that my return would be later than intended. The scenery was lovely on the final leg south to Etal - but it was hard work.

In summary, I've discovered (nicked) a great route for a fitter cyclist. It's almost entirely on quiet rural back-roads. There's very little traffic. The rolling landscape makes for variety, and offers some terrific distant views. There are memorable highlights at the Union Bridge across the River Tweed, at Norham Castle, the path along the banks of the River Till near Etal, and at Etal itself. Yesterday a strong wind didn't help, but I've learned an important lesson about my own limitations: I hit them at less than 30 miles. For now.

Tuesday, 13 August 2019

...and this is where I turned back

Weather and various commitments have kept me away from the bike for a couple of weeks. I had some ideas for an adventurous return, but it seemed more important to get back into a routine. So I ended up picking a familiar route. What made the outing special was the mix of people I met.

I suspect the break in the rain contributed to a good number of cheerful cyclists, joggers, and walkers. In addition a group of young lads wanted me to stop so that they could show off their cycling tricks; a couple of police teased me for chickening out of riding through the flood; and a mother leaped to rescue her child's buggy, as it trundled towards the harbour edge (she had forgotten to put the brake on).

Bottling the flood meant that I turned back slightly earlier than I had intended, so at the other end I overshot a bit, to make up the planned 14 miles.