Saturday, 21 September 2019

Useful advice

"If you are trying to save weight in your luggage, don't forget that you can always cut the covers off the maps."

From the CTC route guide to cycling in Britan and Ireland, by Christa Gausden and Nicholas Crane (1980)

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Private stations

The Newcastle to Berwick Railway opened in 1847, but plans were being prepared from 1839. The proposed route crossed land owned by Earl Grey, who had been Prime Minister but was now retired. He and his son fought to protect their estates from the arrival of the railway.

Parliament was sympathetic to projects that could demonstrate public benefit, so the landowners' efforts did not succeed, and the planned route from Newcastle to Berwick now forms part of today's East Coast Main Line. However, the Howicks ended up with private stations: one at Little Mill to serve Howick Hall, and one to serve Fallodon Hall at Fallodon. Little Mill went on to become a public station by 1861, and was finally closed in 1965. Fallodon remained a private station until it was closed in1934.

There is more detail than most visitors will want on Fallodon <here> and on Little Mill <here>.

Today there is virtually no evidence that there was once a station at either of these locations. Nevertheless, I persuaded myself that "Private Stations between Alnmouth and Berwick" was a decent theme for a ride. I ended up covering 21 miles (which bumps my average ride up a bit). The route was quiet, pretty and within my capabilities. The weather was almost ideal. And as an added bonus some of the villages I passed through had put out coloured bicycles to encourage me along. I suspect they will be leaving them in place for tomorrow's Tour of Britain

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Tyne crossings

Newcastle is famous for the bridges, but there are other ways to cross the Tyne. Here's a list, displayed outside the Tyne Pedestrian Tunnel at Wallsend.

Today I cycled three of these crossings. My main objective was to ride through the Cyclist's Tunnel. That crossing has just been re-opened to connect Jarrow and Wallsend. The other two that I rode were the Millenium Bridge between Gateshead and Newcastle and the ferry between North Shields and South Shields.

Connecting these crossings are NCN72 (Hadrian's Cycleway) along the North Bank of the Tyne, and NCN14 along the South Bank (South Tyne Cycleway and part of C2C) . I haven't ridden on NCN14 before, and the last time I rode along this part of NCN72 was over ten years ago (May 2009). At that time the demolition of the Swann Hunter shipyard was under way, and I was struck by the contrast between that significant symbol of industrial decline and other, more positive, signs of investment in new housing, new factories, and new offices.

Because it follows the banks of a major river the route is fairly flat. The engineers seem to have capitalised well on past industrial infrastructure, and subsequent development. So much of the route is traffic free, and all of it seems to be well-used. The signage for the tunnel hasn't quite caught up with developments yet, I had a bit of trouble finding the the ferry pier in South Shields, and I missed a coupe of signs hidden behind greenery. But in general the route is very easy to follow. I passed at least two three cycle workshops, and there are a few nice refreshment stops (though these are concentrated in relatively few places). There was more graffiti, litter, flytipping and over-grown greenery than I expected.

If pretty scenery appeals then you had better look elsewhere. This is a route with a complex history, and some striking contrasts. Today, in a ride of 32 miles, I've seen a wide variety of commercial, industrial and residential areas. Not to mention Segedunum Roman Fort and Museum (at the end of Hadrian's Wall); and the remains of a monastery that was once one of Europe’s most influential centres of learning and home to the Venerable Bede. And several different ways of crossing the Tyne. So not pretty, but plenty to reflect on.