A Manchester tour of the wilds of Northumberland

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Six well seasoned trail riders assembled at 8am near Skipton - full of trepidation for the three full days of riding that lay ahead. Rod, our leader, had waylaid a friendly farmer and for the price of a smile and a few drinks had arranged safe parking.

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Although the hour was early and the temperature only just nudging past 0 degrees we were all raring to go and most of us were so excited we had jumped out of bed well before our alarms had the chance to do their stuff.

I knew all the guys except one, Simon, who will be remembered mainly for his “ZZZZzzzzz” snoring during the stormy nights, or at least that what it felt like. Never mind his kick start only Honda which to be fair was really little trouble ..... unlike its owner.

The route up north to Northumberland involved some great scenery of the Yorkshire Dales. The weather was kind all day. We even enjoyed a cafe stop for lunch at Askrigg after our first petrol stop of the day at the new filling station in Aysgarth.

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We passed over Stake Moss where only a couple of months before Ian and I had an exciting time battling the ice and snow drifts. I recall dropping my bike several times in the first few hundred meters and getting rather annoyed as it just would not stop falling over - nothing of course to do with the rider. On this occasion there was very little to hinder progress except for the odd gate and even odder kamikaze woolly jumper.

Onward and Northward we rode. Past Reeth and over Fremington to enjoy the river crossings and stark scenery. Barnard Castle was our second fuel stop where the school pupils were escaping from their daily initiation into adulthood. Hamsterley was the last trail of the day which warmed us all up after some long road stretches.

The B&B was reached, incident free, after 130 miles. We were made very welcome and enjoyed the fine selection of alcoholic drinks available as well as the meals on offer. First Day - DONE.

Rain and wind were the features of the day two. On occasion we were nearly blown over rather than just blown about. Up into Slaley Forest we ventured avoiding the seasonal TRO's placed on the more interesting lanes. I had a little wobble on one of the river crossings but my short legs aided by my special low seat and lowered suspension and remarkable athletic self preservation with a positive mental attitude saved both the bike and me having a very cold bath.

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Fuel for bikes and riders was at Chollerford where we inadvertently blocked the entrance to the local Coach station. Bikes moved with a smile and everyone was happy. I recognized many of the lanes we travelled as I have ridden here several times with the Northumberland TRF on their Summer weekends, but have no idea what they were called. Some were muddy and very wet, some just muddy. Others were well rutted and rocky. Basically we had it all. At times the rain was horizontal and made worse by the gale force winds.

A second lunch stop at Allendale had some of the more hardy riders sat outside in the wind.... mugs. The bikes enjoyed a drink in Alston and we headed over more high hills and low dales completing another 130 trouble free miles.

Much alcohol was consumed by most that evening and I went to bed wondering if I'd be fit to ride in the morning.

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After losing an hours sleep as the clocks sprung forward we were all bright eyed at breakfast at the start of day three after the "heavy" night before. The crew set off wondering what the weather had in store as the forecast was not good. We managed about 20 minutes before it started to rain and it continued off and on throughout another long day.

Over Coldberry End, England's highest green road, and down along Tyne Head had us all nicely warm with full concentration to make us forget we could hardly see through the torrents of pulsating rain. Back into Alston and up to Hartside following the muddy, rutted trail down - great fun. Eventually we reached more familiar territory and a bleak Lady Ann Highway led us into Hawes and a very welcome lunch stop.

Feeling refreshed we continued up Cam high road and then along the Roman Road where Ian's chain decided to leave his bike. In doing so it had put a hole in the clutch slave cylinder. The chain was repaired with the usual split link and o-rings - well done lads.

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However, having no clutch made it difficult for Ian to stop so we had an interesting journey back. Over 140 miles completed some of which were rather cold.


This trip was arranged on the TRF Forum by Alan Hulbert and open to all Manchester TRF members.

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