After the fuel stop we set off and at the roundabout at the exit to the fuel station one group member though they knew where we were going, overtook Steve and set off in the wrong direction. We pulled over and waited for them to figure this out and they did find us eventually.
The next section of the trip leaves the lake district behind us and takes us over the middle of the country and the North Pennines. We headed North West of Penrith initially taking some routes I'm not familiar with.
The lanes here aren't used much and were very green! No rocks and a nice change.
The farmer had kindly ploughed the next section of lane perpendicular to the direction of travel making it an absolute nightmare to ride the bike over. I couldn't get the revs right with the YZ, either too high and too fast or too low and stalling.
Following the nasty bit, it was back to more greenery and old buildings
I'm putting a few pictures of greenery in since it makes a change from rocks. Around this time I was starting to run low on batteries for the video camera. I started being more conservative with them and therefore don't have much footage of this section. Its probably just as well as when I slowed down for a large puddle to ensure I didn't get covered, the kind person following me decided to race in front and absolutely covered me in mud. Thanks Neil, I really appreciated it.
I also started to have significant issues with my number plate about this time. When going over larger bumps I could hear horrible noises from the back end which was the mud guard and plate catching on the rear wheel. Before long the plate had fallen off. Michael helpfully told me "it came off back there". I went back the short distance and retrieved it, putting it back on with cable ties. Sadly, cable ties were not enough and it came off twice more before I gave up and put it in the backpack.
I wasn't the only one having issues, Steve managed to land the bike hard on his bash plate instead of the wheels and even though he could cable tie it back, the shape it was in preventing him finding top gear. Neil's new and rather flimsy looking number plate and rear light were also broken off when he decided to ride a little too enthusiastically over a section.
I did capture the final assent up to Hartside cafe although its blurred due to the mud on the camera (thanks again Neil!)
Pulling into Hartside cafe
You can see the large number of road bikes out enjoying the lovely weather. There was a strong cool wind blowing over the hillside here and I wasn't complaining as otherwise the riding gear would have been unbearably hot! I was wearing my full thick heavy winter gear, albeit it with only base layers underneath it and without the wind, I'd have been overheating badly. This has reminded me to get some summer bike gear!
Riding around Hartside with your plate in your backpack isn't the best thing to be doing on a day like this. I managed to get a couple of steel bolts off Steve and reattached the number plate in such a way it was not coming off again, or at least not detaching from the mudguard. There was nothing I could do about the mudguard itself catching, just live with it and slow down when it happened. Thankfully my plate is made out of kart floor tray (polypropylene) which is hard wearing and near indestructible. Certainly the plate was much stronger than the mud guard itself. It would continue to catch and plague me for the rest of the day and had a habit of riding over the brake light as in the following photo but did survive like this to the end of the trip
This is a photo of the number plate from the end of the trip. As can be seen, its still in one piece, all be it a bit bent with the plate itself peeling and the mudguard a bit deformed underneath and the plate having ridden over the brake light. Could have been a lot worse.
At Hartside, Neil had also attempted to reattach his broken off rear bracket.
On the first trail, Neil pulled over, apparently his seat had come off, likely not fitted properly after the repairs at Hartside
The terrain here is definitely a lot more gentle with rolling hills and comparatively smooth surfaces. If it was wet, this would have been a very different proposition though as there are sections on here you'd just sink into the mud. I suspect we skipped some of the smaller technical lanes on our way down to Alston to try and make up a little time.
The fuel station at Alston has just been rebuilt and is rather new and shiny. This was the first time I'd been into it. We were greeted with an announcement over the tannoy asking all motorcycles to remove their helmets before any fuel would be dispensed. I must remember the balaclava for under the helmet next time...
As a town, I like Alston with its steeply sloping main street covered in cobblestones. In summer the need isn't apparent but in winter when this is covered in snow and ice...
We looped around some lanes outside Alston, just dusty stone surfaced tracks on the most part
People were continuing not to wait on junctions and Nic and myself at the back were having to guess at the route. There was one point we managed to arrive ahead at a gate ahead of the rest of the group as Steve had thrown a little section in not marked on the map! The photo above shows them appearing from the scenery. Annoyingly, I made a total mess of the end of that section last time I tried it, not least due to stopped bikes in front of me forcing me to stop half way up some steep hills. I've planned to do much better next time around but that wasn't to be, today. At least the group kept together.
Rocks like this would normally be a shock to the system here but today, not really. Just more mud guard catching noises. Again, nobody waiting at the junction either.
I have to admit I was surprised when I saw this section of the route. It climbs from Nenthead over to Garagill, one of the highest surfaced roads in the country (where the above photo is from) and where you'll find snow and ice in winter long after is disappears anywhere else. From here the route takes us through Tynehead, the start of the river Tyne (confusingly in what I'd consider the Tees valley). The major river valleys (Tyne, Wear and Tees) play a big part of the geography of the area and give rise to the county I live in (Tyne and Wear), the area (Tyneside) and play a big part in the major cities which sit on the rivers (Newcastle and Gateshead on the Tyne, Durham and Sunderland on the Wear) leading to Tynemouth and Wearmouth. Each valley has a road along it leading to Alston and make great road bike riding but I digress!
Tynehead is probably the greenest lane we've done so far on the route, practically being fields for a lot of its length
When I see the ford crossings I can't help think of them during the winter, covered in ice and deep snow. The last time I tried this route it was near impassible at one end due to deep snow but today things are easier.
The mining heritage of this area is clear in this photo. What is perhaps less clear is how tricky this section is due to the drop off at the side of the trail just ahead.
This is a trail I know and I'd come to a stop just before the end as I know its one deep boggy mess and I was going to choose my line carefully. Whilst I didn't capture the whole thing on camera, Michael obviously didn't take my stopped bike as a hint, hit it a little hard and nearly went over the bars. Oops
So it was time to leave that valley behind us and head over the top into the Wear valley
Crossing a ford through the Wear. It may look simple but its rather slimy and I've seen someone come off on this before
Up the side of the wear valley are some trails we all know well. Steve deviated from his route again a little here (GPS said go right) but we managed to guess what he was doing and why (avoiding a section that is tedious downhill, has a risky ford and a few too many gates. We were in a "lets get to the lunch stop" mode now.
The next bit of the route is tedious, needing to cut over to to Blanchland and Slaley Forest. We did manage to include at least on 50 yard fun section to break things up though!
I have no footage of the next sections since by this time I was down to my last of four camera batteries and I wanted to save it for closer to the end. Nothing too eventful happened really. We made our way through Slaley, all made it through the first deep ford crossing I ever did on a bike, along a few lanes and ended up in Hexham for our lunch stop at Nic's house. I'm sure his neighbours loved the bikes and vans descending on a quiet residential area. Some people sat and enjoyed the sun, I hid in the garage, out of it as I was way too hot to start with. After a half hour break with the bikes refueled from cans (one of the fuel stations in Hexham is shut at the moment), we set off for the final part of the journey. I'm afraid by this point I'd totally lost track of time.
The route is simple now, winding over lanes heading North East for the coast over the green hillsides of Northumberland. Despite this route being nearly on my doorstep, I've not done many trips to Alnwick so whilst I've done the lanes, I've not done them more than a handful of times. They're definitely less used than places closer to Hexham. I have no footage of the first (two part) major ford crossing but restarted the video at this point as it starts to get interesting again.
The next ford crossing is an interesting one. From the above photo you can't see the exit at all.
You might wonder why people are riding along a river bank struggling under trees...
This should make it clearer where the exit is at least! Trying to get a helmet complete with helmet camera under that branch whilst not falling into the river was fun.
Some people walked the bikes over, I opted to ride, feet down. I managed to ground a footpeg on the rock looming up to the camera.
I made it to the other side in the end after a ridiculous dance in the middle of the river trying to unbeach the bike from the rock. We were all through, so far so good!
At this point we had to make a quick detour to collect petrol from the support van since Michael's tank range still wasn't what it should have been.
The lanes are noticeably greener now and at times its hard to tell what the surface is like underneath. We're all starting to feel we're near the end and want to get finished now!
As we near the coast, the gorse bushes start appearing. I have fond memories of karting on airfields in this area surrounded by these where my brother once drove a kart into the middle of one!
Which brings is to the final deep crossing of the day. There is a bike somewhere in the cloud of water!
Unfortunately for Nick, he tried to get off one side of the bike in front of the camera
failed and then had to get off the other side which made for interesting video (sorry Nick)
Here, the engines make interesting noises as they're near enough totally submerged. Its important to keep them running. That section seems to be particularly deep, once you're through that it isn't so bad and Nick made it to the other side no problem. Me next.
The water was unusually clear so you could try and miss the big rocks. Just before the end I did hit something and got thrown offline but keep the bike upright, running and made it over safely.
We did wonder where Nic was going!
But he got it back on track and made it through, not a bad recovery!
Sadly, Michael had the same problem but worse, stalled it. He ended up pulling it back out, getting the engine going again and Neil gave him a hand to get it through after nearly also getting swept off downstream
We then arrived in Boulmer (of the RAF fame) and the sea is now in sight. We're close!
One little ford crossing to go which I have to admit I was rather careful/paranoid over and we're there!
We found the support vehicles waiting for us.
We'd all completed the route, it was 6:55pm as we pulled up. It was time for a well earned BBQ next to the beach!
At this point I have to thank everyone involved, it was a team effort. Particular thanks to the support crew for staying up half the night to get us there and collect us and Steve for planning and leading the run and organising things. It was a long day, quite an effort at times but enjoyable and I'm pleased to have done it.