A record of my cycling trips in Britain and abroad


Hadrian’s Wall

dscf0527.jpg Here’s a writeup of a ride I did a while ago. It feels appropriate to write it up now, since it was about the same time of year. It was a couple of weeks later, and though it felt rather warmer, the trip definitely had a fin de saison feel about it. In the end, that proved to be true, as it was the last chance for a proper bike trip that year before the winter winds set in.

We set out along the route of Hadrian’s Wall; not quite starting from the sea, but starting from Aspatria, and thus linking up with another route we did earlier in the year round the north Lakes. This is a part of the country that’s seldom visited by tourists; I guess it’s more remote from most large cities, and it doesn’t have the postcard quality of the Lake District proper. But I like this part of Cumbria; the estaurine expanse slowly giving way to the rolling scenery inland, and then developing further into the rugged moorland of the borders.

And cycling, of course, is the perfect way to see the route :) Following the sustrans route almost all the way, we had only one minor navigational difficulty, and that was early on, where a bridge was shut for repairs. This forced us to take a detour of a mile or so through muddy fields - although Reuben has cyclocross heritage, this was definitely not his ideal terrain when loaded up for touring! Nevertheless, we passed it quickly enough, and after crossing at the road bridge and catching up with the route on the opposite bank, we followed it back down to the riverside through pleasant parkland.

After a good day’s ride, we stopped at the famous (I think) Twice Brewed; next to this is the former Once Brewed YHA, now rebranded as ‘The Sill’, complete with visitor centre (and more importantly, a cafe with decent caramel slice).

The next morning we set out with perfect autumn conditions: cool but still, with the soft morning light filtering through the trees as we dropped down away from the line of the wall to the old roman fort of Vindolanda, making an achingly picturesque setting for the last day of the last trip of the year. Having passed the highest point of the trip, the final day was overall a descent - at least, that’s what the map told us, but it didn’t feel like, as there were plenty of climbs steep enough to make us work hard for our lunch. Which was duly eaten, in a nice patch of woodland overlooking the River Tyne.

Sadly, that long-suffering river loses some of its charm in the outskirts of Newcastle; despite growing up around there, I can’t say I’m overly fond of the place. It contains far too much 1960s concrete and far too many dual carriageways and bypasses for my liking. Newcastle isn’t really a big city, but traversing it from West to East (or vice versa) makes it feel like a city five times its size, as it’s spread out along the river - no doubt due to history and the exigencies of trade.

However, we were soon through the city, and all too quickly we were at the Spanish Battery, looking down on the North Sea, and a homecoming of sorts to Cullercoats. A traditional fish and chips was a great way to end a fabulous weekend!