THE BRAMPTON GOES WILD ACROSS NORTHUMBERLAND
Mark Jacobson rides his Brompton westwards for the train home.
The day started grey, with a low cloud layer, but after a while, a wetting light rain set in. I had left Beadnell just after 8:00 am, intending, if possible to reach the camp site at Haltwhistle, or, if not up to doing that distance, Well House Farm site about five miles from Corbridge, from where a train could take me back to Carlisle for my main line journey home. The trip was almost over.
Taking the direct B1340 for Alnwick, I found it unnecessary to divert to lanes as traffic was almost non-existent. As the rain set in, I should have caped up, but I gave myself an excuse for an early tea stop, to help me dry out. As the rain eased to nearly nil, I continued without cape for the rest of the day. From Alnwick my tailwind was rather cut off as further inland it became hillier.
The hills imposed some strain as I had a sodden tent to deal with and, apart from it being less compactly bundled, it was certainly a lot heavier! Pacing myself up the hills became imperative, although I made up for that to a certain extent on the descents. I stuck to the direct B6341, making the best time I could, for Rothbury. While only about eleven miles, this road is not level, taking about an hour and a half for that distance; not a good average.
Although only 11:00 am, on arrival at Rothbury it seemed a good idea to have another break for refreshment, even though I had no need to dry out this time. It could be a while before finding another pub or café along the way. It was the right choice, as my lunch venue did not appear for a good two hours after leaving Rothbury.
The road southwards towards Cambo was closed. This was my intended route onward but, in view of the lack of information regarding the actual road closure I deemed it sensible instead to take a westward route out. The B6341 to Otterburn is a valley route, and so has far fewer climbs to contend with, so it proved a good choice. Along the way NCN68 joined, so I knew this would be suitable in the main. After Raylees the route goes on to the pavement by the A696(T) for a distance: the noise of the traffic close to one's ear, eyes peeled for broken glass; not much fun. It was a relief to turn aside on to an unclassified road through farmland, just sheep for company, and gates for variety.
Arriving at the A68 (with far less traffic than the former main road), instead of continuing along NCN68 for Bellingham, I turned to the main road for Ribsdale, just a mile on, on the assumption that it would have a pub on the main road, serving lunches; as it did, the sixteen or so miles having taken me over two hours, I felt justified in stopping!
Having enjoyed a good meal I continued for a while along the A68 southwards. It was a roller-coaster ride, the road climbing and dipping with regularity! After about four miles I took once more to the lanes, this time heading for Wark. Pronunciation is a funny thing: Wark and the Wark Forest are both said as WARK, whereas Warkworth is said as WALKWORTH! Or so I was told during my previous visit in 2007: also, Bellingham is said as BELLINGJUM.
The bridge across the North Tyne, coming from the Kielder Dam, has very recently been renovated and looks very smart, as it spans the free-running river. Across the way is a very attractive private property, its garden terraces reaching down to the bank. The B6320 runs south-eastward from here to Hexham, and my intention now was to go as far as Simonburn to locate a lane taking me directly to the B6318. Now, I know that this is not considered a good cycle route, but I also know that the NCN72 alternative is exceptionally hilly, especially near to Vindolanda and, no thanks, last time was enough!
As it happened I went astray in Simonburn. A small place but unmapped roads, the through ones being less significant than the others. Eventually I found the lane leading towards Fourstones and Haydon Bridge, just as good a way.
The B6318 follows either Hadrian's Wall, or else the Vallum, which means it more or less stays on the crests of the hills. It was very slow going up the ascents but superbly fast down the other sides. On those occasions my Brompton flew along, startling the few awaiting the bus at the visitor centre as, fully laden, I shot past at 24 mph, pedals whirring, tyres humming! All along the valley to my left I could see the clouds and rain, so was determined to get as close to Haltwhistle as possible before caping up. And so I did!
Once in Haltwhistle I tried to re-orient myself to find the camp site in mind. The TIC display had information but no map. Finding the railway station helped, as this is shown on my map, and I took to the road leading to my country lane, or so I thought. Coming to the A69(T) bypass, I had a choice of left or right: Newcastle or Carlisle. Taking a chance, I took to the right. Oh, dear! The exit to a lane was wrong! Phoning the camp site got me better information: retrace and pass Haltwhistle, to take a turn after the town, further to the east! So, having arrived in town at 4:50 pm, it was 5:25 pm by the time I reached the site, a mere three miles out.
The night was wet and still, midges out evening and morning, and this September! Once more, a sodden tent to pack.
Cycling became easier then as I took to NCN68 from Park Village, as advised by the camp manager. This brings one directly to the Haltwhistle railway station, providing that at the junction with the A69(T) you know which way to go; the signage runs out! Still, I reached the station with plenty of time to go into town for some coffee prior to catching the train.
Incidentally, there is a very helpful notice at the station advising that the nearest staffed station is 23 miles away, at Carlisle!
Camp site used:
Camping and Caravanning Club site, Burnfoot Park Village, Haltwhistle, NE49 0JP
tel. 01434 320106
PUBLISHED OCTOBER 2016