Sunday 1st February 2015

No, please, not again!

It was to be hoped that Terry hadn't chosen a re-make of the previous Sunday's ride at Ryal for today's excursion, scheduled to take place just a few miles further out towards south central Northumberland, following the bogtrotting experienced on that one. Target this time was the serene little village of Hartburn, but the route had again been conceived from the ground up (sounds ominous) by HRH Illustrious.

'Orrible 'arwood?

This one had been entitled "Retribution for Ryal" when advertised, but it turned out to be more of an extension to the previous Sunday's outing on the moors. Terry had hoped for, and planned for, a colder ground state leading to firmer riding conditions than the total quagmire of Ryal. As it transpired, the six inches of water from 22nd had only altered its top inch to thin ice, heavy frost or light snowfall, not enough to afford much extra grip or keep the leg cramps of the previous ride at bay. Fail. Thank you Met Office. Not.

Regardless of that, and very early morning rain, it didn't stop Fiona, Marco, Lee D, Paul D, Ray, Colin, Chris D, Mark R and the Village Idiot from turning out and heading for the peaceful little hamlet of Hartburn, just inland from Morpeth. It was perishing as we dismounted the bikes and prepared for the off. Frozen toes and fingers for some right from the start with temperatures hovering around none. The Gollum had taken the precaution of sending Chris his plotted gpx trace the night before and also printed a large scale map which he handed to Mark, thus relieving himself of all blame should the navigation go awry.

Off we went again, following a couple of Gollum-aged, slightly porkified, disgustingly lycra'd but for once quite chatty roadies out of the end of the village pointing north west. We weren't on tarmac long before plunging down the icy unclassified to cross the burn by bridge and ford. The latter feature was to prove the most enjoyable of the day as time after time we watched Paul dunk himself, too lazy to carry his Rocky Mountain over bridges! I think we crossed water 9 times today. The chances are no-ones' feet would have got any colder if we'd all followed the nutter. It was here that Fiona's rear derailleur had frozen at the foot of the climb out. Later on we decided it wasn't frozen at all, merely neglected after Thursday night's clart fest. Didn't slow her down one jot!

It wasn't too long before the previously recognisable route from years gone by gave way to "Ooh, never been here before" as we covered a fair old mix of farm road, rough dual track and a few short but pleasant sections of wooded singletrack before the inevitable moorland beckoned. This was always hard in summer with the direction of little-used bridleways sometimes impossible to detect, and all seemingly chosen to traverse the worst terrain possible, even for the cloven hoofed. At least the chosen direction of travel worked out nicely for both wind cover and gradient most of the time although it took a lucky mistake by the two Ride Leaders (tee hee) to make this ride do-able at all at one point on the return leg!

This was where we stopped for bait, just short of Longwitton, and we had to dive into the trees to take shelter from the icy blast. When we came out to restart this top loop of the ride, we turned right instead of left, but as I said it was a stroke of luck that we did, otherwise there'd have been an airlift occurring from Ewesley Plantation. Our mammoth heave over the tundra began here but there'd been plenty of soft ground to plough through before that. This route, plotted from a distance. blindly, had us completely off-road for an incredible 5 3/4 miles, mostly without site of any civilisation! Approaching the end of it we got a few moments relief when Colin led us into the trees, but reaching the next firebreak it was more hike-a-bike to reach the forest road and our route back.

The final half of the ride would I reckon be pretty good at the height of a dry summer, but regardless of that most of the views we had all day were typical Northumbria, superb. And when we did finally reach the snow line the landscape looked fabulous under a gleaming shallow covering of icing sugar and of course, unsurprisingly, we got to put the first tyre marks in it!

Marco and, amazingly, Chris both had over-the handlebars moments - Marco in a gully and Chris hit a hidden rock. Mechanically there were no real issues apart from Fiona's chain which kept dangling dangerously but somehow stayed put. The group got split a few times, most memorably when Ray found a shortcut that took he and three others well away from the trail, although if they'd stayed on it (not easy!) it rejoined the main trail later anyway! Along the way there were some little singletrack gems but unfortunately very short and there's no way they'd justify a further visit. Still broke the hard sections up nicely and returned a few grins, if only momentarily.

Here's Lee's Strava trace:



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Next Sunday Ride (plus other odd days) - See our Facebook page.

Next Night Ride: Thursday as usual.

Thursday nighters are 10-25 milers, 7:00pm start at ASDA East car park, Benton, 3-3.5 hours and generally OK for fit new riders but you need decent lights you can see with, NOT CANDLES. You MUST wear a cycle helmet.

Sundays are generally much longer, 8:00am to 10:00am starts from ride venue ending around teatime, and much harder rides.

Other ad-hoc rides are always being organised, see our Facebook page. Gloves, waterproof coat, snack and drink recommended. Carry basic tools.







The bigger the group, the louder the laughs!


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