Thursday 19th March

Based on an idea by Mark Sweeting!

Poor Mark was "volunteered" to lead this one by Terry as we waited for the last few bodies to arrive at ASDA on this incredibly mild (compared to recent rides) evening. And his decision was to head out through the Rising Sun Country Park, over to Benton and on to Jesmond Dene before cruising the riverside to take a look at a frigate parked up downstream.

Strangely (must be the most common word on this site!) there were only 13 of us as we headed off to follow Mark's intended route. Heading out onto the Foothill Trail it was Terry who got there first with Dan urging him on as the pair hurtled through the trees with Dan's crazy-wide handlebars stripping bark off the closely-packed vegetation. James and Chris popped out next as we reached the far side, with plenty of heavy breathing heard after this somewhat too early in the ride flat-out blast. The descent was very wet with running water, although everywhere else was remarkable dry again. We continued over Station Road and through Benton, over Coach Lane and down to the Ministry.

Finally Mark managed to ease his way to the front to lead down the fast, downhill singletrack into the Dene with Terry chasing, and almost inevitably there was mayhem on the staircase as rider after rider piled into the back of whoever had stopped unexpectedly in front of them with that evil top step to negotiate. There followed a short halt as one by one bravery encompassed the whole squad and we played on the steepest drop beyond the tunnel. Mark had used the sloping path to get down the first time before realising everyone else had gone straight over the lip, so he proceeded to drag the Stumpy straight back up again and follow the others, having never done it before.

With the road ahead beyond the Watermill closed due to landslip we crossed the first bridge behind Colin and then the hunt for fresh tracks commenced, big-style! It seemed that TK was on a mission to steer clear of all previous routes and record some new bits, so every opportunity was taken to sample previously unexplored earth, whether just rabbit trails or rat runs. There wasn't much complaining, but more than a few quips like "Where on earth's he going now?". We left no stone unturned before finally moving over toward Heaton Park, where the same technique was used to find something different, and again quite successfully, although there were "more than 2" turn-backs. There was also a double wall-climb to perform with the bikes as we ended up in a dead end, too steep to climb back out, so the only alternative was to go over the wall in the Vale! 

The Cake Shop's Open

Well before the ride started, Dr Lucy had turned up at ASDA and handed over a foil package to James who was there early with Chris and Mark R. It wasn't ticking so what could it be? A whole batch of her famously excellent flapjack, that's what, and now we had time to indulge ourselves before finally moving out of the trees. Lovely. Shame she wasn't here to appreciate the positive comments, but she did have other plans tonight. What a woman!

The Mad Hatter's Here

We weren't quite out of the trees at this point, however, and unfortunately Terry's next set of directions to Mark S were slightly misleading, and as he hadn't been this way before we were headed out into Jesmond instead of Byker! So, just short of the top of a steepish bank, Terry shouted for the leader to turn back, and follow him off the side of the path down into the trees and finally to the tarmac path below. He couldn't find an easy way down but spotted a staircase nearby. Dan bounced his way down before being followed by Ray who looked like he was on a runaway with no brakes. he was obviously having trouble with his helmet bouncing over his eyes, and as he neared the bottom he clipped the log fence edging the steps and came down very hard over the bars, landing head-first.

When we'd scraped him off the floor and sat him down tyhere was blood everywhere, streaming from the bridge of his nose, accompanied by profuse bruising right around his forehead. The sturdy helmet peak must have folded into his head on impact causing the superficial damage. Ray looked pretty shaken so we kept him still as long as we could, around 30 seconds before he wanted to get on with the ride! "You not wanna go straight home?" TK enquired. "Nah, get cracking" was Ray's response, and indeed the only one he ever gives. Once again, however, he'd chewed up another costly lid, this I reckon his fourth in 15 months. He wasn't looking forward to asking his other half to open her purse yet again!

Next stop the horrible climb out onto Stratford Grove Terrace with Terry first out, and a rest needed at the top for us all to get our breath back. Even super-athlete Dan felt that one. We streamed gently over to Byker Bridge to give Ray some recovery time before once again a hitherto-untried drop through the trees under it was made by Terry. Must have been a lot of discussion behind him with a long delay before first Ray and then the majority joined him, with a few taking the easy tarmac option, showing a distinct lack of trust. That left us down on the quayside and we found the target boat parked up just beyond the Bike Hub Cafe. We did a study of the little ship before being scared off by a Navy type sat with a rifle on the gangway!

The logical way back home from here is to follow Hadrian's Way back to Howdon and up to Silverlink, but this was suupposed to be a voyage of discovery so we didn't do that. Instead we took a scenic tour through deepest, darkest Walker from Pottery Bank, past the Lightfoot Stadium, through Walker Park braving the chavas and then following Dan in a superfast crossing of the old BMX track paths onto the Fossway. Dan took the opportunity to park up as we passed his front door while the rest of us used Stotts Road to get into Walkerville before heading for Richardson Dees Park and an extra chunk of off-roading. We climbed out of the Burn to Battle Hill where Colin left us for his home at the Coast, the rest of us heading north up into the Country Park again and back to ASDA for exactly 10:00 pm. About 17 miles and a fair old pace while not in the trees.

Here's John'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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