A late decision had me joining Mark Sweeting’s little gathering for a tootle up to Blyth, one of his favourite local spots for a Sunday casual. I didn’t make my mind up until 0730 after checking the weather forecast but I’m glad I took the plunge. Happily there was no actual plunging to do today as the mud was mainly the sticky kind rather than water-laden. As per the norm we met at ASDA Benton for a 9 o’clock start in pretty pleasant, bright weather and after the usual greets headed off eastward behind Mark (but only after extracting some uric acid from Arthur who has succumbed to the motorised bicycle about-face, poor misguided soul).

Those present:

Mark Sweeting
Paul Houghton
Ian Browning
Arthur Smith
Colin Mitcheson
John Rivers
Deryck Brown
Terry Kirkup

I think Germany can claim the kudos for biggest bike supplier on this ride.

Mark had a plan for this. Not simply a trot around with a coffee stop, there was to be a Challenge set on the way out. And a good job it wasn’t part of the return leg as it involved a hill climb contest! We kicked off with the steepest downhill available around here off the top of the Shiremoor bypass, so the exact opposite of what was to come half an hour later. We followed the railway line to Backworth Crossing then onto the road to join the bridleway beyond the scrapyard. Next stop  Holywell Dene stage one and those dreaded stone steps up through Dogpoo Rise.

Dropping off the road from the village we entered the Dene and safely negotiated the first climb before gathering at the head of the steps for Mark’s competition rules briefing. This had us dropping to the far side to start the climb back up alongside the steps. Colin did the filming of this truly auspicious event as one by one we attempted to scale the muddy, leafy, slippery slope to stardom. I won’t say too much about our efforts (see vidz on our Facebook page) but I will claim the 2018 NMBC /Midaircrisis Hill Climb Championship!

We continued through the trees to the waggonway where Mark steered us up to the top trail away from the dog walkers on the riverside and headed without incident along to the far end of the Dene. We climbed into New Hartley and cruised along to the path that drops back down to the banks, two separate routes being taken hence the difference in Strava times. Good fun and a realmuscle-building exercise lifting the engine powered bicycles over the fence! That just left the flattish path out to the coast road at Seaton Sluice.

Someone bumped into an old pal here above the harbour so I took the opportunity to climb up onto the dunes to follow a skinny trail along the tops, followed by about half of the others. We didn’t get very far before an old lady with her slow dog blocked our path, so we diverted towards the main tarmac dune path. However, Mark stayed in my wheel tracks as I got around the blockage and back into the skinny singletrack through the firm grassy sand, very enjoyable and with little chance of sustaining injury no matter how hard you attack it. So we did, and very enjoyable it was too as we could see the others disappearing towards Blyth in the distance from each rise we crested, missing out on one of the day’s best treats.

The pair of us managed to stay off the tarmac all the way to the rendezvous point at the beach café where a mutiny was taking place led, I think, by Deryck who declared Greggs to be a more worthy (for that read cheaper!) alternative. We set off for Greggs in the town centre. I got in first, haha.

The next 15 minutes were spent gassing outside until it started to lightly spit with rain so we mounted up to follow Ian through the town centre and Newsham up to the golf course and the northern-most section of the treeline. Somehow it wasn’t as boggy as I expected but oh, boy have those tree roots surfaced madly since my last excursion through here in the more usual northerly direction! The middle and lower sections towards Delaval were also way drier than the anticipated mud fest with just the usual few claggy parts to sap a bit more leg power. Of course the electrically driven brigade was off like a pair of loons while I trudged along miles behind. Fortunately Ian came off his throttle in time for the nice little singletrack off the Keel Row track to add a bit of spice to the return journey but unluckily both his and Deryck’s stupidly wide bars forced them to halt between the skinny trees so our Strava times were nullified!

We took in the lower wooded track through to Middle Engine Lane end did the Delaval Steps Challenge up top before cruising down to the Vicarage, again strangely not very wet then split up at Seghill Hall where the motorcyclists left us and we remaining sextet headed across the fields to the A19 underpass singletrack and finally Annitsford roundabout. That just left the gentle climb back up to Camperdown into Killingworth and the drag along the Great Lime Road.

A decent 24 mile outing for those who started and finished at ASDA and a few more for the travellers. Cheers Mark, that was just the job with conditions elsewhere uncertain at best.

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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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