MAC at Morpeth

Terry’s Morpeth Mutation, Sunday 21st February 2016

Those present:
Sarah Bradley
Lucy Brain
Simon Joicey
Justin Denton
Mark Sweeting
Mike McColl
Lee Davis
Adam Tuff
Ray Foster
Grant Austin-Brooks
Ian Browning
Terry Kirkup

Ray was the only one who appeared at ASDA as per the original Facebook posting. After he found the place deserted he rode up to the Cave, and seeing the van figured the RL hadn’t left yet – just caught me! We did go back down to check there was no-one else in the trolley tent before setting off for the Border Minstrel in Gosforth Park, arriving there at 0915 to find a few cars and bodies gathered in readiness. At around 9:40 we left, headed through the trees behind Jed to the western exit onto Sandy Lane, and hence onto the waggonway up to Seaton Burn.

We did the quick trail down to the foot of the wood before regaining the main road and the long, boring drag down to Stannington, touring through the village and under the A1 before joining the cycle path to Clifton. A quick stop there to make sure the planned route was being followed truly and we were off through Glororum which “local” lad Lee confessed he’d never seen before, much to his surprise!

Sadly it was time for the first turn-back which cost us a mile and some minutes as I overshot the bridleway I’d plotted to follow. We scooted back (thankfully downhill) to the village and onto very damp grass, so typical of an excessively wet Northumberland. However, although the first part was a drag the remainder was a proper challenge on a very slippery, thin sliver of dirty mud. The final quarter mile of down slope was very enjoyable as we strived to maintain control and stay upright, avoiding several hidden rock traps along the way.

Fizz putt.
Inevitable I suppose, with so much hedge cropping done lately by farmers, that someone would suffer a flat. Unfortunately it turned out to be the biggest tyre in the bunch on Ian’s fat Trek. My life was probably shortened by a year after I tootled gently back down the slope aboard the beastie to clean the rear wheel in the stream, but then I had to lug the thing back uphill on my feet for the repair to be done. Puffed oot.

 

After we’d snacked on Justin’s glorious cake offering we gathered on the roadside outside Tranwell Farm, took a gander at my map and headed towards Morpeth. Coming to a halt on the B6524 for another map check, Ian decided he would head straight home on tarmac, unwilling to slow the group should he have another big puncture. I was almost ready to let him go after discussing route options when Ray chipped in and together we managed to persuade Ian to remain with us as we were now approaching the best sections of the ride and it would have been criminal to proceed without him on this particular outing. Fortunately he agreed.

On the road to Mitford I noticed a gate with what looked like a footpath sign but turned out to be a bridleway, so in we piled to discover a short but fruity section of sweet, rooty singletrack. Ray led us through until we ran out of woodland and took to the road to drop to the riverside. Ian took the lead from there as we followed the river to collect our reward for all that tarmac tyre wear.

Some tricky bits along here and a couple of fallen trees to negotiate but generally a great blast unhampered by foot soldiers or dogs, and one superb if slightly short fast downhill chute to play on. The only significant uphill test brought us to our bait stop where the usual replenishment was supplemented by Lucy’s luscious cakes this time. Simon missed a bit of lunch time when he needed to re-inflate a tyre on his Anthem while Lee seemed a bit edgy and pre-occupied answering phone calls. We even had time to stop and admire some mystery stone slab carving along the way and what looked like a coat of arms set into the rock face (well, we didn’t REALLY have time but hey, I was already in trouble with a certain party for mistiming the ride so what’s a few more minutes?).

Suffice to say, as with a couple of past trips around the area, we lost our way and it wasn’t until we emerged at Bothal we realised we’d inadvertently used a footpath to get there. So sorry, it won’t happen again. Time for some more bedazzling road work as we emerged into the open countryside and headed through heavenly Hepscott to join the Hartford road, the wind beginning to show little mercy as Adam took the lead with Lee on his tail. That wind made it easy to choose the remainder of the route home in an attempt to stay sheltered, starting with a visit to the Visitor Centre at Plessey Woods.

There was a democratic vote taken which had us stopping there unexpectedly for a cuppa, and even more fructose was consumed in our third cake stop of the day, but the tea in particular was very welcome. Thanks to Ian for providing mine after I’d left home with no money and no tools or spares! (Ray gets the blame for that). I was already in big trouble from Lee’s wife for keeping him out a trifle later than advertised and could feel her pins piercing my voodoo doll effigy as I sat down to stuff my face. Another slight delay here as Simon’s tyre needed a bit more air after we’d left the café and headed for the bridge.

I’m pretty pleased with my effort up Hartford Bank after a reasonably testing 28 miles, most of the folk in front of me on Strava (who cares, I know!) look like roadies who probably skittled down the bank before hitting the bridge at 30 mph on 15 mm wide rock hard smoothie tyres while we popped out of Plessey Woods at the bridge stone cold on tractors. Still didn’t match my best time from last year though but I thought I'd pile it on as my Cycle Speedway racing season starts in earnest next Sunday. I just wish I had a bit of stamina to go with the sprint.

With time now a distinct factor for more than just Lee we decided to stick to the dual carriageway up to the Garden Centre, Grant leaving us at the roundabout for home, as he was also now well overdue for his Sunday shift at work! The wind had now sprung up quite significantly so to avoid the worst of it, and that awfully dangerous single carriageway stretch to the Holiday Inn, I decided it was best to take the wiggly path through to Arcot Crossing instead. That didn’t really cost us much time and it did give us the opportunity to sample that brilliant, if a little short wooded slalom through to Moor Farm, very exhilarating!

We split again here with Ray, Ian and Mark taking the direct route home into Burradon while the remainder of us with cars waiting at the Minstrel risked the dual carriageway to Sandy Lane. Half way up that long drag Lucy saved my life after she noticed my pace drop. It took me a hundred metres to get on her tail after she overtook me but the pull up to the crest was extremely welcome in my current physical condition. I managed to restrain Justin from taking to the trees as we entered the park, the tarmac looking the much better option, and we were back at the cars slightly later than planned at around 2:45 ish with 32 miles clocked while the amazing Lucy still had to ride home to Gateshead!

Images courtesy Lucy and Mark.

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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.

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