Monday, 29 August 2016

4 days of riding in the Lakes, Dales, County Durham and Northumberland

I planned a route for a multi day ride a few weeks ago, then invited some mates. The Bank Holiday weekend was the date set, the route agreed, wild camping the preferred accommodation choice and so we were set!!

Friday morning turned up, Gareth had driven up from Hampshire, John from Chester, Mike from Brampton, Nigel from Cockermouth and me..

The bikes were an assortment, 3 KTM's, 1 Honda & an AJP...4 strokes and a 2 stroke. Each bike was fitted with a set of panniers, another eclectic mix, Enduristan, Wolfman, Giant Loop, my home made ones and Mike's sportsbike panniers...

We set off once everyone was ready just after 9am, a 500 mile loop around the Lakes, Dales, County Durham and Northumberland was the plan and we were off!

Gareth had never ridden up north before, so everything was new to him, The variety of all the lanes up here was a bit of a revelation, the classic Lakeland rocky lanes, the muddy little hidden byways, then onto the longer rocky Dales lanes, the harsh but beautiful moorland of Country Durham which rolled into the Northumbria area. We passed by them all on our planned route and all of us were very aware of just how beautiful this little part of the UK is!

Near the end of the Friday, after a long day of riding, Mike had the first of a series of problems with his bike, a split fuel hose, it had just perished away. A quick repair saw us able to ride over Stile End and then make a run for Halfords to go buy some new pipe and a few clips to hold it all in place. We fitted it in the car park and headed back out towards Breast High with a plan to wild camp somewhere out of the way. Shopping was done for some mussels in white wine, red wine, bread, cheese and roast chicken, a true gourmet feast for the end of the day!

John & I interrupted the timescale for this by dropping both of our bikes into the ford below Breast High, so a good 20 minutes was taken to sort out both drowned machines... Whilst we were sorting this, the rest of the team sorted a camp out and got their tents up... dinner followed in the dark but some good banter and seeing the stars saw us all very relaxed and ready for some kip...

We woke to a beautiful morning, dew on the ground, a clear sky, great views down into the valleys. John had slept under a tarp, Nigel had decided to try to turn his tent into a swimming pool as his water bladder leaked inside the tent and Gareth & I who are pretty seasoned campers slept pretty well!! the coffee was on, the bread and cheese got eaten and we were off again for Day 2.

Day 2 saw us heading across the last part of Cumbria and heading into the Dales, unfortunately Mike's AJP decided to play up again and required John to tow him to Kirby Stephen, (a first for Mike), where Martin at MHB Motorcycles worked his magic and both found the problem and sorted it...

Whilst waiting for Mike's bike to be fixed, all the boys had a play with some of the toys at Martin's place, we all liked the digger!

The Dales was now calling, so off we set, the lanes rolling by in a flurry. We stopped for a chat with a couple who were walking past Hell Gill and chatted about the gill and it's history, then we dropped down and into Hawes for some lunch, along with the hundreds of other bikers out enjoying the sunny day.

From here, loads of great lanes followed as we climbed up into the hills. Some great rock steps, long flowing easier lanes and all the time, plenty of laughs and banter between the five of us, just riding and enjoying the fun of good company and a great past time!

We wound our way to Castle Bolton, where we decided to call it a day, it was 7pm and we had been riding for 12 hours, it had started to rain so we settled for a campsite near to a pub so we could have a hot meal too... The Bolton Arms was lovely, friendly and warm, with some good food, the campsite was really noisy with a selection of families who seem to think they were at a rave, music blaring, booze and other stuff wafting around, a not so pleasant experience from a sleep point of view!

To top it off, we had a thunder and lightning storm and heavy rain too, John got bitten to bits by midges, Nigel never slept and Mike had a bout of diarrhoea and sickness! Not a very successful night on the whole!

We set off for 6.30am, no-one was up, so we pushed the bikes out of the campsite, then headed to Leyburn as Mike's bike had now sprung an oil leak at the filter cover. We got a temporary fix onto it by putting electrical tape around the edges, this worked fine, so Mike topped up the oil and we set off again.

The rain was pretty heay that morning, mist was sitting in the valleys, the views limited so we just rode and took the pee out of Mike and his bike all morning!

We were now in the higher moorland areas above Reeth, heading towards Barnard Castle, the rain had swelled the rivers, but they weren't so high that we couldn't ford them, puddles were collecting on all the lanes, so dry feet went out the window, but we kept heading north now, aiming to get up into Northumberland.

Once we crossed the A66, Mike's bike had a final gasp and died, the lead had come off the fuel pump inside the tank again, there was nowhere to fix it and we didn't have the right tools anyway, so Mike called the RAC and left the group after a quik lunch in Burger King.

For the record here is the pic of 'Healthy Eater' Nigel eating Burger King food!! ;-)

Once Mike was sorted we left him to get home, always a loss to lose one of the party, Mike is such a lovely guy and his bike just let him down for this run out, so lets sort another ride out for him soon!!

We crossed into County Durham, this is an area I don't really know and so the lane we did we limited and there was much more tarmac to get through the region because of my lack of knowledge. This didn't really detract from the whole experinece and it did help with the time factors, but it's always better to traverse the lanes wherever possible!

There is a big push around Hamsterly Forest to curb the illegal off road activity, which is a bit of a catch 22 situation in reality, but the TRF, GLASS and LARA are now all working together to try to get a message out there to all. There are now signs appearing on loads of lanes to try to help in this matter.

We crossed out of County Durham and into Northumberland. This is an area I know a lot of lanes in so I had linked up some north of Hadrian's Wall with the ones south of Hexham, however time and poor weather was hampering us. We were all now soaked, feeling grumpy and tired, so we opted for a night in a pub in Acomb, the only accommodation we could find at such short notice on a Bank Holiday weekend. It turned out, the Sun Inn was run by a lovely and very helpful couple, who popped our bikes into their garden area, were happy for us to call a take away as they weren't serving food that night and were genuinely really very nice people.

Day 4 dawned, blue skies, us feeling much more chipper and raring to go!

Alston was our destination, the cafe at Hartside to be precise! Bikers paradise of great roads, great food and plenty of shiny toys... to get there we had to pass by some of the best lanes in the North, it's a hard job but someone needed to do it!!

We finished the trip off on the smaller lanes back in Cumbria, getting back to my place for 5pm ish.

A glorious 4 days of good mates, good riding and all because of a shared passion for trail riding and bikes...