Bike miles …

Nearly 300 this week, so spring must be around the corner. Mileage was more or less evenly spread between the BMW GS and the Triumph Scrambler, the former clocking up 131 in one trip to get serviced at Carlisle and then home via Hawick – by no means the quickest route, but the diversion into the Scottish Borders includes the near empty sweeping bends of the A7.

In among the images of my own bikes there is the enormous BMW R18 and a new BMW GS, made ugly by too many splashes of yellow – both taken at the BMW showroom while waiting for my bike to be serviced and shod with some new Metzelers. Well, you have to fill the time somehow …

The Scrambler north of Brown Rigg

The Road from Sundaysight

The GS with Rubers Law in the distance

BMW R1250 GS – the 2022 version of my bike spoiled buy the yellow touches (looks better in mono;-))

The BMW R18 – magnificent but not my style of bike

Under threatening skies to Bellingham, but stayed dry.

The Scrambler at Hesleyside

A significant week …

It started ordinarily enough – Monday I rode the Scrambler up the A68 and headed east into the lanes that lead to Throckrington and Bavington. An empty landscape, I got talking to one of the few, local inhabitants, an old guy who was exercising his black Labrador, Meg, by driving slowly along the road in his 4×4. It is the sort of place where this poses no danger.

Tuesday was only the third round of golf this year with an hour’s drive to the coast at Whitburn. Every time we visit I inevitably take the same image – the view from the 18th tee across the large hole in the ground that is Whitburn Quarry with the tip of Souter Lighthouse showing in the distance.

Later in the week we walked a short stretch of the abandoned Border Counties Railway from Waters Meet towards Wall, along the banks of the North Tyne – the weather was turning dull and grey and it has deteriorated ever since.

Then, on Friday, the sequel to Golf in the Wild – Golf in the Wild – Going Home was finally printed and delivered.  Unfortunately, the delivery lorry was too large to get up the drive so I was left with the task of humping 1000 books up to the house before the rain arrived.  I made it just in time.  So begins the task of promoting, selling and packing – the least attractive part of the exercise.  The first book pretty much sold out, largely on the basis of word of mouth so, I will take the same lazy approach with the sequel.  It is orderable online, within the UK, from here.

Just before sunrise at Beaufront Woodhead

A mile east of Carrycoats Hall. Colder than I expected – the puddle to the left of the bike is frozen!

An outside chance of hitting a birdie – this is actually the South Shields course which runs close to Whitburn at the 7th

The obligatory shot from Whitburn’s eighteenth tee with Souter Lighthouse in the background.

The first railway bridge north of Hexham on the abandoned Border Counties Line

The price at the pump, near Acomb, Northumberland –  this one is showing 5/4d which dates it around 1967 – according to Retrowow, petrol prices rose from 4/8d in 1960 to 6/6d by 1969.

Friday 4th February – the big day – 1000 copies of the sequel delivered

 

Stanhope Common

On Friday I rode down to Darlington.  At this time of year, getting any bike out over any distance is a bonus.  Nearly all 97 miles of tarmac were filthy, the low sun shone permanently in my eyes riding south and it took nearly two hours to clean the bike when I got home.  It was all worth it.  Having taken the quick route when outward bound, on return I took the scenic roads through Wolsingham, Frosterley, Stanhope and Blanchland.  Riding across Stanhope Common, I was treated to these wonderful sights.  All taken within a few minutes of each other, the light was changing fast.  A few miles further on, I descended into the mist and damp of a very foggy afternoon – the price was worth paying:

Towards Burn Hope

A very muddy GS

Moon central with Sandyford quarry building in the distance

Towards Blanchland

More of the same

Starting the year …

… the way I intend to continue – on a bike on January 1st. Plenty of rain meant there was no salt on the roads and the temperatures well above 10ºC – almost perfect riding conditions, but for the mucky surfaces.  I am fortunate to live among country roads, not best for a sports bike, but ideal for the Scrambler.  A couple of miles north and I am on the Military Road, which runs from Heddon in the east to Greenhead in the west.  For much of its length, it runs parallel to Hadrian’s Wall and north of the old Stanegate Roman road.  There are any number of diversions, south or north, which take you away from this almost arrow-straight tarmac, built by Field Marshal Wade in 1746 to enable easy movement of the troops and equipment necessary to supress the Jacobite uprising.  It is a wild, exposed, glorious landscape.

The arrow-straight Military Road near High Teppermoor.

The road less traveled – between Hound Hill and Melkridge Common.

Towards Gibbs Hill from Hound Hill.

Parked up at the foot of Hound Hill.

Towards Cowburn Rigg from Hound Hill.

Crindledykes.

Crindledykes

Yet another …

… week gone by.  After a dull and dreary weekend, the sun finally appeared late Sunday and from then on, the week mostly took a turn for the better.  Monday was cold, particularly across the moors, but fine enough to get the Scrambler out.  Tuesday felt a little like Christmas as I drove to Allendale Brewery to collect a hamper and crates of beer.  Bright skies and frost appeared on most mornings such that the camera has spent a lot of time pointing at the sky.  Thursday was even good enough to take the GS north, across filthy roads to Otterburn and then on single tracks to Sundaysight, Greenhaugh and Bellingham.  Nothing is quite as good as being alone on two wheels in wild, empty places.

Sunday 12th December – the sun finally made an appearance, late in the afternoon

Monday 13th December – On the Scrambler to Stanhope and Wolsingham. Still some snow on high ground and colder than expected, but grand to be out again. No low winter sun, which is good thing on the bike.

Tuesday 14th December – To the brewery at Allendale to collect Christmas presents. So much better than depending on a courier who might, or might not, deliver to the right address.

Wednesday 15th December – Sheep migrating north in a golden, morning light.

Thursday 16th December – traffic jam near Sundaysight.

On the same day, on high ground between Greenhaugh and Bellingham, looking towards Sundaysight. The GS is filthy thanks to the lorries emerging from Divethill Quarry on the B6342.

Friday 17th December – Egger from Oakwood, on a cold December morning.

Saturday 18th December – a hard frost on a bright December morning. Flying high on the left is Turkish Airlines, Boeing 787-9 from Istanbul to San Francisco.

On the same day – a different treatment of the same scene.

This one …

… for the boys – my boys that is. A series of images from the 2021 MotoGP at Silverstone from 27th to 29th August. A birthday present from them all for a significant birthday – this is the simplest way for me to share the results of a great weekend. It was so good, we have been discussing plans for 2022 🙂

The first night – great atmosphere, shame about the ‘music’
Matt drinking in the night time atmosphere
Thirsty business is spectating
.Silverstone Golf Club campsite
Moto2 practice
Jorge Martin and Marc Marquez through Copse
Marquez out on the first lap 😦
Remy Gardner on his slowing down lap – winner of Moto2.
Remy Gardner
Somebody looks sad to see Rossi retire …

Ghost Roads …

I am reading Neil Peart’s Ghost Rider, travels on the healing road. Within a short period from August 1997, he lost his daughter to a car accident and, ten months later, his common-law wife of twenty-three years, Jackie Taylor, who succumbed to cancer. Over a period of fourteen months, he rode 55,000 miles in search of a reason to live. Peart was an admirer of Hemingway and thanks to Ken Burns’ documentary, recently aired on the BBC, I pick up on the references.

Immediately before this, I was reading Lois Pryce’s Red Tape and White Knuckles, a solo motorcycle trip through Africa and before that, her Revolutionary Road, a solo ride through Iran. When I returned from Yorkshire last week, there was a surprise package on the doorstep – two books about a pair of dreamers, hell bent on taking part in the Isle of Man TT. The gift, from Simon at Ducati Preston, was prompted by a discussion about motorbikes and literature and my enthusiasm for Ted Bishop’s Riding with Rilke – Reflections on Motorcycles and Books. Centred on a road trip from Edmonton to Austin, Ted rides a Ducati Monster

It is not difficult to detect a recurring theme/obsession here. It is mid-July 2021 and already I have covered 6000+ miles – not in Peart’s or Pryce’s league but surely indicative of an unhealthy mania. Many of the miles were accumulated on a glorious one week trip to the north of Scotland. The rest of the time I can be found, alone or in the company of a few like-minded souls, anywhere across the length of Northumberland, the Scottish Borders, County Durham and North Yorkshire. This week I was back at Port Carlisle – I keep going back – the road, any road, is an addiction. To quote Lois – Being on a bike throws you out there into the thick of it, whether you want it or not, and makes you more vulnerable as a result. But with that vulnerability comes an intensity; a concentrated high, a sweet nerve-jangling, heart thumping, sugar-rush sensation of the kind that only comes from real down ‘n’ dirty, life-affirming motorcycling.

There is something other-worldly about this stretch of the southern Solway coast. There are traces of conflict, two separate abandoned railways, a demolished mile long bridge across the Firth and the ruins of a sizeable trans-shipment port. All of this has gone – there are scattered communities but, even in these days of staycations, the roads and shoreline remain quiet, ghostly. It is this that keeps drawing me back – like Ted, I was riding a Monster:

The Black on Black Monster between Port Carlisle and Burgh by Sands.
Ghostly and dangerous
Liable to flooding, as I last experienced on a trip through here on the GS.
No direction home.
This arrow was used to direct RAF pilots at floating targets in the Solway Firth – it is clearly visible on Google Earth.
Cattle on the edge
Near Bowness-on-Solway

To quote that well-used adage, you don’t stop riding when you get old, you get old when you stop riding. I imagine myself riding into my eighties – isn’t it pretty to think so.

Northumberland Skies

The field next to our home is filled with sheep.  The red dye on their backsides confirms they have been seen to by the tup (ram) – he has been a busy boy. It is disappointing that, around the time the fruits of his endeavours begin to show, the flock is moved to the lower nursery slopes.

The ram has been rushed off his feet.

Looking exhausted

After a while you begin to notice how your neighbours behave.  On really cold, still nights, they gather beneath the trees to avoid the ground frost.  Generally timid, they will disperse as we leave the front door but, rattle a plastic bag that might contain ewe nuts and they will come running.  Lie down for any length of time and a significant number will limp away, appearing to suffer from dead legs.

I share their pain – a golf induced knee injury, rotten weather, salty slippery roads and various tiers of lockdown have all served to constrain the usual activities – travel, golf and motorcycles.  Nevertheless, there is always much to see, just look to the skies:

The sun going down in late November

… And sunrise

Christmas is coming – 23rd December

Christmas morning

Post Christmas steely blue skies – 29th December

And then modest snow arrived on Christmas Eve and hung around for the next day – a White Christmas for Hexham:

Fern Hill

Towards Fawcett Hill

So, to sign off for 2020, I wish my modest band of followers, all the best for a much-improved 2021.  Before I go, some 2020 milestones:

a.  In late 2020 I approached maximum disc space on wordpress.com after eight years – I am now subscribed with an annual fee which at least demonstrates commitment and should ensure my readers are not subjected to peculiar adverts;

b.  Despite lockdowns, I still managed to clock 7165 miles on the motorbikes – several hundred more than in lockdown free 2019;

c.  We still managed to get away – to Saughtree in the Borders, twice to Mallaig and once to north Northumberland.  A return to the latter was abandoned due to the second lockdown;

d.  The text for the Golf in the Wild sequel is now complete and due for publication in September.  Possibly the only golf success in a year when playing was much curtailed.

Finally, as parting shots, a couple of images of the ‘Bad Company‘ I kept on some of the most memorable days in 2020:

On the trip to Hawes

At the top of Rosedale Chimney Bank.

The North East coast …

… is usually quiet, but not this year.  COVID-19 and the resulting staycations has resulted in a once quiet coastline being overwhelmed.  This is all good news for the local economy I guess but not what I have come to expect of Bamburgh and Lindisfarne.  Once the school holidays are over, I assume things will quieten down again, always assuming the little darlings can be persuaded to return to education.  The couple of Bamburgh images are from last week and the Holy Island images from today – 12th August:

Bamburgh Castle and an unusually busy beach in light and shade …

… and how I got there.

Holy Island Causeway

… and how I got there.

The alternative route

‘Pilgrims’ heading for Holy Island

On Bale Hill

Sometimes the unplanned rides are the best.  I just knew I wanted to be on open, high ground as the sky over Hexham was full of promising clouds. Heading south from Blanchland, I found myself riding up Bale Hill towards Stanhope Common and there, on my right, was a scene from Poldark, a chimney rising from an untamed landscape.  Except, this was County Durham, not Cornwall.

The chimney belonged to Presser Pumping Station.  Some of its history was recently revealed by local resident Stanley Wilkinson who lived at the ‘villa’ at The Pressor (sic) from 1935 to 1956:  The 2 shafts and the big building and chimney were built for the lead mines many years prior to our family moving there. It was around 1953 when my father suggested the Durham County Water Board pump water from the old mine workings to augment the Consett water supply. He and I worked down the shaft clearing obstacles and making ready for the pump and piping installation; scary as hell but (we) completed the job. I migrated to Australia in 1964 and have lived in Indonesia for 25 years. (from https://www.geograph.org.uk/)

The clouds did not disappoint while the weather to the west was particularly ominous:

Heavy weather to the west, from Bale Hill – looking towards Townfield and Hunstanworth

Presser Pumping Station

The GS on Bale Hill

This drone flight takes you towards Hunstanworth and then back to the Pumping Station – it is a very fine portrayal of this wild landscape. John Twist, the drone pilot, is standing close to where I took my images.