Barnard Castle, Sunday 25 July 2021

Sunday 25 July Ride starting at Barnard Castle. Only three of us- more on that later. Graham, Frank and Nick

We met in the car park at Barnard Castle. Frank and I were just slightly late thanks to a detour to collect my water bottle. We knew the route, so soon set off, hoping to get coffee in Middleton- in -Teesdale. The weather was cloudy and a bit cool but nice for riding and the road wasn’t too busy so before so long we came to Middleton, found a nice café and had an early coffee. The road up Teesdale began to climb gradually but consistently, past the signposts to High Force until we found the turning to St John’s Chapel. It went on up after this – there was a first small summit, then a descent before a longer climb up and up to the watershed between Tees and Wear above remote and wild landscape. When Frank and I arrived Graham was chatting to a couple who had come up the other side. After the long climb we were looking forward to the descent which was pretty steep in places and made more exciting by areas of freshly gritted road. You could miss some of these but I think we all had scary moments going over bits at speed. It certainly was exciting and very soon we were down in the Wear valley where we took a minor road option which was nice and brought us to Stanhope – in -Weardale.
We went into the Durham Dales Centre Café and Graham ordered a baked potato with beans. Then followed this rather bizarre conversation.
“ Hi, I’d like a baked potato with beans too, please”
“ Sorry, he’s just had the last potato.”
” No problem, can you do toast?”
“ Yes’
“Then I’d like baked beans on toast please”
“ You can’t have that, it’s only on the breakfast menu and we’ve stopped serving that now”
Small pause. “OK, what can I have on toast now?”
“Jam”
Eventually, she relented and I got my beans on toast which was fine but only after I had been firmly told that “We don’t usually do that”.

But back to our story. We hadn’t forgotten from last time that we had a tough climb after lunch and our memories were right this time. After about a mile it went steeply up – even Graham thought it was steep – and continued thus for two hairpin bends. I managed to keep my bike upright at low speed. Frank, not having the benefit of my gears took a little walk, not much slower. Like in the morning, we regrouped at a first smaller summit and then had a short descent by a quarry from where we could see the main climb stretching up the hills beyond. Not amazingly steep but it was a long way. There were snow poles alongside the road and I passed the time by looking ahead and count them on each stretch and then ticking them off before the next bit. Up and up and up it seemed and at the top we looked around the scenery. 6.5 miles from lunch and nearly all uphill. It is wild with almost no sign of humanity. We took photos.
I’d forgotten how good the next downhill was. Unlike the one in the morning, it was more gradual which meant that it went on for longer, and it had no gravel patches. We went down like a bunch of kids at play, each bend revealing another downhill section with gentle bends, good surface and views. I hoped it would take us all the way to BC but not quite. There were some lumps but after what we had seen, we could laugh at those and cruised into BC for an afternoon coffee, incidentally meeting some friends of mine from Wetherby who had just stopped on a long car journey.

Whilst discussing the thrills of the day we thought about the small number of our party with a view to future planning. Listening to the grapevine, a number of people had sent apologies for their absence because they were on holiday.
Others had perhaps been put off because they didn’t fancy such a hilly route and a few didn’t want to get into their cars in the morning. On balance I have the feeling that it is worth doing a ride like this once a year but we will research a different route for next time.

Nick