Awaking at Allenheads Inn, there was no particular rush (see the end of yesterday’s diary) we were able to take our time doing our early morning business. We hoped the landlord was enjoying his sleep.
Anxious to hit the road we were down at 08:30 sharp for an average breakfast (the wet soggy tinned tomato didn’t do it for us). Sue and John were also there, keen to get away from this odd place.
We all left the inn together and got our bikes from the lock-up. A light drizzle was falling so I kitted up in my wet weather gear. Sue and John pushed off first and we left soon after.
On the road again
It’s a long climb straight out of Allenheads – not so great with cold legs and the cold rain. I soon passed John and Sue and powered through the wet and wind into County Durham.
After the climb the road rolled down toward Rookhope allowing for some good progress. Oh, I should have mentioned Peter had been left behind, but you’d probably worked that out for yourselves, huh?
Passing Grove Rake Mine and Lintzgarth arch on the way, I hit Rookhope at 09:40 and waited in a convenient shelter near the pub for Peter. He duly turned up at 10:05. There was a choice of routes here and Peter opted for the the rough track. It was shorter in distance than the road and as he would be walking for most of it (it was uphill, see) it would probably be quicker for him. I took the road to Stanhope which climbed steeply out of Rookhope and up past soggy sheep and lambs. Visibility was somewhat impaired but soon I found himself approaching Stanhope.
Climbing out of Stanhope
Entering Stanhope, I turned left up the climb out. It was steep and long. And then there was some more steepness and longness as the road twisted and turned. In a way it was good not to see the top as it would probably have made me want to give up. After the initial climb it levelled slightly but then the upcoming hill was in sight. The drizzle seemed to get worse and annoying. The only thing that made it bearable was knowing that once at Parkhead Station, it would be the end of the hard bit.
Coming up the final hill, I caught a glimpse of Parkhead Station in the mizzle. I rolled down and turned into the driveway. There was no sign of Peter who would be getting to this point on his alternative off-road route. Pulling into the car park the whole thing looked closed as there were ongoing building works. Nearly distraught, I noticed at the back the lights were on and he could see Sue and John inside enjoying a cuppa. “Always open” the sign said reassuringly.
Beginning of the end…?
Inside it was warm and I had a hot chocolate and orange chocolate muffin. Sue and John left and eventually a rather wet Peter arrived. After a break we dragged our wet clothes back on and rolled out along the “Waskerly Way“. The first mile or two was horrid as our hands were freezing. The track was straight forward but rough in places with thick gravelly surfacing. The gates we had to go through were also rather annoying.
As we descended it did get a bit warmer but my fingers remained cold. We weavedour way to the outskirts of Consett, eventually coming to the junction at 109 miles – the parting of the ways. It was straight on for Sunderland and two options for left to Newcastle.
Consett wasn’t the NCN’s greatest moment. At the junction we decided to take the circuit route around the town. This turned into the worst decision of the whole trip. The path was abysmal in places with severe rocks and was half-icon by saplings. Eventually it opened up a bit and we crossed some wasteland that we believed used to be the long-gone steel works. Ah, the post-industrial landscape sure is purty. Beer cans and McDonald’s wrappers.
After crossing the A694 we quickly hit another railway path. Avoiding the dog turds, glass and rottweilers was a far cry from the Lake District.
Before long the path headed along the side of the Derwent Valley. Through the trees we could see the valley below. We were pretty miserable though. Peter stopped to put on some warmer gear as he was getting cold. By this point all we could manage were a few grunts at each other. The rain had pretty much stopped now but we were damp and getting tired.
Past the posh piles of Hamsterley Mill, we progressed until over a viaduct a “Welcome to Gateshead” sign greeted us. I had never been welcomed to Gateshead before so felt very special. It wasn’t strictly true, however, as before Gateshead-proper we landed with a bump in Rowlands Gill. Everyone seemed to be eating chips. And deaf. Nothing wrong with being deaf, but it made it harder getting past them on the CYCLE PATH. After less than a mile it was back to the Derwent Walk.
Hitting the city
The path descended into what was a surprisingly pleasant valley with a multi-use path that followed the Derwent river. Riding toward Gateshead and Newcastle was certainly a new experience for us even though we had been there many times before by other means. The traffic noises increased and the youths got more surly. The Derwent widened out as it neared the Tyne and all of a sudden we realised we were only a stone’s throw from the Metro Centre – that temple of capitalist consumption.
We crossed the Tyne on Scotswood Bridge near Armstrong’s and after some more road crossings made it to the river’s north embankment. It’s offices down there now, and the beginning of the changing face of travel along the river. As we made our way to Tynemouth we would experience a mixture of industrial remains, new office developments, derelict warehouses, small lock-ups and new housing developments.
We felt uplifted as we rolled toward the Tyne bridges. We’d both walked along there before but on a bike you get a new perspective as the view quickly changes. We stopped under the Tyne bridge to call Team Pedro who were in Fenwick’s enjoying a cream tea – a world away from our last three days of adventure. We advised them our ETA would be at least an hour, and after watching a couple of loonies doing “deathslides” (they survived) off the Tyne bridge we pushed on. Weaving amongst the throngs on the route, we passed the Millennium Bridge. For me, from here onwards was the least enjoyable, other than Consett. The post-industrial landscape seemed to lack life and was rather depressing. The distance didn’t seem to be getting shorter as our legs grew wearier but we kept going with a kind of grim determination.
… on and on and on…
The youths grew even more surly and glass and dog turds once more became the test to keep our wits sharp. Tragedy came when we approached Royal Quays shopping outlet. After crossing the road near the shops, I missed the route’s turn and overshot by 100m. Peter didn’t, though, and once I had realised my error I turned to see Peter disappearing round a bend. I gave chase but as I turned corner after corner there was no sign of Peter. Thinking that Peter was thinking that I was ahead of him and thus chasing after me, I sped up. There was still no sign of Peter as the route took twists and turns until eventually I popped out at the car park on the final bend to the finish. I couldn’t see Peter ahead so guessed he had already finished.
I rolled along that final bend with no sign of Peter. When I reached the finish there was no sign of either Peter or Team Pedro. This was not the good finish I had hope for! I called Team Pedro who were waiting at Tynemouth Priory where we believed the finish to be (hint: it’s not). Team Pedro relocated to the car park nearer the finish and we all began scanning for Peter who wasn’t answering his phone.
We waited and waited until eventually Peter turned up. It transpired that after my wrong turn at Royal Quays, Peter had gone ahead and taken a wrong turn himself. He then wandered the streets of Tynemouth area until eventually finding the finish.
After the mix-up and confusion at the end, we got the “money shot” then went home…