During the industrial revolution, the North Pennines were a busy site of mining, mineral extraction, smelting and steel production. This is seen on the ground today through the old mines, the spoil heaps, and in particular, a network of old railway lines and waggon ways that are now often bike routes.
Liz was exhibiting today at “Wool on The Wall” at Greenhead, so I went to help unload her stuff, then took the chance to ride home. After a bit of road work to get to Haltwhistle, the route 68 is joined, which is the former railway line through the South Tyne valley to Alston.
There was the spectacular Lamely Viaduct, where I met an ex miner taking his dog for a walk. We had a great chat, and he explained why the route is so tortuous at the end of the viaduct: the landowner doesn’t want people riding along the track by his house…
Eventually the route is regained, with great views back to the viaduct.
Some road work eventually brings me into Alston for a second breakfast, and then out along the Weardale road towards Nent Head. At Nent Hall I take the back road (which is a bit lumpy), but is quieter and allows access to a “public way” up the hill towards Allenheads. Unfortunately the public way is unrideable, but a good chance for a rest and a push.
When the road is joined, there is a very fast (downhill and tailwind) trip into Allenheads. I’m feeling good, so press on up the monster climb of the coast-to-coast cycle route. This then leads onto the fast descent to Rookhope (that I had fought in the opposite direction last week).
Time for a bit of exploring. The coast-to-coast off-road option climbs out of Rookhope on the course of a cable-pulled railway, with a steam powered engine at the top hauling wagons out of the valley. On the climb, the views are wonderful.
At the top, there are ruins and an information plaque.
Now I’m up on the moors of north Weardale, and the going is fast. The coast-to-coast and Waskerley Way follow the old waggon way; I take a coke and crisps at the Park Head Cafe, then on towards Waskerley. On the Waskerley Way at Red House my route was to head off towards home. However, the owner had illegally blocked the cycle route at NZ 064 454, with barbed wire around the gates and locks. Rather than push a point, I decided to continue on the Waskerley Way and double back from NZ 068 465. This then lead me on quiet back roads to cross the A68 and a fast run to Satley. At this point the direction of the route was now into a monumental headwind, which was not appreciated late in the day.
The last part was also “a bit lumpy” but at least beautiful scenery and plenty of wild roses.
From Waterhouses, it’s onto the last waggon way of the day, climbing through the woods to Billy Row, then a quick spin along local roads before landing home. Just before the roundabout on the A68 the mile-o-meter clicked past 100km.
A good day out, but tiring with all the hills and the tailwind turning into a headwind towards the end!