I imagined a gravel ride around Kielder would be good endurance training, but ultimately boring fireroads: how wrong I was! Having signed up for the Dirty 130 (shorter version of the Dirty Reiver gravel ride), I figured it would be good to at least have a reccie. I had the whole route in the Garmin, and a few shortcuts to make it manageable, a good stepping-stone, and to fit in with a more leisurely start.
I parked up at Lewisburn carpark – this has a long history with me, being my venue of choice “back in the day” when I used to bring my Halfords Special mountain bike up for riding across the border. It seems to have seen better days, and is now just the foundations of the old buildings, a couple of picnic benches, and (importantly for a Yorkshireman) no parking payment machines.
I rode down the lakeside path to Low Cranecleugh Outdoor Centre where the route turned into the woods and hills. The first climb was, as expected, not too steep and nice on well-packed gravel. I overshot the first turn, and on tracking back, things turned a bit challenging: while marked on the map as a fire road, it was overgrown, greasy, mossy and steep! It wasn’t rideable for me, so push, push, push. When it leveled out a bit, the “steep” bit was replaced with “boggy”, so it was still barely rideable. I had plenty of time to reflect on what this would be like on the Dirty Reiver – I could imagine people trying to pass in conditions where there was no line choice. Probably made my mind up that maybe it wasn’t for me.
From there, back on gravel roads “as expected” and some nice turning of the pedals up and down the hills. Aiming to hit the road section up towards the Newcastleton trail head, I’d planned a short-cut to the Dirty Reiver route to speed this bit along. This was a lovely bit of riding, but towards the end there was a forestry works sign, with a “no access” notification. In the distance I could see them chopping down trees, right next to the fire road with some big old timber coming down. Hmmm. I could back-track and find another way around, but figured I had learned enough about the route already (and knew the section from Newcastleton anyway, from mountain biking visits). Turn around.
I headed back to Lewisburn, largely by the same route, with one-or-two diversions, which were mostly beautiful. I need to come back and do some nice long distance riding in the forest (probably at this time of year to skip the insects), but maybe not in some manic semi-race environment. When I got back to the car my legs were empty: this likely a combination of lack of fitness, the terrain, and just having a bag of M&Ms by way of nutrition!
Still, a nice day out on the bike.