BerWin: The Wrap-up

Map of BerJog-BerWin-LeWinWe’ve been back home a while and busy with other things, but now a quick wrap-up of the snappily named BerJog-BerWin-LeWin multi-tour, and specifically its BerWin leg. I’ve updated our map of all cycle tours and doodled a map just for BerJog-BerWin-LeWin because I’m incapable of leaving things to your imagination! Caroline The Stats has added some facts and figures for your amusement.

I said I’d comment on our experiences touring in the UK versus Europe.

Firstly, the weather! I’m hesitant to generalise from a small sample, but both our UK tours have had prolonged rainy spells. In Europe we’ve had severe weather but it tends to be one bad day and not prolonged. I guess the difference between a maritime and continental climate.

Most of our European tours have followed major rivers, and consequently our stops have been rich with cultural cities. Lots of things to see and do, lots of places to eat and drink. British tourism seems to emphasise landscape over culture; maybe because we have so many beautiful places, maybe because London sucks the life out of our regional centres, or we don’t cherish the culture in other cities (sad to see Liverpool ousted from UNESCO world heritage status).

I can’t ignore the state of cycle infrastructure. In one sense we are fortunate: there is a wealth of very low-traffic lanes in Britain. Other, more recently-developed countries might have just one way to go city-to-city, and it can be monstrous (Romania, ugh!) But we sorely lack the visionary, high quality cycleways of Germany, Netherlands and Denmark. Even France has invested heavily in tourist-attracting routes on the Eurovelo network.

Don’t want to end on a sad note though! We have happy memories of the wild and remote places, the exceedingly steep hills and extreme weather of the Pennine Cycleway 🙂

Meet us at Land’s End in September.

BerWin: Sheffield – Ashbourne

Descending to HathersageWhat a difference good weather makes! Today was a game of two halves (and no extra time). Tough climbing for 40km, but in lovely sunshine it was a pleasure to spin up from Sheffield, where we’d enjoyed lovely dinner bed and breakfast with Clara, to Stanage Edge. Fabulous descent from there to Hathersage. The long backroad climb from Ashford in the Water towards Monyash was a delight. After climbing again out of Monyash, we were treated to the Tissington Trail, 30km of steady descent into Ashbourne.

Yesterday’s ride got short shrift because a certain football match kept me busy in the evening, but it was another rainy one, beautiful in its way, plunging repeatedly into West Yorkshire mill towns, before spiralling back up to the Moors. For TV afficionados, apparently we started in Happy Valley and passed through Last of the Summer Wine.

BerWin: Dent to Heptonstall

Climbing out of ColneMentioning no names, one of us has a battery to help on the hills, of which there are plenty on this trip. The e-bike offers five rockets. 1/5 rockets compensates for the extra weight of hauling a heavy battery around; 2/5 roughly equalises with the (ahem) human-powered partner (who still fails on the 25% sections); 3/5 will get you up nearly everything; 4/5 will get you up the mad climbs around here, and 5/5 for all we know will launch you into orbit (never been tried). There was a little scare, range-anxiety I think they call it, when the remaining battery-life fell to 21km on a 90km ride with mostly 3/5 rockets engaged. So the battery-assisted partner has to ration her (oops, giveaway) rockets. Since yesterday’s deluge, an added complication is that the control unit has taken in water, and the ‘reduce rockets’ button won’t work!. No joke: you have to turn it off and turn it on again, to revert to no rockets. Well, on today’s quite challenging (understatement) 100km / 1800m climb ride, the battery-powered partner survived mostly on 1/5 with an occasional blast to mount the 25%ers. Kudos.

Though the bar is now quite low, the weather today was fine, often drizzly, occasionally rainy, sometimes sunny. We scaled the col out of Dent, and several more categorised climbs, before eventually plunging into Heptonstall, where we are staying tonight. At lunchtime we even met and ate outside in Settle with Cathy and Richard. All is good!

BerWin: Alston to Dent

Hartside Summit
Weather report for July 5th. Today will be drizzly, followed by rain, heavy over Hartside Summit, lashing and freezing on the descent, brightening later, followed by rain, sun, rain, sun, rain and finally hot sun. You will wear light rain gear, heavy rain gear, every layer you’ve got, long trousers (not before time), raingear, no raingear, raingear, no raingear, raingear, shorts, suncream (not before time). Sheep spilling messily across the road, electricals misbehaving, crackling fresh tarmac, diverting to train later.

BerWin: Horsley to Alston

Lambley Viaduct lies on the South Tyne Trail, a splendid converted railway line, with gentle gradient and mostly good surfaces. It provides an excellent facility for walkers and cyclists, except in the region of the viaduct, where a property owner, whom Caroline dubbed The Selfish Gardener, prohibits cyclists from using a short section of the trail. Hence a big climb to the fell above. The compensation is a great view of the viaduct which walkers will not see, and for us, a sighting of a pair of curlews.

A very soggy day at times. Just after Once Brewed, we were caught by a thunderous downpour with lip-smacking rain pellets, and flash floods. As we emerged, sodden, we followed a sign to Hardriding.

The offroad trails around Wark and Kielder forests were leg-sapping and deserted. Northumberland’s epic emptiness has been its striking feature. I’m reminded of my Brummie grandmother who, on being taken for a holiday in the Highlands of Scotland, was unimpressed. “Just a whole lot of nothing” was her verdict. I think that’s rather the point.

BerWin: Norham to Horsley

Otterburn ranges

I have a phobia about bridges, so when we crossed a narrow one, open railings at each side and just wide enough to walk side-by-side with the bike, my heart was in my mouth. We dropped down the other side and looked back up at the crossing, just as 15 road bikers in team kit of the Early Morning Crew thundered across at full tilt. What a good job I wasn’t still teetering across when they arrived.

In other news, I can report that a sweaty man, grinding slowly up a hill in Northumbria in July attracts a gazillion flies. Luckily they don’t seem to bite. The longest climb of the day was up to the Otterburn ranges, and it was something of a classic. 4km of climbing including 2.5km over 5%, on a smooth military road across wild moorland I recalled my cycling mentor, Mike Spencer telling me once, 180km into a 200km Audax, that the next hill was ‘best attacked’. This one – at least at current fitness levels – was best defended; lowest gear, lowest cadence that will keep the pedals turning, don’t speed up when the slope abates and use the time to recover.

BerWin: On The Road Again

On The Road Again 🎶 No matter how I try to be sophisticated, the shuffle algorithm in my head picks the cheesiest music. Willie Nelson has been playing as Caroline, Rob, Eunice and Evgeny hit the road again. You’ve heard of LeJog; JogLe too if you’re fancy. We’re embarking on leg two of BerJog-BerWin-LeWin. Caught the train from Kings Cross to Berwick. Last time we were here we headed north to Orkney by way of John O’Groats, this time south and homeward bound. It’s been two years since we’ve toured and there has been a lot of idleness in between. So wish us luck taking on the Pennine Cycleway on weak legs. A short warm-up ride this evening, crossing the Tweed a couple of times to reach our B&B in Norham.