After a leisurely breakfast we dipped our wheels in the North Sea – Christine and Rowan contrived to mix sand into their chains and gears so spent the next half hour cleaning it off while I caught up with this diary.
Next we called in at the urban bothy, where the very helpful assistant explained that the manager leaves around 20:00 if he’s not expecting anyone, before stamping our cards and providing directions out of town along the Reivers Route. We treated ourselves to coffee and toasted teacake at the adjacent café before heading off at 13:00. We weren’t concerned about the late start as we’d decided to take it easy and have a restful day, though it didn’t quite work out as planned!
We left the east coast via disused railway lines, deserted save for the odd dog walker. We were very soon into open countryside where we stopped for our picnic before continuing through farmland and then prosperous Ponteland where well behaved children were streaming out of the high school along the track which opened out into a smart housing estate. Then we left the urban scene for good and were once more cycling along quiet country lanes.
We considered staying at the lovely village of Stamfordham, reminiscent of North Yorkshire villages, but the only B&B charged £22 per night – this would have worked out very expensive for the three of us with dinner on top so we resolved to search for cheaper accommodation further on.
We were surprised to find a total absence of B&B signs at any of the farms and villages we passed, so at Ryal we telephoned the youth hostel at Bellingham to book in for the night. Soon after, we enjoyed an exhilarating rollercoaster ride comprising long downhill sections down 1:6 and 1:7 gradients where we picked up sufficient speed to freewheel up the short rises that followed. This put us in good spirits for the extra miles. The cycling was very easy, just a few hills then the last four miles into town were downhill all the way and we arrived at 20:00.
Bellingham is a wonderful friendly simple grade hostel, hardly changed since its construction in 1936. Among the night’s guests was a man who’d walked up from East Sussex!