Today was all a bit Bellinzona…
That’s a reference to the 2010 cycle to the south of Italy. The Bellinzona day was, perhaps, the wettest day of the trip (although there were many other contenders – read the book for details…).
I packed in the tent and emerged like a butterfly, fully formed as a cyclist with just four packed panniers. The carcass of my body – the tent – was quickly dismantled and packed (wet) and I was off. Such were the conditions that I thought it prudent not to cycle through the forest to Bellingham so stuck to the road instead; the ‘Military Road’ initially and then some minor roads to Bellingham itself. It was a wise choice. Neither was busy but I made good speed and arrived smiling at the ‘Rocky Road Café’ where the all-day breakfast in a bun must surely kill off more people in Bellingham with a dodger ticker than anything a Chinese food market can send their way. It was delicious.
Let’s not mention the miserable git of a butcher in his shop opposite the café who insisted I move my bike. (Oops…)
It was raining when I entered the café, it was raining when I left. Next target on my itinerary was Kielder Water. I have long looked forward to visiting the area. Perhaps a misty wet day towards the end of a period of national lockdown is not the best time to make valid judgements but I was a little underwhelmed.
I did like cycling on the quiet(ish) road on the western side of the reservoir; at times I imagined I was in the forests of British Colombia with a sweeping road ahead of me, occasional logging trucks thundering past me in the opposite direction and the tall pines either side of the road. Again I was able to make good cycling progress, but as a tourist attraction? Mmm… Perhaps Kielder Village would come up trumps. Alas it didn’t. Everything was shut. There were warning signs everywhere about most streets being residential areas (so tourists clear off). The castle was more municipal town hall in the West Midlands than Germany Schloss in the forest and to top it all off as a place to avoid on future, you weren’t event allowed the climb on the squirrel.
I read on Wikipedia the reservoir was first filled in 1982. If they kept the good stuff, I dread to think what’s left submerged under the water. I had made a second attempt to book myself into Kielder Campsite yesterday but to no avail. It was a lucky escape. I paused outside the campsite today to consult my map and read the sign ‘Booked customers only’ it said. Thank goodness for that I thought as the midges began to chew audibly on my flesh. Kielder is clearly best visited if your intention is to stare at the stars without the pollution of street lighting. An added bonus on such nights is that you won’t see Kielder Village itself.
I would soon be in Scotland. The border was just north of Deadwater and there appeared to be a clear strip of no-man’s land between the ‘kipperish sign for ‘Engerland’ complete with cross of St. George flag and the more discrete Saltire welcoming me to the Scottish Borders.
I do like a good international border and although this one had little meaning there were considerable changes between the fake forest fag end of England that is Kielder and the more natural beautiful of Scotland. The road surface improved, the cattle grids were new, the signs looked very fresh… One could almost imagine the Scottish were rubbing it in.
The road along the valley took a dog-leg turn and I suddenly found the wind in my face and fighting to keep up speed until the hamlet of Saughtree where another abrupt change of direction had me cycling north. My heart sank, however, upon reading the sign informing me the road was closed. This could have spelled disaster but I gave it a shot – what is impassable to a car is often passable to a bicycle – and mercifully that was to be the case. A bridge was being replaced but as work had only just started I was able to cycle over without being noticed. The upshot of the closure was that, for the next 20km over the Alpinesque hills, I had the road to myself:
Still wet and still misty so the views were somewhat subdued but great cycling. The elevation profile tells it’s own story:
The gloriously long descent towards the campsite was even, by the end of the ride, completed in the dry. 102 km cycled. Lots of food consumed. Every calorie deserved.
As for tomorrow? I have yet to decide. Edinburgh and home? Edinburgh and onwards? The coast then Edinburgh later in the week?
Perhaps I will be inspired by the campsite’s connection to this guy: