Hexham-Blanchland-Stanhope-Barnard Castle-Aldbrough St John. 52 miles.
Click here for a map of the route.
A long hard climb out of Hexham started the day, through Slaley and up through a forest section where we heard our first cry of “She’s not pedalling on the back”. It had taken over three days before someone shouted this, surely a record?! We climbed on to Blanchard, where the short 20% descent was too steep to coast freely. We picked up the pace in an enjoyable section alongside the Derwent reservoir, gaining a lot of height on a very gentle gradient with no great effort, and then turned south towards Edmundbyers. Six miles of slow climbing later we’d made it to the top at 1500ft. The descent into Stanhope was only slightly marred by the view of the long hill up the other side.
Our slow climbing meant it was already lunchtime, so we stopped in Stanhope for toasties, and a good tip from the landlord for avoiding the impassable Stanhope Ford without going miles out of our way. We set off up the climb, 17% at the bottom, but soon giving way to zig-zags at a more sustainable gradient. We suppressed smiles (alright, grimaces) as we passed an RAC van helping a lady whose car had given up on the hill. It was very bleak, we climbed past a well-hidden open-cast coal mine and as we reached the first summit the wind started to get up. There was a mile of descent after the first summit, but we could see the road going up again and disappearing over the ridge. After two more miles of climbing we made it over the top at 1700ft, and really enjoyed the long descent into Teesdale. It seemed to be downhill almost all the way to Barnard Castle, then easy cycling to Winston and finally to Aldbrough St John, where Jonathan’s sister put us up for the night.