Day 1 – Haltwhistle to Appleby-in-Westmorland – 57 miles
When pondering what to do for our next holiday, Mrs W came up with an interesting and very generous idea. ‘Why don’t you find a route you want to ride, and Junior and I will drive along in the [camper] van as your support vehicle, meeting you for lunch and each evening.’ So I found a topographical map of the UK with all the long distance Sustrans trails overlaid on it – Route 68, or the ‘Pennine Cycleway’ jumped out as being an ideal length and also, given the terrain, a good route to ride supported rather when hauling panniers. Ideal for the Metabike.
A long stretch of the Northern end of route 68 is on ‘non road’ cycle routes. A helpful blog account of someone else’s experience of the ride told me this would be far from ideal on my very rigid recumbent, so I started on the Northumbria border at Haltwhilstle.
The initial cycle-route was tarmac paved and a pleasure to ride along. However after a few miles the surface changed to cinder track – OK – and then to crude hogging and then ran mostly in tree lined cuttings. The surface required a a good deal of concentration meaning I could not look at the view, and then in the cuttings there was nothing to see but trees anyway. Luckily my GPS Map told me I was about to come alongside the A689 which also went to my next waypoint of Alston. Normally I’d avoid A roads, but it seemed a better option so I hopped off onto it. In fact it was quiet, and for anyone wishing to ride this route who wants to see the gorgeous Northern Pennines rather than tree lined cuttings I would recommend it. It runs all the way from Haltwhistle to Alston.
The route then continued on the road and took me towards the infamous Hartside. I had memories of climbing over this 1900’ hill from two years previously as it also features on the C2C route. Last time we had approached it from the West and into a headwind blowing at a bracing Force 7 (I did see one lad blown over backwards – akin to a wheelie going to far – by the wind last time…). Ironically I found myself facing a headwind again despite now approaching from the East! However, not only was it only very modest, I experienced the benefit of riding recumbent and it had very little impact on me at all. Hartside, I’ve now come to learn, is an easier prospect from the East. It is a longer, more gentle and more consistent gradient. Nevertheless getting to the top felt good.
The route then took me on flatter ground with the hills to my right. Lovely views tracked me all the way to Dufton. This was were I was ‘due’ to stop for the day. But it was only 1430, I felt good and the campsite looked less than inviting so after a call to the support crew we decided to meet up for the night in a campsite just outside Appleby. The final sweep into Appleby was glorious, with a slight downward slope following a very pretty stream into the outskirts of the town. Ideal ‘bent terrain which I enjoyed to its best employing the ‘big cog’ and getting up a good speed until reaching the town itself. A close look at the map suggested that it would be possible to bypass the town and cut a couple of miles off of my ‘extended’ day by taking advantage of a footbridge across the River Eden. After then a total of 57 miles I met up with the family and the van for the night.
Coming soon – ‘bent over the Pennines Day 2 : Appleby to Castle Bolton via Tan Hill…