Morning again. I slept fairly well finally. I was slightly worried about the dog I could hear outside the window who seemed to bark at everything, but either it stopped or I was too tired to hear it. Breakfast was served at 730 sharp. Our big pile of laundry we left with the guy was done too and I picked through it to find my stuff. This was the first English breakfast stop, wasn't it? I'm still undecided on that whole issue, was it good to stock up on that much of a meal for the later ride, along with the slightly queazy gut feeling, or would I have been much happier with porridge? But it was there in front of me, so I ate it.
Narrowest cycle lane I've seen.
Now some people wanted to find the local bike shops and find supplies or spare parts or something like that. Apparently Alex tried on every overshoe in town to find the perfect one. Brenda and I accompany Matt to his bike shop stop, can't remember what he bought, and they fill his water bottle. We hit the drug store too for stuff and Caroline joins us and we head through town to find where the route starts. You know, for a town with three bike shops within a few block radius, the bike lane on the main street was comically narrow. It almost seems suitable for the Warrington site.
The four of us head out of town, stopping a few times to check if we are heading the right direction. We make it through the rush hour traffic and find ourselves finally on a pretty obvious bike path. It runs for a bit along a river and then through a park (a few sheep running through it). It is a pretty nice trail here through a largish city. We miss the part that runs along the side of the road but are still able to find where it leads after that.
Brampton isn't all that far and it is the possible place for a tea stop. We park and wander around town seeing if there is anything that looks suitable, and end up crowding into the place we found originally. A bit too early for lunch so tea and cake here. We are finished and ready to go by the time everybody else pulls up. We hand off our table and head out again. There are lots of ruins and forts to see today so no time to waste sitting around.
First past Lanercost Priory, which we don't stop at. Possibly we might have if Matt had his English Heritage membership at this point, but I have to be satisfied with the view from the road as we circle around it, the back half of it a shell of ruins. Looks pretty though. That leads into a fairly steep climb past Banks and we find our first bit of ruined wall. Bank Hill Turret 52A is up top a high ridge and the view is quite nice. Although, I have to assume that the Roman soldiers stationed here didn't really think too much of it all, being stuck in a cold miserable place on the very edge of the frontier. Not a lot of the wall left here, but I guess I can get a vague sense of what it used to be like. There were just a few people milling around when we got here but a coach comes and drops a whole big load of people off and then starts a painfully slow process of trying to turn around just as we want to leave and get past it.
Approaching Lanercost Priory.
Hadrian's Wall, Bank Hill Turret 52A.
Birdoswald is just a bit further up the road and we plan to stop there and have lunch and see the fort. The attendant lets us bring our bikes through the gift shop and park them in the courtyard. Nice, so no need to lock them then, it would have been a pain getting all that stuff off to get to my lock. The foundations of the fort are fairly extensive but there isn't all that much left besides that. Brenda seems a bit disgusted, especially about the walls, "that's all there is of it?" The walk past the back of it and overlooking the valley beyond is well worth it. It is a nice view of River Irthing and we enjoy the nice sunny day, sitting on the edge and looking out at it.
Visiting Birdoswald, fort ruins.
Having seen it all, we head back and get some lunch from the gift shop cafe. A simple sandwich and soup but it is pretty ok. Brenda and Caroline start their tradition of indecisive about which of two deserts, split it in half and have a bit of both. We wander through the exhibit and then are ready to leave as the rest of the group pulls up.
Looking out over River Irthing from Birdoswald.
Model of Birdoswald.
The wall extends a little bit past the fort and we see it head off into the distance as the road turns off the other way. Some annoying Australian woman wants to chat about how some day she is going to get into shape and blah blah blah as I try to get away on my bike. Really, no time to chat, I'm going that way.
Wall extending east from Birdoswald.
We end up getting a bit lost around Thirlwall Castle. We totally miss where the route goes off right before we cross a railroad track and end up climbing a rather steep hill. Or I should say Matt and Brenda do, I was about 3/4 of the way up before Caroline realizes the mistake further behind us and starts yelling. They are just approaching the summit and I have a bad vision of them disappearing over the top and having to go chase them down the other side but they notice in time and back track again and find where we went wrong.
Went up here even though we didn't have to.
Really, it is a much easier trail then, one of those flat roads beside a railroad track sort of thing. Which is good because we have just a horrendous climb outside of Greenhead. At least the track goes off the main busy road, but it is extremely steep and rocky and the very beginning of it forces you to go through a gate so that there is no way you can actually get any sort of speed to help you up. Not that parts of it were all that ridable anyways.
Very steep rocky section after Greenhead.
Next into Haltwhistle, which apparently is the center of Britain. Not a terribly exciting town but they do have a grocery store and we are cooking this evening. We need to get all the stuff for dinner since the rest are fairly far behind and dinner will be extremely late otherwise. Packing it all on the bikes is a bit funny. For some reason, Caroline ends up throwing like 5 cans in her bags. I end up with a lot of bulky squishy stuff that extends far over the tops of mine. When it starts to lightly rain later on, I worry that open waterproof bags in the rain would be a bit of a disaster, since they would retain the water so well. I have a few extra grocery bags and am able to bunji them on and it holds pretty well. Whoever it was that invented the bunji cord, fricking genius.
Lots of food to carry from Haltwhistle.
So, weighed down by groceries, still with about 15 more miles to go and a number of large hills to go over, we head off. The road really sucks for part of it, unbelievable that it was actually paved considering how bumpy it was. And two large hills to climb. The worst of all, just on top of the last really awful hill, ready for a nice fast ride down, stupid truck blocks the way and we have to stop half way down to at least preserve as much of the ride down as we can. Brenda ahead, goes over the last hill and spots the place first and waves her hands in victory. The Old Repeater Station is a lonely isolated looking place. Although in some ways, it seemed bleaker on the inside. What a really strange place.
The guy has packed 14 into a place that really should sleep about half that. Well, since all the rooms were taken, he has to end up sleeping on the couch that night, or maybe he just passed out there. The kitchen is absolutely jammed packed with junk and we struggle to cook anything given the complete lack of counter space and the impossible logistics of cooking a large batch of chili in the only three tiny little pans we could find. Some can't eat meat, Rob doesn't want anything strange. The salad has to go in a strange plastic container because there really isn't anything else to use. Very little of that kitchen actually embodied the essence of kitchen-ness. Although, if we wanted to microwave anything, we had quite a choice of machines to choose from. Really, the whole place kind of oozed bachelor pad. Very strange seeing the guy's mail lying on the counters, doctor stuff, bills, etc. After the ordeal, dinner is still nice. Time to crowd into the tiny bedrooms and call it a night.
Old Repeater Station
42 miles for me today. But probably the saving grace of the evening was the fantastic sunset. It was misty, foggy, and colorful. And Gursh joins us at this point, arriving from the east before dinner time. Was this the many puncture day for him? I can't remember, one of them was. Although he didn't get lost once this trip, those of you who read last year's report. That task got passed onto Ian (Dave A gets to chase him down for 1 1/2 miles tomorrow).
Eerie foggy sunset.
This morning, it was another eerie day. I walk around a bit outside in the fog before breakfast. Not raining though. Yet. That will be later. The hostel owner is running around a bit, checking to see if everything is ok, mostly in the way. It seems as he slept all night on the couch, with the tv on rather loud. Most everybody seems annoyed by the tv and eventually he turns it off. But then puts on classical music, also rather loud. Creating atmosphere, I guess. Mostly pretty annoying. He really does seem bewildered by us.
He has set out some boxes of cereal and stuff and we mostly finish it off and then try to pack. Now, this was probably the most challenging task here. I got tired of trying to pack in the inches of room in the bedroom and eventually drag my stuff out into the hallway and finish it there.
We are promised a possibly tough day today and it doesn't disappoint. Although my bike rebels a bit about the treatment. We have a few different choices for routes. All of us at least decide to go to Bellingham and then decide from there. A bit down the road from the start, we come across Mithraeum. It is a ruin of a Roman temple, it looks even more mysterious in the fog. It seems like a surprisingly complete ruin, but I guess probably a bit of it had been reconstructed.
Ruined Roman temple of Mithraeum.
About now, I could probably say that it starts raining a little bit and it could cover just about any point of the day. It mostly stopped and started all day long and then poured for a little bit later on, but at this point it is just a bit misty. The roads we take are a bit small and we have to stop a few times to consult the map, make sure, yep just going over a stream as the road turns this direction, this must be right. The back road part is pretty pleasant. We go by a few farms and houses. As we are in Simonburn, somebody asks, so are we in Wark yet? Strangely, some lady from inside a house yells back that no we are in Simonburn. Does she hang out by the window all day hoping to talk to anybody passing by? Somebody else in the group says there is a funny joke about Wark but I don't get it.
Around Wark, we join a slightly more major road and travel briefly on the most glorious road surface, just freshly paved and silky smooth. I notice a section of road on the map, just a bit west of where we are that has three up and down chevrons in a row within a mile or two. That would be one horrible section to go through, but we miss it. Our route is pretty hilly though. A last steep section and then a fairly nice glide down into Bellingham. Just on the outskirts of town, Brenda says that her gears are not working anymore and has to limp in the rest of the way on a fairly high gear.
Since we are there first, we look around for somewhere suitable for tea and snacks and probably a early lunch. There isn't all that much until we get to Kielder. Brenda also asks around, seeing if there is somewhere she can get a new cable for her gears. No luck there but fortunately when everybody else arrives, there are a few spares that she can use. But for now, we should have some food.
Lunch in Bellingham. Dave T is proud of his new cap. Gursh is not impressed.
Ian comes in with a cycling map of Northumberland he got from the visitor center but that the woman manning it is a bit weird about giving them out, like she doesn't have very many or just doesn't like giving out informational things. So, of course all of us go and ask for one, I mean a free map, who wouldn't? I get scolded for asking for one, although she does give me one. It was rather helpful during the trip, so I'm glad I did get it. I had to promise to not tell anybody else where I got it. So, if you go there, ask for one and tell them I sent you.
Fixing Brenda's gear cable.
Fixing Brenda's cable becomes a huge production. Dave A takes the lead and starts in on it as everybody crowds around and watches, taking pictures, etc. Brenda feels left out and insists that she wants to help, can I oil the cable? Ok go ahead. Umm, so where do I put that? Soon it is all done and we are ready to go. At this point, Matt and Dave T decide they are feeling a bit rough and want to take main roads instead of the proposed rocky road in our future. Maybe they were the wise ones here, but oh well, I survived.
Really, it was a huge production.
The road through the forest and then around Kielder Water was actually really lovely but in retrospect, I'm not completely sure it was worth it. It rains, heavily at a few points and then stops and starts again. I'm just going to copy that last sentence and cut and paste it into random points in the next few paragraphs. Brenda and I arrive in Kielder a bit ahead of everybody and wander though town to see if there is anything open. The cafe in town seems to be closed and there isn't anything else. So we head back and head everybody off and we go to the fall back option of the castle.
Tower Knowe at Kielder Water. And more rain on the way.
Now, this must have been one of those fake castles, it is too perfect and all that to be all that old. But they have a cafe in it so that's the main good point about it. And I'm disappointed, they really missed out. They had signs to the Lords and Ladies room but they couldn't even keep the theme up and when I get there the door is just labeled Gents like every other one in this country. A tea and a bacon sandwich (see, no more of them for a long long time) and some soup. But we can't put it off much longer. The Forest Drive has a few warning signs on it about the suitability of the road.
Really, the first few miles of it were actually really good. One section was so fantastic that at that point, it all seemed totally worth it. Gursh zips by on his mountain bike and big tires. We overtake him a bit after that and don't see him or anybody else for the rest of it. The scenery is really remarkable, although a bit too much of it seems to have been clearcut and then replanted tree plantations so a bit of that sameness. But it is eerie and foggy and rather isolated. There were only a few cars the whole way and most of them were pretty patient, although there were a few, logging trucks especially, where were rather terrifying as they flew by inches away. One lady in a car stops and talks to us and seems rather concerned that we are even on the road, you know it is just this bad the entire way? Hmm, maybe should have listened to her.
Starting the scary road, the Forest Drive.
The road was a fairly steady climb up to like 400 something meters and lots of ups and downs and then a slow descent down the other side. Well, I thought it was slow. A few times I reached what seemed like a terrifying 14-15 mph and still saw Brenda pulling off into the distance. That just seems crazy. Unfortunately, about 3/4 of the way through the road, my front tire decides it is done. Crap. This is where I realize that all my stuff is in the very bottom of my bags and it is raining pretty steadily. And the midges are feasting on us the whole time too. Brenda has a spare tube easily available and I change the tire as quickly as I can before the midges finish me off.
A small tantalizing taste of good road.
Ok, like this the rest of the way, pretty but harsh.
It is just so exciting exiting the woods and getting back on a normal wood. I can't quite believe it for a while, like it will get really bad again just to mess with me. But we are back on the B road and Byrness is only a short distance up the road. Matt and Dave T are already there and gets us some tea and we come in and try to dry off. We put things in the drying room, at least that's what it is labeled, it was a room and you could hang things up to dry but it just didn't happen. The showers are bewildering too. There are elaborate instructions on the wall on how to use it. But if you turn it to 4 like it says, you will be a charred mess. Putting it barely on 1 was still a bit too hot.
Dinner is funny there. They have a freezer full of meals to heat up and salad and dessert brought in. Although freezer is the keyword here. It takes about an hour more than anticipated to actually heat things up, even with the beer run to a far away pub to bring in some drinks. For frozen food, it is decent enough and it seems to be plenty. Bedtime again, what a day. 49.20 miles for me. I realize too, I really need to make sure my bed is made up and I don't have all my junk on it well before everybody else goes to bed. It is annoying trying to handle all that stuff in the dark.
Today we need to get an early start. Brenda needs to catch a train in Berwick tonight, 50 miles away. We read all the notes left around about how to operate breakfast, brought in cereal and bacon sandwiches. Not spectacular, would have rather had porridge, but I guess it is fine. Rob checks the bikes and warns me that my back tire was a bit low. I had just changed the front one last night and knew that the back one was slightly low already. I had broken part of the valve off a week or so before the trip and I could only either leave it the way it was or just change the entire tube, so I had left it the way it was. Once we set off, I make it about 50 yards before my tire really gives up. I guess the rocky road must have finished it off yesterday and it expired during the night.
Preparing to leave Byrness.
Crap, but at least this time all my tools and tubes are on the top of my bag. Once the tire is fixed, the mud guard is scraping and making a horrible noise. I've had this trouble all along. I've taken it back to Condor a few times to have them try and adjust it. It just has so little clearance there and once the pressure approaches where it really should be, hard to do with a tiny portable pump, then it scrapes again. A few stops and starts and finally Dave A is able to work that workshop magic and it is perfect. Perfect to this day too, so happy with my bike again.
Tire and mud guard fixed, on our way.
Problems fixed, off to Scotland now. Waterproofs on since it is raining, I'm sweltering as we start climbing the pass to Carter Bar and stupidly take them off since it stops raining then. Wow, on the way down the pass, it just opens up and it is like riding through a waterfall. I feel beat up in every direction by the wind and rain. But it is so fast going downhill and I keep hoping I'll be to the bottom soon, I don't bother stopping. At the base of the pass, it is much more reasonable, just a light rain then, gee, hardly even noticeable.
Heading towards Scotland.
This next section is just really pretty. The way to Kelso winds through a few valleys. A few sections are really steep. A gas truck rumbles behind us as we make our way up one of them. We all pull off, except for Brenda, who doesn't want to break her stride. Once out in the open country, is it a bit more gentle. At one farm, a crazy sheep dog comes out to attack us. I really hope that it doesn't get in front of me because the way I'm struggling up the hill, I'm not going to be able to avoid it if it decides to be right where I'm going. No way I can manage any sort of manoeuvering besides just going straight. But I do have to say, it was a really nice stretch of road to travel.
Getting very wet.
In Kelso, we search for a suitable cafe. A series of signs leads us around in a circle, through a graveyard and past a church to one, but even though it says it is the best cafe in Kelso, or in the world or something, nobody can quite justify paying the prices they are asking. Apparently there is one by the castle, slightly out of the way over that way, so we decide to go try that one. On the way, I spot another candidate, looks organic, crunchy and all that, seems like it might be nice.
In Kelso looking for a cafe.
The menu looks pretty nice although the portions are a bit small. The soup is good but I get bread envy when later people order the same soup and they get like twice as much bread. No fair. Brenda dubs my open face sandwich as merely a half sandwich. But it is pretty good, mushroom pate, and lots of little things on the side, vegetables and stuff like that. It seems like after a few days on the road, and after too many bacon sandwiches, I'm really craving anything that is green and doesn't have lots of grease in it. So it goes down fine. Apple pudding for dessert and when the rest of the group arrives, we really should go. There is still 25 miles left to go.
Leaving the cafe and heading out.
We really did kind of peak on this last part. The four of us have our system down perfectly, the road is slightly downhill over all although it is rather lumpy in places. The rain has mostly stopped. We go 17 miles, into the wind, in a single stretch, stop for a quick snack, and realize how sore we are before we rush off to do the last part of it. We cover the entire 25 mile stretch to Berwick in a little bit less than 2 hours, which seems pretty good.
Fast paced to get to Berwick on time for Brenda's train.
We have a humorous moment as we come to the A road which circles the city. A car pulls up beside us and the guy in the car yells out at us, you guys should be ashamed of yourselves. Huh? I mean we have gotten our share of abusive comments over the last week and fingers and all that. I've been following you for a while and you guys should be ashamed of yourselves for drafting off a lady like that. Brenda had been in the lead for the last mile or so into town. We laugh as he drives off.
On Bridge Street outside the Gregorian place, dinner at the Indian place.
One of the many bridges. Famous railroad one in the back.
But we have gotten to town in plenty of time. We have time to stop by the grocery store for some food, to the Backpackers to check in and leave our stuff there and then we accompany Brenda back to the station to catch her train. As we wait, Dave T makes it there followed a little bit later by most of the rest of the group, so it is a largish delegation to see her off. And then on top of that, when the train arrives, the conductor is rather nice and helps load the bike on the train. GNER, what can you say, they are so much nicer to deal with.
Taking Brenda to the station.
The remains of Berwick Castle at the station.
Steep cobblestone streets.
Back to the rooms, can we do some laundry, no, can't do any, ok, maybe you can but you can't dry anything, well, maybe you can dry things if you want. It is probably best because it starts raining again and nothing would have dried on the line very well in that. I feel slightly guilty since I had obnoxiously grabbed the single room. It is a rather strange room, much like the rest of the place. It overlooks the courtyard and the ceiling slopes madly down towards the window. It has a rather cavelike feel to it. It also has the world's scariest steps leading up to it. The hallway is completely pitch black and the stairs split off into a V shape and are completely irregular. Every time I need to walk up and down them, I have to creep along, feeling ahead at every step so that I don't tumble down them.
We go looking for a drink before dinner. The pub across the street seems fine but doesn't appear to have anything local. So we have to wander around town for another 45 minutes looking for another one before asking somebody in a liquor store for advice and they point us back to the original pub. It had seemed fine to me in the first place but what do I know, I don't quite understand pub culture anyways since it is a somewhat foreign concept to me still. The beer I had there was fine though.
The walk around town was somewhat enlightening though. All of the times I've ridden a train through Berwick, I've thought it looked like the coolest little town and I've always wanted to actually see it up close. The actual reality of the town seems slightly run down and seedy but there are still parts of it that seem really neat. I don't have much time to explore town on my own tonight, I'll have to try and do that tomorrow morning before we leave.
On the old bridge.
The old bridge
Dinner is in the Indian restaurant across the street. Again, the whole curry concept is somewhat foreign to me, so I don't probably have the mad desire to have it all the time that seems to infect so many here, but the food seems to be good enough, not the best Indian (ok, not actually real Indian, but whatever gets called Indian) but not the worst either.
Back to the room, zoned out after the fast 53 miles today. I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that I watched a little bit of the top 101 most embarrassing celebrity slipups, or whatever it was and ended up half asleep before I switched it off and went to sleep.
After I wake up, I want to go see Berwick. I didn't get a chance to properly explore it yesterday and it seems like there is quite a bit to see. We also have a deadline today, we are going to Lindisfarne, the Holy Island, and the causeway is flooded at high tide, so we have to be over it by 12:30. So, I set off and head down towards the river. That generally seems to be a good place to start. There is a cute old bridge over the river, it says it is from 1600 sometime and was the main bridge until less than 100 years ago. Looks like a nice sturdy bridge. Off in the distance is the famous tall arched railroad bridge, which is one of the things I remember from the town all the times I took the train through it.
The old bridge in Berwick.
Berwick, like this whole region we rode across, went back and forth between Scotland and England a number of times. I guess the whole region is all about border disputes, going back to Hadrian's Wall, and probably before that too. So, the city is walled and fortified and walking along the walls and ramparts makes for a nice walk.
I head north up onto the Elizabethan ramparts which climb up over the city and overlook the ocean. I also walk past a bunch of signs for the Lowry trail, showing the streets and buildings that inspired various Lowry paintings. He was apparently, according to the signs, a much beloved British painter. Hmm, I had never heard of him before. But then back and down south past the Royal Border Bridge, the arched railway one. It is a nice walk and has taken me about an hour. The water is nice too, a few herons stand around and fly around. I guess I consider that I've seen Berwick now. Seems nice but I'm not sure I feel a burning need now to rush back.
Berwick town hall.
Most everybody is finishing their breakfast when I get back. I scrounge what is left of the cereal and various bits of bread. I have to rush and pack too, we are supposed to be out by 10 and there is also high tide to think of. I'm feeling a bit anti-social and am quite happy to ride off by myself when everybody else decides to ride through town a bit before they head off. It is nice finding your own way and going at your own pace. And it is a pretty cool route too. It isn't the easiest one. The first part of it goes up along the ocean side on top of the cliffs. It is grassy pastures, occasionally with an actual path. It doesn't matter, it is a bit slower this way but it is grand to be riding up over the ocean this way, lots of dramatic views of cliffs and the ocean.
Trail above the ocean cliffs.
I come up to a herd of cattle who are milling around the gate. Not quite sure how to get through. I try my bell and they seem unmoved by that. Umm, excuse me cows, I'm going through that way. If you tap a few key ones, they slowly move off and the rest of them sort of follow. I get enough of them out of the way to get the gate open and through. Then they start mooing and making that high pitched sort of whine. I guess they thought I might feed them or something and were a bit disappointed.
Cows to shoo from the gate.
The trail goes from road to paved path to rocky and puddly and back and forth between them all. But mostly it is a bit rocky and wet since a lot of it is access roads for the railroad tracks. A bit of indecision when I come to a branch in the road. It appears that the route 1 continues down the coast but another sign insists that it is a private road with access only to the beachcombers house. The map looks like it might just end up on the waters edge there, so I decide not to risk it and follow the road inland. I guess this is where I could have kept going and ignored the private road signs.
The world's most difficult gate to open, rail crossing at Haggerston.
The trail kind of sucks here still, all the rain recently has made huge puddles to avoid, along with the large rocks and bumpy surface. I have to weave back and forth looking for the best bits of it. And I come to the most miserable rail crossing ever. As I was riding up, trains pass by going either direction, so I am somewhat sure there won't be another train for a little bit. But it has the most difficult gate(s) ever to open and close. Generally, you can hold onto your bike with one hand and open the gate with the other. But this one, the locking thing is incredibly hard to move. I have to prop my bike up, use both hands and really tug as hard as I can to get the stupid thing open and then closed too. I guess they want you to be really serious about using the crossing.
But Lindisfarne is in sight now. I go past what looks like the route 1 trail, a straight route from the direction I came that avoids all the stuff I had to go through. Oh well, too late now. Off to the causeway, I only have like 40 minutes to make sure I'm across before it floods. I guess I can kind of see how people would get caught there. It is a large mudflat, and absolutely flat at that. The whole basin must fill up almost instantly. Apparently it can reach up to about three feet over the road surface. And I later hear that they have to rescue a couple of people a month who end up trying to drive across it just as the tide is coming in and they get caught in it. But for now, no water in sight and I made it safely across without incident.
Across the causeway.
I love the line of poles stuck in the water, it is such a cool image, of them disappearing into the water off in the distance. They are supposed to mark the safe route across the mud and sand.
The poles that mark the safe path.
So, on the island a bit before everybody else gets there. I guess I'll go and wander around the ruined priory for a while. Parts of it are fairly complete (wonder if they were reconstructed) and a whole lot of it is just bare foundations. My favorite part of it is what the years and weather have done to the sandstone. They make this cool ridgey holes, for some reason it reminds me of those Dante faces in hell pictures, or like Edvard Munch's the Scream.
The remains of the Priory.
So, having seen that, back into town and I see everybody start to assemble outside the cafe on the main road. The town is a bit funny, it was absolutely heaving over the last hour or so but then everybody quickly rushes away. Everybody in our group made it over just slightly before the tide came in and the island has emptied off in that time. So we are stuck there for about six more hours until the tide goes out. We head into the already fairly deserted cafe and order some food and drinks. As seems typical, they start locking up and bringing in the signs from outside as we are finishing up and when we leave, they shutter everything up. It looks like most of the rest of the shops and things in town are also closed. I guess most of them are only really open during low tide. That would be a funny schedule to base your business on.
Going to see the castle.
Some of the boat houses.
The walled garden at the castle.
In the walled garden.
I had been really keen to swim somewhere. I did on the west coast and I really wanted to get one in on the east coast. But the day is absolutely freezing. I didn't even want to unzip my jacket let alone strip down and jump in the freezing ocean. Hopefully a better opportunity will present itself. We leave our bikes in front of the cafe and head off to see the castle. The town is so deserted and well, where could anybody go, we leave all our bikes sitting there unlocked. It feels slightly freaky. Those six hours are probably the longest my bike has ever remained unlocked except when it has been locked in my flat. Later that evening when I put it in the shed at the bunk barn, I lock it, even though it seems fairly secure there. I feel like there is some sort of lock karma that needs to be paid back, to put everything all back in balance.
Apparantly they have to rescue a couple of people a month.
So, the castle was ok. The setting is really cool, up on top of a high hilltop surrounded by ocean. It has been quite modernized though. Whoever owned it like 100 years ago ended up adding a lot of rooms and making it into more of a vacation cottage. I guess I like castles, I like standing on top of one and looking out and I even like kind of seeing how people have adapted to living in them, like what do you do with a home that would have been cold and damp and smelly. I never really know how to look around one. I mean they all kind of look the same inside, look, lots of old oak furniture, Chippendale or blah blah blah. Do you pretend that you are really interested that it is a old mirror from 1723 made by whoever or do you just kind of blow though it quickly. The English Heritage volunteers were kind of the most interesting thing at the castle. They were all on these working holidays and mostly they make fun of all the idiots who try to drive over the causeway at high tide and have to be rescued by the RAF.
The walled garden is quite sweet too. It seems rather well designed and has a nice variety of things in it and it looks really nice there in the middle of this otherwise kind of barren setting.
Bikes sat unlocked in front of the cafe for hours.
So, we have lunch in one of the remaining open cafes in town and afterwards I go wandering off to see what else is on the island. Then I can't quite figure out where everybody else has gone so I continue to wander until I see Rob looking at his bike. The rest of the group had quite a challenge getting him across the causeway this morning, fighting the clock and having to stop a lot to keep pumping up his tire. The Puncture Fairy has taken his wheel and fixes it for him. But the Puncture Fairy couldn't be completely omniscient because I think he/she would have remembered about my dynamo. A few days ago, on the rocky pass as I was trying to fix my flat front tire, I completely forgot about my dynamo and ripped out all the wiring as I took off the front wheel. Oh well, I guess I can do that now, figure out how it all goes back together, which I do and it is working again.
Once the tide is back out again, it is only a few miles to Belford where we are staying the night. I don't remember a whole lot from that ride there, about 10 miles or something. There was a cool flock of crows that swarmed as I was making my way up the last big hill into Belford.
Back on the mainland, heading towards Belford.
We find the bunk barn, which I guess was slightly nicer than it sounds. The bathroom was an old shed but the rest of the house was pretty ok. The owner herds his ducks (raised from eggs) back into their area, or tries to, they don't seem to listen to him very well. Then the courtyard is taken over by another few really strange geese. I've never seen anything like them, white with red beaks and faces. They do a funny dance as they drink.
Ducks at the bunk barn.
Strangest geese I've ever seen.
The kitchen is tiny and nobody seems motivated to cook so off to the chippy just around the corner. Really, I must learn, I really don't like fish and chips all that much. I did hopefully ask for chicken, which looked really nice, roasted and all, but they sold the very last one just before I ordered. Damn. So, greasy stomach, I feel slightly sick as I go to bed. First a quick drink at the pub and looking over the maps for tomorrow. 28.13 miles for the day. Plus probably 5-6 miles of walking around on the island.