A last ride out …

… probably for some time, unless I start shopping for essentials on two wheels.  These were taken yesterday, on a trip into Northumberland designed to avoid almost everyone and everything.  Hexham to Cambo can be done via B roads and from there it was a circular trip around Harwood Forest.

From door to door it was exactly seventy miles and I hardly saw a soul – these roads are empty, virus or no virus.

Wallington Bridge

Harwood Forest

Harwood Forest – somewhere near the ‘U’ in Rothbury

This final image shows the railway bridge to the left at Scots’ Gap and the converted station buildings to the right.  Sited about midway between Redesmouth and Morpeth on the Wansbeck Railway, the line closed in 1952.  According to Disused StationsThe station opened as Scots Gap on 23rd July 1862 being renamed Scotsgap in October 1903. The station was poorly equipped as a junction with no branch bays and a single platform on the down side. The station building was solidly built of local stone with a stone signal box at the east end. The station had two parallel loops with two sidings on the north side. There were three short spurs, one serving a locomotive turntable. The outermost siding served a goods platform and cattle dock and a goods warehouse.

Scots’ Gap

The Open Road …

… it has been a quiet week in Beaufront Woodhead.  Spring appeared to be on the horizon so I was spurred into action, replacing the battery on the Scrambler and taxing it from 1st February.  It was 4th February before I was tempted out, making the most of a brief spell of sunshine and some relatively dry, clean roads.  So, feel free to join me as I take the Triumph out to Haltwhistle via the Military Road (which runs parallel to Hadrian’s Wall) and back along the A69 before branching off at Haydon Bridge.

Since then, the weather has been the worse this winter – gales, lots of rain and sleet – storm Ciara.  The Scrambler is once again confined to the garage 😦

The battery in place and the Scrambler minus the seat

A dual terminal Motobatt – the extra side being used here for accessories

 

Another quiet week …

… in Beaufront Woodhead.  The weather has alternated between dire and freezing, neither any good for getting out and about, especially on two wheels.  A couple of storms have passed through and trees have been lost.  We have had a couple of regular visitors to our garden and then, yesterday, they took the liberty of inviting all their friends.  The image from our rear bedroom window shows a handful but, just around the corner, there were twenty or so more – they have kindly, liberally, fertilised the lawn.

One bright spot, I have replaced the levers on my Triumph Scrambler – I get a disproportionate amount of pleasure out of such fettling – verb (used with object), fet·tled, fet·tling – Ceramics to remove mold marks from (a cast piece).  That may be the official definition but, in Manchester and probably elsewhere, it means to fiddle about with machinery – ideally in a relaxed and time-wasting fashion.  An alternative would be ‘ferkle’.

“Goodnight, thank you, and may your God go with you”  –  Dave Allen 1936-2005

… all are welcome, apparently.

… before and after

… super-wide – the 8mm Samyang on the X-Pro2

… winter moon over Beaufront Woodhead

… and Hard Rain along the Tyne.

… another tree down along the Tyne

… afternoon light, Beaufront Woodhead

Winter’s Gibbet

Another September day, another ride out – this time to Winter’s Gibbet, Steng Cross, just south of Elsdon.

In 1791 the body of William Winter was hung here in chains, in sight of the place where he had murdered old Margaret Crozier of The Raw, Elsdon.

The present gibbet was erected on the exact site of the original. The large block of stone at the foot of the gibbet is the base of the Saxon Cross which marked the highest point of the ancient drove road, down which cattle were driven from Scotland to the English markets.

It is the saddest and loneliest of places, even on a mild September afternoon.

The stone block is visible at the foot of the gibbet

Winter’s Gibbet into a September Sun.

Looking south

This time on the Scrambler

Just some places …

… the bikes have taken me in the last few days in search of images.  The old rolling stock being put to an agricultural use sits in a field above Allendale.  Thorneyburn is way over yonder in the minor key – between Bellingham and Kielder.  Linnels Bridge and the Mill are on the road between Hexham and Slaley.  The transport for most of this can be seen in the last.  What an unpredictable summer it has been.

Old rolling stock

The gates at Thorneyburn

A cross at Thorneyburn

The Mill at Linnels Bridge

Linnels Bridge

Above Allendale and Catton

A summer with Joan …

The White AlbumWhere I Was FromSlouching Towards Bethlehem – all stories of distant places in a distant time – scattered with searing observation that make place, time and distance irrelevant.  Joan Didion has the capacity to invade your thoughts, for days on end:

Notes from a Native Daughter (Slouching Towards Bethlehem)
Perhaps in retrospect this has been a story not about Sacramento at all, but about the things we lose and the promises we break as we grow older; perhaps I have been playing out unawares the Margaret in the poem (Spring and Fall – Gerard Manley Hopkins):

Margaret are you grieving
Over Goldengrove unleaving? …
It is the blight man was born for
It is Margaret you mourn for.

Where I was From – Part Four
Flying to Monterey I had a sharp apprehension of the many times before when I had, like Lincoln Steffens, “come back”, flown west, followed the sun, each time experiencing a lightening of spirit as the land below opened up, the checkerboards of the midwestern plains giving way to the vast empty reach between the Rockies and the Sierra Nevada; then home, there, where I was from, me, California.  It would be a while before I realized that “me” is what we think when our parents die, even at my age, who will look out for me now, who will remember me as I was, who will know what happens to me now, where will I be from.

…  We kissed, we had a drink together, we promised to keep in touch.  A few months later Nancy was dead, of cancer, at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York.  I sent the recital program to Nancy’s brother, to send on to her daughter.  I had my grandmother’s watercolor framed and sent it to the next oldest of her three daughters, my cousin Brenda in Sacramento.
I closed the box and put it in a closet.
There is no real way to deal with everything we lose.

It has been an obsessive and busy summer.  When thoughts jostle for space, I escape – two wheels at speed empties the head, concentrates the mind and lifts the spirit.  I seek out empty and abandoned places – I want no distractions.

Border Park Services

Abandoned years ago

Where the fuel prices are frozen in time

Before departing I had worked out a circular route going north along the A68, into Scotland towards Selkirk and then south to Kielder. Not for the first time, I was thwarted by road closures, this time the B6357. When did this become the norm rather than the exception – much to my annoyance, I was briefly distracted 😉

Motorcycles …

… and the places they take me. As I type, the remnants of Hurricane Ophelia is juggling the tree tops and spreading leaves across empty Northumbrian fields.  The summer is long gone.  A daily photographic diary is a striking reminder of how the landscape changes from the lush greens of summer to an autumnal palette in the blink of an eye.  It is also a reminder of the places I have been when the sun was at its highest:

… Vulcan XJ 823 and the Scrambler at Carlisle Airport – the latter on its way for a first MOT

… the Scrambler, back at Crindledykes on new rubber – Michelin Anakees

… country roads, take me home – the Scrambler above Henshaw.

… to Carter Bar via Carlisle and Hawick – 134 miles

… ‘Skid Risk’ – actually a racing certainty with steep gradients and hairpins.

… Portobello, near Edinburgh – long ride on the Tracer to meet eldest son at The Beach House Cafe.

… to Sunny Corner, Carrshield

… The Monster of Plenmeller

… back roads near Simonburn, Northumberland

… Keep Out would be more succinct – RAF Spadeadam

… Parkgates above Allendale

… A Bridge too Far meets The Great Escape – Whygate, near Stonehaugh

… Autumn, its light and colours, is arriving fast.

As the year turns, the bikes will spend longer in the garage, as will the golf clubs. It is time to make some serious progress on the sequel to Golf in the Wild – a bit like a 2nd LP, I am finding the follow-up much harder going 🙂

More motorcycle diaries

I have been neglecting this blog.  The weather has been unusually good, flaming June has given Northumberland a taste of Tuscany or, should that be North-umbria. These images, which have all appeared on Blip, explain the neglect – there will be plenty of time to sit at the keyboard over the winter months 😦  – frost and snow are not conducive to bikes or golf:

Green Rigg

… to Carter Bar via Carlisle and Hawick – 134 miles

The Monster – clean and at rest

Press start for instant exhilaration

Skid risk … actually a certainty with steep gradients and hairpins.

To Vindolanda under hot Northumbrian skies

Distant relatives

It has taken time but, with the persistence of an unreformed trainspotter, I have concluded that this motorcycle is a Triumph 494cc Model P.  Standing proudly in front of the sidecar is my mother aged about four while Mrs Kipper sits, queen-like, on her mobile throne.  The motorcycle was introduced  at the 1924 Motor Cycle Show and fits perfectly with family chronology – this photograph was probably taken by my grandfather around 1926-27 and I would guess the machine is nearly new, just possibly on its maiden voyage.

Motorcycle diaries

The tell-tale signs are the shape and markings on the fuel tank, the forks and the size and shape of the guards which distinguish it from the Triumph Ricardo.  All of the minor details match images of other Model Ps. The number plate indicates it was registered in Portsmouth, an invigorating fifty mile ride from Andover.

According to Bonhams, the Model P was a landmark machine in the development of the motorcycle in Britain.  A no-frills, sidevalve-engined model, the newcomer was priced at £42 17s 6d, at which level it undercut every other 500cc machine then on sale in the UK. The first batch manufactured was not without its faults, but once these had been sorted the Model P was a runaway success. Output from Triumph’s Priory Street works was soon running at an astonishing 1,000 machines per week, and the Model P’s arrival undoubtedly hastened the demise of many a minor manufacturer.  At auction, a restored Model P will now sell for around £9000.

As the owner of a Triumph Scrambler, I now know there is a distant connection with my maternal grandfather’s choice of machinery, at a time when there were many more manufacturers to choose from. My Scrambler is an 865 cc, air-cooled, DOHC, parallel-twin.  You can trace the origin of this machine back through the 1959 T120 Bonneville, the 1953 Tiger T110, the 1950 Thunderbird and the 1938 Triumph Speed Twin.  My bike and that of my grandfather’s are not so distantly related as might be imagined.

The Scrambler, back at Crindledykes on new rubber – Michelin Anakees

 

 

The call of the wild …

The roads are still salty, on most days they are uncomfortably wet and the air is still piercingly cold but, there is no resisting the call of the wild and the open road.  Against better judgement I ventured out on two wheels on several occasions in March and was never disappointed.  The still image is from a ride out to Carrshield and the video from a late afternoon ride to Allendale Golf Club – Home of Golf in the Wild.  This is now accessible from the club’s website just in case visitors have difficulty finding the course – follow satnavs to NE47 9DH and you will be taken to High Studdon Farm.

Different high road ...

“The course is tucked away in the hills of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and must therefore be discreet. The road south out of Allendale winds down the Allen Valley along the B6295 towards Allenheads, following the course of the East Allen River. A mile or so south of the town, as the road breaks free from overhanging trees, a sharp left turn is signposted to the club. The track is rutted, rabbits run for cover and depending on the time of year, will wear a layer of rich agricultural muck. The track climbs 167 feet in a third of a mile which is more or less the difference between the high and low ground on the course; it helps to be fit. The clubhouse sits at 1077 feet above sea level on the west facing side of Green Hill which peaks at 1374 feet – it is not entirely inaccurate to say the course is situated on the side of a mountain. A wind turbine installed in 2010 marks your arrival. On a plain 9-metre tower with dark coloured blades, it blends into the agricultural landscape in a manner reminiscent of the iconic multi-bladed windpumps of America’s central plains.”

Accidental selfie ...

An accidental selfie, captured by the GoPro – I am wearing a backpack, just in case you were wondering 🙂