Owning a motorcycle is like owning a dog, you can get into long conversations with people who would ordinarily pass you by.
The stop at Bellingham was planned – the Yamaha has a fuel gauge but its advice is at best vague. It always pays to independently keep track of mileage and expected range – about 150 miles maximum. This is particularly so when heading north up the A68 – without diversions there are no petrol pumps between Hexham and Jedburgh. Hence the plan to fill up at Bellingham – a scenic diversion which worked well except my arrival coincided with a tanker delivery. Within minutes the driver had expressed an interest in my bike and so the fifteen minute wait was filled with conversation. The same thing happened later in the day when I made a brief detour to the Holy Island causeway; an elderly chap was keen to tell me all about the Vincent he once owned and wished he still did
I was heading for Haddington to the east of Edinburgh – first to collect some copies of David Shaw Stewart’s excellent Views from the Tee and then to meet my eldest for lunch. Rather than retrace my steps I returned via the A1. This is a longer route home but the northern stretches near the coast can be spectacular and the dual carriageway allows the cobwebs to be air-blasted from the Yamaha. These are just some images from the day – a splendid 220 mile ride out in perfect autumnal weather:
Filling up the filling station, Bellingham
Haddington in autumnal sunshine
Robert Ferguson of Raith memorial – Haddington
From the causeway to Holy Island
You have been warned
On the causeway bridge
Another view from the causeway bridge
In the sparsely populated land between Plenmeller and Coanwood Commons, on the edge of Garbutt Hill is a burn which flows north to feed the southern Tyne. Across a stone bridge which leads to Burn House, tucked into a fold in the land is The Friends’ Meeting House. Wandering these lost lanes on a motorcycle, it is surprising what you find. According to the Historic Chapels Trust, “Coanwood Friends’ Meeting House was built in 1760 not far from Hadrian’s Wall. The almost unaltered interior is a rare and eloquent survival of historic Quaker layout and it powerfully evokes the silence of Quaker worship in this remote place, where the only sound is usually the wind and, in winter, the fast-moving burn nearby”.
I first found the chapel in April but did not venture inside, just assuming the door would be locked. Earlier this week I returned to its simple, peaceful interior:
The Friends’ Meeting House
Quaker Faith & Practice
Ordnance Survey Leisure Map
A bit like dogs, motorcycles get you talking. A local, removing moss from the nearby stone bridge, was a disappointed owner of a Harley. The conversation moved from bikes to Chapels and the equally interesting, if more ornate, ancient Church at Beltingham set in the centre of the tiny village. This is where I will head next.
Opposite the Friends’ Meeting House – that large screen has been replaced.
According to Wiki: Carter Bar forms a popular point for tourists to stop and take photographs on the Anglo-Scottish border. There are two marker stones on either side of the A68 for this purpose, the original stone created by local Borders stonemason, Edy Laub. Upper Redesdale, the Scottish Borders (including Tweeddale) and to the east, the Cheviot hills are all visible from Carter Bar. However, its altitude means snow is possible even in late spring and early autumn, and the Carter Bar pass can be subject to frequent snow-related closures during the winter.
Perhaps I should have read this before setting off on the Yamaha. A hint of warmth in the air around Hexham convinced me this was just the day for a round trip to Scotland along the A68. Everything was fine until Byrness village when the already biting wind chill bit harder, snow appeared in the verges and a persistent layer of ice was visible at the northern end of Catcleugh Reservoir.
By the time I had climbed the 418 metres (1,371 ft) to Carter Bar, the landscape was mostly white. Fortunately, the roads remained clear and ice free. Pulling into the viewpoint lay-by I was hoping to see The Borderer mobile snack bar but they had sensibly upped sticks for the winter. There was nothing to do but extract the camera, take some quick shots, try to get some heat into my fingertips and head back south (I really do need heated grips). Not the most comfortable ride but a thoroughly energising 77 miles. Next task, wash off the salt and muck from the bike … and me:
The lay-by heading north
The A68 looking south into Northumberland
The lay-by heading south
… 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 🙂
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:
… 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
After a long wet winter, I have been grabbing sunshine and spending much less time at the keyboard. This can only be a good thing. My daily images on Blipfoto tell a story of warm weather and escape: on canals, on two wheels, on golf courses – some might say an unlikely combination but the stereotypical biker is a myth. We are all differently made but we ride for the same reasons.
My good lady recently bought me a digital subscription to Iron and Air, an American bike magazine which combines images and words verging on the poetic. In my usual compulsive manner, I am working my way through every back copy – this from Dave Karlotski, Season of the Bike, in Issue 1:
“At 30 miles an hour and up, smells become uncannily vivid. All the individual tree-smells and flower-smells flit by like chemical notes in a great plant symphony. Sometimes the smells evoke memories so strongly that it’s as though the past hangs invisible in the air around me … “
Riding the arrow-straight Military Road that runs parallel to Hadrian’s Wall in Northumberland you cross paths with heavily laden lumber lorries carrying timber south from the forests at Keilder. At 60mph they create a bow wave, an invisible wake of air that unsettles the bike at a combined speed in excess of 100mph. For a very brief moment in time the air turns warm and heavy with the scent of diesel – it is an oddly intimate and uplifting experience.
“Cars lie to us and tell us we’re safe, powerful and in control. The air-conditioning fans murmur empty assurances and whisper, “Sleep, sleep.” Motorcycles tell us a more useful truth: we are small and exposed and probably moving too fast for our own good, but that’s no reason not to enjoy every minute of the ride.”
This post dedicated to Ian Bell, supplier of this Yamaha.