We had a convivial evening with Tim’s friends in an Ouseburn pub followed by a cosy Travelodge room with four occupants: Tim, me, and our bikes – his ancient Dawes and my ancient Specialized. They’re our town bikes, more used to shuttling between home and the off-licence than doing grand trans-island Sustrans Routes.
The Reivers starts on the Tyneside path, ducking under Newcastle’s impressive range of bridge ironmongery. We headed into the cool, sunny morning towards the promisingly blue sky. We chatted to a Basque touring cyclist – wonder what she thought of geordie – who was doing our route, but lighter and faster.
We peeled off onto the historic Puffing Billy track underneath Heddon on the Wall and eventually found the steep lane up to the village, notorious as the home of Pig Zero in the 2001 Foot and Mouth outbreak.
Back lanes now, and patches of driven snow which were clear as, er, driven snow. Some friendly local blokes on MTBs gave us some unreliable route advice.
The beer opportunity in Birtley promised by the OS maps ‘PH’ turned out to be closed, like so many other rural pubs, so sat in the sun and lunched on muesli bars and bananas.
A disused railway offered a shortcut to Bellingham, pronounced ‘bell in jam’, where the pubs were definitely open, as our thorough investigations proved.
The bunkhouse was a farm in the middle of lambing; we had the place to ourselves, and the common room radio was already preset to Radio 3, so it was clearly the right sort of place.
Miles today: 48
Miles since Newcastle: 48