“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.”Ernest Hemingway
It has taken 2 weeks to process and compile the video footage from our trip. Mary and I have enjoyed this process almost as much as the trip itself. Watching it back we have laughed so much. Mostly because there is very little footage of us riding anything and, we didn’t film us eating any real food. Just fish & chips, cheesy puffs, ice cream and mars bars! That is the privilege of cycle touring and the magic of movie making, you can eat whatever you like – apparently!
What did the Romans ever do for us?
Well, apart from the roads, sanitation, public baths, the aquaduct, education, wine and medicine; there is Hadrian’s Cycleway!
I learnt a lot about the Romans at school. A primary school trip to Chester taught me all about walls, mosaics and I got to wear a replica Roman helmet and armour.
Mary’s sole source of Roman knowledge is: Monty Python’s Life of Brian.
Roman History is everywhere, it is inescapable. Knowing about Hadrian’s Wall is like knowing about the Titanic. It is knowledge you are born with, encoded in our DNA, always on the radar.
When Mary and I found that there was a cycle route called Hadrian’s Cycleway, we purchased the Map from Sustrans. From then on it was simply on the ’to do’ list.
Sustrans describe the route as:
A ride through some of England’s most dramatic and wild countryside. Follow the line of the Roman frontier for 174 miles (280 km) from Ravenglass in Cumbria to South Shields in Tyne & Wear. Taking in magnificent coastal views, breathtaking countryside, Roman forts and museums, inspiring modern attractions, quaint villages and attractive market towns, all set in a World Heritage Site: this cycle route has it all.Sustrans
Making the leap from the ‘to do’ list to reality is probably the biggest hurdle. Turns out all it took was a quiet morning at work to do some organising. Securing ‘Mom’ to puppy sit, then purchasing Train Tickets to get us to and from the start of the route. See our blog The Ugly, The Bad & The Good.
It’s all in the Lack of Planning
Once tickets were purchased it was set in stone. Now for route planning and organising. Not that I do much planning. I was confident I had enough experience, and certainly gear for a cycle tour anywhere and, the NCN 72 was all on the Sustrans Map. Really it was just for me to organise getting from the train to the start of route 72 in Ravenglass. Easy; just poke ‘Oxenholme to Ravenglass’ into Google Maps and select the ‘bicycle’ option!
That is when I heard about the Wrynose & Hardknott Passes. Challenging, dangerous, hairpin, 30%, dramatic; just some of the adjectives used and, not a lot of information on people riding loaded touring bikes over them. Lots of information on super thin, super fit (and some not so fit) men, struggling over them on road bikes!
This definitely upped the ante and introduced fear and excitement. There were train ride alternatives to Ravenglass, even cycling alternatives. Watching YouTube videos of cars driving over the passes, we swung between thinking: easy-peasy to, it will be too much!
That is where the excitement was. Yes it will be hard, but ‘how’ hard? We had to know! There was never a question of us not going this way!
Why is there a Wall at all?
Publius Aelius Hadrianus Augustus became Roman Emperor in 117 CE. He was 41 years old. The Roman empire at that time stretched from the shores of western Spain to the shores of the presian gulf and from the Deserts of Northern Africa to The North of England.
Hadrian saw that the expansion of the Empire through endless conquest wasn’t practical or sustainable as resources (money and soldiers) were finite and instead he traveled the Empire seeking to strengthen and consolidate frontiers. Part of this strategy was the construction of ‘limites’ throughout the empire. A show of Roman power and influence. And so in 122CE a wall in North Brittania was built over 6 years. 73 miles, East to West. Roman Empire to the south. The Picts to the north.
With bikes packed up we set off like over excited kids on a school trip.
Sunday 16th June 2019
Birmingham to Oxenholme (train)
Oxenholme to The top of the Wrynose Pass 26.8 miles
Monday 17th June 2019
Wrynose Bottom to Ravenglass 11.7 miles
Tuesday 18th June 2019
Ravenglass to Silloth 51.6 miles
Wednesday 19th June 2019
Silloth to Carlisle 40 milesCarlisle to Haltwistle (train)
Thursday 20th June 2019
Rest day in Haltwhistle 10 miles
Friday 21st June 2019
Haltwhistle to Newcastle 49 miles
Saturday 22nd June 2019
Newcastle to South Shields 12 miles
Sunday 23rd June 2019
Newcastle to Birmingham (train)
Total Miles: 202.1 miles
Punctures – 0
Mars bars -1
Fish & Chips – 1
Bag of Cheesy Puffs – 1
Ice Cream – 1
Flies – Millions
Romans – 0
Bikes & Gear
Surly Long Haul Trucker (42cm)
26” Wheels with Carbide rims
22/32/42 front chainrings
11-34 rear cassette
Shimano Saint pedals
Jones loop Bar
Revelate designs Harness & Saltyroll with Egress pocket
Revelate design feedbags x 2
Tubus Cosmo Rear Rack
Tubus Big Apple Front Rack
Ortleib Front & Rear roller plus panniers
1998 Kona Firemountain with P2 forks
26” wheels with carbide rims
22/32/42 front chain rings
11-32 rear cassette
Old Man Mountain Front Rack
Alu rear rack fitted by SJS Cycles in 2000!
Ortleib Front & Rear roller plus panniers
Ortleib Bar Bag
Tent – MSR Elixir 3
Sleeping Mats – Exped Synmat UL 7 MW with sleeping bag liners used as covers
Sleeping Bags – Mountain Hardware Lamina Z & Spark
Pillows – Sea to Summit Aeros Ultralight Pillow Large
Folding Gas Stove
Alpkit 900ml titanium Pot
Long Handle Titanium spork
16cm Zebra Head Billy Can with metal clips