After spending a lovely relaxing day by the seaside in Alnmouth, we packed up and headed towards our overnight stop near Blyth that was just a short hop away from the starting point for our Sunday city peddle at Tynemouth. The actual park4night stop was at the beachside at a village called Cambois, which is a little north of Blyth itself. The village looks to be undergoing some major redevelopment, with construction of an energy hub underway, but was still looking a little down at heel. On reading up on the history, this was a coal mining village for around a century, and there is evidence of this in some of the buildings that remain. What we found a little melancholy though was the winding wheel from the old colliery which had closed in 1968 had been set within a garden area as a reminder of the history of the town. This had clearly been done initially with much pride, however as the collective living memory of the community that worked the mine inevitably fades, there are no longer those with the interest in maintaining the area around the winding wheel, so it has become overgrown and unloved.
Our parking spot was overlooking the sea, and there were walks either way along the shore, which were frequented by dog walkers. We shared the parking spot with three other campers, but there was plenty of room so we were not in each other’s pockets. After we had eaten supper and cleared up, we had our usual evening walk before retiring to bed at around 22.00hrs to read and relax before sinking into slumber. However, around 22.30hrs a group of youths screeched up with their ‘gangsta rap’ blaring at an ear splitting level, before they all went off down the beach, cans of Stella in hand. We thought they may be going to join the beach party that we had seen about half a mile down the way, but around half an hour later they returned having evidently been for a dip. Regardless of the now late hour, and that there were other occupants of the area, the gangsta rap was blasted out again. This was a real dilemma, do we open the door and ask them to keep the noise down, risking an onslaught of abuse no matter how politely this is done, or do we wait a little longer to see if they move on… I had one leg out of bed, when we heard the doors of their car closing, and they then screeched away the unknown (to us) rapper’s voice receding with the declaration that they were ‘always a suspect never a victim’. I fear those boys will be suffering from tinnitus before long.
Once peace had been restored, we had an uninterrupted night and woke to a lovely morning, and set about our morning routines before heading off to Tynemouth, an unexpectedly charming place, which refers to itself as a village, but is really more of a small town with trendy shops, cafes and other eateries, seemingly with a significant population of yoga enthusiasts, judging by the number of people carrying their rolled up mats. The long stay car park was in the shadow of what was clearly once a substantial castle, and adjacent to the cycleway that was to take us into the city of Newcastle.
We assembled Twolula and were on our way through the area of North Shields, which has been extensively gentrified and provided a practically traffic free and pleasant route along the Hadrian’s Cycleway which along it’s path is the Segedunum Roman Fort and Museum. We did not stop to take this in, but did make the short detour to view the site of the Roman baths along the way.
We also passed evidence of the industry of the area that is not so historic, disused dry docks and part of the cycleway that had been turned into a tiered water garden area, but looked like it had previously been a series of locks in a former life. All of a sudden so it seemed, we were in view of the famous Tyne bridges and in the city itself. Unfortunately there was a riverside event, so cyclists were detoured; never a satisfactory situation as the signs for the detour we have found tend to peter out quite quickly, leaving you bewildered as to which way to go. This was not though Mr V’s first visit to Newcastle, Northumbria University being one of the institutions that he has studied at, he has had cause to be familiar with the city, so took us into the centre to have a look around.
The evidence of Newcastle’s importance through the ages is evident, the buildings in what would have been the main commercial centre are magnificent, built in honey coloured stone, there was a warmth to the place. We were drawn to the large column akin to Nelson’s in London; we found that it was dedicated to Earl Grey KC, former Prime Minister who saw the passing of the Great Reform Act of 1832 and the abolition of slavery in the British Empire in 1833. So more than just a nice cup of tea!
We made our way back down to the river side, however though we had intended to take a walk along, we were caught up in the traffic and following the cycle route, were channelled over the bridge. Making the best of it we peddled around the Sage Gateshead music centre and enjoyed our coffee break sitting in the front row of the outdoor amphitheater taking in the view of the river.
Once refreshed, we found the start of the cycleway that would take us along the south bank of the river NCN14. This started out a little scruffy, but soon wended its way through woodland and hugged the banks of the river a little more than the north shore route, affording us some lovely views as we peddled along.
Having headed along the south shore, and with the van being parked on the north side, we had two options to get across the river. The first was the pedestrian tunnel, which runs parallel with the traffic tunnels, or further along the bank, there was a short ferry crossing which would see us reach the other side with only a short peddle back to the van. So as to maximise the new horizons, we opted for the latter, and though the ferry crossing was nice, if we were to do this route again we would go through the tunnel as it crosses over before the approximately 5k stretch which runs directly beside the main arterial road. Although the cycleway is separate from the traffic, it is directly adjacent and therefore does not make for pleasant peddling. We were glad to leave the bustle of the traffic as the route took us off to the quieter side streets and then on to the ferry terminal.
We knew that the ferries ran fairly regularly, and had thought that if we had to wait a bit, we could eat lunch, but as we rolled up, there was a ferry waiting and we joined the short queue to embark. We parked up Twolula on the bike rack and headed for an upper deck to enjoy the short 10 minute crossing in the sunshine.
Before long it was time to disembark and head off back to the van with the intention of sitting on the pleasant area by the shore and enjoying our late lunch in the sunshine. We were dismayed though to find as we peddled along the shore there was a thick mist coming in from the sea, and a decided chill to the air could be detected. This was not what had been forecast! We peddled on, resigned to the fact that we would have to huddle in the van to have our lunch and coffee, but also marvelling at the fact that we were passing locals who were clearly more hardy than us, dressed as they were in shorts and t-shirts. Or maybe they too had been caught out?
We got back to the van and started to dismantle Twolula to load her up, commenting that the castle that we knew was just across the car park was now no longer visible at all, not even a hint of an outline of it. As we busied ourselves though, we did detect a warmth begin to creep into the air, and a distinct brightness that was not there just minutes before. Sure enough, by the time we had packed the bike and pannier up and changed our shoes, the mist was clearing so we donned an extra layer of clothing and went to sit on one of the benches overlooking the harbour to have our lunch. It was not long before we were divesting ourselves of the extra layers, and more and basking once again in the sunshine; we even treated ourselves to an ice cream – we are on holiday after all!