Cestria CC does Piercebridge (21 May 2017)

As usual Mal Grey, Club captain, set an engaging and interesting route for this Sunday’s club run, and we actually followed it to the letter in Mal’s absence. It has been planned that we might have an Intermediate group separate from the main club run but, in the end, we all went the same route and stayed together. About 18 riders left CLS in good, bright conditions into a SW wind. We headed straight down the A167 to Neville’s Cross where we turned right onto the A690 as far as Willington. It is sometimes difficult keeping a large group like this together and, to make it safe, we cycle two abreast (as the law says we are entitled to do so, as long as we are not *more* than two abreast). This morning, we got a few cars getting annoyed but nothing quite beat a young pedestrian (late 20s, I would guess) who shouted abuse at us.

Having turned off the A690 at Willington, we headed south towards Bishop, but then turned right onto the lanes and onwards to Witton Park. My feeble efforts at cycling ahead of the bunch and then trying to get into position to take pictures were rightly mocked (right)! Our two lady club members, Donna and Joanne, both featured at the front of the group.

After the quaintly-named hamlet of Windmill, we turned south again through Cockfield and eventually onto the A688 (not too busy) past Raby Castle (deer were hiding this morning) into Staindrop. The usual cafe is still closed, despite a sign saying the hoped to open in 2017, and the other cafe in the village was full of cyclists! Graeme suggested Piercebridge, which was on Mal’s route anyway, so we set off south again through Winston (which we often do in the opposite direction). Near the village of Eppleby we encountered the most extraordinary procession of tractors heading towards us, obviously going to a show or rally. Club chairman Mike Wyngard’s misspent youth came in handy as he was able to name several makes of tractor! Having reached the Roman Road, we turned north and into Piercebridge where we stopped at the first cafe, which turned out to be the excellent farm shop cafe. Shortly after our arrival, some of the Houghton CC’s club ride joined us, including several of their members know to us (Ranson bros in particular and Andy). We also had a cultural conversation about language. That’s all I’m saying.

After excellent cakes and scrambled egg, our bunch headed north on Dere Street (bit of history thrown in for fun). One wonders what groupset the Roman soldiers might have used, had they been alive today. The smart money would be Italian Campag, but bear in mind most of them were foreign conscripts, I reckon they would have opted for Shimano since you get more kit for your denari. But that’s my opinon!

Having reached Royal Oak, we crossed the busy A68 again and threaded our way to Shildon. Ron and I remarked how improved the town centre is, with the lovely block paving and attractive iron features. At Kirk Merrington, racing legs began to get itchy and Ron led an impressive charge up the bank, with eventual winner Christian succeeding at the top. Having regrouped, we all freewheeled down the hill to Spenny and onto Tudhoe. After the Sunderland Bridge roundabout, Graeme was the one with the Tom Dumoulin legs and began a spirited ascent of Cock of the North bank. He held off the opposition without needing to use his Jan Ullrich stare at either Christian or myself, and with the business end of the club ride finished, we rolled into Neville’s Cross. Craig, one of our relatively new members, really enjoyed the day and we had a lot of very happy customers. Many thanks to Mal for planning such a great route, and to Graeme for leading the ride. Peter Scott