Club Sunday Spin: Elsdon ton

John Gardiner passes Winter’s Gibbet, having climbed from Elsdon.

With some of the regulars away on cycling holidays (including Club captain Mal Grey), a smaller-than-usual group met at CLS to decide on a route. The Intermediate group, under the curation of Peter Sturmann, had already decided to go to Stanfordham, so a few of us decided to join forces as far as Darras Hall and then break out for Elsdon.

It was a windy but sunny Sunday morning with a brisk NW wind, so north was definitely the right direction to head. With occasional gusts on our left shoulders, we cycled up the A167 through Birtley as usual. Gateshead was passed without incident (except a dropped chain), and we reached the top of Throckley bank/Ponteland Road where the Inters went left and the rest turned right for Ponteland. Included in the latter were Mike McGill and Mike Wyngard who couldn’t stay out all day and headed back after Ogle. Having reached Belsay via the lanes, we jointed the Tyne Vags time trial course (M47) and passed a busy Bolam lake and onto Scot’s Gap. Here we had decided to chat about routes, and opted for the longer, more sheltered route via the Rothbury Road. Surprisingly, there was not a lot of traffic on this, and a distinct lack of motorbikes. A few miles before the descent to Rothbury we turned left off the main road and through the Simonside hills via Hepple, joining the Vags course for the climb up Bilsmoor (and also on this year’s Cyclone sportive). John Gardiner was very strong here and reached the top long before Ronnie Cowley and myself. Having paused to take a few pictures, we descended into Elsdon by which time it was about 1,30pm.

Ronnie Cowley checked into social media and reports our location at the Cyclists’ cafe, Elsdon.

Ronnie even has time for a friendly wave as he passes the Gibbet.

Surprisingly, there were no other cyclists in the cafe and few customers. We got our food in a matter of minutes and tucked into some welcome carbs, including the famous Gibbet sliced fruit cake. John got a slight scolding from the owner for putting his helmet on the table! After 45 minutes we left Elsdon with yours truly almost taking to route that avoids the famous Gibbet climb. We had a tailwind up the climb and paused when we got to the replica gallows. There is a plate here that describes the punishment of Mr Winter (and the fact that he was hung within viewing distance of his murder scene. We passed Cambo and Wallington Hall which was not too busy, crossing the A696 and heading past Capheaton tea rooms without pausing (they were still open). Most of the major climbing was now done, although the three of us were quite tired at this stage. After the short climb up to Wallridge crossroads, we dropped to Black Heddon and turned left, taking the lovely direct lane via Medburn to Darras Hall. We passed Gateshead at around 4pm and got to CLS but about 4.40pm.

It was a super day with amazing views over stunning Northumberland, despite the occasional struggle with the wind on the way out. The route through the Simonside forest is sublime, as was the climb of the Gibbet with a tailwind! It remained warm-ish and dry throughout and everyone clocked 100 miles or more by the time they got home. Many thanks to Ron and John for agreeing to spend the day cycling; here’s looking forward to more.