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  • Sandstone Way – anyone done it?
  • Premier Icon IvanDobski
    Free Member

    Fresh from a successful top 200 placing at the Kielder 101 I’m now looking for similar things to have a go at. Living in the lakes the Lakes 200 looks good but potentially a bit much however the Sandstone Way looks like a good, albeit very long, day out.

    Anyone done it, attempted it etc? Bonus points if you’ve done the Kielder 101 to compare it to!

    Ta.

    Premier Icon whitestone
    Free Member

    Done both on successive weekends!

    Did the Sandstone Way over the BH weekend, it was a bit of a last minute (i.e. Friday night) idea. Did it with two bivvies but only a day and a half or so of riding. We were taking it steady rather than rushing, so an hour for lunch, etc.

    Dropped the car off at Berwick and got train to Hexham. Started riding at 1715 on the Saturday and stopped about 1930 to bivvy bout 10Km short of Bellingham so a short warm up. Sunday was quite long and we got to just short of Wooler before our second bivvy. Took the shortcut north to miss Wooler and got to Berwick about midday.

    The riding is a lot less technical than the Kielder 101. If you go S-N then you *will need the map* as it isn’t obvious at times.

    To do it in a day at this time of year will be a lot, lot harder than the Kielder 101, I did the Kielder in 6hrs47, there was about 18hrs riding on the SW.

    Premier Icon IvanDobski
    Free Member

    Cool,cheers!

    The site suggests going S-N rather than N-S – did you ever think it’d be loads better going in the opposite direction or was N-S OK?

    So 2 long days with a bivvy stop sounds the best plan. I was thinking of just trying to do it as a one-er but I imagine even if that went well I’d still need to stay over somewhere for the drive back anyway.

    Premier Icon whitestone
    Free Member

    S-N worked better for us as we didn’t have to rush to catch a train back plus it’s with the prevailing winds.

    The signing is, errm, subtle, and isn’t complete when going S-N meaning on occasion we’d go wrong and have to backtrack when we’d then see the complementary N-S sign. Sometimes the route just heads through fifty metres of reeds when there’s a track heading off to the side that doesn’t actually lead anywhere. Sometimes the signs have been hidden by official road signs 🙁 The map is definitely worth having – I ordered one but it didn’t arrive in time so until we got to Rothbury and managed to buy one (we were way too early in Bellingham for the bike shop to open) and from then on it was a lot easier.

    We missed the big off-road bit south of Wooler as we just missed the sign – I might have been turning round to see where my wife was or similar.

    Of the route we took, there was only one bit that I thought would be better N-S and that was the climb north out of/descent south in to Rothbury. A friend (who I should note managed a top 20 at the Kielder 101) did it earlier in the year N-S and reckoned he wouldn’t have liked it S-N.

    General points:

    There are a lot of gate, about a hundred, sometimes you get three in a hundred metres then four or five Km without any.
    Vegetation: there’s a lot of full grown nettles and brambles at this time of year! The heather is stunning at the moment.
    Supply: Bellingham, Rothbury and Wooler are about it. There’s a cafe or two close to the route but in general assume that there’s nothing, a named “village” will be half a dozen houses and a couple of farms.

    The riding is mainly estate/farm tracks, some old mining tracks, forestry roads, bridleways and roads. Some of the sections could be quite boggy after a wet spell but it was pretty dry ten days ago.

    Hexham-Bellingham was pretty involved route finding as it twists around a lot. Generally grassy tracks.
    Bellingham-Rothbury felt the most remote, the variation descent to the Coquet valley is well worth doing.
    Rothbury-Wooler was quite varied, moorland to begin with then farmland.
    Wooler to Berwick was the easiest riding with only one hill of any significance then riding along the coast to finish.

    Premier Icon mlke
    Free Member

    I’ve ridden it. There’s quite a few options. Cyclocross was fun the route I took but the Alnham to Wooler Common bit is really good and is best on a mountain bike. Signage is OK but I’d definitely take the printed route map to ensure you don’t stray. It’s doable in a day if super fit (I’m not!) but I reckon 2-3 days and enjoy the views/pub opportunities would make a better experience

    Premier Icon IvanDobski
    Free Member

    Thanks both, I reckon I’ll try and do this in the next month or so before it gets too dark too quick but I’ll make it a two dayer rather than get carried away with the idea of doing it in one go.

    Premier Icon whitestone
    Free Member

    Here’s a video of our trip – https://vimeo.com/138902033

    Premier Icon jonba
    Free Member

    I did it back in may or June. Got the train from Newcastle, rode back to Hexham then back into town. Took about 14h on a cross bike. Probably as hard as the old K100 it is rough so tough on the body on a cx bike and there are an awful lot of gates which are surprisingly energy sapping.

    Did it off the gpx and had no issues navigation wise. Probably more enjoyable in 2 days as we had virtually no stops and had to push on hard towards then end to get into hexham before Dark.

    Nice ride though – better than the C2C in my opinion and the Eastcoast trains make it much easier and quicker to do the transport logistics.

    Premier Icon trademark
    Free Member

    Thanks for that video whitestone, it’s whetted my bikepacking appetite 😀

    Premier Icon IvanDobski
    Free Member

    That’s a nice video, thanks for putting it up. It’s good to get an idea of the terrain, def looks like it could get boggy.

    Couldn’t help but click on the Dales 300 video though – that brought back some painful memories!

    Jonba – So East Coast trains are good with bikes at hexham?

    Premier Icon JohnClimber
    Full Member

    In June I rode from Hexham to the coast at Tynemouth on the Fat Bike, then every beach north to Berwick before taking the Sandstone Trail back to Hexham.
    The Sandstone trail is great but the heavy rain beforehand and overnight made it a bit tough going through the cow and sheep fields around the many, many, many gates.
    Plus use a GPS with the route GPX as it’s very easy to miss the small signs on route.

    Premier Icon trademark
    Free Member

    If the guidebook/map and website describe it as a route from Berwick to Hexham, does this mean it’s better to ride it from North to South?

    Getting a lift to/from either end is ok for me so was wondering primarily about the riding.

    Cheers.

    Premier Icon whitestone
    Free Member

    We rode it S-N and thought that it wouldn’t be nice the other way but a mate did it earlier this year N-S and thought the same thing 😯

    Our decision was made partly because of the wind over the BH weekend which was a strong south westerly so we’d have been riding in to that for most of the way. In the event because the route wanders around so much we were doing some riding in to the wind anyway.

    However in quite a few instances the northbound route has a short sharp climb followed by a long descent, doing it the other way round would mean a long drag for a short descent. In the video the descent through the heather, which we thought was stunning scenically, is only on the northbound route (it’s actually a variation). The last ten miles going northbound are easy going along the coast whereas the last ten miles going southbound is quite hilly.

    There are direction specific variations presumably to provide more interest, there’s a southbound one near St Cuthbert’s Cave for example that looks fine as a descent but you’d be pushing going northbound.

    Having said all the above, I’ve not ridden it N-S so can’t compare.

    There are some sections, mostly short, that are new in terms of their legality and so aren’t very well marked on the ground yet. If the route marker arrows point to two o’clock and that’s through a large bed of reeds then that’s where it goes even if the track appears to head off at one o’clock.

    One point to note is that the GPX files that you can download from the official site are for N-S and if you simply reverse them for S-N you don’t get the best riding. Get the map if you don’t have it.

    Premier Icon jonba
    Free Member

    No, hexham is a bit of a pain although there are lots of trains you can’t book and it is slow. My comment referred to the train to Berwick which you book bikes on so you know you’ll get on it, costs about £10 and is quick and runs early in the morning.

    Best way to Hexham is to ride if you have the time. It is about 25 miles. You can pick up one of the C2C routes and come in via Corbridge and Wylam.

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