Monday, 25 July 2011

Scottish Border to Holy Island - 7 May 2011 - 15 miles by bike

See the pictures

A tedious journey of over 4 hours by Cross Country Trains took me from Birmingham to Berwick upon Tweed for 1117 and I had a short wait in Castlegate before the 235 bus whisked me across the border and deposited me by the side of the A1 at Lamberton. There appears to be nothing at Lamberton apart from a bridge over the busy dual carriageway - However, I explored no further.  The day was breezy, but with a light covering of cloud.  Rain was forecast for the afternoon, so I was hoping to make good progress without having to resort to my waterproofs.

Setting off at 1145, I arrived at the border within five minutes. There are parking areas on both carriageways for those who wish to stop and buy refreshments from the mobile cafes parked there. There are plenty of flags and signs informing the traveller that he / she is leaving / entering Scotland. There is little mention of England - I don't know what the significance of this is, if any!

I was glad to arrive at Berwick (1215 at 4 miles), not least to be rid of the noise of the traffic on the A1. Fortunately, the ride into Berwick from the border was a speedy downhill one.

My previous visit to Berwick was in 2006 when I had found the town to be dead and uncared for.  My impression on this visit was very much more positive.  The town appeared much brighter and livelier, perhaps it was the Saturday shoppers who made the place seem happier and busier.  There is very little evidence here of modern shopping developments which have blighted so many English towns and would have caused major visual damage amongst the ancient stone buildings of Berwick.  Onwards then across the narrow, 15th Century arched bridge to the docks area.

I soon reached a grassy area at Tweedmouth overlooking the River Tweed with Berwick nestling on the far bank.  A sign here informed me that L S Lowry had spent some time in Berwick and one of his paintings was from that very spot.  (The modern view is show above).   The way now closely followed the main East Coast railway line, at first along a house lined road and then an undulating rough track by the railway until Cocklawburn Beach (1255 at 8 miles) where the metalled road was rejoined.  This part of the route was popular with walkers and even a few brave souls had made it to the beach.  Although the cliffs were low, the coast had an attractive, rugged appearance.

By now the skies were becoming increasingly leaden, so I hurried on and inland to Cheswick where I found lovely large red stone barn and a row of cottages built in similar stone.  These and the nearby Ladythorne House must have formed part of an impressive estate at one time.

I pushed on along through Goswick to Beachcomber House, a caravan site and the only blot on the landscape to date.  I did not linger, but cycled to the Holy Island Causeway (1405 at 14 miles).  I would have loved to explore the island, but I was beaten by the tide, the weather and the time available.  I turned my back on the sea and cycled to Beal (1420 at 15 miles).  I barely had time to fold the bike when my bus back to Berwick arrived.  On the journey back to Berwick, the heavens opened and it was with some relief to find myself deposited outside the Wetherspoon pub where I enjoyed my customary fish and chips washed down with a pint of the local ale.

I then wandered around the town for a while in the rain before making my way back to Berwick Station.  The station was packed with travellers waiting for their charter train hauled by a vintage diesel locomotive.  After they had gone, I had the station almost to myself until the train arrived for another tedious journy back to Birmingham.

See the pictures

Friday, 22 July 2011

Great Yarmouth to Southwold - 25 Miles by bike - 9 April

The starting routine for this journey was exactly the same as for the March trip. This time I turned south from Great Yarmouth (1010) and very soon, after seeing some impressive port offices from a more prosperous time, was passing the extensive yet very quiet dockland area along the River Yare. The way out of Great Yarmouth passed through seemingly endless rows of terraced houses.

I liked Gorleston (4 miles) with its promenade, gothic brick Pavillion Theatre, bandstand, sandy beach and low cliffs. It was sunny, but rather quiet for late morning (1040). Onwards, then through the holiday camp villages of Hopton and Corton to Lowestoft, where I arrived at 1140.

After warnings that
Lowestoft (12 miles) was grim and unfriendly, I was pleasantly surprised to find a clean, wide promenade complete with pavillion, modern sculptures and a pier - not what I expected at all!

A short stretch along the cycle path by the A12 brought me to the village of Kessingland (17 miles) at 1220. Kessingland is very much a working village and I very nearly cycled straight though it before I realised it had a well preserved old centre.

Another short spell along the A12 brought me to Benacre with its lovely church. Riding along winding lanes, I came to Covehithe where the fields around were literally littered with pigs and their piglets, each family being assigned to a little wooden house - quite an idyllic existence.

The main point of interest at Covehithe is St Andrew's Church which was originally a huge 14th Century structrue which, by 1672 was too big for the dwindling population. Some of the original stone was used to build a new church within the walls of the old which still exist, largely intact. Coastal erosion will mean that both
churches will be lost to the sea later this century.

Onward, then, to my destination Southwold (25 miles) where I arrived at 1340. Southwold must be the perfect seaside town with its unspoiled town centre, neat beach huts and quaint pier. I enjoyed excellent, but expensive fish and chips at the pier, before catching the 523 bus to Beccles (another town worthy of a visit at some future time) and the X2 to Norwich.

It was then train all the way back to Coleshill Parkway via Ely and Peterborough.