Family fun on cycling tours in Northumberland
PUBLISHED: 00:16 25 January 2011 | UPDATED: 20:33 20 February 2013
Katherine Wildman is a writer and photographer who lives in Cullercoats, North Tyneside. We catch up with her during a day out in the Northumberland countryside on a guided cycling tour
As we cycled through the field of golden wheat, a pheasant whirled up from a hedgerow, beating a hasty retreat across the wide-open skies away from our Lycra-clad convoy.
I hadnt ridden a bike off-road since I was a child and the exhilaration of feeling mud, rocks and gravel flying out from under the wheels once more took me straight back to the adventures of my youth when, I was as fit as a flea and would ride my beloved bike all day long.
Since my first child was born ten years ago I have done woefully little exercise, but a recent remark from my daughter, which went along the lines of: "Mummy - have you got another baby in your tummy?" made me think that perhaps I should take the plunge and try to shed some of my ten-year-old baby weight.
So, where to start? Im great at joining gyms and at failing to use my membership, I get bored when I swim and the idea of running leaves me cold. Could it be time, I wonder, to get back in the saddle?
After looking online I found Adventure Northumberland in Alnwick. They run Cyclelife Alnwick, the largest independent cycle shop in Northumberland. From there they organise a raft of outdoor activities, including a fleet of bikes for hire.
The shop, run by Paul Edgar and Michael Curry, opened in 2009 and the idea of hiring a bike from them to see if my love for travelling on two wheels was still there and being guided on a ride suitable for my pitiful fitness levels persuaded me to pick up the phone and book a place on their Northumberland Coast Craster Family Ride.
As we donned our bike helmets Paul explained that it was "a desire to help people to get outside and enjoy their surroundings" that was one of the driving forces behind the creation of the cycling tours that he and business partner, Michael, now run throughout Northumberland.
Paul said: Weve seen that there is a real danger of kids today not really knowing what the countryside is like so we take people on all sorts of routes, from paths into the extreme wilds of the Northumberland National Park for the more experienced rider to the 11-mile Craster Family Ride where theres a lot for the kids to see.
As if to demonstrate his point, Paul calls us to a halt down the grassy path that were navigating to show us a delicate wild orchid that he has spotted in the hedgerow.
Weve seen all sorts of things on our travels along this coastal path, says Paul. Dolphins playing in the wakes of the fishing boats, the remains of the old submarine that ran ashore in a gully only eight days after the end of World War One, and kittiwakes diving for sprats off the Whin Sill rocks. Its all out there if you know where to look.
Michael said: One of the best things about leading these tours is that they change all the time. We have to know the routes and know how they change with the seasons. After the snow last winter some of the bridges even came down on the more extreme paths that we use up in the hills of the National Park.
With Paul and Michael guiding our expedition I didnt panic when my chain fell off at the bottom of what they affectionately call Cardiac Hill or when I misjudged a bump and collapsed in a giggling heap in a ditch.
And, while my backpack for the day contained a bottle of water and an emergency banana, Michaels held a first aid kit, a change of clothes, a selection of bike tools, inner tubes and even a portable shelter.
From parties of school children to weekend stag parties, Michael and Paul have taken people of all ages and abilities out into the stunning Northumbrian countryside and are fit enough to cycle and tell historical and environmental tales, even at the very top of Cardiac Hill.
Adventure Northumberland have a fleet of hire bikes on site within their Cycle Life store in Alnwicks Lionheart Enterprise Park that are all available for flexible periods of time, starting at just 8 for three hours. They can even arrange delivery of your hire bike to your accommodation if you are on holiday in the area.
All of their hire bikes are serviced before you take them out and they will supply you with free helmets and puncture repair kits. All you have to do is enjoy the freedom of the wind in your hair and watch out for startled pheasants as you go cycling in the beautiful Northumbrian countryside.
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