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January Jaunt


Colin Ferguson

Friday morning dawned, dark, and dismal 'dreich' as we say up here. Things didn't improve when I found that Tom had succumbed to the dreaded lurgi, and we were down to three. Never mind, the forecast for Saturday was for sun, with the odd shower. Fine for this time of year. As they say in another community, the show must go on. I set off with the car in the van, and Jock navigating. All went well until half way over the new Queensferry crossing, my sat nav assistant cheerily announced that the A68 was blocked. No mention of where, but she would helpfully provide me with an alternative route. I now have little faith in the information given in these circumstances, so decided to carry on with my original route. At the end of the Edinburgh bypass, there was a message on the overhead gantry saying that the blockage was after Carter Bar. A quick look at the map confirmed that there was a back road from Jedburgh which turned into a single track road going right into Bellingham. As it happened there was no sign of a blockage, no apology, nothing, but I did arrive at the Demesne Farm bunkhouse bang on schedule at 5.00pm. Geoff and Sam were already there, and had worked out where all the facilities were located. We were in the Cheviot Hotel by 6.30pm, sampling a very fine Tyneside blond ale, or two. Superb food followed, and a fine evening was had by all.

Saturday morning saw the sun rise, and although quite cold, it was a bit above freezing. We set of after an excellent breakfast at the Fountain Café, where there was a large table reserved for the'last of the summer wine club'. By the time we had had our breakfast, there were eight of them. All well into their seventies, and enjoying a communal breakfast. Nice! The clouds gathered as we sped along some very scenic roads, heading south and east. We passed Hadrian's wall, which seemed to be the signal for the snow to start. It didn't last long, but did make driving a bit more difficult, with both aero screens covered in snow. Shortly after the sun came back out, Sam pulled in with a charging, or lack of, problem. Much wiggling and pulling of wires failed to find a problem, and all the dashboard bulbs checked out OK. So, with a plan to swap batteries around, we continued on. By 12.00, we had reached Alston, and carried on SE towards Middleton in Teesdale. As we climbed up onto the moor, the snow returned and by the time we were at the top, there was an inch or so on our carriageway. I always enjoy driving on snow and took full opportunity to see how the little 'hopper coped. Very well, as it happened. I now know that the snow has to be deeper than an inch before the rear wheel kicks out in protest. I think Geoff may be persuaded to put up some video onto You tube to give a better idea!

After the obligatory photos, we dropped down into Middleton in Teesdale for lunch. We had a bowl of superb vegetable soup with a roll in the Conduit café in the middle. Very warming, and just what we needed. Sam's car had started charging again, but Geoff's had snapped a mudguard stay, and was beginning to show signs of carb icing. This got progressively worse during the day, and by the time we reached Allendale Town, a halt was required. There was ice for a good 4 inches on the inlet manifold either side of the carburettor! It was completely white. Very Christmassy! However, as Hannibal no doubt found when crossing the Alps, elephant trunks do not like the cold. Geoff's next job is to fit a pair of Dellortos, and bin the current arrangement.

It was just beginning to get dark as we returned to Bellingham "pronounced Bellinjum locally" and so back to the pub for more beer, and food, and accounts of the day's events. An excellent day's sport, and around 125 miles covered.

shop window pictures

While filling up at the local garage, I noticed a series of windows in a disused building next door. They had been spruced up with the addition of a series of period photographs of the town, enlarged to fill the space. Clearly, a lot of history to the place, and what a great way to display it, brightening up a down at heel building at the same time! While out walking Jock, I encountered several locals. Without exception, every one wanted a wee chat. What a lovely friendly village.

Waking up to a hard frost on Sunday morning made us grateful for the previous day's weather, so we said our goodbyes, and headed home. Gingerly for the first few miles back to the A68, as there were several icy areas which hadn't been treated. Jock and I had a beautiful drive home in strong sunshine, and after a thorough car wash to get rid of the salt, sat down to a welcome cup of tea.

That's it for another year, but I'm sure we'll be back. And a huge THANK YOU to Sam for organising it. Superb.

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