All posts for the month March, 2015

It has been touch and go on whether or not we should try to get to Greenock today….but gale force winds, torrential rain and hail and local advice from other riders is to wait it out. So we booked another night at the Days Inn at Gretna Green and have had a relatively veg out kind of day….it has also given us a chance to let things dry out a bit. We did venture a couple of miles down the road to the Famous Old Blacksmiths Shop at Gretna Green famous for civil elopement marriages ….we thought it apt that we have a picture taken with the anvil showing our wedding rings…..I also decided to represent Scotland on my pandora with a silver anvil…quite unique……..  We are hopeful that the forecast for tomorrow and the next few days will be more promising…..fingers crossed we aim to be in Greenock by early afternoon……we will leave late in the morning due to the ice warnings.

We woke up this morning, in our two single beds, in the loft of the 150 year old farmhouse to see snow on the ground….how exciting! I rushed downstairs and raced outside to take some photos. The ANIMAL was covered in snow! It was awesome…..I was like a kid in a candy shop…..I love snow! After breakfast we packed the bike got dressed in our wet-weather gear and Vince let some air out of the tyres before carefully getting the bike back down the hill to the road…I chose to walk down as we were both concerned due to the boggy nature of the land, as well as the increased challenge of the snow and ice. Once safely at the bottom, I mounted and we rode into Falstone where Vince got out the 12v compressor to pump up the tyres…all a bit of a mission but very necessary. We went to Chesters Fort – a Roman fort and bath house on the River Tyne (inc a small section of Hadrian’s Wall) not too far away and we had a good look at that. Then we rode a few miles further west and stopped at Housestead’s Fort and had a good look around that – which included a long walk (about a mile and a half) up a very, very, very steep hill from carpark to the ruins…. that was hard work with all our riding and wet weather gear on…at one point I thought I might have a heart attack! We then watched a short video on the history of Housestead’s Fort and Hadrian’s Wall before inspecting the ruins. We walked further up the hill to the actual section of Hadrian’s Wall that you can walk on….amazing….we came …we saw….we conquered!!! The weather deteriorated further when we left there and the wind had picked up making riding quite unpleasant and dangerous…I had to press my weight down on the left peg and lean over to help Vince keep the bike upright against the cross wind… we revised our plans, which were to go to Greenock……and just aimed to get to Gretna Green for the night instead. We were welcomed into Scotland after 1503km in England to hail, gales  and freezing cold! Welcome HOME Karen!

We left quaint little Cockermouth behind and headed for Vince’s Aunt’s home….Hill House in Falstone (Near Hexham). The original plan was to go via the Honister Pass but it was raining heavily and we had been warned the pass was not for the faint hearted at the best of times… so we took a more direct route. Just out of Hexham we turned north to Bellingham and stopped for lunch at a little cafe there – the Rocky Road. We took the longer route to Hill House – going via Falstone to avoid the gates.

Using our GPS and coordinates Vince’s brother, Ken, had given us we found the village quite easily. A friendly neighbour, Paul, had met us on the road driving his tractor and waved us down to let us know Vince’s Aunt Brenda was expecting us and gave us some local directions. Hill house was at the crest of a very steep hill with only a dirt track leading up. The rain was pelting down and the wind howled around us. We had had a job of getting our ANIMAL up the hill with the water logged land quickly turning to bog and dragging us in. At one point we slid sideways and I thought “this is it!….this will be the first time our bike goes down and I just hope neither of us brakes a leg.” But the ANIMAL did us proud, as did my new husband’s skill in keeping us upright. We skidded into the field and got bogged….but we stopped upright….amazing! I dismounted and we appraised the situation, a bit tricky to get the rear wheel out which was bogged and just spinning as Vince tried to free the bike. Between us we came up with a few solutions….Vince wanted to try to move it forward back onto the dirt road but as we tried to move her forward she was too heavy to come out of the bog. He then suggested we move her further out into the field….but my innate laziness told me that was a big job and besides the land was so water logged I thought it might only achieve a bogged situation further out….I asked if there was there any reason we couldn’t go backwards to get her back on the road and Vince thought that would work….”lets give that a crack!”  So with him on the left and me on the right we pushed the heavy-laden beast backwards, out of the bog and back onto the road. We were well pleased with ourselves! Not wanting a repeat of the situation I walked up the hill and let Vince ride her up with a bit less weight. It was still touch and go….but he made it.

We later found out that his Aunt needs 4wd to get up the track and Paul was intending for us to leave our bike at the bottom in his shed and would have driven us up in his pick up truck as he couldn’t see how we could get up there on a bike….wish we had known…LOL

The trials and tribulations of the past few days…along with fighting of colds and chest infections…saw us decide to spend an extra day in Cockermouth. We couldn’t continue to stay at the hotel as it was full for a wedding so we moved into Cockermouth itself at the Manor House on Crown St (main street). It was an effort to move everything but we had no choice. We rested up and although it was wet and cold, we spent a quiet day looking around the town taking in the birth place of William Worsworth (Daffodils).  I bought a charm for my pandora bracelet to represent our English travels in some unique way…Vince picked out a little gingerbread man….we found out that in the Lakes District gingerbread was made famous in 1854 in Grasmere by Sarah  Nelson who invented it.


My search for Akito Desert Adventure Pants was finally successful with Dave Milling Motorcycles in Whitehaven being able to provide me a pair in short leg length ….my hero! Dave is a retired nuclear power plant operator, TT race winner and all round good guy (although he can be cheeky when it comes to ladies sizes and where to change LOL). Kitted out in my pristine new dacks …Vince was intent on making sure they got dirty as soon as possible! Our original plan for the day was to tackle the Honister Pass and the Winlatter Pass (which we ran out of time for the day before). However, Dave suggested we try a local route which took us down the coast along some nice twisty roads and then inland to Newby Bridge where we stopped off at the Lakeland Motor Museum which features Sir Malcolm and Donald Campbell’s Blue Bird. We then went through the Lake District and Fells to Little Longdale and Greater Longdale. It was scary with some of the hills being 30% gradients. To try to solve the problem of my controller for my electric vest unplugging Vince suggested I use his as it had a longer lead. I was uncertain if it would work as it was a different brand…but he insisted it would. So we set off and he asked if it was heating up…which it wasn’t so we pulled over to check only to discover it too had unplugged but had also whipped along the ground breaking the controller and wrapping it around the foot peg. I had then plugged in my original controller only to to discover with all the ups and downs of the fells it was missing completely!!!! I dismount and Vince road off looking for it…..he wasn’t happy…..I wondered if he would ever come back…..but he did having found it….it is now cable tied within an inch of its life and going nowhere!!!! Our rudimentary printed map and GPS didn’t get us onto the track that Dave had described….which is probably quite fortunate… we may still be stuck out there now. As it was Vince had a bit of difficulty negotiating some very steep inclines with tight switchbacks and deciding that discretion is the better part of valour, I chose to walk up a short, steep section of the fell to lighten the load. I am now officially a Fell Walker….minus the poles and in hindsight I could have taken off the helmet and jacket which made the climb a lot more difficult! It was getting dark, so again we forewent the Passes to take a direct route back to Cockermouth via Keswick.

ps – Vince has inserted a short video of riding through the Lakes District on the A595 at the bottom of this page – <a href=””></a> 🙂

We set off West through the magnificent Yorkshire Dales passing by the mosaic of stone walls, shaggy sheep and home of the Land Rover Defender…. It was wet and cold and unfortunately most of my photos are covered in water drops and smears to the lens. It was a mission and a half at times, going up and down the narrow roads like a rollercoaster, and we had a few additional difficulties, such as my heated vest constantly becoming unplugged from the bike and somehow loosing my lens hood from my SLR. The scariest part was when we pulled over to admire the view and take some photos but we were in a puddle and when we tried to take off we hit a stone and shot suddenly sideways…I  thought the bike was going down for the first time….but luckily Vince was able to use the “momentum is your friend” rule and ignored the fact that the back wheel was sliding out from under us and just soldiered on pointing the front where we wanted to go….I’m so lucky he is such a good rider! We arrived late in Cockermouth to discover that the GPS was taking us down a closed off road. We turned around and went back into the village and had a meal at the Kingfisher as we were wet, cold and starving! The soup, roast with Yorkshire pudding and sticky toffee pudding was FANTASTIC! Liz who ran the place took pity on us and really looked after us. We ended up at the Broughton Craggs hotel at Broughton just a few km out of Cockermouth itself, around 8.00pm where we had to trudge all of our great up two flights of stairs…..absolutely exhausted!

The Transporter Bridge is about 103 years old and to celebrate they have released a stamp with it on. We thought it might be nice to get a picture of our ANIMAL next to the Bridge. Whilst we were taking photos we met some people who worked there and who were interested in our bike, Steve and Wayne, who wished us well on our travels.

When we arrived in Middlesbrough to visit Vince’s relatives accommodation was a problem….everywhere was booked out….but the offer of the use of the camper van in their front yard eventually solved the problem….all part of the adventure!

Enroute to Middlesbrough we stopped into Whitby to visit the Abby and take on the challenge of the 199 steps….both up and down (so really 398 steps). Whilst there I found out that JET is really petrified wood from the Monkey Puzzle Tree and they make expensive jewelry out of it. We also saw a local chocolate maker who makes Dracula Coffins!!! The legend goes that his ship was wrecked in Whitby and they hold a Goth festival there each year.

After leaving Shotly Gate the plan was to go directly to Thirsk then to Whitby and Middlesbrough. Unfortunately, we were caught in a hail and thunder storm and the visibility and conditions were so bad we simply got off at the nearest exit and booked into a hotel for the night. Although wet, the weather was better the next day so we were able to continue on to Thirsk as planned.

Growing up with the surname HERRIOTT I wish I had a dollar for every time I was asked….any relation to James?  Well actually my dad’s name really is James! Of course the author was actually using a pseudonym from a Scottish Footballer (James Herriot – with one T). I have read all of the books and even have the TV series on DVD, so could not pass up the opportunity to stop off and have a look at where the real action took place. It was as if we were stepping back in time…..Vince and I stopped for lunch in a nearby Tea Room and it was simply delicious.