Suddenly you’re riding out of Barney, up past the Glaxo factory, you know the hills ahead, you count them down. Up towards Egglestone, passing the Moss Mire telecoms mast on Windy Hill keeping the cadence going, back in the days when you were actually fit. Suddenly the sweeping Upper Teesdale panorama opens out in front of you, the meandering River Tees at the bottom of the valley framed by the rugged stonewalled fields. Plunging down Folly Top and taking the right after the garage at the junction below in the shadow of the wooded Stobb Green, you can smell the pine filling the air, you smile. It was a brief respite, past the old houses and The Three Tuns Inn, around the large broad leafed tree and soon climbing again, you can see the Moorcock Inn up on high ahead, hit with more memories of good times spent there with friends. But today it’s just you and the road …..and the sweat. It’s a relief to pass the Inn, the last hill short but steep, out of breath you keep on, down and around the road’s tight hairpin, over the almost Guinness stained beck, climbing slightly again where you’re offered a choice.
Do you lead off through the right side gate taking the fire tracks up over the windswept Egglestone Moor? The long and twisting jagged climb, you know it well. Knowing that the pain in your legs pushing you further on will reward you not only with panoramas of breath taking, literally, natural beauty but also the swooping (and whooping) singletrack through the purple heather before Hamsterley Forest looms up ahead, all dark and foreboding, yet exciting all the same?
Or do you stick to the road ahead knowing that you will soon be up on the windswept Stanhope Road. The open road with rarely a passing car, just you on your pedal-driven machine with Mother Nature for company? The sweeping stonewall-quilted emerald green moorland enveloping you. Pushing ever further upwards knowing that your reward will be riding down the old tin mine track, your old friend, leading on to the fire roads of the forest?