New mountain bike route steps up a gear

The official map for Northumberland’s most exciting new mountain bike trail - The Sandstone Way, is now available, together with a brand new website www.sandstoneway.co.uk in readiness for the new holiday season.

The 120-mile (193 km) mountain bike trail between Berwick-upon-Tweed and Hexham passes through numerous villages and small communities including Wooler, Belford, Rothbury, Elsdon and Bellingham, hugging the coastline before taking in the Simonside sandstone ridge and other features of Northumberland National Park. Cyclists will ride through an amazing, ever-changing landscape, rich in history, geology and iconic scenery.

The official map, designed and published by Blagdon-based company, Northern Heritage Services Ltd, is retailing for £7.99, with a minimum of £2 from each sale going towards improving the Sandstone Way experience. Maps can be purchased either through local retail outlets such as Tourist Information Centres or on-line at: Northern Heritage or www.sandstoneway.co.uk

The new Sandstone Way website: www.sandstoneway.co.uk , created by Blaydon-based social enterprise, The CyclePAD Ltd, goes live on the 21st February 2015 and will become an essential aid to all those planning to ride the route, with information on local facilities and cycling-friendly accommodation along the way.

Most riders are encouraged to take 3 or 4 days to complete it, whilst the ‘fit and the fast’ could possibly ride the route in 2 days. Organisers hope that families will be encouraged to ride safe, traffic-free sections of the Sandstone Way with older children. The route is clearly waymarked with the distinctive green and yellow “S” roundel, and ten optional loops are also offered to appeal to ‘day riders’ who wish to cycle back to their starting point or follow a more challenging option. Package holidays to cycle the Sandstone Way are being developed by tour operator, Saddle Skedaddle.

The Sandstone Way is the brainchild of passionate cyclist, Ted Liddle, and was seed funded by Northumberland National Park Authority (who managed the project), Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Project, Northumberland County Council, Tyne Valley Mountain Bike Club and the Rural Development Programme for England through the Northern Lands Project.

Ted Liddle said:

“The Sandstone Way was designed to link some of the best lengths of off-road track in Northumberland taking mountain bikers into Northumberland’s hidden corners on centuries-old tracks and historic byways. Cycling the Sandstone Way really is an adventure which guarantees a truly memorable experience for all the right reasons.”

Chris Hartnell, Managing Director of Northern Heritage Ltd added:

“We were delighted to win the publishing contract for the official map. As keen mountain bikers, we appreciated the challenge of creating a simple to use, yet highly detailed map that allows any rider navigate the trail with ease. We have achieved this unique map by combining Ordnance Survey mapping and aerial photography and are particularly proud that a minimum of £2 of every sale goes back into the ongoing maintenance and development of the cycling experience.”

Cycling tourism is on the increase in Northumberland with many visitors making the most of the county’s quiet and scenic roads and challenging hills. The boost has come about through a wide range of new events and facilities that have made it easy for people to bring their bikes north to enjoy challenging but unpressured rides.

Graham Vickers of The CyclePAD Ltd also added:

“We have been part of the journey to bring The Sandstone Way to reality and are delighted to be running the website and building more relationships with the local communities on the route and associated businesses who can support it. We all want to see the Sandstone Way become a success not only for the mountain bike rider, who will have a unique opportunity to explore the interior of Northumberland, but for the local community and county as a whole.”

Both Hexham and Berwick upon Tweed are served by rail, and there are bus connections along the Northumberland Coast AONB and into the valleys of the National Park for those wishing to make a holiday of it and leave the car behind.

The Sandstone Way uses existing Public Rights of Way for most of its length, including an interesting mix of double-width dirt tracks, sections of single-track, unsurfaced lanes and bridleways of all types as well as byways and little known Unclassified County Roads (UCRs). There are linking sections of quiet minor roads and surfaced country lanes.