Autumn in Little Switzerland

The leaves are just beginning to turn and this was my first visit to Little Switzerland; Aidan had offered to show me round the lanes and we set off from Lanchester at 9am. We climbed along the Newbiggin road to the A68 above Castleside, continuing straight on to Healeyfield. "Little Switzerland" is the local name for the twisty hairpin roads along the gully towards Muggleswick. We passed a 'Cyclists Beware' sign: but Aidan was on a trike.
We passed numerous packs of dogs, clearly out for the hunt, but there was no traffic to bother us as we cycled down and up and down and up through a gorgeous gorge.
With traffic free roads, and a nice slow pace on the climbs - Aidan and I were free to chat. The spiritual side of cycling featured, and then the importance of using the right English words for things: such as sprocket vs cog, or the variety of creative terms to describe parts of a sailing ship. We climbed to the top of Waskerley Common before descending through Muggleswick Common - a fast blast all the way down almost to Edmundbyers.

In Muggleswick we diverted to have a look at the old church, which still meets once a month. We talked about the War Memorial and the sad facts of history that many mothers never saw their son's bodies returned after the Great War. A huge outpouring of corporate grief in devastated villages is demonstrated by these memorials - somewhere to commemorate the lost lives of so many young men.

We continued past Haverley Lodge and saw the gorge become deeper and more steep sided; dropping down to the river Derwent, while we rode along a ridge between the Derwent and Coalgate Burn. This led to us repeating the earlier section of road but in reverse, with 20% hairpins to climb through.

On our way back to Lanchester we continued to fiveways junction and then took a very quiet left turn past Lanchester Dairies, on another traffic free road lined with beautiful trees.
Aidan and Lynn treated me to a nice cup of coffee back in Lanchester before I headed home: via Peth Bank, dropping Langley Lane to Newlands before immediately climbing the other side of the Brownlee valley to Ushaw College... then home to Durham via Bearpark (still no bears). I'll be back to Little Switzerland over the autumn and winter - it is a truly gorgeous place.

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