Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock up at Cragside or buried on the beach at Embleton for the last three years, you can’t help but know about Lance Armstrong’s dramatic fall from grace.

The one-time God of Cycling finally admitted in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that he had cheated his way to all seven of his Tour de France victories. It hit the cycling fraternity particularly hard after two decades of scandal after scandal as one big name after another was caught taking all manner of banned substances.

If you are a pedalling novice now unsure whether anything good comes out of being a cyclist – fear not. Cycling is about more than winning competitions, so there is no reason to avoid heading for the beautiful vistas that accompany the Coast to Coast Cycle Route (NCN Route 7) or The Sandstone Way between Berwick-upon-Tweed and Hexham.

To prove our point, we’d like to dispel a few more of those myths that hang around pedal power like a bad smell…


Cyclists have to wear lycra

If you are at the peak of your sport where marginal gains and the extra 1% advantage over a competitor is crucial then, yes, lycra should be an essential part of your kit.
If you are taking up bike riding as part of your commute or just for a bit of recreational fun, however, then you shouldn’t feel the need to empty out your wardrobe and fill it full of new skinsuits.
It is important to dress for the conditions (cycling in the rain at speed is particularly cold and miserable, so always wear a waterproof layer), but beyond this, you really shouldn’t worry about looking the part. Simply wear something that is comfortable, practical and appropriate for the effort you plan on putting in to your exercise.

Cyclists on The Sandstone Way


Cycling is the most dangerous form of transport

Last year saw 1 death per 29 million miles cycled on UK roads. That is a figure that motorized vehicle users can only dream of. There were 109 deaths related to cycle accidents in 2013, compared to an estimated 1700 from car accidents.
As British cycling legend Chris Boardman explains, you are statistically more likely to injure yourself in the bathroom than you are on a bike.
That being said, there are a disproportionate number of cycling accidents on rural roads suggesting that if you like to venture out into the less populated, poorly lit parts of the region – where roads are windier and speed limits less restricted – you should take extra precautions such as high visibility clothing and lights, regardless of whether it is light or dark outside.

Alternatively, try the Alnmouth/Warkworth Loop, which is  50% quiet lanes, and 50% cycle path off the road.

Alnmouth Dunes


Cyclists don’t pay road tax so shouldn’t be clogging up the roads

Pay closer attention to how taxation works in Britain and you will realize that the maintenance of roads is funded by general taxation rather than that accrued through car tax.
In actual fact, road tax is set in line with emissions – and by that token bicycles fall under the same category as electric and hybrid vehicles, which are considered to be more “green”.

Alternatively, check out off-road mountain biking tracks, such as the 26 mile Lakeside Way at Kielder Water & Forest Park.

Mountain Biking at Kielder Water & Forest Park


Cyclists are always driving side-by-side illegally

In actual fact it is not against the law to ride two abreast with another cyclist. If anything, the safety in numbers helps to ensure that you and your riding partner are visible on the road.
If you are embarking on a long ride – say, from Newcastle to Alnwick – it may also be necessary to communicate with your fellow cyclists. It can actually be more dangerous for riders to have to turn round to speak clearly to another rider.
While cyclists should make an effort to avoid holding up large queues of traffic and ride single file on narrow, windy roads, riding two abreast is perfectly acceptable where there are regular passing opportunities.

Approaching Bamburgh Castle


Cycling is too much like hard work

Like any activity from walking to rowing, swimming to team sports, cycling can be as easy or as hard as you want to make it. The majority of commutes to work are within easy cycling distance of no more than 5 miles in the UK, meaning that even those new to cycling can do so in relative comfort.
Of course, if you fancy taking on an adventure up to the Cheviots and back then that’s great, too!

Autumn in the Cheviots

If you’re a keen cyclist and want to make sure you’re covered in the event of an accident but also want to receive rewards, join the Winns Cycling Service today.

We all like to do our bit for charity and here at Go Ape, we are no different.

We support a different national charity each year. In 2013 it was Help for Heroes. At Go Ape Matfen, one of our instructors raised over £1,500 completing the Great North Run in a gorilla outfit and in less than two hours – run forest run!

This year’s charity is Teenage Cancer Trust and Go Ape devised the ‘Big Banana Relay’, to raise much-needed funds for the charity. The relay saw the ‘Big Banana’ travelling a total of 1,823 miles across the UK with the Go Ape gorillas using the quirkiest forms of travel possible. The relay got underway at Leeds Castle in Kent on Saturday 14th June and made its way by steam train, hot air balloon and even space hopper.

GoApe's Big Banana Relay

On the 6th September, Go Ape Matfen received the Big Banana from Go Ape Peebles to relay it on to Go Ape Dalby. Our hairy gorilla took it around the Tree Top Adventure course at Go Ape Matfen, including the new crossings on Site 4 that recreate the Tyne bridges. The banana was netted and taken by armoured vehicle (lent by our primates and neighbours at Turboventures). The gorilla it took on an epic trip to Gateshead and over the Metro Bridge to Central Station and on the High-Level Bridge.  After crossing all the bridges on foot to the Quayside, a string of bikes carried the banana south via Hadrian’s Wall at Denton Burn through the Great North Run crowds and over Newcastle Swing Bridge before completing the 90-mile trip to Go Ape Dalby in the North York Moors.

All along the journey we collected money for the Teenage Cancer Trust, persuading the crowds on the Quayside for the GNR to part with their cash.

Please support us in our journey for Teenage Cancer Trust at justgiving.com/goape and keep up to date with the ‘Big Banana Relay’ via our blog – blog.goape.co.uk

Want to exercise between your ears? Go for a run

We all know that running is good for us. Heading out to pound the pavements is a sure-fire way to burn calories, improve cardiovascular performance, shed fat and perhaps even achieve that smokin’ physique. But is there more to the art of running?

If you’ve ever put on a pair of running shoes and taken up jogging, you can’t help but have noticed that putting one foot in front of the other for miles on end does something much more than just trim a couple of inches off the tummy.

Look past the burning muscles, the heaving chest and the pounding heart and you’ll find that a swift 5k also does something for the grey matter between the ears, too. Call it nourishing the soul or a primal form of catharsis; running has a knack for exercising the mind as well as the body.

From elite athletes to business professionals with hectic lifestyles, any keen runner will tell you that the benefits of running are more wide ranging than just a bit of a workout – especially when there’s a beautiful landscape waiting out there beyond your doorstep.

Whether it’s a scenic coastal gallop up the Northumberland Coast AONB, an easy circular around Ford Moss Reserve at Ford and Etal Estates or an assault on the Kielder Marathon at Kielder Water & Forest Park, you can’t help but feel energized by stretching those legs.

Running in Northumberland

Feel happy

Endorphins are the key to feeling happy – chemically speaking. And nothing gets these euphoria juices going quite like hitting the open roads or churning out the miles on a treadmill. A regular hit of endorphins has even been found to be of great benefit to those suffering from clinical depression or anxiety.

Tip: Explore Northumberland by trying new running routes and you’ll only enhance this feeling of freedom and contentment.

Relieve stress

The mental benefits of exercise can be profound. The chemical Norepinephrine plays an important role in moderating the brain’s reaction to stress, and levels of this hormone are found to increase during exercise.

Springboard for confidence

Self esteem and confidence doesn’t come from a washboard stomach or perfectly sculpted calves; instead the process of getting fitter, healthier and more capable physically is what helps us to be more confident in our capabilities.

Runners who regularly set themselves new targets and goals – be it building towards their first marathon or knocking a second off their 100 metre PB – get a sense of fulfillment from competing and pushing their performance to new heights. This winning attitude permeates other aspects of a runner’s life, and they soon see obstacles as “challenges” rather than “barriers” to success.

Tip: Hill ascents like those found in the Fell Running at Northumberland National Park really get those calves working.

Improved memory

Research has shown that exercising regularly can boost memory and enhance our ability to learn. How? Well, apparently physical activity increases cell production in the hippocampus (the part of the brain that controls memory and learning).

Control addictions

Running has been described as a healthy addiction, and there many people who have replaced smoking, drinking and even drug abuse with marathons. This can be traced back to the way the brain releases dopamine. Those who have previously become addicted to the dopamine released during substance abuse can often get the same hit of dopamine from exercise – but without the life-threatening side effects.

This article was written by Winn Solicitors, the road accident claims specialists. If you have been involved in a road accident while out running in the last three years, put your trust in Winn Solicitors, the UK’s leading no win no fee personal injury solicitors for non-fault accident claims.
Images courtesy of Mapichai/ freedigitalphotos.net

Battlesteads Hotel & Restaurant – extending the friendly paw of hospitality!

Battlesteads in Wark

Whether you’re exploring on two legs or four Northumberland has to be one of the most tranquil and unspoilt areas of the UK to discover. Criss-crossed with age old walking tracks across rugged countryside, pretty hamlets and world class historical sites the county is a walker’s paradise and an ideal ‘escape from it all’ location for dog and nature lovers.

Always on the sniff for a good walk is our resident dog Winston, who just like us loves to get out and enjoy our clean fresh air and a romp through Northumberland National Park.

As dog lovers we know how much fun it is to enjoy a trip away with your pet – why leave them at home when there’s so many great places for them to explore – so we pride ourselves on offering a number of dog friendly accommodation options. Find us listed in guides such as The Ruff Guide, The Good Dog Guide, Smooth Hound and Sawday’s Dog Friendly Places to Stay

Resident dog Winston in one of the dog-friendly rooms

Originally built as a farmstead in 1747, Battlesteads is a family run, pet friendly hotel, equipped with 17 en suite bedrooms, including four ground floor rooms which are all available by prior arrangement to dog owners. With jaw dropping walks starting straight from the door step you’ll find us the perfect base to discover all that Northumberland has to offer.

Then head back to the hotel to rest those well worn walking boots, or puffed out paws and enjoy a delicious meal in the hotel’s restaurant after unwinding with a few drinks in the bar by our cosy open fire.

Dog friendly room rates start from £115 bed and breakfast for two people sharing, with larger rooms accommodating three to four people also available from £135. There is a small extra charge of £10 per night for those wishing to bring their dog, and the hotel requests that you bring your own pets bedding if possible.

Check out our Battlesteads page for things to do in the area, or visit www.battlesteads.com for more details of rates and current offers at the hotel.

Battlesteads Hotel & Restaurant
Wark on Tyne nr Hexham, Northumberland, NE48 3LS

Behind every Great North Run there’s a great running culture

With the Great North Run celebrating its one millionth runner this year, the North East can rightly claim to be among the UK’s top regions for running.

A whopping 56,000 entrants took part in this year’s race and it can truly be called an international event – simply take a look at the A-list competitors in recent years, including multiple Olympic champions Mo Farah, Haile Gebrselassie and Kenenisa Bekele.

But the world’s best half marathon isn’t the only running event the North East has to offer. With rolling landscapes, stunning coastlines and enough hills to test even the best runners, the North East is the perfect place to explore on foot.

If you are looking for a new challenge, here are some of our top suggestions.

Northumberland Castles marathon:

Bamburgh CastleWith both a half and full marathon available, this route from Alnwick to Bamburgh Castle is one of the most unique and eye-catching races on the marathon calendar.

Taking in beaches, roads, fields and cliff tops, this tough but satisfying race is one of the most stunning runs you’ll ever do. With picture postcard villages such as Dunstanburgh and Craster along the route, even the weariest limbs won’t stop you from admiring this distance race.

Try the Cheviots Challenge fell run

For many the thought of making running even harder is enough to make one break out in a cold sweat. But if your love of running stretches to taking on some of the most challenging terrains in the region, why not opt for the Cheviots Challenge. The charitable event raises money for the Northumberland National Park Mountain Rescue Team, so every leg-sapping mile of the course is all in aid of a good cause.

Run like the Romans

Hadrian's WallOffering something a bit more unusual than your standard half-marathon, the Hadrian’s Wall Half has been described as a multi-terrain trail race – meaning that it isn’t quite the extreme up and down of a fell run.

While it couldn’t be described as a fast course – the current course record for the race stands at 1hr 21 – following the old Roman wall across Northumberland is an experience like no other.

The short burst: Newcastle Parkrun

Completely free and fun to take part in this weekly 5km timed run is becoming increasingly popular in Newcastle. And with other Parkruns springing up around the region, you won’t have to travel far to find one near you.

The Newcastle event kicks off at 9am every Saturday morning around Exhibition Park in Newcastle. All you need to do to join in is register online and print out your barcode – oh, and thank the army of volunteers who organize and marshall the event for your running pleasure!

Join a running club

Morpeth ChantryIf you’ve always fancied being a “Harrier” then the region isn’t short of running clubs sporting the famous name. Alnwick, Morpeth, Gateshead and Tynedale are just some of the names that spring to mind – but whichever running club you do decide to join, you are sure to be met with a smile and friendly air of competitiveness to keep you interested.

Winn Solicitors is the UK’s leading accident management company. If you’ve had a non-fault accident as a pedestrian in the last 3 years call today on 0800 988 6288.