National Trust staff support the Great North Fitness Revolution

IT’S 150 years since what is regarded as the first modern bicycle was invented.

A family enjoying a cycle ride

IT’S 150 years since what is regarded as the first modern bicycle was invented. Just how far pedal power has come since the 1860s – and indeed before then with the two-wheeled steerable ‘running machine’ invented in the early 19th century that required the rider to push themselves forward with their feet on the ground – can be seen at Seaton Delaval Hall on July 23-24.

The National Trust property in south Northumberland is holding a two-day Cycle Fest celebrating all things bike related.

There will be vintage and new cycle demonstrations, special doctor bike sessions, coaching for kids, stalls, police and health advice, a free water station courtesy of Northumbrian Water and even the chance to indulge in a sports massage.

But most of all visitors are being encouraged to come along on their own bikes and get pedalling on family-friendly cycle routes.

The same weekend fellow Trust property Gibside will also be throwing open its gates for a bike party. The Pedallers’ Picnic on July 23 will give families the chance to cycle in safety around the 18th-Century landscape park and nature reserve on the edge of the Tyneside conurbation just 4.5 miles from the Metrocentre.

The two events will help bring to a close the National Trust’s first ever Cycling Festival (July 16-24) in what is the last week of the Tour de France.

More than 40 properties across England, Wales and Northern Ireland have organised events aimed at getting young and old alike off the settee and into the countryside.

A range of guided rides and way-marked routes have been made available for all levels of cyclists, with bikes available to hire at some venues.

The Cycle Festival is in addition to a series of ‘sportive’ challenge rides winding their way through the open countryside that the National Trust has also organised for various locations throughout 2011.

Aimed at all ages and abilities from first-time cyclists to seasoned pros the routes range from a few miles to testing 50 to 100-mile rides.

The National Trust is ideally placed to promote cycling as not only a fun pastime but a great way to get fit.

One of the UK’s largest landowners with 660,000 acres and 300 historic houses in its care, it is keen to get the nation out and about exploring its coastal paths, beautiful countryside, historic parks and forests.

Alison Forbes, events co-ordinator at Seaton Delaval Hall, says: “The Cycle Festival is about opening the Trust’s doors to cyclists whether for a family ride, after hours tour through the park or a more challenging bike ride.

“Many of us have a bike in our shed or garage that is sat there doing nothing and the summer months are a great chance to dust them down and get out and about.

“Cycling is one of the most enjoyable, easiest, beneficial and cheapest forms of exercise. It doesn’t involve having to join an expensive gym or club and the only fuel needed is your own effort, and that can be as little or as much as you want.

“Seaton Delaval Hall’s Cycle Fest will feature three cycle routes, two around the Blyth, Cramlington and North Tyneside areas which we hope families will be encouraged to head out on, and a more strenuous 28-mile guided bike ride from fellow National Trust property Wallington to us here at Seaton Sluice on the Sunday.”

More than 150 National Trust properties are within one mile of the Sustrans National Cycle Network. And the National Trust is currently working with Natural England and Sustrans to make it easier for people to explore the countryside in this way.

Gibside at Rowlands Gill is just a short distance from the Derwent Walk, a family-friendly eight mile cycle ride from the centre of Newcastle on a smooth, gently rising traffic-free trail that takes you through the woodlands and waterways of the Derwent Haugh Country Park.

Emily Bryce, Gibside’s visitor services manager, says: “We hope people will make the effort to cycle to us along the Derwent Walk for the Pedallers’ Picnic.

“Once here they will have the chance to explore Gibside’s winding paths, open spaces and woodland walks by bike before enjoying a picnic and making their very own cycle-powered smoothie.”

Seaton Delaval Hall is just a leisurely three-mile ride from the easy-to-navigate 10-mile Sustrans trail linking two of the region’s most iconic lighthouses – Souter (also in the hands of the National Trust) and St Mary’s in Whitley Bay.

The National Trust is often wrongly associated only with grand stately homes. But it is keen to dispel this image and is promoting a range of activities on the land it looks after, including walking, mountain biking, kayaking, surfing and camping.

Launching the drive to get Britain outdoors earlier this year, Fiona Reynolds, director general of the National Trust, said: “Over 100 years ago one of the Trust’s founders, Octavia Hill, argued that quiet air and exercise, together with the sight of sky and growing things, were human needs common to all people.

“A growing body of research backs her intuition, but over a century later we still don’t seem to value enough the physical and spiritual refreshment we get from our surroundings.”

To that end the Trust is working with local communities across England, Wales and Northern Ireland to create 100 miles of new walking routes as part of a major outdoor celebration planned for the end of October. The target is to create 1,000 miles of new trails by 2020.

For more ideas, log on to and look at the individual property pages to find which have cycling routes in their area.

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:: Seaton Delaval Hall is running a series of bike rides as part of its Cycle Fest aimed at people of all ages and abilities. On July 23 there will be a guided eight-mile circular bike ride from Seaton Delaval Hall to Blyth. Meet at the hall on the front lawns at 10am. Booking essential on 0191 289 1881 or email

Coaching sessions for under-16s will also be running between 1.15pm-3pm in the Paddock. Bring along your off-ride bike and helmet.

On Sunday, July 24, a 28-mile guided bike ride from Wallington to the hall will take place. Get picked up with your bike from Blyth or Ashington at 9am or 9.15am, setting off for Wallington at 10am. Booking essential on 01670 522999 or email Maximum of 16 people.

A three-mile circular family guided bike ride around the hall will also take place on that day at 12.30pm. Meet at the Sustrans stall.

A Go Ride Youth Race for under 16s around the estate will start at 12pm in the Paddock. Bring your off-road bike and helmet. Entry £3.

:: July 23-24, Cycle Fest, 11am-5pm,Seaton Delaval Hall, The Avenue, Seaton Sluice, Northumberland, NE26 4QR, 0191 237 9100,

A celebration of cycling and all things bike related. Demonstra- tions, tours and cycle routes, doctor bike sessions, pimp up yer bike workshops, healthy bus activities, sports masseurs and more. Bring your own picnic and refreshment stalls available. Free bottled water from Northumbrian Water. Free event. Normal admission charges apply.

July 23, Pedallers’ Picnic: Family Cycle Day, 10am-3pm,Gibside, Burnopfield, Gateshead, NE16 6BG, 01207 541 820, Inspired by the Tour de France, families can bring their bikes and a picnic to Gibside for a gentle cycle through the park. Make a cycle-powered smoothie, use the workshop or find out more about cycling in the area from Gateshead Council. There are bikes for hire. Free event. Normal admission applies.

:: July 31, August 10 and 17, Guided Cycle Ride and Family Fun Day, 10am-3pm,Hadrian’s Wall & Housesteads Fort, Bardon Mill, Hexham, Northumberland, NE47 6NN, 01434 344 525,

Cycle along the South Tyne trail from Haltwhistle to Lambley viaduct, a pleasant six miles with lots of points of interest and activities along the way. At Lambley, walk into the local woodland and have a go at some bushcraft skills before returning to Haltwhistle via a different route to complete the circuit in the South Tyne Valley. Adult , £10 (NT-member), adult, £18 (non-member), child, £5 (NT-member), child, £10 (non-member). Booking essential on 01434 344314.

National Trust staff get on bikes to support Great North Fitness Revolution

STAFF at Seaton Delaval Hall are the latest high-profile group to sign up for the Great North Fitness Revolution ahead of their two-day Cycle Fest.

The Great North Fitness Revolution aims to improve the health of the North East by tackling obesity and getting people out and about exercising.

Alison Forbes, events co-ordinator at Seaton Delaval Hall, says: “The aims of the Great North Fitness Revolution mirror those of the National Trust.

“The outdoors is a vast natural gym that offers countless free opportunities for getting fit from walking to cycling, rock climbing, running and water sports. Just five minutes in this outdoor gym every day can lead to an immediate improvement in physical fitness as well as leaving you feeling energised and invigorated.”


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