A NEW 100-mile cycle route is set to follow the sandstone spine of Northumberland taking in some of the county’s finest scenery.
The Sandstone Way will run between Berwick and Hexham and will also link Wooler, with a spur to Belford, then Rothbury, Elsdon, Bellingham and Simonburn.
It will track the geological ridge, linking sandstone features such as the pink coastal cliffs at Spittal, St Cuthbert’s Cave, Bowden Crag, Simonside, Lord Armstrong’s carriage drive at Rothbury and Warden Law near Hexham.
“The route traverses an amazing, ever-changing landscape which is rich in history, geological features and iconic scenery,” said sustainable transport specialist Ted Liddle, who has developed the route on behalf of the Tyne Valley Mountain Bike Club.
“It will link some wonderful sandstone country and features and will be a significant economic boost to local communities as it picks up.”
Ted has put together existing tracks, rights of way, byways and bridleways, lanes and quiet minor roads to create the route, which is mainly for mountain bikers but which walkers can also use.
It will be the first long-distance, linear mapped and promoted mountain bike route in England.
With a launch date around the end of June, it is estimated that there will have been 1,000 full route users by the end of the year, rising to 3,000 next year and 4,000 by 2015.
It is estimated overnight stopping touring cyclists spend an average of £60 per day and day visit cyclists £17.50.
Loop routes, which can be used by day bikers, will widen the economic benefits.
It is calculated that 5,000 cyclists a year would generate £2m.
“Generally speaking, cyclists spend more per mile than motorists as they travel slower and carry less with them,” said Ted, who lives near Hexham and is regional co-ordinator for the International Mountain Biking Association.
“The route starts and ends at towns which are served by rail and where bikes can be hired.
“In between, the Sandstone Way passes through villages and small communities which rely on passing trade to sustain their fragile rural economy.
“The route is an enjoyable journey down, or up, just about the whole length of Northumberland.
“Apart from its undoubted merit as a thoroughly memorable mountain bike experience, the Sandstone Way has a fascinating cultural, historical and geological tale to tell when all its aspects and features are stitched together.
“All who cycle any part of this route will want to come back for more.“
The route will be partly waymarked and a map is planned.
Ted is a member of the Northumberland Joint Access Forum, which advises on countryside access.
It was forum colleague Vic Brown who came up with the original sandstone idea, which Ted went on to develop.
He said: “It is ready to roll, and the en route communities and businesses need the income it will generate.
“Cycling, and mountain biking in particular, is steadily growing in popularity and there is a demand for high quality cycle routes both on and off-road.”
Ted is now looking for sponsors to help raise the £38,000 needed for a high profile launch, would include a website and maps.
If the sum is not raised a “soft launch” will take place using what funds have been pulled together so far.
Potential sponsors can contact firstname.lastname@example.org
“It has taken considerable time, effort and not a little expense to get to this point,” said Ted.
A new study by the European Cyclists Federation shows hat cycling tourism is worth 44 billion euros annually to the Continent.