A Scottish trip into Englandshire

Sitting around Ken's kitchen table looking at the map, Ken explained our intended route. I stand to be corrected on the following by the historians among us, but Dere Street is an old Roman road which extends south from a point around Melrose in the Scottish Borders, to a point around York in Englandshire. This old Roman road has been followed by subsequent roads engineers in the intervening period and is actually the A-1(T) in the area of Thirsk, the B-6275 in the area of Darlington and the A-68 in the area of Otterburn. However we only had a few hours to explore before light would be falling.

We had been assured the sections of Dere Street we would be tackling were still shown as "adopted roads" on the maps of the local authority so no one could call our use of them into question. Remember we in Scotland have no "green lane" rights as exist south of Hadrian's Wall and my employers would not be amused if I were to be taken to task for transgressing the laws I am paid to enforce.

"Adopted Roads" still open to vehicles - they have got to be joking, but nevertheless this was our cover if we were to be stopped. I think in fact , if we had been stopped, they would be sending for the men in white coats, not the ones in blue suits. Roads? Even "dirt track" would be a compliment equivalent to calling the main street in my home town a "motorway."

Rennie & Roger with GS's We finished our coffee and set off along the A-698 to a point where it intersects Dere Street. Well so far so good. The track looked just like a farm road, albeit one which was not in regular use and was slightly overgrown in places. We ventured off the road and onto our route. It was quite slippery and it was a cautious start to the trek. The route started to climb but there was no real problem. Just when things were looking good the track veered to the right while a wooden sign indicated out route lay straight ahead.

Ken confirmed he had been this far before, in his car (what a let down to our confidence!) a few summers ago and our route was straight on.

The bushes and shrubs moved in and the mirrors brushed though the buses making it difficult to see the muddy track which would its way ahead of us. There is no way any motor vehicle other than a bike, would have managed this section. I doubt if it would have been wide enough for a "quad." We continued slowly and the track gave way to a trail of loose slippery pebbles and rounded rocks. Forget the trials experience!

BMW GS's further on Dere Street The sheer bulk and weight of the GS on this terrain meant feet off the pegs in places, ready to give a dab here and there. There was one section which nearly stumped us this early in our trek, but our perseverance won through - even though we were forced to get off and survey the rocky section as we might have expected to do with the trials bike. Things got a bit easier after this and the path widened out again and became a forestry track, very muddy with deep tractor tracks trying to dictate our direction.

A short distance farther on our route was crossed by a made-up road but we soldiered on. I was getting to grips with the bike's off-road characteristics, realising the dry gravel track shown in the BMW brochure was probably what the machine was intended for, not for tracks of mud, wet grass, greasy rock or tractor ruts.

Anything other the most delicate throttle control brought on the feeling the GS would have been good on a speed-way track, with opposite lock normally reserved for high-speed changes on the road being required to prevent a 180 degree turn and a muddy bath for me.

Whether it was our gaining in confidence or conditions improving, the next sections proved interesting with even more time to look around for a few seconds. It was at this time we stopped to enjoy the scenery and remark only walkers and horsemen (and women) had probably seen such views since the period the Romans constructed this road. A thought we were to echo later in the day.

Roger moved off but his rear wheel spun on the slippery surface. It was quite amazing to watch the rear swinging arm climb the bevel drive and extend the suspension unit. Well the new paralever was designed to overcome this effect so Ken and I decided to put it to the test. Holding the front brake on and resting both feet on the ground we let out the clutch and increased the throttle. The result: lots of mud thrown to the rear of both bikes but no movement at all in the rear suspension. Roger tried the same test on his G/S and again lots of mud slinging, but the extension of the rear spring was very noticeable. Quite amazing to see the theory demonstrated in a practical manner.

Rennie wading with R100GS We got moving and the trail was much the same until we came to a stream. Thankfully nothing like the Thames, but there was a one metre drop down the muddy embankment then a ten metre or so crossing through the water before reaching the muddy bank on the far side. A quick look showed the bed of the stream was reasonably flat and Roger set off. I was quite delighted for him to act as "pathfinder" as his off-road skills are greater than mine. Ken and I both followed. The prospect of dropping and subsequently having to pick up the bulk of the GS from an icy cold stream was at the forefront of my attention as I accelerated out of the water and slid to a halt on the opposite bank, carefully trying to avoid removing Roger's rear number plate with my front tyre.


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