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Hexham monument cements 120-mile cycle routes success

HEXHAM COURANT ARTICLE
THE success of the fledgling Sandstone Way cycle route has been marked by the installation of a new 6ft tall monument on Hexham’s Tyne Green.

The sandstone edifice signals the start, or perhaps the end, of the 120 mile route that runs from Hexham to Berwick, via Bellingham, Rothbury and Wooler.

The foundations for it were laid by keen cyclist Victoria Brown when she suggested to Ted Liddle, of Tyne Valley MTB and Cycle TRAX, that the Sandstone Ridge in north Northumberland lent itself to a scenic tour.

Immediately struck by its potential, Ted set about extending the route at either end to link Berwick with his home town of Hexham.

On Saturday, the town’s independent county councillor Derek Kennedy unveiled the new monument, which is just yards from Tyne Green Golf Club clubhouse.

“This is a terrific boost for Hexham and will bring cycle tourists into our town and put Hexham on the cycling map,” he said.

 

“Cafe Enna, which is part of the Tyne Green Golf Club, is looking to provide facilities for cycle tourists as well as the general public.

“Ted Liddle, who led on introducing the Sandstone Way, has done a wonderful job - on behalf of Hexham and Northumberland, thank you Ted!”

Graham Vickers, of Cycle PaD, the social enterprise that manages the Sandstone Way website, said tourism businesses the length of the route were reporting an increase in trade, in some instances amounting to a third more than in previous years.

And the steering group knew of two or three businesses that probably wouldn’t have traded profitably at all if it hadn’t been for the cyclists coming through.

“The route has been incredibly successful,” he said. “It has exceeded our expectations in its first year alone, that’s for sure.

“There is a business in Rothbury that provides something of a benchmark for us and their trade has increased by a third and they have employed two people as a direct result, so the Sandstone Way has started to create jobs already.”

The team had spoken to 400 people during a survey and found that the cyclists’ average spend on travel, accommodation and subsistence was £455 per head.

While the people-counter installed had unfortunately broken down, meaning they didn’t know how many had actually cycled the route so far, Graham did know of the 100-plus pupils from six different schools who had taken to their wheels, and the details of another 20 organised events centred on the Sandstone Way.

“I also know that the UK’s largest independent cycle tour operator, Saddle Skedaddle, ran three cycle holidays last year that brought them in £10,000,” he said.

“The company also supplies picnics en route, so that’s a catering business that is benefiting, and their clients buy their own evening meals, putting more money into the local economy.”

The team had typed ‘Sandstone Way’ into the Just Giving website before Christmas and found sponsored rides along it had also raised more than £22,000 for charity in its first few months in existence.

The revenue generated through the maps of the route - more than 2,500 were sold last year - covered the cost of running the related website. That also provided the base needed when seeking match-funding.

Hexham’s MP Guy Opperman plans to ride the route during the weekend beginning April 1, when he will meet some of the businesses benefiting from it.

Graham said: “They will be able to talk to him about things we could be doing collectively to help them and we will all be looking at how we can make a consistent offer across the county for cycle tourism.

“Guy has been a big supporter of the Sandstone Way since the beginning.”

The official website is at www.sandstoneway.co.uk