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Pier Pressure 2016

Day 4 - Monday 15th August 2016

Berwick on Tweed to Skegness - 272 Miles

During the first three days of Pier Pressure I had undoubtedly been to places I had never visited before (such as the Isle of Bute) but in general we had travelled through large areas of the country I was quite familiar with.


Today was going to be completely different, as the North East was completely new to me.


I have been as far as York on holiday, raced on the sand at Cleethorpes in the 1990’s with the National Buggy Register and even went on my first roller coaster at the age of 14 in Skegness; the wild mouse on top of the amusement arcade.


However, as a Midlander, the true North East was a place that I had never really visited. Therefore, I was really looking forward to our trip through this part of our green and pleasant land.. Once again the weather gods were looking kindly on us and the day started with blue sky and lots of sunshine. Our day began for once with the opportunity of a ‘proper’ breakfast.

The Travelodge in Berwick sat next door to a Morrison’s which had a café serving full English Breakfasts (as we were technically now back in England). After three full days on the road, we found it a bit harder to get going this morning and therefore we took longer at breakfast than we planned. This meant that we were sat at the Morrison’s petrol station around 9:00am for our customary morning fuel top up, already some 30 minutes behind schedule.

It was at this point I realised we had lost the Sat Nav. It was in the buggy when we drove the 200 yards to Morrison’s earlier, but it wasn’t there now. We were also missing Alex’s welding gloves (donated by Krug remember in Southport). Our first thought was we had been robbed. This caused a massive issue in that the route we were taking had been heavily advertised all over the web and trying to remember that detailed route just using a map would be almost impossible.

After many minutes of panicking and George buying a new road atlas from the petrol station, Ruth appeared back from Morrisions with the missing Sat Nav and gloves. Mentioning no names, our youngest member had taken them with him to breakfast and had left them in the café.


Disaster averted, we set off south towards our first pier of the day at Saltburn, some 115miles south of our overnight stop. This would involve a trip across the Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge, something I knew little about but a river crossing that looked very different to normal.

A little side story that had started a couple of days previously was the appearance of Gordon the Goffer. There had been this terrible squeak appeared around the buggies coming out of Blackpool, which turned out to be coming from George’s front shock absorbers. The squeak was getting louder and louder to the point I could even hear from my buggy up front.

On the Saturday we had contacted our friendly man at Cheltenham GSF (who had already donated a load of spare parts for our emergency parts box), who promised to get in contact with his counterparts at Middleburgh GSF and have a pair of new shock absorber ready for us when we arrived on Monday. Fabulous service from German Swedish and French motor factors.

The first part of today’s the trip was remarkably uneventful and started with a quick trip across the Royal Tweed Bridge at Berwick. Then it was basically a 55mph cruise straight down the A1, turning onto the A19 to circumnavigate Newcastle, under the Tyne tunnel, miss Sunderland to the left and finally turn off towards Hartlepool via the old colliery town of Blackwell.


In all honesty I would like to have hugged the coastline much more on this stretch, but time was our enemy today as we needed to travel 272 miles to Skegness before the day was over.

Driving south from Hartlepool we got a wonderfully strange view across the mouth of the river Tees with Teesside National Nature Reserve and the beaches at Seaton Carew to the north shore and the mass industrial structures and smoke of Tarmac et al on the south shore.


Before long a strange structure came into view above the trees, looking like something the imperial troops would use against the rebel alliance on the planet of Hoth. Just a mere 101 miles south of Berwick, this was our first view of the brilliant Middleborough (Tees) Transporter Bridge.


When planning our trip, I looked for a way across the Tees, closest to the mouth of the river and saw the route across the Transporter Bridge. I must confess that even as a trained civil engineer, until that point I had never heard of the Transorter Bridge - shame on me. But how glad was I that we chose to go that way. Built in 1911 the bridge has a travelling 'car', or 'gondola', suspended from the truss, which crosses the river in just 90 seconds. The cage can carry just 9 cars in 3 rows of 3, or 200 people. This was certainly one of the highlights of our trip so far.


We arrived at the bridge around 11:40am to be met by Dave ‘Billa’ Bell and Mrs Billa in their sparkly purple sidewinder buggy. It was once again nice to put a face to the forum name and we had time for a quick chat as the gondola was on the other side of the river. It turned out that we had made it just in time in that the bridge closed at 12:00 for lunch and we were about to get the last cage across before it stopped for one hour.

The ride was amazingly smooth and quick considering it was over a 100 years old and soon the three buggies were disembarking on the south bank of the Tees.




As we drove off Alex spotted someone in a Pier Pressure t-shirt and in the car park was an orange SWB Volksrod. I couldn’t believe my eyes, but there in the flesh was Steve Saville’s (Baggy Buggy) long awaited buggy actually on the road. Last time I saw Steve driving a buggy was at Cleethorpes beach in 1994 so it was great to see him back in a buggy of his own once again – even though I will never understand as a Wolves fan why anyone, let alone someone who was born and breed in Leeds, would support West Bromwich Albion.

After a quick ‘ello, the four buggies set off to find GSF in Middlesborough to get George’s new (and hopefully none squeaky) front shock absorbers. Just a mile or so from the bridge, we head into GSF only to find they had no shocks in stock. Apparently, I had had a call from them earlier in the day, but obviously had never heard it ring whilst driving the buggy and I hadn’t checked my phone for a while – doh!





Lunch was fast approaching and the four buggies headed off towards Redcar to visit our first pier of the day at Saltburn, some 12 miles away. The drive down to Saltburn Pier was brilliant, a steep windy switchback road straight down to the beach front and car park near the pier.





PIER 13 - SALTBURN


Saltburn pier is set back along a promenade and is served from the town high above by a Victorian angled cliff railway, We have a similar cliff railway in the midlands at Bridgnorth and they are a great piece of Victorian ingenuity and engineering. As we had no reply from the pier to our pre-visit e-mail we left the 4 buggies blocking up the small car park whilst Ruth and myself headed off to speak to the cliff railway ticket master. Resplendent in his best Victorian finery he made a quick call up to ‘the office’ and soon we were unbelievably given permission to park on the slipway that led to the beach right amongst all the holiday makers catching the rays.


I loved Saltburn Pier. When asked which pier I liked best on the trip, Saltburn always gets a top 3 mention. I think it wasn’t just the pier, but its lovely isolated position, nice beach, lovely warm sunshine and an hour or so break for lunch with actually a little bit of time to chill all made it a really nice experience. Apparently, the pier looks very much as it did in Victorian times and hasn’t been spoilt by tacky neon signs and massive amusement add-ons to the frontage.




After much too short a time and a quick pasty for lunch, we were back in the saddle and heading off south along the coast road for our next rendezvous on todays schedule.


I have always wanted to visit Whitby Abbey, and being so close we were not going to miss the opportunity this time around. Dave was originally going to leave at Saltburn but with the day being so nice and a cool buggy cruise going on, he decided to extend his trip with us for an extra 24 miles down to Whitby. We took the coast road which was just brilliant and as the day was getting warmer with little wind it led to perfect cruising weather.


Then, taking a steep downhill, there is the distance was the magnificent ruins of Whitby Abbey. Unfortunately, with time at a premium across the whole trip, we never planned to actually go into the abbey, but  just do a quick photoshoot outside.







Only four days into the trip we had already learnt to be very cheeky when trying to get the best photo opportunities for our buggies, from crossing tram lines in Blackpool to parking on the beach at Slatburn.So true to form, when we arrived at Whitby we headed up the ‘no visitor access’ access road to get really close to the abbey.  A quick photo stop in the staff and coach drop off car park before we headed off again. On the way out we spotted another great photo , too nice to pass by, and get some additional shots with the abbey in the background.


As we left the abbey car park Dave and his lovely lady headed off towards the town of Whitby for food, whilst the rest of us carried on along the coast along the A171 towards Scarborough (but not to the fair sadly).


We stop for a quick splash and dash of fuel at a nice little Jet station some 8 miles south of Whitby.At this point, as a local, Steve took the helm for a while and led us the next 12 miles on down to Scarborough.


Steve took us around the fantastic Marine Drive under the castle for a good bit of posing right through the centre of the really busy harbour area. Alex even managed to find the Tardis on the side of the harbour so we assumed Doctor Who must have been on his holidays at the same time too.





All too soon we have to say good bye to Steve and thank him for taking the Pier pressure lead for a while. Once again we were alone in just our two buggies and the Pier Pressure 4 headed off south for a rendezvous with the iconic Humber Bridge some 50 miles away. By now we were behind schedule due to too long spent at the fabulous Whitby Abbey and by getting caught in heavy traffic just trying to get out of Scarborough. This has the knock on effect of making us get stuck in peak work hour home traffic whilst passing through Bridlington.


Then rather than consulting with a map as we approached the town of Beverley we foolishly followed the first signs we had seen for the Humber Bridge. Little did we know this would takes us all the way around the north of the town and be 4 miles longer than the more direct route through the Town. All of this meant we were just over an hour later than planned in reaching the bridge.


On the way to the bridge amazing I heard my phone ring in my pocket above all the wind and engine noise and of course, as a road safety officer, I found a suitable safe place to pull over. It was Lawson from the Midland Buggy Club who was waiting in a layby for us near the bridge. At this point we were still 45 minutes or so away and Lawson continued to call every 15 minutes or so until we finally reached the Humber Bridge.


At the bridge we pulled over into the layby that all the big toll bridges seem to have on the approach to dig into our pockets for the right toll booth change. However, unfortunately, Lawson is not there. It turned out that he was waiting in another layby on the other ‘A’ road approach and so we take a short 5 minutes break before Lawson appears in his son’s, Jayson’s, orange GP buggy, with his brother in law for company.


At this point I also got a call from Andy Robinson who was waiting on the other side of the bridge. We crossed our third major bridge of the day over the Humber, passing from Yorkshire in to Lincolnshire. A few miles after the bridge we turned left on the A180 towards Grimsby and Andy joined us from a layby without us even having to break stride.


In all honesty, the ride from Scarborough to the bridge had been a start stop affair through rush hour traffic and behind slow moving HGV’s, which meant this 50 mile part of our Pier Pressure journey wasn’t as enjoyable as some of the other driving we had so far on the trip.


A few more miles after Andy had joined up with us, we pulled over for fuel which gave us a chance for a quick chat with Andy and a very much needed Loo break. A quick 10 minute stop and we headed off again. We were now just 10 miles from our second pier of the day at Cleethorpes, although due to the busy traffic and delays at the start of the day, we were now over an hour later than planned.




The last time I was in Cleethorpes was in 1996 as part of the National Buggy Register’s DYNO (Drive Your Nuts Off) series of beach buggy race meets. In those days we were allowed by the County Council to put on 1/8 mile drag race and short course beach event as part of the local festival of transport. Every June between 1994 and 1997 I used to drive my old RAT buggy to Cleethorpes on a Friday night, race on the sand all weekend and drive home late Sunday for work on Monday morning – great memories. Ironically in all that time I never visited the pier at Cleethorpes.




PIER 14 - CLEETHORPES


The front of Cleethorpes Pier was not the prettiest we had seen and was dominated by 1970’s / 80’s amusement arcade and fast food places.  However, we spotted a slip road down the side of the pier and on heading down we were pleasantly surprised to find a fine example of a lovely Victorian Pier and Ballroom. With the sun starting to set, this made for some nice pictures. Andy, for what I believe was his first time, even managed to dip a tyre on the sand too.





We had already driven 233 miles today and originally we had planned to stop in Cleethorpes for the night. However, a few weeks before we started out on Pier Pressure we had a brilliant offer from Russel who owns the Grosvenor Hotel in Skegness. Russel had read about us on Facebook and offered to donate two rooms, with evening meals and breakfasts for the four of us. This effectively allowed us to donate the hotel cost for that night into the Pier Pressure charity pot. Amazing generosity from The Grosvenor Hotel.

The sun was now getting low in the sky and the temperature was starting to drop. At this point Andy took the lead and showed us the way to his mother’s home town of Skegness some 40 miles away.


PIER 15 - SKEGNESS


As we arrived in Skegness the time was around 8:15pm. The bright lights were well and truly lit as we pulled up onto the payment right outside the front of the pier. After the obligatory pictures to prove we had got there, a quick stretch of the legs and a chat with Simon who had just joined us, we ran ran across the road and checked into the Grosvenor.  


Whilst we left our buggies owith our willing bodyguards of Lawson, Simon and Andy whilst we took our bags up to our rooms and ordered our evening meal before the 9pm reception deadline. It turned out that our room was right on the corner of the hotel overlooking the pier, which gave us a great view over our buggies down below.





A few miles outside of Skegness, Simon Ward and his family were waiting by the side of the road in their lovely blue Long wheel Base RAT to join in the last of the cruise for that day. We were now a total of 5 buggies and finally the bright lights of Skegvegas appeared on the horizon. As a bonus, it also turned out that Skegness Pier was literally across the road from Grosvenor Hotel.



The only issue with the Grosvenor Hotel was thagt there was no car park. However Andy’s mom had kindly offered to house our buggies for the evening as she lived less than a mile away. Even more welcome was that Andy had previously arranged for her to do some much needed laundry for us. We were really thankful for Andy and his mom’s help today, that’s for sure.

Whilst Andy led the way to his moms, Simon and Lawson headed off in their buggies whilst Ruth and Alex stayed at the hotel trying to find a third small bed for our room. The hotel staff were brilliant and found a ‘put me up’ bed for Alex in our brilliantly located corner room, which had the great view over the pier.

Andy’s sister was kind enough to drop me back whilst George stole a lift in Andy’s buggy. Andy left for the night and we managed to get our evening meal as well as a well-earned real pint of beer from the bar. This made a nice change to our usual can of warm larger we were used to in one of our Travelodge Rooms.

For once we found ourselves actually staying the night in a town, rather than out in the wilds in a Travelodge. We therefore took advantage and decided to go for an evening stroll down towards the pier. The lights of Skegness were burning bright and like Cleethorpes before, Skegness Pier was fronted by a large neon emblazoned arcade. However, once again tucked around the back of the pier was a lovely Victorian promenade pier, with the original gateway signing and boardwalk still in place


We finally headed off to bed reflecting on a day that had seen us cross 3 iconic bridges, pass through the Tees tunnel, visit 3 more piers, meet 5 more buggies and add another 272 miles to the overall trip.

We had now passed the 1000 mile barrier during the first 4 days of Pier Pressure.


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