EDINBURGH 20-MILERS

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Saturday, 15 September 2018

An Extra swansong into West Lothian


For our final Extra ride of the year, we headed into West Lothian for a picnic lunch in Almondell Country Park. Before the start we encountered a wee boy on a scooter that could have talked for Scotland; the weather was kinder to us than the forecast had suggested and once again, we had to contend with a few rough and bumpy stretches of path. There was also a brief delay whilst one of the group played good samaritan to a stranded motorist.

As is the norm when heading out west, our meeting point was the Craigleith path junction. Whilst waiting for the riders to arrive, a young boy turned up on his scooter and began chatting to us. A minute or two later, his dad arrived; but like the rest of us - couldn't get a word in. He must have talked non-stop for almost ten minutes. If ever talking became an Olympic sport, we had just met Scotland's future gold medallist! By now it was time for us to leave. A turn out of twelve was acceptable; but it would have been nice to have finished this year's Extra rides with a slightly higher number. The forecast said it would be a dry, mild but overcast day. It did stay dry, but we saw more sunshine than expected; and whilst it never got hot, it was pleasantly warm and ideal for a picnic. We headed off on the familiar route taking the cycle path through Silverknowes and Barnton to Cramond Brig. We paused there briefly wondering if this would be our first sweetie stop of the day. Alas, it was not to be. The leader sheepishly admitted he had committed the cardinal sin and forgotten to bring sweeties! We headed off, took the underpass beeath the A90 and headed out on the road past Craigiehall Army HQ. Verity kindly marked the junction where we turned off, for the benefit of following riders. Whilst there, an old lady stopped her car saying she had a puncture and would need to walk to a nearby house and phone the RAC. Without hesitation, Verity phoned the RAC on her mobile and was able to give the location. Speaking about it later, we had visions of the call handler looking out onto the horrendously busy M5/M6 junction near Birmingham whislt directing a mechanic to a quiet road near Kirkliston. Verity rejoined us and we made our way along the cycle path to Kirkliston. An unscheduled stop in the main street saw the leader disappear into a shop and emerge carrying a packet of sweets. He had redeemed himself. We made or way through the village, pausing for a comfort stop at the leisure centre where the sweeties were passed around. Quiet country roads near Niddry Castle led us onto the towpath beside the Union Canal for the run into Broxburn. Leaving the canal, a mixture of cycle paths and quiet residential streets allowed us to avaoid a section of the busy A899. Unfortunately, the path ended and a stretch on the busy road followed. We turned off and headed to Uphall station. Cycle paths took us around Pumpherston golf course before joining a path beside the River Almond. Some of the paths on this section were somewhat rough and bumpy; but they caused us no problems. We rode beneath the impressive Camps Viaduct. It made a change, as on previous rides we have always ridden across the viaduct. On the final run into Almondell Country Park, there were a couple of bridges that were far-from-easy to navigate as a rusult of steep lips of slippy steel - not what you would expect on a dedicated cycle path. We arrived at the visitor centre and bagged a couple of picnic tables in the garden for our picnic lunch.

Lunch over, we made our way up a stiff little climb to exit the country park. A rough path followed by a minor road brought us out at a busy junction on the A71. We crossed carefully to join a much quieter road that took us to Kirknewton. On the stretch of road around Long Dalmahoy, the leader confidently led us past a "road closed" sign. Three cars were behind us as we arrived at another "road closed" sign and the road was blocked by a lorry and workmen filling in a trench. As the cars were forced to turn around, the workmen stopped and allowed us to squeeze through the gap between the lorry and the ditch. That explained why the sign had also said, "except for pedestrians and cyclists". We carried on and took the back way into the Heriot Watt University campus. Due to building work, there were several cycle paths closed within the campus; but fortunately, diversions were in place to help us get through. From there we followed a route we have used many times to enter the back of Edinburgh Park. From there on, the familiar route took us through Sighthill, Broomhouse and Stenhouse before following the tram line as far as Murrayfield. From there it was a short run to the Russell Road zig-zags, where the leader declared the ride over.
Thanks to Peter for leading the final Extra ride of the year. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, and it is always good to go somewhere familiar but have the route mixed up a little to keep it interesting. Courtesey of her good samaritan role, Verity gets a well-deserved mention in dispatches for the second week running. So here ends another successful series of Extra rides - role on next summer.

Leader: Peter
Report: Glenn
Photos: Glenn
Map trace: Jim


Tuesday, 11 September 2018

September Extra this coming Saturday


We've just got time to squeeze one more Extra into our summer programme. It will take place this coming Saturday (15th), when we head out to Almondell Country Park.

As you know, our Extra rides are longer than our usual monthly runs. We start a little earlier, finish a little later, and aim for a slightly higher average speed. But we still try to keep the rides sociable and unpressured. Most of our riders find the pace comfortable, but if you are at all concerned about your fitness level, you might prefer to stick to our "second Saturday" outings instead.

This week's ride

For Saturday's run, Peter will be leading us into West Lothian, heading for Almondell Country Park via Kirkliston (comfort break), Niddry Castle and Broxburn. There will be a few moderate hills, none of them particularly onerous. Some of the paths might be rough in places, so given a choice, a hybrid would be more suitable than a road bike. The total distance will be about 35 miles.

Food and drink

There is no café or pub in the country park, so be sure to bring your own food and drink for a picnic lunch. The visitor centre sells a few confectionery items and they also have a vending machine for hot drinks. But the range is very limited, so it would be wise not to rely on it.

If the weather is bad, we will eat our picnic inside the visitor centre. If the weather is really bad, we will change the route to include a café.

Time and place

We'll set out at 10:15 from our alternative meeting point at the Craigleith path junction (see here if you need directions). I can't say for sure what time the ride will finish, but it's likely to be around 16:00, give or take.

Remember, we don't have a booking system for our rides. Just turn up on the day if you feel like it.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

In the footsteps of Robert Louis Stevenson


For today's 20 Milers ride, the leader took us on a "themed" ride following a traditional, waymarked route: Robert Louis Stevenson's "Road to Swanston and the Pentlands". We followed the route he supposedly took between the New Town and the ancient village of Swanston, at the foot of the Pentland Hills. As the so-called "road" was more akin to a footpath, we had to contend with more off-road riding than usual. Despite being rough and bumpy in places, we managed it without serious mishaps; no doubt helped by the fact it was dry.

With the Festival over and most people [and Edinburgh] back to normal after the summer, a turnout of 21 was slightly lower than may have been expected; but perfectly acceptable and manageable - only one group required. The weather was dry, overcast and pleasant, rather than warm - obviously autumn is on its way. We left the Meadows and made our way to Braidburn Valley Park via the familiar route taking in Bruntsfield Links and the back streets of Morningside. A combination of cycle paths (some were rough, steep or both) and quiet residential streets took us through Oxgangs. On this section, the leader stopped beside an old building and gave us a short talk about its significance in the history of Edinburgh's public water supply. Leaving Oxgangs behind, we crossed a bridge over the City Bypass and headed past the golf club to the delightful village of Swanston that nestles at the foot of the Pentlands. We paused a while to admire the village and refuel with cake and sweets. It is hard to believe such a lovely little village is so close to the centre of Edinburgh, and even closer to the City Bypass. The gate that led into the Pentland Hills was not at all cycle-friendly. As a result, a few minutes followed where a combination of dancing with bikes and lifting them over a gate ensued. There then followed a section of rough and bumpy path which descended to emerge beside the very busy Biggar Road. Fortunately, we did not need to cross that. But we did need  to carefully cross the on and off sliproads of the City Bypass. Across Biggar Road and we were meandering through quiet residential streets. A further stretch of rough, bumpy path took us to Broomhills and on to Frogston Road East. A short run along the  road and we were at our lunch stop - Mortonhall Garden Centre. The rough, bumpy paths had claimed two victims. Punctures were fixed during the lunch stop.

The cafe at the garden centre is a vast improvement since we last used it and everyone enjoyed their lunch. Punctures repaired, we made our way back along Frogston Road East. Through the traffic lights and we turned right into the back streets of Burdiehouse. We went into Burdiehouse Valley Park and followed the Burdiehouse Burn as far as Ellen's Glen Loan. Ellen's Glen Road took us to Gilmerton road, which we took before turning onto Glenallan Drive to skirt the edge of The Inch Park. A short stretch on Old Dalkeith Road followed before we headed into Craigmillar Castle Park. Along Peffermill Road, across it and into the industrial estate. This cut-through brought us out at the Innocent Railway for a straight forward run back to the Meadows. We had a slightly surreal moment as we rode through the Innocent Tunnel. A pedestrian was listening to music on their phone, so the tunnel was filled with an Abba track. Interesting acoustics in the tunnel!

At the Meadows, the leader declared the ride over. Thanks to Mike for leading an interesting and somewhat different ride that everyone seemed to enjoy. At 18 miles, it was shorter than usual; but had plenty of variety. There was even sufficient off-road riding involved to keep the wanna-be mountain bikers amused. Having avoided it for a number of years, the Mortonhall Garden Centre cafe is definitely somewhere we will be happy to use again. Rightly or wrongly, we don't usually mention the backmarker, despite it being a thankless but vital role. But today's incumberent, Verity certainly deserved thanks. Still recovering from the effects of a recent accident, she did a great job. We were all releived that her injuries were not worse.

Leader: Mike
Report: Glenn
Photos: Glenn
Map trace: David


Monday, 3 September 2018

September ride this coming Saturday


For our ride on Saturday, we are going to do something slightly different. It will be a "themed" ride, following a traditional, waymarked, route: Robert Louise Stevenson's "Road to Swanston and the Pentlands".

As you might know. RLS grew up in the New Town. But his family rented a holiday cottage in the ancient village of Swanston, at the foot of the Pentland Hills. Our ride on Saturday will follow the route that he supposedly took between the two houses. The route also has a strong connection with Edinburgh's water supply; more about that when we get there.

Unfortunately, Stevenson didn't have a bike. So his so-called "road" was more of a footpath than a cycle path - and still is today. We can therefore expect several sections of our route to be over rough tracks, with some possible muddy patches. It might be just about do-able on a skinny-tyred road bike, but it will be much more comfortable on a hybrid or mountain bike.

At 18 miles, the route will be shorter than most of our runs. There will be some moderate climbing in the first half of the morning, followed by some level and downhill stretches in the afternoon.

Lunch stop

For our lunch break, we will be visiting a brand new restaurant that has recently opened within the Mortonhall Garden Centre. It is very spacious and comfortable, serving a range of salads, sandwiches and light meals. For those who prefer to bring their own food, there is now a large terrace with plenty of seating.

Time and place

As always, we will gather at the north end of Middle Meadow Walk, ready to leave at 10:30. The ride will probably end around 15:00, though this will depend on the weather, the turnout and other factors. If anyone wants to get home particularly early, there will be an option for a shorter return leg, albeit on busy roads.

Please remember that, although the meeting time and place are fixed, we reserve the right to vary the route according to the conditions on the day.

Our last Extra of the season

We have another ride lined up this month: our fifth and last Extra for 2018, which will take place on the 15th. I'll let you have more details nearer the time.

Saturday, 25 August 2018

Logan's run


 
Over the last few years, late August has become synonymous with one of the group's Extra rides deep into East Lothian, with lunch taken at the Merryhatton Garden Centre. Our great friend and one of the group's true characters, the late Logan Strang always led this delightful ride. Just like last year (the year we lost him), today's leader felt more like he was caretaker on a ride that will always belong to Logan, rather than being the true leader. As seems to be the norm for this ride, we were blessed with lovely weather. Not quite as warm as it might have been, but bright and sunny for most of the ride and a slight breeze - perfect cycling weather.

Whilst it was bright and sunny, it was slightly cooler as we waited for all the riders to arrive at the Fisherrow meeting point. The temperature had risen a few degrees by the time the nineteen riders were ready to depart. The leader's briefing contained a few words about Logan, before tips about riding safely on the couple of busy roads that lie ahead, and details of the route and lunch stop. Briefing over, we rolled away from Fisherrow and headed for the footbridge across the River Esk. Down Goose Green and we stopped at the blue arrow beside the Air Cadets hut. This was the first of two educational stops on today's ride. The leader said a few words explaining how Second World War bomber crews used the arrow for guidance whilst practicing hitting targets in the Firth of Forth, and how it had been restored in recent years by the Air Cadets. Leaving the arrow behind, we followed the path beside the race course and carried on to Prestonpans where we joined the road. Just past the empty space where the Cockenzie power station used to stand, we took the quiet back roads past Cockenzie and Port Seton harbours.
After following seafront cycle paths, we re-joined the road near the entrance to Port Seton caravan site. We took the quite busy coast road and as it swung inland after Gosford Bay, we pulled off the road for a sweetie and cake stop. A delightful little track through the woods took us to Aberlady; although some of the group opted to remain on the busy road. At Aberlady, we left the main road behind as a quiet residential road took us inland and away from the village. We emerged onto a quiet country road before turning off onto an even quieter country lane past Myreton Motor Museum. There followed a stretch on the busy B1377, before turning off onto a much more pleasant road at Drem railway station. A short time later saw us turning off into the Merryhatton Garden Centre - our lunch stop.

We often compliment Logan for discovering such a good lunch stop and building up a lovely ride around it. Once again it lived up to expectations and everyone seemed to enjoy their lunch. We began our return journey passing the East Fortune airfield runway and Scotland's National Museum of Flight. From there we made our way to the lovely village of Athelstaneford for our second educational stop of the day. The village is credited with being the home of the Scottish Saltire flag. We gathered round the information panel beside the church to read the story. One of the riders who had been there a number of times before, led a small group to go and view a two minute video on the subject in an outbuilding behind the church. Ten minutes later, the leader was dispatched to fetch them back so we could get moving again. Stragglers rounded up and we were on our way. Leaving the shelter of the village behind, we began to appreciate that we were heading into something of a headwind. It is not uncommon to encounter a headwind there that remains all the way back to Edinburgh, especially when returning along the coast road. Fortunately, that was not the case today. We passed the Hopetoun Monument before turning left on the A6137 towards Haddington. On a mainly flat route, this was our only real climb of the day. As the road flattened, we turned right on a quiet road that headed towards Longniddry. The group stretched out a little and an oversight by the leader meant a right turn was left without a rider marking it for those following. This resulted in several riders missing the turn and having to retrace their steps.
But once they made the turn, they were rewarded with a beautiful sweeping descent. Those waiting at the bottom could see how much those following had enjoyed it by the width of their grins! Regrouping, we headed off only to be accosted by a playful puppy who bounded out of a garden. It's doubtful he had seen so many bicycles before and obviously thought they were there to play with him. Eventually his owner managed to get a hand on his collar and we carried on our way. Taking the quiet lanes that ran paraellel with the railway, we bypassed Longniddry and arrived at a level crossing, We were delayed for several minutes as two trains went by. Once the barrier went up, we carefully crossed the A198 dual carriageway and joined the cycle path heading west. A lovely downhill stretch and we were in Port Seton. Taking the back roads past the two harbours, we retraced our outward route from the morning. As we approached Musselburgh, instead of following the path beside the race course, we rode through Levenhall Links Leisure Park and followed the path and sea wall back to the blue arrow at Goose Green. At the footbridge across the Esk, the leader declared the ride officially over. Some headed home whilst the remainder headed for post-ride coffee and ice cream at Luca's.

Lovely weather, a nice ride, good lunch stop and everyone seemed to have enjoyed themselves. What more could anyone ask for? We were all left feeling we had done Logan proud.

Leader: Glenn
Report: Glenn
Photos: Glenn
Map trace: Jim



Tuesday, 21 August 2018

20-Milers Extra to Merryhatton this coming Saturday


We've got another of our Extra rides this coming Saturday (25th). Under Glenn's capable leadership, we'll be heading deep into East Lothian. The total distance will be 45 - 50 miles. There will be some short stretches that might be busy with traffic, but there should be no other difficulties. Most of the route will be on quiet roads or well-surfaced paths, with only a few gentle hills.

Please keep in mind that these Extra rides are longer and faster than our usual "second Saturday" runs. We aim to maintain a slightly higher average speed - although not so fast that you can't keep up a conversation. Most of our riders find the pace comfortable, but if you haven't cycled for a while or are unsure of your abilities, you may prefer to give this ride a miss.

Lunch venue

Our lunch stop will at the Merryhatton Garden Centre, where there is an above-average café serving a good range of light lunches (soup, sandwiches, baked potatoes, etc.) as well as more substantial meals. As always, you have the option of bringing food for a picnic lunch if you prefer.

Time and place

The ride will start from Fisherrow Harbour in Musselburgh. Please aim to get there in time for a 10:30 departure. Fisherrow is about six miles from central Edinburgh. There are toilets available at the start point.

The ride is likely to finish between 4 and 5 pm.

Remember, you don't need to book in advance for this ride (or any of our rides). Just turn up and enjoy what promises to be another excellent day's cycling.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

A March re-enactment; but without the freezing rain!



For today's 20 Milers outing the leader chose to do the same ride she led back in March. This is not
something the group usually does. But March's ride was blighted by some of the worst weather we have endured for quite some time - windy, freezing cold, continual heavy rain and the occasional blast of sleet. Perhaps not too surprising as it was just over a week after the Beast from the East had battered the country. It resulted in a low (but could easily have been considerably lower) turnout of just eleven riders. The weather contributed to two falls and a couple of riders abandoning before the end. It was clearly an interesting route; so this was take two. What a contrast! It was warm and it stayed dry. More overcast-bright than sunny, but no one seemed to mind. A turn out of 27 riders was very good, and great to see quite a few new faces in the mix.

Following a detailed briefing where the group was made aware of the pre-arranged muster points, Jenny led us through the Festival crowds towards the Innocent Tunnel. But instead of going through the tunnel, we made our way into Holyrood Park and whizzed down Queen's Drive. Turning right at St Margaret's Loch, we climbed the steep hill up to Dunsapie Loch. On this section the group became quite stretched out and we had to contend with quite a few cars on the narrow road. We regrouped and were able to enjoy views of the loch and down to the Forth. Back in March we could barely see as far as the loch! Having circled Arthur's Seat, we returned to the point at which we had entered the park and headed to Duddingston village. We followed Duddingston Road West to the traffic lights at Milton Road. Road works to lay new gas mains meant we couldn't simply wait for the traffic lights to turn green and head across the junction. Instead we had to dismount, walk along the pavement and cross Milton road as pedestrians. We regrouped at the gate leading into Figgate Park. We paused briefly at Figgate Pond, before leaving the park and heading down Brighton Place. Just beyond the railway bridge, we turned right onto the Christian Path. This delightful little path was new to many of us, even those that thought they knew Portobello well. We crossed Portobello High Street and took quiet back roads to the Portobello Swim Centre, where we had a cake and sweetie stop. We made our way carefully through the crowds on Portobello prom and headed towards Seafield, where Peter gave us a brief history lesson on Portobello, telling us about the open air pool, zoo and the time an elephant was paraded through the town's streets. We pressed on alongside the Forth before heading on to Leith Links. A few twists and turns through the back streets of Leith and we found ourselves at The Shore. Past Victoria Quay, behind the converted warehouses and we emerged near Ocean Terminal. From there past Asda and Newhaven Harbour, along Lower Granton Road and onto Silverknowes Esplanade which we sped along to the Cramond Falls Cafe for lunch.

Following a pleasant lunch sitting in the cafe garden, we set off to make our way back to town; knowing it wouldn't take long as most of the mileage had been covered before lunch. Before anyone had got warmed up and back into the groove, we had the stiff little climb that is School Brae to contend with. The climb over, there followed a short stretch on Whitehouse Road before turning right down Peggy's Mill Road. This lovely little road took us down to join the River Almond Walkway. Many on the group hadn't been down there before and found it to be a real treat. The briefest of detours found us on The Old Toll Bridge at Cramond Brig, where we paused for a few minutes. Up Braepark Road, across Whitehouse Road and we were back on familiar territory. Through Barnton, paths took us back to Craighleith and onto the Roseburn Path, down the zig-zags, through the Telfer subway and along the canal to Leamington Bridge. Here the leader declared the ride over. Thanks to Jenny for leading an interesting ride. Despite visiting familiar locations, she kept it interesting with several unexpected twists and turns along the way. Also, a graphic illustration of what a difference the weather makes to the enjoyment of a ride. The only advantage to the March ride was hardly any pedestrians, children or dogs to steer round on the likes of Portobello or Silverknowes proms.

Leader: Jenny
Report: Glenn
Photos: Glenn
Map trace: Sorry. None for this ride.