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Saturday, 9 February 2019

Somewhere new to blow away the cobwebs

With the 20 Milers having been going for fifteen years, it is very easy  to think there is nowhere new left for us to visit. So it is always great when a leader manages to pull somewhere new out of the bag. That is exactly what Jim did today - leading us out to Covenanters Wood beside Dreghorn Barracks. It's a delightful little woodland with plenty of paths to explore and also has the remains of some historically significant First World War training trenches. Unfortunately the weather was not on our side. Strong winds forced a change to the planned route. The section from Covenanters Wood to Heriot Watt University (our intended lunch venue) would have been very open and exposed. In the interests of rider's safety, the decision was made to scrap that section and head to Colinton for lunch. This  resulted in a considerably shorter ride. But at least the ride went ahead safely.

Low turn outs are not uncommon in February, and  today's strong winds resulted in just eleven of us setting out from the Meadows. Via Bruntsfield Links and Whitehouse Loan we made our way to the back streets of Morningside. From there we rode through Braidburn Valley Park, skirted the edge of Colinton Mains Park and rode through the Redford estate to emerge on Redford Road. A short stretch on that busy road, which we carefully crossed and we entered Covenanters Wood. For the majority of the group, this was their first visit. The leader gave a brief talk introducing us to the wood and telling us a little about its history. Unsurfaced, but not too rough or muddy paths took us further into the woods. Another stop to look at the First World War training trenches. The old and the new were either side of the path; to our right were the training trenches, to the left a high fence topped with razor wire - beyond which lay Dreghorn Barracks. A pleasant off-road run saw us make a complete circuit of the woods. Back to the start and we set off on a second circuit. But this time we exited the woods part way round and made our way through a new housing estate. Dreghorn Loan led us to the traffic lights in Colinton village and to our lunch stop - the Colinton Inn. Another something new - a pub we had never visited before.

With the group fed and watered, we set off on our relatively short run back towards town. A ride along the busy Colinton Road, before turning off and meandering through the quiet back streets of Craiglockhart. We then joined the canal towpath which took us back to the Leamington Bridge. This stretch of the canal is so charming and delightful that it begs the question, "are we really in a city?" At the top of Leamington Terrace, the leader declared the ride officially over. Thanks to Jim for leading us to somewhere we hadn't been before, and finding a new lunch venue. It was definitely the right call to change the route to cut out that open and exposed section in the interests of safety. It did result in one of our shortest rides for quite some time. But a short, safer ride is still better than having to cancel.

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

Monday, 4 February 2019

Something different this Saturday

For our bike ride this Saturday (9th Feb), Jim has come up with something entirely new. We will be visiting the little-known Covenanters Wood in the south west of the city. I was surprised to learn that this ancient woodland is home to a rare group of giant redwood trees - something you associate more with California than Caledonia. There are also some archaeological excavations dating back to the two world wars and a couple of other sites of historical interest. Jim will no doubt be telling us the full story of these when we get there.

After that, we will continue westward on a more familiar route through Currie and Riccarton before heading back to town via Edinburgh Park and the Corstorphine railway path. The total distance will be about 21 miles. The route should be fairly easy apart from a few short climbs and a couple of rough stretches that might be a little muddy.

For lunch, we will stop at the Heriot-Watt campus. The café there serves a reasonable range of soup, baked potatoes, sandwiches and hot drinks. It also has plenty of indoor seating for those of us who prefer to bring our own food.

The meeting time and place are, as always, 10:30 at the north end of Middle Meadow Walk. We should get back to the Meadows well before dark (sunset is at 17:00), but it might be wise to bring lights just in case, especially if you have some distance to travel after the ride. Needless to say, the ride is free and open to all, with no need to book.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

An ice-free season opener

Today's ride saw us head out to that old favourite, Craigie's Farm. It is usually a safe bet, even when there is a lot of  ice elsewhere. That's often an important factor, as for the last few years the first 20 Milers ride of the year seems to have been associated with cold and icy condition. Not so for the season opener of 2019. We were blessed with weather that was reasonably mild, if a touch breezy at times. There was some very light drizzle as we set off after lunch, but it was barely noticeable and came to nothing.

A turnout of 27 riders was impressive given the time of year. Clearly the unseasonably good weather played a part. As ever,  it was good to see some new faces in amongst the regulars. The decision was made to have just one group. We rode away from the Meadows and via Bruntsfield Links, Whitehouse Loan and the quiet backstreets of Morningside arrived at the busy Morningside Road by the clock. It took a while to get the whole group safely across the juction and onto Belhaven Terrace. The group pulled over to let an ambulance pass on Balcarres Street. We left the road behind and made our way through the woods to Craiglockhart Pond. Up a few steps and we were on Lockharton Avenue. We then joined the busy Colinton Road before turning right into Craiglockhart Road North, helped by a considerate motorist that let the whole group across in front of them. A combination of quiet roads and paths and we were on the canal towpath. We had a tight squeeze when the group had to pass three cyclists going in the opposite direction on the Slateford Aqueduct. We stayed beside the canal for quite a distance and the group became quite stretched out. This was when the decision was made to split into two groups. Something must have gone awry as we ended up with one group of twenty and another of just seven. We finally left the canal at Gogar Station Road and made our way to the Royal Bank of Scotland HQ. Across the bridge over the A8 and we were soon speeding down the bridge onto the cycle path beside the busy road. Just before Maybury Junction, we turned left onto Turnhouse Road. We often go a reasonable way along that road before turning off on the right. This time we followed the road as far as we could to the air cargo depot for Edinburgh Airport. We headed up Lennie Muir, which gave us good views of planes coming in to land at the airport. We turned off Cammo Road and onto a muddy track through the woods to emerge at Grotto Bridge where cakes were passed round. Leaving the River Almond behind, we made our way through the Craigiehall army housing and onto the road towards our lunch stop at Craigie's Farm. Up the stiff little climb and we were there.

Following a pleasant lunch, the two groups headed down the steep hill towards the A90. The last three riders saw a car coming up the hill quite fast and decided to pull right off the road for safety. Despite the riders being well out of the way and causing no obstruction, there was a very expensive sounding "clang" as the approaching BMW made contact with the kerb. The car continued up the hill and the group continued down, along the road and joined the path beside the A90. We followed this familiar path back to Cramond Brig; for once, failing to stop on the bridge. Through Barnton and Davidson's Mains to join NCN 1 and on to Craigleith. From there, the Roseburn Path, Dalry, Fountainbridge and we were back at the Meadows and the ride was officially over.

Everyone seemed to enjoy the ride. There were no mishaps and the weather had been much kinder to us than we had the right to expect in mid-January. Thanks to Alan for leading such a good ride.

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

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

First 2019 ride this coming Saturday

We've got our first ride of the new year coming up on Saturday (12th). Alan will be leading us on a circuit of bike paths and quiet roads in the west of the city, with a lunch stop at one of our more popular eating places, Craigie's Farm.

The route will be about 24 miles and will include a few short stretches on rough paths that might be muddy in places. There won't be a great deal of climbing, but there will be one fairly steep hill just before lunch. Most of the cycling will be in the morning, with a quick return to the Meadows in the afternoon. The ride should finish well before dark (sunset is at 16:06), but it would be wise to bring lights in case we get delayed or if you want to go for a post-ride coffee.

Craigie's Farm has both a cafe and a picnic area. The cafe does a good range of hot dishes, salads, sandwiches and the like.

We'll meet as always at 10:30 at our usual spot on Middle Meadow Walk.

A couple of points ....

Please keep in mind that the above information is provisional. The meeting place and time are fixed, but with all our rides we reserve the right to change the route or destination at short notice, depending on conditions on the day. This doesn't happen very often, but we might need to do it, for example if some of the paths are icy or if particularly bad weather is expected later in the day.

Also, please remember to carry a spare inner tube if at all possible. We can't guarantee you won't get a puncture, but if you do, having a spare tube will make it much easier to get back on the road. If you're not sure what size or type of tube you need, ask at your local bike shop.

Remember, you don't need to reply to this post or let anyone know that you are coming. If you plan to join us, just turn up on the day.

Tuesday, 25 December 2018

A seasonal saunter

Photo op on the esplanade

For the first time in several years, the gods of Christmas weather were good to us for today's ride. There was none of last year's torrential rain, nor anything resembling the ferocious Storm Conor of 2016. Christmas morning this year was mild, dry and almost free of wind. True, the skies were decidedly overcast, but when it comes to cycling, a grey Christmas is better than a white one.

Fourteen riders turned up for this, our eighth Christmas morning run. About half the group were 20-Milers regulars; the rest were mainly folk we tend to see once a year. We were also joined by a couple of visitors from Thailand. All very welcome.

Under David's leadership, we started out along George IV Bridge and up the Royal Mile to the castle. We did a circuit of the esplanade, taking in some of the monuments and statues, and pausing for a photo opportunity in front of the Scottish Horse Monument (commemorating the men of the Scottish Horse Regiment who fell in the Boer War). The Pentland Hills were just about visible through the murky cloud but the Fife coast had gone AWOL.

After leaving the castle, we freewheeled down Johnston Terrace, then round the back of the Usher Hall into Lothian Road. We crossed Festival Square and took the footbridge into Rutland Square. Next came a bit of weaving through the West End, across Queensferry Street and into Charlotte Square. Passing the First Minister's residence (no coffee invitation was forthcoming), we headed into the Street of Light.

The Street of Light is a section of George Street which, in recent weeks, has been lit up with a spectacular light display, synchronised with music played through silent disco headphones. But this morning the lights were out and the place was even more silent than usual. For no good reason, we did an extra lap or two under the extinguished lights before turning into Castle Street and out onto Princes Street.

The Street of Light
Cycling along an almost traffic-free Princes Street is a traditional part of our Christmas morning rides. This year there seemed to be a few more buses and taxis than previously, but not enough to spoil the run. After crossing the Leith Street / North Bridge junction, we tackled our only serious climb of the day – to the summit of Calton Hill. Although steep, the road up the hill is reasonably short, and we all made it to the top without difficulty. The last time we were here was on our summer solstice ride, when our visit had been marred somewhat by the extensive building work. Fortunately, this has now finished.

We left Calton Hill by the same road that we had used for the ascent, and then headed along Regent Road to another of our traditional stopping places: the Stones of Scotland Monument. Breaking with tradition, we then continued east to Abbeyhill, and then down to Horse Wynd and into Holyrood Park. We were pleased to see that the road through the park was closed to cars for the day, so we took advantage of that to occupy the full width of the road rather than keeping to the narrow shared-use pavement.

Calton Hill
After leaving the park by the Commonwealth Pool exit, we cut along the track that leads into St Leonard's Bank. This little-known back street provides an excellent view of Salisbury Crags. We have occasionally used it when heading out of town, but this was the first time I recall taking it in the other direction. We finished the ride by crossing St. Leonard's Street and taking the familiar bike route back to the Meadows, arriving there at 12:30. Our total distance was a mere six and half miles, but it was a most interesting route, in good company and in tolerable weather. In other words, an excellent start to Christmas Day.

Leader: David
Report and photos: Mike
Map: David

Thursday, 20 December 2018

Short ride planned for Christmas Day

This is to remind you that we have our traditional Christmas morning ride coming up next week (Tuesday 25th). Like all our rides, this one will be free and open to all, so feel free to tell your pals.

In no way will the ride be strenuous. Just the opposite, it will be a leisurely saunter around town with plenty of stops. There will be a couple of moderate climbs but no other difficulties. One advantage of cycling on Christmas day is that the roads will be relatively quiet. We'll take advantage of that to take in parts of the city where we might not otherwise ride.

We'll set out at 10:30 from our usual meeting point at the north end of Middle Meadow Walk. The ride will end back at the Meadows at 13:00 at the very latest (possibly a bit earlier). Of course, you can always peel off earlier if you need to be somewhere else for lunch.

Note that there will be no cafe or pub stop of any kind. If anyone wishes to bring a snack, we'll stop somewhere nice for you to enjoy it.

There's no need to reply to this post. If you are planning to join us, just turn up on the day.

Saturday, 8 December 2018

Turned out dry again - just

For those in the know, there are four routes to the top of Fa'side Hill near Wallyford. There's the hard way, second hardest way, third hardest way and the easy (off-road) way. Today saw us go up by the second hardest way, and come down what would have been the hard way; which made for a glorious descent. By declaring the ride officially over before we had returned to the Meadows (and five minutes before the rain started), the rookie leader was able to claim a dry ride.

For once, the last 20 Milers ride of the year saw us avoid the Christmas crowds that we have had to mix with in previous years. This time, the Christmas tree in the pub where we had lunch was the only clue to what time of year it was. We didn't even have typical December weather. In the morning it was cool and dry with sunny intervals. After lunch, it was  overcast and cooler without the sun. For the final stretch back to the Meadows there was some very light rain - but of course, the ride was officially over by then. A turnout of twenty was good for the time of year. The noticable wind that blew us out to Prestonpans had dropped as we turned to head back west. In one group, we headed off towards the Innocent Railway. A trouble-free ride with the wind behind us meant we were in Niddrie in next to no time. Unfortunately, a wrecked pickup truck had been dumped in the middle of the cycle path. To avoid the broken glass and other debris, we had to take to the soft, wet grass. We also had a very brief delay whilst a minor chain-related mechanical issue was deftly sorted. On reaching Milton Road, we deviated from our usual route to Musselburgh and headed down Brunstane Road. The road was unbelievably busy with traffic. Eventually we got down it and made our way to Portobello prom. At Joppa, the leader had us get into groups of five so as to cause minimal hold ups to the traffic on the busy road towards Musselburgh. It felt like a team time trial, only considerably slower with the aim being NOT to catch the group in front! With that stretch of busy road behind us, we stopped at Fisherrow for a comfort break and cakes and sweets were passed round.
Quiet back roads, the footbridge over the river, past the racecourse and we were once again into groups of five and back on the busy road. At the racecourse roundabout we took the coast road as far as Prestonpans. We now headed inland towards Prestonpans railway station. Past the station and we crossed a bridge over the A1. A short, sharp little climb took us to the busy A199. It took a few minutes to get everyone safely across. Once across we began the steady climb up to Fa'side Hill. Inevitably, the group became quite spread out on this section, so we waited and re-grouped beside the mast. A few undulations, past Fa'side Castle and the steep descent began in earnest. Going down the other side of a steep hill climbed always gives a sense of fair payback. From the bottom of the hill, a short run along the busy road and we arrived at the pub which would be our lunch stop. Given the time of year, it didn't come as much of a surprise that no one opted for the picnic lunch option.

With everyone fed and watered, we stepped outside and prepared for the off. With clouds now obscuring the sun, it felt considerably cooler. Within yards of setting off, we were delayed by temporary traffic lights. Through those and we followed the road to re-join The Grove - the cycle path back towards Musselburgh. We followed it as far as the footbridge over the River Esk. Across the river and [unbelievably] we rode through a couple of swarms of midges! Didn't they know it was December? Clear of the midges, a combination of quiet residential streets and cycle paths took us to Musselburgh railway station. From there we made our way to Newcraighall; where we luckily hit upon a break in the traffic to cross the road unhindered. Through the new housing development and we were soon on the familiar route back towards the Innocent Railway. In Niddrie we avoided the wrecked truck by taking an alternative path. Once through the Innocent Tunnel, the leader declared the ride officially over. One or two riders left us there, but the majority followed the leader back to the Meadows through the light rain that was now falling.

Thanks to Neil for taking the reins for the first time to lead an interesting and enjoyable ride. Taking the decision to declare the ride over five minutes prior to the rain beginning was a stroke of genius. Also worthy of mention was the fact that Neil was out recceing the route at 0500 to check that the wind was not going to be a major problem. It wasn't. That must count as a level of dedication that few other leaders can match.

So, with the exception of the short Christmas Day ride, here endeth the 2018 rides. Thanks to everyone that has made them a success - leaders, backmarkers, helpers and attendees. Wishing all our riders seasons greetings and looking forward to seeing you again in 2019.

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