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Saturday, 18 July 2015

An Almondell Outing

For today's ride - our second Extra of the summer - Peter (Bennett) led us on an interesting excursion into West Lothian. The day was tolerably warm and dry, but we had a fresh wind in our face for much of the morning.

About 18 of us set off from the Craigleith path junction. For the first few miles, the route was so familiar that our bikes could probably have found their way on their own: along NCN 1 to Cramond Brig, then via the Carlowrie Road to the Kirkliston railway path. On leaving Kirkliston, we paused at the leisure centre, which provided a handy comfort stop. Then came a short stretch on the main road, followed by a pleasant mile and a half on the back road to Niddry Castle.

We then joined the canal towpath for about three miles, apparently heading back to town, which seemed counter-intuitive. But this was the part of the canal that makes a big loop around three sides of Broxburn, so in fact we were heading more south than east. After leaving the towpath at Bridge 23 (no other place names shown on the map), we enjoyed a delightful stretch along a country lane which took us through the Strathbock and Kirkhill woods, and so through the north gate of Almondell Country Park.

The country park is an excellent place for a bike ride. It has good paths and traffic-free roads, with dramatic views of the River Almond flowing through a deep wooded gorge. It was also our planned luch stop. But just as we arrived at the picnic tables - can you guess? - the sky darkened and some splodges of rain appeared. About a dozen of us headed for the shelter of the visitor centre. The friendly attendant allowed us to invade the centre's diminutive conservatory, where we somehow managed to squeeze around three tiny tables (with apologies to the family that was trying to enjoy their own quiet lunch there). However, a few moments later the rain stopped and the sky cleared, so some of us decamped to the centre's walled garden.

For the afternoon leg, we picked up NCN 75, which skirts East Calder and heads south east to Kirknewton and Long Dalmahoy. The wind was behind us now, and much of the route was slightly downhill, so we were making very good time. We paused for a few moments at a junction which is known in 20-Milers folklore as Yaz's Corner (after a memorable puncture there a year or so ago; I'll say no more). At the point where NCN 75 turns right for a long climb to Balerno, our leader wisely took us straight ahead on a gentler gradient towards the Curriehill road.

We ended the ride by pedalling through the Riccarton campus, Edinburgh Park, the Gyle and Corstorphine. By the time we reached Roseburn, several riders had peeled off. The rest of us took the Roseburn Path back to our starting point. At 30 miles, it was a very enjoyable ride.

Leader: Peter
Report and photos:Mike
Map trace: Sorry - didn't do one this time.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Picnic at Harlaw Reservoir

Heavy drizzle around 0800 suggested another typical summer day in Edinburgh was on the cards. Fortunately, by the time the 31 riders assembled at the start, it was merely grey skies and warmish but dry weather that greeted us. It was good to see some new faces as well as some riders who hadn't ridden with us for some time, in addition to the usual stalwarts of the group. Following a briefing from the leader, the two groups headed off along the familiar roads through Morningside. Before we had got as far as Braidburn Valley Park we had to wait whilst a wobbly wheel was investigated. This resulted in the rider heading off to the nearest bike shop. It looked as if their ride was over. But once fixed, they raced and caught the group and were able to complete the ride. Continuing on the cycle path through Colinton Mains Park and the housing estate near Redford Barracks, we made it to our comfort stop on Colinton Road where the first of the day's sweets were passed round. We pressed on leaving the city behind. We passed the impressive new riding school buildings on Woodhall Road before heading off road to Blinkbonny. Passing the cemetery we turned left into Kirkgate. This tough climb inevitably led the conversation (for those with any breath to spare) onto the subject of the Tour de France polkadot jersey for the King of the Mountains. We're not sure who got to the top first. But everyone made it and could feel a sense of achievement in having done so. From there it was a relatively short and easy run to the lunch stop at the Harlaw Reservoir Visitor Centre. We commandeered the picnic tables. A few riders took advantage of the catering caravan. The food was freshly cooked and very nice, but there was a long wait to get served. Former 20 Milers regular, Livia joined us with young Matthew and passed round some delicious wedding cake. Congratulations to Livia and Andrew (who was actually on the ride) on their recent marriage.

Suitably fed and watered, we bade farewell to Livia and young Matthew and began our journey back towards Edinburgh. We did a circuit of the Harlaw and Threipmure Reservoirs. After that it was downhill almost all the way home. A fast run down into Balerno was followed by a brisk run along the Water of Leith path. There is something about riding through the curved Colinton Tunnel that always makes the writer want to sing "We're all members of the self-preservation society"! We made it back to the Water of Leith Visitor Centre where the leader declared the ride officially over. Most of us enjoyed a well-earned coffee before making our way home in various directions.

Fortunately the rain stayed off and we enjoyed reasonable weather for the ride and our picnic. Thanks to Mike for leading the run, and a big thanks to Dawn for leading the second group so well on her first time in that role. Looks like we have another leader to add to our roster for forthcoming rides.

Leader: Mike
Report: Glenn
Photos: Glenn
Trace: Jim

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Two rides coming up in July

Once again we have two rides this month. Please treat this post as your official reminder for both of them.

Normal monthly ride: 11th July

Photo: Michael Law
For this month's "Second Saturday" run, we will be repeating one of our more popular summer events: a picnic at the Harlaw Reservoir in the Pentland Hills.

Our route will be just under 20 miles. Most of it will be on well-surfaced paths and quiet roads, although there will be a couple of rough stretches that might be muddy. Be warned that there will be a fair amount of climbing, especially in the morning, with one particularly steep hill just before lunch. But we'll be rewarded with a lot of nice free-wheeling in the afternoon.

Lunch arrangements

There is no café or pub at the reservoir, so you are advised to bring a picnic. There is a mobile snack bar there, but this offers only a limited range of food (and sometimes has a long queue), so it might be sensible not to rely on it.

There is a single toilet at the reservoir. We will have an additional comfort stop about 40 minutes before lunch.

Depending on numbers and progress, we might stop for a coffee near the end of the ride.

Time and place

As usual, we'll leave at 10.30 from our standard meeting place at the top of Middle Meadow Walk.

We'll go ahead with the picnic even if the day is chilly, or if there is a light drizzle or an occasional shower. But if the weather is really bad, we'll do a shorter ride, probably with a café stop at lunch time.

20-Milers Extra: 18th July

Our second ride this month will be on the following Saturday. This will be one of our "Extra" rides. At about 30 miles, it will be somewhat longer and faster than our usual runs - but still at a sociable pace.

For this ride we'll be heading out to West Lothian. The route will be mainly on quiet roads, but with a couple of short stretches on main roads which might be busy with traffic. Thre will also be about three miles on the canal towpath, and this might be a little rough in parts. There will be a few moderate hills, but no killers this time.

Lunch arrangements

For our lunch stop, we'll aim for Almondell Country Park. There are toilets there, and you can buy hot drinks at the visitor centre, but there is no food service, so you should again bring your own food for a picnic. If the weather is particularly bad, we'll divert to a nearby garden centre where there is a café.

Time and place

The ride will start at our alternative meeting point: the three-way path junction at Craigleith. If you are not sure where that is, see this blog post.

Remember, this ride will start half an hour earlier than usual, at 10.00. It will probably finish around 16.00, depending on our progress.

As with all our rides, there is no need to tell us in advance whether or not you are coming. Just turn up on the day.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Our third summer solstice ride

For the third year running, Jim led us on an evening ride to celebrate the (nearly) longest day of the year. Fourteen of us set out from the Meadows at 6.30 pm. We didn't get the same beautiful sunshine that we had last year, but at least it stayed dry and reasonably clear.

Our route was an interesting one. We first headed south west through Marchmont, Morningside and Craiglockhart, to reach the canal at Allan Park. On passing Harrison Park, Logan once again kindly tolerated us invading his house for liquid refreshments – very welcome. We then resumed the canal path to Fountainbridge.

The next stage took us through the city centre. We weaved past the EICC and Usher Hall, then down the Grassmarket and Cowgate to Holyrood. We paused at the Burns Monument, and again at the Stones of Scotland, where there is a fine view of Salisbury Crags and Arthur's Seat. Next came the only hard work of the evening: an ascent of Calton Hill. We lingered at the top for a while, enjoying the atmosphere and the panoramic views (see photo).

After freewheeling off the hill, we headed north along Easter Road. At Thorntreeside, we turned onto the Restalrig Path, which took us quickly to Leith Links and the Shore. For the final leg, we followed the Water of Leith path to Goldenacre, where some of the party peeled off. The rest of us continued to Fiveways, Craigleith and Roseburn.

On arriving back at Fountainbridge a little after 10 pm, Jim declared the ride officially finished. It was another excellent run. Those who were still present went off in various directions; some made a desultory search for a pub; and Logan went home to wash up the beer glasses.

Leader: Jim
Report and photos: Mike
Map: Jim

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Evening ride this coming Friday

A reminder of our evening ride this coming Friday (19th June). It will be about 15 to 20 miles, taken at our usual sociable pace. Friday is very close to the summer solstice, so we should be in daylight most of the way, but we are likely to finish after dark, so be sure to bring lights.

We'll meet at our usual spot at the top of Middle Meadow Walk, ready to set off at 6.30 pm. I'm not sure what time we'll finish. It might be as late as 10.30, although I expect some of us will peel off earlier than that.

We might have a short coffee stop during the evening, but we are not planning to stop for a meal break. You might like to grab a bite to eat before we start, or bring a snack to keep you going along the way.

As always, everyone is welcome. There's no need to book in advance; just turn up on the night.

Our next normal monthly ride will be on Saturday 11th July; I'll post more details of that nearer the time.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Under grey skies to Port Seton and Cockenzie

After three days of the best weather of the year so far, hopes were high that the June 20 Milers ride to Port Seton and Cockenzie would be blessed with warm sunshine and blue skies. Unfortunately, just as many of us finished our working week at the end of Friday afternoon; the glorious weather disappeared to be replaced by grey skies and lower temperatures. That was what greeted the group of 24 riders that gathered this morning. A few of our regulars were away on the LEPRA ride to St Andrews. Not long ago 24 riders would have been a good turnout. Nowadays it seems quite low. But it was good to see more new faces. We dispensed with the idea of having two groups and after a briefing, we headed off via the little-known St Leonards Bank which afforded us impressive views of Arthur's Seat. Shortly after that we stopped and waited whilst one of the riders had to pump up their tyres. Perhaps we hadn't ridden far enough to justify them, but the sweeties that were passed round were appreciated. We then whizzed through Holyrood Park and on into Duddingston village and past Duddingston golf course. We threaded through the back roads around the Durhams before skirting the bottom side of the Portobello golf course. The bridge over the Craigentinny sidings and Sir Harry Lauder Road led us to the quiet back streets of Portobello. This took us to Eastfield where we joined the main road for our run into Musselburgh and a comfort stop at Fisherrow Harbour. It felt noticably cooler thanks to a breeze off the sea as we made our way along the prom. After crossing the River Esk we encountered snarled up traffic due to Ladies Day at the racecourse leading onto the Electric Bridge. Fortunately, our ride down Goose Green was clear and we were soon off the road and heading for the path beside the racecourse. The lure of the BMX track was too great for a couple of the riders who had a play before racing to catch the group.

We then climbed up past the Drummohr caravan site and onto the road to the top side of Prestonpans. Just past the station a shout of "puncture!" went up. A few complications despite having our best men on the job resulted in a longer than expected delay. All fixed, we crossed the brige over the A1 before turning onto a path that led us down to the Meadowmill Sports Centre. From here, a delightful little path took us past the site of the Battle of Prestonpans. We arrived in Cockenzie to find it much busier than expected due to the children's gala parade. The group split up for lunch with the picnicers making the best of far-from-ideal picnic weather whilst others headed to various cafes. One of the best being Cockenzie House where the mouth-watering cakes were amazing.

Lunch over, it was decidedly cooler as we passed the now decommissioned Cockenzie power station with its distinctive twin chimneys. We were now on the coast road which we stayed on until we cut through to Prestogrange Industrial Museum. Time was getting on and the cool weather meant we didn't linger there. Instead we made our way to the coast skirting the ash lagoons. Back to the Electric Bridge with no sign of the earlier traffic snarl ups. Here we had another delay whilst a damaged mudguard was repaired. On our way again, under the main road bridge (remembering to duck), across the road near Tesco and on up the delightful Grove beside the River Esk. From there we made our way to Musselburgh Station, on to Newcraighall and on to the familiar route via the Innocent Railway back to the start. Everyone seemed to have enjoyed the ride; many having been to places they had never been before. So all in all, we can count it as another successful 20 Milers ride. If only the weather felt more like summer.....

Leader: Glenn
Report: Glenn
Photos: Glenn
Trace: Alan S

Monday, 8 June 2015

June 20-Milers this coming Saturday

For this month's ride, Glenn will be taking us into East Lothian. At about 27 miles, this will be longer than our usual runs. There will be a mixture of paths and roads, including a couple of stretches on busy main roads. There will also be a few hills, but no killers.

Our lunch stop will be at Port Seton. There is no café there big enough to hold us all, so those who want a hot snack should be prepared to split up among the available eating places. Alternatively, please consider bringing a picnic, as this will help avoid a long wait for your lunch. There are some particularly nice picnic spots overlooking the harbour.

As always, we'll leave from the top of Middle Meadow Walk at 10.30. Remember, all our rides are free, and there is no need to book in advance.