For today's Easter Saturday ride we headed to Dalkeith where we were blessed with wall-to-wall sunshine, blue skies and didn't see a drop of rain. Whilst it wasn't overly warm, it did begin to feel as if spring had finally sprung. No doubt the weather helped, as we mustered a respectable 22 riders. Looking at the weather, the backmarker wondered if we would have such a large turnout as to have to split into two groups. Alas, it wasn't to be on this occasion. It is several years since that was necessary.
Following the customary route and safety briefing, the leader headed off towards the Innocent Tunnel with the group in tow. This well used route saw us head along the Innocent Railway, through Gilbertstoun to the busy Newcraighall Road. It took a few minutes to get the whole group across the busy road; but we soon left it behind as we took the path to Musselburgh Station. From there, quiet residential streets, a path beside a golf course and a bridge over the river took us to the River Esk Path, or the Grove as it's known locally. We followed the path towards Whitecraig. There is a stiff little climb as the path finishes at Cowpits; so we paused there for a short rest and the leader offered round cake. Onwards to the main road, through Whitecraig and we were soon on the cycle path towards Dalkeith. We had a slight delay on this section as a rider suffered a mechanical problem. Rolling again, we remained on the cycle path until it ended abruptly forcing us onto the busy Musselburgh Road for a short stretch. We threaded through the streets of Dalkeith to arrive at Kings Park which was to be our lunch stop. There was plenty of room for us all to spread out for a picnic lunch in the sunshine. There was a Morrison's store across the road, so all needs were catered for.
Lunch over, we exited the park and made our way through the new housing estate to the kissing gate. Getting all of the group through the gate one-at-a-time took a while. Thanks to Alan for dutifully taking on the role of gatekeeper. Through Benbught Woods, across the Maiden Bridge and we had to negotiate another cycle-unfriendly barrier on our way to Waterfall Park. Through there, and Riverside Park and we were back at the bridge beside Musselburgh Road where we had been earlier on our way into Dalkeith. After a short stretch on the busy road, we turned right and headed into Dalkeith Country Park. We sped down the hill and enjoyed whizzing past the queue of cars waiting to pay to park. Onwards past Go Ape and we were soon in the quieter part of the park with less people, and fields of horses. A lovely day to be out in the countryside. Leaving the park, a stretch on the busy A6094 followed. It was nice to leave that road behind as we headed to Cowpits and re-joined the River Esk Path. From there, the route back to the Meadows was the same as we had taken on our outward leg in the morning. Back at the Meadows, the leader declared the ride officially over. An enjoyable trouble-free ride in lovely weather through nice countryside in good company - what more could anyone ask for? Thanks to Alison for leading, Mike for back marking and Alan for his role as gatekeeper.
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