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Saturday, 22 August 2015

An Extra ride into the depths of East Lothian

For the penultimate 20 Milers Extra ride of the year we headed deep into East Lothian to the Merryhatton Garden Centre. The weather was very kind to us, with the temperature perfect for cycling with a gentle breeze keeping it from getting too warm. A little more sunshine instead of grey skies would have been nice; but you can't have everything. Rain threatened a couple of times, but was considerate enough to only come when we were undercover at our lunch stop.

Uncharacteristically, there were two start points for today's ride. One at the Commonwealth Pool and one at Fisherrow Harbour. It was nice to see a couple of new faces amongst the 23 that rolled away from Fisherrow. This was an impressive turnout for an Extra ride. Usually the numbers are well down on those for regular 20 Milers rides; but not today. The leader decided to go with one group rather than two. A decision that worked admirably. After crossing the River Esk, we ground to a halt due to temporary traffic lights and roadworks on the main route out of the Honest Toun beside the racecourse. Leaving the roadworks behind, we made our way along the busy coast road. Beyond Gosford Bay, we left the main road to meander along the path between the trees that runs parallel to it. Its always nice to leave a busy main road behind, even if only for a short time. A short ride down Aberlady high street before turning off and heading inland. The group followed the leader as he confidently turned right on the road towards Haddington. This led to the exchange of a few quizzical glances between those that knew the area [and thought they knew the route]. Within a couple of hundred yards, the leader turned right into a campsite. Despite the suggestion that this was our overnight stop, the group turned round and headed back the way we had come, much to the confusion of those at the back. Wrong slot corrected, we headed down the quiet country lane past the Myreton Motor Museum which is well worth a visit if you're in the area. Another section of busy main road took us to Drem. Turning off and going past the railway station put us back on a much quieter road which took us to our lunch stop at the Merryhatton Garden Centre. We were all safely ensconced in the undercover dining area when a brief spell of heavy rain made its appearance.

The rain had passed and it was slightly cooler as we made our way past the Museum of Flight at East Fortune. We passed through the charming village of Athelstaneford, the home of the Scottish Saltire. A few comments from the group made it clear that quite a few were in new and unexplored territory; and how lovely it was too. We passed the Hopetoun Monument and headed in the direction of Haddington, up the only serious climb of the day. A right turn, and we were back enjoying more quiet country lanes. A surprisingly quiet main road took us to Macmerry, where we joined an unsurfaced cycle track. We meandered on a few more quiet country lanes before running down into Tranent. Here we joined another cycle track and quiet road into Prestonpans. A comfort stop and then back on the coast road towards Musselburgh. At Tesco, the ride was declared over and riders began to head off, with the majority following the leader back towards Edinburgh.

Leader: Logan
Report: Glenn
Photos: Michael

Monday, 17 August 2015

20-Milers Extra this Saturday

We've got the third of our Extra rides this coming Saturday (22nd August). Logan will be leading us on a foray into East Lothian. The lunch stop will be the Merryhatton Garden Centre near East Fortune. There is a spacious cafeteria there offering a good choice of snacks and light meals. As always, you can bring your own food for a picnic if you prefer.

For this ride, there will be a choice of meeting points:
  • Either: 09.45, at the side entrance to Scottish Widows in Holyrood Park Road. This is across the road from the Commonwealth Pool car park. Note that other cycling groups often meet at the front of the Commonwealth Pool, so don't join the wrong group by mistake.
  • Or: 10.30, in front of the Harbour Café, at Fisherrow Harbour in Musselburgh.
As we will have a lot of miles to cover, we will be leaving promptly at the times mentioned above.

Logan has worked out a very pleasant route for this outing. We'll be heading out along the coast, and returning by a more inland route. There will be a few moderate hills, but nothing too demanding. But there will also be several stretches along main roads, which might be busy with traffic.

The total distance will be about 36 miles for those starting from Musselburgh, or 50 miles for the Edinbugh contingent.

Remember, our Extra rides are faster than our usual second-Saturday runs, with fewer stops. Please bear that in mind when deciding if this ride will be suitable for you.

There's no need to let anyone know if you are planning to come. Just turn up at your preferred meeting point.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

A summer ride to Dalkeith

Following a spell of changable weather; today's ride was blessed with sun shining down from a lovely blue sky. The temperature may have been slightly below the average for the time of year, but it really was ideal cycling weather. A relatively low turnout of 25 riders was a touch disappointing. But it being holiday time for many and the start of the Edinburgh Festival may have had something to do with it. Despite that, it was nice to see more new faces. We headed off in one group. Road closures brought about by the Festival meant we headed off up [rather than down] Middle Meadow Walk and took a detour to get onto the road we needed. A short while later we stopped and waited upon realising that four riders were still at the start point. A minor mechanical issue had delayed their start. It was quickly fixed and they caught us up. There was much more traffic on the road than usual and this delayed us for the early part of the ride. Leaving the traffic behind, we took back streets and paths to make our way into Holyrood Park. Despite quite a few pedestrians to contend with, we were soon climbing Queen's Drive. Turning off half way up the hill, we took a path and climbed a few steps to emerge in the back streets of Willowbrae. We whizzed down to the busy Willowbrae Road. A fortunate break in the traffic meant all of the group managed to get across in one go. We made our way to Northfield, where a few quiet roads led us into the delightful Figgate Park. Once through the park, we were soon navigating the bumpy cobbles of Brighton Place on our way into Portobello. A couple of twists and turns and we were on the busy Portobello Promenade. One rider commented that on a day like today, we could have been beside the Mediterranean. We must remember that when riding along it in January, freezing cold and being lashed by horizontal sleet. Once at Joppa, there was no alternative but to join the busy Musselburgh Road for the run to Fisherrow Harbour where we had a comfort stop.

From there we took a less familiar route through Musselburgh to join the Grove near Tesco for our run towards Whitecraig. At Whitecraig we joined the busy A6094 to reach the outskirts of Dalkeith. More twiddling through unfamiliar back streets brought us to the lunchtime pub stop. A small number of the group availed themselves of the pub's facilities, whilst the rest of us headed to the park opposite Morrisons supermarket to enjoy a picnic in the sunshine. This finally felt what summer should be like. Suitably replenished, we regrouped and headed off towards more new cycle paths through a new housing estate. The paths were great, but a difficult-to-negotiate gate delayed us as 25 riders had to get through it. Not really what you'd expect on NCN 1. All through, and the unfamiliar paths led us back to Dalkeith High School and the familiar path towards Whitecraig. Yet another detour through an housing estate cut off a stretch of busy road and we were soon back on the path to Musselburgh. Instead of following it back into town, we turned off for Musselburgh railway station. From there we made our way through Newcriaghall and Brunstane to join the Innocent Railway to return to our starting point.

It had been a good day and the weather had been kind to us. Thanks to Michael for planning such an interesting route. Its always nice to be surprised by new ways through areas you think you know well.

Leader: Michael
Report: Glenn
Photos: Michael and Glenn
Trace: Julia

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

August ride this coming Saturday

Just a quick reminder of this Saturday's ride. Under the guidance of Michael (Law), we will be heading out to Dalkeith. The route is a straightforward one: paths and quiet roads, but with a couple of stretches on busy roads; moderate hills, no killers. Total distance: about 22 miles.

There will be a couple of options for lunch. Some of us will have a picnic in Kings Park near the town centre. If you don't want to bring your own food, you can pick up a sandwich across the street in Morrisons. Those who prefer a hot meal will make for a nearby pub.

As always, we'll muster at the top of Middle Meadow Walk in time to leave at 10.30.

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.