Monthly Archives: June 2015

6 climbs and a few more

 When I wrote about 6 steep climbs round about here,  Jean (https://cyclewriteblog.wordpress.com/) suggested that some photos would have enhanced the blog. At the same time I was trying out an app called footpath, which is great for working out routes for cycling. I decided that I would link them together in a cycle/ photo bonanza. So I managed it, though some of the photos are a bit dodgy as they were taken on the move with the camera slung around my neck.  The weather was ideal, warm enough for shorts & short sleeve top, cool enough to not become dehydrated easily. What a ride, some of my favourite climbs here, and when the gradient was less than 10% it was a real bonus. First of all the boring bits for some, the route & profile:

   Over 110 feet climbed for every mile

  Quite a few ups and downs?

   

 Hill no. 1: Kippielaw
The first hill, not even a mile away, this is short but with a real lurch into the sky at the end. The hill in the distance is Traprain Law with the remains of an Iron Age fort on the top, complete with hut circles and a magnificent view over the Firth of Forth, north up to the Highland and south to the lowland hills.

   
 Hill no. 2: Up into the Beil Estate

After a fabulous colonnade of yew trees you cycle past rhododendrons till another wee steep ramp leads up to the top. Just after this a deer stopped in the road and gazed at my approach for a while before it sauntered off into the woods 

 Then on and up another a couple of ascents before reaching Pitcox, another good climb (though not one of the chosen) past the water bottling plant. Pitcox is a tiny place, but a couple of 100 years ago it had a religious house where monks from the refectory in Melrose who had misbehaved were sent. 

 The climb up from Pitcox past Findlay’s Water

Then it was past the Witch’s Stone at Spott, which often has coins left on it. I tried to take a photo but had nudged the dial of the camera on to the wrong setting. Just before this a fox had sauntered across the road in front of me, my day for wildlife? 

 Hill no.3: Starvation Brae – a local test piece 

 Then came the climb out of Spott – Starvation Brae, not sure why it is called this though. This one is hard – gradually steepens, then has 3 steep bits to the top. A real heavy breathing one by the top.

Onwards and downwards and upwards and downwards . . . . . . . . 

   
Hill no. 4: The Brunt – east side

Then it was across the ford, luckily dry but the road is a mess, then up The Brunt, another climb leaving you puffing at the top. 

 One of my favourite sections, a gorgeous half mile through a wooded dell, dappled in the sunshine. Then came the big one, over a mile long with an average gradient of 9%+ and several steep ramps double that.

   
  Hill no. 5: Elmscleugh, the first ramp  Hill no. 5: Elmscleugh, looking up to the second steep ramp, climbing at 5-8% here
  Hill no. 5: Elmscleugh, a sight I saw a few times  Hill no. 5: Elmscleugh, getting near the summit
 Hill no. 5: Elmscleugh, the cattle grid at the top usually a good descent now!Hurrah, a lovely swoop back down the other side to look forward to, but:

Roadworks slowed progress, looks like they are putting in a new track for the wind turbines.
   
Some climb? 

Then it was down for a while, this time slowed by gates. After the valley in the distance it would be another undulating climb back over the distant hills.  Up beside Whitadder reservoir dam

I was now on the section of the road that the Tour of Britain will come down in September. should be fun!  

Whitadder Reservoir, not too many cheering crowds this day.

 
  Another great section with lots of undulations over the moors, I would do this section a couple of times this trip. Many sheep, birds including oyster catchers some way from the sea and cows.
  Approaching Redstone Rigg  Hill no. 6: Redstone Rigg, another local test piece
So the last of the 6 hills loomed up. This is one spoken of in awe locally, though Elmscleugh is far harder, but being further away from Edinburgh is cycled less. I’ve already booked my place here for the Tour of Britain, fantastic views of the riders coming up from miles away, unfortunately it will probably be mobbed with other cycling fans.

Bog cotton and a butt for grouse shooting at the top of ‘The Rigg’   

The wonderful descent with Whiteadder Reservoir in the distance. I went down here at 46 mph, but on a good day have manage 55 so what will the Tour riders be doing? They will have to watch out on the cattle grid in the middle of the descent .
  Iron Age Green Castle Fort, with its 3 ring defence
So back down & up & down & up till home, passing a dead badger on the way. Well pleased and satisfied. And for those who still think Central Scotland is flat?

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Once upon a time or your perfect bike (especially for the Gentle Ladies)?

My dad was an inveterate collector of books.

We have been sorting some of them and found a couple of items that should(?) help us all with our cycling.

One is ‘The “Contour” Road Book of Scotland’ dated 1907-8, which seems to cover all the main routes in Scotland at the time, all 497 of them. It also has 500 maps and plans, with many of these being gradient profiles. It is amazing to think of the journeys undertaken by bike at that time, and the effort put in to collating this guide. But this is just a teaser. I’ll write a bit more about this at a later date.

Right now, it’s an earlier document from 1902 from which I’m going to outline some items. In these days of charging bike lights by USB, multiple gears, suspension etc. it is fascinating to look through a catalogue for bikes of the time.

So may I present the first snippet from:

Symonds' London Stores Catalogue

Symonds’ London Stores Catalogue

I just love the motto “What We Say We Do, We Do Do”

Among the many, many items of fascination there is an advert for Racing Bicycles:

Racing Bike 1902

Racing Bike 1902

They started at £5 and 13 shillings, which was ‘very light, safe and sturdy’ on which they place the celebrated W. & M. tyres! The top model was £14 and 14 shillings which “represents everything to be desired as a perfect road or track racer.”

But the best bit for me was the endorsement:

Ladies Championship Hour Race 1901

Ladies Championship Hour Race 1901

I can maybe imagine riding in a Royal Aquarium maybe, but wonder how Bradley Wiggins would have done on this bike?

If you cannot read the endorsement from (Miss) Monie Hardwood let me know & I’ll add a transcription.

The Challenge Day 5: Adventures

Rachel (RachelSquirrel) has challenged me, not a cycling challenge as such but a photograph and writing one.

The rules of the Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge are:

1) Post a photo each day for five consecutive days.
2) Attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or a short paragraph. It’s entirely up to the individual.
3) Nominate another blogger to carry on the challenge. Your nominee is free to accept or decline the invitation. This is fun, not a command performance!

The beach at Tyninghame

The beach at Tyninghame

I don’t usually put stuff on about our family but I had not realised when I took on this challenge that the last day coincided with the 3rd year since my stepson’s death. I knew him since he was young and he was a son to me. Before he died he made me promise that I would always have ‘adventures’ with his daughter. The photo is of the beach where we scattered his ashes, taken this morning.

She comes over from South Africa soon, so what have I got planned for her? My granddaughter is an adventurous soul, though still young. The list includes a choice cycling (of course), rock climbing, body boarding, canoeing, skiing or sledging at the snow dome, gorge walking, coasteering, exploring caves etc. etc. plus general galavanting. I don’t see her often and she brings so much joy. I’m sure we’ll all have a fabulous time together.

I am going to nominate Chyrel from Ride All the Way for the challenge as she may have feared I might. She takes some interesting and unusual stories, has a fund of tales in her part of the world and is a mean cyclist.

The Challenge Day 4: Windaes

Rachel (RachelSquirrel) has challenged me, not a cycling challenge as such but a photograph and writing one.

The rules of the Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge are:

1) Post a photo each day for five consecutive days.
2) Attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or a short paragraph. It’s entirely up to the individual.
3) Nominate another blogger to carry on the challenge. Your nominee is free to accept or decline the invitation. This is fun, not a command performance!

Windaes

Windaes

So, another day of the challenge & wondering what to do. Then it struck me and once again this wonderful village has provided the wherewithal.

Windaes – which is the Scottish for windows.

Look carefully at the windaes in the photo I took today. No look really closely at what is unusual about some of these windaes. There is no glass and they’ve been painted. Inside the buildings there is often a wall or partition behind the window. So why are they there? A lot of the older houses in the village are like this.

I used to think it was because of the days of the window tax, when folk were taxed according to the amount of glass windows they had in their houses. As glass was expensive then it seemed to be aimed at those in society who were richer. But these were the wrong age for the window tax and when I was in some of them I noticed there were walls of rooms cutting across the centre of the false windae. So why were they there?
The explanation was fairly simple, it was done so the house looked more symmetrical according to the tastes of the times. Instead of windows far apart, separated by a blank wall, the illusion was made, a sort of trompel’œil, so that to the casual glance it appeared to be a real window.

And the moral – look up, be inquisitive, it’s surprising what you can find out!

By the way, the bunting is out for our Gala Week, another Scottish feature.

The Challenge – day 3: The Reader’s Wife (or the Naked Truth)

Rachel (RachelSquirrel) has challenged me, not a cycling challenge as such but a photograph and writing one.

The rules of the Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge are:

1) Post a photo each day for five consecutive days.
2) Attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or a short paragraph. It’s entirely up to the individual.
3) Nominate another blogger to carry on the challenge. Your nominee is free to accept or decline the invitation. This is fun, not a command performance!

Looking back to the Hopetoun Moument (top left), with a closer-up view

Looking back to the Hopetoun Moument (top left), with a closer-up view

Today I was with the B-Spokes, an assorted group of gentlemen (occasionally), mainly retired, who  met up for a coffee stop, interrupted on either side by a cycle ride, today 40+ miles.

As we wound our way along I was thinking of the tale I could spin. I passed & photographed the tower – the Hopetoun Monument, which was  “erected to the memory of the Great and Good John, Fourth Earl of Hopetoun by his affectionate and grateful tenantry in East Lothian” (oh yeh?) as it says on the plaque on the side. You can climb up a fabby spiral worn stone staircase to the top with amazing views from the hill to the sea and the Southern Highlands on a good day.

We then popped into the Bothy in Aberlady for our obligatory coffee stop (with a chocolate brownie in my case). On our way out of the village we passed the gate above and I stopped to take the photo. I was reminded of a strange incident from many years back.

I had been training for the ’70 Wild Miles’, an event up near Glencoe in the Highlands. It consisted of a cycle ride of 47 hilly miles down to Taynault on Loch Etive, a sea canoe for 10 miles to the head of the Loch and a run of 13 miles, with 1,000 feet of ascent back up to the head of Glencoe. Running is not my strong point so I obviously needed to get some miles in.

The night before there had been a programme on the gogglebox about ‘Reader’s Wives’. For those not in the know the girly magazines used to have a feature showing photos of ‘ordinary’ married women divesting themselves of clothing and appearing in prrint.

It was a wild, chilly November evening and I was dropped off at that gate to run the few miles back home (it was early in my training plan). I set off up the path running along the field edge, seeing the tower behind gradually getting larger on the horizon. About a mile or so in, I spotted a couple some way ahead in the field just a wee bit off the path. As I got fairly near I realised it was a man and a woman. I also realised the man had a camera on a tripod aimed at the woman with the tower in the background. I suddenly realised that the lady(?) was naked. So advance or retreat? I had been spotted so I carried on past them, gave a cheery wave and a greeting and continued on my way. As I ran I ruminated on this strange meeting, the symbolism of the priapic tower not being totally lost on me, the fact that I seldom saw folk on these runs, plus such a chilly, windy evening to be baring all, so a triple surprise.

Were they influenced by the programme the night before or was it just chance? Anyway, as they say down south “nowt so strange as folk”.

The Challenge – Day 2: Jessie

Rachel (RachelSquirrel) has challenged me, not a cycling challenge as such but a photograph and writing one.

The rules of the Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge are:

1) Post a photo each day for five consecutive days.
2) Attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or a short paragraph. It’s entirely up to the individual.
3) Nominate another blogger to carry on the challenge. Your nominee is free to accept or decline the invitation. This is fun, not a command performance!

The Square in East Linton, with the fountain & former church of St Andrews

The Square in East Linton, with the fountain & former church of St Andrews

I thought I was meant to go on a segueway tryout today, but it seems it’s next week, so the alternative two wheel adventure will have to wait.

Our village, East Linton, is a conservation one, conserved up to the eyeballs. We still have an old working water mill, from the 18th century, a doocot from the 15th, Prestonkirk with bits from the 11th century and lots of old houses, etc. It’s all far too much to go into.

In the picture the bunting is up as it is Gala week, a Queen is crowned with her assembled court and there is a parade through the village, highland dancing and a run across the river and up to Traprain Law, the local hill, and back. I run the website for the Community Council and have posted some photos of the event – www.eastlinton.uk.com.

The fountain in the photo is in The Square (which is more like a triangle now). It was gifted from John Drysdale in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1882. He was a former native of East Linton but obviously did well when he migrated to become a farmer, rancher & businessman. From some angles the cherubs with their water urns look slightly dodgy a le Mannekin Pis in Brussels.

But what has all this to do with Jessie? Look at the former church of St Andrews in the background. This was built in 1843 as a free church, probably the first one after the ‘Great Disruption’ when a third of the congregations in Scotland broke away from the Church of Scotland and walked out of their churches. Before then the ministers were appointed by the landowners but the Free Church members wished to appoint their own.

If you’re eagle eyed and the photo is not too small you’ll notice I took this today just after mid day. Why might you notice? There is a clock face on the tower and it is showing one or two minutes after twelve. The clock belongs to the village and was put in for Queen Victoria’s Jubilee – it is chiming right now as I write.

Some time after it was installed some local laddies climbed up into the tower and poured a libation (beer, wine, whisky, who knows?) over the clock and christened it Jessie after a local lass Jessie Cowe. She eventually married and went off to Argentina, but the name stuck.

So if you ever visit and hear the locals saying “aye, Jessie’s a wee bit fast today” or “Jessie’s not been the same since she was electrified” or “I think they should sort Jessie oot” I think you may have an inkling of what the conversation is really about.

The final thing is Jessie usually sees me off on my cycling as I start under her in The Square (and I’m sure that could be misconstrued as well!)

The Challenge

Rachel (RachelSquirrel) has challenged me, not a cycling challenge as such but a photograph and writing one.

The rules of the Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge are:

1) Post a photo each day for five consecutive days.
2) Attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or a short paragraph. It’s entirely up to the individual.
3) Nominate another blogger to carry on the challenge. Your nominee is free to accept or decline the invitation. This is fun, not a command performance!

So how could I possibly refuse. I’m starting today as I have a photo:

Regrouping beside the blacksmiths at Saltoun

Regrouping beside the blacksmiths at Saltoun

So here’s the photo, taken this morning. We’ve had a glorious few days with temperatures up to 19ºC and hardly any wind. Then yesterday the grey skies arrived again and this morning the rain had set in and the temperature was down to 5º, it’s approaching midsummer, a Scottish midsummer so winter had arrived again! So donning a modicum of clothing, but still a bit foolishly I ventured out to join the Haddington Cycle Club. After a damp ride the few miles up to the town and then a wee loop as I knew I was early, I approached Samson on his pillar on top of the fountain. No-one was there, so I set off on another mini loop, just in an attempt to keep warm. When I arrived back folk were gathering. There were a couple of new folk so it was great to meet them and welcome them. It always gladdens my heart when newcomers turn up for a ride.

Now we assembled, a complete dozen, and set off  into the wind and rain down the way I had just come up, ah well. We squelched our way up past the wild ponies on Traprain Law, a local volcanic laccolith of Phonolitic trachyte (a kind of volcanic boil which hadn’t been lanced, there was a Roman silver hoard found there as well, but no chance of a sighting today). Then came the steeper climbs up to Whittinghame and Gifford. Despite, or maybe because of the rain everything looked just superb, vibrant greens and browns.

Eventually we had a slightly longer stop than the usual catchups, at Saltoun, to munch a bit of sustenance. Saltoun is a lovely wee village, with a three angel statue, an unusual church with a spire on top of its tower and a blacksmith’s forge with a huge pile of old horseshoes outside. It’s brilliant on the rare occasions I’ve cycled past and a horse is being shod, with the forge roaring away, all red and gold flames. Today it was silent though, but the temperature had risen to a balmy 6º and the rain had stopped. The village was the first place in Scotland to have a barley mill  in the early 1700s as well.

After refreshment and chat we were off again, with chilly damp feet cooling nicely on the hurl down the hill. We got back to Haddington and I signed up, metaphorically, for an extra loop especially as it passed my house. So up the 6º climb out of the toon, and the temperature rose to faintingly hot 12º with glimpses of sun, before I arrived back home after a somewhat damp 44 miles and bid farewell to the group on the loop.

So history, geology, statistics, meteorology, equines, pain and suffering as well as joy, what more could you want in a story?

And tomorrow, hopefully, two wheel adventures of a different kind!