Tag Archives: challenge

Giving and Getting

What do I give?

I try to give an interesting, maybe sometimes thought provoking, reflection of life around me.

I like to show folk aspects of places and things around me, with maybe too many photos?

I try to reach out to folk, by answering questions, giving suggestions and occasionally disagreement.

I also try to give an older (than who?) persons view of things, sometimes sceptical, but hopefully enthusiastic.

I also try to get over the joy of cycling in its many forms.

And I’m sure many other things.

and . . . What do I get?

So much basically.

I am in contact with folk from around the world, with different cultures, climates, experiences, fauna, flora and environment.

I have been able to participate in discussions about cycling and other topics.

I have been able to connect with other bloggers on Strava and have the privilege of following their cycling progress.

I have learnt stuff and tried out others’ ideas.

I have been given an impetus to try out new projects.

And then there was ‘The Challenge’ from Rachel.

So many, many thanks to all for being participants in this wonderful process.

Finally, me being me, some photos to entertain or otherwise:

Posing beneath the full size metal giraffes in Edinburgh

Posing beneath the full size metal giraffes in Edinburgh, taken by my wonderful granddaughter

Used for weighing grain sacks

Used for weighing grain sacks

A deep gorge between East Lothian and the Scottish Borders with 2 road bridges and a train bridge.

A deep gorge between East Lothian and the Scottish Borders with 2 road bridges and a train bridge.

The famous white cattle at Lennoxlove

The famous white cattle at Lennoxlove

A local cycling hazard

A local cycling hazard, the gate not the state of the road, the cattle grid or the sheep poo!

Another local hazard

Another local hazard

A badger, sad road kill seen on a recent ride.

A badger, sad road kill seen on a recent ride.

A salmon on our local river, resting in a pool after spawning.

A salmon on our local river, resting in a pool after spawning.

Seen recently on our local river.

An art work seen recently on our local river.

Tatties (potatoes) in front of the Doocot (dove cot)

Tatties (potatoes) in front of the Doocot (dove cot)

With a golden cockerel weathervane, Whitekirk  (white church) isn't white, but the original was. A site of pilgrimage for 1000s in Medieval times.

With a golden cockerel weathervane, Whitekirk (white church) isn’t white, but the original was. A site of pilgrimage for 1000s in Medieval times.

An Art Nouveau gravestone in Whitekirk graveyard, lit by the morning sun

An Art Nouveau gravestone in Whitekirk graveyard, lit by the morning sun

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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?

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!

Portugal and hills, hills, hills

Been away a wee bit for a holiday, meeting up with some of my family. I’m not a great fan of the sun, with my freckles and originally red hair, but enjoy the heat. Nice to be able to wander around in shorts and suncream for a while after the coldish Scottish winter.

Coffee time - again!!

Coffee time – again!!

Family joy

Family joy

I managed some cycling too. I tried to hire a road bike but could only get a mountain bike for the first few days with a road bike later, but that turned out well. Around where we are staying are these interesting bike paths along the clifftops and also the towns with their cobbled streets.

Coast by Prianha

Coast by Prianha, I cycled this one

Interesting paths, I walked this one!

More interesting paths, I walked this one!

So it was fun razing around the place, despite bashing my head on occasional branches and sore wrists (I get this on my own mountain bike as well).

Interesting track along the dyke

Interesting track along the dyke above the estuary for a few kilometres

Across the estuary, Mount Foia in the far distance

Across the estuary, Mount Foia in the far distance waiting for another day

Sardine fishermen

Sardine fishermen

There was also the joys of hoopoes hoping across the path in front of me, Iberian (azure) jackdaws flashing through the trees, the flamingos and egrets out in the bay, the smiles and waves of passers by, the sounds of the sea, wind and so on and so on.

A lurking hoopoe

A lurking hoopoe

An Iberian Jackdaw

An Iberian Jackdaw

You had to watch out on some of the paths as there were big, really big (20m deep holes) with only sketchy fences round them. If I fell down one of those my remains could have stayed there for a long, long time. Also the cliff paths were a bit dodgy at times, so walking in places seemed a good option.

Best to stop right now?

Best to stop right now?

One of the big, big holes.

One of the big, big holes.

By day four though, enough was enough. Luckily I had the nice road bike for the next three days. So even more sun cream and the joy of a decent road bike underneath me. The mountain bike had only done one ride, this one was brand new, so I was really spoilt. The owner was an ex-pro rider Tomas Swift Metcalfe (https://www.swiftmomentumsports.com/) and he spent ages setting up the machines and swapping stories, routes & places to go or not go and hints about the area. We had a bit of a hiccup at first as he’d had a delivery of new bikes, but they hadn’t put the wheels in, so he’d been hunting around Portugal trying to find wheels for clients for the week.  He was meant to be delivering the bike the evening before the hire, but we arranged for the delivery early the next morning.

The road bike at the villa

The road bike at the villa

It was great to be freewheeling on a road bike again, though there were still those steep cobbled streets to contend with, much less comfortable than the mountain bike. The western Algarve is a strange area for cycling. Some fast roads being the only routes in places, but mostly reasonable drivers despite the accident record of the country. Then head away from the coast a little and it’s mainly excellent quiet country roads, with fruit and olive trees, vines old houses, cattle with their cow bells clanging. I spent some time getting mislaid, as I foolishly hadn’t loaded up the right maps on my Garmin, but navigating by the sun or wind a bit I managed to sort things out. I cycled up to Silves, a lovely old town. As I went past the Cathedral a group of about 40 cyclists, a club outing, went past the road end. I followed them up, overtaking a few, then reached the main group who were waiting for the stragglers. We exchanged cheery waves and holas and I carried on my way.

Silves Cathedral

Silves Cathedral

A Square in Silves

A Square in Silves

Next day I managed a climb up to Foia, the Algarve’s highest point at just under 3,000 feet. With 55 miles and over 4,000 feet of climbing altogether it was four hours well spent, even though I didn’t see much at the top as it was shrouded in mist. 20 miles up at 4% average and 6% for the last 6 miles with some much steeper ramps made an interesting climb. The road down from the summit was fast with mainly sweeping turns and a real joy. I heard a plasticy clang on the way down after going over a bump, looked down and back but couldn’t see anything obvious. It was only when I got back I realised that the spare water bottle had jumped out and must have rolled off the road.

Route Profile for Mont Foia

Route Profile for Mont Foia

The mist at the Foia summit clearing slightly

The mist at the Foia summit clearing slightly

Colourful Portugal

Colourful Portugal

My last ride was a quiet saunter up into the foothills through some small sleepy villages, only marred by a puncture, ah well can’t have everything! I had a first experience on the way – a strip club!! I’ve always liked abandoned buildings, so I had a look inside. Even abandoned it looked very seedy and out of character in that rural background.

Abandoned strip club

Abandoned strip club

Seedy interior

Sleazy interior

The area was interesting with orchards full of oranges, apricots and other fruits plus the vineyards. There were many spring flowers dotting the pastures around as well.

Up country, house(?) for sale but the horse?

Up country, house(?) for sale but the horse?

An old water wheel

An old water wheel

Orange trees

Orange trees

The other great way thing was that my sister, niece and respective families were out, so I had a magical time being a Grunkle and playing lots, both in and out of the water and the sea caves. So an interesting time with some good roads and tracks and some great views over the ocean and hills. Not sure if I would like to spend more time in the area on a road bike though as there seem to be few rural roads away from the coast in that area.

Snail House

Snail House

An older lady in Lagos

An older lady in Lagos

Spotted in the bakers

Spotted in the bakers

After a while away at 20º I was back home in Scotland and had signed up for the Tour de Lauder (http://www.tourdelauder.co.uk/). This is a tough Sportive round the Scottish Borders of 89 miles (140+km) and 6,000 feet (2,000m) of climbing. It was a hard day as well and a contrast from Portugal. Not long after we set off in the pouring rain we climbed out of Lauder. The temperature dropped to 0º and the snow arrived. Dropping down a bit it was back to the cold rain, which eventually died away. By the end of the day the temperature on the tops had gone up to 14º, typical Scottish weather!! The route was difficult, not for the major climbs, but the great number of energy sapping ups and downs throughout, and especially toward the finish. The wind turned gradually during the day as well so most of the time we had a head wind, which we luckily worked together. Quite a challenge altogether but well worth doing.

Route Profile for Tour de Lauder 2015

Route Profile for Tour de Lauder 2015

The steep climb snakes up from the bottom of the hill, just visible to the Witchy Knowe.

The steep climb snakes up from the bottom of the hill, just about visible top left, to the Witchy Knowe.

Johnny reaching the top.

Johnny glad to be reaching the top.

Captured by RM Photography

Captured by RM Photography

So a quiet week, then off to Mallorca with some cycling buddies for some more sun dodging and sleeveless cycling.

107.2 km – it’s only going to get harder as the years go by?

Harbingers of Spring

Harbingers of Spring

Well spring appears to be sprung. it’s suddenly warmed up (for now), there’s a vast snow melt & floods up north and the season’s flowers are emerging.

Plus I get to be a little older in birthdays in a few days time.

So what am I planning if the weather allows? I should be taking the train up to Stirling and cycling home. It’s just 107.2 kilometres and on reasonably flat terrain, compared to here.

Why 107.2, well it’s 67 miles and that’s the birthday I’m hoping to celebrate. I think this is maybe a bad precedent to set? Next year it may have to be 108.8 km, the year after 110.4 and in 33 years time 160 km. I think I’ve maybe made a rod for my own back?

Maybe I should have made the challenge 67 km, but where’s the fun in that?

And just for your enjoyment a wee neighbour just up the river a couple of days ago.

A Dipper keeping an eye open beside the Scottish Tyne

A Dipper keeping an eye open beside the Scottish Tyne

ps Apologies – I just can’t resist – it’s the mathematician in me!!