Posts Tagged ‘mtb’

Old house at Whitekirk

Whitekirk with it’s non-white Kirk (the original white Kirk was allegedly burnt down by suffragettes) looms into view. The sky darkens without warning.

Zing! Ouch! Zing! I said OUCH already! Zing….fizzzz.

This isn’t just a rain shower, this is a Scottish rain shower  – with perfectly formed, icy stinging hailstones! It’s May, c’mon! These wee buggers are cunningly designed like dum-dum bullets. They sting when they impact, and then, as your body heat instantly melts them they spread out and splatter much more ice-cold water than a mere raindrop could deliver.

Drookit (soaked) in seconds.

We shelter under the only cover in sight – a trailer in a field with a tent-shaped two sided wooden sign advertising the local golf range’s Sunday Carvery. It’s not a tent one would wish to spend the night in but it suffices as a makeshift one for the few infuriating minutes until the bonkers Scottish Spring weather reverts back to a patch of intense sunshine. The heat is such we are probably 90% dry by the time we’ve cycled another mile.

We’ve set off from North Berwick to kill time cycling whilst the young master tackles his Higher English exam. Tantallon Castle first stop we fancy – until we cycle in and find they are charging £5 EACH to visit a ruin. Ok, it’s reasonably well preserved but still, on the offbeat tracks we cycle we regularly pass myriad hidden ruins of castles and once-proud manor houses, and as we only wanted a quick look before cranking on we pass. The kiosk and wall blocking the drive up to the castle means we couldn’t have taken the bikes up to keep them in safe view in any event.

Old Smithy

Binning Woods looks tempting again but it’s still been too showery which makes the logging trails into the deep woods soaking and flooded so we pass it by leaving it as an itch to be scratched at a later date….and fly onwards towards Tyninghame and one of the ‘raison d’etre’ for cycling – tea rooms. Tyninghame (old English – Hamlet on the (river) Tyne) is a beautiful wee village with impressive red stone cottages. The tea room is situated within the Old Blacksmiths (Smithy) shop and serves a nice selection of cakes, teas and coffee with a nice sun-trap of a courtyard with outside benches and tables. It also has a rather nice shop full of trinkets, postcards, tat and whimsy. The tea is good, the millionaires shortcake a welcome sugar boost. The chocolate brownie cake is good if not up to the benchmark standards of the cafe at Merryhatton Garden Centre at East Fortune, and the prices are very reasonable indeed. The coffee can be brewed as potent as you like – the caffeine kick might be just what is needed before the climb up the steep hill as we turn and head back towards North Berwick. The spring showers that loom in the sky skirt over us as we chill and munch, but don’t in the end give us our second drooking of the day.

The wee steep climb back up to intersect with the John Muir Way is a killer but worth it to enjoy the nice shortish sections of forest singletrack with lots of wee dips, banks and climbs (it’s called a walk but this has – HAS – to have been carved through the woods by a cyclist). This is a great section of the route, fast and twisty, and the broad smile erupts on the riders face and creeps from ear to ear threatening to split one’s head in two – nothing beats forest singletrack when you are on a mountain bike.

The pace slows as the John Muir Way turns into grassy tracks which are harder going. This route, which  consists of lots of interconnected individual paths and tracks, has  many heavy gates to hold open or fences to heave the bikes over which also makes progress more leisurely. It’s still a good effort to connect it together to run 43km. We climb gently up towards North Berwick Law. Once up there is a nice fast section down to the car park, and we pass what I thought was a radio ham coming down from the top of the hill with a tri-pole antenna. She is eagle-eyed, tho, and spots that it is actually a member of the RSPB checking bird numbers by listening in for their leg or wing-mounted transponders.

Back into North Berwick in nice time to rack up the bikes and pick up the budding young writer from his exam.

Miles: 15  Bugs swallowed: 0  Ice-cream: 0  Cake: 1  Tea: lashings  Hailstones: billions  Calories burned: 1100  Mechanical problems: 0  Nettle stings: a couple  Tosser motorists: 0  Moronic cyclists: 0 

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Manor House

Cranking along at 19mph nearly home and there’s a glimpse of brown through the hedgerow. Then another glimpse. It’s moving quickly. Probably more deer like those that crossed the track whilst we were cycling the quagmire that is Garelton Walk near Whitekirk, where the motorbike eroded ruts were so deep the only way to keep going is to preserve momentum as the ground either side is too high to allow pedaling.

Slurp! Sticky…sticky….thump! Momentum lost….splat! Dumped in the mud. Ouch. Stop laughing at the back.

It wasn’t deer as the next flash is black & white…as the hedgerow dipped and the road rose we saw the craziest sight come into view. Cows. Lot’s of cows. Cows. Racing. Us. Haphazardly canting along the hillside like be-costumed It’s A Knockout contestants. It was the second unofficial race we became embroiled in. The cows were much more civilized and agreeable than the first set of opponents.

The track that intersects the John Muir Way is taking us towards Binning Woods before we then head to the afore-mentioned Garelton Walk. It’s in reasonable shape, old sometimes broken access road. But it stinks. WHAT is that smell? It coats your lungs and nasal passages and doesn’t leave. The smell of putrefaction lasts over a mile. The only explanation is either this is where the (now dead) sperm whale from Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy interfaced with the planet and ended his short period of existence by learning that gravity is, indeed, a bitch,  or, as the lad suggests, maybe the US didn’t dump Bin Laden’s body at sea, instead they fired his corpse out the back of a C-130 transport plane somewhere over rural East Lothian!

Binning woods was soaking too, tracks with deep wet tractor ruts. We stay on the main route through, avoiding the various logging paths which are flooded at the bottom as they run off down the hill. This is a small working forestry with logs stacked along both sides of the track.

Tyninghame. Back on the road as the sodden, muddy paths were not hospitable to us today. In the distance a huge pack of road cyclists, possibly a racing club. We tank it down the hill to the bottom at which we are turning right to avoid being caught with this huge pack. We beat them down easily and turn off. Oncoming traffic means the lad has to wait patiently to turn. He positions himself perfectly just to the side of the line in the middle. The racers catch up.

Two abreast. Three abreast.

“You could be a bit quicker next time”

shouts one of the racers, as if encouraging a youngster to throw himself in front of a car just to prevent them from having to – lord forbid – steer, brake or yield even an inch of tarmac despite the lad having the right of way. The Mum gives them a severe dose of invective but this does not dampen our frustration and indignation at these events, particularly when a slower rider we speak to tells us one of the same group told him “to get out of the fucking way for fuck’s sake” as they passed him. Like a swarm of angry bees, these brightly-coloured carbon-mounted menaces arrogantly assume they own the road and can ignore any and all rules whilst being rude and discourteous to fellow road users. Rings a bell doesn’t it – it will be EXACTLY the same patter they espouse over lunch when discussing motorists. Most of whom, perhaps surprisingly, we have found to be very patient and careful on the rural roads we cycle in between paths and tracks. Disappointing and fuels the “all cyclists are menaces” mantra.

Hailes Castle

We fuel up in East Linton with picnic stuff to take over to Hailes Castle which lies south of Traprain. It’s an extensive ruin next to the River Tyne and is a great place to picnic at as we stuff back some well earned calories. The lad is getting better – and braver. He attempts to defeat gravity on a grassy downhill Evil Kinevel would have given second thoughts, and goes over the handlebars for a muddy faceplant. He gets up mostly unharmed and much wiser.

The rain wisely decides against pissing off  gravity and begins splattering the earth – and us – as we near Haddington. It’s warm and very humid so the rain isn’t terribly irritating – hey you can only get so wet anyway. But it accompanies us through Haddington and up the Aberlady Road and round Camptoun. Despite this, and perhaps due to the effort of the climb up from Haddington, this is the only point of the ride that I get in the zone and tune out all the crap..it’s been a frustrating cycle today….I find myself whistling Peter Gabriel’s “Games Without Frontiers” for who knows what reason as we crank on towards home and our short race with the CCRT – Cravendale* Cows Racing Team!

Jeux San Frontiers indeed.

Miles: 22  Bugs swallowed: 0  Ice-cream: 0  Sandwiches: 2  Mud: lashings  Calories burned: 1639  Mechanical problems: 1 minor  Nettle stings: too many  Tosser motorists: 0  Moronic cyclists: lots

*Cravendale is a double-filtered milk which is apparently soooo good the cows will come back to reclaim it – at least in the mind of some overly-paid ad man.