Saturday, 19 July 2014

Edinburgh to Dunbar Cycle

I've been on my summer holidays for the last two weeks, so apologies for the lack of posts, but it's maybe not a bad thing to leave the blog alone for a short while. I've still been out and about and there are plenty of stories to tell. 
I'll start with a simple old fashioned cycle from Tuesday the 15th July. The weather was looking good, so I booked a train ticket for me and the LHT to Edinburgh and set out for an easy tourist trail of 35 miles or so home.

The Edinburgh Festival doesn't start until around the second week of August but the city was still too busy for me. It was full of energy and faces and voices from all over the world and much as I love this sense of worldliness, and indeed take pride in a city I know so well being appreciated by others, I find myself overwhelmed and eventually sense prevailed and I pushed the bike up from the station rather than cycle out onto the chaos of Princes Street and it's unfathomable new tram network. I'm sure that bus and taxi drivers know whats going on. However, I am willing to accept that times have changed, and I'm now a country bumpkin. 

Edinburgh being the city it is, it was only minutes before I was back on the trucker and pedalling up to Calton Hill. The city nearly has as many hills as Rome, and at times has made it's claim to be the "Athens of the North", yes I know there is a ancient Greek/Rome issue here, but its a fine situation for the Scots when your capital city has acres of parkland.

The ancient Greek theme continues on Calton Hill where the National Monument of Scotland stands like a half built copy of the Parthenon in Athens. Unfortunately that's exactly what it is as it was started in the 1820s as a monument for the soldiers and sailors who gave their lives in the Napoleonic wars. Like most Scottish ideas, the inspiration was strong but the financial practicalities weren't so easy and it was never completed. I guess we'll be considering this question again in September.....

Politics aside, it was a beautiful morning and I was the lone cyclist who had peched up the hill amongst the tourist coaches to take in the views.

The tower in the above picture is the Nelson monument to commemorate the battle of Trafalgar. It did have, and may still have, a ball that was raised on the flag staff and the dropped at 1pm every day as a signal for shipping at Leith to set their chronometers. The one o'clock gun fired at the castle as an audible signal too. I know the ball was damaged in a storm a few years ago but I don't know if it was ever repaired. As obsolete as it is, I hope it is back in operation.

And if I'm talking about shipping, the furthest white towers gleaming in the sun are at the port at Leith.
" While the Chief, puts sunshine on Leith
I'll thank Him for His work
And your birth and my birth."
The Proclaimers 1988 ( dodgy Hibees, but never mind, its still a great song)

Below Calton Hill is St Andrews House, this is where the real centre of Scottish Governing happens. The building wouldn't look out of place in 1940s Berlin.

Back to the cycling and I was soon out of the city and along the coast to Fisherrow with forlorn looking yachts waited for the tide, and then down to Longniddry Bents for a break and plenty of fluid in the heat despite the gathering cloud.

After putting my feet up on that very comfortable bench I eventually got back on the trucker and headed inland. I crossed the railway line that I had travelled along a couple of hours previously.

I also marvelled at how wrong Scotrail can get their signs, unless someone can correct me? Bruce do you know about the sign at Longniddry station?

Then on through the still air and humidity of the old railway line towards Haddington. The day was getting really warm and even the birds were quiet, just the buzz of insects and the distant sound of farm machinery.

This is the closest I get to gravel grinding. The occasional "tink" of gravel on the bottom bracket and lovely smooth, car free cycling.

The last 6 miles and I stopped at the top of Pencraig hill where the crops are days away from harvest.

Down hill and then the flat road home. A really enjoyable day out, just over three hours of cycling but five hours in total. It is a mystery to me how long I can spend looking at things and talking to people I meet on the way. I'm not complaining.

Monday, 30 June 2014

Another lazy Sunday

Nothing special this weekend, just a Sunday messing around at the harbour. The end of May and most of June has been lovely weather with hot sunny days and light breezes. Unfortunately the harbour has been blocked by the dredger. Now that it has finally gone, and the harbour is shallower...yes you read that correctly..., the wind has turned to the North.

There was a race around the Bass planned but there wasn't much of a turn-out, so I ended up rowing over to the Seline to watch the world go by and have a cold beer.

Dave got tail-tied when he caught his mooring risers around his prop shaft. This sort of misfortune is welcomed with glee amongst other boat owners and provides an hour or so of good spectating.


I could have gone for a cycle but the spirit was weak. Lazy days.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Hell hath no fury...

I think I bought the Heron nearly eight years ago. Time certainly flies by and I just thought that the wee boat seemed slower due to me becoming more familiar with it. I have however noticed that the foresail in particular was just getting too saggy to create any sort of decent shape. So a couple of weeks ago I bit the bullet and ordered a new furling genoa.

The last couple of weeks have had some fine sailing weather but unfortunately the dredger Shearwater has been back digging holes and breaking down. On Sunday the weather was overcast but very hot. The dredger eventually stopped about 2:30pm and I was off out of the harbour for a sail.

I passed Jamie on the "Ambition" with his daughters. He had hoped to sail along to Belhaven beach but it was getting more overcast and the girls were looking a little green when they sailed beyond the shelter of the rocks. A little further out another couple of yachts were motoring in.


They all disappeared into the harbour and that left me alone on the Heron with an empty sea ahead. Clouds were gathering but I had a new sail to play with and there was a good hour of tide left before I had to get back to my mooring.

And what a revelation the new genoa was. It's actually a little smaller than the previous one but far closer to the recommended sail size. There was a little weather helm, nothing to worry about, just enough to know the boat will round up in a blow. When I turned on to a reach I realised just how slow the old sails had been. I had to use two hands to sheet-in and will have to get the little winches running again. Brilliant!

I just sailed around the rocks, tacking for the sake of tacking and enjoying every minute. But time and tide don't wait, even for the mighty Heron, so too soon I had to squeeze back in between the dredger and the wall and pick up a connection to the land again.

Above is the stern of a boat built in the 1960's. Below is the stern of a boat built in the 1960's, although from an older design. I know which I prefer. Bob Clunas has done a wonderful job restoring the "Mareen" and she should be attending a few classic boat meets this season.

A great little Sunday afternoon sail, although the Heron might just be coming up for sale as I have been coveting another boat recently. A faster, flighty younger model. The poor Heron may be scorned!

Monday, 16 June 2014

Summers day Borders Cycle

I took another drive into the Borders on Monday. I've cycled a few routes out of Duns and it was to be the base again for an afternoon jaunt. The weather was beautiful with the slightest of breezes and glorious sunshine.

In the town the heat was oppressive, reflecting off the buildings. The streets were nearly empty and the only sound was the thrum of an old rotary lawn mower. The smell of freshly cut grass is something I associate with the long summer days of childhood and it was a pleasure to lose myself in memories as I cycled up hill and out into the country.

Old mile posts overgrown in the hedgerows but this one has had a lick of paint recently.

As I carried on photos tended to be taken where there was some shade rather than any particular view. I had three bottles with me and I needed them.

 On across the field and on to little used gravel roads. The low shadows on the horizon are the Cheviot hills. Last time I was there was on my loop to Wooler last July. That was a hot day too.

For some reason there are still folk who ask how you can tell the difference between a cow and a bull. Well here are a couple of pictures. See if you can spot any differences.

These roads are fantastic. Always sweeping and turning with new views around every corner and very little traffic.

There was some blessed shade through the woods so I took the chance for a rest on a log pile and watched chaffinches arguing about something that must be important to woodland birds.

Back on the road and I passed this donkey that had a very poor tail. 

Perhaps it had been pecked by this noisy group who were sharing the field.

I eventually rolled back into Duns in the late afternoon. Quick stop into the shops for juice and then the drive home for a much needed shower.

A fine afternoon's cycle, nothing too strenuous, just what was needed.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Coffee at Loch Lomond

After work on Friday I quickly drove home, collected El and an eager Fly, and turned around to drive through to Glasgow for the weekend. It was quiet evening-in catching up with El's dad, my father in law, which made for an early start on Saturday. I packed Fly into the car and drove out of the city to Loch Lomond.

When I looked through the photos I took, I realised that I hadn't taken any of the standard pics of the head of the loch with Ben Lomond in the background. You will have to google an image, and if your only knowledge of the loch comes from the song, then take my word that it is worth a visit. I'm probably guilty of taking this beautiful national park a bit for granted. I've spent a lot of good times around here over the years.

I took a walk through the woods on the lower slopes of Conic hill. Through the upper canopy I could here Ravens calling but couldn't catch a decent view. The sky was overcast but there was quite a heat and I was glad of the breeze to keep the midges at bay. We dropped down to the lochside and then wandered around to the boatyard at Balmaha. Fly was keen to have a paddle while I unpacked the wee flask of coffee for another Saturday breakfast alfresco.

Tucked away in a corner of the boat yard I found this rather neglected looking boat. It looked like a Pegasus 700 bilge keel. The forestay and a lower shroud were broken.


Looks like the mast is being held up by a very worn foresail halyard. The rest of the boat looked like it had been sitting for a few years.

The was an outboard well with an old 9hp mercury in situ. The long leg easily cleard the hull and was a neat fit behind the rudder. Nothing drastic and I would bet on a weekend of scrubbing, fixing and painting and this could be a cracking yacht again. I can imagine Stuart giving the yard a call after reading this.

There were some well cared for boats too. This little clinker launch would be ideal for balmy summer evenings casting for trout.

I thoroughly enjoyed a lazy morning walking the loch shore and Fly mostly enjoyed herself although she did meet her nemisis in the shape of an angry Mallard hiding in the grass.
A good weekend away and I should have taken the bike. Perhaps it would be useful to build a cheap beater out of the Kona Caldera. Something I wouldn't be too worrid about leaving in a parked car. Plans, plans.