Sunday, 26 August 2018


Oh dear oh dear. Not even half way through the year and I have used more than half of my annual leave already.

Last time we spoke I was just in the process of missing Philiphaugh hill race having jiggered my knee again. On the next Wednesday I went a run up and over Corstorphine Hill to see if I could get away with doing the Oldhamstocks Flower Show Hill race on the Saturday. I took Peter with me and we were delighted to find we could interact with the zoo animals for free. My poor knee was iffy though, turning to a decisive sore later. So I forgot about Oldhamstocks.

Instead we went a cycle along the coast and then returning inland.

The clouds gathered for a day of rain the next day. Peter hates the rain but I went out for a run which was stilted for the first 2 miles but then gathered momentum as something that was balled up in my leg relaxed and eased. It was a good feeling. The next day we went running round Gullane and my legs were a bit shocked that I was asking them to run two days in a row - I've been spoiling them all year in terms of rest days - but I didn't do myself any more harm. There was lots of standing around waiting for Peter to take pictures of butterflies but it didn't really matter.

The next day I generously shared my hot new route to the Pentlands with Peter who could have been more grateful. The day out was only slightly marred for me by there being no cafes.

Then the next day I dared to run in the Lammermuirs. This is potential death for knees so I was pushing my luck, but my luck held. About 9 miles and no real problems. Happy days.

I had a day of not doing anything at all, because rest is meant to be good for you. The next day I had chores to do in town so I did them on the hoof. Peter came too but he wasn't very happy. It wasn't pretty and there were no butterflies. We came back through town because I had to go to the bank. The place was jam-packed with tourists, like flies in a jar. Flies in a jar? Well I don't know - lots of swarming activity, no discernible goal.
CONSCIENCE - Ahem, these are people you're talking about with individual lives and hopes and dreams.
Yeah, I know, I know. That's why you shouldn't have big crowds of people. They're much easier to hate.

I was happy to get a number of chores done.

It was getting near the end of my holidays though, and I'd had a big running mileage week - 24 miles!

Not long ago I considered 30 the bare minimum number of miles to run in a week. If there's one thing time teaches you it's that it's best to be a bit flexible.

Anyway, I'd been having a good holidays, but had not really gone anywhere new. The secret cycle route from Gilmerton to Roslin is fairly exciting but I found I wanted even more.

I've been eyeing route 76 around the Forth for some time, thinking it would be a big day out but I'd like to do it. I ran this past Peter who wasn't all that keen but said he'd give it a go. It took us a while to get moving yesterday though so it seemed wise to ease back on the scale of the day a little. I'd found a post on-line from a chap who'd cycled some of route 76 but cut across the Forth at the Kincardine Bridge and come back on the other side. We set off to do this.

Fate was clearly smiling on us as we found a pair of magical spectacles just at the entrance to the grounds of Hopetoun House, which fitted me perfectly. 

You wouldn't really want to do this route on a road bike. I don't think Sustrans are really clear about what they consider a "route". Still it was pretty good and took us to completely new places. I haven't even begun to photo-document it adequately. The thing was the pocket on the side of the rucksack I was wearing is snug for my camera and it's a hassle to get it out.

The route through the grounds of Hopetoun is sometimes gravelly, sometimes muddy. It winds around the house and then goes into the woods most of the way to Blackness Castle. We'd taken this route before so there were no surprises. After Blackness, however, we didn't know what to expect, and were treated to a pretty good trail right on the edge of the Forth until Bo-ness. At Bo-ness things got confusing. The signs for route 76 led us up to Kinneil House and the Antonine Wall - which was interesting looking but the path just disappeared. We tried mountain biking through the fields and woods at the back but never picked up a good trail again and had to back-track - so went on the narrow and busy A904 taking the Gate 10 entrance to the beautiful Grangemouth. Both of us wanted to take pictures of the surreal and ugly landscape at Grangemouth but we both wanted to survive too, so there are no pictures. We got through all this, having lost all faith in the way we were following but then found ourselves in lovely country-side again - with the unlovely name of "Skin-flats".

All the way we'd had a west wind in our faces - which was intentional - so we could enjoy the second half of the journey more. It was a great relief to make it to the Kincardine Bridge, knowing that after that the route would be less ambiguous and the wind would be behind us. It was after 4pm and we thought we might have missed our chance for a cafe stop - but we stopped in Culross and were rewarded with quaint streets which I must have been too lazy to take a photo of - and an excellent cafe called the Admiral where I had coffee and almond and citrus cake. I honestly can't believe I didn't take photos of that either.

Peter wasn't that keen on this adventure at the start of the day but he cheered up as we went. For much of the Fife coastal path he regaled me with stories of the run he did from Stirling to  North Queensferry. Just before the road immediately below, he told me, he had accidentally strayed onto MOD ground. He had scaled the razor wire without thinking and was minding his own business when 20 or 30 troops started towards him with a mixture of bayonets and Tommy Guns. "Halt! Halt!" They commanded, but just then a small patch of blue sky seemed to break off and as it drew closer he realized it was a cloud of a gazillion common blue butterflies. (Which as he would tell you, are not common at all.) Before he could say "Well I never!" the blues had latched onto him with their lengthy proboscises and transported him clear through the air and away from the battle scene. 

Before we set off I had joked that if we happened to be coming back over the bridge at about 2020hrs we would witness the full moon rising in the east. It wasn't that time when we crossed the road bridge to South Queensferry and set off home through the grounds of Dalmeny, but it wasn't that far off.

When we got in we were tired and jolly hungry. The end.

Sunday, 12 August 2018

And another 2 weekends. I'm sorry about this. It keeps happening!

Oh my, I'm getting lazy about my blog. Still - so a week past Saturday, according to the photos, I went out a run on my own. I don't know what happened to Peter. He was a bit disapproving of my picture of the dead moth on the windowsill, but I liked the colours. I went out and over Corstorphine Hill, which pleased me because my leg behaved quite well.

The next day we went a cycle together however. We had a plan; -  the Lanterne Rouge first and then Saltoun Big Wood to see if there were any dragonflies doing. On the way we were brought to a sudden halt by a small piece of scrubby clearing at the side of the road near Winton, which someone had sown with flower seeds. It was hoaching with butterflies. Buchanan was beside himself.

I took my new mountain bike for versatility. I'm finding it really enjoyable. It feels so bomb-proof that I am actually coming right off the brakes on the down hill (!!). 

Coffee and cake at the Lanterne Rouge was good as usual. It has a nice atmosphere and the old couple sitting at the table with us (not us, another old couple) were chatting with us about what we were up to.

At Saltoun Big Wood I gave myself a stiff neck trying to get decent pictures of the huge and ferocious looking dragonflies that were patrolling the pond. While I was there we were visited by some ghost children.

This week I'd done quite a hilly run on Wednesday, which had gone well, but then sadly afterwards my right knee started to hurt again. Peter was away during the week hunting dragonflies (drinking wine in a tent). On Saturday we went for a cautious run around Gullane. We haven't been there in a while. It wasn't the best ever day. I'd ordered some new Hokas from Pete Bland which we picked up at Telferton sorting office on the way to Gullane. I was hoping to give them a trial run but whoever had packed them had packed shoes that were 2 sizes smaller than the ones I ordered. Pete Bland are usually very good. It was disappointing. My right leg was kind of sore when I started running and both legs were hurting by the time I finished. I was wearing old trainers because I didn't expect to run in them. I think we were both tired. I got home and had an hour's sleep and felt better.

I had entered Philiphaugh Hill Race which was today, but it was not to be. The weather forecast was terrible and my right leg was sore again this morning, so Peter stayed home to catch up with his blog and I went out a cycle tout seul. This went a lot better than I thought it might.

Heading up Leith Walk was a pain in the ass, with too much traffic and cars trying to run me off the road in the rain. I had been half thinking about trying a new route out to the Pentlands. The A702 just feels too deadly - too narrow and too fast. Looking at a map though I thought I might head out the A701 towards Penicuik and then round about Bilton turn up towards the hills and it looked like there were smaller roads going through Bush which would bring me onto the A702 quite near Flotterstone.
Coming up to the top of Liberton Brae there was wind and rain in my teeth however and I thought I'd have a rethink. I headed down Captain's Road planning to hook up with the cycle path to Musselburgh and come back along the coast and that would be better than nothing. Just before getting to Danderhall though, I saw a signpost for route 61 which I'd never seen or heard of before. It promised to take me to Roslin. I wasn't convinced I wanted to go to Roslin but I thought there was no harm in exploring.

At one point there was a fork in the path and I followed a gravelly track through Bilston Glen. It was kind of pretty but I wouldn't have been all that surprised to find a dead body. I came across these hauntingly beautiful crashed and torched cars.

Bilston Viaduct. Impressively high!

As I was nearing Roslin I realised that I wasn't far from the road to Bush and so maybe the Pentlands was back on. The incentive of the thought of coffee and a bun at the Flotterstone cafe was enough to keep me going. I was soaked through but it wasn't all that cold and I was quite enjoying myself. 

The Bush Road came out where I'd hoped to come out, so I just had about half a mile of A702 death-run before the turn off for Flotterstone and cafe heaven. The cafe owner looked gloomy. The other occupants of the cafe were rather young and were going on about how many "steps" they'd done in the hills. I hope I didn't roll my eyes.

I am not a brave mountain biker but I am much better on my new bike than my old bike. It has big 29 inch wheels which give a reassuring feeling that you can plough through most things. I pretty much had the hills to myself as well, apart from a few die hard fishermen.

The whizz down the Water of Leith on the other side was likewise a blast. Again, I mostly had it to myself and I got a fair speed up. I arrived home very dirty and wet.