Sunday, 8 December 2013

Wheelie good fun.

I love my outdoor activities and since being introduced to mountain biking about 6 months ago I have fallen in love with it. I loved my cycling anyway, but sometimes I am not prepared to fight with the traffic and am less inclined to do winter road cycling. With mountain biking however there is thankfully no traffic and I'm more prepared to get wet, cold and dirty.

At first I was very apprehensive of the downhills and feared the stones and tree roots that could be found on the trails. Now, although not as daring as I may have been about 25 years ago, I have gained in confidence and can tackle most trails, even some black routes!

The uphills are always hard and I usually huff and puff my way up to the top, hoping that at some point the ups will get easier. They never do! Although my times have improved, so I must be getting fitter. The feeling of getting to the top is always great though and the thigh burn is worth it when you get to whizz all the way back down to the bottom.

I have been lucky enough in these few months of taking up the sport to have visited several of Scotland's trail centres. They have all been very different in technical difficulty, layout, size etc but one thing they have all had in common is that they are all manmade trails.

I had an extra day off this weekend and was very much looking forward to heading down to Glentress for a good burn round the red route, but sadly the storms we had mid week stopped all my fun. I decided to check the website before leaving but it had not been updated for a few days, so texted the forrest Ranger to find out the extent of any damage that the winds may have caused. He promptly replied saying that the trails were being checked, so sadly the centre was closed until all reports were in.

Gutted, what to do now? It was a gorgeous day and I did not want to waste my precious day off. So jumping on my bike I started out on a route that would take me along the Water of Leith and then up to the reservoirs at the base of the Pentland hills.

It was an extremely cold day and I found that the ground was completely frozen, even where it was exposed to the sunshine. As I was puffing my way up the steep Currie Kirk road I thought that it might be a good idea to actually go over the Pentlands and follow the trail that I normally run.

 I have walked and run around these hills for many years and have always cursed the people that use it as a mountain bike trail, as the bikes have gradually eroded many of the paths and caused huge ruts in the ground that make it extremely hard to run over.

I reasoned this time that the ground was frozen so hard that my one trip round was not going to cause any further damage. Most of the paths were actually covered with ice, so much of the time my wheels didn't actually touch the earth!

I have to admit that it is a very good route to have on your doorstep, especially when you don't pass another soul the whole way round, but the extent of the damage caused by the number of people that use the hills is evident (walkers and runners included). There is extensive path building underway on the way over to Glencorse. At the moment it looks like a huge digger has just run up and over the hill and left this big ugly scar. I presume that the plan is to cover this in large chuckie stones, which is a shame because this is not very enjoyable for anyone to walk/run/cycle on.

I think it's always a shame when this happens, but it is inevitable when specific paths are so well used. It is great that so many people go out and enjoy this fantastic area of countryside that is literally a stones throw from the city, but when large paths are built it slightly ruins the look and feel of the hillside.

A gorgeous winter day out.

Huge path dug out of the hillside.

Very frozen big path.

My proposed Sunday ride with Beth in Carron Valley was also called off due to a storm damaged trail, so wanting to get out and keep up my mtb fitness I had an early morning ride up the Water of Leith. However with the temps being back above freezing the path is now very wet and muddy and I got rather filthy. I knew that I was getting splashed from my front wheel as I could see my very dirty jacket, legs and shoes but did not realise just how filthy my face was. I did get a few strange looks from some dog walkers and people in the garage forecourt when I took my bike for a power wash.

Not my best look! I have a mud beard.

Hopefully the trail centres will be open again soon.

Peace x

Mmmm interesting having just googled to see who has responsibility of ownership for that part of the Pentlands, I have found  that it is actually the land owners that are making a larger access path up the hill for their vehicles. Maybe I shouldn't worry as much as I do about the erosion after all.

All photographs by Caroline Harvey.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Gee Gee Riders.

I am not a big gambling sort and only ever have an annual flutter on the Grand National, but was very excited and very much looking forward to our girls day out at Kelso Races.

Our wonderful race day coordinator (Beth) had organised a mini bus to take us down to the borders for midday and arriving just in time to place our bets for the first race at 12.30pm. As a race day virgin the ins and outs of the day had to be explained to me by one of the more experienced members of our group.

Having bought our race book we decided to do group betting and put a tenner into the kitty. Our small group of 4 started checking out the first race and with our combined knowledge of the horse race world chose Last Samuri, because it is a Scoobydoo film that Lesley's youngest watches and Heart Dancer because we liked the name. We watched with bated breath as the horses thundered past for the 2nd time and whooped with joy when the Last Samuri won! We scored £9.50 and were thrilled.

With our pockets bulging with our winnings we once again had a very in-depth conversation about the horses, jockeys and trainers but in the end went back to the "cool name" and "those silk colours are pretty" way of deciding.

I had been given a few pennies to put on some bets for a friend and there was much excitement when one of those horses ran past in the winning position, but sadly was pipped at the post.

It wasn't until race 5 that we got our next win with a horse called Swift Arrow, bagging a whole £30.

That sadly was our last win of the day but meant that we broke even at the end of the day.

 In order to try and blend in to the horse crowd I resurrected my very old Barbour jacket, which I don't think has been out the wardrobe since high school. It would seem that tweed is still the order of the day with the country crowd, but I think I blended in reasonably well. My main concern was staying warm on what turned out to be a very cold but crisp November day. I was glad I put my thermals on, it took a few coffees and red wines to keep them chills at bay.

The day was finished with a lovely dinner in town. Although no big winners on the day, most people broke even. Maybe the next time!

Welcome to the paddock.

One out of three remembered sunglasses.

Gee gee riders.

Thunderous hooves.

A light lunch.

iphone panoramic.

Lovely evening clouds.

Betting slips.

Peace x

All photographs by Caroline Harvey.

Sunday, 20 October 2013

The meaning of life.

As the years go on I have become less and less enamoured with birthdays, they seem to come round faster and faster and obviously as each one passes I get older and older. This year was no different and my age changed to the number that is now the same as the one on my front door and according to Douglas Adams is the meaning of life. That is yet to be seen but I definitely had the best birthday I have had in a long time.

The day was very dull as I had to work and it was a particularly boring kind of day but the evening was  wonderful. Scooting away from work on the dot of 5pm, I headed out to see my partner in crime and then onward to Glentress.

Since being introduced to mountain biking a few months ago, it is now one of my new favourite hobbies. So when asked what I would like to do for my birthday, I suggested that it would be great to go and do an evening ride followed by a lovely home cooked dinner, and that is exactly what I got.

The rainy weather that had plagued the whole day even disappeared and the night was clear and crisp with the stars and moon brightly shining in the sky. All geared up with my new birthday biking glasses and waterproof shorts, we headed out to trundle round a short version of the blue route. It takes just under the hour and is a great post work work out.

Feeling relaxed and happy to be out and about on such a beautiful evening, it was even more fabulous to get back to the van and have my already prepared birthday dinner. My wonderful chef did not let me down as a truly delicious lamb dhansak  was produced from the food flask, followed by chocolate and banana cake.

Once we had polished off our delectable dinner it was time to head home to get freshened up and settle in for the night with a lovely glass of wine. What more could a girl ask for, best birthday ever.

So very, very true.

Trueblood Tee, fangtastic.

Moonlight, bikes and food.

We returned back to the trails today for more fun, but this time on the red route which has a lung and leg burning climb but is worth it for the downs. It was slightly on the damp side so lots of mud on the paths and quite a fair amount on me by the end of the run. Great fun though, I like getting muddy! 

Peace x

All photographs by Caroline Harvey except the one of me which was taken by the equally muddy but lovely Mr T. x .

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Midweek Music with Mother.

Back in the day when vinyl and turntables were the kings of musical entertainment systems, and I was very much younger, the sounds emanating from our family record player usually consisted of The Beatles, Elton John, Status Quo and Rod Stewart.

My Mum has always been a big fan of Rod the Mod, so for her birthday this year I bought tickets for us to go see Rod Stewart at the new SSE Hydro in Glasgow. This would be her first ever music concert and the first time back in Glasgow since the Glasgow Garden Festival back in 1988, which incidentally was almost on the same spot as the Hydro. Weird huh!

I purchased the tickets way back in June, but time has flown and this week saw us travel through to Glasgow for a girls day out to see the incredible Mr Stewart.

He was the opening performer at the newly purpose built music venue the SSE Hydro and both the venue and performer did not disappoint.

The Hydro is huge, with a 16000 capacity but even though our seats were up high on the 3rd tier, we could see and hear every bit of the performance. The seating was comfy, the toilets were plentiful and many bars were close by to refuel those who required an abundance of refreshments.

Mr Stewart put on a fantastic performance and for a man of 68 years he looks, moves and sounds great. With 3 suit changes, a troop of tall, blonde/dark musical lovelies that any Robert Palmer video would be proud of, he performed a total of 23 songs, many of his old back catalogue and a few from his new album.

A most excellent evening all round.

Oh yes!

Finnieston Crane.

Mum out West and in the rain.

The new Hydro.

Inside looking out.

Inside looking in.

Much hugeness.

The anticipation...

Mr Stewart on one of the small side screens.

He is there somewhere....honest!

The Finale with balloons.

My kind of building.


Peace x

All photographs by Caroline Harvey.

Monday, 23 September 2013

A Scottish Stay-cation.

The last time I took a proper leave of absence from work was back in February in order to finish off my flat redecoration, so I was very much in need of some relaxing time off and time away from home.

Despite all my world wanderings over the years, I have not holidayed in my own country for an extremely long time, so it was about time I had a look in my own backyard again.

The West coast was once again the focus of our attention and we had various ideas of where we would travel to, but of course being Scotland much of this would depend on the weather. It was hoped that we would have a mixed holiday bag of walking, road cycling and mountain biking, and stay in hotels, hopefully throwing in a spot of camping a long the way.

The starting point of my week of fun was Arran, a place I had not been since a family holiday back in 1978.

Me and my Bro back in 1978. Goat Fell in the background.

I was very much looking forward to going back, even more so given the fact that I was to be staying in the very luxurious Auchrannie Spa Resort. I have stayed in a wide variety of living quarters over my travels, but nothing this fancy, ever!

However, in order to get to the beautiful Arran, you do of course have to take the ferry. Not my most favourite mode of travel but thankfully only a half hour crossing and the waters were extremely calm. In order to get the maximum holiday time, an early sailing time was booked. Arriving in plenty time, we arrived in a sunny Ardrossan with great anticipation and excitement. This excitement was to be tinged with a slight apprehension, when the lady in the check in booth, told us that our sailing was actually booked for the following day!!! Thankfully, even although it was a bank holiday weekend the early crossing seemed to be on the quiet side and we were rebooked and boarded with no further problems.


All aboard the Cal Mac.

The day was so gorgeous, upon arrival we headed straight to Goat Fell and walk up the highest mountain on the island. It stands at around 874m which I think makes it a corbett. The path was quite busy with people but it was well worth it for the views from the top.

On the way up.

Looking down towards Brodick.

Blue skies.

Rescue helicopter practice.

Nice clouds.

The top.

The Auchrannie resort did not disappoint. The room was fairly spacious and nicely decorated and the bed was extremely comfy, what more could a girl ask for? A surprise bottle of bubbly certainly helped ease me into my lap of luxury.

A big part of travelling for me is the food and the often incredible difficulty I have trying to find anything gluten free. This always becomes more apparent when eating out in restaurants. I can not fault the menus and assistance I had from the staff at the Auchrannie in accommodating my dietary awkwardness. They were brilliant and I felt like a spoilt Princess.

Sadly the lovely sunny weather did not last and the next day we woke up to the usual wind and rain associated with sunny Scotland! Not to be put off we wandered in the rain to find a coffee shop before realising the rain was on for good, so we jumped in the van for a tour of the island. We had hoped to do this on the bikes, but it was not to be.

Day 3 and it was still raining. We needed to do something so a trail was found and off we went on a mountain bike ride. Not the best trail in the world, but it certainly blew away and drowned our cobwebs.

Rainy bike day followed by snooker.

Our hopes for doing some island hopping were dashed due to more bad weather so we headed north to Fort William, although the weather was not much better. the first night we stayed at the Holly Tree Hotel situated on the banks of Loch Linnhe. Again a very lovely hotel but sadly for me was let down by the less than helpful waitress when asked about gluten free choices.

View from ferry crossing back to mainland.

Ahh rainbow.

Room with a view.

Looking down the loch.

Looking up the loch.

We managed to squeeze in another mountain bike ride around the "Ten under the Ben route"without getting rained on, although the trail itself was mega muddy. It was a good route but not one of my favourites. I think it would be good for speedster types as opposed to my slowish pace.

That night we decided to camp and of course it stayed dry right up to the moment that we had set up and started cooking our dinner. Thankfully the master chef on hand was not phased and a mouth watering steak, mash and veg combo was produced. We were saved from further downpours by the very close proximity of the camp site and the pub.

The rain continued, so the dry tourist option was taken and a day out to Mallaig on the Jacobite steam train was booked. An all day activity but worth it for the views and experience.

Jacobite steam train.

It always rain in Fort Bill.

First class.


Steam and lonely church.

Steamed tree.

Glenfinnan viaduct

With continuing wet weather forecast we had to turn to plan E. As much as it pained my partner in crime the East bound plan was the only one left. Another mountain bike trail in Golspie was our destination with an over night stay at the coastal camp site in Dornoch.

The trail was set on the hillside of Ben Bragghie, but the only way to the top of the hill was via the black route. Now I have only been mountain biking for a few months so the thought of a black route at this stage was a mix of excitement and slight panic. The upper portion of the black was beyond my skill level so mostly pushed my bike to the top of the hill. The downhill was also quite technical and so some pushing was also involved on the way down, but I managed a fair chunk of it. The red route to the base was excellent and very enjoyable and so was the coffee bothy at the base that served me a BLT on gluten free bread. Mmmm Mmmm happy days.

Made it up and down alive!

Travelling home on the last day we stopped at Wolftrax to complete the upper and lower red routes.

The holiday was a great success on many levels and despite it being possibly the wettest week since May, much fun was had. I loved the fancy hotel but I also loved being back camping again. I also loved touring in my own country, I had forgotten how beautiful it is.

Sadly good things don't last forever and it's back to work tomorrow and time to save up for next year.

Haste ye back.

Peace x

All photographs by Caroline Harvey