Thursday, 31 December 2015

7 Stanes - Innerleithen XC Red

A few days after Christmas my friend Davy & I travelled across into the Scottish Borders to have a day out at the Innerleithen mtb trails just along the road from Glentress. Glentress & Innerleithen are a combined part of the 7 Stanes mountain biking network in southern Scotland, so with all the Christmas calories to burn off we opted to give the XC red route a go with plenty of hill work to burn off some festive fat !
Bikes all ready to rock'n'roll & off we go on the XC red route.

No sooner than we started to climb up the trail we soon came across some snow & by the looks of it there has been a fair covering here in the Tweed valley, we've had no snow what so ever next to the coast but there's plenty of time yet.

There has been serious amounts of rainfall in the U.K. over the last few weeks it's been storm after storm with extensive flood damage caused throughout the country, luckily where I live we have escaped the worst of it, just really soaked & saturated ground, but here in the Tweed valley the river Tweed has burst it's banks & the water has risen to levels higher than it's been for over 100 years !
As you can see from the above pictures we had great views from the trail path looking down towards the valley & everywhere is flooded, in fact the flooding got a lot worse a couple of days later when storm Frank hit our shores & caused more mayhem.

The first bit of downhill we came across cycling the XC red route, short & sweet as it was we were soon climbing uphill again. 

The Cross Borders Drove Road is a route used between the 16th - 19th centuries to drive by hoof cattle & sheep to the market & fairs.
The Cross Borders Drove Road has now been recognised as one of Scotlands Great Trail's - an elite group of long distance routes in Scotland.

After following the fire road for a few hundred yards we were back off road again through the apocalyptic scene where the trees have been felled, a cold wind blasted our faces as we made our way along the track, some cracking views looking over the hills around us.

For ever climbing on a gradual ascent we were back in the cover of trees once more, some sections of the track were more like small streams with the amount of water trickling downward, now & then the trees would open up to views across the valley where snow was still present on the higher hills.

About 100 yards or so from the summit of Minch Moor & the apex of the red XC route my chain snapped again like it did on holiday in Aviemore. From the car park I did feel a tight spot in the chain & gave it a quick once over but thought it would be ok, how wrong was I !!!

However on the plus side it was near the top it happened & as we reached the trig point we were at the highest point of the route so it wouldn't be a bad free wheel run back to the bottom to the car park. Another trig point bagged too for the effort :-)

The initial start of the descent was quite flat & I had to run along & jump onto my bike to get some momentum going.
Himalayan prayer flags in a Scottish forest ?

Last wee ride back to the car park & the best section of the XC red route called 'Cadon Bank' which sports some good rocky drop offs & decent jumps to get some air on.
Back to the car park after a good few hours out, gutted my chain went through the middle 'again' but just bad luck on me, it was still a good day to be had :-)

Well another eventful year almost gone with some great days out & about.
 Looking back on the years travels I'd have to say the highlights of the year would have to be cycling & wild camping along the Rob Roy Way, a fantastic & under rated route in my opinion which is not overly popular, so seeing anyone else was pretty much limited to when I passed through villages & towns, the isolation factor was right up my street, the stunning views of mountains, forests, wildlife, lochs & rivers as I rode along & the smell of a camp fire to the the smell of the damp mornings always feels primitive & wild, the whole experience was a sheer joy to have accomplished. 
My annual family holiday to Aviemore  riding the Laggan Wolftrax trail centre & what was the holiday highlight cycling up to the 2nd & 6th highest mountains in the country was a real adventure, as the sun was setting the magnificent late summer colours at the top of Cairngorm mountain will stay with me forever, the orange & red skies bouncing off the craggy mountain slopes creating amazing shadows was an awesome sight to see.

So there we are that's the last blog post for 2015, I hope you've enjoyed riding along with me on my travels & now it's time to start planning for some new adventures in 2016 :-)
 Raising a glass I wish you all a healthy & Happy New Year to come in 2016, keep the wheels rolling.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Sprout & About

Well it's only a couple of days until the big man in red lands on our roofs & drops down our lums hopefully with lots of bike related gifts. So with lots of Christmas preparations to do, over excited bairns & work I don't seem to have much time for going out biking at the moment but I made time for just a wee local ride out to source which fields still have brussels sprouts in them for a night time raid !

Not exactly a nice Christmas winter scene at the moment but more of a damp wet muddy one. Recently the weather here in south east of Scotland has been rain, rain more rain & strong winds & very unusual for the time of year it has been warm & mild.

I came across this friendly beast in a field normally occupied with horses, I'm pretty sure it's an alpaca he or she was quite happy to come over to the gate for a clap.

Around the vicinity of my home there are always loads of sprout fields & at this time of year being so close to Christmas the sprout harvesters like these ones are really going hammer & tongs to keep up with the demand. It normally takes a few days to harvest the field so this was my chosen field for a night time raid to pinch a couple of stocks for my Xmas table & my chickens.

Crossing the A1 I took a wee detour from Torness power station down to Skateraw, one of the quieter beaches around here & today was no exception as I had the place to myself.

Down here at Skateraw out at Chapel Point is a memorial dedicated to 6 boys from the St.Giles Boys Club, Edinburgh ( later the Cannongate Boys Club ) they lost their lives fighting in WWII, the boys loved to camp here at Skateraw. The memorial was re-erected in 1980 by members of the Cannongate Boys Club in memory of the founder warden, The Very Rev Dr Ronald Selby Wright, with whom many of the boys camped here on these shores at Skateraw.

From Skateraw I took the high path towards Torness which has fantastic views looking down below & out to sea, from here I spotted a grey heron stalking the rock pools looking for something to eat, such majestic looking birds.

Now down onto the coastal path which goes around the power station & there were half a dozen cormorants sitting basking on the docking pillars. These birds are amazing hunters, being a fly fisherman myself I often see cormorants targeting the trout fisheries where I fish, spotting them more so in the winter months when the sea is rough, once they're under water they're up again in no time with a trout in their beak, and I've seen trout in the region of 2lb turned in their beaks & swallowed head first whole ! Their stomach acid must kill the fish instantly as a fish of that weight is solid muscle & very strong which I reckon must be the same weight if not heavier that the bird itself so a quick dispatch must be critical for the sake of the birds own well being.

Around & passing the water inlet where 42 cubic metres per second (555,000 gallons per minute ) of water are drawn into the power station for cooling purposes.

At the lifeboat dock the low winter sun was casting a nice light onto the concrete dolos.
17,000 of these blocks were made here at Torness, this system was developed in Africa & originates from the word 'dolosse' meaning the animal knucklebones used by Kaffir witch doctors in divining.
There are two types of dolos at Torness, weighing in at 5.4 tons for the wall itself & the larger 13 ton blocks for the breakwater. Their distinctive shape dissipates wave energy five times as effectively as rock of the same weight.

I watched a couple of creel boats hauling their catch of lobsters on board, it looks like the idyllic job when the sea is calm like today but it's not always as nice as this.

Off I go again following the coastal perimeter but this time taking the upper walkway a better option for bad weather but it also has better views being just that little bit higher up.
Passing the water outlet as the spent water used for cooling re-enters the sea 10 degrees hotter than it went in, no fishermen here today unusually, there's normally at least a couple of folk fishing here at any time of the year fishing for mullet.

As I approached the eastern side of Torness with Thorntonloch beach coming into view there was a fog further along the coast on the beach where the fresh water Thornton burn enters the sea, it looked really eerie & I think it must have been caused by the water temperature difference from the warmer fresh water to the cooler sea water.
 I love this beach it's normally very peaceful, quiet & spotlessly clean, today other than a dog walker I had the whole beach to myself just the way I like it.

Leaving the beach behind as I followed the coastal path for a short distance before crossing the A1 again to head inland.

Another sprout field but this one has already been picked, all that remains are the sprout stocks & leaves which the sheep make short work of, that's if the strong winds we are getting at the moment don't blow all the leaves out of the field first & some of the hedges already look like Christmas trees with sprout leaves as baubles. I love the smell of freshly harvested sprout fields as well as turnip fields, I think on the other hand that the smell the sheep will be releasing from their rear end with all those sprouts might be not so pleasant though :-/

As I rode along the country roads I was just waiting on the tyres deflating as a lot of the hawthorn hedgerows have been cropped, luckily though it never happened.

Straying from the country roads to a little rat run I like to use & even at this time of year nature can produce a warmth of hedgerow colour with the bright red berries from the holly & the sunny yellow flowers on the gorse bushes.

Last wee push for home as I cross over the Tor bridge with the Thornton burn flowing downstream to the sea carving out all sorts of interesting shapes from the soft sandstone rock & before I know it I'm back in Innerwick for a quick coffee then wash the bike so it's ready to rock'n'roll for another day.
A short but nice hour or so out on the bike beats sitting on the couch & I can't see myself getting out for another blast before the big day so I'd like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas & I hope under your tree will be lots of biking goodies to play with, I'm hoping to find a Norco,Yeti or Santa Cruz under mine but I can't see that happening but who knows maybe I have been a good boy :-)
Merry Crimbo all.