Archive for the ‘Cycling’ Category

Cycling day 48: Amble to Haswell Plough

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

The ride today was fairly flat for most of it, but ended with a climb via a path on the route of a former railway. After some initial countryside the route started to pass through urban areas, most notably around the Tyne. I found that the signing of NCR1 seemed to disappear somewhere around Whitley Bay or Tynemouth, so instead I just followed the coast road until I was eventually able to pick up some signs again. It was probably just one sign missing, but that’s all that’s needed to lose the route.

Tyne cycle tunnelThe cycle routes get complex near to the Tyne. There are several of them. There’s NCR1 ultimately heading north / south, NCR72 the Hadrian’s Cycleway, and NCR10 the Reivers Cycle Route (currently being renumbered from Regional Cycle Route 10). There’s also NCR14 on the south side of the Tyne. Something signed as NCR7 (which, I admit, I was surprised to see here — perhaps it’s mis-signed?) and Regional Cycle Route 20 make an appearance as well. Strictly following NCR1 I could have used a ferry to cross the Tyne, but instead I used a portion of NCR72 and NCR14 to cross via the Tyne foot / cycle tunnel (Actually it’s two parallel tunnels, one for pedestrians and the other for cyclists.). Unlike the Greenwich Foot Tunnel which I’ll be using in a few days’ time it seems that cycling is allowed in the Tyne cycle tunnel.

On my way out of the Tyne urban area I met a PCSO out on a beat using a bicycle. We chatted for a bit about my ride and I gave him a card about the trip.

Cycling day 47: Berwick-upon-Tweed to Amble

Saturday, August 15th, 2009

Causeway to Holy IslandLindisfarne CastleI’m currently following the portion of National Cycle Route 1 that’s named Coast and Castles. It certainly lives up to its name. Several portions of the cycle route follow the Northumbria Coast Path and there are plenty of castles along the way. 11 miles into my journey there was the option of following a spur of NCR1 out to Holy Island. This goes across a causeway that’s only accessable a low tide, and luckily that was the case when I arrived. Riding across to the island was a strange experience with the water so close. On Holy Island I was presented with the first castle: Lindisfarne Castle.

Bamburgh CastleDunstanburgh CastleBack on the mainland the next castle was the magnificant Bamburgh Castle. The route then passes nearby to Dunstanburgh Castle. Then, near to the village of Craster was the Craster Tower, spanning the road. Near to Howick the site of a stone-age hut was found. Today there’s a rebuilt hut standing there beside a traffic-free braid of the cycle route. Further still the cycle route passes straight by Warkworth Castle.
Craster TowerHowick rebuilt stone-age hutWarkworth Castle
Sustrans, the charity behind the National Cycle Network, have been publicising the Coast & Castles route pretty strongly lately. That’s obviously paying off because I’ve seen lots of cyclists on this section of the route, many of them with the Coast & Castles Sustrans map. Well done Sustrans.

Cycling day 46: Innerleithen to Berwick-upon-Tweed

Friday, August 7th, 2009

The weather was great during my rest day at Innerleithen. So I decided to map the town, then sat around for a bit in the sun, followed by cycling a small amount of the main tracks at the local mountain biking area: one of the 7 Stanes sites. I wasn’t mountain biking though, just casually climbing up, taking in the views and plenty of photographs.

The journey today essentially followed the river Tweed. It started out on a quiet road out of Innerleithen and continued that way for several miles. There then followed a choice section either traffic-free or on road. The traffic-free section is pretty bumpy, but I chose that because I didn’t think that OSM had it mapped yet. After a few more roads I passed through Galashiels and Melrose. Whilst following all of this there were numerous local cycle route signs, like those I found in and about Innerleithen, so I tried to map these as well.

Wallace statueAt Dryburgh I took a short rest then took a temporary diversion from NCR1 to walk with my bike to Wallace’s statue nearby. It’s impressive. Interestingly for something so large I managed to walk practically straight past it before needing to backtrack and find that a side path leads to it.

Norham castleAfter some small sections of quiet B-roads and a couple of short stretches on A-roads the route took some exceedingly quiet smaller roads. It regularly got within a mile or two of the Scotland-England border but didn’t cross partially because of the lack of bridges over the river Tweed where the border lies at this point. It did eventually cross though, just before Norham. NCR1 at Norham passes the impressive castle there on its way out of the village.

Collapsed roadOnly a few more miles further on I found myself crossing the border once again, back into Scotland. There was almost a problem here; the road towards the Union Bridge that crosses the Tweed again into Scotland was closed, and for a good reason: part of it has collapsed. Luckily it’s passable as a cyclist, so I didn’t need to take a lengthy detour as a result. About an hour later I arrived at my accomodation in Berwick-upon-Tweed quite a bit earlier than my planned time. Luckily they unexpectedly have WiFi Internet access, so I’ve been able to bring this blog back up-to-date.

Cycling day 45: Musselburgh to Innerleithen

Friday, August 7th, 2009

En route to InnerleithenThe planned trip today was relatively short because it included a reasonable amount of climbing. As it turns out the climbing was over the course of several miles, so a relatively shallow gradient. The first portion was OK, but as I progressed a strong headwind hampered my progress. Luckily the road was very quiet and scenic, so I stopped several times to take photos and for short rests at fighting against the wind.

Despite the wind I still arrived at Innerleithen reasonably early. I took a distraction of investigating some of the side roads in order to map them, before going to my accomodation. After a rest I set out again without my panniers for an early evening cycle westwards following some markers for a number of signed cycle routes near to the river Tweed. I got as far as Peebles before I turned back towards Innerleithen again. Even then I couldn’t resist mapping a few brand new residential roads in Peebles on the way out. In the end I added approximately 20 miles of cycling to my total through my evening excursion.

Cycling day 44: Freuchie to Musselburgh

Friday, August 7th, 2009

Today’s cycling followed mainly quiet roads before crossing the Forth Road Bridge and not long afterwards through Edinburgh. On the way into Edinburgh I met another cyclist and we chatted for several miles. We followed NCR1, but near the centre of Edinburgh I took the opportunity to divert off onto NCR75 both towards the Scottish Executive. When following NCR75 the other way (towards the Union Canal) I managed to unexpectedly meet some friends that I was going to be meeting in the evening. So we chatted for a bit before agreeing a plan for the evening. I then continued along beside the Union Canal for a bit before returning to NCR1.

Innocent cycle path tunnelThere were two tunnels today. One on NCR75, near the Union Canal, and the other on NCR1 on the way out of Edinburgh. Both were pretty lengthy and great experiences.

Cycling day 43: Carnoustie to Freuchie

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

The route today was again following National Cycle Route 1, but before I set off this morning I did a little surveying of some cycle paths I’d seen in Carnoustie. There’s a great very new looking coastal cycle path. The cycle path used by NCR1 runs beside the golf course where there are warning signs for cyclists to be careful of stray golf balls. The land beside the cycle path then becomes a large military training area and the signs change to warn of the danger of straying into the land or touching anything which may explode. The cycle path crosses a road further on which enabled me to temporarily cross the railway in search of a Sustrans milepost, which I found before coming back to the path to continue my journey beside the military training ground into Monifieth.

In Monifieth NCR1 has a spur into town. I followed this a little way in order to find another Sustrans milepost before returning back to the coastal cycle route I’d been following. After a short chat with a local it sounds like there may be a braid of NCR1 following the A92 as well as the coastal route that I followed.

Onwards into Dundee the route divides again. There’s a route through the docks and one avoiding the docks. The one through the docks needs a photo ID pass. A driving licence or passport are both valid, as well as a pass that has been arranged with the docks by prior arrangement. I’d read about this during my planning, but had totally forgotten to pack any suitable form of ID, so I took the route avoiding the docks. A shame, because out of the two routes it appears it’s the docks route that OSM haven’t got mapped yet.

Tay Road BridgeOut of Dundee I took the cycle path on the Tay Road Bridge. This is accessed by taking a lift up to the centre of the bridge; the cycle path is between the carriageways. Cycling along it seems a bit strange, but I must say that it’s more pleasant than cycling at the edge of the bridge, such as following NCR1 north from Inverness, or NCR4 across the Severn Estuary. Once across the bridge I stopped for a snack to eat before proceeding into Tayport and from there into a lovely forested section of the route.

A few miles after leaving the forest the route passes through Leuchars, where I again took a diversion of seek out a Sustrans milepost and map some local cycle paths before continuing my journey to St. Andrews beside the golf course.

After St. Andrews the route heads inland using a number of quiet roads. After several miles I heard a number of birds of prey and I think I caught sight of an eagle (it certainly had a huge wingspan), but I wasn’t quick enough with my camera before it had taken flight to somewhere I couldn’t see it.

Several miles further on NCR1 meets one of the newly renumbered Sustrans cycle routes, NCR766. I decided to follow this for a few miles to go milepost hunting again. I was rewarded in Markinch, so retraced my tracks from there back to NCR1 and then off to tonight’s accomodation in Freuchie.

Cycling day 42: Stonehaven to Carnoustie

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

Much of today was spent battling a headwind. I suspect this will be the case for many of the days following the coast now. I guess it helps make it a bit harder in the absence of any substantial hills.

BagpipersWhen I reached Montrose I saw a parade of bagpipers followed by the town’s beauty queen and princesses. Shortly afterwards, though behind a fence that I couldn’t see over, I encountered the venue of Montrose’s Highland Games, so I suspect that this is where they were heading. There were certainly lots of local people flocking there.

Bus stop aheadA few miles out from today’s destination of Carnoustie the cycle route follows beside the A92. I saw a sign pointing out the obvious here. Judge for yourself.

Cycling day 41: Ellon to Stonehaven

Saturday, August 1st, 2009

Faded cycle signI passed through Aberdeen today following National Cycle Route 1. It’s interesting to note how white many of the cycle route signs are in the city. In one case somebody had stuck stickers over the top to make things visible again (See photo). They must have been up for a long time to have faded this much. It makes it a bit more difficult to navigate when the arrows, let alone the direction they’re pointing in, are hardly visible.

There are plenty of advanced stop lines in central Aberdeen, and I’ve been trying to make a note of which approaches to the traffic lights they’re on to be able to enter this data later (For the OpenStreetMap readers amongst you I’m using a relation of type advanced_stop_line to handle these, working in a similar way to one of type stop. Hopefully we’ll be able to use them as a hint to the routers at some point?). However it’s not always easy to snap photos of the ASLs on each approach whilst waiting at stopped traffic lights, because vehicles have a tendancy to drive over them just when the picture gets taken. It’s even harder when the lights are in my favour.

Past central Aberdeen the cycle route heads to the coast. Cycling then became more difficult because there was a noticable off-shore wind. I was glad when the cycle route headed inland again for a while.

I came into Stonehaven down a reasonably sized hill. On the way I passed the “Welcome to Stonehaven” sign and caught a glance of it saying that the person that invented the pneumatic tyre was born here. Quite apt for a lengthy cycling trip I feel. I also notice along the high street that there’s a shop that claims, somewhat more dubiously, to be where the deep fried Mars Bar came to be born.

Cycling day 40: MacDuff to Ellon

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

I made very good progress again today and it was clear that I’d arrive well ahead of target if I continued at that rate. So I extended today’s ride by about 32 miles to take in both the signed NCR1 and a traffic-free cycle route along the path of a former railway. The latter is more direct than the on-road route, but it’s quite bumpy so hasn’t been adopted as NCR1 for the moment. There’s definately potential there though if the surface can be improved. Several miles further south, in what will be tomorrow’s cycling, NCR1 resumes using the railway path, which leads into Aberdeen.

As if to emphasise the uneven distribution of the mileposts that I mentioned yesterday I didn’t see a single one today, even though a sizable chunk of today’s journey was on NCR1.

I saw plenty birds of prey today, but only at a distance or short moments nearby, so unfortunately haven’t had an opportunity to get any better photos than the other day. They certainly have impressive wingspans and fly so gracefully.

Castle ruinToday’s route also took me close to a few ruined castles, including one immediately adjacent to the route. I also saw a monument on a hill, but until I glanced down a my map and saw it marked as a monument I thought it just looked much more like a large water tower.

The weather’s been playing it’s part well again. It was generally pretty good today with some nice sunny spells. The showers, when the occurred, were light and hardly warranted donning waterproofs (Indeed on more than one occasion the rain had finished by the time I pulled over and put my jacket on.).

Cycling day 39: Nairn to Banff (Well, MacDuff actually…)

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

Colourful NCR1 milepostI’d expected to pass several Sustrans mileposts today, but not anywhere near the number that I ended up passing. If you read the words on most of the milepost designs you’ll see that 1000 were funded by the Royal Bank of Scotland as a millennium project. Actually there a few more than that as local authorities etc. have funded a few privately. I passed 13 mileposts today. So over 1% of all of those on the National Cycle Network. I covered over 70 miles today (the NCN had about 12,000 miles in total the last I knew), so it shows that the mileposts are quite disproptionately placed around the network — I should have only expected half of the number of mileposts that I actually saw. It’ll be great for OSM’s mapping when I get the data online though, especially as much of today’s route didn’t seem to be mapped yet, based upon what I saw on my Garmin GPS’s display (admittedly several weeks out of sync with the main OSM database now).

The weather was actually pretty good today, despite the forecast for showers. In reality hardly any spots of rain and quite a bit of pleasantly warm sunshine. Now that my brakes are working as they should again it was a highly enjoyable day of cycling, especially as the distance was back to a longer run again. Near to the end of the day’s journey there’s a split in NCR1, so as I was having fund and had some spare time I decided to cycle both braids to ensure that they’ll be mapped.

When I got to my accomodation in Banff there turned out to be some unexpected miles appended to my journey though. It turns out that they’d accidentally double-booked my room. They had tried to contact my home number, but of course I’ve been on the road for several weeks now, so missed those messages. They did helpfully arrange me some alternative equivalent accomodation in the adjacent town of MacDuff though, and luckily that’s not much further to cycle (in fact it’s not very far from part of the planned route for tomorrow). So, I’m now writing this posting from MacDuff instead of the expected Banff. I did get a large £20 donation from the B&B owner in Banff for the British Heart Foundation, whom I raising funds for by doing this ride. Thanks on behalf of both myself and the BHF for that.