Today’s guest picture comes from our son Tony, who visited the Union Canal at Ratho near Edinburgh at just the right moment.
We woke to a sunny morning, although it was chilly again, and as the forecast was pretty positive, I decided that this was the day for a longer ride after a month of short rides so far.
I waited for things to warm up a little, had a slice of toast and an early cup of coffee, and got off at about half past ten.
It promptly started to rain.
However, the rain was not heavy and the westerly wind looked as though it would soon blow it over my head so I persevered. By the time that I had gone eight miles, the situation looked better.
The beech hedges are starting to go green…
…and as long as I was in the sunshine, it was a good day for a pedal.
I went through Eaglesfield, and took the old main road down to Gretna, passing Robgill Tower on my way.
The car parks at the shopping village at Gretna were well filled now that restrictions on shopping have been lifted, but I passed up any retail opportunties and headed over the border into England.
My progress was brought to an abrupt halt by a closed level crossing.
I lined up with some cars, also trapped at the crossing.We waited for some time and then the Glasgow express whizzed by. We got ready to go but the gates remained shut. After what seemed like an age, a very slow, very long goods train (pictured above) trundled past. Once again, engines were started, my foot put on the pedal…and once again, the gates stayed closed.
This was getting beyond the joke and we didn’t laugh at all when a solo diesel locomotive pottered across the crossing. Still no gate action, Finally the two coach diesel from Glasgow to Carlise via Dumfries bobbled past with a cheery toot and the gates were opened. It was lucky that we didn’t have to wait for an Edinburgh train too. I have never had to wait for four trains to pass at a level crossing before.
Still, life on the other side of the crossing soon made up for the delay.
I went through Rockcliffe, went past the railway marsalling yards, and took the cycle path whch runs alongside the Carlisle by-pass. The cycle path has been very well maintained during the lockdown and it was a pleasure to use it to cross the River Eden and get to the lovely country on the southern shore of the Solway.
In order to make a loop for the return journey, I turned off the coast road at Kirkandrews-on-Eden and enjoyed a splendid view of the Lake District hills…
…before turnng west and heading for Kirkbampton, which has a delightful 12th century church…
…much ‘improved’ 150 years ago, but with some original features remaining.
It was a battle getting to Kirkbampton into a brisk wind, and I was very happy to come to the end of the loop and turn back for the coast and the road home.
I was even happier when I saw that the may is out at last….
…although I won’t be tempted to cast a clout until it gets quite a bit warmer.
I had hoped to see the sea, but when I got to Drumburgh, I found that the sea was out….very out…
…in fact it looked as though I could almost have cycled straight across the sands to the Scottish shore. I had no incination to do that though, as there was a heavy rainstorm going on over there.
I gave my bicycle a rest on a handy bench instead.
The road along the shore to Burgh by Sands is dead flat and with the brisk wind now behind me, I made good speed, though a little rise at Boustead Hill gave me an excuse to stop and enjoy the sight of cattle in a pond on the marsh.
As I was headed in the direction of the wind farm at Gretna, the miserable looking weather on the other side of the Solway made me a bit nervous…
…but by the time that I got there, the rain had disappeared and I pedalled home in almost continuous sunshine.
On my way, I went round the Carlisle by-pass again and was much struck by a brilliant broom at a roundabout on the top of the hill.
It was not quite so impressive at the minister’s broom, but it was right next to a constant stream of traffic so I though that it was doing very well.
Usually I expect to see broom come out as the gorse fades, but there was plenty of good gorse on view today, and I liked these little bursts of colour in a hedge near Blackdyke…
…though the prize for good gorse went to the terrific display along the banking of the motorway near Gretna.
I crossed the motorway and headed back towards Scotland, coming to what was an important road in times past…
…but which is now a little used back road. I used it to cross the border and go up to Kirkpatrick Fleming through Gretna Green.
Once at KPF, a friendly wind blew me home at a good speed for the end of several hours cycling. To give my legs and back a break every now and again, I would stop for a snack or a drink and one of these breaks happened to be beside the Korean Pines at Half Morton. They were busier than ever.
My last stop was to appreciate the mass of garlic mustard in the verge near Irvine House.
The temperature dropped a bit and it clouded over as I got near Langholm and I feared that this meant that a rain shower was coming. My fear was unfounded, and the sun was out when I got home.
To those interested in the science of sports nutrition, I can say that I was fuelled by three bananas, six home made date rolls, three Palestinian Medjool dates and a small grain and Belgian chocolate bar from M&S. I drank tap water from my cycle bottle.
Mrs Tootlepedal had been busy while i was out and had raked up the jackdaw’s depredations on the middle lawn into neat piles of moss, so we cleared these off and then I had a look round for flowers. The cold nights have not been helping and there was little new to see. Mrs Tootlepedal is of the view that gardening at the moment is a vale of tears, but she likes the cheerful pansies in the chimney pot…
The rhododendrons are progressing…
…but the azaleas are still very hesitant.
I had forgotten to fill the feeder before I left, so I filled it now and hung it out with a rather guilty air. Siskins of every size and colour soon arrived…
…and naturally soon started fighting and shouting.
Mrs Tootlepedal had made a tasy curry for our evening meal and I enjoyed the sparkle of the spray as she washed a pan after we had eaten.
I had set out to do at least 63 miles which is 100 km today, but finding conditions to my liking, I had extended my trip to 80 miles so that I have recorded another year in which I have completed a cycle ride to match my age in miles, in this case exceeding the target by one mile. The plan is to continue to do this for as long as my legs hold out, using an electric bike when that becomes necessary.
The eighty miles may be seen as a tribute to Dropscone who turns eighty this weekend. (There was a mystery package of two pain au chocolate and a fruit bread waiting for me when I got home. Seeing that they had been obtained from the late evening discount counter of a Hawick supermarket for the princely price of 10p each, I rightly surmised that this was a gift from Dropscone. He likes to time his return from evening golf committee meetings in the Borders to coincide with the bargain bakery moments at ASDA.)
The flying bird of the day is a siskin leaving the feeder in disgust at the bad behaviour there.
Footnote: Here is a map of today’s very flat ride. Those who wish may find further details by clicking on the pic.