Phew. After a spring and summer spent largely in lockdown, we’ve had a busy autumn, running a total of six rides – four Discovery Rides, one Wild Goose Chase and our first Winter Ride – in the space of five weeks!
This Sunday saw us gathering for the first of our normal autumn/winter rides, a jaunt up to Ae and back, although as with everything in 2020, normal is relative: unlike our usual rides there was to be no cafe stop, and we had to split the 12 people who’d booked on into two groups to ensure we could maintain social distancing. Although this time we gathered in Dock Park, for our next few rides we will rendezvous outside the Rowing Club where there is plenty of room to spread out safely, and we don’t have to deal with the Dock Park crossing (which still shows no signs of improvement).
After a week of wild wet weather, it was a relief to have a (mostly) dry day and a tailwind for the first half of the ride, which was the uphill part of the route. We followed the Caledonian Cycleway all the way to its end, and then joined the Quarry Road which leads almost directly to Ae Village and the forest and Seven Stanes. We took advantage of having two groups on the road, which meant we could adjust the pace of each one to suit the participants – we had a couple of newish riders in the first group who preferred to take things steadily on the uphill stretches, so it was the second group who rolled into the forest car park first and headed off in search of a suitable place for lunch.
After a socially distanced al fresco stop we decided it would be criminal to ride all the way to Ae and not enjoy some of the trails so we took a short loop through the forest on forestry roads that were suitable for everyone’s bike. It was pretty busy in the forest, with plenty of evidence that families and others are keen to get out and cycle and walk as much as they can when the weather allows.
The nice thing about the route to Ae is that it’s downhill (almost) all of the way home – which is a good thing when you’re facing a headwind! The other good thing is that the very quiet road between Ae and Dumfries is perfect for a socially distanced chat with almost no traffic to interrupt the conversation. As cafes, pubs and restaurants become ever more restricted, and home visits are out of bounds, this is one of the best ways to get out and enjoy each others’ company safely – while also getting fresh air, exercise, and some amazing views.
As always with these rides, we’re happy for participants to peel off (having alerted the ride leader) if they reach a convenient turnoff, so it was a slightly diminished group that made it right into Dumfries town centre (where the market was still going full swing). All in all, a good three hours well spent in good company.
Our next ride is on the last Sunday in November – a loop around Beeswing and Drumcoltran Tower which is open for booking now. Please do join us if you can!