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Dates for your Diary

It’s that time again! The approaching end of the month means our next ride is looming (yay!) as well as our next meeting (slightly less yay, but it’s nice to see everyone’s cheery face, even if only in a little box on the screen). So if you haven’t already, get yourself signed up for Sunday’s jaunt out to Beeswing – and note that we’re starting at the Rowing Club, rather than Dock Park to avoid the dreaded Dock Park crossing.

On the road on our last ride

And then there’s our monthly meeting which we’ll be holding virtually on Tuesday 1st December at 7pm – as always, members will get a link with their monthly newsletter (contact us or check your spam folder if you don’t get one of these) but if you want to attend you can also get in touch and request a link (cyclingdumfries AT gmail dot com).

Last month’s meeting was an unprecedented success in that we’d barely discussed plans to encourage the council to clear up leaves on the cycle paths when they did so in record time. We’re hoping for a similarly miraculous effect on whatever we discuss next week so bring any concerns you have!

Don’t Miss Out! Sign up for next weekend’s Beeswing ride

Join us! Our next winter ride will be on Sunday 29th November – meet at 11am by the Rowing Club (note the new start point)

After a busy September and October, our autumn/winter ride programme continues with monthly rides so don’t miss out on next weekend’s event – a jaunt to Beeswing and Drumcoltran and back, for a total of around 24 miles.

loch Arthur route map
Route map showing the basic route to Beeswing – you can see the full details here.

We stopped going to Loch Arthur on our winter rides when we switched to a Sunday, as the creamery isn’t open, but now that we’re avoiding cafe stops there seemed no reason not to resurrect this lovely route – and possibly extend it to Drumcoltran Tower (also sadly not open) and back via Milton and the Old Military Road.

group photo

Starting at the Rowing Club (note, not Dock Park), we’ll head out via the Maxwelltown Path and the Old Glen Road and join the Old Military Road after crossing the A75 at the Lochfoot Roundabout. We’ll then head up and over the hill (it’s a stiffish climb but then a nice descent!) down towards Beeswing, where we’ll take a brief stop to eat our lunches (please bring your own)

In order to keep Covid-safe, we’ll be heading out in smaller groups and keeping socially distanced. This means we can tailor the ride a bit – so those who want to can head back the way we came, while those who want to make a loop of it can head out towards Milton and back along the Old Military Road – with any luck, with the wind behind us to carry us home.

At the top of the hill
Regardless of the distance, this will be the speed …

Either way, it will be on quiet back roads and cycle paths, and the pace will be slow enough that everyone’s got enough breath to chat – for that is, at the end of the day, the real reason to head out together.

This one has a bit more up and down than last month’s ride to Ae but it’s doable for anyone who’s happy spending a couple of hours in the saddle. If you’ve any questions about whether it might be suitable for you then get in touch.

If you want to join us, you do need to book – it’s totally free, but it enables us to get your contact details, and plan how many ride leaders we need.

See you there!

Path Clearing – Leaf it to the Council?!

Normally about this time of year we spend a lot of time trying to get the various cycle paths around Dumfries cleared of fallen leaves before they turn into a lethal slick of leaf mulch. We report dangerous leaf build up using the council’s own ‘Report it’ tool (on the front page of council’s website), follow up with emails to officials, and even chase up our councillors. Unfortunately, these efforts usually aren’t all that successful – or at least not until we take matters into our own hands and clear at least one path ourselves.

more clearing
Leaf clearing in years past

This year, though, nothing has been as expected – and it seems that even extends to leaf clearing. We were delighted to see that the station path (which is usually leaf clogged for most of the winter) had been beautifully cleared this week.

Similarly the stretch of the Caledonian up to the Moffat Road (and beyond) was also cleared, and they’d done a nice job of it too (and even Cuckoo Bridge, which tends to have a lot of litter as well as leaves collected at the edges, making it quite unsalubrious, had clearly been tidied up).

What a difference

‘Leaves on the line’ aren’t just an issue for trains – wet fallen leaves can be just as slippy as black ice and we regularly get reports of cyclists breaking an arm or worse at this time of year from coming off their bikes. Far too often in the past, we have got the impression that the council just wait until all the leaves are down (which may not be until well into December) before starting to clear them – by which time too many cyclists will have either taken an unnecessary tumble, or simply been put off and put their bikes away until spring. Clearing the paths right back to the edges also makes social distancing easier and means cyclists and pedestrians can share paths more easily and comfortably, without being squeezed together on a narrow strip of clear tarmac in the middle.

Plenty of room for all on the station path when it’s clear.

So we’re really delighted at this change of heart on the part of the council – and we hope it’s not simply a one off, but a new approach to path maintenance (following on from the improvement in gritting and de-icing from last winter).

We know that not all the paths have been done (yet) and that the leaves will keep falling and the paths will need to be done again before too soon but for now let’s rejoice at the sight of a well-cleared path and say thank you to the council for making autumnal cycling in Dumfries much safer and more pleasant than it was before.

Welcoming the start of our Winter Rides

Crossing the river on our way to Ae – photo courtesy of John Henry

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).

On the road to Ae – photo courtesy of John Henry

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.

Last leg on the Caledonian Path – photo courtesy of John Henry

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!

Next meeting: Tuesday 3rd November

We interrupt these stories of bike rides past and planned to announce that we’ll be continuing our monthly meetings into the ‘dark months’ even though the clocks have gone back. So please join us at 7pm on Tuesday to discuss our plans and campaigns and any other cycling-related matters that come up.

Sadly we can’t have them on bikes or in person in any way, so it will be back to Zoom. We’ll send out the link to all members with our monthly email shortly – if you want to attend and you’re not a member, drop us an email on cyclingdumfries AT gmail.com and we’ll send out the details.

Mabie Forest: Foliage and fairies on our final Discovery Ride

If we were in any doubt that these were not our normal ‘Summer rides’ the autumn colours along the Nith as we set off on our final Discovery Ride might have given us a clue. But then again, what better time to head off to the forest than when the leaves are turning?

Cycling along the Whitesands – photo courtesy of John Henry

Certainly others agreed as we had another great turnout, despite increasingly Octoberish weather. As has become routine, we divided into smaller groups and set off at intervals to keep everyone apart – something which also allows us to tailor the rides a bit according to people’s wishes.

The route to Mabie forest is almost entirely off road except for one short stretch along a fairly quiet single track road. It’s not perfect, but it’s a massive improvement on the alternatives of either cycling with traffic on the Dalbeattie Road, instead of along the path, or down the New Abbey Road. The main problem is that it’s still not signed as a route, so very few people know about it, especially the side entrance along the track by Mabie Farm Park. Hence why we run these rides – to show people that you can get there by bike, even if you prefer not to ride along busy roads, and that it’s well within the abilities of most families.

Bikes make great social distancing measures! Photo courtesy of John Henry.

Once at the forest, there was the usual break to chat (still socially distanced of course) while the kids took the opportunity to do a bit of exploring among the trees. Once more, the small groups meant that those who wished to stay a bit longer could, while others could head for home.

We’re sad to come to the end of these rides – we’ve had a really great time running them and we hope everyone who’s come along had enjoyed them too. All good things must come to an end – but that’s not the end of our rides because we’re starting our Winter Ride programme on Sunday with a somewhat longer ride to Ae Forest. At 20 miles, on quiet roads, it’s a bit longer than the 11 miles to Mabie, but still well within the reach of most – you can book your free place here.

And the fairies? Well, we didn’t spot any directly, but we did find the place where they live …

Hide and Seek and Wild Goose Chases: Two more rides to report

 

group at heathhall

The problem with having two rides in one week is keeping up with the ride reports! Last Sunday saw us heading out for Heathhall Forest with three groups of riders, and all the fun of keeping everyone apart.

group in the forest
Cycling through Heathhall forest

We had a full turnout of 30 people – the maximum we are allowed under current guidelines – so we all ended up exploring the forest in our different groups as well as having a play on the mountainbike track, which everyone enjoyed, kids and adults both.

trying out the mountainbike track
Trying out the mountainbike track

Then on Tuesday we joined forces with WWT Caerlaverock and The Stove for our Wild Goose Chase ride – part of the Wild Goose Festival.

setting off for the Wild Goose Ride

This was a bit longer than our Discovery rides, at 20 miles, and on on busier roads than we normally use, but there were plenty of stops along the way to check out the wildlife and learn more about the local history and natural history that abounds in the area.

looking at the river
Checking out the Nith at Kingholm Quay

The weather was not as nice as we’ve had on our recent rides, but it didn’t seem to dampen anyone’s spirits. Each group had not just a ride leader but wildlife experts so it was the perfect opportunity to learn something new as well as get out into the fresh air!

group at KM Bridge
Learning the difference between goosanders and mergansers …

Despite the distance, we had two sets of families along with younger children who were absolute stars (even though the ride home came with a bonus headwind)

family group on the road

It’s nice to arrive at your destination with a round of applause though – we think that should be standard on every ride!

Arriving at Caerlaverock
The final group rolls in to a round of applause

Being in smaller groups was to our advantage once more as it meant each could go at their own pace, and spend more or less time at each stop.

Sunday is the last of our Discovery Rides – we’ll be heading out to Mabie Forest. That’s already fully booked but if you’re interested in a longer adventure, our Winter Rides start on the last Sunday of the month. The first one will be out to Ae, another 20 miler, and well within the abilities of anyone who joined us down to Caerlaverock – you can book online for your free place if you want to join us.

More sunny weather for our second Discovery Ride!

Two groups meet (but maintain their distance!) at one of the handy benches up the Glen. Photo courtesy John Henry

While the rest of the UK seemed to be being battered by storms, we had another gorgeous Sunday for our second Discovery Ride – this time up the Glen. Despite some trepidation about its hillier nature compared to our first ride, we had another massive turnout with 25 people going out in three socially distanced groups.

The second group heads along the Whitesands in sparkling sunshine – hard to believe this is October. Photo courtesy of John Henry.

Once more each group had to negotiate the broken Dock Park crossing light (which – despite one hopeful email suggesting it had been dealt with – is still not working at the time of writing). However, that was pretty much the only fly in the ointment in an otherwise enjoyable afternoon. We even had a tailwind to help us up the climbs and as any cyclist will tell you, that almost never happens.

The Glen Road ride is a simple enough out-and-back affair, heading along the Maxwelltown Path and past the old hospital, before joining what used to be the A75 before the dual carriageway was built. This is now a dead end for cars, so it’s very quiet, but for much of its length it’s still as wide as the trunk road it used to be, so it’s a great place to ride in these socially distanced times.

Stopping to admire the view (and possibly catch our breath) at the second bench.

It also has a couple of handily placed benches on the way up where those who need to can catch their breath, and those who want to can admire the view. Once more, going out in small groups meant that we were able to tailor the rides a bit more to everyone’s ability – and we only had to climb as far as our legs would willingly carry us.

Enjoying the descent

What goes up, must come down – and that’s the beauty of this ride because having climbed all that way up, it’s then time to enjoy the descent.

Once again it was a real pleasure to be out cycling in good company, enjoying some of our beautiful surroundings and getting plenty of fresh air and exercise. Our next ride is a real favourite among kids big and small – a jaunt along the Caledonian Cycleway to Heathhall Forest, and particularly the mountain bike track there. You can book your free ride place here – but hurry because spaces are going fast.

trying the track

For a longer ride – but still very suitable for older children – don’t forget our Wild Goose Chase ride down to Caerlaverock wetland centre on Tuesday 13th October – a great option for a half-term outing, with each group accompanied by a wildlife expert to fill you in on the amazing birds and animals that make our region their home.

Back in the saddle for our first Discovery Ride!

After months of lockdown – and weeks of planning – it was pure delight simply to be back running a group ride on Sunday afternoon, especially given the gorgeous weather!

Smaller group sets off from Dock Park

Although we’re now under the ‘rule of six’ in Scotland – with only two households only able to meet at a time outdoors – organised rides can still go ahead as long as they follow the guidelines set down by Sport Scotland. This has meant a lot of changes to how we run our rides, not least requiring people to book in advance, but fortunately it hasn’t put people off. Indeed, with 25 people turning out on Sunday we probably had one of our biggest days out ever!

Group being briefed on the other side of the crossing (no word on when there will be any changes to make this crossing safer for social distancing!)

In order to manage everything safely, we actually ended up running three group rides, with each smaller group setting off once enough people were assembled, in order to prevent too big a group setting off (and to prevent people from getting bunched up at the Dock Park crossing which, predictably, is also not working properly for pedestrians and bikes at the moment. We also had to maintain social distancing during the ride – fortunately, at around 1.8m long on average, a bike is a handy guide to keeping people 2m apart.

group of cyclists at the destination
No group photo but this was one of our smaller groups.

It all felt a little strange at first, but once we were riding along – and especially once we’d reached the 12 Apostles and could take the time to explore – it quickly felt like just another pleasant bike ride in the afternoon sunshine. It’s always a pleasure to introduce people to new routes and new places whatever else is going on in the world!

group approaching the stones
Approaching the stone circle

We had some familiar faces and some new people, including a few who have returned to cycling during the lockdown, and it was actually a benefit to have multiple groups as this meant people could ride at their own pace without feeling they were inconveniencing the whole ride. Two of the groups took a longer route back, via the Hardthorn Road, while one group was content to enjoy the magic of how you can go down a steep hill into Newbridge on the way there … and somehow not have to cycle up it again on the way back.  It also allowed group two the chance to hang out and chat to their heart’s delight – but all in a socially distanced manner.

All in all, it was a fantastic day out and most people seemed keen in coming out for our next ride, which is up the Glen Road. Numbers are once more limited so if you’re interested in joining us please do book your free place as soon as possible. You can also see all our planned Discovery Rides here, including links to book yourself on.

view from the bench
The view from the Glen Road, next week’s ride

Thanks to all our ride leaders for helping out – and also to all our participants for being such a fantastic bunch and bearing with us while we managed all our coronavirus procedures.

See you all next week!

Join us on a Wild Goose Chase!

Join us for a free led ride to WWT Caerlaverock on Tuesday 13th October at 10 am, as part of the Wild Goose Festival – book now

Wild Goose Festival

We’re delighted to be joining forces with The Stove and WWT Caerlaverock to offer a ‘wild goose chase’ down to the Wetland Centre as part of their Wild Goose Festival in October.

You’ll probably have already noticed the geese returning from their summer breeding grounds to winter on the Solway. This ride will be your chance to find out more about these winter wanderers, as we cycle down to Caerlaverock in company with experts from the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust. The ride includes free entry to the centre grounds (but not the Visitor’s Centre due to restrictions on numbers) and refreshments will be available (outside, but under cover).

This ride is around 20 miles all in, with plenty of stops along the way to observe the wildlife and learn more about these internationally important bird wintering grounds.  The pace will be gentle, but may not be suitable for children under 10.

group ride
Past rides to Caerlaverock in less socially distanced times

Due to Coronavirus restrictions on numbers, we ask you to book your free place in advance.