March Meeting

After snow, wind, rain, frost and fog – February seems to be going out with some actual spring weather so it’s a real shame that we’re not looking forward to the last of our winter rides on Sunday. We’re hopeful that as lockdown starts to lift and the regulations allow it we can run some more rides in the spring, but for now we will have to make do with the joys of our regular monthly Zoom meeting

Screengrab of the Handforth Parish Council zoom meeting

Please join us on Tuesday 2nd March at 7pm from the comfort of your own home to discuss the issues of the day – members will get an email with the link as part of their regular newsletter, but if you don’t receive it, then please let us know by emailing to get your invite.

We can’t promise the fireworks of Handforth Parish Council, but we will be discussing our plans for joining in with Pedal on Parliament’s 2021 campaign which won’t involve pedalling on Parliament this year, unfortunately, but will have a strong climate message. We’ll also be considering issues closer to home and what activities we can start to plan for as lockdown eases.

Standard journalist at our pop-up park

A reminder too that the Dynamically Different Dumfries project is still going strong and there is one more of their online workshops left to go, on green spaces. You can sign up online to attend if you’re interested – the last three have all been very informal and useful sessions with lots of discussions and ideas. It might not be as fun as creating your own pop up park, but it might have a bit more of a lasting impact.

Finally, as we’ve mentioned on social media, there is a consultation going on about the Pleasance Avenue / Troqueer Road junction, where the council plan to put in pedestrian crossings – but the consultation goes a lot wider than that. If you live or walk or cycle through the area, do pop onto the online consultation site and have a look at the options (if you can’t see how to get to the survey from there then you can go direct using this link).

Advance notice: Caledonian Cycleway closure

We’ve been notified by the council that the Caledonian Cycleway is to be closed for utility works over the period from the 22nd February to the 26th March.

The closure will be in three phases, and diversions will be in place:

  • Phase 1: Between Moffat Road and Marchfield Avenue/Keswick Place link, during which time the diversion will be via Carruthers Crescent, Coulter Close, Summerpark Road, Marchfield Road and vice versa (in blue on the map below).
  • Phase 2: Between Marchfield Avenue/Keswick Place link and Marchfield Road, during which time the diversion will be via Marchfield Avenue, Edinburgh Road, Marchfield Road and vice versa (in green on the map below)
  • Phase 3: Between Marchfield Road and Bloomfield during which time the diversion will be via Marchfield Road, Edinburgh Road (via underpass) and vice versa (in yellow on the map below).
map of planned diversions during the worksThe council have assured us that during these works, diversion  signs will be in place and that the path will be restored to a good standard afterwards. Please let us know if you experience any problems or if diversion signs disappear.

We’ve also raised the issue of the Edinburgh Road underpasses which are not accessible to all users due to chicane barriers, but this is the responsibility of Transport Scotland rather than the council as it is part of the trunk road network – we’re following this up. Meanwhile we have reported to Amey the many broken lights in the underpasses as well as the encroaching vegetation, so hopefully those will be fixed soon (you can report issues with paths alongside major roads direct to Amey on their site)

We regret this closure as the Caledonian is a key link in Dumfries’ active travel network, but we have been reassured that the council are taking the need to maintain walking and cycling links seriously. But we’ll be keeping a close eye on things to make sure.

Meetings, Meetings

As January is drawing to a close, our regular monthly meeting is on its heels as night follows day …

coach and horses

Join us (online, sadly, not in the pub) on Tuesday 2nd February at 7pm for our regular monthly catchup on what is going on. Members will get the link and joining details in their monthly email, but if you aren’t (yet) a member – and if not, why not?- then please drop us an email requesting an invitation. We’re always happy to hear from people who cycle locally (or want to) and might be curious about what we do and who we are.

New Year’s Day ride cancelled

We’re sad to announce that we are cancelling our planned New Year’s Day ride. Although it would have been OK to go out under the guidance for Level 4, the current outbreak of the new variant is a concern, and so we are heeding the NHS’s advice to stay home as much as possible. Encouraging people to travel even within the region and to gather even in a small group, however much we try and keep our distance, just doesn’t feel right at the moment. Also, the icy conditions look set to stay around and riding in the hills might have been a bit reckless at the best of times.

We’re gutted as we were looking forward to an outing and a chance to chat, at least from a distance, but there will be other opportunities and other rides. Instead, we suggest people get out with their families or on their own, and enjoy what looks like is going to be a beautiful if cold day (taking care on any ice, of course).

We’ll keep our other rides under review, so please keep an eye on the site, our Facebook page and our Twitter feed.

Stay safe out there! We will see you on the other side.

Group photo
New Year’s Day ride in happier times

Last ride of 2020 … looking forward to 2021!

One of the downsides of our new pandemic-safe rides is that it makes it very hard to put together a ride report when you go out in smaller groups instead of one large one! Yesterday saw us gathering (in a distanced fashion) by the rowing club prior to sending off two groups – one for those who fancied doing the full loop through Beeswing, and past Milton and back along the Old Military Road, and another group for those who wanted the option of a slightly shorter out-and-back ride.

Group assembled at the start

We had one family in the second group with two young girls who did brilliantly to tackle the big climb that takes you up and over from the Old Military Road down to Beeswing. We were fortunate in the weather – although it wasn’t sunny it was fairly mild, and there was no wind at all which is about all you can ask for at the end of November!

The front group did tackle the loop and by all reports had a good time (I’m working with very little here as our two ride leaders erred on the side of brevity). In the second group we took our time with plenty of stops to admire the view and catch our breath after the harder uphill stretches

We didn’t quite make it all the way to the tower, as some of the littler legs in the group were beginning to struggle and we knew it was shut – although we were very close. Instead after a rather unglamorous picnic lunch break at the side of the road, we turned around and tackled the big hill in the other direction.

Then it was downhill almost the whole way home – and it was the kids waiting for some of the adults to catch up!

All in all, despite a grey day, it was a pleasant way to spend a November Sunday and challenge ourselves to get outside – something that can be a struggle for experienced and newbie riders alike!

With Christmas coming, we won’t do a ride in December – but we will make up for it with our New Year’s Day Ride. This will be a loop up past the reservoir and through Speddoch – the perfect way to blow away the cobwebs and say farewell to 2020. Book now!

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 and we’ll send out the details.