Browsed by
Tag: cycle ride

A sunny cycle to Seton

A sunny cycle to Seton

Today was one of those (supposedly) rare occasions, a sunny bank holiday. By way of celebration we decided to make uses of our Historic Scotland membership and visit one of their properties. One of the great things about living in Edinburgh is that there is so much to do within easy pedalling range, for today’s wee outing we chose Seton Collegiate Church, which we had not visited before.

Rather than join the tin box bampots, who seem to love sitting (fuming) in long stationary lines of traffic, we chose to follow much of the newly opened John Muir Way, mostly along off road paths, listening to the bird song. On reaching Musselburgh, we were please to find that the Electric Bridge was open (it being a race day) ,so we didn’t have the faff of negotiating the barriers at either end of the footbridge. For those confused by this statement, maybe I should give a brief explanation: the Electric Bridge was built in the 1960’s a few hundred metres north of the “New Bridge” built in 1806 (to replace the old bridge built by the Romans on their short holiday in Scotland, c. AD 71 to AD 213). The Electric Bridge was built was to allow transport of the turbines to Cockenzie power station. Having used it once and installed the turbines the Central Electricity Generation Board (CEGB) then offered the bridge to the Town Council for a nominal sum, but the offer was declined. As a result, gates were installed and the bridge is only opened on race days to allow access to the local racecourse. However, with the recent closure of Cockenzie power station (in March 2013), there is uncertainty about the future of the Electric Bridge.

The River Esk safely crossed, we headed down stream to the confluence of the Esk and the Forth, where we paused to look back to Edinburgh and take a few photos (note today I only had my phone with me and not the usual SLR).

View from the mouth of the Esk, looking west to Edinburgh

Had I had the SLR with me, I could have zoomed into the National Disgrace on Carlton Hill which was clearly visible. But I hadn’t, so we carried on around the coast past the former ash lagoons, now grassed over, to Prestonpans where we rejoined the road. From Prestonpans through Cockenzie to Port Seton, this was the least pleasant part of the ride, as you have to ride along a busy main road engineered to generate conflict. However, today the majority of motorists were tolerant (I have had bad experiences here in the past). Having survived this, we pulled off the road to look at the map and were passed by a smiling, waving Chris Oliver, AKA the Cycling Surgeon. The first time I met Chris we were viewing an x-ray of my clavicle, but that is another story.

The map consulted, we knew that just before the caravan park there is a wee path running up through the woods to the Seton Collegiate Church. We were greeted by Linda (?) of Historic Scotland who was very friendly and told us to leave our bikes along side her wee hut/office, as there is no cycle parking provided. She then gave us a brief history of the site and suggested the best way to view it, basically go left to the remains of the of priests’ accommodation, then peek over the gate at Seton House Castle (you are not allowed to go in, but peeking over the gate is free), and then enter the church through the west door. History wise, the original church was built in 1242 to serve the parishioners of Seton. Over time it was extended and adapted, it also became the private place of worship and burial vault of the Seton family. In 1470 the 1st Lord Seton introduced a college of priests, whose primary role was to pray for the souls of their benefactor, his wife, and his family. Evidently the Seton family had a lot of sins to atone for, as the “college” consisted of a provost, six priests, a clerk and two choir boys.

Over the years the church suffered damage during the various troubled periods of Scottish history, for instance during the Rough Wooing by the English army under the Earl of Hertford. They looted and stripped the vestments, communion vessels and stole the bells and organ, before setting fire to the timber work. Lady Janet, widow of the 3rd Lord Seton, did her best to repair the damage, demolishing the earlier chapel built by Lady Katherine St Clair (to house the tomb of her late husband, Sir John Seton) and building the present transepts and bell tower. A bell, cast in Holland in 1577, was installed, but the steeple was never completed. The church was further damaged around 1668 during the Scottish Reformation, with a number of the carvings being defaced by a mob of zealous Covenanters. Also at this time its role as a Collegiate Church came to an end, and for a short time it served as the parish church for Seton, until Seton was joined with the parish of Tranent and therefore was no longer needed.

The church finally left the control of the Seton family after the Jacobite Rising of 1715. The Setons were supporters of the Old Pretender (the self-styled James the 3rd and 8th), who caught a cold (or was it man flu) after the Battle of Sheriffmuir and beetled off back to France, leaving it to his son, the Italian coward Young Pretender to carry on the family tradition of romantic (or romanticised) failed rebellions. Anyway, I digress, back to the story, the kirk was desecrated, this time by the Lothian Militia in search of “hidden treasure”. Following this, the estates of the Setons passed to the Earls of Wemyss, who partially restored the kirk and used it as a burial place of deceased members of their family, until 1946 when they gave it to the Scottish people (probably in lieu of death duties). Enough writing, time for a few photos:

The Seton Collegiate Kirk
Seton Collegiate Church

The wee hoose next door
Seton Castle

Some of the Carvings
Carvings at Seton Collegiate Church

Carvings at Seton Collegiate Church

Effigies of an unknown knight and his lady (possibly Sir John Seton and Lady Katherine)
Effigies of an unknown knight and his lady

And a final carving, this one of Lady Janet Seton. If you are wondering about the colours, it is due to the sun coming through the stain glass windows.
Lady Janet Seton, Seton Collegiate Church

The bell. The kirk’s original bell was stolen along with the organ by the English Army in the 1544. This bell was cast for the 5th Lord Seton in 1577 by the Dutch.
Seton Collegiate Church bell

There were an number of Peacock butterflies (Aglais io) flying about the place, and this one dead on the floor
Peacock butterfly (Aglais io)

After an enjoyable hour or so wandering about the place, we decided it was time to head in to Longniddry to find a spot of lunch. Ulli suggested that we should go to the Summer House which has a wee café. The building was gifted to the village of Longniddry as a Reading Room in 1890 by the Countess of Wemyss and March. Its other claim to fame is that the Scottish Women’s Rural Institute held its first meeting there in 1917. There is a seating area outside where it would have been very pleasant to sit in the sun and eat, if it hadn’t been for the traffic noise which blights the village.

We returned to Edinburgh by much the same way as we had come.

On the way back to Edinburgh

Pedal on Parliament II, launched

Pedal on Parliament II, launched

While I was away skiing in Austria Pedal on Parliament 2 was officially launched with this video:

This year Pedal on Parliament is going to be bigger and better than ever, make a note in your diary to be on the Meadows in Edinburgh at 15:00 on Saturday the 18th of May 2013 and make sure you are there to be a part of history. Together we can make Scotland a cycle friendly Nation!

Pedal on Parliament, let’s do it again

Pedal on Parliament, let’s do it again

Last year I got involved in an event which turned out to be far bigger than any of us expected – the first Pedal on Parliament. Ever since, people have been asking if we could do it again. Well, the answer is yes! There will be a Pedal on Parliament II, on the 18th May 2013, and this time it is going to be even bigger and better.

Why is this important? Last year 3,000 people turned out to join the ride, and this has had a real impact in moving cycling up the political agenda,and not just cycling but active travel in general. This is where Pedal on Parliament is different, we are not just another cycling group, we have always said that we want to make the roads safer for everyone. When our eight point manifesto is fully implemented, Scotland will be a better place for everyone. As Alistair Gray put it, Work as if you are in the early days of a better nation. So the clock is ticking, tell all your friends to be there, come and be a part of Pedal on Parliament II and we will make Scotland a cycle friendly Nation.

Gifford for lunch?

Gifford for lunch?

The plan was simple, ride out to Gifford, have lunch, pootle around East Lothian for a bit and take some photos before going home again. Well, that was the plan. It was one of those autumnal days when the air was clear and the sun bright, so I packed my big camera in a pannier and we set off, heading out through Holyrood Park, with the intention of picking up the Innocent path below the tunnel. Arriving at the park, we found there were lots of people running along the roads. Although the roads are normally closed on a Sunday, there aren’t usually this many runners around, nor are they usually as muddy as this lot were. We noticed a sign proclaiming “Survival of the Fittest” and realised this was some sort of race, also they were being directed down the path towards the Innocent tunnel. At this point we decided to carry on to Duddingston instead and join the Innocent Path and the NCN 1 after that. So far so good.

At Brunstane we had the absurdity of having to carry the bikes over the footbridge to cross the railway line. This always grates, it is typical of the couldn’t care less attitude of British transport planners. This bridge could easily be made accessible to wheelchair users, parents with pushchairs and cyclists with a little thought, but no, just put up something that is inadequate and tell people to make do. Certainly in the past, the same attitude has been shown by Sustrans, describing this as part of a Traffic Free route and the National Cycle Network. Why do we have to put up with second rate crap? For that matter why does Sustrans think this is suitable for an international long distance cycle route? Rant over*.

We departed the NCN1 at Whitecraig, and where we headed towards Smeaton Shaw, when we had to stop to investigate a strange rattling coming from the back of Ulli’s bike. It turned out to be a loose cable from her rear light, cable tided away we carried on. We had not gone much further, to the turn off onto the old railway line to Ormiston, when I noticed a strange rattling coming from the back of my bike. On stopping to investigate, I found this to be rather more serious. One of the bolts attaching the pannier rack to my bike was hanging loose and the spacer between it and the frame was missing (as I now have disk brakes, there has to be a spacer to stop the rack from pressing on the calliper and applying the brake). Fortunately we only had one pannier each, so I could swap mine onto Ulli’s bike. However I was reluctant to go on, as I was worried about the bolt shaking loose and being lost, so we decided to head home again.

On reaching the Esk, the bolt was still holding firm and Ulli suggested that we head to Musselburgh for lunch instead. We followed the path down the Esk to the town, but couldn’t find anywhere that looked interesting to eat. Rather than retrace our route, we headed west along the coast to Portobello. So it was that for a second weekend in a row we found ourselves on Porty Prom, this time I decided to get the camera out and take a few photos:

Looking across the Forth
Looking across the Forth.

Porty beach on an autumnal day
Porty beach on an autumnal day.

Tides out
The tide was out, people were wandering about…

… and a dog was fetching a stick.

Strange vessels in the Forth
There were some odd looking vessels out the Forth.

Arthur's Seat from the other side
Then, on the way home we took in the view of Arthur’s Seat from the other side, the low angle of the sun showing up the prehistoric cultivation terraces.

The morale of the story, it is always worth carrying a camera…

* I have now been told that there is a way round without going over the bridge.

How we came to Pedal on Parliament

How we came to Pedal on Parliament

Last year I wrote a post about how the Dutch got their cycle paths. A key part of this was the Stop der Kindermort campaigns of the 1970’s. On the 28th April the Dutch celebrate their Queen’s Day, while we here in Scotland took inspiration from their Stop der Kindermort campaigns and Pedalled on the Scottish Parliament to call for safer roads for all.

The genesis of the of Pedal on Parliament can be traced back to a meeting in Edinburgh to discuss the formation of a Scottish Consulate of the Cycling Embassy of Great Britain, involving Sally Hinchcliffe, Dave du Feu, Dave Brennan and myself. There was some talk of taking a protest ride to the Scottish Parliament, but at this stage there was no formal plan. The Pedal on Parliament campaign really started on the 24th February, with a single e-mail to Sally and myself from Dave Brennan:

Hi Guys,

The call has gone out for cyclists to go to London on the 28th April in a show of support for the ‘cycle revolution’. I’d love to go, but I just can’t make it. Too far, too expensive, too difficult. 🙁

However, that got me thinking, surely this is the right time to push the agenda north of the border. We have a separate parliament who have yet to make any major noises about this campaign. So, I’m wondering if we need a Scottish ride to coincide with the London ride. Probably an Edinburgh ride to Hollyrood.

What do you guys think?

I’ve started writing a blog post about it, we would need a lot of support from others, and this might be a good time to get support from the Scottish press (we’d ideally have support from the Times as well). We’d obviously need Spokes, GoBike, Cycling Scotland etc on board.

Just thought I’d pass it by you guys first.

I’ll have to cancel my entry to the Kinross Sportive which is a shame! 🙁



Since then it has been a roller coaster ride, the three became seven and then eight, and before we knew it we had started a revolution. We had a website (run by Alan of Go Bike), we were getting press coverage in local then national papers, even a couple of mentions on the BBC and STV evening news. On the evening of the Spokes Hustings (29th March) Michael MacLeod of STV suggested that there could be as many as a 1,000 people turning up on the day. This was the figure we started to talk about, even though I for one didn’t entirely believe it.

Around this time we decided that we really ought to have something to give to Parliament, well, we had our Manifesto (a modified version of the one I had originally written), but we felt the need for something more. So it was that we started an on-line Petition and watched the signatures trickle in. The numbers were disappointing at first, but did give us an idea of where we where getting support from, all across Scotland. It also meant we could watch the momentum grow over time, and by the 28th April we had a little over 3,000 signatures.

We somehow managed to blag a wee bit of money out of Spokes and CTC Scotland, which paid for some flyers, using one of the posters designed by the Magnificent Octopus’ (or Andy Arthur as we know him). Andy also kindly donated the monies he was paid for designing a poster for a cycle rally in London, which paid for some blue Hi-Viz tabards for the marshals. We chose blue so that it would stand out from the expected sea of yellow, but I digress. Armed with said flyers, three of us headed for the Scottish Bike Show, where, with the aid of a wonky wallpaper table (is there any other kind?) we set about trying to reach people we couldn’t reach via Twitter and FaceBook Thanks to the Scottish Bike Show for letting us do this for free!.

As the day grew closer, so the flurries of Tweets we were sending to the world increased, as did the blizzard of e-mail between ourselves. Anth, Alan and Sara were busy organising feeder rides and recruiting volunteers to help with publicity, marshalling, etc. We were all working flat out, no one was free wheeling, and, despite the strong characters involved, there were no fallings out.

The day its self dawned, there were three laptops on the breakfast table, the e-mails and tweets were still flying, to try and encourage last minute support. Checking the Petition, we noted that we had just got past the 3,000 signature mark on-line, we had also picked up around 250 on paper at the Scottish Bike Show. About 09:30 there was a phone call from the Police to ask about numbers and arrangements for the day. The conversation went something like this:

Police: so you are expecting 300 (this was the number we had put on the original application form)
Me: um no we are expecting around 1,000 now
Police: OK we will work with that

I later heard that the police briefing for the event had said that they expected around 600 riders to take part. Some of the feedback we have received from participants since the ride has been critical of us, for not anticipating the number of people who turned up on the day. But we literally had no way of knowing how many would turn up. The petition had only just gone over 3,000, and from mapping the first part of the post codes we knew that almost 1970 of those came from the central belt, but how many of those could be expected to turn up on the day? We knew there were going to be some people coming in on feeder rides, but no firm numbers.

Setting off at midday, we (Dave B and I) headed for PoP HQ, Andy’s flat just off the Meadows, to meet up with the rest of the team. This was also to be the meeting point for the non-political invited riders, namely the McNicoll’s (parents of Andrew McNicoll who was sadly killed while cycling in Edinburgh in January) and Mark Beaumont (the round the world cyclist). While there, we tried testing the megaphones we had borrowed (yes, we had 2!), only to find we had bought the wrong batteries, cue mad scramble to get more batteries and pull strings to find if we could borrow a portable P.A. system. Next, there was the phone call from Mark Beaumont to say that he was stuck in traffic on the Forth Bridge, cue jokes about telling him to get on his bike. Fortunately, the Standing Orders for the day were “Keep Calm and Carry On”, which was what we did.

Andy’s neighbours must have wondered what was going on with the constant comings and goings. Ian and Lynne McNicoll arrived with a friend (whose name I have unfortunately forgotten), we had just done the introductions when a tall figure appeared in the doorway. I looked up and thought I recognise that nose, and said “Hello Mark, come in”. The others were looking a wee bit stunned, so I set about doing the introductions as if I was introducing old friends, until I got the friend of the McNicoll’s, when I went blank, at which point the room fell silent and Mark Beaumont looked confused. Fortunately, Ian realised what had happened, finished the introductions, and we were back on track.

People filtered in and out, I left the flat for the last time about 13:30, when I received a call on my mobile from a BBC cameraman down at Holyrood, asking when we expected to arrive and what we would do when we got there. I said that people had been told to gather from 14:00 and we would set off at 15:00. He asked if there were going to be many people. I looked down Argyle Place and across to the Meadows, on the far side I could already see a crowd gathering, so I said I thought that we would make our predicted figure of about a thousand.

Across the Meadows, I went looking for people I was expecting to see, and met some old friends I hadn’t seen for years. The crowd continued to swell, we asked people to keep to one side of Middle Meadows Walk, but it was soon clear this was filling up rapidly. It was when someone told me that people arriving were backing up Argyle Place and fanning out along Melville Drive, that I started to realise that this was really BIG. However, we didn’t really know just how big yet. A conversation caught on video with the police suggested that it was well over a thousand! The new batteries for the megaphones arrived, but we found that we still couldn’t get them to work, so to tell people about the planned minute’s silence, marshals walked down the line telling people at intervals and asking them to pass the message on. It worked! When the whistle was blown to signal the start of the minute’s silence, the whole park fell silent, even people walking past stopped talking. It was a truly eerie feeling, being faced with thousands of people with the only sound being a few birds in the trees.

ThousandsPhoto by Chris Hill.

After the silence came a cacophony of bells, hooters and cheers! Then the ride was led off by Mark Beaumont and the McNicolls, I filtered into the line later on and rode along, chatting with people on the way. There was a wee bit of a delay getting from George IV Bridge on to the High Street, and a taxi driver in Victoria Street decided the solution was to lean on the horn in his cab. Well, until one of the police officers went and had a word with him. Generally the drivers were well natured and patient, more amusing was the reaction of the tourists who cheered and took photos. Every one seemed to be smiling.

On reaching the Scottish Parliament, the organising team all headed for a grassy knoll which stands out (the grounds in front of Scottish Parliament have been landscaped to accommodate rallies such as ours), and invited politicians headed over to meet us as they arrived. All had ridden from the Meadows, we were very happy to have cross party support. Half an hour after the first riders had arrived at Holyrood, we heard from the police that the last riders had just left the Meadows. Once everyone had finally arrived, a number of short speeches were made. However, due to the size of the P.A. system we had blagged at the last moment, quite a number people didn’t realise that speeches were happening, as they couldn’t hear them.

There was a further discussion with the police about numbers, they said at a “conservative estimate there were at least 2,500 people and probably 3,000”, this figure was agreed by many of the others who were there. There was a comment from the politicians that this was one of the biggest rallies they had seen outside the Scottish Parliament, and definitely the most friendly. The buzz was amazing and has continued for well over a week!

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!
%d bloggers like this: