Blog 27-08-23

A quiet turfing day this Sunday with only a few zones to my name but enough to keep the points ticking over. More of a bicycle exploring day rather than a turfing day and also a day for tyre troubles, or rather, inner tube troubles. Regular visitors might recall that an integral part of my project to single speed all my bicycles was to lose some weight. Now, part of that weight saving exercise concerned the inner tubes and in my (wisdom? Not sure about that now), I changed them from standard butyl rubber to some new-fangled lightweight TPU (Thermoplastic PolyUrethane) inner tubes. With me so far? However, I wanted to further puncture protection by adding some tyre sealant, same as my previous inner tubes.

And this is where the problem arises. The valve on the TPU tubes is very narrow and a real pain in the buttocks to remove and replace. It’s so incredibly tight that damaging the valve stem/tube connection is a real concern and I’ve already lost one tube so far. And at £25.00 a pop (as opposed to £5.00 each for butyl rubber), I don’t want to lose any more. Which places me in the position of thinking that I’ll end up with unreliable inner tubes if I risk removing/installing the valve cores to add sealant. So, it’s back to good old butyl rubber inner tubes. The lightweight TPU tubes will be fine for carrying as spares. Guess I’ll just have to put up with adding a few more grams in weight.

Anyway, my target today was a short stretch off trail running from Hadfast Road near Cousland and the petrol station at Fordel Services south of Dalkeith. The route is a little over a mile long and it was the short squiggle of tarmac where the underpass passes below the A68 Dalkeith Bypass that caught my attention when browsing online maps.

After taking a few zones between home and the Woodburn area of Dalkeith, I started up the hill towards Whitehill, aiming for Langlaw. And I’m not ashamed to say I walked most of the way. Even with the lower gearing on the Surly Ogre, it was too steep to ride without killing myself. In any case, walking is exercise all the same. From Langlaw, it was an easy cycle to the start of the trail where the A60124 crosses the Bellyford Burn.

The route is a mix of degraded tarmac with patches of gravel but mostly well-overgrown with vegetation. There is a distinct path but not one that suggests many visitors. The trail follows the course of the Bellyford Burn, a name you may be familiar with if you’ve cycled the Pencaitland railway walk and have stopped to read the information boards. It gives its name to one of the pits, or mines, in the area. And out of interest, you can find fossil plant fragments dating from the Carboniferous period in the shale bing there.

Cycling the Surly Ogre along the trail offered up a few interesting discoveries. One was a series of small ponds teaming with wildlife and worth stopping for a look. Old maps show this area as a disused mine. Another was a series of shaped stones just off the path into Cowden Bog Wood near Fordel. Old maps show them to be boundary stones. Further research might reveal if they relate to estate, parish or county boundaries. One point to note is that there are plenty of the usual cycling hazards such as stinging nettles, thistles and brambles along this trail. And if it’s been raining, as it was earlier today, you will get wet feet. As this idiot was wearing sports sandals, my socks were soon soaking wet. At Fordell services, noticed some foundation slabs beside the path but have not been able to determine what originally stood here. The size and shape suggests some garages?

Opposite Fordel Services, I spotted some rubble in the field, more than likely a result of fly tipping, and I just had to stop to look for bricks, or more accurately brick marks, the stamped mark that the manufacture would place on the bricks in the factory. Once upon a time there would have been hundreds of brick makers in Scotland, each with their own distinct brick mark. Today, to be best of my knowledge, there are none, which I feel is a shame. A cursory search revealed the usual suspects, including the following: NIDDRIE, PRESTON GRANGE, WHITEHILL, LONDON BRICK COMPANY, EDINBURGH, SBC (Scottish Brick Corporation), WINCHBURGH, UFP (United Fireclay Products), ETNA, DOUGAL WINCHBURGH and NEWBATTLE. Also, a very old hand-made ARNISTON. Must return again for a proper look with my brick spotting tools.

Picked off a few more zones on the way home through Dalkeith and thought I’d better check the tyre pressures. Found I’d lost about 20 psi on the rear since pumping it up this morning, a result of that damaged valve. Hence my decision to revert back to ye olde fashioned rubber inner tubes. Back soon.

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