Let’s talk about zones. Zones are more often than not, at least from my experience, not the most exciting or interesting places to visit. Yes, sometimes, they are quite spectacular, amazing and thrilling, but your average common or garden variety of zone, the ones you take day after day, the ones listed in the Observers Book of Boring Zones, are generally speaking, pretty dull. Yes, sometimes interesting events do occur. For example, zone Restoration did offer up a great grey shrike one day and the beautiful naked woman who stopped to ask about the Surly Pugsley fat bike at zone TheOldMan, certainly lives on in my cherished memories. But let’s face it zones are mostly dull.
So, in an effort to add some interest, and dare I say it. even some excitement, to the taking of zones, I’ve set myself a wee challenge this morning. I’m going to take my new single speed bike, called Harley Quinn, for a lazy, though quite possibly strenuous, session of turfling* around Newtongrange, and my challenge is to find something interesting, informative or historical at each zone, about 20 of them in all. I do not think this will be easy challenge.
Did I say this would not be an easy challenge? Well, we are not off to a good start. Not a lot going on here though there an unopened tin of Spam on the pavement. There are two young girls at the bus stop thumbing their mobile phones at light speed. Probably texting each other. There’s a collapsed wall and Beechwood Park has lovely fresh tarmac, great for cycling or kick scooting. But most noteworthy are my poor aching legs after the long climb up from the Sun Inn. Remember, I’m riding Harley Quinn this morning. (Oops, that might sound rather rude!)
Boring, dull and plain this zone despite the rather posh landed gentry title. Unless, of course, you get kicks out of seeing fresh molehills, a carrion crow chasing a jackdaw or newly cut grass. Well, some people might!
Legs aching again, after the climb from zone LadyMansfield. Actually, followed another cyclist up the road. He was riding a normal 30 or something speed bike and guess what, I was catching up with him. I’m beginning to realise that the single speed isn’t all that slow after all. Lots of litter about and a plethora of discarded e-cigarette stuff.
Just a housing estate with nothing much happening. Not a soul about. Big imposing fence to the south, complete with floodlights. Looks like it might be a prison or school (same thing to some people) but is actually the yard for NWH, a haulage and waste management firm. You may have seen their vehicles.
Located on a narrow lane that provides access to the rear gardens of the miner’s cottages in the Monkswood area of Newtongrange. These were built to house the miners at Lady Victoria Colliery which operated from 1895 to 1981. There’s a black cat sitting on the wall watching me.
This is “The Square” and part of the Lady Victoria Colliery mining village noted above. A keen eye will notice the houses here look slightly larger and have bay windows at the front. Perhaps these houses were for the more senior employees and staff at the mine?
If you had been standing here prior to 1981 you would likely be run over by a railway wagon laden with coal, mine waste or even bricks. This zone is located on the route of the mineral railway, and also tramways, associated with Lady Victoria Colliery and other nearby pits and brickworks. The track underfoot is dirt complete with slippery mud (after rain) and tree roots. Makes for slow going on a single speed with narrow touring tyres. Good turfing emergency P-stop but I didn’t say that.
And the answer to that is probably Watt Park, the name of the nearby street. Mind you, not sure you could call it a park anyway? More like a patch of grass complete with dried dog turd, plastic water bottle and a child’s kick scooter with one wheel. Path is very overgrown, never seems to get much attention, unlike the other paths in the area.
The attraction here is, well, the attraction, the National Mining Museum of Scotland. Need I say more? Yes, I will, they have a coffee shop too. Other than that, I must say what is very interesting is the classic Norton motorcycle parked out front. Not all that sure what model this one is but it’s still one I wish was mine.
No platform No 9.75 here but a good spot for railway enthusiasts or train spotter’s, presumably. The chap on the platform wearing a green parka with three cameras round his neck and a notebook in hand certainly looks like one. Other than that, just another railway station on the Waverley line to the Scottish Borders. Ah, the switchback path from the mining museum is fun, at least on the way down.
Why indeed? Well, there’s Murder Dean Burn that runs down into the South Esk. The word “dean” could be part of a church and also a wooded valley. There are also other theories relating to the corruption of earlier place names but nothing confirmed. Best guess someone was murdered here. The switch back path here is a nice wee scoot or cycle.
Not a lot to see here, other than the wee library, a collared dove calling from the trees and some kids shouting “look at that bike!”. And that’s about all, other than the anticipation of tea at Mutts Cycles.
Nice park this. Seems very popular with dog walkers and old men out for a stroll and to stop and chat on the benches with other old men. Sorry, should not say old men, rather retired gentlemen. But there is something of interest, bloody big rocks. Don’t know enough about geology to name the type. Wonder where they came from?
A railway bridge across the line to the Scottish Borders. Nothing to comment on here. Must say though, the Harley Quinn single speed, being much lighter than my other bikes, is so much easier to lift up and down steps. My sometimes aching back say many thanks.
Located on a path to nowhere now. Used to go across to Dalhousie Road until they reinstated the railway line. There’s another similar path at Hardengreen.
There’s a pair of coal tits feeding upside down in the trees. There’s a sign warning of uneven ground and tough if you fall over. And there’s loads of midges out, and they are biting, at mid-day! Bastards! I don’t hang about.
I find I’m now looking for the easiest route between zones, routes taking the gentler gradients. Guess that’s part and parcel of riding a single speed bicycle. You think about cycling differently than when you have gears. I like it! I’m using a rucksack today and finding it annoying and awkward to access things. So, have ordered a Restrap frame bag and also a handlebar bag, giving me just enough capacity for essentials and not much else. Good way of not carrying too much unnecessary and never used clutter.
A narrow wee path between houses. A juvenile robin hopping about my feet. Lots of bees buzzing in the trees above. A wet pigeon poo splats at my feet. Ha, you missed me, you evil feathery b******! The end.
A zone on a small hill, but it’s not a real hill, it’s an artificial hill. Below your feet was once a railway marshalling yard, a place where trains get shuffled about. There were also two engine sheds where the locomotives would be kept in fine fettle. Other than your imagination, not much else to see. Oh, almost forgot, there’s Scott’s Path, a wee unofficial path through the trees. It’s not really called Scott’s Path but names need to begin somewhere.
And there we have it, all the thrills and delights of turfing Newtongrange on a single speed bicycle called Harley Quinn. Bet you need to go and have a lie down after all that excitement? And finally, a few comments on single speed turfing. You don’t need gears. You can climb the hills, and you seem to do so quicker. Lighter weight bikes are really, really, great. Single speed bikes are smooth, quiet and a joy to ride. The end.
*turfling, the activity of turfing on a bicycle. Not in the OED, yet!
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