Turf Blog 06-07-23

Turf Zone – BraidLaw

Today’s turfing session started out simply as a gentle ride along the Dalkeith to Penicuik cycleway with the aim of taking a few silhouette photographs riding through the railway tunnels. However, it turned out to be a rather more strenuous 28-mile session than originally planned. Not in terms of points or zones taken but miles pedalled, push-bikes pushed, height climbed and nasty horse flies thwarted. What I ended up doing was completing the final 4 zones of the Seven Hills of Midlothian.

Like the Seven Hills of Edinburgh, which I’ve already completed, in Turf World there’s also alternatives in other regions, and Midlothian is one of them. There others are the Kingdom of Fife, East Lothian and West Lothian. Not heard about anything in the Scottish Borders. In Midlothian, there are seven zones located on seven hills, hence the Seven Hills of Midlothian. The zones are:

  • ArnistonBing
  • RamsayBing
  • CampWoodHill
  • BraidLaw
  • CampHill
  • LawheadHill
  • TheHillFort

The first three in the list are all local to Bonnyrigg and have been visited on numerous occasions. The other four are to be found in the Pentland Hills, above Penicuik, and I had originally intended to use the car, or public transport, to travel to Penicuik and then take the zones on foot. But this morning, one thing led to another and I ended up doing all four zones in the Surly Ogre single speed. Yes, I must be mad!

Turf Zone – CampHill

It was after the photo session in the railway tunnels – which were rubbish, by the way – I thought, might as well continue to Penicuik and get some zones. Then once there, I again thought, doesn’t look very far to zone CampWoodHill and even if I get just the one zone that would always another one ticked off the list. Unfortunately, this involved cycling along the busy A766 Carlops road, and the even busier A702, both into a strong headwind and both which I try to avoid if possible. But I survived and began the climb to CampHill, located on an Iron Age hill fort.

Of course, riding the single speed means no gears to climb those nasty hills and the Surly Ogre reverted to push-bike mode. That’s me pushing the bike, in other words. But when I thought about it, if I didn’t use the bike, I’d be walking anyway, and with the bike I always have the delights of riding back downhill. So, a little bit of effort pushing the bike uphill isn’t that much of a burden.

After taking CampHill, and beating off a humongous swarm of clegs, well, just the one actually, but it was an extra big one with extra big teeth and claws. Or at least that’s what it felt like when it started drilling its pair of blade-like maxillae into the flesh of my arm. Luckily, I felt the little blighter and flicked her away. Hope she has a sore head! Normally, they tend not to give up so easily but that was the last I saw that one. Of course, it’s only the female horse flies that play Underworld vampire and suck the life blood from you, the males are much more refined and feed on pollen and nectar. Isn’t that nice!

Okay, what next, I asked myself. I could see the summit of BraidLaw ahead of me, with the zone of the same name. I could see tracks most of the way and there was probably a path to the summit out of sight behind the trees. Seemed a shame not to go as I’ve already cycled all this way. So, off I went, riding down the gravel trails, walking up the steep sections while fighting off sheep who had taken an interest in the brightly coloured Surly Ogre. The bike also seems to attract more insects than before as well.

Turf Zone – TheHillFort

Quite a climb but manageable with the reduced weight of the Surly Ogre. Much easier on my poor old back. Cracking view from up there. Could see Tinto hill, the Moorfoot hills, even Traprain Law near Haddington. The return back down the hill was by an alternate route. This time I followed a path along the top of the wood, one I’d not noticed on the way up, and saved some time and effort. Nice spot for some lunch.

Seven Hills Midlothian – take the zones on the seven highest points in Midlothian.

With a total of five of the seven zones taken, that left only two to go, zones LawheadHill and TheHillFort. Both are located northwards towards Edinburgh and again, I was already here, so might as well go and take them. Picked off uniques GoSeePenicuik and TrailStart along the way, then a short climb along a dirt track near Silverburn House. Note there’s three metal gates here to open and close, but was able to get zone LawheadHill without issue. Caught the edge of a passing rain shower but nothing to bother about. One of those times when you ask is it worth getting the waterproofs out or not? It wasn’t and the shower passed. The wind dried me out quickly enough.

From there it was along the crazy fast A702, at times making use of the pavement to escape the traffic. Actually, with the wind at my back and a mostly downhill gradient, I made good time and was soon ascending the road to Castlelaw and my final zone, TheHillFort. No cycling up this hill! It was push-the-bike all the way to the top and great to hear that “zone taken”. The Seven Hills of Midlothian were now in the bag.

Of course, I suspect the “right and proper” way to do any of the seven zones challenges, is to undertake the challenge in a single session, though I don’t think there are any official rules on the matter. That’s what I did with the Seven Hills of Edinburgh, on the Swifty Air kick scooter, and will, one day, try to beat my time of 4 hours, 13 minutes, this time using a bicycle. Though I suspect I’ve won’t get anywhere near turfer Cruachans time of 1 hour, 52 minutes. But now that I’m familiar with all the zones in The Seven Hills of Midlothian, I might just try again with a single session. Wish me luck!¬†Time to head for home.

Copyright ©2023 Gary Buckham. All rights reserved.

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