Turf Blog 10-08-22

The morning of 10th July, between the hours of midnight and 3.00 am, I was almost certain that we were back in Covid-19 Lockdown again. I had hardly encountered a single living soul during my three hours of nocturnal turfing and kick scooting on the Swifty Air, covering a good twenty miles overall. Yes, a few distant vehicles in the background and one car as I scooted past Dryden Farm on the cycle route between Roslyn and Shawfair. Not one single person did I encounter. Normally, during the silly hours, I would come across someone, a cheerful drunk weaving unsteadily home to a scolding wife/husband, a young couple hanging out somewhere quiet or a late-night dog taking its owner for a walk, but not tonight. It was deathly still and quiet. Quite nice actually.

One reason for going out turfing at this time of the night, or morning, whatever is your preference, was to avoid the searing “Scorchio” heat of the day. Recent weather has been glorious, that is if you like scorching hot sun that fries you to a crisp in minutes. I certainly don’t, never have. I had enough of that with six months in deserts of Saudi Arabia working as a Quantity Surveyor, back in another life. Another reason would be to get my Daily Five, reducing the count by another day towards that ever-nearing Daily-365 medal (only 29 days to go!). But to be honest, I just love going out at night turfing on the kick scooter, or on foot, or on the bicycle. I like the quiet, the stillness and the chance to see the wildlife, particularly badgers.

When I was a young lad, my grandfather used to take me out badger watching down in Selkirk. We would setup near a badger sett, out in the woods, sitting on stools, wrapped in blankets to keep warm, sucking on Pan Drops, and sitting absolutely still and silent, often for many hours, and sometimes without seeing a single animal. But it was worth it when they did appear. First a faint ghostly form would appear at the sett entrance, the black and white striped head of a badger. Quite a thrill for a young lad, I must admit.

However, today I’ve seen more badgers out kick scooting at night than all the long hours sitting cramp and uncomfortable watching badger setts. Tonight, was no exception. I’d taken zone WayOfBaird, and had just reached the Dalkeith to Penicuik cycleway when I heard rustling in the undergrowth. Stopping, I could see the vegetation moving, it was coming in my direction and getting closer. I stood still, silent and waited. Perhaps a cat, rabbit, wild haggis or hedgehog. Soon a head appeared. It was striped black and white, a young badger. It looked in my direction, either didn’t see me or deemed I wasn’t a threat and sauntered off down the footpath, rooting in the verge for insects. A good start to the evening.

My route took me in the direction of Penicuik, at least as far as Roslin Gunpower mill, taking all the zones along the way, a good 14 zones in all. Not much wildlife though, just the usual cats turfed out for the night, and amorous rabbits by the score, and a few batty bats as well. The steps down to the Gunpowder mill are awkward with a kick scooter, requiring me to carry it most of the way down. I just wish they would include a section at the side for wheeling the likes of bicycles and kick scooters, up or down. It would make things so much easier. I suspect at the time, when they were constructed, bicycles were not included in their thinking. I think only since the coming of the Scottish Access Code have other modes of transport such as bicycles, had their needs taken into account.

I had some companions tonight, celestial beings from the heavens, no less. Luna, the Roman goddess, was low in the sky to the west, not far away from setting, not quite the full “Sturgeon” moon, that’s still two days away yet, but a fine sight to see on this clear-skies night. My other companion was the gas-giant Saturn, the 6th planet from the sun, which would be up for most of the night, tracking from east to west along the Ecliptic.

The path through the Gunpowder site is not ideal for kick scooting, the gravel in places is just too rough for comfort, but not so bad when cycling. There are now four zones on the trail, two having been added recently. So, well done the zone makers, for doing that but don’t stop there. Another by the footbridge at the parking area in Roslin Glen Country Park would be welcome. A fast traffic-free whizz down the tarmac road brings me to Roslin Glen Country Park, taking the dirt path that shadows the North Esk down the glen, for another zone, RoslinPark. Then it’s across the awkward footbridge, up the awkward steps and another zone at Rosslyn Castle, not unsurprisingly named, RosslynCastle. Lots of different name spelling in this area.

Now the easy section, five miles of old railway route, either downhill or flat, just about perfect for kick scooting. And between here and Shawfair, a grand total of another 19 zones all easy taking. In fact, so easy that its also easy to forget and scoot on past them. My thanks for the turf app designer for including voice notifications. Lots of bat’s flittering around the street lights catching moths and other insects. And a couple of cats having a right disagreement on one of the side paths. Still at the hissing, spitting and yowling stage, not having reached the whirlwind of fur-flying, no-holds-barred, claw-scratching cat fisticuffs yet.

At Shawfair, time to head for home. A few cars in the park-and-ride, young lads and lassies in tuned Ford Focus ST’s, or Golf GTI’s, chatting through open windows, puffing away on e-cigs or perhaps a spliff, drifts of McDonalds detritus blowing in the breeze. I can think of better things to be doing at 2.00 am in the morning that sitting in a car. Turfing, perhaps? Yea, okay, sleeping! I’m passed by a police van, which slows down momentarily behind me, then speeds off to leave me be. Checking me out, no doubt. I must look suspicious. Giant kick scooter, pink shorts, green t-shirt, river sandals, in the middle of the night. What’s wrong with that?

My route home took me via Melville Castle Hotel, now closed up for the night, across the new footbridge and up through the wood, round Melville golf course, up by the driving range, then across Broomieknowe golf course, then finally down though Bonnyrigg and home. And still, not a single person did I come across. A few HGVs on the main road but otherwise deserted. Oh, another badger on Broomieknowe. It crossed my path on the 4th fairway and stopped when I shone my light on him, or her. The badger turned, lifted a paw up as if to wave, and gave me the once-over for a few moments, before rumbling away across the course. I’d be interested to know where the badger sett was located.

And that was that. Another very pleasant session turfing with 46 zones on total. Back home, I washed the grime from my sticky body and grabbed a cup of welcome tea and a cherry Bakewell tart (no scones left sadly). I find I have to sit down a chill for half an hour or so before retiring to bed, this night catching another episode of The Sandman on Netflix. Highly recommended, if you like fantasy. Just cannot get to sleep otherwise. Bye for now.

Copyright ©2022 Gary Buckham. All rights reserved.

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