Turf Blog 16-06-23

Turf Zone – WayOfBaird

The past few days have been hot, to put it mildly, though there’s nothing mild about the temperatures, well into the mid-20’s and the word scorchio comes to mind. Far too hot for turfing during the day, at least as far as I’m concerned. So, how does one get some zones/points if it’s too hot outside? Answer: you go turfing at night!

My chosen destination is Dalkeith Country Park (DCP) as there’s a good dozen zones with a few zones sitting at neutral and it’s a great place for quiet and peaceful kick scoot. I left the house the back of 11.00 pm and scooted my way down through Eskbank and Dalkeith, picking off a few zones along the way. It’s Thursday night and pretty quiet at this hour, just a few private hire cars buzzing about with the sound of heavy good vehicles in the background. A scooter shoots away from Domino’s Pizza, laden with pizza’s, I guess. 11.45 pm seems a bit late to start eating food? Lots of ghost gulls flying above the town center. Do they ever stop to sleep?

I like this time of night. The air is very still, though you can feel the cooler air flowing downhill from the high ground. It seems to gather in the hollows. You are suddenly enveloped by cold air, but soon punch through into warm air again as you start to ascend again. However, after some energetic kick scooter you soon generate your own heat and barely notice the changes in temperature. Other than background traffic all I can hear are the swish of the Swifty’s tyres on dry tarmac, the tone changing when I run under the trees, caused by sticky sap dripping from the trees.

The pedestrian gate to DCP is not locked, so I don’t need my access card, again. Not sure if it’s been deliberately left unlocked or is simply broken, not that it makes any difference. I avoid the main path, keeping left through the beech wood, heading down the dirt track to my first zone, Restoration. There, I pause for a while, hoping to hear a tawny owl calling but no such luck. Would have been nice to add another bird species to my unofficial Planet Gary Ornithologist medal. My count is sitting at 47. Just another 3 required for the medal. Not tonight, it seems.

Nice smooth tarmac now, scooting down for my next zone, DoNOTCrossEsk. I’m using one of my Hope R2 Vision lights this evening as one of my Knog Road 400 lights has failed, the strap mounts have given up the ghost. I like the neatness of these lights but they do not last, so I will not be buying any more of them. In any case, the Hope R2 Vision lights are far superior, last longer, have better intensity options but are considerably bigger and heavier. You get what you pay for, I suppose.

Now, when I’m out turfing at night, there are three things on my wish list that I’d like to witness or come across. One is to see the aurora borealis, or the northern lights. Another is to see a UFO, in whatever form that may be. The third one is clouds. But not just any old clouds these are the highest clouds you can get and are extremely rare. And my luck was in tonight as far off to the north, a large expanse of silvery blue noctilucent clouds.

Noctilucent clouds form between 47 to 53 miles up in the Mesosphere, right on the edge of outer space and are formed of ice crystals. They are usually blue or silver in colour, but sometimes orange or red. They are best seen in the summer under clear skies just after sunset but before it gets completely dark. Another tick in my Cloud Collector’s Handbook. I may go out again tonight to see if I can photograph them. Fingers crossed the weather stays clear.* The BBC News website mentioned this sighting.

Got some great views of these “night-shining” clouds as I scooted along the road and stopped to take zone DoNOTCrossEsk. Managed to get this one a few meters up the trail. Sometimes I’ve had to go to the top of the short climb, at other times, was able to get a take at the gate. The gravel track was bone dry and was like walking in loose marbles.

For my next two DCP zones, TheUnknown and YouAreTheAce, both neutrals, we are off-road again, down another gravel track. On my last visit the track here was pure mud, tonight it’s totally dry and sandy. Slightly easier going for the kick scooter but yet still challenging as the usual sticky mud is now loose sand. Lots of rustlings in the trees and vegetation, animals out searching for food, trying not to become food and generally going about their nocturnal business. The intoxicating scent of Himalayan balsam was hanging heavy in the still night air. Interestingly, this path seemed longer on the way down tonight than on the way back.

BridgeOfFaith and ToEdinburgh are my next targets. The first taken at the footbridge with the hole in the decking, the other along the woodland path heading back towards Dalkeith. I’m very aware that this is tick season, and with the long grass and bracken along this path, and also the trail down to YouAreTheAce, I’m stopping regularly to check for the pesky little buggers. Thankfully, all clear. Some ticks carry something called Lyme disease and I once read about Ray Mears, the British survival expert, who had a 14-year battle against the disease. So, it’s not something to be taken lightly. I’ve been put off the dunes and long grass areas at Aberlady Bay for the same reason, at least during the tick season.

There’s a shortcut to my next zone, ParkOfSteel. It’s across the first metal gate you encounter to your left as you go along the path beside the field. The gate isn’t locked and can be opened but the chain does make one hell of a noise, seemingly more so at night when it’s still and quiet. You think everyone will hear you, wonder who is out the and send security to investigate. In any case, it’s easier to lift the scooter over the gate and jump across. Quieter too. Nice view of the noctilucent clouds from the zone. They are usually visible for some hours after sunset.

Now onto the tarmac road and some speedy kick scooting. And boy it’s hot. I’m down to shorts and still feeling the heat. But still much more comfortable than during the heat of the day. HowlandsPark. Not much here other than a young long-eared owl chick calling from the trees. Sound like a squeaky gate hinge. Back to the tarmac road again and a slight detour out towards the Melville gate entrance, then back through the woods for zones LugtonBrae, LugtonCross and my final DCP zone, SneakyPlace.

And with that final “zone taken” from the nice lady who lives inside the mobile phone, it’s time to head for home, grabbing a few more takes long the way, past the ghost gulls still making a raucous racket on the rooftops in Dalkeith and soon I’m home. Time for a nice cup of tea and to consider good nights adventure, with noctilucent clouds as well. And on that exciting note, thanks for visiting. Do join me again next time.

*It wasn’t and no sign of the noctilucent clouds.

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