An email popped into my inbox the other day, an email from a famous world-renowned mega-turfer and turf guru. She is a bonny lass with a lovely Irish accent. Many of us know her by the turf name, Féarglas, others by her real name, Leonne. She drew my attention to an interesting article in a back issue of Turf Insider from September 2019. I’ve copied it below.
Ask the Community: You know that you are a Turf veteran when…
- You use Turf as the GPS at work to find customers.
- You watch the news and exclaim” I’ve taken that zone!
- You refer to zone names instead of official names of locations.
- You have a hard time reading a map if it lacks marked zones.
- You celebrate your birthday more often than you rank up.
- You refer to eras as pre-Turf and post-Turf.
I must admit to being guilty about using some of these, or similar, myself. I recall watching the news one evening. The reporter was on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh standing beside St. Giles Cathedral and I commented that I’ve taken that zone. Another time, I referred to zone Brixwold as the place I’d encountered a badger late one night. I’m sure there are many others. I’ve also referred to eras as pre-Turf and post-Turf. Am I a turf veteran or simply a turf addict?
Today, I’m off into Edinburgh. I’m planning to turf-cycle the Water of Leith Walkway from Leith to Balerno and back. No making videos this time, or stopping to take photographs of all the zones, just simply out to enjoy riding the Surly Ogre single speed, taking in the scenery and bagging a few zones along the Water of Leith. And, not forgetting, getting that all important unofficial Planet Gary medal, the Water of Leith Walkway.
In my original posting for this medal, as noted below.
“For this medal you must travel the entire 13-mile length of the Water of Leith Walkway, from start to finish, taking all the zones you encounter along the way. You have the choice to start at Leith and finish in Balerno, or the other way round if you want. Any means of transport is permitted. There are around 60 zones in total.”
I noted there was about 60 turf zones to take along the way. Now, to be honest, this is fairly flexible and there are no fixed rules about what zone makes a Water of Leith zone. But 60 is a nice round figure and that’s what I was aiming for today. And what did I get? Well, exactly 60 zones, no more, no less. So, I’m more than happy to award myself the Water of Leith Walkway medal.
The Water of Leith Walkway runs for 13 miles from Balerno down to the sea at Leith docks. The walk generally follows the course of the Water of Leith, but does meander away in places as it takes to various footpaths, old railways lines and the occasional urban street. The terrain is mixed, with stretches of tarmac, some good, some poor, gravel paths and even the dreaded granite cobbles. I would recommend a mountain bike or at least a bike with reasonably sized tyres. It would be quite uncomfortable on a skinny-tyre road bike.
The route follows a fairly gentle gradient, as it follows the river, but there are a few steps to negotiate in places. But perhaps the main problem along this walk is its popularity. Being located in the centre of a bustling city, tourists, dog walkers, runners, pram pushers, cyclists and the occasional lurking hooded weirdo, make the route very congested at times. A good bicycle bell is highly recommended, nay, essential. Saw a massive rat near zone Bowlgreen, sitting on the path. It ran away when I approached but not after staring me down first. Pity it wasn’t spotted from a zone as I could have added it towards my Nature Watch 25 medal. Drat that rat!
Personally, I find the waymarking along the Water of Leith Walkway very hit and miss. Signage is not that good at some junctions and I’ve found the best way forward is to look for the gaggles of tourists hanging about, or dog walkers, or joggers. A good app to add to your mobile phone is Naviki, it’s good for showing those little hidden pathways that the map on the turf app does not. Note that sections of the route are currently being resurfaced and there are diversions in place. A good place for refreshments is the Water Of Leith Visitor Centre in Slateford, as shown above.
I decided to do this route starting at the coast, the bottom end. My thinking was do the climb while fresh, it’s uphill all the way to Balerno, as you might expect if following the course of a river upstream. Then, afterwards, enjoy the nice long 13 mile easy cycle downhill again on the way back. It’s worth noting that parts of this route are either along the route of disused railway lines or in the valley formed by the river, and can be quite chilly. Not so bad on the way up as you are forced to pedal harder and generate some heat but it can get chilly on the way down. I ended up adding back two layers to keep warm, and this was in mid-Summer.
Another plus from today’s ride was adding another 30 or so uniques to my tally, bringing me to 2041, another small step for this turfer, but not much of a giant leap for turf-kind. Back again soon.
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