Turf Blog 28-08-22

Turf zone – HolyMungo

To get this page started, here’s a few tenuous links. Back in the 1960’s there was a series called The Addams Family, and a key member of that family was a young girl called Wednesday Addams. Now, fast forward to 2022 and Surly Bikes have a fat-bike for sale called the Surly Wednesday, named after Wednesday Addams. In The Addams Family, Wednesday has a brother called Pugsley, and yes, Surly Bikes produced, at least until recently, a fat bike called the Surly Pugsley. And what has all this to do with turfing, you may well ask? Well, today I’m riding my Surly Pugsley along the Dalkeith to Penicuik cycleway to take a couple of unique zones in Penicuik.

Actually, that’s not strictly accurate. I’m actually riding my Surly Krampug, a custom hybrid beast somewhere between the Surly Pugsley and the Surly Krampus. I actually built it as a gravel bike, for hard-packed wind farm and forestry plantation access roads, and this was long before the term “gravel bike” came into use. Essentially, it’s a Surly Pugsley fat bike that’s been on a limited diet, with tyres a mere 75mm wide rather than the usual 100mm wide. To date, most of my turfing has been on my skinny-tyre (50mm wide) Surly Ogre but too long have I neglected the sheer comfort and go-anywhere abilities of a 29’er Plus, as the category is known, i.e., my Surly Krampug.

So, the target for today just the two unique zones that have appeared in Penicuik, the oddly named zone CuikOoh located in the town, and the equally oddly named zone UBendIfUWant located by the River North Esk in the Penicuik House estate. Only two zones I hear you ask? Yes, this is part of my latest venture to keep me interested in turfing. To use a term mentioned to me this morning by turfer HappyHibby (or occasionally UnHappyHibby, depending on how well Hibernian football team are performing), to get my lost mojo back? My goal is to take all the remaining unique zones in Midlothian.

To the best of my knowledge there are 425 zones in Midlothian (the data taken from https://turf.lundkvist.com) and I’ve already taken 374 of them leaving only 51 unique zones still to take. Of course, I say “only 51 zones” with some trepidation, as 49 of those are located in the upland areas of the Pentland Hills Regional Park. Of the remaining two, one is located in Danderhall and the other at Old Pentland Graveyard near Straiton. Both easy enough to reach and take. Now, 49 zones in most other locations would not be a problem, a couple of hours cycling at most but not this 49. Certainly, an interesting challenge.

Now, fast forward to 1.00 am the following morning. Yes, it’s Silly O’clock and I’m back out turfing again, on foot this time and on one of my local circuits around Newbattle Abbey. It’s a lovely night/early morning with clear skies and not a cloud in sight. The air is cool but still okay for shorts and t-shirt. Though having said that there’s definitely a touch of Autumn chill creeping in and the mist developing in the low-lying pockets of land adds to that as well. There’s not a breath of wind.

It’s not a “big” turf, this route, as in high numbers of zones or points, it’s just one of the routes I love to walk in the quiet of the night. And its very quiet tonight, even the leaves are all asleep with not a single rustle or snore to be heard. Zone wise, my route starts at StoneGate, beside the A7 at Hardengreen, then crosses the South Esk and follows Lady Lothian’s Walk up to the Easthouses area of Dalkeith. Then down through the wooded trails to Newbattle Abbey College and returning along Kirk Bank Wood, then detours towards the Tesco area and back home. In total around 16 zones in all. And my thanks go to turfer Tandem who took most of the zones yesterday, and also to MuttsCycles, who is also a regular turfer here.

Now, I just want to share a little tip I’ve discovered along this route. I’m always keen to avoid tarmac roads and now use a little shortcut that misses out the road section at the Sun Inn. Not far downstream from the Sun Inn there’s an old dilapidated footbridge where you can cross the river. It’s not in a good state of repair with missing slats and rotten sections but is still quite solid and can be crossed with care. On the opposite side, the south side of the river, head left and follow the path uphill. It does get overgrown and peters out but you can simply head straight uphill and come out near zone TheRedwoods. If you are planning on trying this route, go during daylight first, or you may get lost.

Last time I was along here at night it was very windy and I could hear little other than the trees swaying in the wind. Tonight however, silence is golden. Without even the slightest breeze, every sound is loud and clear. Most noticeable are my own footsteps, changing as I alternate walking on gravel, dry leaves and dry compacted earth with the occasional loud crack as I step on a fallen twig or dry branch. Then there’s the faint rustles in the undergrowth as small ferry creatures go about their nightly business of staying alive, while at the same time trying to avoid the tawny owls, I can hear calling all around.

In fact, it was so quiet that I even heard a tawny owl take off from a nearby branch, amazed to hear a faint wing clap and the scrape of its talons on the branch. Normally owls are almost totally silent in flight. Of course, there’s always that distant rumble of traffic, and aircraft passing overhead, looping around Dalkeith to land at Turnhouse. And also, those annoying boy racers screaming about, breaking the speed limits and generally being a nuisance. But in between, a very nice place to be out turfing. Back soon. Bye for now.

Copyright ©2022 Gary Buckham. All rights reserved.

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