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Uphill All The Way: The Last Big Push (St Abbs to Haddington)

Published on: 17 Jun, 2014
Updated on: 17 Jun, 2014

UATW 002 470This is the nineteenth report on the author’s progress in his bid to cycle from Guildford to Edinburgh. The reports follow: Uphill All The Way – The Idea and Uphill All The Way – The Plan (Part One) and Uphill All The Way – The Plan (Part Two)

All Uphill All The Way articles can be found under the Leisure section heading on the front page, in their own sub-section called Uphill All The Way.

By Martin Giles

The day was overcast, England had lost their first world cup match and I had the biggest hill of the tour to conquer.

The climb profile of my first six miles on day 19.

The climb profile of my first six miles on day 19.

But I was not depressed. The news late last night that my camera had been found still outweighed all these factors. I was up earlier than the other guests at the B&B and having been further uplifted by a call from my eldest son, Harry, wishing me Happy Father’s Day from Melbourne, Australia, I went down towards the smell of bacon below.

My hostess was there and was surprised as I was with the news about the camera. I explained that I had arranged to collect it at the pub at 10am. It would delay my intended start but was a small price to pay. I filled the time by writing more of the previous day’s report.

The red line shows my route from St Abbs to Haddington.

The red line shows my route from St Abbs to Haddington.

Just after ten I rolled to a halt outside the pub and knocked on the door. No answer. I found a bell, pushed it, still no answer. I knocked on the door again walked around the pub and scratched my head. There was no sign of life.

This was frustrating. My camera was, hopefully, just a few feet away but I could not get it.

I then thought to try the number that I was called from last night. It was answered promptly: “Hello, New Inn here.”

“Hello, I am standing right outside. Someone handed my camera in here last night and I have come to collect it.”

“Did they? No one told me. Hang on I will come to the door.”

The door opened. “I have found it. Now, can you describe it please.” I checked with a glance that he was not joking. Did he imagine that there were a queue of claimants? The pub had rung me!

“It’s small and black…” I begun.

“There you go, just had to be sure.” I was beyond worrying about his ridiculous checking, just glad to have it back. I asked if I could leave some money for the two chaps who handed it in to have a drink.

“No don’t worry, we are an honest pub.” I did not argue that that was not really the point. It was now passed 10.30 and I wanted to get started.

Almost as soon as I proceeded up School Lane I could see the scale of the task ahead. Once again I selected the lowest gear at the front so that I could change down to a really low gear as the gradient increased.

This was the first part of the daunting six mile climb. Slowly, slowly, catchee monkey.

This was the first part of the daunting six mile climb. Slowly, slowly, catchee monkey.

It soon did but whether by now I was mentally or physically conditioned to going up hills I cannot say. Perhaps it was bit of both. Anyway I just kept pedalling and surely, if slowly, the miles clicked by.

After the first mile or so the gradient eased off and inside I was fairly sure I had cracked it. It did go on gradually uphill but looking ahead I could see that most of the real climb was behind me. The overcast sky did not allow the spectacular views of yesterday, even though I climbed to about 700ft (nothing to properly energetic cyclists, I know) but I had a real sense of satisfaction.

The black bull on the left was still frisky despite his obvious earlier hard work, evidenced by his surrounding progeny.

The black bull on the left was still frisky despite his obvious earlier hard work, evidenced by his surrounding progeny.

There was still plenty of livestock around, mainly beef cattle. A black Aberdeen angus bull was getting frisky, still not satisfied despite the apparent evidence of his handwork to date in the form of numerous calves all around.

Parking space is not only a problem in Guildford.

Parking space is not only a problem in Guildford.

A little further on and some joker had parked a mini on a roof. Was it an April fool joke that was still continuing. Parking space was hardly at a premium.

Then almost at the very summit there was a wind farm. I cycled between the ranks of turbines as if inspecting them. The turnout was uniformly good however the dressing (alignment) left a little to be desired.

The wind farm, on parade, ready for inspection.

The wind farm, on parade, ready for inspection.

I listened for intrusive noise. I know that some who live close to such farms have complained but I could hear none hear. One single turbine I had passed a few days earlier near Ellington was far noisier.

The road started to descend. Was that it? Was there no more uphill? I came to Old Cambus which I knew was at the far end of the hill, near a place called Cockburnspath, a haunt of a Scottish painter called Guthrie.He was one of a group called “The Glasgow Boys”.

We have a copy of one of his paintings in our sitting room – a small girl herding some geese. It is titled To Pastures New. It is attractive but also real, even perhaps a little dour. I had been curious to see the place he lived in  and became the subject of further paintings but the lure of the onward descent was too strong.

I must have gone downhill for about two miles. Suddenly around a bend there was the Firth of Forth and in the distance Bass Rock. This really was on the home straight now.

My first sight on this tour of the Firth of Forth.

My first sight on this tour of the Firth of Forth

I could see below a beach with surfers. Was this Scotland? Then I thought I heard the sound of a seal. I stopped and quickly grabbed my monocular and started to scan. All I could see were rocks and the surfers. I heard the sound again and then as I moved to see another part of the beach, once again.

On the beach were surfers but embarrassingly no seals.

On the beach were surfers but embarrassingly no seals.

Where were these blessed seals? Then it dawned the noise was my seat post suspension squaking each time I moved – nothing to do with local fauna. Good job I realised – or I could still be there.

A little further on there was a sign indicating Route 76. It pointed off to the right. I obeyed cautiously. It then pointed left and I could see it was going to take me sharply down to beach level. “Oh no,” I thought, “that means another climb.”

Despite the Milton Keynes incident I risked it through the ford.

At the bottom of the descent, despite the Milton Keynes incident, I risked it through the ford.

Of course it did. I hoped it would not be too steep so that I could keep my record of not getting off and pushing.

At the bottom I risked going through a ford (the Milton Keynes incident is still a mental scar) and then had a quick conversation with some wet suited surfers who confirmed that the water was cold. Not my cup of tea, but each to his own.

Not pretty to me but there is little doubt that the encampment was providing pleasure to many people.

Not pretty to me but there is little doubt that the encampment was providing pleasure to many people.

I climbed the hill out of the valley, it did not seem too bad and the route then went under the A1 and back alongside my old friend, the East Coast Mainline.

For the next ten miles I seemed to shadow one or the other. For long stretches the bike path ran right alongside the A1. This is not my preferred set up but it would get the miles done.

Luckily the animal crematorium was not operating so I could breath in without worrying.

Luckily the animal crematorium was not operating so I could breath in without worrying.

I then found myself going past Edinburgh’s pet crematorium. It caused me to stop and have a look. The operation seemed to be contained in a mobile home, parked near a house. On the front a notice said “Reception” but a chimney at the back, just feet away, indicated that it was also the exit.

I looked to see if there was any smoke, any sign that cremation was underway. There was not. It was Sunday. That was good. I somehow did not fancy inhaling McFido.

Just a little further on there was Torness nuclear power station. I cycled past accelerating a little. Growing an extra leg would not help while I only had two pedals.

Torness nuclear power station on a sea of spuds.

Torness nuclear power station, on a sea of spuds.

The power station, operated by EDF, was surrounded by “tattie*” fields. I don’t suppose their proximity to Torness is a selling point. Torness is Scotland’s biggest nuclear power station with a capacity of 1,364 megawatts.** Should I feel this discomfort that it is in private hands? I must admit I do all though, in fact EDF is state owned by the French government.

This huge recycling plant had railway wagons that had come from Manchester parked outside.

This huge recycling plant had railway wagons that had come from Manchester parked outside.

The third industrial installation I passed (the ride was not quite as grim at this point as it might seem) was a waste recycling plant. It was massive. The railway trucks indicated that the waste they had contained had come from Manchester.

I had considered by passing Dunbar but as I was making reasonable time I decided I could afford to include it on the itinerary and stop there for some lunch. I headed for the shore line. There was a community event in progress.

 

I don’t know if they were organising cycling races but they seemed very pleased to see me. I explained I was nothing to do with anything just an eccentric Englishman on tour and they still seemed pleased.

Some areas of Dunbar like many other towns in the UK require redevelopment even though the wild flowers were doing their best to hide the scars.

Some areas of Dunbar like many other towns in the UK require redevelopment even though the wild flowers were doing their best to hide the scars.

The event was warming up and then they started to ask for volunteers for the water sports: swimming; kayaking; surfing etc. I had no wish to show off so decided it was time to leave these nice Dunbarians to it.

A view from a bridge in the pretty town of East Linton.

A view from a bridge in the pretty town of East Linton.

On I progressed into the Heart of East Lothian. I cycled into a village. The sign said Route 76 to the left but the view over the bridge towards a pretty little town was too enticing. Over the bridge I went. I needed a purpose and realised I was thirsty.

A little girl admires the water fountain, the bunting is up for gala week.

A little girl admires the water fountain. The bunting is up for gala week.

I enjoyed a quick pint of their local beer. It was a bit hoppy for me but it did the trick I was well set up for the last few miles.

 

The route followed a quite little lane just to the south of the railway line. I paused to take a photo of Hailes castle and a group of cyclists passed cheerily saying hello in English accents.

While I was photographing this castle the other English cyclists rode by.

While I was photographing Hailes castle, which in 1400 withstood an attack from Harry Hotspur Percy,  the other English cyclists rode by.

I caught up without really trying (honestly) they asked where I was heading. “Not far I replied. Haddington.”

“And where have you come from?”

“Surrey,” I said in as matter of fact way as I could.

“What up on the train?”

“No I cycled up.” Well it was true, just took bit longer.

My arrival over another wee bridge into Haddington was uneventful. But I knew that not only I had almost completed the penultimate leg it was the last one with any challenge. The good weather had not even made the last few miles a chore. I could have gone on.

The Plough at Haddington

The Plough at Haddington

I cycled to the end of the High Street and checked in to The Plough Inn. The room was ordinary but sufficient. There was a walk to the bathroom, a bit of a pain but there appeared to be no other guests and although the girl that showed me to the room was at pains to explain that I might have to share the bathroom it seemed unlikely.

A little later I walked up and down the two main shopping streets to see what dining opportunities there were. It was a Sunday night there was a very quiet looking Chinese and a busy Indian. No contest.

The key to the Indian restaurant’s Sunday night success seemed to be an Indian Buffet deal for £9.95 per head. It was so busy several of us were placed in a waiting area for a table to become free. The food was pretty good especially for the price. The clientele looked a respectable bunch who obviously knew a bargain when they saw it.

The Bangla Deshi family running the joint appeared well integrated with the community, there was lots of greeting and hand shaking with their many regulars – a pleasure to see. I wondered what their views on Scottish independence were. I can remember when Bangla Desh, the former East Pakistan, obtained independence. It had taken a war.

I strolled back to the pub. Try as I might I could not connect to their wifi. The publication of report 18 would have to wait. Never mind I would watch Argentina play football. That was the plan. Three hours later I woke up with the 24 hr BBC news service telling me Messi had scored the winner.

I wondered if he had eaten some atomic spuds?

16.06.14 UATW computer data:

Miles cycled: 33.70 miles

Average speed: 9.3 mph

Cycling time: 3 hours 37 minutes.

Next report: The Final leg into Edinburgh. Just 20 miles to Auld Reekie. Will I make it?

* Vernacular Scots for potatoes

** source Wikipedia

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test One Response to Uphill All The Way: The Last Big Push (St Abbs to Haddington)

  1. Harry Eve Reply

    August 20, 2015 at 9:50 pm

    Earlier this month my family and I stopped in Dunbar hoping to find lunch before moving on to North Berwick. We found so much to interest us in this well kept little harbour town that we stayed for the rest of the day.

    John Muir, the pioneer conservationist, was born there and there is an excellent free exhibition about his early life in Dunbar and his achievements in the United States.

    The story of his battles against developers who would have happily destroyed Yosemite for profit have their parallels in Guildford today. We may not have true wilderness but we do have countryside that many of us value and draw inspiration from. Every green field or wood that is lost puts more human pressure on what is left.

    The ruins of Dunbar Castle, beside the harbour, are interesting for its history – particularly the heroine “Black Agnes” who fended off an army while her husband was away. It also has a fine colony of kittiwakes that you can walk right up to – and along a path beneath it spotted with droppings if you want to take a chance (I got away with it!).

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