Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Leg 6, Day 7; Dunbar to Greymare Farm

We woke at Dunbar after a rather broken night's sleep on the floor, having found that I had another puncture in my roll at meaning that I needed to get up to inflate it every 2-3 hours!! 

Sadly, the Met Office forecasters were spot on...

Whatever plans we made, we were going to get soaked, however with the wind turning from a cross head direction to cross tail during the course of the morning we opted for a slightly leisurely start, including breakfast (bought the night before) at Dunbar RNLI Station. 

The good news was that we each had a waterproof jacket this year, having learnt our lesson the hard way last year (8/9 days of heavy rain and strong wind, wearing bin bags...!)

Not only was the weather shocking, but again we were up against some rather dubious route planning by Rad, in additon to some reasonable hills.

As we climbed higher, not only was the rain getting heavier and the wind stronger, but we soon entered the cloud and visibility was down to c. 50m...

In the belting rain we passed a couple heading the other way (down hill) at speed. As we passed them they shouted to ask if we had a bike pump, as they had a slow puncture. We immediately pulled up, and Rad dug out the pump and gave them a helping hand. Having told them what we were doing, we were soon in our way again. Later, once we had returned to London we were sent a very generous donation by the couple towards our RNLI fundraising efforts. Just one of many heart warming moments from the tour.

A brief stop at St Abbs RNLI Station which sadly was due for closure later in the year due to rationalisation, and the small population of the town. 

As we climbed out of St Abbs, Rob Martin (an old friend of ours from Rowing at Canford, who is living in the Borders) joined us for a stint of the ride. Our first tag along so far on the tour.... It was great to see Rob and catch up a bit as we cycled through the rain. A short while later we pulled up at Eyemouth RNLI. Absolutely soaked and a little chilled, we had a quick chat with the crew who were doing repairs to the boat, took a photo, and we're off again.

Further south, we pulled into Berwick Upon Tweed for a bite to eat with Rob. A pub had been recommended to us, which (following something of a mishap with a powercut and being unable to cook!) managed to somehow produce a few drinks and some Macaroni to fill us up (a big thanks to Rob for covering this) before we parted from Rob and headed on, in the rain...

Berwick RNLI was just across the estuary, and seemed to be a favourite spot with the local fishermen (presumably as it has deep water / trying to get away from their wives), as despite the weather there were quite a few!

Rad's planned route ahead, was again somewhat dubious... But we made good progress through what on any ordinary day would have been beautiful countryside!

Soon, a rather momentous but somewhat underwhelming moment as we crossed the border from Scotland, back into England... Had you been heading north you certainly could not have missed the fact that you were entering Scotland with all the signs, flags and wot not. Heading south however and we were unable to even find a sign or flag saying Welcome to England which we could take a photo by!

We ploughed on through more dubious off road routes by Rad including s couple of boggy cow fields (I am not joking!)

We arrived at Greymare Farm, where we receied a warm welcome from my godmother Georgie, and her husband Chris. a wonderful shower, cuppa tea, cake and bundling all our wet kit into the washing machine and we felt like different people.

Before dinner, Georgie took Rad and I up to see their wood chipping business, followed by a trip up the hill to their amazing cabbin, perched on the side of their lake. 

On return, we helped Georgie pick a few veg from their incredible veg patch, before a very well received drink, delicious dinner and catch up. All of this, before falling into wonderfully comfortable beds... we thought we might be in heaven!

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Leg 6, Day 6: Kinghorn - Dunbar

What a way to start the day- waking up and looking out your window and seeing this view. Almost enough to make you forget the fact that your inflatable roll mat had a slow puncture and needed refilling every hour (poor Nick). 

With the feast of food kindly provided by Ann, the wife of  Alan, Kinhorn's LOM including granola and bacon rolls we also had the best breakfast of the week so far. Packed up our bags and rolled out of the station at 8am enjoying every bit of sunshine, thinking how much better the weather has been than last year. 
For the majority of the 15 miles to the Forth Road Bridge we took the coastal path which meandered around the south coast of Fife. All the time we could see far on the horizon the Bass Rock an island that glimmers white entirely due to the local bird population!

After a photo outside Queensferry RNLI station we topped up our breakfasts with a coffee and cake at a nearby cafe, chatting about our challenge to a couple on a tandem who kindly donated their change. 


Continuing on the coastal path, diverting from the planned route above we saw Dalmeny House and the surrounding grounds before skirting past Edinburgh via Leith harbour. On our way out of edinburgh we picked up a couple of cyclists from Dirt School who kindly shielded Nick and I from the slight headwind most of the way to North Berwick, taking in some surprisingly beautiful scenery. 

A hearty burger and chips was needed to finish off the last 35km to Dunbar, via North Berwick RNLI station, we got our heads down and arrived just after 4pm. After a cup of tea we met Henry Weaver, RNLI's Scottish Press Officer, who coordinated a photoshoot and penned a brief press release covering the fact that by the end of tomorrow we will have cycled the entire Scottish coast. 

Tomorrow's forecast look ominous to say the least- heavy rain all day. Let's hope Nick gets a better night's sleep. 

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Leg 6, Day 5; Arbroath to Kinghorn

We woke this morning after another slightly broken night's sleep, and are definitely starting to feel the accumulative fatigue of our legs after four days on the road. A coffee seemed to hit the spot however, and after a quick pack up, we were on the road by 7.15am. The forecast for the day was set fair again- we are certainly appreciating the weather this year, after last year's relentless rain and gale force head winds....

A view below of Arborath Lifeboat Station crew room at 6.30am, just before the alarm went off. 

Our first stop of the day was Broughty Ferry, just outside Dundee. The station was shut up, so a quick photo and bacon sarnie from a local bakery and we were under way again, crossing the Tay Bridge and heading further south....

Passing through the beautiful St Andrews about 20km later, we stopped for a 'brunch with a view' (at least a view during the short windows between the hoards of American and Chineese tourists walking past...!)

We pressed on, through the countryside, tackling a couple of more challenging hills... The sun was out though so no room for complaints, and only a short while later, we arrived at the picturesque, if not rather tourist filled, town of Anstruther...

Rad's navigation now becoming somewhat alternative, we soon found ourselves cycling down farm tracks and over grass again.... 

The numerous locked gates which we had to lift our fully laden (c 35kg) bikes over, made me question if these really were  'cycle paths' (as Rad was insisting!). After 5km of off road there was no turning back. 

As you can imagine, progress was not especially fast. This was further slowed by Rad, who within 2 minutes of cycling had to stop three times, firstly with cramp, secondly with a bee getting stuck in his traveller style hair and stinging him (see below) and thirdly for going into a large pot hole.

We eventually arrived at the wonderful Kinghorn Lifeboat station, which sits in a quiet sandy bay with a few houses, a church and a cafe, overlooking the Firth of Forth. This was to be our home for the night.

We received a very warm welcome from Alan, the Kinghorn LOM (Lifeboat Operations Manager), who showed us around the station, and settled us in. A short while later Alan dashed away, and returned soon after with the most incredible food package for us from his wife Ann. This included an incredible three course dinner! and an amazing breakfast for the following morning. We were extremely touched by their generosity and hospitality. 

The view from the crew room balcony was absolutely sensational. 

After chatting with various crew members who kindly dropped in to say hi, we were soon ready for bed, and rolled out our mats for another night on the floor....

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

Leg 6, Day 4: Aberdeen - Arbroath

After another broken nights sleep on the ferry, involving a stop off at the Orkneys at 11.30pm (and accompanying announcements!) and few drunk lads playing games at 1am, we woke rather bleary eyed. 

Following a good breakfast on the ferry, (again, courtesy of the very kind North Link ferry crew), we were refuled and on the road by 7.30am. Cycling out of Aberdeen, there was a quick change from city to countryside as we headed south along the coast, and we were soon back in the countryside.

Yet again, the weather was firmly on our side- although we had a gentle head wind all day, the sun shone as we headed south along the coastal route and through beautiful undulating farmland.

The first station of the day at Stonehaven. A picturesque fishing village, with large sweeping bay beyond the harbour.

In Stonehaven, we came across a man, sorting through a basket of Chanterelle mushrooms on the waterfront.  A short chat, revealed that he was a French Chef who works out on the oil rigs, but was hartbroken, having recently returned from his 3 week shift at sea, to find that his wife had run off with another man. He had picked a basket full of Chanterelle's from a nearby wood, in 10 minutes and was off to cook them with some Mackerel he had just caught from the sea. 

We cycled on across yet more picturesque countryside, with a couple of slightly more challenging hill climbs until we reached our next station of the day- Montrose.

A quick photo, and refil of our water bottles and we were off again, churning our way thefoug mile upon mile of countryside.

With Rad opting to take the coastal route for a large chunk of the day, including some fairly rustic off road cycling paths, we were fairly knackered by the time we reached the final stop of the day- Arbroath. 

We arrived at Arbroath in good time, for the afternoon. A late seafood lunch on the harbourside of 'smokies' (locally smoked Hadock) gave us the bit of extra fuel we needed for the afternoon of washing kit, fixing broken phones, mending bikes, meeting crew, sorting photos and videos and getting bedding sorted. 

A pub supper down the road and a beer with the crew at the station topped off a great day, and we were certainly ready for bed by the time our heads hit the pillows.