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Aim for the Impossible Part 3

Sunday 3 April 2022
 
Today was going to be a new route for me in my quest for fitness.  A few years ago, Mr M and I did a route from Gleneagles around the Ochils and I wanted to re-trace some of that cycle.  Being Sunday, the trains are somewhat limited to and from Gleneagles so I decided I’d catch the train to Gleneagles but adapt my route to catch the return train from Stirling.  One day I’ll be fit enough to do these routes without the assistance of a train.
 
Another change for today was that I was back to the thermals.  Remember the saying I quoted last week, “Ne’er cast a clout till May be out”, well it’s certainly back to winter now.  You were right Grandma.
 
One more vital change today was that my first train journey would be from Lenzie and not Croy as the Gleneagles train (or Aberdeen) doesn’t stop at Croy so I’d have to catch the train from Croy to Glasgow Queen Street, then the Aberdeen Train, which would be the very same train I’d be catching from Lenzie on its way back up the tracks. 
 
Too much mindless information I hear you cry but there is a point to me telling you this. 
 
The train from Croy would be leaving at 09.12, requiring me to leave home at 08.40 necessitating a very early breakfast as Mr M likes to know he’s up in plenty time to pamper me.  I know!  So, he was planning to be up at 6.00 to give Beatrix a walk before making the porridge and my butties.
 
The direct train from Lenzie would be leaving at 09.45 with me leaving home at 09.15 meaning we could have a longer lie in bed before we had to get up.
 
Only I forgot to tell Mr M I was planning to go for the later train.
 
Lots of bangs of the pots and pans during the making of breakfast told me that Mr M was not a happy bunny!
 
I was obviously forgiven though as I was on my way before 09.20 with my butties, snacks and flask of tea packed.  Love is truly blind (thankfully for me).
 
The short cycle from home to Lenzie station is a much easier cycle and only a mere 3.5 miles rather than the 5 miles to Croy Station, with only a little hill to make you have to force the pedals around.  It was cold though, very cold, but dry.
 
Ticket purchased from the machine at the station, before too long, my train came trundling down the track.  I was expecting a quiet, easy Sunday morning journey but the train was packed.  I had to politely ask one person to move to allow me to put my bike in the bike storage area but she did this very willingly unlike the person last week on the alcohol and drug filled Balloch train!

Lenzie train station
 

The journey to Gleneagles only takes forty minutes, passing through Stirling on its way with the Castle and Wallace Monument standing guard.  Leaving Stirling, the scenery really begins to change as the train goes through the lush countryside of Bridge of Allan and Dunblane, before arriving at Gleneagles Station.  Despite being such a well-known place because of the golf (apparently 3 golf courses make this a golfer’s paradise), Gleneagles Station is a little bit like a scene out of a tumbleweed film.  If I’d seen a horse and cart waiting at the station, I wouldn’t have been surprised.


Roundabout with giant golf clubs at Gleneagles 

Off the train and mask removed, I set off down the path to leave the station.  Now it’s a while since I’ve been to this neck of the woods and the roads looked very unfamiliar but I had my ordnance survey map and cycle route guide with me so I’d be fine.
 
After cycling up the hill from the station I was almost upon the M9.  Maybe I should have left the station in the other direction I thought to myself.  Back down to the station I cycled, conscious of the signs warning of CCTV cameras and the possibility I was now being laughed at and followed the cycle track that also led to the M9 and Auchterarder.  Cycle route guide out I re-read the directions, “Follow the access road to the A9 and turn left onto a footpath”.  I realised that my first instinct was correct so back up the hill I cycled (even more conscious of the CCTV cameras) and found the road I was looking for.
 
Immediately as you join the quiet A832 you get a feeling that the hills are surrounding you.  The traffic of the M9 can be heard, but you know you’re heading for better things.
 
A mere half a mile later, I turned left onto an even quieter road, towards the Duchally Estate.  Now this road is just glorious.  Initially there’s a little steep section, but nothing too alarming.  It’s a single-track road and the only company I had was the peace, the birds, the lambs and sheep and the sound of the stream running its way down the valley.  The gradient was soon mostly in my favour and there was a roaring tailwind building, giving me more than a gentle helping hand.  I was mightily grateful in the knowledge I could enjoy this helping hand by the wind Gods as I cycled, almost gliding along the nine miles to Dunning with the knowledge that I wouldn’t be cycling along this road into the headwind on my return journey. Feeling the calmness around me, I took my time over this section, knowing I had a long, steep hilly section to come.

Arriving at the little hamlet of Dunning, the church and monument were looking magnificent in the sunshine today. Looking around at the little crossroad signs – Perth, a little unmarked road, and Yetts O’Muckhart (which shares it’s sign with Simon Howie the Butchers), I chose to take the unmarked road out of Dunning.

Yetts O'Muckhart sign with Howies Butchers

I’m sure there was a very good reason I chose this road rather than the road marked Yetts of O’Muckhart when that’s where I was planning to go, but it seems to have slipped my mind.  Maybe it was the sun.  Maybe it was the tail wind.  Maybe it was the blissful surroundings I was cycling through.  Or maybe it was just because I did.

Now this road is definitely a single-track road with a couple of signs as I left the safety of Dunning indicating sharp S-bends and a bit of a gradient.  I’d cycled up this road before (or so I thought) and these signs did look familiar.  There were some new signs telling drivers this was a walking and cycling friendly road, which made me smile.

Walking and Cycling friendly road sign


 The road very quickly leaves Dunning and the valley below as it climbs, increasingly steeper.  I engaged my bottom gear and prepared to take it steady but was sure I’d manage the hill. After all, I’d done it before.
 
It seemed every 100 yards or so there were the signs reminding me this was a walking and cycling friendly road.  Well, it wasn’t feeling very cycling friendly to me I can tell you.  My guidebook, which of course I’d read numerous times before setting out, reminded me to stop on the way up the hill and look back to see the whole of Strathearn below in the valley.  So, I stopped and the views really were impressive.  Munro mountains were making a fabulous panoramic view, with Schiehallion taking centre stage today, but Ben Lomond could also be clearly seen.  The tops of the mountains were still covered in snow and a little bit of me envied the views I knew walkers would have on the high summits today.
 
Once I’d stopped, the gradient was too steep for me to get going again so I decided that perhaps the road would be walking friendly as it clearly was not cycling friendly.  Pushing my bike is always a bit of an embarrassment for me and I was pleased that if anyone did see me, they wouldn’t know me so there would be no need for me to hang my head in shame.
 
By now, I was roasting and regretting putting my thermals on.  As I struggled my way, yes it was steep just pushing my bike up around the S-bend, I was taken by the brightness of the yellow gorse with its amazing smell.  You don’t notice this in a vehicle with the windows closed, but it’s almost like cycling (or walking) past bars of Battenberg cakes. I can tell you that I don’t know who created those road signs, but this road is neither cycling nor walking friendly if you ask me.

Steep road  Views of mountains and gorse

Once around the S-bend the gradient began to ease enough for me to jump back on my bike.  It was still a bit thigh stretching and calf popping stuff but the views over to the left were still amazing.
 
What was even more amazing to me was that the views were still visible to my left.  My inbuilt navigation system, which I know can be a bit temperamental at times, was telling me that the views should now be behind me.  But on my left they most definitely were.
 
Now there is a saying, “Not all those who wander are lost”. That could be used to describe my situation today.  I knew I wasn’t on the road I’d planned but I did have an ordnance survey map with me and a vague knowledge of the area.  I made the decision that this road, albeit the wrong road, was such a dream to cycle on, I’d stick with it and see where it took me. 
 
The road was now undulating but with the tail wind still with me, I was able to coast along and momentum took me up most of the hills without too much effort being required.  There were a few scary downhill sections and I realised that I’m becoming a little timid in my old age and could no longer be described as a downhill speed merchant.  I wasn’t entirely sure where I was but I knew I wasn’t heading towards Yetts O’Muckhart.  The little road I was on had lots of other tiny roads leading from it with strange names I’d never head of, so I decided I’d go with the flow, enjoy the feeling of cycling on the tops of the hills, feel the tail wind behind me and eventually I’d drop down from the tops and join a main road somewhere.  I was still feeling strong and had my picnic lunch still to eat.  Life is good sometimes when you just let it be.
 
I whizzed and puffed my way up and down this road for a good few miles, passing farms, more gorse, posh houses and even posher houses before finally reaching the end of the road at a T-junction with a main road. I still didn’t recognise many of the names.  I’d hoped for a Stirling, Alloa or even a Dollar sign, so stopped, propped my bike against a fence and was just about to dig out my map when another cyclist came whizzing down the road I’d just cycled down.
 
The very unsatisfying conversation went something like this. “Which way would take me to Dollar?”.  “Oh, you don’t want to go there.  There’s nothing there”.
 
I told him of my plans and how I’d intended to work my way to Stirling Station.  After some discussion and his eventual realisation that I wasn’t just some totally helpless girl (granted I had asked him for directions), he suggested a couple of options, including heading back up to Dunning and then to Perth Station.
 
I thanked him for his suggestions and let him go on his way whilst I continued to pull out my map and make my own plan.
 
My new plan was to cycle towards Dunning, probably 8 miles or so, then re-trace my route from Dunning back to Gleneagles Station.  With the knowledge there was a bench at Dunning where I could stop and have my picnic, I set off again.
 
There is something quite special about cycling roads you don’t know.  You have no idea of the road and therefore no worries about any hills you have to cycle. I remember many years ago in my cycling club days in Halifax, the routes we had varied in start and finish points each week so that the same people were not always the ones who had a climb to the start of the run or a climb at the end of the run.  When I lived in Northowram, high above the picturesque Shibden Valley, I was always pleased when the rides were out to the Yorkshire Dales as I had less of a climb to the start and also less of climb to get home.  Rides out through the Calder Valley and beyond were different.  I did have a fairly easy ride to the start of the runs at King Cross, but the ride home was a nightmare.  Already tired, the hill up to Halifax, known as Salterhebble, always seemed to take the last bit of energy I had and there was still the long climb up to Northowram to tackle.
 
I was bemoaning my tiredness and hatred of Salterhebble to one of my fellow club riders who pointed out that if we came across a hill like Salterhebble on our route we would just romp our way up before we had time to worry about it and it was only a mountain in my eyes because I had allowed it to become a mountain.
 
And that is very true.  Along this unknown road today I had no worries.  I just cycled and enjoyed the ride.  A little while later I could see the buildings of a hamlet in the distance with a sign indicating Dunning was 3 miles away.
 
Arriving at Dunning I was starting to feel a little weary as I’d not had a rest at all.  Finding the bench at the memorial empty, I pulled out my picnic mat, flask and butties and also thought I’d better check the times for the trains at Gleneagles. Being a Sunday I discovered there was a 2-hour gap between trains so I really needed to catch the 15.00 train or I’d have a long wait for the 17.00 one.  Despite needing a rest, I had a quick cup of tea and my butties before setting of to cycle back up the road from this morning to Gleneagles Station.

Church and memorial at Dunning


You remember this road I told you about earlier that rolled along and I’d been accompanied by a lovely tailwind.  Well, the wind Gods were getting their own back now.  Not only was the road back to Gleneagles most uphill, but it was also an open road with no protection from the elements.  That lovely helping tailwind was now a roaring headwind making the return journey the toughest part of the day. Even the stretches that should have been easy as they were flat or downhill were tough as I still had to put effort in to push the pedals around.  It felt like I was cycling into a wind tunnel.  It wasn’t helped by the cyclists coming the other way freewheeling with their tailwind sporting grins from ear to ear.
 
The views however were still great and somehow made the journey less of an endurance test.  I knew that I had just short of 9 miles to cycle back to Gleneagles so it wasn’t a marathon, but boy were those 9 miles tough.
 
Finally, I could see the station in the valley to my right and soon I was freewheeling back down the hill to the station in plenty time for the 15.00 train.
 
Gleneagles Station is a wild and cold station one the best of days and today it was absolutely Baltic. The wind was howling and it was starting to rain.  Hurray for a heated waiting room.  This station has won different awards for being renovated to such a high standard.  It’s just a pity that these renovations didn’t include a toilet.  Perhaps that’s why the whole area is surrounded by CCTV cameras so that people caught short in their two hour wait for a train in the wind and rain don’t try to find their own spot in nature!

Royal history sign at Gleneagles Station

A short delay for the train added to desperation for the toilet due to a tree falling on the track somewhere up the line towards Dundee.  But the train did eventually arrive, although it was standing room only.  I think Scotrail need to realise that Sundays are a day when people can get out and about so running a limited a service is not always the best thing to do for their customers. Before too long though, I was in Stirling station waiting for my next train to Lenzie.  Thankfully there was plenty time for me to visit the facilities at the station.  I didn’t have a lock for my bike but a kind man said he’d look after it for me.  To be honest, by this time if somebody had walked off with my bike I may not have been overly concerned.


Debra in an England rugby hat and a face covering. 

The train journey to Lenzie was uneventful and soon I was cycling my way back home.  Showered and in clean pyjamas, I was soon tucking into my tea made by the lovely Mr M.
 
Now I’ve had chance to examine the maps, I can now see where my journey today took me and I’ve calculated it was something in the region of 35 miles.  Not so many miles really when I need to be doing something in the region of 80-100 in a day for my Aim for the Impossible cycle to Halifax.  It’s early days yet though and as the saying goes, Rome was not built in a day.
 
Where will my next cycle take me I wonder.

4 comments

  • I can imagine myself as a bird on your shoulder as you describe the journey, love it!

    Salena
  • What a journey you had. Not a straightforward. I like your perseverence on such days. Trains sound a nightmare to cope with. Dont think that will get any better now that Nicolas government are running them. Keep cycling 🤣🤣

    Angus Maciver
  • Great read Debra, thank you for taking us on your adventures

    Rosemary
  • Just loved this wee tale. Couldn’t help but laugh.

    Anne Murphy

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