Saturday morning dawned dull, overcast grey and drizzly wet, with more rain forecast for much of the day, though with only a 10% chance of rain, it would not stop me getting out and about on either kick scooter or bicycle. With ground conditions most definitely at the very wet end of the sogginess spectrum and not ideal for kick scooting, a bicycle would be the better choice for the day. With my Surly Pugsley already covered in mud from a night ride the other evening, I wheeled him from the shed raring to go.
My plan today was to explore some potential routes found on Google maps, mostly in the Mavisbank area near Loanhead. I have an idea to create what I call The Grand Trail, a 50 mile mostly off-road cycle route, linking together some of the many separate off-road trails around my house in Bonnyrigg, Midlothian. Today I wanted to check out a few potential trails that might be used for linking longer sections together.
Following various local estate footpaths, railway line cycle ways and very, very muddy field margins, brought me to the first of the tracks I wanted to explore today. Locally known as The Cast, this track runs from Polton Road, Bonnyrigg, for only half a mile downhill to the remains of Springfield mill in Polton. When I see something that is named on the map I always have the urge to go and check it out.
The Cast initially starts well, with smooth tarmac alongside the houses, then changes to compacted dirt with a few muddy sections. Soon it sinks below the level of the surrounding fields, changing into a typical sunken-lane, not something very typical in this part of the UK. The lower sections are, shall we say, interesting, to say the least. Here the track is essentially a stream bed. Years of rain running downhill has eroded the track bed and attempts to backfill with bricks have not helped matters. It’s a tricky, slippery ride, even on a Surly Pugsley fat bike. I’m just glad I was going downhill rather than the opposite direction.
After the fun of riding The Cast, I crossed the River North Esk and followed the river downstream for a short while, before turning left into the grounds of the now derelict Mavisbank House. Here, I wanted to check out a couple of potential links, one leading to Lasswade and the other to Loanhead. The route to Loanhead follows an old estate road and emerges where predicted. The other track I was unable to locate but did later find the other end of the track where it enters Loanhead at Braeside Road.
Next on the itinerary was to follow another off-road route along the Wading Burn, down through Haverall Wood and into Lasswade. I’d noticed a sign post for this path when kick scooting the Roslin to Shawfair cycleway and had made a mental note to return and explore. This path would also be useful for creating The Grand Trail. The Wading Burn path was muddy but easy to follow.
Now on my way back home, from Lasswade I detoured into Kings Acre golf course and picked up various trails leading to Melville Castle Hotel, now sadly closed following the Covid-19 pandemic. A new footbridge brought me back across the River North Esk again, and a footpath alongside Melville golf course brought me onto the A7 and a short but quick sprint – well, quick for a fat bike with 100 mm wide tyres – soon had me back home for a welcome lunch.
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