Thursday, May 31, 2012

Taking the scenic road home

Friday, 25th May 2012: Unfortunately we weren’t able to stay in Scotland any longer and had to bead back on Saturday, despite the fine weather continuing on. As you can see  in yet another shot up the Tay Firth towards the railway bridge the skies were blue and the morning didn’t start with any mist or fog.

My SatNav normally gives three route options, fast, short and a middle option. Since we had enjoyed looking around the coast I decided to take the slow short route which seemed to joined up the with medium route at Edinburgh.

The Tay Rail Bridge

this is where the route was going to take us – as you can see, no fog or mist. There have been building/road works along this bit of Dundee for at least a year – despite being the most recent map the SatNav still didn’t agree with where the road actually went. Whilst SatNavs are very useful you really have to pay attention to the road – after all the driver is responsible not the SatNav. You would drive on the wrong side of the road just because a passenger told you to, so why would you drive along the wrong route because a little box tells you to.

I notice with my SatNav that it will tend to position the car on the road, even if it isn’t. This means it can “think” you are on a different route to the on you are actually on. Generally it snaps back. The same happens on my Bicycle GPS so I have turned that particular feature off – because I cycle off road I don’t really want it to snap to roads.

The Tay Road Bridge

I took a similar picture last year – but couldn’t resist trying it out again. This is the underneath of the Tay Road bridge. As you can see form the way the beams are coated with green the high tide covers them.

The underneath of the Tay Road Bridge

A “zoomed-in” shot to the bright light at the end – seagulls and detritus collect on the concrete beams.

The underneath of the Tay Road Bridge

I assume that the numbers indicate the depth in exceptional circumstances. According to the official website it has 42 spans, with most being 55m in length but they span increases to 76.3m for the four navigation channels.

This bridge also used to be a toll bridge (like the Forth Road Bridge) and it cost 80p for cars until it was abolished in February 2008.

The underneath/side of the Tay Road Bridge

And yet another picture from underneath looking towards the Tay Rail bridge. You can just about see the Hilton hotel to the right of the picture. The original rail bridge collapsed while a train was passing over it on the 28th December 1879. The new bridge was a double-track design an d18m upstream of the original bridge.

The Tay Rail Bridge seen from under the Tay Road Bridge

And this is the last one – at least until the new year starts and we have to ship all my daughters stuff up again. As you can see it rises on the other side (to Dundee).

The Tay Road Bridge (the other end to Dundee)

Our route took us though St Andrews – but there was only time for a sneak picture of the Cathedral ruins (I think) with my long lens (100mm to 300mm or 200mm to 600mm in 35mm terms).

St Andrews – Cathedral Ruins

After that I discovered that the short route took us through Edinburgh which wasn’t as bad as it sounds. We didn’t get delayed much the traffic moved and I got to drive on cobbles. It did make me think about driving though. Driving in a busy city you don’t know really does require concentration and if you do it is fairly straightforward.  Mind you there are numerous things to pay attention to including painted instructions on the roads such as; direction arrows, bus lanes and cycle lanes, Advance Stop lines and sin bins. You wouldn’t be surprised at how many vehicles seem to ignore these markings.  You also have to navigate mainly from signs and obey traffic lights, many with multiple lanes and of course avoid the other vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians around.

Is it impossible, now, but it does require focus and frankly I think there is  a problem with the people who know where they are going and so pay less attention.All of these factors require driving with due care and consideration and probably do slow you down a little. Roads would be easier to drive quickly along if there were no obstructions and pedestrians and cyclists – a bit like motorways. So motorists tend to blame the non-motorists for obstructing them and yet congestion is caused by motor vehicles. The M25 and A14 get congested because of the motor vehicles.

Mind you the design of roads could be improved – both in terms of their drivability and safety.  As a driver I am not keen on pinch points – but the golden rule is to hang back and not to try and dive in ahead of whatever might be front. On a bicycle you increase the risk of that happening if you do not cycle assertively and if you do then you run the risk of abuse or worse. That was really a way of squeezing a link to this rather good post by As Easy As Riding A Bike on Pinch points.

Talking of which “shock, horror” there is a “New stealth tax attack on drivers of the greenest cars”. Let’s face it shipping loads of people around most of them single occupants of rather large tin boxes doesn’t sound the most sensible way of running things. Motor traffic has costs – road, policing, accidents, health, pollution to name but a few we shouldn’t really be subsidising it. Personally I would add more cost to the bigger, more polluting less efficient cars (like my Disco). Every little bit helps me to stick with my bike rather than drive my car.

Actually I should have mentioned the Forth Road Bridge before we got into Edinburgh – and the rail bridge I really ought to get a picture or tow the next time I head up that way.  A new replacement bridge is also underway – costing between £1.45 and £1.6 billion. It is interesting that the new bridge (2016) , on the other side  to the railway bridge, is replacing the Forth Road bridge (1964) whilst the older Forth Railway Bridge (1890)  is going strong.

Talking of bridges the proposal to build a £1.5million, pedestrian and cycle crossing over the River cam to serve the new Chesterton Railway Station has come in for criticism. Why is it that we can’t seem to develop multi-modal transport systems. Just look at Cambridge Railway Station to see how important cycling is for rail users.

And finally before leaving Edinburgh (and Scotland) an rather nice shot of Manhattanhenge. Something must be possible with the St Andrews Cathedral Ruins.

I tend not to stop too often when driving, food and wee stops come often enough without too many other gratuitous stops. Which is strange because I stop all the time when cycling to admire the view and take pictures. That is one of the many downsides of driving.

I did stop at the border though where St Andrew’s Flag was flying.

St Andrew’s Flag on the Scottish Border - A68

I used to visit Scotland for Summer Holidays as a boy and I spent the first year or so living in the Glasgow area. However is is a few years since I last visited and toured Scotland on holiday – probably around ten years ago when I did the LeJog. The biggest change I have noticed is the myriad wind turbines that have popped up all over the place. Far more than I see in England. This perhaps arises from the goal of making 100% of the electricity from renewable sources. As we travelled down the A68 ones we had not seen the last time came into view. Just to clarify we also saw them on the way up. Here is a map for July 2011.

You do see solar panels on some house roofs but not as many as further south (IMHO). I have yet to see a solar farm in the UK. According to the article it takes 30 acres to keep 1,400 homes powered in Oxfordshire. The Wadlow Wind Farm up near Great Wilbraham has 13 turbines and will supply 15,000 homes  I can’t find out how much area the plot occupies though.

Wind turbines do have their own environmental concerns – they do affect the landscape in a big way. In my cynical view it then becomes easy for the many living in cities to impose the burden on the few who live in rural areas. Fair? The Norfolk Broads has seen one “victory over wind turbines”. In am not quite sure how I feel about all of this – I have a sneaking feeling that if we were to be a little less hooked on burning so much petrol and diesel driving around each day our overall energy needs might be more manageable. Some might say that different sources aren’t interchangeable – conceptually they might not be but in reality they are.

There are wind turbines on the horizon on both sides of this picture.

Scottish Borders – not the flatlands

I rather like cycling in Norfolk – gently undulating is good – from memory I enjoyed the cycling in the Scottish Borders.

Scottish Borders – the borders

As you can see here there is both the rough and the smooth. The agriculture is mixed and when we were up near Dundee there were loads of raspberries and strawberries under plastic.

Scottish Borders – the borders

I winder if all the wind turbines will reduce the appetite for growing wood.

Scottish Borders – the borders

And there was also a big stone showing we were about to enter England. On the other side of the road there was a piper – there is nothing like the skirl of the pipe – and some might say that there is NOTHING like the skirl of the pipes.

Leaving Scotland |entering England

We had a pleasant run down the A1 (connecting London and Edinburgh) , the only fly in the ointment was how much the grass seemed to have grown in the few days we were away – that'll be Sundays job before the Grand Prix. Fuels costs – over £200 – motoring ain’t cheap and why should it be.


No comments:

Post a Comment