Out of hibernation on a rusty flutter to Forteviot

The new stone in Forteviot is inspired by the strong Pictish culture and the Dupplin Cross.

My dynamic crew decided they could wait no longer for the temperature to start rising. And much as the “old gal” likes some warmth, there was a resounding acceptance that Team Matilda had to emerge from their winter hibernation before rust and inactivity seized up all our joints!

Our last outing was just over two months ago – back before Christmas, with a short ride to Carols at Tullibardine Chapel. So, with the weather forecast giving dire warnings of the Beast from the East blasting freezing temperatures and lots of snow at the start of the week, the “old git” decided it was a case of now or never!

Ready to roll for 2018! Emerging from my garage at Matildas Rest!

My crew wakened to bright sunshine but the temperature was still stuck on zero as they fuelled up with a hearty but healthy breakfast. Next task was getting kitted up in multiple layers of winter cycling gear before I finally emerged out of my comfy garage at Matildas Rest for the first time in 2018.

After the “old gal” in her role as “chief mechanic” gave me the once over to check all my bits were lubricated and in working order, we headed off.

The “old gal” – half of my dynamic crew – wrapped up against the elements!

The “old git” had chosen a run that would be a pedal around Pictish Perthshire – heading towards the historic nearby villages of Dunning and then on to Forteviot, covering a distance of just under 16 miles with a few hills thrown in to test their fitness after a long lay off.

Check out the details of our route by clicking on the Strava map below.

With the sun on our faces my dynamic crew tentatively pedalled off into the glorious Perthshire countryside towards Dunning. Despite initially feeling like tandem novices all three of us were quickly back into the way of it.

It probably helped that the first stretch involves a steep downhill which saw us record a speed of  just over 25 mph within the first three minutes of leaving Matildas Rest! Let’s just say that speed wasn’t beaten for the rest of the ride.

But the synchronicity factor of the “old git” and the “old gal” soon kicked in and we quickly picked up some speed, with all three of us perfectly in tune! It was great to be back out and feel the fresh air between my spokes on the quiet country roads of Perthshire – which are great for tandeming and cycling, as shown by the number of bikes we saw while out on our ride.

“This is the kind of tandeming I like” exclaimed the “old gal” as my crew pedalled along feeling very pleased with themselves. In what seemed like no time at all we tandemed into Forteviot – an ancient Pictish capital of Scotland, where King Kenneth MacAlpin died in the 9th Century.

We had travelled the near 8 miles in 50 minutes – which wasn’t too bad considering it was our first ride of the year – and the village was looking its usual pretty self in the sunshine. The village “square” (or green to be exact!) has some very quaint houses which were rebuilt for workers of the Dupplin Estate in 1927 and are create a lovely focal point for the village.

Time for a welcome cup of hot coffee for my dynamic crew at the new Forteviot stone.

As my crew enjoyed a cup of hot coffee – which the “old gal” had thoughtfully added to a flask before departure – they discovered a fabulous new centrepiece to the village since Team Matildas last visit.

A new carved stone now stands proudly – inspired by the strong Pictish culture and the historic Dupplin Cross. The original rare 3m high cross, carved out of sandstone in around AD800, once stood in the palace of the Pictish Kings at Forteviot. It is now housed in the nearby St Serf’s Church in Dunning and looked after by Historic Environment Scotland.

There is no plaque in place as yet to tell you about it, but a chat with some locals saw my dynamic crew discover it is called Set in Stone – the Birth of Alba and is a new Pictish stone celebrating Forteviot’s important role in the birth of medieval Scotland.

The new stone carving – which is sensitively floodlit at night – is part of the Heritage Lottery funded Pictish Stones project run by the Tay Landscape Partnership to provide the area with a key legacy monument marking the kingdom that became Scotland. The new contemporary Pictish sculpture is being formally unveiled on Saturday 17 March at 12 noon.

The “old git” in his not remotely colour coordinated winter kit! But he wasn’t cold!

While enjoying the warmth of the coffee the “old gal” noticed that the old green wooden bus shelter was being rebuilt – and went over to speak to the workman who was cutting and sawing wood. This turned out to be local forester Jim Thomson who runs his own Woodland Craft business.

Forester Jim Thomson is building a new bus shelter as part of the Tay Landscape Partnership project.

Jim has been contracted to build a new eco-friendly bus shelter in Forteviot as part of the Tay Landscape Partnership funding for the area. It was certainly one of the best built bus shelters my crew had seen!

The new environmentally friendly wooden bus shelter taking shape in Forteviot.

It was great to see such activity in the village – which will hopefully provide a flow of visitors keen to find out more about the Pictish history of the area.

Bidding farewell to Jim, and before we got too cold, we headed back on our return journey – passing another historical site worth visiting in the village – Forteviot Church of St Andrew where archaeological studies indicate that Christians were first buried in the graveyard in the 6th century.

My dynamic crew pedalled furiously to create some heat – and were in buoyant mood as they discovered that there was (for once!) no headwind to battle. Despite a few hills climbing out of Forteviot we were soon tandeming into Dunning – a village which is also rich in history having been burned to the ground during the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion.

Here I am parked up outside the Kirkstyle Inn in Dunning – need a loo stop they said!

It is also boasts a great friendly country pub called The Kirkstyle Inn which my dynamic crew have been known to visit from time to time! It provided the ideal place for a loo stop – which the “old gal” then decided would be a good spot for a small libation to fuel up for the final miles home! After all it would have been rude not to!

The “old gal” decided a small libation would help the ride home!

So after a lovely Scottish artisan gin, it was time for the last four miles home. Gosh it had suddenly turned a good bit colder – wonder if that was anything to do with the cosy pub and the gin!? Surely not! We pedalled off quickly and didn’t stop at the the last piece of local history on today’s trip – the monument to Maggie Wall. This is an eerie stone cross with a hand painted date of 1657 and it is said to be a memorial to the last witch to be burned at the stake.

The return trip to Matildas Rest took just 10 minutes longer than the outward journey – which given the hills and my crew’s rustiness is a commendable effort. While having another warming cup of coffee the “old git” checked Strava which officially recorded the ride as being worthy of 2 gongs … amazingly we recorded a personal best and a 3rd best.

My dynamic crew tandemed a distance of 15.7 miles with a moving time of 1 hour 51 minutes. As always it is the smiles not the miles that count, but our average speed was 8.5 mph and the elevation was 633 feet. The maximum speed was 25.7 mph and Team Matilda managed to burn up 801 calories and produce an average power output of 108 W. As always the route is brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below.

So the first outing of 2018 now ticked off! Both the “old gal” and the “old git” are hoping some warmer weather is on its way soon for sunny tandem rides!

Brr! the “old gal” shivering on return … hoping for sunnier tandem days ahead!

Advertisements

Historic Pedal around Pictish Perthshire

The entrance to St Serf's Church which houses the Dupplin Cross.

The entrance to historic St Serf’s Church in Duning which houses the Dupplin Cross.

Sunday dawned again – and after a week off after our epic Easter Tour de Loch Rannoch du Tandem the “old git” was keen to get us all back on the road again. The only snag was that my dynamic duo had to visit the “old git’s” mum in Kilmarnock in the afternoon – which involves a 140 mile round trip by car – so the alarm was set ridiculously early so my ride out could be completed by lunchtime.

“What time have you set the alarm for – that’s the middle of the night” moaned the “old gal” in mock dismay – well at least the “old git” thought it was mocking! (Whisper it, but she told me it wasn’t!) However I have to say she was keen to get some exercise to help the Hay Plan weight loss regime that my dynamic duo have been embracing. And it is obviously working as yesterday’s weigh in saw them having lost a combined total of 3 stones 2 lbs in just 8 weeks.

I am most impressed, and it certainly reduces the strain on my ageing frame! I mean that is the equivalent of 22 bags of sugar that I don’t need to be carting about! So obviously  I am expecting us to be moving faster as we don’t have as much weight to carry! I mean my crew will soon be back in their slimline – matching obviously – lycra cycling shirts too at this rate! Watch this space! And don’t say I didn’t warn you!

So after a hearty breakfast – within the guidelines of the Hay Plan – we were heading away from Matildas Rest in beautiful Spring sunshine. The “old git” had decided that today’s run would be a Pedal around Pictish Perthshire – heading towards the historic nearby villages of Dunning and Forteviot, covering a distance of around 16 miles with a few hills thrown in to test our new found fitness!

The “old gal” was so keen to get underway that she unfortunately forgot to start the Strava app on her iPhone – which automatically records our routes and provides all sorts of statistics about average speeds and elevation over the journey.

In fact it was some five miles into the ride – as we entered the village of Dunning – that the “old git” asked the “old gal” if she had started Strava. “Oops” was the cry from the back saddle and with the “old git” muttering under his breath something about it being frustrating to lose miles, we pulled over and the technology was switched on!

So you can check out most of the route of our Pedal around Pitcish Perthshire on Strava here – although it actually started from Matildas Rest in Auchterarder and not Dunning as the map shows!  

Strava small Forteviot

Through Dunning we pedalled, heading further out into the glorious Perthshire countryside – enjoying taking deep breaths of the fresh air. Everyone was feeling very healthy and in what seemed like no time at all we tandemed into Forteviot – an ancient Pictish capital of Scotland, where King Kenneth MacAlpin died in the 9th Century.

Here I am at the focal point - the village square" at Forteviot.

Here I am at the focal point – the village square” at Forteviot.

The village “square” has some very quaint houses which were rebuilt for workers of the Dupplin Estate in 1927 and are create a lovely focal point for the village.

During a quick walk around, my dynamic duo discovered Forteviot Church of St Andrew. The present church, the third on the site, dates from 1778 and adopts the form of a Georgian box chapel, but dates from the 13th century. A look at the history shows that recent archaeology indicates that Christians were first buried in Forteviot graveyard in the 6th century.

Forteviot Church of St Andrew blah blah blah which dates from xxC

Forteviot Church of St Andrew which dates from 1778 but has a history dating back long before then.

Back on board we set off back to Dunning but only after a quick pit stop to get a shot of this “old lady” looking at my best in the sunshine, showing one of the many picturesque rural cottages along the way.

A lovely example of one of the many picturesque country cottages in the Forteviot area.

A lovely example of one of the many picturesque country cottages in the Forteviot area.

The “old gal” was in her element as the lack of wind made the tandeming most pleasant and her good humour was helped by the “old git” flicking up and down my gears to maintain momentum going up any steep stretches. And there were a couple of long inclines on the way out of Forteviot which the “old gal” wasn’t looking forward to, but with their new found fitness, I can report my dynamic duo managed them without a problem! And yes we were moving faster! Result!

The "old gal" smiling with a backdrop of the wonderful Perthshire countryside.

The “old gal” smiling with a backdrop of the wonderful Perthshire countryside.

At the top of the hilly section, the “old gal” was even happy to stop and pose for a picture, smiling as she took in the wonderful rural Perthshire landscape – an almost idyllic scene.

Within a short time we tandemed back into the lovely historic village of Dunning. It was originally established around the 12-13th century but the village was burned during the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion. The oldest house dates from the 1730s.

In the very centre of the village is St Serf’s Church, and we parked up at the entrance to the church which has a distinctive and largely intact bell tower dating from around 1200.

The St Serf's Church and bell tower, dating back to 1200.

The St Serf’s Church and bell tower, dating back to 1200.

It is no longer used as a church as it now belongs to Historic Scotland and is the home of the famous Dupplin Cross.  This rare and impressive 3metre-high Cross was carved out of sandstone around AD 800, and once stood in the palace of the Pictish kings at Forteviot where we just pedalled from.

It was made for King Constantine, son of Fergus, who reigned from 789 to 820 – a fact revealed when a panel on the cross was discovered to have some Latin wording.

The impressive and something Dupplin Cross - history on our doorstep!

The famous Dupplin Cross – history on our doorstep!

My dynamic duo had a quick tour from a wonderfully enthusiastic Historic Scotland guide – who wouldn’t take no for an answer – and gave them a rapid history lesson which included the facts that the Dupplin Cross is the only complete example to survive in Pictish territory and that it was during King Constantine’s reign that the kingdoms of the Picts and the Scots began to merge, before finally uniting under King Kenneth around 843.

This “old lady” was actually quite glad there are some ancient artifacts that actually pre-date me! I was actually feeling quite a young thing while steeped in all this history! What was amazing was that the “old gal” who has lived in the area for more years than she cares to remember has never visited it before! As the “old git” said it is amazing what you find on your doorstep!

My dynamic duo decided that a reviving cup of coffee was necessary – with no edibles (or alcohol) as they were being good! They even actually managed to get the self-timer to work so got a shot of both of them together!

Time for a coffee before heading home - and the self timer worked!

Time for coffee before heading home – and the self timer worked!

Suitably fortified by their stop, we set off on the five miles back to Matildas Rest with one last stop for a final piece of local history at the site of a monument to Maggie Wall. This is a kind of eerie stone cross with a hand-painted date of 1657 as the story is that this is a memorial to the last witch to be burned at the stake back then.

The Maggie Wall monument just outside Dunning.

The eerie Maggie Wall witch’s monument just outside Dunning.

A quick spurt for home and everyone happy with the outing. This tandeming really is a great way to get some exercise you know … for all three of us! It actually made the “old git” and the “old gal” feel very virtuous on their long drive to Kilmarnock later!

If you haven’t already checked the route of this blog on Strava, you can do so here. Remember there was the issue of the “missing miles” – just as well my low-tech “unofficial”milometer still records the journey without any fancy wifi apps – and recorded the distance as 16.1 miles, with a moving time of 1 hr 42 minutes. The average speed was 9.4 mph and we reached a heady 23.2 mph as our maximum speed. See I told you that weight loss of my dynamic duo would increase our speed!

And finally, not long to go now so remember to keep all your fingers and toes crossed for my blog – which is a finalist in the Most Innovative category of the UK Blog Awards 2016. Not only is Matildas Musings the only blog ‘written’ by a classic Jack Taylor tandem, but it is the only Scottish finalist. The results will be announced at a glitzy awards presentation evening at the Park Plaza Hotel in London on Friday April 29. Here’s hoping …

UKBA finalist_twitter