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!

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Bridge of Earn ride in warm sunshine and strong winds as practice for TdNF

A classic model with a classic model! The “old gal” with the magnificent Rolls Royce Silver Ghost.

So Sunday morning dawned and my dynamic crew opened the blinds to what seemed like idyllic weather conditions for tandeming – bright sunshine and little wind. Which was just as well on two counts – one being that the “old gal” doesn’t like the wind at all … mind you the “old git” is not too keen on it either as it always seems to be a head wind – and as my Captain, he seems to take the brunt of it! And secondly, the “old git” had decreed today would be a longish run, in training for Team Matilda’s forthcoming Tour de New Forest – now known as TdNF – but more of that later in this blog.

Just after 10am we headed off towards Bridge of Earn – a scenic 14 mile undulating run across roads in rural Perthshire. You can check out the details of our route on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to be transferred to Strava to get the full data and statistics! 

First stage was an easy canter towards the village of Dunning, then on to Forteviot. My crew were enjoying their usual doze of fun and laughs on my saddles as the miles seemed to whizz past in idyllic conditions. Even a fairly tough climb out of Forteviot – featuring several hills – didn’t phase them as they battled on to the top.

The reward for that climb is a great long downhill stretch in to the town of Bridge of Earn itself, with the “old git” reveling in his role as Captain – revealing that we were hitting the 30mph mark at several parts. As we turned into the Brig Farm Shop and cafe at Bridge of Earn, my dynamic crew were both amazed and impressed to find they had arrived in record time of 1 hour 02 minutes – marking an average speed of just shy of 14mph! There’s obviously life in this “old lady” yet! I must admit I do like it when we are whizzing along as it makes me feel like a young thing!

Time for a celebration scone and cake … but sitting in the car park was a beautiful classic car, a white Rolls Royce Silver Ghost. It seemed only natural for me, as a classic bike, to be pictured beside such a classic car! After all, we have similar sleek lines!

Seems the car was part of The Round Britain Tour 2017, which is is a joint celebration of two important Rolls-Royce events. Firstly, it celebrates the remarkable achievements, 110 years ago, of the original Silver Ghost, AX201, in establishing a new world record of running without involuntary stops for a distance of 14,371 miles, almost twice that previously set by a motorcar.

Spot the similar sleek lines! Here I am lined up beside the Silver Ghost.

The other reason for the tour was to celebrate another occasion 60 years ago, when a few Rolls-Royce enthusiasts decided it would be a good idea to form a club. Formed in 1957, the Rolls-Royce Enthusiasts’ Club has resulted in a worldwide organisation, now in its Diamond Jubilee year.

The “old git” trying (and failing) to look cool beside one of the coolest cars on the road!

My crew then decided an alfresco refuelling was required and ordered up a spread of ice cold ginger beer, apple scone, and some carrot cake – the favourite of tandemers and in particular the “old gal” and the “old git”. All of which was yummy and consumed on the colourful decking area.

Alfresco apple scone, carrot cake, and ginger beer. Perfect refreshment for tandemers!

After a nice relaxing time in the warm sunshine it was time to head on the return journey. My dynamic crew were in happy mood after such a good first half of today’s route – but unfortunately, while they were indulging their taste buds – the wind decided to start blowing. And as we know, when there is wind, it is always blowing in an unhelpful direction. It was still pretty warm, but the “old gal” and the “old git” were now battling against a fierce head wind.

Now the road out of Bridge of Earn is a bit of a tough one at the best of times – a long slow grind of a cycle – but the head wind rendered some of the comments coming from my stoker’s position unrepeatable in what is after all a family blog! Let’s just say that the speed we achieved on the way to the cafe was not being achieved on the way back – and in fact at some stages we were lucky if we were hitting half of that speed.

But they gamely battled on (well truthfully there was no alternative!) but the ride home only got more frustrating for my crew when we had a mechanical after the turning to Forteviot on the stretch to Dunning. My chain slipped off my cog and got jammed in my metalwork. More interesting words from my stoker – but top marks to her as in her role as chief engineer she soon had the chain problem sorted – but only after I had to be turned upside down, in an ungainly manner for an “old lady”.

When we finally cycled in to the village of Dunning the temperature was rising and my crew were wilting a bit with the relentless pedalling again the wind. The “old git” had a brainwave moment and decided a brief detour into the garden area of the Kirkstyle Inn would be a good idea! I mean, he said it would have been rude to pass by without stopping!

It would have been rude to pass the Kirkstyle Inn without a stop for a tonic (with gin!)

It would need to be said that the “old gal” thought this was one of the “old git’s” better ideas – it seems he does have a few! – and immediately ordered my Captain to go to the bar and order two tonics (with a good splash of gin in them!) to recharge my dynamic crew for the last five miles of the trip.

The warm sunshine in the garden area belied the strength of the wind and lulled my crew into a false sense of security, So much so that when they got back on my saddles it was a really hard slog to get going and make any forward progress! At times it almost seemed Team Matilda was standing still – and it wasn’t for the lack of effort and power going into my pedals!

After finally returning to Matildas Rest the “old git” had to take a couple of pictures in the bright sunshine of my snazzy new name decals – well to be strictly honest … its the names of my dynamic crew which are now emblazoned on my shiny steelwork! Don’t know why they couldn’t have got a Team Matilda one … but no, its obviously all about them! But whisper it … I do actually quite like them! And one thing is for certain – no one will need to ask my crew’s names again!

The “old gal’s” name emblazoned on the Stoker’s section of my frame ….

… and the “old git’s” name on the Captain’s section. Spot the snazzy saltire flags!

A check of Strava revealed Team Matilda had registered seven personal bests along the way and eight second bests – much to the delight of the “old gal” and the “old git”. Perhaps not surprisingly all the PBs were on the outward bound half of the ride – before the wind got up!

Strava officially recorded the ride as a distance of 27.7 miles at an average speed of 10.2 mph, with a top speed of 32.0 mph. The traveling time was 2 hours 42 minutes and the elevation covered was a not insubstantial 1,276 feet. We managed to burn up 1,554 calories, and produced an estimated average power output of 143 W.

As always the Strava statistics and our route are brought to life in our Relive 3D video – so take a look below. (Remember if you are reading this on email, you need to click on the blog first – via the link at the bottom of the email – to view the video.)

So an ideal training run for Le Tour de New Forest – what’s the TdNF I hear you ask? Well I am getting uber excited as I am ticking off the days before Team Matilda are heading off to near Southampton in Hampshire to meet up again with my “best pal” – a tandem called Bluebird!

Regular readers of my blog will remember last August my dynamic crew welcomed Team Bluebird to Perthshire. Team Bluebird are Jane and John Taylor who brought their unusual Pino semi-recumbent tandem north of the border for a fabulous week of tandeming which was called Le Tour de Perthshire.

Me and Bluebird had a great time and we have quite a bit in common as she also has her own mini blog called ‘Travels with Bluebird’. Both tandems had a wonderful week, with lots of chats and fun!

This pic sums up the Tour de Perthshire – fingers crossed for fab weather for Tour de New Forest.

And the crews certainly seemed to have lots of fun and laughs too – in bright sunshine. Jane and John certainly seemed to have lots in common with my dynamic duo – such as not enjoying hills and definitely enjoying wine! In fact both Team Bluebird and Team Matilda seemed to have the same views on not taking tandeming too seriously.

To emphasise that point the four crew members all decided they would become self-proclaimed founding members of the Nutty Tandemers Club! And that definitely set the tone for the week – and gave us all a crazy reputation to live up to! And I can say that over the week all four tandemers more than passed the test to be life long members of the Nutty Tandemers Club! Check out my blog of the week’s fun and frolics to see what kind of things we got up to!

I feel confident there will be one or two prosecco toasts during the Tour!

This included my dynamic crew playing a key role in helping Team Bluebird develop a likeing for prosecco, and indeed Team Matilda’s infamous prosecco picnics! So I am sure my la bouclee wine carrier will always have a bottle in it during the TdNF!

And to make the trip even more exciting John and Jane have added not one, but two tandems to their stable of bikes since last year. They have added a vintage tandem called Henry and a tandem that easily comes apart for travelling called Siggy – so it promises to be an interesting week.

Whisper it, but I am told that Henry is a bit of a charmer of a gentleman tandem … with an eye for the ladies of similar vintage! So you never know he and I may just have a little bit of a holiday tandem romance! But I will have a good chat with Bluebird to make sure she approves!

A gander for gourmet gin tasting tae Dunning!

Bit of cycling … bit of gin … perfect combination. What could possibly go wrong?!

Standby for  a quick romp of a blog! This post is a report of a recent “midweek special” tandem trip to a gourmet gin tasting event at a nearby country pub! Now, for my dynamic crew that seemed the perfect combination – a bit of cycling and a bit of gin! Goes together a bit like gin and tonic … according to the “old git!” I mean, what could possibly go wrong?!

You probably know by now that the “old gal” and the “old git” like their gin! But not just any gin. In fact they would turn their noses up at a Gordon’s Gin and tonic with a slice of lemon! No, we are talking Scottish artisan gin here – and not only do they have a wee bit of a penchant for gin – they like to consider themselves something of gin connoisseurs!

So when the “old git” discovered that the nearby The Kirkstyle Inn was holding a gourmet gin tasting evening it seemed a natural fit! And when the “old gal” found out that the Kirkstyle’s new owner and mine host Jamie Dexter Harrison had priced the tickets at a bargain price of £10 for three gin tastings and finger food – to attract new customers – her reaction was an emphatic “sold!”

And that’s where I come in to the story – because there was the small problem of how to get there and back again given the rural location and that driving clearly was a non starter! The “old git” had a brainwave that they could arrive (and depart) by tandem! It would need to be said that the “old gal” was a bit sceptical to begin with … but soon warmed to the idea!

And so on a Wednesday night my crew had a quick turnaround from work to get kitted up in their tandeming gear – and we were off  on our Dash to Dunning along the scenic back roads from Matildas Rest in Auchterarder. You can check out the details of our route on Strava below – and don’t forget to click on the map image to be transferred to Strava to get the full data and statistics! 

It’s a fraction less than five miles door to door and the promise of gin drove my crew on so they wouldn’t be late for the start time of 6.30 – with the journey taking just 23 minutes! Having arrived with a few minutes to spare, there was time for a few photos outside the picturesque Inn.

Old fashioned blackboards promoting the gin night at The Kirkstyle Inn.

It would need to be said that the “old gal” and the “old git” did get a few questioning looks from other locals arriving! Let’s just say they were the only people to arrive by tandem – and the only people wearing hi-vis yellow tandeming t-shirts! Certainly one way to make an entrance!

The calm before the gins! The “old git” and “old gal” arrive in style!

So I was safely locked up outside with the promise that my crew would be back before it got dark for the ride home! And they tell me they had a great couple of hours finding out about and sampling the gins and enjoying some tasty nibbles.

The line up of three gins to sample – with lots of tonic, ice and garnishes!

First up was the Classic Edinburgh Gin – which is distilled in Scotland’s capital city with heather, milk thistle and pine and served with regular tonic and a garnish of orange peel. The citrus effect was a good way to kick off the evening!

When sampling one of the gins my crew found a suitable sign at the bar!

The second gin was Rock Rose from a small distillery at Dunnet Bay near Caithness in the far north of Scotland. The key botanical they use is rhodiola rosea, more commonly known as rose root, which is a small rose type plant which grows on the cliffs at Caithness – and gives the gin its name. To help bring out the floral botanicals, this was served with Mediterranean tonic – and am told this was a big hit!

“Keep pouring while you smile at the camera” says the “old gal”!

My crew enjoyed some tasty finger food  from the Kirkstyle kitchen before tasting the last gin – Love Gin from Eden Mill in St Andrews. This pink gin has floral and warm berry notes – and is actually one of my dynamic crew’s favourites! This time it was served with ginger ale and a slice of lime. Yum!

The two hours flew past and after sampling the third and final gin – and making some new friends in the Inn – it was time for the “old git” and the “old gal” to leave so they could get most of the return journey as the sun set – before it got pitch dark. To be on the safe side I was lit up like a Christmas tree with three rear flashing red lights and two front lights – one of which was flashing! We certainly were not going to be missed by any motorists on the country road home.

Ready for tandem ride home – with lots of lights to be safe!

Now  my dynamic crew had kind of expected the return tandem ride to be somewhat different – perhaps a tad wobbly even! But given that the “old git” and the “old gal” were pretty sober, in reality it was just like any other tandem ride. The journey was completed in a fraction under 30 mins – and we arrived home just as it got completely dark. Job done!

Back at Matildas Rest – with the  “old gal” and the “old git” buzzing with the endorphin boost created from the exercise … and the gin! – there was even more elation when they checked Strava to find they had received three gongs for their efforts! Obviously being gin fuelled helps the performance!

So Strava officially recorded the ride as covering a distance of  9.5 miles with a total moving time of 52.55 minutes, at a healthy average speed of 10.8 mph.

The total elapsed time was over 3 hours – allowing for the gin tastings! Top speed recorded was 23.3 mph and the elevation covered was 291 feet. Together we managed to burn up 520 calories, and produced an estimated average power output of 147 W.

It was a joy for Team Matilda to be out pedalling along breathing in the fresh air in the beautiful Perth and Kinross Countryside Trust and Perth and Kinross Council area near Perth City Centre. A perfect evening to celebrate being a Perth 2021 supporter! And clearly #perthistheplace (for gin!)

All told – a bit of exercise … a  bit of tandeming … and a bit of gourmet gin! Great evening really. What a tonic!