rhythmaning: (violin)
After weeks of walking, the Kiltwalk took place yesterday. After weeks of mostly walking in sunshine, I spent nearly six hours walking in pissing rain and high(ish) wind.

My official time, from when the walk started at 9am to when I crossed the finish line, was 5 hours 55 minutes. (It not being a race, there wasn't actually an official time as such: they weren't keeping a record.)

I however was keeping track of my speed as I passed each mile-marker, using an stopwatch app on my phone. Unfortunately, despite my phone being wrapped in a plastic bag to keep the rain out, it got damp and the screen did some funny things and reset the clock somewhere between miles 10 and 11. (Or maybe I just pushed the wrong button.)

Still, I can remember many of the time to complete some of the miles, and I have a record for the last 15 miles.

My personal, unofficial time, was 5 hours 44 minutes, the difference being not crossing the start line for a couple of minutes and three loo breaks. So, an average of about 4.5mph, then. Pretty fast.

Some of the mile markers were clearly a bit skew-whiff: in the second half of the walk, one mile took 19 minutes and the next 9: the first was clearly in the position, the average of the two being 14 minutes. Most seemed about right, though, knowing how fast I walk.

At the start of the walk, in the crowd, my first two miles were over fourteen minutes each; a couple of miles later, I did a couple of miles at less than twelve minutes each - I was walking more than 5 miles per hour, something I didn't achieve when I was training (though I did sometimes reach 5mph over only five miles).

I reached the halfway point - 13 miles - at exactly midday, with an (unofficial) speed of 4.5mph, the same as my average speed over the whole walk.

More impressive, in the last half of the walk, I logged three different 12-minute miles (excluding that highly unlikely nine minute mile). Indeed, I did the final mile in twelve minutes.

I was close to the lead walkers. When I passed the 25 mile mark, the end in clear site (it was Murrayfield stadium: you can see it from miles away!), the guy at the checkpoint told me I was the fifth 26 mile walker back. I had thought there were six walkers in front of me - there was one guy in a bright yellow

It wasn't easy. Basically, I just kept going. After about 16 miles, I found myself controlling my breath, breathing deeply and rhythmically; at a couple of checkpoints and at the finish line, officials asked with concern if I were ok (I was) - I guess they didn't want someone having a heart-attack.

I also found my legs unconsciously taking smaller, faster steps, and I had to deliberately take longer paces and slow down my rate of steps, to stop myself literally getting carried away.

At the end of the walk, I felt emotionally drained. I didn't burst into tears at the finish line, which marathon runners do, but I wouldn't have been surprised if I had done.

There was a big tent at the end, where I sat and ate the free burger. The tent was full of families - as well as the 26 mile walk, there was also a 13 mile walk, and a shorter walk for children. The walks were in aid of children's charities, so that was fair enough, but it wasn't somewhere I wanted to hang around.

I picked up my change of clothes - hillwalking in Scotland has taught me to have a spare change of clothes after long walks in the rain - and got changed. I was soaked. My waterproof was wet through, and my clothing was wet either from the rain or sweat, or, probably, both. The bits of paper in my pockets had disintegrated. It is a good thing I put my wallet inside a plastic bag, like my phone. (Another hillwalking trick.) The screen on my phone wasn't working properly, despite keeping it under wraps, because the moisture on the screen meant my finger just skidded across.

Rather than hang about in the tent, once changed, I got on the tram. I was going to go to a pub for a pint or three and some more food, but decided that I would actually prefer a long hot bath. And maybe alcohol wouldn't be such a great idea...

As I got off the tram, there were more Kiltwalkers streaming past. I had been there a couple of hour before, watching the tram leave for Murrayfield enviously. From there, the route actually avoided taking me right past my flat, which I thought it would, though it did take me within a couple of hundred yards. Much of the route was on cycle paths around Edinburgh that I had been training on, particularly the ten mile stretch from Cramond to Joppa (though I hadn't ever done the whole lot at once) and much of the route from Joppa along the Innocent Railway back to my flat.

Today I have been inspecting the damage. I only got a couple of rather small blisters on fourth toe of each foot, which had I really thought about ahead of the walk I would have realised would happen. My main worry had been blisters on my heels or the balls of my feet, but they were ok. I remember when I walked the marathon a few years ago (a little quicker, in an official time of 5hr40), I was hobbling about for days. So far I seem to be relatively unscathed. Maybe all my practice paid off!

Edit I meant to add a bit about what I was listening to whilst I walked. In order...
  • Broadcasting House on R4

  • the Archers, though most of the time there was really bad interference, as I walked from Cramond to Seafield

  • Bruckner

  • Brahms

  • Sibelius

  • Vaughn Williams

When I had been training, I mostly listened to rock music, but I found that my steps fell in line with too insistent a rhythm, which wasn't necessarily a good thing.

For much of the Bruckner - I think it was Symphony 8 - I was conducting the orchestra as I walked. People must have thought I was even madder, moving my arms in the rain as I hurried down Portobello prom.
rhythmaning: (violin)
If we're friends over on Facebook, you might be aware that I will be taking part in a marathon-length sponsored walk, the Kiltwalk, in May.

I have been training for this. Kind of. In January, I downloaded a training schedule from the web. And found that I was way ahead of the schedule in my normal activity, so I haven't been sticking rigidly to a routine.

A decade or so ago, I walked the Edinburgh marathon, beating some runners (who took breaks whilst I just keep ploughing on) and clocking up a decent time of 5h 40m, an average speed of 4.58mph. My target for this walk is 5h 30m, needing an average of 4.73mph. Over 26 miles.

My main reason for repeating this is to get fit for mountain expeditions in the summer. After my last marathon, I completed four hill-walks that summer which were each greater than twenty two miles, near marathon length, more when you add in the ascent climbed, too. And if I want to finish my Munros, I need to complete several, very distant walks to remote hills. My fitness hasn't really been up to it in recent years, so I'm hoping doing a marathon in May might kickstart my summer.

Over five miles, I can do 5mph, though it is tough. In general, on longer practice walks, I have been averaging between 4.5 and 4.7mph, which suggests I might reach my target. If it isn't raining. And I can just keep it up.

Training for the Kiltwalk has completely changed my approach to walking. When I did the marathon before, I was walking about seven miles away: my training was walking to and from work, several times a week. Since I'm not working just now, that isn't an option. (I recently turned down a contract; one of their more attractive things about the job world have been the eight mile walk to get there!)

I have picked certain routes, and I know the distances involved. I know how far away two miles is (for a short, four mile walk there and back), I know a two and half mile marker (for five), and five (for ten). I have six, seven and eight mile walks. I need to join some together to make longer walks, up to fifteen miles or so. There aren't that many places to walk to in Edinburgh. The ring road is only about five miles away... (I have been planning to walk to the the Bridges - about ten miles - and get the train back, though I haven't yet. Maybe next week.)

So my random walks are currently on hold. I have only taken my camera out walking when I have wanted, deliberately, to slow myself down.

There are three things I have been focusing on: distance, stride, and rapidity - stride length and speed of stride giving the overall speed. Mostly, though just speed and distance. It is knackering.

The weather has a direct impact on my exercise. More particularly, the weather forecast. It determines when and where - or, more specifically, how far.

I also need to practice walking in my kilt. Kilts are heavy, hang differently from trousers and swing when you move. And I'll need to get over a certain embarrassment, too.

Should you want to sponsor me, you can do so HERE. I really think you should!
rhythmaning: (violin)
Back in September, I went across to Glasgow for the first time in over a year. It was "Doors Open" day (conveniently, they hold Doors Open days on different weekends for Glasgow and Edinburgh - a lot of people visit both cities, I think).

A friend had booked several tickets for the Tennents' Wellpark Brewery, and a group of us went across for it.

But we started off - after we'd left the first bar we visited, of course - at Barrowland. Or Barrowlands. Officially the former, but everybody adds an "S". Barrowlands is a dancehall, which nowadays means it's a rock venue. Possibly the most famous venue in Scotland. It is a standing - dancing, even - venue; a London equivalent might be the T&C, the Lyceum, or the Hammersmith Palais.

I have been several times - though not recently. I've seen Elvis Costello there, PJ Harvey, Tricky, and Portishead; maybe more. I'll be back there to see the Waterboys next month.

It is set in the east end of Glasgow, and houses "the Barras" market underneath the dancehall. It isn't a salubrious area. When I mentioned to (a Glaswegian friend) that I'd be going to Barrowlands in December, he told me not to take my car because it might not make it through the night... He is of course exaggerating. It is perfectly safe. As long as it's green.

Anyhow, Barrowlands is the major Scottish rock venue, and has been for decades. A place of legend.

We wandered around for Doors Open. It was a bit odd, frankly, being there and there not being any music. But I got to go backstage. Where I saw the stars.

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The dressing rooms are decorated with stars. A lot of stars take the stars off the wall, which is why there are blank patches of plaster.

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A little further east is the Wellpark Brewery, a large site near the Necropolis (itself a great place to visit) and cathedral. Wellpark is brewing on a truly industrial scale. It is huge. Vast tanks hold hundreds of thousands of gallons of beers; towering hoppers contains hundreds of tons of grain. During the week, it runs around the clock, with downtime at the weekend for repairs and maintenance. The whole site is computerised, and fewer than 100 people are needed to run it.

It was a fascinating tour.


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The tour ended in their sampling room. Free beer. Whoo hoo! Except that frankly the beer was tasteless. I don't wish to sound ungrateful - it was a great tour, a fascinating place - but I don't like the beer they make. We left to have supper (at another brewery) without finishing our pints.




Jul. 31st, 2013 08:03 pm
rhythmaning: (sunset)
There isn't a great deal to do on Unst. This didn't come as a surprise. I knew there were no restaurants (I was early in the holiday season: the two hotel restaurants opened the weekend I left), nor a pub I could get to without driving (the nearest bar to me is in the hotel which would be opening the weekend, etc).

What there was a lot of was walking. Which I did; on six out of the seven days I was there, I walked about ten miles out more. (On the other day, it rained, and I went too the two - excellent - community museums.)

Unst is an island, which means almost every walk - at least every walk I did - involves the coast. There was Hermaness, of course, its dramatic cliffs dropping precipitously; and the following day I went on another coast walk, this time on the west coast; and more cliffs.

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It was another great walk; blowy, with birds. Up the coast from the ferry terminal, with Yell to the west. The coast was full of inlets, as costs are; Shetland has many deep sea lochs, as if to emphasise its Scandinavian heritage. ("Voes" in Shetland - fjords in Scandinavia...) Lots of smaller cuts in the cliffs, too - "geos".

Shags (fnaar) and terns were the predominant birds - large gathering of shags sunning their wings on the cliffs. There were a lot of shore birds as well - waders, mainly. And some terns. A seal watched lazily from the sea as a followed the line of the beach.

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The walk took in several ruined buildings. Unst is full of ruins. Standing stones. Viking ruins. Medieval ruins. Abandoned crofts and cleared settlements. Ruins, and lost history, abound. (Later, in the Lerwick museum, I read of an excavation of a cleared settlement, which indicated that the inhabitants had left quickly and in a hurry - their pots and pans still over the fire, nothing packed away.) My amateur eyes could not discern one ruined settlement from another: I accepted what the guide book said were Viking ruins from Celtic ones and Christian settlements. (Ok, I could identify the standing stones...)

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History lurks within the soil: you can see the boundaries between ancient fields left by generations, the trees that weren't cut down (ok not in Shetland, no trees except those planted by Victorian landowners!). The whole of Britain has been shaped by man. The history of Unst is one of change. The Vikings replaced the Picts, the Scots replaced the Vikings, and landowners replaced the crofters. The ruins on the peat moors were very dramatic and evocative.

I walked by ancient and ruined chapels, one still used as a burial ground - a strange mix of ancient and modern (albeit dead).


I walked back past Belmont House, a fine Georgian building on the machair - it looked as if it were transplanted from Edinburgh.


* * *

There are a lot of northerly places on Unst: the most northerly Post Office in Britain, the most northerly road, the most northerly house... Which I walked by. I started from Norwick beach - a very fine, broad beach of golden sand; it looked Mediterranean, but for the breeze. The track to Skaw rises from the north of the beach and climbs the cliffs (imaginatively named "The Cliffs"). The gate was locked, a notice saying the track was closed because of the danger of landslips. Instead, I just head straight up the hill to meet the road, and walked - well, north, over Swartling to Skaw.


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I don't know what Swartling is, but it is marked on the map. Actually, there are many features shown on the OS map of Unst that I couldn't really work out what they were. I know I was there, but couldn't tell what the map referred to. For instance, I'm pretty sure that "Horns of Hagmark" are cliff stacks that I walked along; but "The Giant" - just south on the map of the Horns of Hagmark - what is it? I was looking for it - I mean, who wouldn't go looking for "The Giant"? But, well there wasn't anything very gigantic there. Still, I wasn't sure what I was actually looking for, so it could have been anything.

On the other hand, the map is full of great names. Like "The Horns of Hagmark".

At Skaw I said hello to the woman who was cleaning her stream (she had passed me in her LandRover and offered me a lift, and smiled when I said I wanted to walk) and walked on the beach. There is a farm at Skaw (the most northerly...), and a traditional "haa" - a hull-roofed dwelling. I climbed the cliffs to the south and followed them, undulating up and down and in and out, watching terns fish and fulmars somehow sitting in their nests on the cliff-face. And I saw a Great Northern Diver.




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The path leads out to the Garths (what? What?!) and Lamba Ness, the point which is almost cut off - the track fills the width of the isthmus. The Garths and the Ness are dotted with abandoned, derelict military buildings; there is a sketch map on the road identifying their different functions. It was the site of a large RAF radar installation in World War 2 - RAF Skaw - which kept watch over the route from the North Sea into the Atlantic. (Presumably the gap between Shetland and Orkney was patrolled by the Navy.) It has an odd feeling, this huge site returned to nature.

I walked back to Norwick, getting to the road where the closed track met it; there was a guy walking up the track, so I thought I'd risk it. After a couple of hundred yards, there was a large crack in the tarmac; a bit further on, the road had slipped about a foot. I could see more cracks in the track, too, the tarmac hanging onto the edge of the Cliffs. I decided to give it a miss, returning to the road and then back down the hill, the way I had come.

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rhythmaning: (Saxophone)
I had plenty of time to get from Paddington to Kings Cross for my train back to Edinburgh, so I did something most Londoners wouldn't dream of, and walked. (It wasn't the first time - eighteen months ago, I walked from St Pancras to Paddington one frosty December evening, when I needed the exercise and air. Even then it felt unusual; and I still reached the pub before my friends.)

It was sunny and warm - pulling my case behind me, I broke into a sweat. Between Paddington and Great Portland Street, I stayed off the main roads, going down streets I have probably never walked down - Marylebone isn't really my part of town.

I went onto Euston Road to explore Regent's Place and Triton Square - mostly for the Gormley sculture, "Reflection".

It seemed apt bookending the walk with two railway termini.

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Mar. 13th, 2013 03:43 pm
rhythmaning: (sunset)
Once I got there, I was impressed by Greenwich. I went often as a child, but only once in adult memory, a couple a years ago when I was exploring Canary Wharf and took the tunnel under the Thames; I didn't really look around much.

This time, Cutty Sark was back, and I looked around many of the grand Wren-designs on the way to the Royal Maritime Museum, where the Ansel Adams show was on. (When we were children, my brother and I spent many afternoons looking at the large model boats they have - or at least, I had - I didn't look much around the museum, though I was impressed with its architecture, both classical and modern.)

The painted hall and the chapel were stunning.

As I was leaving to find the station, I saw the start of a beautiful sunset. So I stayed on, wandering around, looking at the effect of the sky on the buildings.

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rhythmaning: (sunset)
I was in London last month, and I took a trip along the Thames. I hadn't intended to; I wanted to go to the Hayward's "Light Show", but couldn't face the queue, so I walked to Tate Modern, which was full of school children and the members' room was so busy they were queueing out of the door.

I decided instead to go to Greenwich to see an exhibition of Ansel Adams' photographs - one of my favourite photographers.

It was a great exhibition - lots of high contrast black and white prints - but best of all was the fast boat ride I took from Bankside to Greenwich.

I took some pictures at all stages of my journey.

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Jan. 6th, 2013 06:56 pm
rhythmaning: (Saxophone)
The tide was coming in at Wardie Bay, beside Granton Harbour. I looked over the wall and saw a crowd of birds huddling together on the remnants of the beach, thousands of birds.

They were grey plovers - I think.

I watched as they were spooked and flew up as a flock.

I stayed for ages, watching and photographing.

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On the way back an hour later, the tide was fully in and there was no beach at all. The birds had migrated onto floating platforms, harbour-furniture, filling all the available space. Every so often, the birds would rise and flock again, circle the harbour, and return to the platform. I wondered whether all the birds got back on, or if they were playing a game of musical flocks.





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The Coast.

Jan. 6th, 2013 05:59 pm
rhythmaning: (sunset)
I went for a long walk on New Year's Day, down to the sea at Newhaven and then along the coast to Silverknowes, passing Granton harbour and Wardie Bay.

There are signs of coast's industrial heritage all the way along.

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rhythmaning: (sunset)
Back in October, we had some wonderful days. I went on several walks. And took many photographs.

Up Arthur's Seat



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North Edinburgh and the Water of Leith




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Modern, New Town, and Old College





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rhythmaning: (sunset)
I forgot to include these in my post on public art in Edinburgh yesterday...

St Bernard's Well.

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North Bridge.

Specifically, the monument to the King's Own Scottish Borderers.



Public Art.

Dec. 7th, 2012 05:32 pm
rhythmaning: (sunset)
There is a lot of public art in Edinburgh: installations and sculpture that one sees just walking about the city, some though not all left over from the Festival. I took some photographs recently.

(Ok, some of it is the grounds of the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, and hence may not be classifiable as "public", but since one can just wander across it, it stays. Not least because people walking past it make such good photographs!)

Regent's Bridge, lit by Callum Innes.

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Roger Hiorns, "Untitled". SNGMA.




Antony Gormley, "6 Times". The Water of Leith. (Before and after flooding.)




rhythmaning: (sunset)
"Speed of Light" was an interesting experience: simultaneously brilliant and disappointing. NVA, the company behind it, have worked a lot with light in the environment (their installation at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh in 2008, "Spirit", was beautiful, and I heard great things about their work in Skye and Glen Lyon).

Speed of Light is hard to describe: I think installation works best, except that the whole point was that it consisted of volunteer runners, choreographed to create patterns. At night. On Arthur's Seat. Wearing light suits.

You may see why I was attracted to it: the moment I heard about it, I knew I wanted to see it.

But - brilliant and disappointing: I clearly have conflicting feelings about it.

Brilliant first. At a very basic level, it made me look at the world in a different way - what I believe art should do. It took a familiar landscape - I must have climbed Arthur's Seat fifty times or more over the years - and made it afresh. The audience, equipped with light sabres light-emitting walking sticks (or "staffs" - all a bit Gandalfian...), were part of the choreography, part of the creation. The runners made amazing patterns on the (east-facing) slopes of Salisbury Crags, and the audience walked up the path to the east of this, the runners creating patterns against the dark of the landscape.

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The "WOW!" factor was immense: people were vocally awestruck (but see below...!). It had an immediate impact. It was stunning.


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So why the disappointment? Mostly for reasons that were nothing to with NVA or Speed of Light, at least not directly. In part, it was because my expectations were very high: I expected great things. I saw great things. But then it all got a bit blase: the whole thing took nearly three and a half hours, from my arrival for the 10pm slot to leaving at 1.15am. (We didn't leave for the walk until 10.30, what with health and safety talks and the like.)

The walk lead up Hunter's Bog between the Crags and Arthur's Seat, during which the runners were in complete dark, and then curved up the south and south east route to the summit. Despite being asked beforehand by the walk-leaders to keep as quiet as possible, many people on the walk chatted, non-stop - for 2½ hours! Their talk was very intrusive and distracting. (I could have asked them to be quiet, but I was aware that I was taking a lot of photographs, which others may have found distracting; and so many people were talking, one would have spent the whole time asking people to stop!)

Below the summit was a flat piece of ground where we waited, watching the runners. The lights of the light suits competed with the bright lights of the city. It wasn't much competition: the city was much brighter, and in some ways more spectacular. With the city spread across the west below us, and its lights appearing over the tops of the Crags, Speed of Light was very diminished. We waited quite a while as the patterns of lights weaved across the crags, becoming normal rather than spectacular. Despite being part of the event, watching them runners from above made them feel distant - more of an observer than, say, standing in a gallery looking at a painting - a curious effect, really.

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From the summit, the choreographed lights couldn't be seen - a problem of geography, perhaps, but a little disappointing itself. The walking sticks - which had been emitting rather discomfiting sounds since we had arrived at the viewing place below the summits - were dismantled and the top light-tips used to make a cairn.


Coming off the hill, we walked slowly down, with little apparent activity now from the runners - and the city hidden once again behind the crags. At the bottom, leaving the tents that acted as the venue, many of the runners were coming off the hill: they received a round of applause.

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So: brilliant and disappointing; fascinating and distant; engaging and irritating. But a wonderful experience, and one which changed the way I look at the city.

rhythmaning: (sunset)
The Brass Jaw gig was in Finchley on a Sunday afternoon: so I walked there, and I walked back, when I took these photos...

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Read more... )


Dec. 9th, 2011 06:49 pm
rhythmaning: (sunset)
Another walk, from Limehouse to the Tower. To the accompaniment of "Limehouse Blues", of course.


Yes, more photos... )


rhythmaning: (Default)

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