With a couple of hours spare in my hectic retirement schedule, I thought I’d take the chance to haul Kermit out of the garage and pedal around a couple of the local landmarks. Our journey would take us around a 15km circuit, dropping off the raised beach of Larbert and Stenhousemuir down onto the pancake flat carse land that is the Forth Valley. Not much by way of hills, but about an hours cycling, another step in helping the bum become saddle tough.
The blue line in the photo above shows our route, starting at the bottom of the picture and heading anticlockwise to Letham, then skirting Letham Moss on a farm track to meet the B9124. After a brief spell on the B road heading west it was a sharp turn to the south to head back to the house on the unclassified road with the enigmatic “Tower” lurking to its west.
Well, it was another day of spitting flies and other miscellaneous flying critters as Kermit and I picked up a bit of speed on the very brief descent onto the carse. We’d just reached the houses at Letham when I came across a Right of Way sign that promised to take us to the Moss Road (B9124). I didn’t even know this little tarmacked road existed but the view over the wheat fields to the Ochils was worth stopping to admire. The Forth Valley countryside at its best.
Minutes later I’d run out of tarmac and found myself in a busy farmyard. Where the hell did the road go? Neither was there any sign of a sign, if you get my drift. Luckily the farmer was used to this problem and pointed to a track that had been masked by farm vehicles. Kermit and I were once more en route.
I should point out at this time that this was not a planned route (as you have no doubt already gathered). While I have, because of my late employment, an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of the areas back roads, I no bugger all about its tracks and paths. I look on these little expeditions as a journey into the great unknown…something new…something that gives me the rare opportunity of getting lost only a couple of miles from my doorstep.
Anyway back to the farm track.
I could tell Kermit was unhappy.
He was beginning to shake and shudder quite convincingly. For the first time Kermit had come across rough ground.
“You’re a bloody mountain bike. Just stop bleating and get on with it!” I snapped.
There was a plaintive squeaking from below as I sighed and reluctantly searched out the least stony part of the track.
As we skirted Letham Moss I spied a gap in the tree barrier to my left.
Once upon a time the whole moss would probably have been covered in native woodland. Now, with the peat extraction, there was but a black flatland where nothing grew. For such a relatively small area to have been plundered to such an extent was a sad reflection on previous permissions. I like to think it would be more difficult to be granted a license for this type of eco-vandalism in the current planning process.
Somewhat disheartened we pushed on westwards to the B9124 and from there to the crossroads to take us south, back home.
I know I’m going to regret the next paragraph…but here goes anyway.
The Tower. You may recall I mentioned the tower in the route description. I believe this particular tower, recently renovated, dates back to the 14th Century, the estate being granted by none other than Robert the Bruce. It is officially known as Menzies Castle but is known locally as… (I really don’t want to do this)…Cockabendies.
I will only say that I am not aware of any explanation for this name.
On reflection maybe I should have just settled for…”The Tower” and left it at that.
While the photo above shows the pastoral scene of rolled up hay bales and ancient castles, the photo below may bring into sharp focus less scenic items littering the skyline. Pylons…lots and lots of pylons. Once the planned Beauly to Denny (Denny being only a few miles distant hence the pylon convergence) power line is constructed I expect these pylons will cast an even bigger shadow on the landscape.
The descent past Cockabendies is short, but fairly steep and I could hear Kermit scream in fear as we belted down the narrow road, my body flat and my head down over the handlebars, flying past the castle entrance.
Maybe I’ll grow up…sometime.
My thanks to Bob of Alex and Bob’s Blue Sky Scotland for suggesting Letham for cycling.