Green travel to green places

In search of climate and wildlife stories…by bike

A day trip along the Solway Firth — August 28, 2012

A day trip along the Solway Firth

Fancy a day trip to the Solway Firth to see some birds? Why not go to the RSPB’s Mersehead reserve… but not at the end of August. I went today and didn’t see much, save for, what could have been, a female wheatear, being battered by the wind. I was well and truly battered by the wind as I wandered along the beach and on my cycle to the reserve. So spotting birds and cycling were both hard work. There were lovely views though, across the sand flats and the grassland and saltmarsh. Views were great along the ride too, especially across the Solway on the way back and a following wind.

The best times to visit are either in the spring when there are loads of bums on nests, especially waders or in winter. Both Mersehead and Kirkconnell Merse RSPB reserve on the River Nith, are important sites for barnacle geese from Svalbard which spend the winter there as well as good numbers of other swans, geese and ducks.

 I got there by train from Glasgow to Dumfries and then it’s a gently undulating ride along the A710 Solway coast road. The ride is about 17 miles each way to Mersehead but you could make a shorter ride to Kirkconnell Flow National Nature Reserve and Kirkconnell Merse, or just stop off there on route to Mersehead. Definitely a good day out no matter how far down the road you get.

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Bute-iful cycling — July 16, 2012

Bute-iful cycling

I’m not back on sabbatical yet but thought I would blog about my latest green travel. I’ve been on holiday with the family the past couple of weeks and after abandoning our Moray camping holiday due to rain we decided to extend our time off with a short trip somewhere else.We found a B&B in Rothesay on the Isle of Bute so headed there from Glasgow. Best of all we decided to leave the car at home and go by train, ferry and bikes. We loaded 2 bikes, 1 bike seat, 1 tag-along bike, 2 panniers, 1 small rucksack, 1 handlebar bag and not forgetting 2 children onto the train to Wemyss Bay for the journey along the Clyde. At Wemyss Bay the station is at the ferry terminal so an easy roll down the pier to get a ticket. At the other end a short ride got us to the B&B – easy.

Taking a rest from digging at Scalpsie Bay

Taking the bikes meant we had them to get about the island, mainly to the sandy beaches for us. Cycling on Bute is easy as nowhere is very far away and doesn’t take a climb over a big hill to get there. On the east side the road runs along the coast so getting to Mount Stuart, for example, is flat all the way.

Rothesay is, sadly, a town in decline – a faded seaside destination of the past – and the worst fish supper I have ever had! But the beaches and views are glorious. I have never been to a beach where the sand and sea is so full of life. Give me a spade and a sandy beach and I have to dig, constantly, so I saw a lot of worms, shellfish and other invertebrates – even though I didn’t know what they are it felt like Bute was teeming with life. The weather was great and a few porpoises in the Kyles of Bute topped it all off, especially for Anna, my wife, who had missed seeing bottlenose dolphins in the Moray Firth.

Bute without the car was so easy. If more people decided to leave the aeroplane on the ground and even the car at home to cut their holiday’s carbon footprint Rothesay could be in for a second heyday.