Thursday, 22 March 2018

bluebell trail 10k recce

I have been meaning to go a run in Dalkeith Country Park (aka the Duke of Buccleuch Estate) for a while now. To check out the courses for the inaugural Bluebell Trail 5k, 10k and 1k races in May this year. I am helping out the organisers of this charity fundraiser in an advisory capacity, however due to Seamus being so ahead of the game with the organisation, my main advice has been excellent! more of the same! There is a great website here telling you details about the races and how you can enter online. And maps of the courses. 

I had planned to run the routes with Seamus who has spent some time planning and tweaking the routes and making sure they are the correct length. Seamus was busy until later in the afternoon and so I foolishly thought I'd manage fine by just taking along a rough map and working it out for myself. Haha! Not paying attention in class again! My thinking was: well there aren't many places to go wrong. In fact there are. And I did! But the sun was shining and it was all very pretty. I took photos along the route to show how fab an event it is going to be.

Seamus had said the route starts near the picnic tables (just inside the Dalkeith High St. entrance.) I padlocked my bike there (pretty much in front of Dalkeith House.) First up you cross the bridge and run up the road for less than half a km. This is just about the only tarmac section, plus you cross the bridge 3 times (in the 10k) The 5k route is the first half of the 10k and covers the flatter west side of the park. You leave the road and run down the hardpack trail (above) before crossing a stream and running down a smaller trail between the trees.

I think there must have been a choice of routes, a slight forking of the path around here and I took the wrong option and then ran on parallel paths down towards the western end of the course. In my defence the map I was using was not great. I recently got a lovely new computer (refurbished solid state pc) and it works a treat. Online 30secs after pushing the on button. However the printer has taken the huff and refuses to speak to it. I can see the print queued but it won't print. So I print stuff by sending it to Mary who prints it for me. She wasn't about before I headed here, so I cunningly taped tracing paper to the screen (old school practicality) and traced off a map, marking on rivers and boundary roads. In a hurry. OK that is my excuse. I hadn't realised DCP is criss-crossed with many similar paths. Again in my defence, I covered about the right amount of ground in the right direction, often on the wrong paths, but on the day these will be very well marked and marshalled.

my map, traced off the screen and mostly worked ok.

When I got to the newly tarmac-ed road that comes in off the A6106 I took out my compass and took a bearing. If it was me setting a trail race course I wouldn't have run down that tarmac but the bearing agreed with the road so I went down it. Later, much later, I realised of course that Seamus had crossed the road and run on trails north east parallel to said road. I look forward to that next time!

this Bluetit was laughing at my navigation

After a bit of headscratching and bushwacking through the woods I rejoined the correct trail past the 4k and 9k spots and all the snowdrops alongside the North Esk. This pretty trail loops around to the start finish area, climbing up to the bridge, with views of the Big House across the river.

Back over the bridge marks the end of the 5k (I believe). The 10k route continues and most of the second half exploits the riverside trails and woods on the North East of the park. It is slightly more undulating with narrower trails in places. After going past the buildings (Restoration Yard and Fort Douglas) you follow the South Esk. Unfortunately I followed it a little too closely and used all sorts of language when I had to climb back up the slope I had galloped down following a meander which lead nowhere.

my tracing paper map

the real course (available on website)

my version

real map in thin red, my variations in blue
(all things considered it could have been much worse)

This area very popular with the animals.

When I reached the above area, which looked no different from much of the surroundings, a large amount of corvids (jackdaws and/or crows) flew away, as if I'd broken up their conference. Also a squirrel and some pigeons so it was obviously inter-departmental. From this point the trail narrows. It became quite muddy but in May should be a bit drier after weeks of baking sunshine (winky, smiley face with tongue out.)

The confluence of the North and South Esk Rivers

Almost immediately after passing the point where 2 rivers become one, you cross a bridge and take a short sharp ascent to another delightful path through the woods. Another wrong path in my case but it ran parallel to the correct one and covered much the same ground.

then run down this path you've already come up

Another once round the snowdrop loop (I expect this will be Bluebells in May) and along the riverbank enjoying views of Dalkeith House and the river before ascending to Montague Bridge and sprinting to the line. Pretty much the most scenic 10k you will ever run. And it will be even prettier in May. I was accompanied by birdsong the whole way round and it was just a delightful place to be running.

If this has inspired you, there are entries and info linked from the website here. As well as the 10k and 5k there is a 1k for under 13s. You can also find out about Mypas by scrolling down the home page. They seem to be a charity really worth supporting, which is why I am getting involved with this. Although I hope to actually run in the race because I think it will be cracking. It's an SA licensed event and will be chip timed.

The organisation are hoping to have loads of volunteers on race day, Sunday 13th May so if you aren't going to race (it is the day after Penicuik 10k) but could help out, as a marshal etc. then get in touch with myself or through the facebook page and I will give you a password for the volunteers section of the website. You can opt to help with specific things, such as marshalling the kids race, 5k or 10k or removing timing devices at finish etc and most will be finished by midday. It promises to be a great family day out. Hope to see you there.

Next recce will be with Seamus and follow the route more closely!
Hope to see butterflies and leaves on the trees.


  1. Pete, have you seen Nick Morgan's blog on Blogger 'Butterfly Pictures'? He is based in East Lothian so could be good for site info this year.

  2. Brilliant tip, big thanks for that Brian. It is great to see someone round my neck of the woods who could point me in the right direction and suggest some different venues for butterfly hunting. Lovely pics as well.

    1. Glad to be of help, your challenge this year Northern Brown Argus, I'm off to Cumbria again this July let's see if we can get images (you have the advantage as they are present in your area)

  3. OK I shall try and catalogue the Argus. (hoho) Also hoping to see Green Hairstreak, any uncommon blues and more Walls this summer. So far ticked 17 of the 30+ Scottish available but the list is growing! Looking forward to a busy summer. Have fun in Cumbria!