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Musings News Project Updates

Nithraid 2023

Hundreds of people joined us along the banks of the River Nith to celebrate the Tenth Anniversary of the Nithraid River Race!

Photography by Kirstin McEwan

This year, our famous Salty Coo was carried along Mill Green behind a piper, before being dunked in the Nith by a group of vikings!

On 2nd September 2023, we welcomed teams of sailors, coastal rowers, canoes and kayaks at the tenth annual Nithraid River Race. Our competitors entered the Nith at Glencaple at high tide and raced to Dumfries and back, battling for the best time.

Competitors getting ready to race in Glencaple.

Although there was the occasional cloud, we were fortunate to have a bright warm day for racing. The nice weather brought lots of people to the banks of the Nith, who enjoyed spectating the race. The day brightened as the afternoon went on, creating perfect conditions for those who joined us to watch and take part in the activities at Mill Green.

Some of our racers watching the tidal bore come in at Glencaple – with some kayakers enjoying the wave!

Produced by The Stove Network and supported by Dumfries & Galloway Council, Historic Environment Scotland, and EcoArt, this year’s race saw the return of competitors from previous years, as well as new racers who travelled as far as the Firth of Clyde, and North Queensferry to compete. This year we had a great mix of kayakers, coastal rowers and a few sailors who enjoyed their surroundings on the Nith.

Wigtown Bay CRC before the race.

The first vessel left the banks of Glencaple at 1:03pm, with sail boats setting off first, followed by rowers and finishing with kayakers.

Coastal rowing boats preparing for the race to start.

This year, each boat had to transport precious ‘cargo’ – flags created by young people during EcoArt’s flag making workshops.

As the boats arrived at Mill Green, each boat delivered their flag and it was raised over the Suspension Bridge, creating a fantastic visual spectacle for those enjoying the race in Dumfries and signalling the halfway point of the race.

Rows of colourful flags adorn the Suspension Bridge, marking the halfway point of the race. (EcoArt is a grassroots charity connecting community, art & sustainability. Find out more about the LAND project and EcoArt here.)

“Nithraid celebrated its 10th Birthday this year with one of it’s most successful turnouts! We had over thirty vessels of different shapes and sizes competing which really brought the river to life, making it feel like aproper celebration. Thank you to all of the spectators that lined the banks of the Nith to cheer our racers on! It made a very special day even more memorable. Nithraid is all about celebrating our town’s river, and we are delighted that so many people took part, watched and enjoyed the activities planned for the day.”

Sal Cuddihy, Nithraid Project Manager and Head of Production at The Stove Network
The public watching the boats arrive at Mill Green, whilst enjoying stalls and activity.

In addition to the annual River Race, the Stove Network led a series of family-friendly activities at Mill Green, all free of charge and accessible along the banks of the River Nith, including:

  • EcoArt – Environmental Flag Design Drop-In
  • Simon Lidwell’s Viking Cluaran
  • If Fishes were Wishes for the Nith’ by Elizabeth Tindal, Freelance Ranger.
  • The Missing Museum Drop-In
  • Nith Life Community Visioning

Before the second leg of the race could begin, we had the annual tradition of the dunking of the salty coo! The coo (our mascot) symbolises the historic journey made by herds of cattle, led by their farmers, across the river at low tide, from Maxwelltown on the west bank to the cattle market at Whitesands on the east side of the river.

Our Salty Coo was taken in procession across Mill Green, led by a piper, before being returned to the water.
The vikings from Cluaran took care of our coo on her voyage in the Nith.
Hello coo!

After a quick rest and and refreshments from the Robert Burns Centre, our competitors were ready for the second leg of the race.

Racers get ready for the second leg of the race.

Our sailors and rowers were first to depart back to Glencaple, with our kayakers canoeists setting off at the same time for the final stretch!

The Nithraid team ready to time the second leg of the race.
Team rowers setting off for Glencaple.
On your marks, get set…

Beyond Mill Green, there was various activity for the public to enjoy at the Coach and Horses and the Dougie Arms. At the Coach, there was an exhibition by artists Fraser Irvin, Neil Patterson, Leanne Bradwick and a live performance of ‘Nithraid’, a poem by Davey Payne. Both pubs hosted live music throughout the day till late at night!

We can’t thank our competitors enough for all the hard work and effort each of you gave to this year’s race. You are all winners in our eyes.

However, it is also important to give credit to those who were succesful in achieving the best time!

The Nithraid 2023 winners:

CategoryTeam / Boat NameTotal Time
Coastal RowingFirth of Clyde Rowing Club01:25:51.00
RowingLady Moira 01:10:45.00
KayakingPhil Dean01:10:56.00

A MASSIVE thank you and well done to all who took part in our tenth anniversary race. We are had a fantastic day, and we hope you did too!

The Nith Inshore Rescue team.

Thank you also to EcoArt, Simon Lidwell & the Cluaran Heritage Project clan, Nith Life, The Missing Museum and Elizabeth Tindell for the wonderful entertainment and activity at Mill Green; the safety boats who were out on the Nith all day to keep the competitors safe; Nith Inshore Rescue, who do the vital work of keeping our waters safe all year-round; Dumfries and Galloway Radio Unit who helped with parking and safely directing boats and competitors in Glencaple; all those who volunteered at this year’s event to help us set up and facilitate the race; and the businesses around Dumfries who set up special live entertainment around the town to help us celebrate Nithraid – The Dougie Arms, and Coach and Horses Inn.

Our Salty Coo en route to the River Nith.

The Stove Network

For more information on Nithraid, visit our webpage here.

News Project Updates

The Market of Possibility Reflection

Images by Kirstin McEwan Photography

Throughout July & August 2023, the Market of Possibility took over a former retail unit in the Loreburne Centre in Dumfries, offering a new and interactive space, where the public could visit free of charge, get creative and share their visions for the future of our town.

This project was made in collaboration with Dumfries Partnership Action Group (DPAG) and supported by the National Lottery Community Fund. The Market held exhibitions, workshops and interactive elements by local community groups and each of the Stove’s Open Hoose Projects. Learn more about the project below.

The Market of Possibility was an opportunity to work with our Open Hoose groups towards realising an ambitious project exploring the future identity of the town as a thriving, connected and creative place to live. Being able to connect these campaigns, communities and enterprises within the larger Dumfries Partnership Action Group action plan, rooted the ideas and activity to a broader campaign towards the grassroots regeneration of our town. From music to history, the idea of a diverse, cultural and community-led town centre once again felt more than tangible.

Martin O’Neill, Artistic Director

The space that held the Market was transformed by the Stove’s production team from an empty retail space into a collaborative playground with tactile exhibitions, interactive elements and areas where the public were urged to get involved and share their own thoughts about the future of the town.

The space was open three days each week over the two months from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm, and was visited by Dumfries locals, visitors, and tourists who delved into a world of grassroots campaigns, electrifying projects, and inspiring initiatives, all led by local people.

Being involved with the transformation of the unit in the Loreburne Centre was a fantastic opportunity to bring together so many fantastic community groups from Dumfries into one cohesive, stimulating, and accessible space. We sectioned the ‘market’ into different town sections, where those visiting the space could explore different futures for Dumfries just by walking around taking everything in. As the production team, we were able to engage and talk with the public, which resulted in very meaningful and insightful conversations about our town that we are excited to build upon in the future.  

Sal Cuddihy, Production Lead

Referencing Dumfries’ history as the regions key market town, the Market was focussed on the celebration of local innovation and creativity and featured a plethora of creative workshops as well as interactive installations in partnership with some of the town’s most popular creative community groups.

The local community groups that were involved with the Market of Possibility were Re:Dress, DMC, For Enjoyment, The Missing Museum, Dumfries Pride, Deep Green Space and Paragon Music.

Our Open Hoose groups were also involved, with Doughlicious, Free Improvisation, Queer Club, Write, Nith Life and Repair Shop hosting drop-in events for the public.

The space as a whole asked those who entered “What if Dumfries was…”, where visitors were urged to ponder the possibility of our town being a green, creative, making, inclusive, music, and historic town. Each of these avenues of thought roused hundreds of responses, and from this exercise we can explore what the future of Dumfries might look like, and all the different possibilities that may shape it.

The legacy of MOP is so vast that being able to boil down to a few key actions is a little daunting but certainly something we can’t wait to explore. Using the different ‘towns’ within the space was particularly well received as a means of exploring not only the Dumfries of the future, but the town as it is today. We’ve over 400 postcards of creative ideas from the public to rifle through which may well lead to the next big thing for Dumfries. Above all however, working across all the community groups, partners, organisations, campaigns and businesses towards realising this project has laid a fertile ground for more collaborations in the near future. Collaborations both enterprising, creative and surprising. I can’t wait to see what comes next. 

Martin O’Neill

Learn more about the Market of Possibility, and each of the groups involved with the project here.

News Opportunities

Wild Goose Festival Volunteer Opportunities

During the eleven-day Wild Goose Festival, our town centre nature hub found in the Loreburne Centre, Dumfries, will be open daily from 10:00am – 4:00pm, offering a range of family-friendly activities to enjoy.

This year, we have various volunteer opportunities available. Find out more about each opportunity below.

Image by Peter Jordan

Pre-Festival Volunteers

Role Description:

In collaboration with the Wild Goose Festival and supported by Creative Scotland, the central hub will host a festival-long ‘drop in and do’ collage mural. The mural will be created using recycled and natural materials.

Working in pairs before the festival, volunteers will gather materials for art packs, sort them, and maintain a record of all that was collected. Volunteers will then use collected natural and recycled materials into ‘art packs’, ensuring children and young people who participate will receive equal amounts of material.

Previous volunteer experience is optional, but a positive attitude, desire for fresh air, and enjoyment of working within the local community is essential. Gathering sessions will be held rain or shine; please ensure you come prepared for all weather possibilities. In the event of dangerous conditions making gathering impossible, volunteers will be offered a ‘rain date’.

  • In groups of 2, walking the natural areas of Dumfries town centre, gathering materials such as acorns, leaves, sticks, grasses, flowers, pine cones, pine needles, etc.
  • Sorting materials by type at the Stove.
  • Counting and taking stock of all gathered materials.
  • Following directions, gathering and sorting the provided materials into brown paper bag ‘preparation packs’ for mural drop-in sessions.
  • Bringing preparation packs to the hub in the Loreburne Centre.

Time Commitments:

Volunteers helping with the collection of materials: October 11th & 13th. These days will be split in to two sessions, collecting: 11:00am – 1:00pm, and sorting: 1:00pm – 2:00pm.

Volunteers helping with the compilation of Art Packs: October 17th. This day will be split in to two sessions: 11:00am – 1:00pm & 1:00pm – 3:00pm.

Image by Duncan Ireland

Hub Volunteers

Role Description:

In collaboration with the Wild Goose Festival, the central hub will open eight festival days between 10:00am and 4:00pm, offering interactive and creative workshops, partner presentations,
and self-led activities.

The general volunteer role is a dynamic position that will see volunteers engaging with various people, activities, local artists, and organisations. Volunteers will be responsible for assisting the Hub Director in the daily operation of the hub and its activities, shadowing the Hub Coordinator, helping direct the flow of visitors, and engaging with children and young people (CYP) under the direction of workshop providers and Stove staff.

Further supported by a grant from Creative Scotland, the central hub will host twelve interactive workshops ranging from a festival-long ‘drop in and do’ collage mural to interactive art development workshops led by locally established artists.

The Stove Networks Creative Spaces ‘emerging artists’ team will each have a turn taking over drop-in sessions, teaching and inspiring CYPs with hands-on mural workshops, while established artists will teach workshops on illustration, praxinoscope, sound design, cyanotype, etc.

No previous volunteer experience is required, just a positive attitude and enjoyment of working within the local community. A short (30-minute) training session will be held before the festival to familiarise volunteers with the Hub and role.

  • Ensure space is stocked with materials for self-lead activities
  • Answer questions and engage with the public, (such as greeting visitors, managing image release forms, etc.)
  • Assist in managing visitor flow/ensuring smooth operation of hub self-lead activities
  • Assist partners as needed with presentations and activities
  • Create art packs/gather natural materials as needed
  • Operate a ‘video station’ consisting of a tripod, camera, and praxinoscope machine, record pictures/videos of CYP creations on Proxiniscope & Engage and record (written) participant responses to the following question(s): What is your illustration about? What does this illustration mean to you?
  • Help ensure established artist workshops are stocked with paper, pencils, pens, crayons and making art packs as the need arises
  • Ensuring the organisation of basic art supplies (paints, brushes, crayons, pencils, pens, etc), and assisting with cleaning up art supplies (cleaning brushes, storing materials, recycling scrap materials, etc.)
  • Document/photograph art workshops when the staff photographer is not available
  • Interact with CYPs, assisting and providing support as needs arise
Time Commitments:

10:00am – 1:00pm OR
1:00pm – 4:00pm

Image by Rachel Shnapp

Clothing Sorting Volunteers:

Role Description:

This year, the Hub will run a clothing drive to support the work of Massive Outpouring of Love (MOOL). Clothing donations will be accepted from October 20th till October 26th. On Friday, October 27th, MOOL will host a donations sorting session at their Depot.

Community volunteers are needed to assist MOOL staff and MOOL volunteers to sort and organise what has been gathered.

  • Sorting clothing gathered during the festival week
  • Organising clothing by size
  • Organising clothing into piles for shipping to EU camps, clothing to be sent to charity shops and clothing that may be of use to current asylum seekers in the area.
Time Commitments:

October 27th – Time TBD


If you have any questions about each volunteer role or about the Wild Goose Festival Hub please contact Wren Winters our Hub Co-ordinator here.

Wild Goose Festival is an annual, family-friendly exploration of nature, creativity, and place. Produced by The Stove Network and held in Dumfries and surrounding areas, it unites key partners from across the region in celebration of the migratory route of barnacle geese between Svalbard and the Solway as well as the five other species that flock to this part of Scotland.

Musings News Project Updates

The Market of Possibility at Guid Nychburris 2023!

Imagine a future where fashion, gardens, and stories come to life. Exciting, right? 

At Guid Nychburris 2023, The Stove Network and Dumfries Partnership Action Group joined forces with various community projects in launching ‘The Market of Possibility’.

Our ‘Town of Possibilities’ parade entry was made up from volunteers from Stove members and those involved in the various groups taking part in the Market of Possibility in July and August. Thanks to the large number of volunteers who helped, we won first place in the walking category of the parade!

We would like to say a massive thank you to all of those who took part in our parade entry and to those who supported us as we walked round the streets of Dumfries. Another massive thank you to the organisers of Guid Nychburris 2023 for such a fantastic day!

What is the Market of Possibility?

Nestled in the vibrant heart of Dumfries, the Market of Possibility invites you on a journey into a world of grassroots campaigns, electrifying projects, and inspiring initiatives led by local heroes. It’s not just a market—it’s a captivating blend of studio, playground, and laboratory. Step inside, and you’ll find yourself immersed in a thought-provoking space that ignites new ideas and nurtures your ambitions.

From revolutionary green spaces to innovative social bakeries and homegrown fashion, the Market of Possibility, located in the Loreburn Centre throughout July and August, is a grand celebration of local innovation and creativity. But it’s not just about admiring these incredible endeavours; it’s about actively participating in shaping the future.

Imagine attending creative workshops, exploring interactive installations, and even building your very own towns of the future. The Market of Possibility is an invitation to play, connect, explore, and create together. Let’s embark on a journey where we can build new ambitions, explore fresh ideas, and uncover limitless possibilities for the future of our beloved town.

Prepare to have your imagination sparked as the Market of Possibility showcases a diverse range of local campaigns, enterprises, and grassroots projects. Each project presents an interactive installation that will inspire big ideas, ignite conversations, and welcome new visions for a future town fueled by imagination, connectivity, and equality.

Step into the Green Town, where you’ll encounter Deep Green Space, Climate Kitchen, and Nith Life. Dive into the Historic Town, home to Creative Caerlaverock and The Imaginarium. Discover the Creative Town, where Drawing For Enjoyment and Write! flourish. Explore the Making Town, with its Repair Shop, Re:Dress, and The Guild. Immerse yourself in the Music Town, where Paragon Music, Free Improvisation, and Dumfries Music Collective harmonise. And don’t miss Queer Town, where Queer Club and Dumfries Pride shine brightly.

Each project at the Market of Possibility presents an interactive installation that sparks imagination, initiates conversations, and invites fresh ideas. Together, we’ll envision a future town grounded in imagination, connectivity, and equality.

The Market of Possibility builds upon the visionary ‘Town Centre Vision & Action Plan’ developed by Dumfries Partnership Action Group, a comprehensive community-led initiative that outlines the future of Dumfries town centre. This event is an evolution of that plan, and it’s designed to bring people together, foster collaboration, encourage experimentation, and, most importantly, have fun!

We can’t contain our excitement to welcome you to the Market of Possibility. Prepare for a thrilling experience filled with imagination, innovation, and endless possibilities. Join us as we embark on this incredible journey. See you there!

The Market of Possibility is opening it’s doors on Thursday the 13th of July with the Re:Dress takeover!

Musings News Project Updates

Meet the 23/24 Creative Spaces Team

The new Creative Spaces team outside the Stove Cafe.

Creative Spaces is an exciting collaborative project at The Stove which offers both paid and voluntary opportunities for the under 30s in Dumfries & Galloway.

The project brings together young creatives, from different disciplines, to facilitate an annual programme of events, activities and workshops, all designed to explore and develop artistic responses to cultural issues that impact young people in Dumfries & Galloway.

In May 2023 we were joined by 3 new members to The Stove team: 

This year’s three Associated Artists are Sahar El-Hady, Korey Patterson and Martha Ferguson. You can find out a bit more about each of our new teammates here.

We asked them a few questions so you could get to know them! Here’s what they had to say…

Q) What is your creative practice?

Sahar – My background is actually in science! I studied Geology but spend most of my spare time in the theatre, and using creativity to channel young people’s energies into improving their local community. I love acting and I’m hoping to connect with other performers and develop my skills. I also do some painting and crafting for fun – I’ve done one art project with rocks but I’d like to find more ways of combining my scientific and creative interests. 

Korey – My Creative practices are music and character art. I’m a guitarist and I play in a local band called YABBA. The music is big and the fun is endless so its favourite way to spend my time. I also like to draw and paint, my subject matter typically tends to be real life people or characters I’ve created. I think in both my music and artwork I like to develop a story and aesthetic around a single idea.

Martha – My interests are in set and production design, but I am very much at the beginning of my journey! I studied Art History so it has been exciting exploring ways to apply my knowledge in a practical setting. My practice is kind of all over the place at the moment as I’m still trying to figure out what I enjoy most. That being said, I’m definitely drawn to the idea of wearing many hats. Whilst volunteering at the Theatre Royal I’ve done some prop sourcing, prop making, set painting and set construction which has opened my eyes to how much I love collaborative and varied work.

Q) Where are you from? What draws you to D&G as a creative?

Sahar – I’m from all over the place – my parents are originally Egyptian and American, but both of them grew up moving around and living in different parts of the world. I was born in New Zealand, spent most of my school years in London, and went to uni in Bristol, with some time in China and Australia as well. I ended up moving to Dumfries by connecting with friends of a friend and I love it here – the sense of community, creativity and vibrancy is like nowhere else I’ve ever lived!

Korey – I’m born and bred in Dumfries & Galloway. What keeps me here as a creative is the prospects and opportunity to use my skill set to create a lifestyle for myself and also to change local opinion on the potential a town like Dumfries has. There is potential for it to be a great host for music and it already caters well for local artists.

Martha – I was born and raised in Dumfries but I am half Japanese, half Irish. After a couple of years doing a corporate job, I realised that I wanted to spend my time being creative and doing more hands-on work. I felt a bit lost on how to make this a viable career which is the main reason why I returned to Dumfries – D&G has such a positive and supportive community for emerging artists which is perfect for developing a practice and for creative exploration in general. The abundance of nature and the chance to have a healthier lifestyle is also hugely attractive after living in cupboards in London. 

Q) What do you like to do outside of work?

Sahar – I love going for walks in beautiful places, swimming, eating good food, and cuddling my guinea pigs.

Korey – Outside of work, I like to go on walks and bike rides with my friends. There are a lot of great outdoor spots to explore, cycle, camp, fish and hangout in D&G. So it’s a great place for people who like the outdoors. I also like to go to the pub, I appreciate pub culture and I like meeting new people as much as I can, and the town has some great welcoming pubs, housing some equally welcoming people.

Martha – I mostly spend my free time with family and friends cooking, going out, or going on wee adventures. That being said, I spend a lot of time binge watching films and shows with my cat.

Q) What are you hoping to get out of Creative Spaces?

Sahar – I’m really excited to expand my network of creative people and plug into all the great projects The Stove and its partners are working on. I feel the Stove team has a huge wealth of knowledge, both from the experience it’s built up over the years and from the dynamic, talented individuals who are involved in the projects. I hope I come out of Creative Spaces a little more clued up on what it takes to make dreams of change into a reality.

Korey – Whilst I’m working for Creative Spaces, I hope to put on some great events and bring in some new blood and fresh faces. I’d like to see my ideas come into fruition. I’d also like to become a professional freelancer that is fully capable of operating to a suitable standard on my own, whilst gaining plenty of experience working within a team.

Martha – I’m hoping to absorb as much as I can from talented people inside and outside the Stove network, to acquire new skills, and to change the way I’ve been conditioned to think as I’ve become a bit of a corporate drone. I’m also hoping to connect with other young creatives after almost 9 years away from home and to help create an inclusive community for young folk in general. There are so many cool projects and opportunities in the region that I wish I knew about growing up so I want to spread awareness as much as possible… as the old saying goes – knowledge is power!

Q) What’s your Stove Cafe order?

Sahar – Dirty chai and vegan bhaji toastie – since I’ve found out what it is I’m a big fan of a dirty chai from The Stove! 

Korey –  The pastrami toastie and a ginger beer.

Martha – Pastrami toastie and a flat white.

Offering both paid and voluntary opportunities for the under 30’s, Creative Spaces facilitate an annual programme of events and workshops designed to help you find your voice, explore and develop your artistic practice. Learn more about Creative Spaces here.

Musings News Project Updates

An Eco-Conscious European Adventure

In this guest blog post, Climate Kitchen co-organiser Kirsty Turpie tells you all about her summer cycling around Europe in 2022.

Last summer I set out on a trip that I’d dreamt about for a long time… well kind of. I’d always hoped of going on a multi-country trip or spending a long period of time abroad. But I imagined I would inter-rail with friends, work or volunteer abroad, or travel in a camper van.

At the beginning of last year I started dreaming about the trip being in a camper van. I had it all planned out in my head how I’d decorate the van inside and out. I was going to use my creative skills to pimp it up to the max. It was going to be a vision of love and peace on four wheels… I would take all of my art materials with me too and be able to work on projects on the move. I would be as they say ‘living the dream’. So, I went ahead and bought a van. But all the time that I was plotting and planning and buying, there was a niggling voice in my head that said ‘What about the environment, what about climate change!?’

Being part of the Climate Kitchen organising team and being at our events amplified this thought in my head. At the Climate Kitchen we’re always exploring how we can be kinder to the planet and minimise our impact on climate change. In addition to this, I’ve always believed in Gandi’s message, ‘Be the change you’d like to see in the world’. So, I bit the bullet, sold the van, researched everything I’d need for long distance cycle-touring and spent my savings on a beautiful cycle-touring bike and all the gear! It was time to be the change!

I definitely felt nervous… ‘what was it going to be like being a solo-female cycling abroad?’, ‘what was it going to be like being a solo-female camper?’, ‘would I be able to fix the bike if something broke?’, ‘what if I got stuck at the top of a mountain with no signal and a broken bike!?’.

I was slightly consoled by the fact that a friend of a friend had completed a similar trip around Europe. I read his blog and was able to speak to him on the phone about some of my concerns. I was also now determined to do it by bike as it was going to be more sustainable, kinder on the wallet, much better exercise and I’d be in the sunshine all day everyday! On top of this, my aims for the trip were to see more of Europe, visit a friend in Croatia, go to festivals that I’d wanted to visit for a long time, meet new people, learn about different cultures, visit the European Baha’i temple, be inspired creatively, learn new songs and be surrounded by beautiful nature, all whilst travelling sustainably.

So, I set off from Dumfries on Monday 23rd May and spent two days cycling to Newcastle. I then got the ferry over to the Netherlands to begin my European adventure. I planned to be away for three months and to visit nine countries. Because I had numerous countries I wanted to visit I also had to use some
trains and buses on top of cycling. But, a third of the trip and 1526 miles to be exact were done on bike. 😉 Quite the achievement for someone who’s longest previous trip was fifty miles!

So, what was it like being a solo-female cyclist and camper in nine different European countries? Well, extremely pleasant! I only felt unsafe once, and that was when I decided to wild camp in the South of France as I was fed up of paying campsite prices. I was actually wild camping in a safe spot, so the feeling of being unsafe was most likely just in my head. But the rest of the time, I felt fine. I could rely on the Komoot cycling app or Google maps to get me to where I needed to go. I could look up campsites online and phone ahead to book, or rock up and book a spot for the night.

I also used the Warm Showers app, which is like couch surfing for cyclists. People all over the world that are also keen cyclists offer up a space in their home for the night for free to help fellow cyclists out. I stayed with couples in Toulouse, Carcasonne and Biarritz in France and they were all super lovely. The couple I stayed with in Toulouse were very experienced cycle-tourists and gave me loads of great advice and maps for the next leg of my journey. It was an absolute pleasure to meet and learn from them!

Everywhere I went on the bike people were really friendly and curious to speak to me about my trip. They would offer me advice about routes or great local spots to check out, and people would help me out if they seen me trying to lift my bike and heavy luggage on or off a train. If I’d been driving through towns in a camper van I definitely wouldn’t have spoke to as many people or had as nice interactions. All I would have seen would have been roads and service stations. I still had to cycle on roads sometimes but I also got to view some spectacular landscapes from field and tree lined cycle paths.

Cycling definitely helped me to achieve my goal of spending the summer being surrounded by beautiful nature. When I was cycling in the South of France I spent four days cycling next to a canal. It was so idyllic cycling next to the blue water, dotted with interesting canal boats and floating homes. Myself and the fellow Spanish cyclist I was cycling with at the time, would stop for lunch next to the canal and go in for a quick swim and cool down each day before cycling in the hot afternoon sun. It was absolutely delightful!

As well as chatting to locals as I cycled through quaint towns, I also bumped in to fellow cycle-tourists. On some occasions we were going the same way so we’d travel together for a day or two and make fast friends. I cycled with a German couple over the Ofenpass from Switzerland to Italy. It was my most gruelling day of cycling so I was very happy for the company and encouragement. I spent time cycling in France with Belgian, Swiss, Argentinian, Italian, Spanish and French cyclists. It was so wonderful to share stories and tips. It was also quite funny to be chatting away and acting like a pro after the first month, even though it was my first trip!

And, I never got stuck up a mountain with a broken bike. Actually, I didn’t even get any punctures in the whole three months! So I only needed to stop for sandwiches and not to pump up my tyres… what a relief! So big shout out to Schwalbe Marathon tyres ;-). The only issue I had with the bike was the discomfort of the saddle and height of the seat post on the first two days of cycling. Luckily a friend in Newcastle gave me her Selle Italia gel flow saddle before I got on the ferry and when I got to the
Netherlands I went in to a bike shop and they shortened and lowered the seat post for me. Finding a comfortable position and saddle really did make all the difference. So, I definitely recommend getting your bike set up properly before going on a long distance trip. Padded shorts and chamois cream,
won’t go amiss either!!

So, I could talk forever about everything I learnt, seen and experienced but I don’t want to bore you all to tears. If you’d like to hear a bit more though and find out my top cycle-touring tips, then come along to Climate Kitchen next Friday 16th June at The Stove Cafe. A free community meal is provided at 5:30pm and then the event is from 6:00pm – 8:00pm. Climate Kitchen organiser Katie will also be talking about her experience of cycle-touring and we’ll have some great activities going on including how to fix a puncture and a chance to give it a go, route planning advice, reading corner and a chat about cycling infrastructure.

And, finally. I would 100% recommend seeing the world by bike, if that is an option for you! It’s such a wonderful way to travel and with a little bit of determination… anything is possible.

Kirsty Turpie is a co-organiser of Climate Kitchen; one of our Open Hoose projects at the Stove. A community artist and graphic designer, Kirsty has a large passion for many areas of creativity and especially enjoys working on purposeful projects that can enhance a space or help others in the community to learn new skills and express themselves.

You can learn more about Kirsty by visiting her website HERE.

Open Hoose is a project at the heart of the Stove’s community venue. Ideas are given the space, time, resources and support of the Stove Network to launch ambitious projects to galvanise and gather our communities together. From climate cafes to bread clubs, jam nights and creative writing groups, Open Hoose offers an eclectic mix of different activities for everyone to take part in. 

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