The industrial past of East Ayrshire’s coal mining community was rekindled on a leisure ride around Auchinleck, Sorn and Catrine on Saturday.
Fourteen riders from Walkers Cycling Club pieced together overgrown railbeds and redundant coal mine paths for a circular 12-mile off-road adventure.
The group set off from Auchinleck Cross on what is likely to have been the sunniest day of the year so far. They left the village via Sorn Road to join the trim track on reclaimed land at the back of Cameron Drive, heading out on the walking trail to Berryhill Farm and the Cronberry road.
At the Dippol Burn, they picked up the ancient road to Darnconner, a village built to house coal miners in the days when pits were privately owned. All that remains is the old school house, the church manse and a farm – with grassed over coal bings and drain-off ponds in the background.
The riders veered off a few hundred yards before that onto Duncan’s Trail, a signposted walk which is part of the regeneration scheme for the area. This led to a wide, deep-rutted road which was once the way in and out of the abandoned Darnconner Opencast site.
Eventually the riders picked up less muddy terrain as they approached Sorn via Shiel Farm on the Heilar road. A walking path conveniently dropped the cyclists down to the old bridge and Riverbank Kitchen, which provided lunch in a suntrap garden.
The return route went past Daldorch on the River Ayr Way into Catrine where the old Voes waterways presented another interesting glimpse into working life. These artificial lochs provided water and power for a huge cotton-producing mill in the village.
From Catrine the group followed the main road towards Auchinleck, going left after the Sorn road end to take the quieter Gilmilnscroft diversion. Returning to the main road for a few hundred metres, they turned left on to the Cronberry road and enjoyed some singletrack riding on a former railway path that runs past Auchinleck Academy.
Finally, a recce ride through the site of Donis’s greyhound track next to Merlin Park brought Saturday’s sunny day out to a close.
Five riders also took advantage of a second day of bright sunshine for a visit to Whitelee Windfarm at Eaglesham on Sunday.
The riders spent time honing their skills on the windfarm’s dedicated mountain bike trail centre before going for a ride on the turbine tracks.
A well-earned coffee and cake was enjoyed in the late afternoon sunshine at the visitor centre.