Saturday, 29 August 2009

26 August - Irvine New Town walk

Distance 10.5 km

Five Ooters (Johnny, Davie, Ian, Peter and Paul) gathered at Bank Street for what was to be a shortish walk in order to accommodate Jimmy, who had important business to attend to later in the day. That's right Jimmy wasn't there - although his apology had been received in lieu.

We availed ourselves of Johnny's now-legendary hospitality - scones, home-made gooseberry jam and coffee..... and there was to be more later!

There was no hurry to be on our way and we tucked in, in a leisurely manner. The weather forecast had been bad - heavy rain and wind - but although it was wet, it was no worse than we had been used to in recent weeks. So by 10.15, an hour after the first arrivals had knocked on Johnny's door, waterproof gear had been donned and we were on our way.

We headed out towards the Stanecastle roundabout turning left before the by-pass where we rejoined Bank Street - unlike the busy road outside 163 this was now a backwater, no longer a road to anywhere.

We were now heading north towards Eglinton, but first we passed through a modern housing development which didn't meet with the approval of our architectural consultant, Peter. The bricks were all wrong, the flats looked like a prison (they did!) ... and there were no slates anywhere to be seen. Additionally it appeared to have great pretensions with large gates (partially) erected at the entrance to the development. This area, or an area close by, was named by Johnny as "Nigerhill" but apart from a few references to "Nigerhill Cemetery" on Google the name of the area on maps appears to be Knadgerhill. More enquiries need to be made.

We were soon in Eglinton Country Park and Johnny showed us the relatively new cafe, which comes with his recommendation. A large open area had been roofed and it certainly looked very attractive. Peter found an interesting hole in the ground to gaze into containing drainage pipes. Paul enquired about the principles of field drainage and how the surplus water found its way into the pipes and a life-long mystery was solved for him.

The grounds are still very attractive to wander through although some of the formal gardens have fallen into disuse. I'm afraid your scribe cannot wax as lyrical as one visitor in the 1840s

Its princely gates soon presented themselves and we thought we should easily find our way to Irvine through the park. It was a rich treat to wander in these extensive grounds. We soon made way through a handsome avenue to the gardens. The hot-houses for fruits and flowers are on a magnificent scale, and on reaching the parterre we were delighted with the elegance which pervaded it. A glassy river with a silvery cascade came gliding gently through these fairy regions, as though conscious of the luxuriant paradise which it was watering. Nor was the classic taste wanting, nor horticultural skill, to render this a region of enchantment. Two elegant cast-iron bridges, vases, statues, a sun-dial; these pretty combinations from the world of art could not fail to please the beholder. Leaving these luxurious regions we again wandered among thick woods, and occasionally obtained glimpses of the proud castle, peering over the trees. At length we found our way to a seat beneath some noble weepers of the ash tribe, and here we had a fine view of the castle, towering majestically over the dense foliage.

Well it was OK, I suppose.

We examined the new Eglinton Tournament Bridge, a very attractive cast iron construction completed in June of this year.

Glimpses of the remains of the castle were to be had and we saw the site of the jousting field, scene of the disastrous tournament of August 1839. 100,000 people had gathered to watch the jousting, but the torrential rain put paid to it. Aye it was raining then too.

Our tour of the park took us to the suspension bridge over the Lugton Water. It was delightfully shoogly, although the gentleman waiting to cross with his dog appeared a little bemused by the antics of five retired professional gentlemen.

We came out of the park on the edge of Kilwinning, crossing the A737 and entering the Dirrans district of the town. Following the town trail we veered left to follow the trail back to Irvine, walking alongside the River Garnock on whose banks Giant Hogweed and Japanese Knotweed abounded. Time was found to stop and watch the ongoing demolition of an industrial estate. Peter, in particular was alert to the potential for pruch (this is fast becoming your scribe's favourite Scots word).

Past the flood plain of the Garnock and past the coup we went. This part of the walk is on the Glasgow-Sunderland NR7 cycle track and the surface has recently been upgraded.

Our attention was drawn to the apple trees growing close to the track, all well-laden with fruit. Johnny, never known to walk past a free gift, headed off through the undergrowth and returned with more than enough apples for everyone. Sadly, Davie's opinion that his was wersh was reiterated by the rest of us (even by Paul, who could only guess at what Davie meant), and so Johnny was sent back for more. He returned with a very palatable crop.

Attention now turned to pears, and again Johnny went off in search and returned with another handful. They looked fine, but they had the consistency of potatoes and were soon jettisoned.

The origin of these fruit trees was discussed and Johnny recalled that there was a miners' row thereabouts and we surmised that the fruit trees were originally in the miners' gardens.

Later observations from Johnny and Kay indicate that Bartonholm Colliery was in the vicinity. The map below shows that Bartonhom Miners' Row (spelled Burtonholm on the map) was at right angles to the track and on the opposite side of the railway line from where we were. Bartonholm Plantation, however, is shown and this is probably the source of the fruit trees rather than the gardens of the miners' rows.

OS Map c1860

We passed by the former Ravenspark Asylum - that's the hospital, not the school, with just the facade remaining and modern housing behind it. There were plans to integrate this facade into the new buildings but it doesn't seem to be happening.

Ian, a former inmate, of the school not the hospital, told us of the great views to be had from the upper floor where he taught. The lack of a view today, on account of the rain, was commented upon. The old Cadgers Racecourse was spotted and Johnny informed us that it was not in as good a condition as when he cared for it during his student days.

We lingered a while on the footbridge linking the old IRA building with the moor and the school's old annexe. The gardens in the sheltered accomodation below the bridge were much admired and there were further reminiscence of life in the old IRA.

And with that we were back in the town centre and in no time we had reached the shelter of Bank Street.

A fine lunch of ham and lentil soup and warm home-baked bread was served up by Johnny and it went down a treat! Johnny had come up trumps on the drinks front too, having managed to buy around 3 dozen cans and two enormous bags of crisps, and the kitty still made a profit.

It was another enjoyable day with the poor weather passing largely unnoticed. It might be a New Town, but Irvine certainly has plenty of history.

And thanks Johnny. The purvey was great.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Having nothing better to do with my time this morning, I was looking through past pictures. Here's one for you. Where is this?
Answers on the back of a tenner to Jimmy next week.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Blacksidend route

Distance (return) 17.0 km

19 August Blacksidend 4

The rain it raineth every day,
Upon the just and unjust fella,
But mainly on the just because
The unjust has the justs umbrella.

Those who take advantage of the wonderful Scottish summer by roaming great outdoors will appreciate that it’s not just the falling rain that makes you wet. The effort of a long walk or climb produce copious amounts of sweat which, under damp conditions fails to evaporate, and seeps from the skin to soak clothing from the inside. Some of the Ooters try to lessen this effect by carrying dry shirts into which they can change half way through the day, others just thole the wet. But, no matter whether you are a changer or a tholer, the result is the same, wet clothes at the end of the walk. This was a day for proving the truth of this statement.
It was already raining when we left Peter’s place in Catrine, not too heavy rain but sufficient for us all to waterproof right from the start. The intention was to walk the five miles or so to the top of Blacksidend and back though none of us showed any enthusiasm for going into the rain. Even those who hadn’t yet been on Blacksidend top were something less than keen. But, despite misgivings in some quarters, we set off into the wet, waterproofed to the eyeballs. The route chosen for the day was to follow the River Ayr Way as far as Sorn then by road to Blacksidend farm where we would take to the hill; the return was to be more or less the reverse, a route that has been described before and needs no further description here.
A shaggy grey heron flapped lazily downstream as we walked towards the Voes, an area that some hadn’t seen before and weren’t even aware of its existence. Peter would enlighten them.
The Voes looked good despite the incessant dribble and greyness of the day. Again, it was commented that this was not the kind of area you expect in Catrine, given the popular view of the town. ‘Catrine’s gone up in my estimation’, commented one of the newcomers. When Davie pointed out the swans with one cygnet, it completed what would have been an idyllic scene but for the rain.
It was still through the rain that we turned upriver to follow the River Ayr Way to Sorn. The river ran full and peaty brown from the upland soils. A few fishers cast flies into the swollen waters, ever hopeful. ‘There’s plenty in there’, said one, but as we passed they had still failed to catch any.
In the trees of the river valley, we were sheltered from any wind that blew and the air wasn’t particularly cold. The truism of the wet inside the waterproofs began to be proved. Clothes next to skin got damper and damper as the sweat of the effort failed to evaporate and it was a decidedly steamy group that stopped on top of a rise to look over the river to Sorn Castle.

The rain eased a bit as we dropped down the slope to Sorn’s auld brig; it eased but didn’t quite go away. We crossed the auld brig, came past the kirk and started the climb behind the village. What might have been a good view over the village was a washed-out, grey version of itself today so there was no reason for us to stop. We continued into the dampness.
A quartet consisting of Allan, Davie, Jimmy and Johnny set a steady pace up the road leaving the rest of us trailing on behind. When we stopped for a blether with the chap at the High Brocklar we found ourselves some four or five hundred metres behind the speedsters. But they did wait for us half a mile along the road, on the wee bridge beside the wood at Blacksidend. Why wait here? Because this is where we always stop and this is where we always have coffee. Nothing much changes in the Ooters so we had coffee, taken standing up for the ground was saturated, and rivulets ran in every wee channel. But, at least the rain has stopped for a while.
Now came a revolutionary change for Ooterdom. (What will the world come to if we start making decisions like this?) We didn’t take our usual route to the top of the hill, instead turned on the road for Blacksidend Farm taking the route suggested by Davie. The farm is empty at the moment and required investigation by those who do this kind of thing. The rest followed the quad tracks that Davie said would take us to the top.
The rain came again, heavily this time. When the explorers joined the rest of us at the gate onto the open hill, a decision had to be made - should we go on or do the sensible thing and retire. This decision was left to the Blacksidend virgins. But, in typical Ooters fashion, nobody was prepared to decide. Jimmy eventually made the decision by climbing the gate and walking off up the hill. ‘You’ll thank me for it later’, shouted he over his shoulder. We had our doubts but followed anyway. The rain went and a brightening sky followed. The cloud lifted and the hill in front of us threw off its cap. We climbed into a clearing, brightening day. And a drier breeze had sprung up. Perhaps Jimmy was right. We had hopes for the summit but hedging our bets, waterproofs were kept on.
On the top, we had a better view than we could have expected half an hour before. Though the most of the county sulked under the cloud, the sun actually shone on Muirkirk and Ochiltree. Cairn Table showed well in the east and southward the New Cumnock hills formed the horizon. No Galloway Hills today nor Arran but the coast could be seen at Heads of Ayr. Crosshouse Hospital was pointed out, as was Kilmarnock, Mauchline, Auchinleck, Cumnock and the Barnweil monument rising from its hilltop. Not at all a bad view considering the conditions.
We sat in the cairn and took lunch. It was then that the radio mast (see 16 April 2008) was seen to be missing. Even our tame radio ham didn’t know why but we feel sure that he will find out.
But the radio mast wasn’t the only thing found missing. Allan felt ill - he hasn’t quite recovered from his foreign holiday - and set off for lower ground. Johnny went with him. It was five minutes later that we noticed so did Holly. Davie’s devoted dog and faithful companion had deserted him – and for two Irvine men! ‘Bloody dug!’ exclaimed Davie and set off in pursuit. We set off after Davie.
We found the recovering Allan and his two companions at Blacksidend Farm. Another exploration of the farm was conducted with everybody joining in this time. Jimmy and Peter went off to look at a pile of nettle-bound boulders under a sycamore tree. ‘Must have been the original farm’, they announced on their return. We might have been inclined to go for a look ourselves but the rain came again and put an end to such nonsense. We were for the off again.
The rain was steady and appeared to have set in for the day so a fast return was journey was made, faster than this morning’s outward one anyway. The speedy four escaped again, keeping up the pace by High Brocklar. Holly must have thought she was in doggie heaven when she discovered the pheasants in the field and chased through the glaur into the wood after them. We couldn’t quite see what she was up to in the wood for a high beech hedge blocked our view but her squeals of delight showed she obviously enjoyed this part of the walk. But then she was called back by Davie and the fun was gone.
When we found ourselves at Brocklar, we took the road for Blindburn and down to Sorn.
By the time we reached Sorn, the rain had gone and the speedy foursome realised that the other four were way behind so stopped on one of the benches above Sorn to wait for them. After a good twenty minutes, the slow quartet still hadn’t arrived. Suspecting Peter had taken them a different route, the pacemakers walked on. (Since the scribe was in this group, he will rely on his depute to record anything of interest seen by the other during this split in the ranks though he suspects, given the weather conditions, there might not be much to report.)
Group ‘Davie’ followed the River Ayr Way. Since Holly was showing obvious signs of her chase through the glaur, Davie felt that she needed a bath. To this end, he found a stick and threw it into the river. Holly followed and retrieved it. The process was repeated until she showed black and white again. But, suddenly she was found missing again. Nobody saw her go so we had no idea which direction she went. And no amount of calling brought her back. She had abandoned her worried master once again. The stick was found on the path but the dog was nowhere to be seen. We walked on, ears and eyes searching for the missing Holly.
At the bend of the river under Daldorch a familiar looking figure stood. It was Peter. He and his group had somehow got to the front and were waiting for us here. And waiting along with them was the missing Holly.
(Group ‘Peter’ report)
Together as a group again, we wandered back to Peter’s place in Catrine where, much to our relief, soggy clothing was changed for dry. Those who don’t take advantage of the wonderful Scottish summer to explore the great outdoors wont know the shear pleasure of changing into dry gear after a day in the wet. But, the writer can assure you, the Ooters have found this pleasure many times this particular summer.

FRT was taken in Poosie Nansie’s in Mauchline, the first time many of us had been in this historic howf. It might not be the last.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Wed 19 Aug - Catrine - Blacksidend

A bridge crossing - not too far! - Now!

Are you enjoying yourself Allan?

Yes. I'm having a lovely time!

Wed 26th - Chez moi / 9-10 am scones / walk 2 hours / lunch and FRT(all purchased)
treasurer will be pleased by the deal. JM

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

6 August Killie to Crawfurdland Circular

‘I’m a gie auld troot’, said he tae hissel’,
‘A gie auld troot’, said he.
‘But I’m the big fish that nae fisher can heuk,
An’ I’ll aye be that till I dee’.

Sandy Ross
Robert’s a spoilsport. When we saw the children’s fun day in Kay Park, we were desperate for a go on the bouncy castle. But Robert ruined all thoughts of juvenile enjoyment by taking us round the fun day to view the new Burns Monument Centre and the Reformer’s Monument. All very nice and interesting in an adult sort of way but we would much rather have had a go on the bouncy things. But, this was Robert’s walk and he had other ideas. The reason it was Robert’s walk today was down to his continued recuperation. After the exertions of last week, we felt it was better to let the old fellow have an easier, flatter walk today, but what really swung it in favour of his Crawfurdland Circular Walk was the promise of more pakora at his house at the end of it. So we forewent the idea of the bouncy castle to follow him round to the Burns Monument Centre and the Reformer’s Monument.
Only five of us gathered at Robert’s place, the rest taking the advantage of the summer to have a holiday from this retirement lark. But the five of us enjoyed the pleasantly warm day that Robert had laid on for us and set off through Kay Park to Dean Park. We took a high road through the trees of the Dean, avoiding the crowds in the busier parts. The wood was silent today, the warblers that are the mainstay of our woodland birdsong, having departed for parts warmer. And who can blame them considering the weather he have had this last month or so. So, we walked on, with only the crunch of boots on gravel and the blethers of the Ooters disturbing the calm of a quiet wood. We did spot some wildlife to please the naturalist though; two grey squirrels scampered across a clearing and into a tree. But that was the only thing of note as we continued through the quiet wood.
The path took us to Assloss, to the riding centre there. Jimmy asked if the house was the original Assloss House but neither of the Kilmarnockians could confirm this*. We found tarmac at Assloss and turned left along it. Jimmy and Robert did turn right and we thought that they were lost again but it was only so that Robert could show the inquisitor what he thought was Assloss house. Ronnie knew this to be Assloss Cottage so the riding centre may well be the old house. It remains a point for research.
We turned left along the tarmac now. This brought to by Boreland where we took the private road towards Craufurldand. There is no restriction in walking this road or in the grounds of Craufurdland so long as the privacy of the castle and its immediate environs are respected. We respected this privacy and turned onto a track through a wood appropriately named Rushybog Plantation. This was the wettest, muckiest part of the walk, not surprising really given the rain of the last few weeks and the name of the area, and care was taken as to feet placement. It is slightly disappointing to report that nobody slipped and fell and we arrive at the Craufurland fishery in one piece.
Fishers are philosophical optimists. They have to be. Many long hours standing up to the oxters in some river or motionless by some watery bank gives them plenty of time to outthink Aristotle, and develop a degree of patience that Job would be proud of. And it’s never their fault if the fish don’t bite; the wind is in the wrong direction, the sun is too bright or too dull, it’s too early, or too late in the day, the government don’t train the fish the way they used to - it’s just never their fault. The only thing that keeps them going is the thought of the big one that’s eluded them so far but which is out there just waiting to be caught. Many fishers – up to fifteen - sat silently round the pool today (standing being too much for some), each with his own thoughts but failing to share them with his neighbour.
We spoke to some on the way round and the answers were as above. It’s not their fault that the fish don’t bite. And in the twenty minutes or so it took us to walk round the pond, the fish didn’t bite.
We were in need of a bite, though, or at least a coffee so we settled down on a picnic bench beside the portacabin that serves as the fishery office. It’s a good thing that we are, basically, a cheery bunch for, so far, the conversations had been less so. When walking through the Dean woods to Assloss we discussed funerals and preparations for our demise. Walking towards Craufurdland we talked about cancers and other painful illnesses. Now we turned our attention to aging, debilitating conditions, vegetative existence and euthanasia. It wasn’t until Davie rose to throw himself in the fishing pond that we felt we’d better change the subject. Then a fisher landed a fish and the whole conversation changed. There is hope after all, Davie.
In the absence of Johnny, Robert volunteered to take the ‘fishal photie’, the only one of the day, then we were on our way again. We found tarmac just beyond the fishery and turned right along it. The self-same dogs that barked their spite at us the last time we came this way (20/6/07) repeated the process this time. But that didn’t prevent us from stopping on the wee bridge some twenty yards beyond their pen for a look at the wee glen there. Last time we came here, we took a pad down the side of the wee burn and back to the dean that way. Today Robert suggested a longer walk and as the day was yet young, we agreed and kept to tarmac.
The day was turned warm and the air was clear. From the elevated ground around Raws we could look southward to see Cairnsmore of Carsphairn rise on the horizon. And Windy Standard was pointed out to those who have yet to see the top from close up, just to prove that the sun does occasionally shine on this hill. But the distant views only lasted a wee while for we now dropped into the valley of the Irvine.
Robert had intended that we follow tarmac for a bit yet but Ronnie knew a better way. We left the road and took to a wee woodland walk called Armsheugh. This was a delightful, shady part of the walk and brought us down to the river. Lunch was called and when we reached a deepish pool, we sat and ate.
Holly enjoyed the spot we chose to eat. There was a deepish pool there, and a stick. It has to be recorded for posterity that it was Jimmy who threw the stick for her this time, something that holly hasn’t known in the three years of her life though she has tried hard. She is bound to be thinking that she has cracked the last nut. It remains to be seen. However, he threw the stick toady and Holly enjoyed the swim to fetch it. ‘But pleasures are like poppies' spread’ and we had to curtail her enjoyment eventually and walk on.
We found tarmac again at Templetonburn and stuck with it to the end of the walk. It brought us by the old Crokedholm School, over the bypass by a bridge and back into Killie.
This was a different type of walk for the Ooters today but one enjoyed by all.

Robert’s back garden caught the afternoon sun again today as we sat there taking fluid replenishment and eating his pakora. بہت اچھا, مسٹر McGarry.

*Further research provided the following information: Assloss riding stables occupy the nineteenth century Assloss House and surrounding outbuildings. The original Assloss, or Auchinsloss, tower-house still stands as part of Assloss Mains Farm. This tower was one of three in the valley – Dean, Assloss and Craufurldland – and was the seat the Achinloss family who received the charter of the land from Queen Mary in 1543. The tower was probably built around this time. The nineteenth century house was built by the Glen family who bought the estate in 1725.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

12 August - Cowgill circuit, Lanarkshire

Now westlin winds and slaught'ring guns
Bring Autumn's pleasant weather;
The moorcock springs on whirring wings
Amang the blooming heather
Robert Burns

Seven Ooters (Davie, Paul, Rex, Johnnie, Robert, Ronnie and Alan (back after a long absence)) gathered at Davie’s for coffee and home-made pancakes. Thanks Davie and Kay!

The weather forecast had been reasonable with nothing more than an isolated shower predicted, and Paul’s check of the rainfall radar revealed no rain around …. so it came as a surprise to see the rain falling outside Davie’s hoose. Nevertheless, we decided to keep to our plan of heading for deepest Lanarkshire where Davie was to lead a walk ‘somewhere near Culter Fell’. The rain accompanied us for most of the journey but on arrival to Culter Allers Farm, just after 10 am, the weather was considerably brighter and the tops were well clear of cloud.

Davie had reconnoitred the chosen route the previous week, and we were all heartened to learn that Holly had accompanied him, feeling confident that at least one of the party would be familiar with the route. The walk had been published in The Herald, but from where we had parked our cars, it started a mile further along the road we were about to walk. Davie reasoned the extra mile would give us a chance to warm up before we started the first of several ascents.

Having passed a substantial farm in Birthwood and a remote house at Windgate we came to the parking area for the walk. Holly had indeed remembered the way and led us across a wooden bridge into fields which rose very steeply towards the top of the first of many hills today, Ward Law. There were several stops to admire the views, which included one of three joggers making their way along the road we had just left. Ronnie’s incessant jokes helped to take our minds off the climbing, but even he started to flag and as we neared the top. He resorted to providing the punchlines for which we had to supply the rest of the joke.

As the last few dozen feet of the hill rose even more steeply, it was decided that we would give the summit a miss, rationalising this decision by observing there were plenty more summits on the way and one more wouldn’t make any difference to our enjoyment of the walk.

The view was indeed spectacular, as we looked across to Culter Fell, and then over the Lanarkshire plain to the Pentland Hills in the distance and then further round towards Tinto Hill. (Later in the day your scribe thought he could see Arthur’s Seat. But having pointed out the Lake District hills from one of the Galloway hills ….until they were observed to be floating across the sky …. he chose not to mention it.)

The inevitable ascent followed our descent from not-quite-the-top-of-Ward Law and soon we were heading up Woodycleugh Dod. But the summit would have to wait until we had partaken of morning coffee. The wind was strong enough for us to opt for leaving the path and settling in a sheltered spot 20 yards away. Ere long, light rain started to fall, but it was enough to encourage those not already wearing rain gear to don waterproof trousers and jackets. This traditional ritual worked, because the rain soon stopped. This would be the pattern for much of the day as the occasional light shower passed over.

Woodycleugh Dod was conquered and in the distance the next summit came into view.

“We’re not going up there are we?” asked Robert rhetorically. It was Hudderstone, and yes we were.

Holly flushed a couple of grouse out of the heather. Paul reminded the ensemble that it was “the Glorious Twelfth”, whereupon Davie did a very fine impression of James Galway. He was reminded the month was August, not July.

We passed by a few grouse butts during the walk but all day there was neither sight nor sound of humans trying to fill wee harmless birds full of lead …. although it has to be said Alan looked distinctly twitchy at the sight of the odd grouse rising from the heather.

At 626 metres, Hudderstone was the highest point of the walk, so it was downhill all way from there. Or it would have been had it not been for all the hills that stood in our way.

Windgate Bank loomed into view.

“We’re not going up there are we?” asked Robert.

Yes we were, and we hadn’t yet spotted (although Davie had forewarned us) the steep descent and steep ascent which lay in our way. We went down the slope very gingerly indeed. We’d found an ideal spot for lunch though, with the gulley between the two slopes being well protected from the wind. According to the guide we were at Kygill Slop. A route straight down into the valley, which would have had us back at the cars in no time, was pointed out by Robert.

Climbing out of the Slop, our next objective came into view. Whitelaw Brae.

“We’re not going up there are we?” asked Robert. His remaining comments have to be paraphrased but they were along the lines of “it appears to be a considerable distance away”. Davie and Paul suggested it was just an optical illusion and it really wasn’t all that far.

And after a mile and half’s walking we were there – with Rex seated in the lee of the trig point waiting for the rest of us.

Our next objective was Hardrigg Head. We could see the cairn well over to the left, but since our destination was well over to the right this was questioned. Davie assured us that it was the quickest way. Our resident physicist, Ian, wasn’t with us, nor was Jimmy who knows everything, so we weren’t in a position to challenge our guide.

It was a fair old pull up to Hardrigg Head but the summit cairn and that Aussie bloke again, were waiting to welcome us.

There followed a pleasant, gently descending stretch. Conditions underfoot had been good throughout, with a well-defined path, and even walking off-piste was fine since a lot of the cover was young soft heather and blae/blue/whinberries. We were heading north now and the views ahead of us and around us were terrific; and below was the Cowgill Upper Reservoir and the oddly-named Big Smagill feeding into it.

As we skirted round the side of Broad Hill the terrain became much boggier. It might have been the only bog we encountered all day, but it didn’t stop Davie from getting pelters. As Ronne observed “Who’d be a leader?”

A break was taken above Cowgill Lower Reservoir. You know it’s a proper walk when you have an afternoon halt.

Discussion turned to sartorial elegance – especially headgear. Johnny is rightly proud of his recent purchase which is both elegant and functional (all he needs now is an elephant whip). He poured scorn on Rex’s headgear of choice which (as far as your scribe could ascertain) remains in his house. It’s clearly more decorative than functional and as Johnny observed, it’s made from rabbit feathers. This may not be true.

But enough of the light-hearted banter. It was still a few miles to the car, Biggar had to be visited, there was a long drive home and most of the party wanted to be home whilst Scotland still had 11 men on the pitch and were within two goals of salvaging a draw.

A steep slope took us down to the road at Cowgill and we had to zig-zag our way through bracken, heather and blaeberries (Or was it zag-zig? Cue Ronnie joke.) .

On the road, the party soon split, with Davie, Robert and Johnnie leaving the stragglers behind. For once Holly remained with the stragglers. Perhaps the responsibility of co-leading the walk had been too much for her.

We passed the spot where our cars would have been if we hadn’t needed the extra exercise and passing the house with the satellite dish at Windgill the stragglers spotted a sheep entangled in fence wire. They discussed whether or not they should help rescue it, for this would entail backtracking and finding a river crossing. Holly was all for getting in with the sheep straight away and eventually the remaining stragglers chose to do the righteous thing too. While Paul looked after a perfectly behaved Holly, the others released the panic-stricken ovine. No photographic evidence of this episode remains which is perhaps as well, since other pictures of similar adventures with sheep have at times been misinterpreted.

Back at the cars, the vanguard was in conversation with a fellow walker when the stragglers arrived. After a quick change we were all aboard for the Crown in Biggar.

The Crown gets a high rating. As well as being fairly busy it possesses the EO’s chief requirement – a pleasant barmaid - as the photographic evidence confirms. We were even given a free pint which had been mistakenly poured for another customer. In your scribe’s opinion, we have a new favourite for the annual awards. We will be back (again).

So off home we headed for the Scotland match. I can only hope there were long delays en route.

It was a good day out. A high level walk, generally easy underfoot and with some fine views. Well done Davie and Holly!

Thursday, 13 August 2009

12th August - Down Biggar Way

Robyn B, The Crown Inn, Biggar, lifted the spirits
and put herself well in the running for barmaid
of the year.

Davy, our leading light, a beacon, led us unerringly
round the tops having earlier in the week
reconnoitred today's walk.

Lunch on the scree.

In the van

Bringing up the rear

OK - doesn't matter, keep on talking- I don't care!

Right! Photograph!

The border hills

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Proposed walk 12th August 09.

Meet at David's house in Darvel 8.30-9.00a.m.
Travel to Biggar to walk a hill next to Coulter Fell ( Davy will lead )
Fish supper and a pint in Biggar afterwards

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

29 July Barony Hill, Dailly – Third Visit

Something of a minor miracle occurred today. Whether it was to welcome Robert back into the fold or for some other reason, the deity that looks after the weather favoured us today. While the forecast was for showers and longer outbreaks of rain and the rest of the country had the predicted pattern, we had a day of warm, unbroken sunshine, the first since Dumgoyne at the end of June. (Even on Ben A’an, the sun disappeared for a while.)
Nine of us, including the recuperating Robert, gathered in Dailly for a walk on Barony Hill. Nobody led today for most of us have been here before and know the way and, in consideration of Robert’s recovering, we were to stay together and keep the pace reasonable. And, for a change, we were to stay on recognised pathways.
We left the town and climbed gently up the valley side on the road for Craig Farm ribbing Robert on the effects of his operation. But we weren’t on tarmac too long; just long enough to bring us to the edge of a wood. A local pathway signpost, a well-designed and well-made local signpost, directed us into the wood and along a woodland path above a burn. This footpath was narrow, only wide enough for two, and it was slippy in one or two places. Care had to be exercised at times but it did take us through the wood to find another road, the moor road to Barr.
We didn’t turn for Barr but came in the other direction down toward the floor of the valley again. Down on our right were some pigsties, one complete with satellite dish. ‘Sty Television’, was the comment of our resident wag. Suggestions for the programmes that pigs might watch should be e-mailed to Ian.
By this time, the newcomers were beginning to question whether we were lost again for we appeared to be heading back towards Dailly. But we knew where we were going all right. The road took us down to another signpost directing us up the farm track of Whitehill Farm. Now the climbing started. The climbing wasn’t at all arduous and the banter was kept up. And Robert kept up, remarkably well considering his operation and enforced lay-off. We kept the pace of the climb easy for his sake. (‘So they say!’ thinks Robert). And, at an easy pace, we left the farm road and took to a field track, still climbing gradually.
As the track rose beside the field, the view behind us opened out and a view stop was called. We were now high on the south side of the valley looking down over a landscape of rich green fields and darker green woodlands running down to the sea Ailsa Craig began to show behind the northwest headland - a pleasant, rural, south Ayrshire landscape. We admired the view just long enough for breathing to recover and then moved on, upward yet.
The track came to a gate, a tied gate. The track continued into the field on the other side of it and this is where we should have gone. But this field held a large herd of Ayrshire cattle numbering around the two hundred mark. Some stepped gingerly over the barbed wire fence into the ‘coo park’. Some, preferring to avoid either barbed wire or coos, continued on the other side of the fence. They were the ones to take the long way to Mackrikill Chapel.
The ruins of Mackrikill Chapel (The Chapel of St. Machar’s Cell) stands at the top of the field and Machar couldn’t have picked a better place for his ‘cell’. The view was as before but more extensive now, over the fields and woodlands to Dailly and beyond to the sea and Ailsa Craig. On the ruins of Mackrikill, among the contented Ayrshire cows, we sat for coffee.
We sat as long as it took for coffee for this wasn’t a day for hurrying. Those with itchy feet made the first move, walking down to a style in the fence where we left the good pasture behind us and came onto the rough grazing of the hill. There was no path for a while but another well-made way-marker showed we were on the right course. And, at the way-marker, we found the path again.
Another way-marker was found beside the path but this one was in a prone position, obviously uprooted by a force other than nature. A mass of concrete adhered to the base of the upright and a hole in the ground, filled with brown water and boulders, showed where it should have stood. Some of us who are that way inclined, felt the need to reinstate the marker to the vertical. Robert and Rex pulled boulder after submerged boulder from the flood while the rest of us stood around offering advice. When the last stone was removed, the marker was raised and, with a splash, was inserted into the pit as far as it would go, and was chocked round by the recovered stone to make it stable. Perfect. Pleased with a job well done, we wandered on leaving Robert and Rex to clean and dry their hands. It was now an easy saunter to the top of Barony hill.
For so little effort, the view from Barony hill was extensive today, stretching from Ayr in the north to Ailsa Craig in the south; from Crosshill in the east of the Girvan Valley to the distillery at Girvan in the west; and the green and pleasant south Ayrshire farmland lay below us. Behind us, the moor stretched away to the Rowantree hills in the southeast and some of Jimmy’s favourite power generators waved at us on the south-west horizon. Altogether, this was a remarkable view for so little effort on our behalf. A carved wooden seat afforded us a rest on the top to take in the view while Johnny captured the occasion with the camera – both still and movie – and Rex threw his camera from the top of the trig point. Why he did this is beyond us but the poor thing now has a bashed lens.
Then we walked on.
The way was downward now, towards the lime works of Lannielane (See 28/5/08) barely five hundred metres away. While most of us were content to walk the lip of the quarry, the more adventurous were for down into it to look into the step-sloping mines driven into its north side. We came together at the limekilns where lunch was called.

Nothing much of note happened after lunch. We followed the limekilns track as it slanted downwards across the side of the valley having due regard to the placing of our feet for the track was wet and muddy after the rains of last week, the only wet and mucky bit of the entire walk. But we left the track just after it entered a plantation of conifers, and we climbed steeply on another footpath. (Why there were no complaints about having to re-climb the hill today Messrs. Matthews, Sim and Hill?) This footpath brought us to a viewpoint, still high enough on the valley side to give a good view down towards the sea. And it had another bench to sit on. We sat. It was a day for sitting.
But, the itchy feet lot were for the off again and we followed. We still followed the path as it continued down through the woods of the Falfarrochar Burn to the main valley road. This was crossed and we came through a wee wood to the side of the River.
The walking was level now, on the fisher’s path. Somehow the fast pair had got to the front and were gradually extending their lead, leaving the rest of us strung out in pairs and threes along the narrow path. There came a shout from the rear, from the tiring Robert. We were to visit Dalquharran Castles, old and new, for no other reason than we have always done this (See 11/03/09) but Robert had had enough for the day and was for the direct route back to the village. We decided to go with him and leave a visit to the castle for the next time.
We crossed the river by one bridge, came down the north bank for two or three hundred metres, re-crossed it by another and came back into the village around two.

By general agreement, this was another good day and it was nice to have Robert back with us again.

We came back up the Girvan valley to Crosshill for FRT today. While the surroundings were pleasant, the ale - when we got the right stuff – was good enough and the bar tender offered to make sandwiches if we were ever down this way again, the treasurer suggests we find a cheaper pub the next time for the purse can't stand too much at this price.

Barony Hill Walk - 3D map

Distance 12.5 km