Thursday, 21 April 2011

Cumbrae 20 April 2011

See us, seagulls

Allan, Ian, Johnny, Malcolm, Paul, Robert

Six Ooters met at Johnny’s for the now legendary coffee and scones before setting off for Largs. However Johnny has a new computermabob gizmo called a Boxee and a demonstration of its capabilities and of Johnny’s downloaded library of TV programmes and films delayed the departure a tad. When it was time to leave we woke Robert up.
The slip at Millport was made at about 10.45am and the first and only debate of the day involved deciding whether we would do the walk clockwise or anti-clockwise. Clockwise was the decision because, yes you’ve guessed it, we usually do it that way. The sun by this time was breaking through and before long we were in short sleeves and remained so for the rest of the day. Although warm, the visibility was hazy, but the conditions were ideal for a leisurely walk.
The route taken was the same as 8th September 2010 and this allowed us to have coffee at the Glaid Stane. Before long we were taking photos at the Cathedral whose grounds were covered in wild garlic. The aroma was something else – and, yes, we did check that Johnny did not have a curry the previous evening. A short walk took us to the Garrison for a quick look before dining at a picnic table overlooking the bay. Talk about the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer – today was the lazy, hazy, not so crazy day of spring. There was talk of soaking in the rays for a bit longer and then getting the bus back to the ferry but the majority decision was to continue the walk as planned.
In no time at all we reached the Golf Club where drinks were ordered. What a civilised walk this was!
Eventually we dragged ourselves away and made for the path over the field and down into Fintry Bay where the kitty treated us to a ‘99’ from the tearoom.
And then it was the slog round the top of the island heading for the ferry. This was spotted leaving Largs whilst we were about half a mile from the slip so the pace was upped markedly and the 4 o’clock ferry was made.
Entertainment on the ferry was provided by the guy in front of us making a phone call. Why he needed a phone was a mystery as he shouted down the phone causing comments from those around and genuine hilarity. He took the jibes in good spirit joined in the fun.
Then it was back to the cars and home, except for Paul who had seen a sign on a shop front advertising Viking Amusements. He went off to find how much rape and pillaging he could get for a £1.
Not being much of a naturalist myself and without the resident orthi.., ortnot…, bird watcher, I am reliably (who’s kidding who?) informed that amongst others we spotted lapwings, feral geese , ducks (eider that or mallards),swallows, oyster catchers, a pheasant,a butterfly, curlews and, for Jimmy, lots of different types of seagulls. A seal was spotted by some of the company and a cuckoo was heard by all.
A very pleasant day out.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

13 April, Barony Hill

'Into each life some rain must fall.' – Longfellow. (Barony Hill walk blog, June 2008.)

Distance 12.5 km

Eight Ooters (Allan, Davie junior, Jimmy, Johnnie, Paul, Peter, Rex and Robert) gathered at Dailly for the fourth Ooter ascent of Barony Hill. The weather score thus far had been 2-1 in favour of good weather and although the forecast had been poor, glimpses of sun greeted us as we prepared for our walk .... but it wasn’t going to last!

Rex showed us his new toy – an all singing and dancing GPS with OS map and the ability to do all sorts of calculations and graphs. As Rex learned to master the controls we felt secure in the knowledge that we could do the walk blindfold, if necessary.

Lambs gambolled in the fields (a treat missed by Holly) as we made our way up to Lindsayton Wood and its burn. Peter remarked on the waymarker fixed into a substantial boulder – it was in the shape of a curling stone handle and a few of these attractive markers guided us through the wood. Close to the entrance to the wood is the site of an old curling pond ... but I only know this because I have looked at the guide to the walk.

As we came out of the wood and prepared to follow the old track downhill, Peter asked where the track went to in the opposite direction. As one, we replied; “Up there”.

At Lindsayton Farm we noted that Sty TV was still being watched by the porkers. Then our ascent began. Up past Whitehill Farm and along the coo keech covered track. The majority cut off across the field towards Machrikil whilst the virtuous kept to the path and were rewarded by the sight of the farmer driving into the field on his tractor. Sadly, he only waved at the miscreants.

Machrikil– supposedly the site of a cell founded by St Machar - is our customary coffee halt and today was no different. By now the weather had deteriorated with a strong wind blowing and a few drops of rain in the air, so what remains of the walls of this hallowed place provided welcome shelter.

Coffee, liquorice allsorts and fruit pastilles duly consumed, we made the run for the summit. What is a pleasant stroll on a fine day became a test of endurance in the strong cross wind which was now driving horizontal rain at us. The sandy ground looked remarkably dry whilst we were drookit.

This was not a day for taking in the fine view from the trig point on Barony Hill. There were no views. Girvan, Ailsa Craig and the wind turbines on Hadyard Hill were hidden in the mist and cloud. We lingered for a minute or so on top to identify the path to the limestone workings, with the big yins sheltering the wee yins and we hurried down into the lee of the hill. Within 30 seconds we wondered what all the fuss had been about. What wind? What driving rain?

It was an easy stroll to the lunch spot in the lime kilns (right hand one), where Allan provided the entertainment, although en route the more adventurous did take time to explore the impressive limestone workings at close quarters. Jimmy and Peter got closest to the edge and Paul held back just a little.

Some tree felling had been taking place lower down and Peter was suitably excited by the Dalquharran bricks which had presumably been put down on the track to prevent heavy logging equipment from sinking into the mire. They say you can’t see the wood for the trees – you also can’t see the path for the lack of trees. The left turn off the main path no longer rises through an arborial glade and we almost missed it.

The walk through Glengee Wood is always a delight, even in poor weather as it twists and turns alongside the Falfarocher Burn. Crossing the the Dailly-Crosshill road we passed over a carpet of wood sorrel (according to he who knows these things) and quickly spotted a dipper on the river bank. But there were no heron and this time there were no fishermen with whom to pass the time of day. And out in the open again we were at the mercy of the driving rain so it was heads down as we made our way to the river crossing.

Here the party split, and Jimmy, Paul and the walk’s two virgins, Peter and Davie headed for the remains of the older Dalquharran Castle. The inscription on the door lintel “ut scriptura sonat, finis, non pugna coronat” had us all puzzed and there was no Davie (senior) to help us out. Further research by this blogger shows that even google doesn’t turn up much to help with the translation. However the source was identified as a manual of Rhetoric by Boncompagno, a 12thC Italian Professor of Writing. I asked around and the best anyone could come up with was a paraphrase " To make the composition resonant, save your crowning glory for the conclusion, not the main discussion." This ties in with the Kennedy motto: “Avise la fin” – Consider the end.

So I’ve considered it, and here it is:

The End.

Postscript: A pleasant hour or so was spent at the Greenside Inn in Maybole where the locals are friendly and the beer is good.

Post postscript. The weather score is now 2-2

Friday, 15 April 2011

Proposed walk for 20th April

Meet at Johnny's house at 9.00am for the usual coffee and scones before setting off at 9.30am. We will travel to Largs before getting the ferry to Cumbrae for the round Cumbrae walk (not race).

Friday, 8 April 2011

The Unknown Comedian

I awoke early on Thursday morning and had it! No not that, but the name of the American stand- up comedian who gave us the Driving Lesson and Nutty Walt. It was Bob Newhart (not somebody Newman as Ronnie suggested). Mystery solved, brain repaired.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

30 March Dalry – Braidland Hill Walk

Davie, Ian, Jimmy, Paul, Rex & Robert There’s a lot to be said for fair weather walking – the Blue Sky Scotland boys have the right idea – but there’s not a great deal to be said for trudging through the rain for hours at a time. (Except if you’re a masochist, or Paul.) But that’s exactly what six hardy, some say stupid, Ooters did today. I suppose we were due another wet Wednesday considering how dry the month of March has been, but being due one and being prepared for one are entirely different matters from experiencing one. The intention when we left the sloe-gin evening last week was to take another turn up to Luss for a walk on the hills there but the threatened rain and the horrendous forecast for the Loch Lomond area caused a change of mind among those who gathered in Ian’s in Kilmarnock. Robert, our decision maker, had anticipated the usual confusion in deciding where to go so came prepared. He had found a leaflet with details of a walk around Dalry in north Ayrshire. Thank heavens for Robert. And if we were lucky we might get a window of dry as we did on the Troon to Dundonald day. But we weren’t lucky. No sooner had we arrived in the car park in Dalry than the rain came on, a constant rain, a wetting rain, a rain that would last for the duration of the walk. None of us had done this walk before so it was new territory for us but Robert had the leaflet and Ian has a working knowledge of Dalry so we were confident in our direction finding. The two had us set off along the Kirk Close into the rain. ‘At least it’s no’ that cauld an’ there’s nae wind’ said Ian, trying to lift the spirits as we trudged uphill through the town, rain incessantly pattering on hoods. We came along Sharon Street and up past the cemetery, directed by Ian and Bob’s leaflet. Robert knew something was wrong as we climbed the hill so stopped to accost a friendly looking native walking a dog. She was unsure of the route we wanted but felt confident enough to tell us to continue up the hill. Wrang missis! When we came to a house named Langlands and consulted the map on the leaflet, we knew she was just as wrong as us for this road was taking us away in entirely the opposite direction from where we wanted to be. So back down the hill towards the cemetery we went. The road alongside the cemetery was the one we should have taken so we took it now, still quite unsure if this was our route for there was no indicator at the junction to show us. Still, we took it, confidence growing as we left the town and saw the sign telling us this was the way for ‘Braidland Hill Core Path’. Half a mile along the road and another look at the leaflet, a leaflet that was turning increasingly wet and soggy, showed that we were still on the right course and directed us along the left fork in the road towards a T-junction. We took a right at the junction and the road steepened. We knew that we were on the road for Braidlands Hill even if we couldn’t see it for this road was designated ‘Braidland Mains’. A fellow on a quad-bike (complete with standing collie) passed and shouted through the rain, ‘I wish I could say it was a fine day for a walk’, then sped on upward ignoring Jimmy’s thumbing plea. We trudged on upward. The road steepened and the sweat flowed to join the water already falling on us dampening inside the waterproofs as well as out. But we trudged on. Then came a shout for coffee, a shout that was welcome in most ears. We thought the shelter belt of conifers might just give some protection from the constant dribble so we crawled and scrambled into it to find a place of relative dry. Standing, sitting or squatting in the conifer wood, we took coffee. But the trees only afforded a wee bit of protection and the rain could be felt splashing through them. And the larger drops as the water collected on branched made this a less than comfortable coffee stop. And it was a quick coffee stop. Within ten minutes we were packed on our feet and moving on. At the edge of the plantation, at the corner of the farm, a style and signpost directed us into the corner of a field. Then another style took us onto a track across the hill and into the mist. We knew this was Braidalnd Hill only from the map; it might have been anywhere for all we could see, for we were now into the cloud and the fog restricted visibility to around the thirty metre mark – and the rain still came down. We came through a gate to the side of a plantation. We passed a wee quarry. We heard the woosh – woosh - woosh of the wind generators before we saw them. We passed a larger quarry, one where cars were parked and men went about their everyday business. We passed all of these in the fog, in the rain filled fog. Then the track turned downward and came back out of the cloud. Now we had a view – of sorts. Through the rain, a rain that seemed to be getting lighter now, we looked out over a grey, damp and dreich Garnock valley. There was Dalry lying to our left, just appearing through the rain. Below, to our right was the reservoir of Caff. And behind us, the rain-sodden, cloud-covered Braidland Hill. We walked down off the hill to find tarmac again. And was the rain easing? It appeared that way. At a sharp elbow in the road, we sat to have a bite of peece. We dined in two groups for, while some made themselves comfortable on the road verge, Robert had noticed a chair some fifty metres further along the road. Three of us made for the chair. And we sat there in the dribble and had lunch. Yes, the rain was slightly lighter now but still it was there, pattering on hoods. Lunch was only slightly longer than coffee. Now we were back on the road that we had come up this morning, a road that would take us back into Dalry. But some weren’t happy with his. When we reached the outskirts of the town we found a path joining the road, a path that Ian said would take us back to the centre of town. The path appealed to some but not to all for there were those fed up of the rain and desperate to get back to the cars. The group split evenly into two, three taking the path and three the road. The ‘roaders’ came back to the cemetery and followed the main road back into town. The ‘pathers’ came to a wee scrubby woodland in a shallow valley. The path took them down through old mine workings and into a modern estate. ‘That’s where my son lives’, said Ian as they passed one particular house, ‘That’s how I knew the path’. And the estate road did bring them into the centre of town. No matter which route was taken, we all arrived at the car park at the same time. And it was still raining! As I said, not a lot can be said for trudging through the rain for hours at a time and not a great deal could be said for this day. This was easily our wettest walk since our first of the year at Portencross and perhaps the best that can be said about it was the change into dry clothes at the end of it. In the corner of a car park in Dalry six drookit wrinklies stripped off and changed into dry gear. Shear bliss. The Volunteer and Masonic Arms at the corner of the Kirk Close provided FRT for the day. And it was most welcome!

23 March Around Ayr

Alan, Davie, Ian, Malcolm, Jimmy, Johnny, Paul, Peter, Rex &Robert Back in October we went in search of sloes to make sloe gin. This has become another of our traditions, as has the tasting competition that follows the making. While most of the brew was ready for drinking before Christmas, Rex’s was still in the creation so we’ve had to wait until now for our sloe gin night. This was the chosen night when we would all meet in Ronnie’s for the annual competition. With this in mind, today’s walk was to be short and easy. That’s why nearly a full register of Ooters gathered in Rex’s in Alloway at a fairly late 9:30. The absentees were Allan and Ronnie who had succumbed to different complaints. That this was to be a day for gastronomy was evident from the instant we walked in Rex’s door – coffee and bacon rolls were on offer. And we sat long over coffee and bacon rolls for this was also to be a relaxed day, an easy day, a day when all the rush and bustle of an Ooters walk was laid aside and we would have a casual outing. To that end we had been instructed to bring National Trust cards with us for we would have another cultural day. So, we left Rex’s around the ten mark and wandered down to Burns Cottage. But we didn’t visit the cottage; instead we found the new path towards the new Burns Museum for somebody wanted to show us ‘the moose’. This was Alloway, this was Burns country and the statue of the moose stood beside the new pathway, six feet or more tall, taller than us at least. And beside this huge, sleekit, lowering, tin or ferrous beastie, we posed for the record shots. All of us had brought our National Trust cards for a visit to the Burns museum and Jimmy led us across the road to the entrance. Davie started the mutiny. ‘Away ye go in’, said he, ‘and I’ll wait for ye here. I’ve been in twice this year already’. Then Rex joined him. ‘I’ve been in before as well’, he added. Then Robert joined. Then another, and another. One by one the mutiny grew until only Ian and Jimmy were left. Since they saw no point in splitting the group on such a pleasant, relaxed morning, the mutiny was complete. We walked on without using our cards. Back across the road then, and down on to the old railway footpath which we followed towards the Dunure road. Footpath/cycle track (Don’t get Jimmy started on this one!) it may be but driving towards us was a van, a cooncil van. And in the cooncil van were two collared and tied cooncil employees. We suspected this was their way of inspecting the footpath/cycle track. Through mumblings and mutterings, we stepped aside to let it pass. But this was not a morning to let things upset us and calm was restored to our merry band long before we reached the Dunure road. We crossed the road and took the track for High Greean and the shore. There came a split in opinion again; some were for remaining high and following the track to Greenan Castle while others would prefer the sand on the shore. This time the split was definitive with an equal number taking the route of their choice. The ruins of Greenan Castle stand on top of a rocky point some height above the beach. That’s where the assault took place. The high routers took umbrage at the poor defenceless beach walkers. Insults were thrown and missiles were thrown. (Well, banter and a light plastic ball were thrown.) The poor, innocent beach walkers had no option but to walk on and ignore the childish antics of those on the cliff. And walk on we did, they still on the high ground and we on the beach. We came together at the Millennium Bridge over the Doon and peace and harmony were restored. It was a day for peace and harmony for the walking was easy and now the day was turning warm as the March sun rose higher. Though the birders were in dispute - a distant group of waders were either redshank or dunlin depending on whose eyesight you trusted – nothing could disturb the amity of the group for long and we were back in accord before we reached the ‘Lang Scots Mile’ sign. We wandered casually along the promenade enjoying the warming sun on our backs. Then a group of seats was found on the Low Green and we sat to laze for a while in the sun, and to take coffee. Rex had suggested another epicurean delight for lunch and we were only too happy to fall into line with his plan. But it wasn’t quite lunch time yet so an extension of the walk was sought. This entailed a walk to the harbour mouth. While some would have liked a trip to the end of the pier, the leaders turned up the south harbour, through the new harbour side housing to what used to be called the swimming pool but is now called The Citadel. We crossed the road and stood in front of the walls of the real citadel, Cromwell’s Fort. Cromwell had the fort built between 16?? and 16?? to suppress the non-conformist natives of the south-west; this at a time when Ayr was a major port for the west of Scotland and much more important than either Greenock or Glasgow. It covered an extensive area stretching from the harbour to almost where Wellington Square stands now, and from Fort Street to the beach. All that remains of it now are parts of the north and west walls – sic transit Gloria Mundi. It was along underneath the western wall that we walked. The wall doesn’t run far though; the fort is demolished now and houses and streets fill the space. It was up one of these streets, Seabank Road that we turned for there was some interest in viewing St John’s Tower. The tower, the bell tower, is all that is left of St. John’s Church. St. John’s was the original parish church of Ayr until Cromwell incorporated it into his fort and used it as a gunpowder store, the congregation having to build themselves a new church on the site of the Greyfriars Monastery by the side of the river. It was in the church of St John in Ayr that Bruce held his first parliament after Bannockburn such was the importance of the ancient town during the Middle Ages. Here, abruptly, endeth the history lesson – before boredom sets in. History lesson over, we wandered up to the junction of Fort Street and Sandgate for Rex’s promised epicurean delight. The Wellington Cafe supplied the fish suppers and Wellington Square the dining area. We sat in the park in the sun and ate our fish suppers. Then we just sat in the sun. It was a day for doing this; a day of peace and harmony with the world; a day of easy and relaxed walking; a delightful early spring day. The town was busy but not exceptionally so. We wandered down Sandgate past Lady Stair’s House in which was born the road engineer John Loudoun McAdam, past the cross in the road that marks the site of the old tollbooth and on to the new bridge. (Funnily enough none of the Burnsians mentioned ‘shapeless cairns’ this time.) At the north side of the bridge we came to a halt for Malcolm recognised the cafe opposite as belonging to a former colleague and went in search of the same. A few minutes later the two emerged for it seems the chap was also a colleague of Johnny and Allan and came out to meet them. Only Johnny was there to greet him for Allan was laid up with flu. Still, we spent a few more minutes blethering before taking our leave of Malcolm’s colleague and turning our footsteps upriver. An ambulance screeched past and drew to a halt at the end of the auld brig. Some sort of accident had befallen a chap on the brig but by the time we got to it, the paramedics had the fellow on his feet and were well under control. We carried on upriver. It would seem that this side of the river was too sunny or lacked interest for some for we crossed the Turner’s Brig and came to the sunless south side. We came under the railway and the main road by an underpass to find the tarmac giving way for the first time since Doonfoot. But a pad continued so we continued with it. This appeared to be no more than a pad trodden by generations of schoolboys - it climbed up banks, along steep grassy slopes and over tree roots – but it took us eventually onto the path of the River Ayr Walk. We were again on familiar territory. We followed the walk up towards Holmston. That’s when we heard, but never saw, the drumming woodpecker, the first of the year. Up through the houses of Holmston we came and over the Cumnock road to Hillfoot Road. That’s when the easy day finished for, for some reason lost to all of us now, the pace quickened, quickened to march time. Along Hillfoot Road we marched to cross the Dalmellington road. Then along Belmont Road we marched, to cross the Maybole road and come back into Alloway and Rex’s place. At twelve miles, this was a longer walk than we planned but it was a day for getting in the miles. The day had been warm – easily the warmest of the year so far – and the pace of the last three miles had been brisk to say the least. Rex’s beer went down like nectar. Our thanks go to Rex for his hospitality both at the beginning and the end of the walk. That night we repaired to Ronnie’s in Kilmarnock for a curry evening and the Sloe Gin competition the results of which can be seen below. A good night of sangs and clatter followed and our thanks go to Ronnie for once again hosting the evening and for bringing out his guitar.