Sunday, 29 July 2012

A week on the project,

Glazed, ceilinged, floored, connected and the oil feed pipe laid.
It is now a room -- (with a view).
Had to hang on till Monday for delivery of 'french doors'
and a meeting with a heating engineer.
Looks like we might be warm this winter.
 A bit premature, but we have the dining table in its place.
We cut the widest possible opening for the french doors. (dirty job)
( Look NO door)
Wind and watertight now so this is just the connection between the
original house and the extension.
Hope to see you all on Wednesday

Friday, 27 July 2012

If you go down to the woods today.....

If you go down to the woods today, you'd better go in disguise,
If you go down to the woods today, you're sure of a big surprise!

Looks like the local bears like nothing better than pinching a top of the range Range Rover and taking it to the woods surrounding the Four Lochs for an impromptu barbecue.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Fan club

Greetings to Ian Dunn from Strathaven whom Davie met while on a walk at Muirkirk recently. He is a fan of our blog!

Hope your Covenanting research went well.

16 July Doonfoot/Alloway Figure of Eight

Alan, Allan, Davie C, Davie Mc, Jimmy, Johnny, Peter, Robert
‘If it’s no up, it’ll no go in the hole’. We were sitting in the pub enjoying our after-walk pint when Robert, in all innocence, made the statement that caused us all to catch our breath. We are all of a certain age now and though such things are not quite behind us, we felt it inappropriate to discuss them in the present company. But more of this later.
If last Wednesday provided us with a gloriously sunny, summer day, today reverted to type for this summer. It was dull and dreich, the incessant rain coming through the night and persisting into the morning. We gathered at the Millennium Brig at Doonfoot questioning the wisdom of walking to Dunure in such soggy conditions so, when Davie arrived and told us that high tide would be around eleven, the time when we expected to be rounding the cliffs of the heads of Ayr, a quick revision of plan was called for. After a sort of route was sort of agreed, we set off along the shore road towards Greenan castle.
Barely had we started walking when the rain ceased. No, the sun didn’t come out but the rain went off. But this was no occasion to take off waterproofs for the sky hung ominously heavy and the rain threatened to come again at any time. Still, we enjoyed the dry spell while it lasted and took to the sand towards the castle, Jimmy and Johnny setting the pace.
Much to Peter’s surprise, the leading pair didn’t leave the shore at Greenan Castle but kept to the sand. For a dreadful minute we thought that they were going to attempt to get round the Heads of Ayr but, no, they stopped at Craig Tara Caravan Park which, according to the one who knows these things, there is a right of way through at the far end of the caravans. This is the way we went, climbing up the tarmac towards the Dunure road. And the rain still held off.
We turned left at the road, heading back for Ayr. Then we left the road and took to the walkway cum cycle path along the old Turnberry railway. Back gardens of the houses of Longhill Avenue were admired when glimpses of these could be seen through the shrubbery, cheery greetings were exchanged with a couple of ladies with dogs, the Doon was crossed and Mungo’s Well, ‘Whare Mungo’s mither hang’d hersel’, was pointed out as we walked the length of the cycle path to the Burns Museum at Alloway. And still the rain held off.
Coffee was called at the Burns Museum and seats were found in the garden there. Flask coffee wasn’t good enough for some who preferred that made by the museum cafe and went in search of this. They returned with coffee and cake (No names will be given for this trespass but it was the same two who found the cake shop in Maybole last week, plus the Irvine man.) There was an art exhibition in the gallery here and the appreciators of this kind of stuff went for a look. Their comments were mixed when they returned so the rest of us gave it a miss. Anyway, by the time they returned, it was time for us to make tracks again. And yet the rain held off.
That we were in the heart of Ayrshire’s Burns country was evident from the buildings, artefacts, and even names around here. We had already passed Mungo’s Well. Over the road from the museum stands ‘Alloway’s auld haunted kirk’ where Burns’s father is interred, the cottage in which the bard was born is half a mile up the road and the auld brig o’ Doon is two hundred metres to the south. It was to the auld brig that we turned our footsteps. On our way there, though, we came though the memorial gardens with the Burns Monument standing high above the Doon. It came as no surprise to the Burnsians that some of our group hadn’t been in the monument, some who had lived all their lives in Ayrshire and had travelled in foreign lands had never been to Burns’s monument in Alloway. Now was their opportunity to see it; not that there is much to see in the monument itself but it does give good views out over the gardens and the river. We climbed the stairs to the balcony to look out over the flowerbeds to the auld brig. What looked like a family group were climbing up the steep arch to the keystane o’ the brig.
We caught up with the family on top of the arch. They were a young family originally from darkest Lanarkshire but now living in Troon and a couple of our own age from Perth; Perth, Western Australia. The Aussies were on a holiday of a lifetime. They had come over to play some golf – ‘Are there any good golf courses in Ayrshire’ asked he with a twinkle in his eye, eliciting a response from our golfer who recommended Ballochmyle. Then they would leave from Troon to attend The Open at Lytham and go from there to London for the Olympics. How we envied them. Still, we could always watch on the tele. We spent a few minutes talking to the couple and their Aussie friends but that time came again when we had to move off. And still the rain held off.
            We came off the brig along a squelchy path that took us on to the Culroy road. Then we turned right and left on to Longhill Avenue. It should be said that at no time were we more than a mile and a half from the cars today and the walk down Longhill Avenue was less than a mile. So, when we arrived on the Dunure Road, it was decided to extend the walk slightly. We came along to the Doon Bridge, crossed it and took the walkway down the true right side of the river to the Millennium Brig. As we crossed this brig towards the cars, we felt the first spots of rain. We had been lucky enough to have had the only dry couple of hours in the day.
The day was yet young when we arrived at the Millenium Brig, lunch time really, so we sat on a wall by the brig in the light rain and had lunch.

The Abbotsford on Racecourse Road provided the venue for FRT today. That’s where Robert made his ‘If it’s no’ up, it’ll no’ go in the hole’ statement. In order to explain our shock it should be said now that Davie MC was carless today, relying on his good lady, Kay, to drive him. While Kay didn’t accompany us on the walk – this would have contravened a basic principle of the Ooters – she was accorded the privilege of joining us for FRT. When Robert made his statement, we were shocked that anybody could be discussing any golf let alone the final putt on the final hole of the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart in the presence of a lady. Well what else did you think he was talking about?

Friday, 20 July 2012

11 July Maybole to Dunure and Back

Andy, Allan, Davie Mc, Jimmy, Malcolm, Paul, Peter

Serendipity: The act of making fortunate discoveries by accident.

They say that God is good to his own. Which of us would regard himself as God’s own is open to debate but He certainly smiled on us today. Given the weather of the last week and the twenty-four hours of persistent rain and drizzle, we could be forgiven for preparing for the worst. Yet the morning dawned bright and dry with crystal clear air and by the time we gathered on the Green in Maybole the sun was warming the morning nicely.
Only seven of us gathered in Maybole for what was to be a new walk for us all, one that Davie had found in a leaflet. This would take us from Maybole by an old pathway to the sea at the picturesque wee harbour of Dunure and back. And Davie had the leaflet so we couldn’t go wrong, could we?
Davie’s leaflet directed us over the railway bridge and up the delightfully named Gardenrose. This road rose steeply and took us past the equally delightfully named Gardenrose Primary School, silent now that the holidays are on us, and out into the open countryside. And it continued to climb, even after we had crossed the minor Culzean road at Ladycross. Halts were called to examine the view behind us, a view that was continually expanding as the road climbed, views that took in most of Carrick and a good bit of the Kyle hinterland. Our ‘expert’ was able to point out Blacksidend near Sorn, smoke or steam from the Egger works at Auchinleck, Cairntable, The Glen Afton Hills, Cairnsmore of Carsphairn, The Rhinns of Kells and The Awful Hand still holding their morning covering of fog, Haggis Hill and Rowantree Hill above Barr, and the wind farm on Hadyard Hill above Dailly.
We came across a sign near the top of the hill, a sign telling us that Dunure was five and a half miles away and pointing us along a grass track towards the abandoned Howmoor Cottage and the quarry beyond. Without even thinking that this might be the wrong road, we took to the track and came to the quarry. A white van was parked in there but nobody was to be seen so we turned our attention to the contorted strata of the quarry face. In one place these strata were so contorted that they formed an almost perfect bull’s-eye. Our many theories for this failed to find an explanation to satisfy us and we can only hope that an answer will be found through these scribblings. Then we climbed out of the quarry and back onto our track.
The track climbed gently over a sward of fine grasses and wild flowers and we delighted in this part of the walk. Then it sort of petered out and we crossed the sward towards a marker post on the horizon. This post wasn’t much use to us for the direction arrows had been removed and there was no sign of another post anywhere around. Despite our careful scanning of the hillside there was no other post to be seen and we had to make up our own minds where to go. There was a gate in the drystane dyke some quarter of a mile in front of us and this is what we made for. We found the old track again going through the gate. But this is all it did for on the other side of the dyke there was no sign of it again. So we climbed towards the top of the hill in front of us. At least from there we would be able to work out where we were and how to get to Dunure. And we could stop there for coffee.
What a pleasant happenstance this turned out to be for our hill turned out to be Knoweside Hill and what a magnificent view greeted us when we arrived on its summit. Below us, above Pennyglen, farmers were cutting hay and a patchwork of green and yellow fields sloped down to the sea. Culzean castle, bathed in sunshine, sat on its crag above the sea and Turnberry lighthouse gleamed white beyond this. Paddy’s Milestane stood out brilliantly clear in the firth and behind this the coast of Ireland was visible. Another gleaming white lighthouse stood out on Pladda Island to the south of Arran. And the larger island appeared close in the clear, warm air, its northern mountains looking particularly grand this morning. ‘See that ridge to the west of Goat Fell’, said our intrepid mountaineers of three weeks back, ‘That’s the one we were on’. We admired their effort, boosted their egos and returned to our coffee and appreciating the present view.
There was no path off Knoweside Hill, at least none that we could find, and we made our own way down towards Dunure. Sheep tracks eased our way through stands of bracken. A wee burn had to be crossed and some fences had to be clambered over before we found another track by a wee  un-named lochan. Had we known at the time that this was just above Drumshang it might have eased some, now growing concern. But we didn’t know and couldn’t see for the plantation in front of us. We trusted to our instincts, and the track that now appeared to be going where we wanted to be going. And we were right to do so for this brought us to tarmac at Drumshang. Now we had just over a mile of tarmac to Dunure.
We sat at a picnic table at the harbour of Dunure and took lunch enjoying the summer sunshine for a change. And now Davie read the leaflet. We should have come into Dunure by way of Fisherton School so we decided that this must be our way back.
The school was just as quiet as Gardenrose. We were amused by the friendship encouraging signs posted around the playground and the ‘Buddy Bench’ tucked into a quiet corner. We were amused because the roll of the school couldn’t be that high that all the children didn’t know each other. However ‘buddies’ they must be.
A sign beside the school told us that we were on the right road now and directed us uphill on the farm track for Dunduff Farm. Just before the farm another sign pointed us uphill on a forest track. This section was taken rather faster than Malcolm could cope with - he had been ill with a stomach upset through the night - and lagged behind. We waited where the road entered the Blacktop Forest. Just as we started off again we were met by three gentlemen of a certain age coming in the opposite direction. One was recognised by Davie and we stopped for a blether. What was strange about the trio was the bracken fronds strategically placed so that they wafted above their heads. Other fronds were held in hands and used to swat away they occasional fly. We thought that with the amount of camouflage about them they were trying to blend into the landscape but, no, they were trying everything to escape the flies in the wood. We thought that they were exaggerating but we were to find out otherwise.
We left the trio and entered the wood and immediately knew why the bracken was used. Flies by the hundreds buzzed around heads and into faces tormenting us. There was no stopping, no conversation, no enjoyment on this section in the trees. We marched on, left the forest road where a sign told us to take to a path, a wet path with squelchy peaty section, and came out of the trees a mile or so later on How Moor. And, what was a greater relief, out of the flies. We were glad that we hadn’t come along this way this morning or perhaps we would have thought twice about returning by this route. But the underfoot conditions barely improved as we came alongside the trees and it was not until we came to a stand of whin above Glenalmond that things improved.
Now we were on firmer footing we could look around. Above us to the right was the shell of Howmoor Cottage with the quarry behind. And below us lay the road back into Maybole. We made our way down onto the road and followed it back to a sign saying Dunure 5 ½ miles and pointing uphill towards Howmoor Cottage. This was where we had gone wrong this morning and weren’t we glad we did. Otherwise we would have missed some good walking and some special views of the Carrick countryside. Serendipity! We would recommend this route to anybody thinking of doing this walk.

We came back down Gardenrose and over the railway bridge to the cars having had a good day with only the section through the trees to mar the day. Our usual Maybole howff, The Greenside, provided FRT for the day.

20 kms

Friday, 13 July 2012

Another hectic holiday week.

 Helen, Kate, Allan(Kirkcowan neighbour),Fraser, Fiona and yours truly all contributed this last week. 
Giant steps are what you take walking on the right side of all your friends or on the moon.

 Peter's pot has caught many an eye of those walking past
Southwest roofing turned up on Thursday in the shape of Alistair and David who between them have rendered our little project watertight.  Two nicer profesionals you would find hard to meet.  Thanks for the great job boys.  I can thank them here knowing that message will get through.  It turns out that Alistair is a hill walker and enjoys a few hillwalking blogs. I gave him one of our cards and he has already been kind enough to say how much he enjoyed reading this blog. 

Saturday, 7 July 2012

4 July Irvine to Ardrossan Cycle/ Eglinton Park Walk

Allan, Andy, Davie C, Davie Mc, Ian, Jimmy, Johnny, Malcolm, Paul, Peter, Rex, Robert & Ronnie
            There comes a time in the life of old men when they long to recapture the energies and abandon of their youth. So it is with Early Ooters from time to time. To this end we decide that today’s outing would be by bikes, pedal bikes, and we would ride them fast. (Well one of us decided to ride fast, one who shall remain nameless but for the sake of identification we will call ‘Wee Rab’) But where would we ride? And who would be the riders? (Some of our members have tender backsides and prefer not to sit on such narrow structures as bike saddles and would rather have a walk.)
            The ‘where’ was answered when Johnny mentioned his legendary chilli stovies; we would walk and cycle from and back to his place in Irvine. The ‘who’ was answered by the number who turned up in Irvine wearing shorts. (Our renowned shorts wearer, Davie Mc, excepted for his dislike of wheeled outings is just as well known as his tanned legs.) In the end we divided into two groups – six cyclists and seven walkers.
The Cycle

            Already Rex and Paul had some miles in, having cycled from Troon to Johnny’s and were raring to go. But we were only half-way through our bacon rolls and coffee so they had to content themselves and join us for Johnny’s hospitality. We left somewhere after ten.
Jimmy knew where he was going. He even asked a woman in the street to confirm this knowledge. Yet it didn’t come as a too much of a surprise when we had to turn back to find the right path to the bridge over the bypass into Eglinton Park. ‘Wee Rab’, who had listened more carefully to woman in the street, was waiting at the foot of the bridge. Over the footbridge and everybody knew where they were going.
            The path was narrow, hemmed in by scrubby willows and hazel and we were reduced to a ‘crocodile’ following Rex. And it was wet, last night’s rain still lying in deep puddles in the hollows. There was a childish delight in dodging branches and splashing through puddles on this section. But it was also here that those wearing white socks regretted it as those following splashed through the dirty greyish water churned up by the leader. The overhanging grasses and weeds were still wet from the rain and added their moisture to damp legs. Still, we were running free and easy and ignored the dampness.
It was on this section that Wee Rab’s chain slipped for the first time but not the last time today. Our line had been drawing out out and coming together as the path undulated and it was on a short snap that Wee Rab’s chain gave way very nearly causing a collision as he came suddenly to a stop, Ronnie and Jimmy at the rear cursing him as they were caught in the wrong gear for pulling away again. But all survived and the wee path brought us on to a broader way, one on which we could run as a group.
This broad way took us directly to the visitor centre of Eglinton Country Park. Ronnie, in his wisdom, decided that he should have a look at the map on the far side of the road and turn sharply right forgetting Jimmy was on that side. There was a clutching at brakes followed by the exclamation ‘I say old boy, haven’t you got a method of indicating your intention?’ (These weren’t the exact words but this was the gist.)
The map showed that we were still on course and showed us the next part of our route. We came out of the park and into Kilwinning where we picked up the cycle track to Ardrossan. Now came Wee Rab’s shot at glory. Once he got into the lead on the Byrehill Road there was no holing him back. There were no hills for his gear to slip or for his wee legs to give out. He kept the pace high and we followed some distance behind. Then, at Ardeer, we left the public road as the cycleway made its way into Stevenson across Ardeer Park. The now dropped steadily for a few hundred metres and Wee Rab fairly took off down the slope.
We all enjoyed the speed of the drop but Rab was well into his stride now. And he was joined by Jimmy. The pair kept the speed going through Stevenston, over the railway crossing, along the side of the railway, past Sandylands Caravan Park, along the concrete road where the TV news programmes delight in showing the sea during stormy weather, and on to the promenade at Saltcoats. Phew! At the end of the South beach of Ardrossan they drew to a halt for coffee. We joined them a few minutes later.
Ian has a word of advice for folk having coffee on sea front benches. Before sitting down on a wet bench check the area for wet seagull sh*t. Poor Ian forgot this and by the time he remembered, the wet, gooey mass was sliding down his back, his front and his bag. We gave him the usual sympathy before moving off again.
The two miles to our destination, the Ardrossan Marina, were taken at a more leisurely pace for the day was still early and we had time to kill before stovies. Our destination proved to be Cecchini's Restaurant where coffee was taken. A few bikes needed a few adjustments and Jimmy’s and Ronnie’s collection of tools were utilised to this end. It was suggested that if they were to leave half their tools at home their bikes would be a stone or so lighter but it was only by dint of these tools that the bikes were properly adjusted. (All bikes except Wee Rab’s that is. There’s no hope for his sprocket set and the poor thing should be put out of its misery.)
Wee Rab, OK it was Robert, set the pace on the way back, at least as far as the slope up from Ardeer Park to the Dubbs road. He says that it he was frightened that his gears would slip if he put pressure on the pedals, but we suspect that it was his wee legs giving out. Anyway poor old Robert was left behind for a while. But, compassionate as we are, we waited for him in Kilwinning.
We decided to take the Irvine Moor route back to the town rather than go back through Eglinton and turned down the road by Garnock Floods Nature Reserve. Half way over the Moor we came across a scruffy-looking bunch of walkers with a dug. At least the dug was pleased to see us. It was Holly and the walkers were the rest of the Ooters. It says something about this group that when we road past, Holly decided to come with us rather than stay with her master and the rest. Eventually we had to take pity on the poor dug for her tongue was lolling out with exhaustion. We waited for Davie to arrive and put her on a lead before moving off again.

We came back to Johnny’s place every man for himself and some even taking different routes. The walkers were only some twenty minutes behind us and we all enjoyed a convivial afternoon devouring Johnny’s stovies and drinking his beer.

A good day for the cyclists and we await the report of the Walkers with interest.

The Walk : Allan, Andy, Davie, Davie, Johnny, Malcolm, Peter and Holly

On an overcast but warm morning we set out from Johnny’s and followed the route of the cyclists (although we didn’t get lost) through the housing estate, over the footbridge and along the somewhat muddy path to Eglinton. Here we doubled back and headed for the standing stones which Johnny assured us had been dug up when the last of the coal mine had been opencasted probably in the eighties.
Anyway the spot provided us with good views of the surrounding landscape before we continued on our way back towards the remains of the castle and the visitors centre. We took the path that skirted behind the wee loch and by this time the light rain jackets had been discarded and shirt sleeves were the order of the day. Some of us had brought our own snacks whilst others bought refreshments from the café. A very pleasant twenty minutes or so were soon over and we were off again making our way out of the park and down towards the Dirrans. It was on this part of the walk that Davie Mc met a former teaching colleague. After a wee blether we continued on with the two colleagues still trying to put names to faces. Anyway, at the Dirrans we crossed the main road and followed the cycle path back towards Irvine moor where we rendezvoused with our cycling chums.
Almost a three and a half hour walk in what turned out to be pleasant, sultry conditions saw us back at Bank Street and the legendary stovies.
Well done, Johnny!

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

27 June Portencross Circuit

Allan, Andy, Davie C, David H, Ian, Jimmy, Johnny, Paul, Rex, Robert, Ronnie

We knew that the Ayrshire summer had arrived when we stopped on top of Goldenberry Hill for coffee. The sky lowered ominously, pregnant with rain, the air was thick and damp allowing no evaporation from sweaty bodies and the flies buzzed and tormented incessantly. Yes, summer had arrived.
            We were only on Goldenberry because of the weather. When we arrived at the gathering place for the walk on Irish Law the hill fog was down close to road level and the drizzle was heavy and wetting. And the forecast gave little in the way of comfort, predicting heavier rain for later in the morning. A quick revision of plan was in order and despite some protestations, we opted for an old favourite in this area, the Portencrosss circuit.
            The sky still lowered and the air was still damp as we left the car park at Portencross but at least the drizzle had gone for a while. We walked along the road for Ardneil farm eyeing the sky for impending rain. Nothing came. We climbed through the farm and on to the track for Goldenberry. Still there was no rain, but the damp air was hardly a help on the easy climb of the track. Sweat failed to evaporate and clothes were soon wet from the inside anyway. And, when we stopped on top of Goldenberry for coffee, the flies found the sweaty bodies much more to their liking than the young beasts in the field below us.
            The view from the hill was much obscured today, the damp air and lowering sky cutting out anything more than a couple of miles away. We could look out over Wee Cumbrae, Cumbrae and part of Bute but Arran stayed hidden in the gloom. Below us lay Hunterston Power Station and Fairlie, the Fairlie Roads running up toward Largs. Behind us the hills we should have been on were covered in drizzly hill fog. The view might have been better but at least the rain had stayed away.
            The rain might have stayed away but the flies were increasing in number and it was partly due to these that we started off again. We came down off the hill towards Goldenberry Plantation where we found an old track running beside the wood and turning along it came through a wood and found tarmac on the road from Goldenberry cottage. We stuck to tarmac for a while now, coming along this wee road to find a slightly bigger road to the south of Hunterston Castle. Now we were on very familiar territory and followed the road to the power station road and the shore.
            A wee, insignificant broon bird caught the attention of our birder. ‘Listen’ said he. And we did as the wee broon bird chirred like a bike wheel. ‘Grasshopper Warbler’, said he. We couldn’t argue, but it certainly sounded like a grasshopper to us so perhaps he was right.
The only other thing of significance on this part of the walk was to find a chap from SEPA sampling the water on the shore for radioactivity. This is apparently standard procedure around nuclear power plants and he didn’t expect to find anything out of the ordinary. We left him to his paperwork and walked on.
On the rocks on the shore just beyond the power plant we settled down for Lunch.  At least there were no flies now and the rain had stayed off much to our surprise. Lunch was a more relaxed affair than coffee. But there always comes a time when the itchy-footed start to fidget. This time came for us and we moved off again.
Barely had we started again when Rex stopped and looked into some scrubby bushes. Another grasshopper warbler. The birder was delighted that somebody had been paying attention earlier.
The walk along the raised beach under the cliffs of Hawking Craig and the Three Sisters is always a delight and today was no exception. Despite the gloomy weather there was much to appreciate on the crags. A large brown falcon swept across the face just above the trees, a female peregrine. A group of folk hung with binoculars met us. Just as our birder was mentioning the peregrine to them there came a screeching from the cliffs. ‘That’s the young peregrines screaming for attention,’ said the chap who seemed to be the leader of the group and though we could hear plenty, we couldn’t see where the young birds were. So we left them to it, the birds to their feeding and the group to go in search of the grasshopper warblers. We can only hope they saw one or the other.
Fifteen minutes later we came to Portencross Castle. The door was open and we, being of a nosy disposition, went to investigate. A chap was upstairs setting up an art exhibition but said we could have a look around the lower floor. This we did and found out a little of the history of the place since replacing the Iron Age fort on Auld Hill. As we made our way back out of the castle we met a man coming in. ‘Have you been on the roof?’ he asked. When we replied in the negative he invited us to do so. We accepted his invitation enjoyed a further exploration of the castle. We offer our thanks to the two for their kindness.
From the castle it was only a few minutes' walk back to the car park. We had been unlucky or lucky today depending how you look at it. We had been unlucky in as much as we didn’t get to the walk that we had planned but we were lucky in that we got a dry walk, a walk that, according to the forecast, should have been done in heavy rain. Still, as they say, God’s good to his own.

The Laurieston in Ardrossan provided the FRT for today.