Thursday, 30 January 2014

29 January The Four Lochs Again

If it wisnae for the Ooters where wad ye be,
You'd be sittin' in the hoose or in the librarie,
Sae get aff yer chair, get oot the door an' come alang wi' me
For we're goin' for a walk wi' the Ooters.
(Tune: Gin it Wasnae for the Weavers)

Alan, Davie C, Davie MC, Gus, Jimmy, Rex & Robert

Despite the gloomy morning the forecast was good. We were all slightly bemused by the light rain falling as we gathered at Loch Doon castle for another round for the weather was supposed to clear long before our appointed gathering time. Still, ever the optimists, we were prepared to do the round of the Four Lochs as planned, even if it meant waterproofs from the start. But just to be on the safe side, we chose to cut out the two-three miles of road walk down the side of the loch to the Loch Finlas road-end, instead leaving one car at the castle and driving down the tarmac.                 

            The surface of the forest road to Finlas was slightly slimy thanks to work being carried out along it but it might have been worse given all the rain of the last month or so. So we were in carefree mood as we started off along it at a fairly brisk pace to get the blood circulating after the car journey. Care had to be taken, though, when passing the machinery clearing the ditches and brashing the road-side trees; huge machines they were and capable of doing severe damage to any one of us or to all of us together had they been used for that. Still, these monsters were negotiated safely thanks to their drivers halting their work to let us pass. Thank you, forestry workers.  The footing was firmer beyond the machinery and, wonder of wonders, the rain was gone. And was that a brightening in the sky? We strode out along that road in light-hearted mood, Jimmy and Robert setting a cracking pace. But they had the sense to call a halt overlooking Loch Finlas. This let the sweaty dispose of their waterproofs; there was no need of them for the rest of the day. Then on we went, leaving the forest road behind and taking to the open moor.

            The moorland was looking grand today, the winter-dead grasses almost glowing in warm shades of yellow and brown under the overcast sky. Loch Finlas looked cold though, the water slaty grey and ruffled by ripples and wavelets blown northward by the freshening wind. But there was no need for us to test the temperature of the water and the wind was on our backs so we were cheery enough as we climbed the path to the pass over to Loch Bradan. We met a couple coming in the opposite direction and, as usual, stopped for a blether. Unfortunately the scribe forgot to get their names so if you were the couple with the dog and are reading this could you drop a comment with your names and we will give you a mention. This halt allowed us all to come together again and together again we set off.

The unity didn’t last long though, the slope up to the head of the pass taking its toll. From somewhere in the rear Rex called for coffee (Why is it always Rex who calls for coffee? – Ed.) only to be told there was a better spot ‘just up here’ barely ten minutes away. Half an hour later we stopped for coffee on our usual spot overlooking Loch Bradan.

We were sheltered from the wind and our surrounding were peaceful. A good half hour was spent having coffee/brunch while we took in our surroundings, reminisced and listened to our bard sing another three verses of ‘The Ooters’ Song’. But time wore on and it was time for us to move on as well.

Down then we went, following the path to the side of Loch Bradan. (Is there not a path all the way round this loch? – Ed.) Once on the lochside path Rex and Jimmy took off like supercharged whippets leaving the rest of us struggling in their wake. It’s a good thing that Davie Mc is used to walking on his own for he stopped to tie a lace and found himself way behind as the racers strode out in front. He walked on his own all the way along the lochside. Even his faithful companion Holly abandoned him and it wasn’t until we reached the Ballochbeatties forest road and a halt was called that he managed to catch us up. Was he pleased or what? Still, we were all together again and we walked on cheerfully enough, even if we had to suffer Dave Mc’s complaining.

The next halt was called on the picnic area overlooking Loch Riecawr. The walk from our halt overlooking Bradan had taken barely an hour and a bittock but there were calls for still more coffee and anther bite. Once again the surrounding were spectacular, even under a cloudy sky. The cloud, though, was breaking and shafts of winter sunlight were spotlighting the landscape. A break in the hill fog revealed snow cover on Shalloch on Minnoch and Kirriereoch and we suspected on Merrick as well but this peak held its cloud cover. Another blink of sun and the grey waters of Riecawr were transformed to liquid silver before returning to gunmetal as the cloud thickened again. And the patches of sunlight were becoming larger and appearing more often. There was hope for a pleasant afternoon to finish the walk

Again the time came and we had to move on. Leaving Riecawr behind, we kept to the forest road. Though we started off as one group we were soon split again, this time into two groups. Rex, DavieMc, Robert and Gus made up the fast one while Jimmy, Alan and Davie C made the more leisurely one.  Down through the forest we came, down past the Blackcock lek, down out of the trees and onto the moor to the south end of Loch Doon. Indeed a corner of the loch itself could be seen as we wandered down the road. Then the full loch appeared as we rounded a corner and looked down on the bridge over the Eglin Lane. Now a few hundred metres lay between us and the single car parked at the castle. This last stretch was taken at a leisurely pace for now the sun shone on the northern landscape and lit Black Craig hill at the north end of the Kells range though hill fog tenaciously clung to the rest of it.

Back at the castle, a logistical problem had to be overcome. How do we get seven people down the road in one car? We couldn’t of course so Rex drove the two other drivers down to the Loch Finlas road-end and they in turn returned for the rest of us.

This was a thoroughly good day and we had been blest with the weather yet again this week.

FRT was taken in our usual howf for this area, the Dalmellington Inn in the town of that name.

Monday, 13 January 2014

8 January - Falls of Clyde

Alan, Rex, Malcolm, Davie M, Davie C, Johnny, Gus, Paul, Robert

The Ooters gathered at Davie's in Darvel ahead of the first walk of the year.

New Year greetings were exchanged and then Davie read out the contents of a touching  letter he had received from Ian's son Allan, thanking him for the eulogy he had delivered at Ian's funeral and relating how much his father had enjoyed his times with the Ooters.

As always, Davie and Kay generously provided refreshments ahead of our journey into Lanarkshire!

We met up at the usual trysting place of Kirkfieldbank and opted for clockwise circuit.  We descended to the Clyde without the drama of a previous visit and as we climbed back up to New Lanark light rain started to fall. By the time we reached the village, the rain was pretty heavy and we debated whether or not to go into the cafe for tea and coffee.  However, we empathised with Holly's predicament, since she would have had to stay outside with Davie, and as one we chose to forgo the dry and warmth of the cafe for the shed overlooking the river, where we had sought refuge before.

Even at this low point of the river the flow was spectacular and we looked forward to the sights higher up.

The rain had stopped by the time we left the shelter.  We weren't disappointed by the Falls. They were in full flow and the river thundered over the rocks and cascaded down the precipices.  Plenty of photos and videos were taken and perhaps some will be appended here.

Lunch was taken on the far side, overlooking the falls.  A couple of walkers had bagged our favoured spot and Johnny informed us that there was a better lunch stop a bit further on. It was as well we didn't pay any attention to him since it later transpired this location was actually on the River Ayr. Instead, we settled for spot on the grassy bank.

The path on this side of the river was very boggy and detours had to be made around mud and fallen trees but we returned to the cars unscathed.

FRT was taken at the Black Bull in Darvel and an Ooters' calendar was handed over.

Friday, 3 January 2014

18 December: Annbank to Ayr

(Andy, Johnny, Malcolm, Paul, Rex,  Alan, Davie C, Davie M, Gus, Paul, Peter)

After a fortnight the memory is a little hazy so this is a brief blog – chiefly for the record!

There was a good turnout outside Annbank Bowling Club for the final walk of the year. We took the short route from Annbank to Auchincruive, on the north side of the river and  is our wont, we stopped for refreshments at the Wallace and Burns monument.  

Confusion reigned when we resumed the walk. The majority headed off up the road en route for Ayr whilst Paul and Davie M looked at each other and enquired why we weren’t returning to Annbank, via the opposite side of the river, as per the blog.

Paul hadn’t been present when the day’s walk was agreed  and had just read the blog, so he had a perfect excuse but Davie had been present and had agreed to write up the details ask Kay to write up the details of the walk.  Perhaps he had switched off his hearing aids since everyone else claimed Annbank to Ayr had been agreed. The majority prevailed.

Soon after we had left the tarmac Peter announced he was only doing half the walk since he had urgent business to attend to, so we bade him farewell as he retraced his footsteps.

Lunch was taken, as usual, by the stepping stones across the River Ayr and then we made speedy progress into town.  We arrived at the bus station, went to the stance for the Annbank bus, only to discover that the bus no longer left from there. We wandered aimlessly around the bus station looking for the correct stance until a friendly local took pity on us, asked where we were going and directed us back to the High Street.  We were soon aboard the elusive bus. Why do people have to make changes to the way we have always done things?

FRT was taken at the Tap o’ the Brae where  Alan conjured up a magnificent spread for us!  Salmon, caught and smoked by his own fair hands, home-made pâté, horse radish sauce, oatcakes, blinis (wee crumpets, if you hail from Springside) and other treats too numerous to mention. We all tucked in and Alan’s generosity was much appreciated.

A good walk to end the year, topped off by Alan’s fine spread. Thank you Alan!

Great post Paul.  As Paul was driving and looking after himself he will be for given for omitting the contribution by Malcolm who allowed us to celebrate with him by wetting his new grandson's (Leo) head as he bought drinks all round.  A treat I hope I will be allowed when next we meet en mass. John arrived on the 23/12 2013.  Mother and young man all well even although he got an earlier stork than had been booked.

Oh yes. That was most remiss of me. I told you things had become a little hazy after a fortnight! Thank you Malcolm!!