Sunday, 6 December 2009

Leven Seat,Shotts Bing,Binny Craig,Broxburn Bing.

A central uplands grand tour.Map O.S. 65.Falkirk and West Lothian.
We were going to do a couple of nice hills down Peebles way today but neither of us fancied the look of the weather down that direction from the motorway.Blacker than a barrel of tar sitting in an unlit coal mine.
A plan B was called for,luckily for me I had such a plan up my bulky sleeve.(along with plans C ,D, E and F.) It pays to be prepared to be flexible these days.
Now back in the trusty Megane with me established as the dominant pack leader once again we slipped through early morning Carluke and up into the remote high plains country around Forth and Shotts where the sun was shining.
This is a big area of empty land that cover much of this map.Bleak, uncompromising and usually windswept but not without its own Siberian like frontier charm.(On a sunny day at least)
150 to 200 years ago this was the powerhouse of central Scotland as the number of old mines,shale oil bing's and abandoned stone quarries testify.
Trains ran daily to cities across the central belt with the raw materials needed to build and support the growth of Glasgow,Edinburgh and the other big urban developments.Now we hide our rubbish here.Towns like Armadale,Whitburn,Shotts and Forth grew up as well to house the tough workers in this remote landscape.
It`s even more remote and marginal now as a lot of the jobs and old industry are gone and those remaining are no longer so labour intensive.It`s always been a hard place to earn a living here although with cars and motorways people can commute to the service industrial parks and cities more easily.On the other hand this makes it also easy to avoid for the traveller.A pity.It has much to interest the visitor.

An easy trig tick surrounded by a pine forest right beside a landfill sight with great views and 10,000 gulls.A new experience for us.We are fast running out of old quarries though.This one was almost stuffed to the brim.The Pentlands ,Ochils and Fife hills could be seen but we were more interested in a sharp little man made object nearby.
Back at the car we made for this.

We stopped just above Eastfield and followed a good track in to climb the steep incline to the twin summits. Another great view and very different again. Many other little bings visible ,Shotts prison tower sticking up(I think) and the wind farm near Climpy in the distance.

A very different day out.There is good cycling here in this area on a network of quiet minor roads ,great views and a real wild west feel.Accommodation in the area is rather limited however.

May be better to bring your own bedding perhaps.

Wide choice of rooms though.

Next up was the roadside trig near Blairmuckhole then a hiccup and a missed trig due to a road closure at Blackridge,denying us Eastcraigs hill.

A quick detour through Armadale and lovely Torphichen saw us in Beecraigs country.Much softer green lush uplands with patchwork yellow squares of oilseed rape and corn in season.
We ended at Binny Craig and Alex was very impressed with this steep little volcanic plug sitting on a ridge crest like a sharks fin.

He was feeling pretty car sick by this time though due to twisty roads and map navigation duties.
Another summit in sunshine where I munched twin pork pies and a smoked apple wood slice of cheese while Alex looked pale and fashionably thin.
I didn`t tell him about our last port of call leaving the best until the end.When we drove down the road past Faucheldean however he guessed and groaned as our destination filled the windscreen ahead.

The Uluru (Ayers rock) of Scotland.The mighty and impressive Broxburn Bing. Shaleopolis central itself!The paraffin oil boom capital of the late 1800`s.Some of the shafts went down 3000 feet.Imagine that.Must be like a swiss cheese under this region.
I love this bing.Everytime I come here there is always something interesting to see. Today it was trail bikers roaring up the inclines to jump between the red humps in style.

The best views of the day opened up as we climbed to the flat tableland above.

You can spend a good few hours here exploring these bings or cycle through them from Ratho on the Union Canal. This is a very interesting day out as well.A different and enjoyable day of great variety.A trig, a bing, a trig, a bing.Can a day out get any better than that.

The Five Sisters bings at West Calder from Shotts bing.

There are no monuments on hilltops to the great and good in this area only gravestones and piles of hard won dirt.A lasting tribute to the men and thier families who helped build the cities and towns we lucky inhabitants take for granted today.Where else would you find such a mix of beauty and beast side by side.They are still doing it today with windfarms and landfills.We owe them our thanks now and in the future.Next time you zoom past this area on the motorway spare a thought for the true heart of Scotland.


We`re not the first hill folk to feel the need to climb these.Dave Hewitt of the Angry Corrie has been out on them and has published a very good article here....

Angry Corrie bing bagging article.

Even the BBC mention bing bagging ... :)

Couple of pics from me...

Bob on top of the bing at Broxburn looking over to the end of the Pentlands.Think it`s called Greendykes Bing.

Heading over the plateau to the Winchburgh end.....


blueskyscotland said...

The bings were actually quite good and the landscape was not disimilar to the arid volcanic parts of Lanzarote.Well,if you can ignore the burnt out cars and rubbish lying around :)
Put me in the mood to do the traverse of the Five Sisters bings at West Calder when the first dump of snow arrives :)


Brian and Martina said...

a traverse of the central belt could be made, maximising bings, exploring our industrial heritage (and waste and debris too) and maybe finishing in the west on the forth clyde canal.

mmmmmm maybe an idea for the next brian and martina hike!

blueskyscotland said...

Mountain bikes would be good for this.You can cycle into( or in some cases even up) most of the bings.I,ve done quite a few already on bike tours.If you want to see where some of the piles came from the Bo,ness steam railway(at bo,ness) takes you to a fireclay mine near Grangemouth and you get a guided walking tour through the large tunnels a mile underground in the Avon gorge.Worth doing on a wet day.
There are also several good canal tunnels to do near the Falkirk wheel on a bike. Bob

Robert Craig said...

Have you been up the Five Sisters? Looks awesome. Can't believe it is invisible from most of 'M8 country'.

Brian and Martina - do you fancy doing the 'Lothian Skies Walk'? I've had zero interest and much scorn from friends so far...

blueskyscotland said...

Yes I have Robert.Went up them early one summer sunday morning around 8 o,clock many years ago(didnt think you were allowed to climb them, hence the furtive approach) Its only really steep on one side however the other slopes down to an trading estate.But it was really good fun and I mainly have memories of a mass of wild flowers that you rarely see nowadays(no pesticdes)and getting repeatedly hit in the face with bumblebees and all maner of flying insects.
For me the 3 bings at broxburn are still the best and you can mountain bike over them! bob.

andamento said...

Well, it's not my favourite bit of Scotland but you seem to have had quite an interesting time and got some good photos too. I may venture over that way at some point - at least it's easy to reach. I used to have a friend who stayed in West Clader and you could see the bings from their window, always wondered if you could get up them.

By the way, the tablet recipe's up!

blueskyscotland said...

Tablet yum! Nice recipe but Tablet is well known to be dangerous to single humans of middle age.Not havng any kids to stuff it down (they burn it off like a furnace anyway) I,d end up making a tablet bing then eating it all myself.I manage to hide the fact I,m a skinny old blimp by badly cut jackets and jumpers.Shabby rags are uk.I used to dent the scales at 9 stone til I turned 40 now I,m 12 stone despite eating like a sparrow apart from the occasional plate of missisippi mud muffins or hunk of smoked applewood cheese of an evening.Such is life!

Brian and Martina said...

To Robert,
mmmmm the lothian skyline walk might have some merits but I can't say it would be top of my list! I like the proclaimers song though. - and '500 miles' was our favourite 'bear scaring' song to sing on the continental divide trail this summer.

Good luck with the book, it had a good prominent end of shelf display in waterstone's inverness this weekend !

kim terry said...

Can you tell me are you going to get more wind turbines? You have some beautiful scenery outside of the city and this will become a waste land of turbines. Not a pretty sight and I think you need to have areas to go in and unwind. Any comments about this? On my drive up to Glasgow I cannot believe how many turbines can be seen now. What are they trying to do when it has been proved that turbines do not make a difference to CO2 emissions.

Kim Terry Communities Against Turbines Scotland

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Kim.
I,m not planning on getting any turbines myself but the Scottish Goverment seems committed to putting up a lot more.There have been several applications knocked back already around Loch Lomond side.I dont mind them in Bleak dismal areas but they are now starting to appear in more scenic spots too like the road down towards Largs.
Latest Information on wind turbines offshore seems to suggest they can act as a no take zone for fish Which sounds hopeful so maybe thats the way foreward in future.