Sunday, 28 February 2010

Troweir Hill.Girvan.

It was not a very good forecast.I left it to Alex to pick a hill.For a change our friend John was coming with us plus his wee dog Chalky.Picking them up on the south side of Glasgow then Alex out east meant north of Glasgow was out due to this long uplift time so a trip south was the easy option.The best weather was down that way in any case.Also the lack of snow would suit the dog`s wee legs more (and mine too!)
Left Glasgow in a snow storm and headed out past East Kilbride on the road to Girvan.Troweir Hill, right above this seaside town was our destination of choice.

Parked on the edge of an OK housing scheme next to the lane up the hill.Easy walking,although the track soon turned to thick mud due to a herd of cows mooching around a fodder dump further up in the woodland.

These were curious but didn't charge us,always a concern when you mix bullocks, or cows with calf's and dogs in the same field.Chalky was soon renamed Manky as he gamely waded up the mire which was up to his chest in places.

Anybody who has a Bichon Frise (or Tenerife Terrier as they are also known.) will know that they have an amazing personality for such a small fluffy dog.Fearless,confident,bright and playful,not at all the nervous snappy,aggressive type of small dog that you get with some breeds.Quiet too,doesn't bark much.

It also has the air of a dog five times its size and is never daunted meeting the largest hounds.Its no wonder they were popular in the days of sailing ships for company and as a mascot for the sailors who took it around Europe`s ports.Little white dogs similar to these have been recorded on ships since long before the time of Christ.
With so many good qualities going for it he had to have some bad traits to balance up the other side of the scales.In Chalky`s case behind those cute black button eyes lurked the mind of a natural born satyr,nothing in a fur coat was safe from his attentions.As soon as he saw another dog,male or female,big or small,he was straight over for a sniff,trying to get his leg over,normally with comic results.I`ve never seen a dog try so hard,so often and with such fearless devotion to the task in front of it.Snarling Alsatians,straight under quickly and sniff the bum.A ruthless furry charm offensive then a sudden dash in for the clinch before the surprised and usually unreceptive victim batted him off like a human swatting away a troublesome fly.
"He`s some wee dug that!" said Alex admiringly." Never gives up".
" I know". This from John wearily,used to the embarrassment with other dog owners."Tried everything in the book to cure him. He`s just a dirty wee bugger."
This was probably a trait much admired by the sailors as well I`d imagine.

Grassy,mostly featureless slopes on a dull but dry day carried us up the hill to the top where we met the local farmer tending his sheep.Chalky was on the lead by now,as soon as we`d spotted the woolly ones ahead.(Copulation should be impossible but you never know.) There was a lot of electric fences on this hill.Chalky and Alex had to be carefully lifted over each one.

Only joking.He`s a middle aged jumping jack really,puts me to shame.
I suggested John lower Chalky`s private parts onto the electric fence just to see if it would cure his problem with other dogs but neither of them seemed keen on that idea.
Alex got his summit tick,views were reasonable but not spectacular and we decended via a drier path and a puddle sized loch back to the car.

Byne Hill across the valley looked good (bagged last spring in a prevoius blog entry here.) but I was happy we`d done a dullish hill on a dull day as I like to save the good stuff for better weather.

Turnberry Coastal Walk.

After returning to the car at Girvan we consulted the map then headed for Turnberry beach and the famous hotel and golf course.Parked in the village car park and took the path down to the beach.For all four of us this was a new stretch of coastline and a nice one at that.
We were bit by bit exploring the Ayrshire Coastal path in easy sections after a morning hill tick.Good views out towards the volcanic upthrust of Ailsa Craig and a pleasant mix of sandy beach and rocky headland gave us an enjoyable second half to the day.
A few streams to cross gave us a chance to practice our jumping skills.Old age is a cruel thing to behold!
Chalky had several big dogs to scare with his sneak attack and furry shuffle, rock pools and a natural arch made for a pleasant diversion for us.

The unmanned lighthouse past the point was the obvious target and point of return.
From here we could look across at the Culzean Castle parklands.A fairly average hill day complemented by an interesting beach and good company.Another chunk of the Ayrshire coast under the belt.And the first day of spring tomorrow.How good is that.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Five Sisters bings,West Calder.

We must be getting old.Gone are even the memories of the 19 mile, 5 Munro, one day slogs across the central highlands. Lowly East Cairn Hill seemed a long walk in and an even longer walk out again.These days neither of us fancied the grind over to West Cairn Hill much so a pimple of distinction was a happy option for tired legs mid afternoon.
On this occasion a whole bunch of pimples awaited our feet.The prettiest and most striking bing of them all.The Five Sisters to the west of Livingston.

Parking here is a bit of a problem with the Freeport retail village now empty,mothballed and out of bounds.Two small one car parking spots on the verge beside access gates (but not blocking) the only option on the B7015 next to the first northern summit,the one above Alex`s head.
For such an iconic little range this bing was surprisingly little frequented going by the number of paths and human disturbance.One faint trail leading up from the woods to the col between the first and second summits.

Mind you this bing is all but invisible from most angles,only from its western side does it rise steeply in a dramatic soaring wall of five adjoining doorknobs.

This side is a real blast.Needless to say we traversed this wee roller coaster either on the summit ridge itself or on the faint rabbit trails skirting across the steepest slopes of scree.Magic stuff and fairly exposed.In snow or ice this would be a fine undertaking with ice axe and crampons required.

At one point Alex could look between his legs and see a herd of highland cows munching the grass below either side of his boots.

Considering their lowly height this wee range has a big personality.
We also indulged in a spot of scree running.Doesn't take much to turn grown men into wee boys again.Great fun and not bad for a couple of old farts on dodgy knees.Though it pains me to admit it Alex won the prize for the downhill speed event.

Five Sisters scree run....

We ended our day by dropping off the last southern peak then walking back over grassy meadows savouring the views of our traverse with the sun hitting the slopes,turning them golden and red as the highland cattle wandered over for a sniff at the strangers marching across their lunchbox.
A memorable day out.

Good document about the flora and fauna of the bings here....

East Cairn Hill.

A very similar day to last week.A flattish moorland walk for a few miles into our chosen hill,a quick ascent on a glorious day followed by something unusual in the afternoon of which more later from Bob :)

Having to stay within easy reach of Glasgow again we decided on Saturday morning to head for the Pentlands,East Cairn Hill this time.South from Livingston and through Kirknewton to the A70 and then south west to the car park at Little Vantage.The sun was shining on a perfect morning as we headed across the moor on a frozen path.

Start of the path...

We get closer...

2 1/2 miles along Bob suddenly veered up the nose of the hill thwarting my plan of an easy ascent from the col.We alternated between the path and the frozen snowfields.....

West Cairn Hill in the background....

.....and were soon at the 564 metre top which sports a rather large cairn.We spent a good half hour inside this sheltering from the wind and figuring out the landmarks along with a local guy from West Calder.

Bob at the summit cairn....

The usual bank of cloud hung over the hills to the north of the Central Belt...

View to the main part of the Pentland ridge .....

Having forgotten my jacket in the rush earlier this morning I was beginning to feel cold so left Bob nattering away and set off to the high point about 1/2 mile to the south east.The planned climb over to West Cairn Hill was now abandonded as there was no way I was gever going to heat up again in the wind.So we set off directly down the way we had come up and were soon back at the car.

Heading down the snow....

We then set out for our "mystery" destination stopping only briefly for a last pic of the hill and yours truly to get the blood coursing through his veins again by bagging the Camilty Hill trig point :)

Looking back to East Cairn Hill over the frozen Harperrig Reservoir....

A cracking spell of weather recently and this day was no exception.....

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Castle Dangerous and Coalburn Bing

After a cracking sunny morning on Cairn Table we headed for the small town of Douglas where,according to the map,there was a large estate with three small lochs/ponds nestled in landscaped grounds.This looked a promising oasis and when Alex mentioned it contained the wonderful sounding Castle Dangerous I had to see that. This was all a new area for me.A surprising change.

Tundra like would be the best description of the Douglas water valley this castle resided in.Capability Brown style open meadow and parkland was the aim here but it lacked the usual lush quality given its bleak moorland surroundings. It did have an attractive wide scale look about it though and would be a pleasant place in summer.
Several understated but atmospheric memorials dotted the landscape.Near the entrance the Polish memorial garden had three separate monuments which were now together crafted by Polish soldiers stationed in the town during the war who had formed links with the local community.

Castle Dangerous however did not look remotely threatening being one lone tower from the 17Th century version of the castle.Sir Walter Scott called it that in one of his novels knowing the bloody history of the area.Castle Douglas is the proper name and the earlier castle would indeed have been very dangerous as it was the place where the infamous "Douglas larder" incident occurred.

During the Wars of Independence Sir James Douglas was the close companion of Robert the Bruce.His family stronghold was taken,Garrisoned by English soldiers.Being somewhat displeased by this turn of events he stormed the castle during Palm Sunday when mass was being held in the chapel killing everyone ,tossing them in the cellar then burned his home to the ground as a warning not to mess with the Black Douglas.
His loyal support of the Bruce led the family from modest beginnings over a few generations to become the most powerful family in Southern Scotland.In time this was perceived as a threat by the monarchy who ,in time honored tradition,stomped them down again taking away most of the lands, deeds and titles given earlier.
Same thing happened to the Knights Templar and many others who made the kings of the day twitchy with their influence, power and strength of arms. Acquiring power and the keeping of it afterwards was always a hard balancing act in those days.
There was also a sloping square of railings containing the Cameronian Cairn which marks the spot where the Cameronian Scottish Rifles were raised in 1689 and then disbanded on orders of the goverment in 1968.Maybe they made them a bit twitchy too during a time of relative peace.
Anyway enough of history.Time for bikes and a Bing.

I`d always fancied going to Coalburn. You can see its pointy little bing coming up the motorway from the south.No time like the present.We parked and strolled up the incline on a beautiful sunny evening,Alex a bit concerned by a large group of trail bikers zooming around the surrounding network of tracks and gravel jumps below.
I was secretly hoping they`d pay us a visit at the top and sure enough three or four of them came roaring up the slope to check us out and show off their hard won skills on a bike.

It was a fantastic view up here over the flat badlands of the Broken Cross muir area towards a distant Tinto.

Coalburn,an ex mining town, had a more looked after feel about it than a lot similar sized towns in isolated positions and still looked to have a good sense of community to the casual eye.
It had rich coal seams but the last deep mine closed in 1968.Nearby Dalquhandy reputedly had the largest open cast operation in Western Europe.

It still has a real wild west feel about it and it certainly has bags of character.An interesting day out.

Cairn Table.

Two part blog today.The first part is a story of a wonderful summit under blue skies,open spaces and wonderful views.In the second part in a few days time Bob will take us down to the netherworlds of Scotland once more :)

Due to other factors our remit today was to go somewhere within an hours drive and with a guaranteed mobile signal.I quite fancied a dauner along the Pentlands or finishing my remaining Donalds along the M74 corridor.Sunniest forecast though was for over the Ayrshire and the Galloway region again and Galloway being too far it was Ayrshire wot won the toss.We stood in my driveway for a good 10 minutes or so wondering exactly where to go.A hill in the morning and a "Bob`s Special tour" in the afternoon,just like last week,was the resulting agreement.

Through East Kilbride,along the Strathaven road and up onto the lonely B743 we went stopping off for pics on what was a glorious morning.

Loudon Hill appeared over to the west....

A closer view further along the road....

I`d enjoyed a hot summers day rock climbing here last`s Nicky on Pulpit Crack..

Down we headed towards Muirkirk where Bob took this pic of our destination,Cairn Table.

A new car park had been built since the last time along with an information board about the local hen harrier population.Anytime I`ve been down this way I`ve always managed to spot one but a quick Google tonight seems to indicate that the population is sadly in decline almost certainly due to human hands.A run in I had with a gamekeeper on nearby Middlefield Law a few years ago didn`t exactly fill me with confidence regarding the future of birds of prey in this area...

Hen harrier link

Anyway,the sun was shining and there was no need for hats or gloves or even jackets.Spring ain`t far away..! The usual boggy approach path was still well frozen meaning that we could zoom up without fear of losing our boots in the morass.Even Muirkirk was looking good in the sunshine :)

A final steepening and we were at the summit.Everything above the Highland Boundary Fault,although visible,had a mantle of greyish cloud hanging just above the summits.South of that it was a different story.Over to Arran,the Paps of Jura,the Merrick,Criffel,Lowthers,Tinto and the Pentlands with a sunkissed coating of snow along the ridge.The summit view indicator suggested the Lake District but it was lost in a bit of haze.

The early start meant that the day was still young so we put jackets on as the wind got up a little bit and sat around admiring the view and nattering away about this and that.Then we decided to build a cairn.It took us ages :)

Bob admires the finished masterpiece...

The views were extensive but given the hills isolation it wasn`t possible to capture it on film,the distance were just too far.,,,the Paps of Jura were 82 miles away.The nearest group were the Lowther hills....

Back at the car park we got talking to two folk from Kilmaurs who had been walking the River Ayr Way so Bob offered them a lift back to their car at Glenbuck which was in the direction we were headed next.We dropped them off at the memorial to Bill Shankly who was born here.Glenbuck is no longer alas,it has fallen victim to an open cast coal mine..

The Bill Shankly memorial at Glenbuck....

To be continued in a few days time.....

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Heads of Ayr.Bower Hill.

It was a day of two half's. I didn't mind walking into the mist with no views to bag Alex his chosen hill as long as we then went somewhere scenic and sunny.Thankfully it was a short ascent as we parked high up on the moors.Here's a pic of the highland coos on the moor road.
My own chosen pimple of some distinction was Bower hill and the Heads of Ayr.I`d walked round the coast from here years ago under the heads all the way to rocky Dunure where we had a meal and a tasty pint then walked it back to Ayr inland along the disused railway track.I remember it being a cracking summers day walk with great variety.
Now I would get the chance to climb the steep sea cliff of Bower hill where the Carrick range plunges abruptly into the sea.

I`d forgotten just how scenic this part of the coast was,pity about the smell coming from a sewage works and the massive holiday camp (formally Butlins) which we had to pass on our way to the hill.
We parked at Longhill Point,hit the sand and outgoing tide just right and soon reached the signposted path up the hill.This looked somewhat overgrown and steep but as a path sign pointed the way up we thought it would be a dawdle.
As Alex remarked later when we both decided no way were we going back down that way if it was over rock it would have been a graded climb.Moderate or Diff.

Steep,loose,laughingly slippy and boasting more overhanging furry bits than a werewolf Bower hill was a hoot. I loved it! Alex less so.
We only managed to climb it due to a cunning ladder of tree roots,rotten branches and crumbling mud ledges that just held our weight.

"I`m not enjoying this Bob! Its not my kind of thing at all this stuff!"Said Alex as he bridged carefully up between two disintegrating tree trunks."Somethings had a real doing here!"
He was right.This wooded cliff must be a haven for wildlife.Well those few birds and animals that remained that is. I`ve never seen such a carnage of beaks, squeaks fur and feathers in such a small area.Every new handhold or ledge revealed a pair of torn off jackdaw legs lying on a tree stump or a pile of bloody feathers or fur and the odd eyeball scattered around.
At the top it got even steeper bringing us eyeball to eyeball with an entire jigsaw puzzle collection of little victims.I really got into trying to build a whole animal out of the bits but Alex was not impressed with the result. "Looks like a womble!"he grumbled. He knows nowt about art though.

"God it`s getting worse" he moaned."This is your daftest hill yet!"
"Wait until you see whats next!" I called down.
Alex didn't like the hawthorn tunnel much either.Whats wrong with that boy! Fine sunny afternoon and a wildlife extravaganza into the bargain.

He soon perked up though when we topped out into a grassy Field (we could have came up a ******* field?) and found a trig right on the edge of the precipice.We had lunch admiring the views along the coast.

Not wanting to go back down the overhanging garden route we walked further along the cliffs towards Dunure then cut down an easy rampline between the two summits onto the beach then back to the car.
A fun day!!!!!!! Well I enjoyed it.