Monday, 22 June 2015

Kingdom of the Sun. Beecraigs.Rape Fields.Bing Country.The Big Four Captured.

                                               ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN
I'm always trying to push the envelope with my photography as far as my limited budget will allow for camera equipment and the surprise addition of a new camera after my old Lumix model developed a fault and I got a new free replacement might mean a jump in quality. See what you think with this one? I'm pleased with the increase in clarity and colour definition anyway. It has a couple of drawbacks, one being it's not as good in low light or sunset shots which the other model excelled at but seems better at straight landscape shots. Still getting used to it and managed to ruin an entire set taken in the Lake District recently as I just used my old photo card in the new one which didn't capture onto computer properly for some reason. Had to buy a new card before it worked.
Feral cat in my local park. Up close and personal.
Anyway, back to the old model of camera for these. At this time of year I always go on a solo cycling trip to visit the oil seed rape fields in the golden triangle between Falkirk, Bathgate and Kirkliston neatly defined on a map by the enclosing blue oval wall  of the M9 and M8 motorways. This is my Kingdom of the Sun, full of humid heat, vivid primary colours and wide open blue skies. At least it is anytime I visit it as I always pick sunny days and I will never grow tired of attempting to turn Scotland into my own personal version of a Mediterranean or tropical style climate. It can be done.
The sheer amount of bees and other insects in this rape field was impressive.
"Satan's slippers! That's a lot of bees." I  remarked to myself, edging cautiously along the edge of this yellow field for the above photo, all too aware of being stung half a dozen times last year cycling past opened up hives that a beekeeper was working on.

Although some folk may not believe it (G C for one.) it is well over six years outdoors in Scotland with only a handful of days out when heavy rain actually fell on us. Two wet days I can remember of persistent rain lasting more than an hour and a couple when a light shower made an brief appearance. This year, despite large amounts of snow falling on the greater ranges I have successfully avoided that as well except for a couple of dry but snow covered winter outings. It's been a good spring and summer for me personally and I've been in a tee shirt most of the day on numerous occasions already. Yellow gorse on the hills around Torphichen captured in above photo. I've had primary colour addiction all my life and still get an enormous buzz out of blue skies, sunshine, and a kaleidoscope of bold colours surrounding me. Instant and totally free feel good factor every time. This wizard's accessible and easy to reach OZ. These uplands are the only landscape in Scotland that can match Renfrewshire for glorious rolling scenery in a lowland pastoral environment. Arcadia in the here and now.
Rolling farmland with the Ochil range of hills rising up behind.
Hard work on a bike though as I intended doing all four hill summits between cycling bouts on the minor road network. This is a view of Cairnpapple Hill, 312 metres, seen from the largest bing at Winchburgh. As usual I parked at Beecraigs Country Park, which sits on a hill roughly in the centre of this mini kingdom with great views, near this mast. Car park is near the right hand edge of this picture.
Cockleroy summit, 278 metres, was next on my shopping list, locking up the bike at the car park under it before running up its rocky dome.
Binny Craig next at 220 metres. They might be small summits but taken together along with a 30km cycle ride they were enough to knacker this old duffer on a hot day. What keeps me going nowadays is the quest for great photographs rather than the thought of great hill ticks. We each have obsessions and motivations that keep us feeling alive and make the everyday struggle of life worth the effort. For me it's photography these days although I still enjoy my summits if I get a decent view from them.
Back on the bike and heading for big bing country near Winchburgh, with the volcanic shark's fin of Binny Craig fading in the distance.
This was where most of the oil seed rape fields clustered this year. As they have to rotate these crops you never know where they will turn up season after season and it's almost like a grail quest to find the yellow gold. Quite appropriate really as we are not that far from Roslin Chapel here and the ending of the Da Vinci Code.
Although I suffer from hayfever myself, and these fields can increase this supposedly, one benefit of getting older is a lessening of this debilitating condition which used to blight all my teenage summers as a wheezing, nose running, eye streaming child. I hardly get it at all now and learned long ago never to touch or rub my eyes if it does flare up occasionally. Not a joke condition for anyone seriously affected and I used to get a course of injections every year from the doctor to attempt to build up some resistance to grass pollen.
Bad news if bees get it as well as they are having enough problems on their own. Long ago the "Seduction of Flowers" captured them as pollen spreading slaves in exchange for nectar and pollen grains, perfectly seen here with this bumble bee forced to sit on its well placed cushion of pollen in order to get a nectar drink, then repeating the process many thousands of times during its short tiny life. I have a thriving bumble bee hive in my cellar at present and enjoy sunny evenings as a deck chair planet next to the flight path with a steady stream of bees whizzing past my nose in the garden. Bumble bees are the gentle giants of the bee kingdom and occasionally investigate me in my seat at close range circling my head like mini moons around Jupiter but have never showed any inclination to sting me although the cellar is off limits until the autumn and I took out all my grass cutting equipment when I first noticed them going in.They will sting you if you disturb them or accidentally breathe on the hive, which is not a good idea. This is my second year as an unofficial bumble bee keeper and I turned my garden into a wildlife oasis long ago, although there's not much room left in it for me these days, hence sitting so close to the cellar in my humble deck chair.
This spring my blog pals Alan and then Alex have followed suit with an impressive pond and waterfall each in their own gardens and a subsequent increase in wildlife visiting. Very important for our increasingly under pressure wildlife and a great asset to any garden if you have an enclosed space where young children can't enter. Drowning possibility in an unfenced garden for very young children or toddlers wandering in.
I of course have been a close friend of Persephone since childhood and she often trusts me with her fairy helpers. Damselflies seen here. Tiny dancers all. Graceful in flight beyond the reach of any human gymnast. 
Another of my bees.
Riccarton Hills in spring. Tee shirt and shorts by this time. Very hot and sticky cycling.
Fellow cyclist just ahead of me on minor road network. The City of Edinburgh, Winchburgh bing and Arthur's Seat in the distance.
Approaching the biggest bing in the central belt of Scotland, the waste product of many decades of shale oil extraction. With underground coal layers and a suitable geological profile this area is in the front line once again for potential fracking investment. Some of the old mines and tunnels however go down thousands of feet underground already and Scotland is a small populated country if things don't go to plan, regarding unforeseen water contamination or potential earthquakes. One for the local inhabitants to decide.
I love the big bing country. Unless I win the lottery cant see me getting to Australia or the USA again so this is my desert landscape. I've always had a fertile imagination and I never need a plane up here, just the ability to soar mentally on a sunny warm day.
Canyon Lands. Big bing country with a view of Broxburn.
The pea green/yellow lagoon. A favourite spot for gulls. Probably toxic for humans though. Breaking Bad Landscape.
Niddry Castle and Niddry Bing.
And a burning sunset to end the day. What an epic.

My third book is now out on kindle bookstore. A Guide to Glasgow Outdoors. £1:99 pence digital.
This contains every enjoyable walk and cycle ride I've done over the years on the OS Landranger Glasgow map Sheet 64. It has over 60 routes described from a couple of hours easy stroll to full day adventures and is probably the most comprehensive list of things to do outdoors in Glasgow ever assembled in one volume for that knock down price. City parks, country parks, riverside walks, hill trips and rural adventures from Balloch to Cumbernauld, Airdrie, East Kilbride, Larkhall to Stewarton and all points in between. Illustrated with 165 colour photographs, many of which have never been seen before as they were taken for the book only and not for the blog, if you like walking or cycling around this large area covered on the map this guide should prove a life long companion. No maps are included in the guide as the intention is you spend half a day with the OS paper map of Glasgow sheet 64 and mark them all in with pencil or pen yourself then the guide becomes a reminder and photo album/inspiration and the map alone gets taken whenever you go out. It's that simple and once done should last for decades. Younger folk can use GPS or smart phone technology but the simplest, cheapest and easiest method is this one and is all you need for many years of enjoyment. Most of the routes described can be walked or cycled and many are little known, except to locals living nearby. Put it this way... I wish I'd had this guide 40 years ago as it would have saved me years of solo exploration, wasted trips to poor walking areas and a great deal of money on magazines, other guides and untold handfuls of free leaflets lying around the house gathering dust and long forgotten.
Also good for folk who have lived in this area or are interested in Scotland as its packed with Scottish wildlife, city parks and countryside looking at its best throughout the seasons with some brief history added in.
Link here.


Linda W. said...

Lovely scenery shots!

Lux G. said...

Those fields just look amazing. And the sky is as glorious as always in your photos. :)

blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Linda. I try my best.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Lux G.
Yes, I would feel disappointed if I missed them flowering and I've always loved blue skies and fluffy clouds. You only get oil seed fields and red poppies over on the drier east coast as it's too wet around Glasgow. I've tried growing red poppies from seed several times and they only came up one really dry summer years ago.

Carol said...

Love the bee on the rhodie shot :-)

I've no idea how you've managed to stay in a t-shirt most of the spring/summer - our spring/summer has been most notable for being exceptionally cold (as well as wet, dull and windy) :-( Me and Richard did manage to get 4 superb days on our last Scottish trip though so I think you guys must be getting better weather than the north of England this year.

Carol said...

I'm pretty sure poppies really prefer the hot, dry climate down south. Also, they like the ground disturbing but not sure how you arrange that without digging them up!

Have you tried the new solutions to hay fever? Where you paste a sort of vaseline-type stuff on the end of your nose and it traps pollen and allergens before they can get inside your nose and irritate you?

I pick bumblebees up a lot if I find them on pavements or the road and carry them to the nearest and tastiest-looking flowers. They just roam around happily on my hand - they can't sting you anyway so far as I'm aware as I think they die if they do?

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
Maybe it's because I'm a weather magician and have been a true and loyal friend of Persephone all my life... or it could just be I watch the BBC met office forecast the night before any trip and go to the place where the sun is on the map. Take your pick of which one you believe :o)
Wild red poppies grow happily in the fields on the Scottish east coast in Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen but are very rare up the west coast due to twice the rainfall. Wild yellow poppies however like the west side of the UK and I have dozens growing in my garden every year, self seeding. Seen them in the Lake District lanes recently as well.
Never tried any modern stuff for hay fever as it's mostly gone now I'm older.
Only honeybees die if they sting you, all the rest can happily sting you and fly off unharmed, including bumblebees, but luckily they are gentle creatures. Only the females sting in most bee species.
(I looked it up last year just to be on the safe side when I found the first hive. It's surprising how many urban myths are taken as gospel which is why I like watching QI and finding out everything we thought we knew about the world is wrong :o(

Neil said...

That new book sounds just what I'm looking for Bob. I'm not a great fan of hot and humid weather so I tend not to climb many of the bigger hills in the summer. Some walks nearer home will be just the job!

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Neil,
Basically, it's every walk or cycle ride on the OS Glasgow map that I know about. 90 percent of the routes are walks that can also be cycled or linked together by bike to create longer routes. I've enjoyed every one over the years many times and have them all dotted in on my own OS Landranger Glasgow map 64 so I only need to take that with me for 60 to 70 different walks or cycling ideas. I think it's great value for £1:99 if you live on this map and like walking or cycling. For someone very experienced like yourself even if there are only 15 walks on it you don't know about that still equates to 15 days out in a new area.

One point for potential buyers....Where I say "secluded in an urban area" on several lesser known walks in the book that is code for females or nervous males should think twice about doing this particular walk alone. Although it's not PC to say it I would feel responsible if I highlighted a remote walk in a built up area, ie docklands,that I thoroughly enjoyed myself alone but someone else walking there did it with the book and had a bad experience.
I wanted a comprehensive guide to every walk in Glasgow and surroundings I've enjoyed over the years but a few are wild and very secluded on the edge of towns and city landscapes although I've never had a problem on any route myself. A recent trend though I've noticed is for folk to walk along secluded paths with headphones in their ears which just strikes me as crazy as you are killing a vital sense if someone is coming up behind you. I also will avoid gangs, groups of noisy people or drunks on walks if I come across them, on the rare occasions this has happened. Common sense isn't included with the book, readers need to bring that themselves.

Carol said...

I've got loads of yellow poppies too (and orange) - I don't think they're fussy about any of their conditions.

Talking of honey bees, I've been disturbed all afternoon sleeping off nights. I kept hearing a constant buzzing. Every time I went out to the landing to look, there was a cluster of honey bees all sat on the net curtain trying to get out. I'd let them out and shut the window, go back to bed, just to hear the same noise a few minutes later. In the end, I found them in all the upstairs rooms in clusters. Turns out, they were looking for somewhere to nest and were going into my loft and then coming out of the hatch and trying to escape the house. I'm really hoping they've all b*ggered off by the morning as I'd like some sleep tomorrow!

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
Bees can be very determined if they find a place they like. Most of the houses I've been in have a loft hatch to keep bugs, spiders and other insects from entering the house. Might be an idea to fit one if possible and most have hooks and clips to lock them from downstairs as a security measure.

Carol said...

There is a loft hatch but it's a terrible fit and has gaps around it :-( The bees didn't like my palatial residence anyway and, by the time I got back from Scotland, the Lakes and climbing in the Dales last night, they'd all gone. Much as I like bees, I'm glad they've gone.