Sunday, 21 February 2016

Hudderstone,626 metres, Snowgill Hill,573 metres. Southern Uplands Magic.

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Sometimes all the elements in nature combine to create a perfect day out. As the forecast was for blue skies and sunny conditions over the Southern Uplands, a rare window of opportunity in an otherwise grim winter of endless storms and rain, Alex decided it was time to bag Hudderstone. This is a remote grassy summit in the empty quarter south of Biggar, and a Donald, which looks across at the slightly higher peaks of Culter Fell, 748 metres and Gathersnow Hill, 688 metres. I had another early start to cross Glasgow then we motored down to park on the minor road where there is a tiny lay-by near Windgill. (OS Landranger Map 72 Upper Clyde Valley.
On the journey down blankets of swirling mist created a magical effect on what is an already beautiful landscape of flowing green meadows and deep valleys. The Upper Clyde Valley map is one of my favourite areas and we have both grown to love it over the years. It's so quiet, scenic and peaceful down here and away from the major summits of Tinto, Broad Law and Dollar Law you hardly see a soul. This region (the Southern Uplands) is less populated than the Scottish Highlands and it has spoiled us for repeating the Munros as we both find them too popular now compared to our own memories 20 to 30 years ago. Although I sometimes moan about not enough jaggy summits in my hill-walking menu the last few years, when we do go up occasional Munro's these days the paths always seem more eroded, slightly distracting and much more crowded than before. On a good sunny day the greater ranges are always swarming at weekends and you are lucky to find a parking spot anywhere if you arrive too late in popular locations. Funnily enough, we don't mind the Lake District crowds as it's such a special area.
Could be the back of beyond anywhere here. There's a changeling country round every new bend in the road all over the UK, which makes it so special for its size. A kaleidoscope nation.
By the time we set off the sun had made an appearance and it was a crisp and sparkling winter's day. I love days like this more than anything and seek them out with the same passion as any obsessive collector. This was a few weeks ago now before the snow arrived. Hard to give conditions like this up as the lower hills enjoy better weather more often.
We managed to find a grassy track (marked on map) leading past Cowgill Rig then left that higher up to strike out for the distant summit.
This is it marked in the distance... or thereabouts. As we climbed higher fantastic panoramas opened up  over the region and one thing you feel on these summits are massive skies above you horizon to horizon.
Big Sky Country, an atmosphere I tried to capture in my Borders chapter in the first book.
Looking out over empty summits free of other hill-walkers. In wild conditions however these "teddy bear hills" can turn very nasty as little shelter exists from the elements until you reach the valleys again. Come to think of it many of the higher valleys have little natural shelter :o)
We were sad to see yet another area under wind turbines just south of here between Rome Hill and Gathersnow Hill and from the amount of activity it looked as though more were being added with new roads slicing into this sizable upland valley. While I'm not against wind-farms in principle so much of Scotland's unique scenery is under threat or damaged already by large scale wind farm development and now they are starting to intrude on really scenic areas like this.
A view from the summit looking towards Dollar Law under a dusting of fresh overnight snow.
We descended via the 16th century ruins of Windgate House in a remote but sheltered high gill ( a term for a hill valley, also used in England) then dropped down to pick up a sheep trail above the Cowgill Upper Reservoir, seen here....
Then the Cowgill Lower Reservoir. This was a lovely stretch and Cowgill Lower is a really special spot in good weather.
At this point one of the residents down here was debating if it fancied having a go at us or not and for a few moments, as it trotted towards us, looking intent on fending off the intruders, we eyed the nearest fence just in case we had to vault over it, suddenly. A bold approach and showing no fear however made it change its mind and we passed unmolested.
Tree creeper looking for spiders and other small insects hiding under or on the bark. Great little birds but very jerky and swift moving for photographs as they rarely stay still, constantly jumping from tree to tree like a tiny brown monkey.
A large thrush in this Shangri-La of valleys.
Sheep Country.
More mist rolling over the hills.
A great day out and worth the early start.

Video this week is to make folk aware of a smashing series that I've watched from the start. "Great Canal Journeys" explores Britain's waterways by canal boat and is just a delightful gentle series combining travel, history, wildlife and interesting places. Presented by lifelong canal narrowboaters Timothy West and Prunella Scales ( well known UK actors) it follows them on their adventures. I'm not interested in travelling the canals by boat myself ( too slow for me  plus boat hire costs) but I've had loads of great cycling  trips on the canal network throughout Scotland's Central Belt and always enjoy the experience. Canals are interesting to explore and you only need to watch the first 10 minutes of this video to see that. A canal journey through modern day Birmingham then the English countryside that is a real treat. Most are scenic rural affairs but the one shown this week through the heart of London was also amazing and a real highlight.Some of the trips are available on You Tube and the current series is running on UK TV. Well worth a watch.


Carol said...

Looks lovely countryside on a rare lovely day. I'm usually working when it's weather like that - generally sleeping off nights which is doubly annoying as the sun is then irritating.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Carol,
Just lucky with the conditions as it's been fairly rubbish for weeks before a few sunny days. The other reason we don't do many Munros is that they are hard work and we are past it now. Haven't a clue how some old folk run marathons and jog over mountains as one hill a week is enough for my knees now.

Linda W. said...

Oh such wonderful scenery! I'm glad you had a sunny day to enjoy it.

Neil said...

That looks a braw area Bob. I haven't deliberately climbed any Donalds other than those that are Grahams and sub-2k's or have been traversed on my way to the latter. There's not enough time in this life to tackle all the lists!

blueskyscotland said...

Hello Linda,
Yes, it was a cracking day and choice of hill.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Neil,
A very enjoyable outing in good weather thanks to Alex as it's not one I would have thought of myself. He seems to be closing in on his last Donalds and Corbetts at the same time with the Marilyns too numerous and widespread to finish. Some folk are even running around the country collecting Fundamental Benchmarks and Rivets, whatever they are.
It must be something deep inside humans that makes them collect things as almost everyone has a list of some description they are working through.... Stamps, books,films,paintings,shoes,hills,pubs,new roads,countries...
I noticed recently on the OS Landranger Glasgow map I only have around 50 km squares left that I haven't been on yet and a part of me thought it would be nice to say I've crossed them all on bike or foot but when I looked at where they were( pine forest or wind farms mainly) the notion soon passed :o)

Lux G. said...

There are really days when it's perfect to go out and explore nature. Such as this day captured in your photo. Picture perfect scenery.

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Lux G,
Thank you. Yes,it's magical days like that I live for and make life special. Hope you are getting out and about as well.
Best wishes.

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