Sunday 30 August 2009

Eildon Hills.

Pretty much dry everywhere today but not a lot of blue sky and sunshine around alas.July and August seem to be a helluva time of year as the weather is always unsettled.There was a promise of some short lived sunshine to the south east however and as there are no big hills in that immediate area another easy stretch of the legs was in prospect for the elder of the two blue sky boys :)

Along the M8 ,on to the Edinburgh bypass,the best thing since sliced bread in our opinion,and down south along the A7 to Melrose.They start them young as far as rugby is concerned in these
parts.Rugby training was in progress near the car park and I`d guess the participants were all aged about 2 to 3.I kid you not..!

Took a while to find the route out of Melrose and up to the Eildon hills but following our noses as usual paid results.If you head uphill from the central piazza on the B6359 then keep an eye out for a small sign 10 feet up a house wall.The path starts down the alley at the side of it.It`s pretty unlikely looking at first but it is the correct access route.

Turn right at the telephone box....

A couple of hundred metres of steep duckboards and you soon break clear of the trees and on to a broad grassy path all the way to the summit.Very popular wee hill walk this one.

It was indeed sunny t-shirt weather and Bob was elated."Just think of how miserable Scott and the others are up in Suardalan" he chortled.I sniggered in agreement and that was without knowing that Jools had forgotten to take his goretex jacket with him :)

The path leads up to the col between the two summits...

Small hills as I say and we were soon on the summit beside the trig point.

A bit of a wind was blowing and we could see the greyness heading towards us from the east.We thought to ourselves that it would make sense to pay a quick visit to the other top before the cloud hit us and then head down to Newstead and walk back along the River Tweed.

Looking back to Mid Eildon.St.Cuthbert`s Way crosses over the col in front of me..

We passed 10 minutes or so at the next top with a guy from West Bromwich who had the misfortune to have picked the previous fortnight for a hillwalking holiday in Scotland.I think there may have been the odd dry day....

Descending North Eildon ..

We debated whether we could beat the weather and have a quick flog up the shapely wee hill opposite,Black Hill on the other side of the A68, but opted for the lazy option and left it for another time.

Bob inspects a pear tree in Newstead,tantalisingly just out of reach.....

Not a lot happens in Newstead.....

We hit the banks of the Tweed...

As well as being the worst months for settled weather it`s also the worst for birdlife.Everything has flown the coop and and the activity of the previous few months has subsided.Two grey wagtails and a couple of mallards was the sum total for an hours walk along the river.Same at my house too,most of the house martins and the swallows have buggered off already with just the odd straggler left.Come to think of it I didn`t see any at all today...

We walked along the top of the wall for a quarter of a mile....

....which led us back into Melrose which by this time was packed with tourists around the abbey....

The rain had now started but it didn`t seem to stop this old worthy going for her carry oot in the Ship Inn....

Bob disappeared into the National Trust shop for a few minutes and came back out with a few leaflets for future cycling trips :-)

Eildon Hills from back at the car park...

Pic of Jools sans goretex on the hills above Suardalan.He`d also forgotten his sigg bottle but improvised by recycling a wine bottle....pic courtesy of Scott

Not the best day I`ve had out this year but quite pleasant nevertheless.Got a bit of sunshine and stayed dry and that`s what it`s all about until the year is up :)

Saturday 22 August 2009

Bengairn and Balcary Point.

Maybe we should rename this blog Blue Sky Galloway as that`s where we headed once again on Saturday on the advice of the weather man.Once again it paid off.There was a little drizzle on the way down the M74 but once we neared Dumfries it gave way to brighter weather.We were headed to a hill we had seen a few months ago,Bengairn,between Dalbeattie and Auchencairn.It`s nearby neighbour,Screel Hill,is probably the better known one but as Bengairn is the Marilyn that was todays prize.

We turned off the road just before Auchencairn and took the single track road up towards Bengairn Loch where there is room for two three cars to park at the start of the path at NX 790 523.Might be an idea to tuck your car in tight to the wall as a huge agricultural truck came flying down the narrow road at high speed obviously not expecting anyone else to be on it.

We`d opted for the shorter hill day avoiding Screel Hill to give us some time to go along the coastal walk out to Balcary Point in the afternoon.If you fancy doing both then there is a fairly detailed description at this site below...

Start of the track to Bengairn....

The first half mile took a long time as the place was absolutely swarming with dragonflies and butterflies.In fact,this was how the day progressed.I took 186 pictures and Bob beat that hands down.

Something caught our eye in the trees above and it was a goshawk.We watched it jinking throught the trees and out over to the field beyond for a late breakfast.All this in the first few hundred yard as well :)

We did eventually get a bit of a move on and arrived at the ruined buildings marked Foresthill on the map.What a view the inhabitants must have had,out over Auchencairn Bay and Rough Firth and on to Rockcliffe.

The path deterorates a bit from here for the next 400 yards or so,pretty boggy and indistinct.It soon reaches steeper ground though and we stopped a few times to take in the views.The heather covered the entire hillside which means winter ain`t that far away..!

In no time at all we were at the top having been accompanied for the last few hundred feet by a plague of irksome stupid flies.Thank god they weren`t clegs.We lounged around the summit for half an hour or so taking in the views.The Merrick and other Galloway hills were visible to the north west,Queensberry down to Criffel,over the Solway to the Lakes and out to St.Bees Head.

Bob with the Galloway hills behind him...

No views of the Isle of Man today due to the heat haze.Don`t suppose we should complain about that living in Scotland :)

Myself with the Solway and Hestan Island beyond....

A quick cuddle for the trig point (from me anyway ) and we were off downhill with non stop views over to Rockcliffe and Hestan Island.This looks an interesting wee island with a good collection of caves and rock formations and we think we`ll go back down sometime soon for a visit.I think you can walk out to it over the shingle bank for 90 minutes either side of low tide.

Back at the car we had a short hop down the road to the car park at Balcary Bay which was quite busy.Fortunately most of them semed to be at the beach as we turned through the gate and headed across the field towards the cliffs.

Everybody else at the beach.Tiny beach at high tide but huge at low tide..!

This is a good path which,after crossing two fields, weaves through a tunnel of rhodedendrons which must be spectacular in May.After half an hour or so we hit the cliffs at Balcary Point.

View over to Hestan Island from the point..

The path continues can just see the Robin Rigg wind farm in the distance out on the Solway.

I was a bit surprised at the size of them.We`d done a lot of rock climbing on the Galloway sea clifs in days gone by and I would have thought I whould have heard of these ones from someone even though they are too loose to have any real potential for climbing.

An old scanned slide of myself climbing at Meikle Ross....

There was a wee sea stack in one bay that could give a bit of fun for an hour or two.

This was a cracking coastal walk and one we would go back to again,maybe in winter when there is some serious wave action.Bob shouted out to me at one point that he had found two adders but by the time I got up there they had disappeared down a hole by a fence post thus depriving him of the chance to demonstrate his snake handling skills which he perfected in the Australian outback.He had gone out to South Australia when he was young and plied his trade as an electrician.After a couple of weeks on the job his boss gave him a booklet and told him to bone up on it.The booklet illustrated all the snakes,spiders and other things that he was likely to encounter under floors and which ones were liable to kill you or put you in hospital.Makes the rain and midges not so much of an ordeal,eh ?

View along the sea cliifs....

We met a few other folk and passed a few pleasantries with a couple from Kirkcaldy and their daughter from Dumfries who were occupying a finely situated bench.
As luck would have it ( hur,hur as if I didn`t know) there was another trig point atop a nearby hill by the name of Big Airds Hill.This proved an excellent wee viewpoint and we stopped here for lunch and a bit of sunbathing. Time was drawing on and the promised cloudy weather was coming in from the west so we headed back to the car.Took a shortcut through a signposted field to the west of Balcary Hill passing a rather large bull.Fortunately he was more interested in trying to chat up a rather attractive looking cow by gently nuzzling her neck.Life is so much simpler for these guys.They don`t have to remember birthdays,buy expensive Xmas presents or take cows out for a meal.A quick nuzzle on the neck and Bob`s your uncle. :)

The farmer was out harvesting his hay which proved to be a stroke of luck for us.We were forced to keep to the wall where Bob spotted this common lizard sunbathing on a rock...

We stopped off in Auchencairn for a look at the war memorial and the Millenium Memorial garden where we spent half an hour taking shots of the butterflies .

A close up of the Red Admiral phizog....

Quick stop in Tesco at Heathall for a couple of cans of Red Bull for Bob to keep him awake on the way home to Glasgow and that was another sunny weekend trip in the bag :)

Couple of pics to sign off with...

A Wall butterfly....

Red Admiral......

Ruddy Darter we think....

Bob`s dung beetle...

The Merrick in the distance with the heather in full bloom...

Balcary cliff walk...

Sunday 16 August 2009

Belhaven Bay.East of Eden.

Alex had family commitments,or maybe he just didnt fancy walking into the howling gale
raging outside.Maybe he thought it would rain!
So. Me solo,but this is a good un today!
Watched weather.BBC girl promised sun by 10:00am out past Edinburgh way.I,ve always believed what girls tell me so off I headed to the lands east of eden with trusting heart in the rusting but faithful sunmobile.As a starting point I parked at Belhaven Bay.(See dots on map.)
This is my favourite beach in Scotland as good as anything in the far north.I,ve seen huge rollers here during storms that you could hear crashing on the sands over a mile away.Today it was very windy,close to a full on gale but the tide was going out so no big waves.It was perfect though for my brand new sport of sand cycling.Never seen anyone else doing this on my travels.I discovered this almost by accident a few years ago and was immediately hooked.Such great fun.Skimming along close to the waves on the hard packed sand with the retreating sea giving me bags of room to jump across dips and puddles.On a good beach like this one its as fast as racing on smooth tarmac.You can cover miles in a very short space of time.Today with the constant wind it was even more exciting as I had to lean into it at a tight angle to stay in the saddle.
I quickly cycled out to the Tyne mouth where that deep river pours into the sea.This area has some serious quicksand close to the riverbanks so I kept my distance this time.(who says an old dog cant learn!) Although windy it was sunny and just right.Not too cold or hot .I was able to spend the whole day in my ten year old vintage tee shirt.(its a legend kids! Heh oldies,(over 40) ever noticed how anything thats over ten years old is a legend nowadays to the young!)And it can act better than most hollywood actresses given a stiff wind.No more botox or tattoos please girls!They cant replace emotions. Not yet anyway.
The great thing about this beach,being vast, is that it rarely feels crowded yet there is always something interesting going on.Surfers,Beachcasters(big rod fishermen) Stunt kite fliers,model gliders.Today it was horseriders
and sand yachts.
It was while watching the horse riders that I picked my next target.Doon hill with what looked like a handy ramp line leading up left to the summit.
Note the dotted line. As I knew it was fun along the cliffs on a day like this I headed for the bridge that would lead me round the coastline clifftop path to Dunbar
Where I could follow minor yellow roads(os map 67) to Doon(running across the busy A1 with bike).As I,d done some cycling here before my intention was to go onto the even more minor white roads on the map.A real adventure as you never quite know what your getting with these.Anything from a good landrover track to a knee deep boulder laden muddy ditch.From a distance it looked as if it would be no trouble to find this easy ramp line but once I was underneath it this proved difficult as several abortive thrashings in near jungle testified.
Undaunted I decided to head along the bottom track instead towards more open but steeper ground up to the summit.At this point Alex would have said "No way Bob ,are you****** crazy!" but left to my own devices I discover things like sand cycling.He,s far too sensible and would probably say it would damage the bike.Ha!
Being a nutter of long standing I lashed the bike onto my back using elastic cords(which I carry for just such an occasion) and proceeded straight up the hill.It wasnt too bad,the rucksack weighed far more than the bike.Imagine carrying that lot up a 19 story block of flats and you get the picture.New york firemen do a lot more than that some days.No big deal really.I have a much harder time at work.
As everyone knows the secret is to go slow and steady.Unfortunately all the clegs in christendom lay in wait out the wind in the waist high bracken ahead.I made excellent time therefore spurred on by these flying******** piranha.Nature being fair I hope something equally nasty, big and vicious chows mightly down on their wee bodies and balls with equal vigor during the long hot summer nights!
On the top of Doon hill stood a trig.And on that trig stood me.Just thought youd like to see what you missed Alex, you not being up one for a while.Ha ha.
The surprise was not the view but a long lost settlement which was wrongly down on the map as a castle.Wandered over to this and studied the info board but you,ll have to go there yourself to see what it said.From here I walked bike over fields and fences to the next white road leading round Pinkerton hill to the house known as the Brunt.I was really enjoying this and it was about to get better.What a wonderous section this is.I could have cycled this but it just felt right to walk. It was not really a bike route as such and I didnt want to antagonise the local farmer shooting nearby.
I was glad I did this as I hit a 3 kilometer lucky streak where all the things that normally run away stayed put right up to within touching distance in some cases.
First it was a score of painted lady butterflies, exhausted, resting on the path out the wind.I could have touched these but didnt.If I was knackered I wouldnt fancy anyone taking a poke at my ribs.They have a hard enough life.Poor little buggers.
The wind at this point was so strong it was tearing small branches off the trees and I got hit on the head with a detached clump of spiky horse chestnuts which was pretty sore!
The sheep were acting out of character too coming up really close with intent stares as I passed then following on behind like a collective pet pooch.Weird stuff.
Next what I think were young partridge proceeded to come out the hedge and walk in two unhurried lines just in front of the bike.It was spooky.I felt like the pied piper!
In all my hill days I,ve never had a run like this.
Swallows came next ,dozens of them sheltering in a dip,taking turns to play on a gate like trained budgies in a show.They too let me get really close before they flew off.
The spell was broken when I opened said gate leading down to beautiful wild country and eventually the next yellow road where I finally returned to the saddle.
Soon great rollercoaster downhills followed past the village of Spott then Little Spott with another gem of the varied and interesting history of the area uncovered.

I arrived back at the car around 6.30 pm hardly out of breath.Not a lot of miles covered but a nice breezy adventure in the always entertaining lands east of Eden.Scotlands very own riviera.
A very special day that will live long in the memory.Roll on harvest time in this my cherished golden realm.Wheat, barley,poppies and sunflowers in the fields.Squash,pumpkins, christmas turkeys( over in fife. yes folks... polytunnel turkeys! Free range!Its only humans that are stupid enough to want to stay out of doors when its pouring with rain. Given a choice us sensible birds know better!) and watermelons bursting out from the polytunnels.Its real lush hereabouts. Another world from the damp drab west coast
Bring it on.I can hardly wait.