Monday, 25 June 2012

Balloch Country Park.Route 7 And Beyond.

As the usual summer weather remained unpredictable (only about one in four Scottish summers are anywhere close to dry) I decided on another bike run at the weekend.It was another humid, sticky day with rainstorms predicted over the mountains.
When you go cycling on a  regular basis walking in weather like this can sometimes feel like wading through treacle at times.Its so slow.With cycling you always get a breeze and the distance you can cover is far greater.Though sadly not as great a distance as I used to manage on a bike.I,ve decided I,m in  training anyway for a longer run across the Islands.Its good motivation to get fit again.
Parked in the large car park at Balloch Country Park.For anyone who has never been here this is a fine area for walking and cycling.Both in the park itself,which has a network of routes suitable for both and in the hinterland to the east which is perfect, quiet cycling country with a collection of different minor roads to glide along.I was planning on doing a part of route 7, then ,as I,d unwittingly done the section from Drymen to  Gartmore on a previous run last year I,d cut off this and find my own way over some interesting land skirting the edge of the highland boundary fault.I prefer making my own routes up anyway.Its usually more fun that way.The first stretch of the West Highland Way cuts across this heading north and in my opinion its one of the most beautiful parts of that entire route but as you all should now by now these days I prefer my landscapes lush and tree filled rather than bleak,exposed and barren especially on a day when the heavens could open at any minute.Obviously I still like sharp ,exciting peaks but you can keep all your round boring ones.No thanks. You never know whats in front of you. I may be dead soon or the legs will go suddenly so I,haven,t got time for any of that nonsense anymore.It would kill me if I wasted my last days on earth climbing up boring lumps of terra firma :)
As it rises from the shores of Loch Lomond then climbs up over a gentle hill Balloch Country Park has fine views over the loch,surrounding hills and numerous great houses and castles.The sea plane was sitting beside one of these when I arrived, no doubt waiting to lift rich punters over the highlands.Loch lomond Shores is nearby too if you have kids and want them to tear a big hole in your wallet.If you have bikes route 7 is ideal for medium sized family bread biters as it keeps to minor roads with little traffic.It also travels through gently rolling countryside with no major hill climbs.
For those on foot a three or four  hour round trip walk from the car park takes you past the fairy glen outside the park limits and up Whinney hill near the quaintly named Knockout.This is  an interesting and twisting route up a path beside a little gorge then through mixed forest.
Fellow cyclist on route 7 heading for the country park My route.OS Sheet 56 Loch Lomond and OS sheet 57 Stirling and the Trossachs.
From the park on minor roads out past Blairquhanan following route 7 to just before Croftamie village where a signed footpath/cycletrack leaves the road and leads through the village and across the Endrick Water.The Endrick is a lovely river ,full of graceful loops,sandy beaches but waist or head deep for much of its lenght (Don,t ask me how I know).Luckily a bridge has been built across  it here on this path/cycleway.

Its better walking across here as the metal might be sharp on some road tyres.The path is pretty good though and you can stay in the saddle for that.

Gives you a chance to look around  as well.The Endrick is a beautiful River but not many know its banks well as most of it flows through private land or nature reserve.
From here back onto the minor road though the hamlet of Gartness with its famous salmon leap pot rapids (also on the Endrick) then out via the villages of Killearn  and Balfron by the Camoquhill Douglas minor road.
Both Balfron and Killearn sit fairly high up on ridge lines with the great continuous steep wall of Stronend and Carleatheran behind, well seen in this photograph.Two of my favourite hills.

Most folk in cars bomb through this area heading further north.......Good. Keeps it empty and peaceful that way.
Next up was Dalfoil then the B818 and the B834. The reason for this was I was curious to see if I could cut across the White road up over Cameron Muir.White roads are always an adventure.Its not the first time I,ve had to backtrack miles after being unable to carry on due to either landowners catching me in the act and turning me back, locked gates and fences too high to lift the bike over or rivers without bridges that were too deep to cross.Always an adventure!
This one was fine though,one of the best and most straightforward I,ve done in the last few years,climbing up over the shoulder of the Stockie Muir on a ribbon of half decent tarmac then  easy grass to Wester Cameron farm.Although it had three locked gates on it the bike was lifted over easily enough and the fact that each  had a small walkers entrance in it proved to me it was a known local walk.
I could see why.It was an excellent balcony trail with extensive panoramas over the whole area,As I climbed higher bog cotton, Curlews and skylarks made it magical.I even spotted a yellowhammer or scribble lark as it used to be called in my youth  due to the  ink like wavy markings on its eggs How can nature be so perfect?.Ever wonder where the idea of an ink nib or a ball point pen came from.Most of our best ideas came directly from nature (like flying in planes) yet today we wipe it out without a backward glance. Both yellowhammers and Linnets were very common birds around Glasgow in my youth.I even used to hear corncrakes in the small boggy area near the old fire station where a flooded quarry was.Not so common now though. R.I.P the yellow bunting.
There were a few surprises up here.A great house I had no knowledge of previously hiding among the trees.The cliffs of Earls Seat as a backdrop.Looking west the chain of the Luss hills,the Arrochar Alps.Ben Lomond and little Duncryne,Known as the Dumpling to the locals, made an appearance.The Dumpling is a great little view point and the late Tom Weir who lived below it would go up it regularly for the panorama of Highlands to the North and Campsie ,Fintry and Kilpatrick views to the south and east.For its height its a stunning lookout.Easy path up from Gartocharn.
At the highest, most exposed point on the white road around 123 metres it started to spit with rain  and it was so overcast and dull over the mountains I thought a thunderstorm was inevitable but after 30 minutes a  very weak sun came out again and stayed out for the rest of the trip though the peaks remained dull and seemingly on the edge of a  major downpour all day.
When I reached Gallangad the road was out,completely washed away by a previous flash flood by the looks of it,just a deep ravine of soft crumbling earth where tarmac once stood.Luckily for the stranded community and me another short white road was nearby, leading through Gallangad farm and this was obviously what the locals were using in the meantime as "take care,children playing" signs were up in the courtyard.I kept an ear open for farm dogs, always a concern passing through someones property like this.
The rest of the journey, following signs down to Jamestown, a suburb of Balloch proved less eventful and I was soon back  at the car.
A good run and some more quality scenery and exercise. I don't do diets.I,ll eat anything brave enough to land,crawl,swim , hop  or plop onto my plate so its always good to get a decent workout.
Yeah! Punish that flabby beach ball of a gut up and down  them gradients.Unfortunately once I got back to the house I was starving and stuffed my face again til the buttons popped.
But it must do you some good.That's what I tell myself anyway.Another  great day out.Off now to sofa surf and watch the last two Game Of Thrones with a monster bag of crisps and a coke.
That,s a very good  well made series but an indicator of a  TV company trying to capture a dwindling market which sees the Internet and its porn as the  main competition in the battle for ratings which is wrong.Like it or not porn drives the world now.It would be even better with less sex scenes in it.But even that too  owes a big  debt to George MacDonald. 7 kingdoms! Wonder where they got that idea from?
For anyone interested in a time when new ideas were the substance that mattered  most to teenagers.A time before Tattoos, gimp masks and tounge studs for children, I,ve put a link up on Greenhill part one.
I could and will explore this network of links for the years left to me.There is so much in here to a time mostly forgotton and 100,s of  dusty books to read by clicking Lilith.
Nearly every great  idea in the present has its acorn buried in the past.Its as well to remember that boys and girls  before you wipe it out.


The Glebe Blog said...

Hi Bob, looks like the weather was kind to you.
I've been to Balloch Country Park.
Only spent an hour there though. That was back in the 90's when I was still exiled 'doon sooth'.
I remember Green Linnties were quite common as I grew up in Fife. The week we were in the Dales, I was surprised at how the bird population down there outnumbered ours here in Galloway by great numbers. Why is that?
Talking about settling on the sofa with food, I'm just about to have my first slice of Swiss Roll in about ten years.

blueskyscotland said...

That,s a Chris Packham question Jim:)
Might be because its a prime location being a few degrees warmer and drier in summer. More bugs and insects means more birds.Might be better habitat and more places to nest.less predation.Scotland these days does tend to get bad weather most summers which kills the caterpillers here baby birds need to grow.Scotland,s mountains have very little wildlife in them compared to the lowlands.Not enough shelter up there for most animals.
I,ve not had a swiss roll for ages either.

Neil said...

That looks like a great route Bob. I've done parts of it but not it all. You've whetted my appetite to have another look at that area. Looks like summer has arrived; ah well, can't let our southern neighbours have all the rain I suppose!

blueskyscotland said...

Hi Neil.
Its a great Run.Took me five hours of easy touring only stopping for photographs.The white road section was the highlight for me but the whole run is worth while
and interesting. Good to do on a day when the mountains look like rain could arrive.

Anonymous said...

Nice trip again Bob and love the info you supply! have done this area in 'bits and pieces' and know it reasonably well but when compared to yourself I aint nothing but an amateur!! Glad to see you are enjoying the soggy summer!


blueskyscotland said...

Cheers Hunter.
I,m dropping the posts down to a couple a month from now on as I,m busy with another project that,s
taking up a lot of my time.Its under wraps at the moment.