Wednesday 19 September 2012

Leadhills -Wanlockhead Circular Walk.

Alex has not been well for the last few months and the last time I was away with him was the Knoydart trip in May.He had some sort of mystery virus/stomach complaint that took time to clear up.The Leadhills -Wanlockhead circular walk seemed tailor made as an easy but interesting outing for him to get back on his feet again.Its only about five miles but you can extend this to a much longer twelve miles by taking in middle moor and the dempster road trail around Threehope height returning over the summit of East Mount Lowther.A classic and interesting day.
This is part of it looking towards Middle Moor and Threehope Height near the atmospheric and steeply winding trench of the Mennock Pass. We walked this two weeks ago now.Even for a family day out in summer these villages make a lovely and unique away day with a steam railway, an old mine to go down,a mineral museum and a heritage walk.Alex was still not up for a big day out so a walk  between the villages in bright sunshine was on the cards.
There is a scenic trail that runs from Leadhills where we parked ,travels through the village then takes a line from Laverock Hall  across the hills to Meadowfoot passing between Sowden Dod and Wanlock Dod.Alex being Alex of course he had to bag Wanlock Dod but didn't feel fit or confident enough to do Sowden Dod as well so early in the trip which he was gutted at. I swear even if that boy was being carried  in a full state funeral to the cemetery he wouldn't be happy unless his coffin went over the nearest Marilyn or Donald.
This is us approaching Meadowfoot.A kestrel had take up residence in the old mine workings here and a ten foot high stone tower doubled as its nesting cliff.Wanlockhead has an impressive preserved beam engine in the village which was used to pump water from the mines and would have been a very common sight all over Britain.The last time I was here years ago the museum,this heritage walk ,going down the mine and visiting the miners cottages made a great cheap day out with a very much , just show yourself around, home spun,kind of feel.This time I noticed a tour group were getting a full guided tour and the price had jumped accordingly with the guide holding the key to the locked miners cottages which were formally left open for visitors all day as far as I remember.That,s progress and the modern age I suppose.
Maybe that level of trust was also abused.It only takes one or two incidents to erode good will and freedom to show yourself around is usually the victim.
You can still stroll round both villages though on a network of trails for free and do your own thing visiting the many mining relics.
This is one of them.The man made Matterhorn of Wanlockhead.Not only lead but a range of other metals like gold, ,zinc ,and copper found its way to the surface from these mines.Life expectancy was somewhat low in those days as arsenic was common here too and took its toll not only on the miners who came into contact with it as a by-product of their work but on their womenfolk as well who unwittingly washed the families grubby clothes in the arsenic and lead laden streams.Ironically a local man is reputed to have lived to 137 years of age.
Nice view of Tinto from the summit of The Wanlockhead range of hills.Although we didn,t go into the museum Wanlockhead provided me at least with an unexpected bonus.The village had a second hand book sale on and I snaffled up four gems for a pound each.  Alex Garland,s The Beach. Alexander Mc Call Smith,s The number One Ladies Detective Agency. Joanne Harris's  Chocolat and Anne Rice,s  Queen of the Dammed.All familiar to me from film and television views but never the original printed source.A good haul for this lucky  modern miner.(of books.)
Although they must be fairly bleak,quiet, and remote in the winter time for the  permanant residents being over a thousand feet high and completely encircled  by the southern uplands(Some of the houses in both villages seem to be holiday homes or rented out as tourist accomodation) in the summer these high villages come alive with flowers and splashes of colour.
A nice and interesting walk to break Alex in again......And a great sunset come nightfall back at my own house a thousand feet below.
I,ve decided to start an additional little add on to the blog which will feature most weeks one of my favourite music videos which have inspired,,delighted or moved me over the years.Music is a very personal art form though and no two people will agree on what's good. I tend to like avant garde or visionary subject matter in my eye and ear candy as I like to think that I have an artisic bent. ( I always knew you were bent! Alex)Therefore the videos will usually provide a feast for the eyes as well just in case the music leaves you cold.
First up a stunning visual and aural portrait of the gap that has always existed between rich and poor since the dawn of time.
Dead can dance.The host of Seraphim.
If you want to imagine how hard  life must have been in these two mining villages in the past look no further than this.Better than most two hour films I,ve seen.I go to the four corners of the world ,sailing my computer like a magic carpet above the stars, just to bring you some of its treasures.

Enjoy.Get those hankies ready.

Monday 10 September 2012

Wilsontown. Auchengray.Tarbrax.Forth.The Sky Lands Bike Ride.

This is an area I've had my eye on for ages for a bike tour but until recently I'd not worked out a place to park. During the last couple of years I've enjoyed my trips to the highlands but they have always seemed busier and more crowded in summer than I remember them from my own Munro bagging days 20 years ago. I don't mind crowds but only in places where I expect to find them. When I go to a wild remote area that's exactly what I like to find. This place certainly fits the bill.There is hardly anything about it on the Internet. It sits at 1000 feet on a flat windswept plain in central Scotland and I've never explored here and know little of its history. It was a complete blank on the map for me that needed a visit. I loved this place as it still has a real frontier feel about it.
Wilsontown itself is the remains of a large Ironworks, the first in Lanarkshire. It ran from 1779 to 1842 and at its height employed around 2000 workers. This area was rich in Ironstone, limestone ,coal and shale  deposits. Workers dug  garden sized bell pits here by hand ,hundreds of them, to unearth huge lumps of ironstone which were then dragged to the nearby furnaces. Not much remains now above ground except for the ruins of the old pub, one of the few places in this still remote area where the workers could spend their hard earned cash. Few got rich and there were boom and bust cycles here where people starved between upturns. A bleak eerie place on a grim day but on a nice day there are several  circular walks around here several kilometres long, some sheltered in woodland. A lot of work has gone in to creating display boards and pathways.
More importantly for me it has a car park near the main gates. Space for around 8  to 10 cars in an area with few laybys or other parking spots unless you are a local resident. I could now explore the high plain surrounding it. This is Tinto by the way, seen from Wilsontown, near the ruined walls of the old inn.
As I set off I took this zoomed shot of  the hills around Broughton. I couldn't find sheet 72 Upper Clyde Valley until a week later so it's been harder to match the photos of hills to the terrain on the OS map afterwards. Normally I line them up when I visit. The thing that stood out on this trip as I peddled through Auchengray then Tarbrax was the sense of space and sky. Being so flat the sky dominates every view here. Luckily I picked a nice day with fluffy teddy bear clouds and my customary deep blue ceiling above me the entire trip. These zoomed hill pictures don't really give any impression of what this area is really like though .I just took them for some contrast.

This Gives you a far better idea of the surrounding landscape. I've always wanted to visit Tarbrax and I wasn't disappointed. Its an amazing place. The residents could claim the title "Kings and Queens of the Wild Frontier" no problem. The bing is even bike friendly with a red dirt track leading right to the summit. This is the waste left over from shale oil extraction and ,as I suspected ,a great viewpoint/playground and nature walk for the locals. Found this good video of a local high plains man strutting his stuff on a mountain bike up here. Good camera work.
This gives you a real look at the area. The same guy seems to be multi talented as his music is on here as well on a separate video. Worth a visit. Good songs.
This whole area reminded me of my holiday visiting my sister in  South Australia. It's very similar both in landscape and mining background. Oz mines are still highly productive though. Here's the story of Tabrax. It's very interesting with great vintage and up to date pictures of the place. It has a map and details of the 1920,s starvation march when the mine closed down.
I love going to places like this and finding out about them. They always surprise you with a rich back history.
The view looking east across the plain from Tarbrax bing. The Pentlands can just be seen in the distance. A real wilderness feel here. This  high ,almost empty, plain stretching between Glasgow and Edinburgh that so few visit is the true rooftop of Scotland for me and it feels it. 1000 feet up and a great cycle ride under a big, big sky, horizon to horizon.

Looking south from the bing.

View from the summit with bike. Great place for a lunch stop.

An extreme zoom of the Pentlands looking almost Cairngorm like. This is West Cairn Hill I think. A cracking wild day out in a part of the Pentlands fewer people visit. Alex's not been very well recently but hopefully he'll be up for that (hint, hint).We've already done East Cairn Hill in the depths of winter. What a day that was. Felt like the high arctic walking into it over a frozen crust of bog at minus 10 below. Posted it on here back in February 2010.
Next up was Forth. 3500 folk live here. Named either because it was the forth stop on the overland horse coach carrying the mail in the bad old days or from an ancient term meaning "The open air". As it sits on a broad ridge looking over an already high plain it fully deserves its title.
All through my bike ride I passed farms and houses with wind or view in the title. Mountainblaw, Fairwinds, Viewfeild. It certainly has both.
Pick a good day to visit.
A zoom of Forth with the wind turbines at Climpy looking like they are installed along the main street.
You see some strange sights out this way though. There is a network of minor yellow roads all over this district so you can work out your own route from the map, short or long.

A field of wicked sheep. Hebridean variety. Wouldn't like to be charged by one of these wee beasts.
Meet the Flintstones. A  very colourful garden that's also wind resistant. Really enjoyed this cycle ride. New area on a great day. Feels like Summer is here at last!

Monday 3 September 2012

Edinburgh.Part Two.The Cityscape..


As this is mainly a collection of photographs they dont need much Introduction. They speak for themselves.I,ve tried to capture what I think is the essence of Edinburgh in these pictures. Hopefully I,ve  managed to find some  new views of Edinburgh from different perspectives that even citizens of this fine city may find surprising or unusual..
The Old Vertical City.Coming  across from Glasgow what gets you in Edinburgh is the height of the older Tenements.This is the Canongate.
Standing Below North Bridge.
North Bridge And Arthur,s Seat. Sorry. Couldn,t resist the Classic viewpoint.

Salisbury Crags From the City.

Botanic Gardens.

Person Handing out flyers. I was one of the few visitors to the city  that  day who wasn,t there to see the fringe.
Looking Towards The Castle Entrance.A Tourist hot spot.

 Taken Further down the royal mile.
The Mound .
Off the Royal Mile and the High Street there are numerous steep stairways.This is one.They usually have names.I thought it would be fun for my 3000 foot (914 metre) total to go up and down every one ...Snakes and Ladders style.
The Scott Monument from below.I climbed this as well for the view.A spiral stair treat.
You get to play sardines here with other tourists.
The same monument from St David Street.

One of Calton hill and tourists on Arthur,s seat.
Calton Hill From North Bridge. You can tell its not Glasgow. This guy would have a traffic cone instead of a seagull if it was.
Balmoral Hotel Clock And Calton Hill.

Cockburn Street.

The Scottish Parliament Building.Fun for dogs.
A view of West End and its spires.
Did I manage to climb 3000 feet in a city.Yup! According to my  pocket altimeter it was 3170 feet after three runs up and down Jacob,s ladder at the end.A long tiring day but I enjoyed it.Only nine miles of foot slog but more hills and stairs than I care to remember.A great city to get fit in.