Sunday 28 October 2012

Garelet Hill.Lairds Cleuch Rig.Erie Hill.Garelet Dod.

Where the hell are they you might ask? I certainly did when told of Alex's cunning Plan to do some hills down in the borders.All four lie in the scenic valley containing the Talla Reservoir and the Megget Water.This is a popular circular 52 mile bike route on minor roads from Peebles and takes in the building above ,Victoria Lodge ,which is up for sale at the moment.Terrific period structure not far from the A701.
Biggar is probably the nearest town of any size or Broughton, which is smaller.
A cracking sunny day of light winds saw four of us set off.Myself,Alex,John and Ron.We have enough folk out on the hill today to form a club and after much head scratching I thought of a perfect title for it.

The 'Baldy Nappers' I shall call them.Just like Hitler,a small ,unfit ,dark haired man surrounded himself with tall blond athletic types I seem to be slowly gathering together a group of grey haired, half bald men of smart appearance and smarter intellect to make my own unfit ,dark haired, dim witted tramp look all the more impressive.As we strode up the first hill, Garelet Hill, we made a fine sight for the few curious natives tending their square sided sheep.This might catch on I thought to myself.In the near future I could see me leading a  large army of  grey haired, half bald pensioners across the hill ranges like Hannibal led his elephants,until we marched on London itself to string David Cameron from a lofty tower of zimmer frames by his balls,feeding his 'Lets go teach the poor and sick a lesson every time we get in' mission statement he inherited from Thatcher up his rectum.
Fine walking over a nice range of hills.No doubt they are Marilyns or Mabels, or Grahams or Grumbles or something of that ilk.Life's too short to look them up.Those who care about such things will know and treasure them.
To train them up for storming those sordid houses of injustice I let them continue over to the summit of Garelet Dod while I sat in the sun below barking drill orders and marching formations. Why use grey haired men and hills? Surprise attack. From a distance an army of thousands cunningly bent at an angle in grey suits will just look like a harmless fluffy mist approaching.Then ,full frontal ,the sunlight will radiate off  all those super smooth bald domes blinding the enemy until its too late for counter measures. Sneaky eh?

Talla Reservoir.
If they rumble us too soon we can just claim its the latest Atos test to get disabled folk crawling over mountain summits to prove they are flexible enough for full time employment.
Anyway.Halfway down this glen we discovered a bothy.A very nice one though it didn't have a fire in it.

Had a wee rest here.

It was a day for reflections.Looking down Talla Reservoir.

And windfarms.Loads around here.A view of Scotland ...coming to a hillside near you soon no doubt.
And a great sunset to end the last post of autumn.

Turned out to be one of the best this year in fact.
Todays Video is a catchy little number by Lykke Li. She's a Swedish Girl who grew up on a mountain top in Portugal. She's already collected several Best International newcomer awards for her music and also seems to be ahead of me in the training of pensioners with her school already well established.Cameron....We're coming to get ya!

Monday 22 October 2012

The Urban Jungle.Glasgow In October.

Everyone is inspired by different things.Some are inspired by the idea of wilderness with no sign of  any human habitation in sight.A building in the landscape is a distraction.Others by black and white photography.One of my friends who takes beautiful pictures prefers to use this medium  for most of his output.I like to see in colour and I try to find the wonder in everyday surroundings.For me some of my inspiration comes from a fusion of both wild and urban and I like the idea of the creeping Jungle,that nature is just waiting in the wings to reclaim any city given the chance.Hopefully this set of photographs will highlight this.
The autumn colours this year have been really vivid.One of the best displays I can remember,despite a lack of  certain nuts and fruits for the wildlife that depend on them.Horse chestnuts are so scarce this year that they had to send down a request to England for supplies to hold the annual conker tournament at Peebles.
This is a grey guarding his precious cargo from intruders.Some of the best autumnal colours take place in country estates and city parks as the trees have been hand picked from all over the globe for their colour and variety.People have risked their life's daily, striving after a pure vision,sweating through swamps,over mountain ranges and valleys worldwide to collect the treasures we often take for granted around us in every city park. That concept of what nature should look like,how it could be improved.Hi rise flats fit in very well with this outlook.Man made mountains, as impressive in their own way as any ruined temple sticking out the jungle.
Living in them has its compensations.This is the view of the Campsies from only four floors up.Imagine what the view is like on the 19th floor.Imagine the sunrise,sunsets and the mist inversions.
A view of the Kilpatrick Hills from the same flat.I still  remember the first time I looked through a Kaleidoscope and I knew with certainty then that the world could look like that sometimes.You just had to find it.
All it would take is one little nudge to tip the balance and the age of the strimmer,the lawnmower and tarmac would be over within a generation and the kaleidoscope would shift into a new pattern.
A row of shops that have burnt to the ground in a couple of unguarded hours during the night.Nothing is as permanent as it appears at first glance.Communities can change in an instant without warning.Being left outside the morning rolls and a bundle of daily records were all that survived.Well fired rolls of course.
Demeter and Persephone have never looked so beautiful together after a summer of unsettled weather.A last gift before winter.
A gift that can transform the everyday into the extraordinary.Would you have guessed this is Bellahouston Park?
Dogwalkers out for a last stroll before night descends and the frost crystals form over the puddles as Persephone sinks below.The end of days.Her yearly demise.
Which is why sunsets are so spectacular at this time of year.Her hair reflecting in the sky from the glow of fires that heat the underworld.What other explanation could there be?
Is this a recreation of Mount Olympus perhaps.All walled gardens have their roots buried deep in a mythic past.
Maybe that's a question best left for deepest hours of the night when the shades descend to feast on human souls.Cant you see the smile on the moon as he looks down? The world is still full of mystery and wonder.You just have to go looking for it
Todays video continues this theme.
Coco Rosie.  Fairy Paradise.
Two very talented sisters.When they get it right they sound like no one else out there.Completely unique and original.

Sunday 14 October 2012

The Gargunnock Escarpment.Spout of Ballochleam.

One of the least frequented hill ranges in Scotland is also, ironically, one of the closest to Glasgow,a mere 20 miles away.The Gargunnock Escarpment,a fourteen kilometre,thousand foot high line of  near vertical cliffs that stretch from the Endrick Water to the River Forth is a truly memorable walk in itself but few people are even aware of its existence,yet its very obvious from the flat plain of the Carse of Stirling as a high, black,usually dripping and dank, north facing wall.About 10 years ago I walked this end to end passing Tulmore craig, Carleatheran,black craig,Standmilane craig,Lees hill then Stronend.Faint boggy paths run along the edge of this massive natural barrier.Its one of the great landmarks in the central belt but few people ever go up there.To do the full walk is an epic long adventure but not easy to acheive without two cars.I did it solo during a long summers day.By public transport (bus)you start from a hard to reach spot,walk a long way over tough ground and end in a place that's even worse.I had to hitch back to Glasgow from Fintry which was not easy.It was however an unforgettable day and I was knackered at the end.
This time there were three of  us going. Alex,myself and our friend Ron.A beautiful autumnal morning to be wandering through this lovely Capability Brown style landscape heading up towards the square block of the castle/hotel hidden in the trees.We set off of course from an old favourite starting point,Culcreuch Castle Estate,parking at a layby next to the playing fields in Fintry.On the way up through the gap between the Double Craigs and the main two tier head wall I was asked by Ron how these cliffs were formed.I had to confess I wasn't really sure.This escarpment is very distinctive black basalt ,visible from a large area.There are obvious signs of glaciation as the ground below the double tier line of cliffs has moraine like features,a network of small rolling grassy mounds similar to the valley of a thousand hills in Torridon ,the fairy glen at Uig on Skye and many other places.
This is one of the grassy mounds.Mini drumlins in effect but smaller than the ones covering Glasgow.No eskers visible that I could see. When I returned I had a look on the Internet.It was not that easy to find.Very little information exists on these overlooked hills,most of it buried in the middle of long geology extracts or history papers written by people far more academic than me.It was however an interesting quest which answered a few questions I,ve always had myself about this area.
I,m not a geologist or a historian so if any information is incorrect here please feel free to comment.Here goes.
This double tier escarpment is the remains of successive flows of lava from volcanoes.Also evident in this area are Tuffs,a type of heat welded volcanic ash that is relatively easy to carve using basic tools.The Easter Island Statues are carved out of  basaltic Tuff and similar material was used to build the Servian wall around Rome to repel Hannibal's army of elephants which obviously inspired that Iconic scene in The Lord of the Rings film.
Another question I had was why the nearby summit, Carleatheran ,is so different from most other Scottish hill names and whats its meaning.
It sounds Welsh so that's where I started. Caer as in Caernarfron meaning fortress. The other half could mean grey.Grey fortress.Both Stronend and Carleatheran have stars and the word cairn beside the summit on OS maps denoting a site of earthwork antiquity.
Why does it sound Welsh? Well ,before the Roman occupation a large part of Scotland spoke a language similar to an early form of Welsh.The Damnonii were one of the dominant tribes in Southern Scotland at that time and built many forts on prominant hilltops as it was easier to defend them.Clyde may also be a word derived from this early welsh language meaning 'Loud or warm valley'.Clywwd.I used this in the 'Greenhill country 'post you might remember.'The lords of the warm valley.'
Anyway we had a great time walking along the top of this ancient, north facing, lava flow past Stronend heading for the Spout of Ballochleam.This is Alex and Ron.Panoramic views now open up over the Carse of Stirling,the vast flood plain  of the River Forth which in former times before it was drained and made fertile by the Moss Lords who tamed the great labyrinthine swamp of Flanders moss was a place to be feared.A desolate wasteland of bog and water,the home of banished men who had been expelled from settled society where  an inexperienced horse and rider could easily disappear without trace,either from bog or attack.
This shows the double tier of successive lava flows very clearly.

This helicopter certainly gets around.Either that or its got several cousins.It was flying level with the escarpment.Not often you can look down onto a helicopter.We also disturbed a large bird of prey from these cliffs.It didn't look like a buzzard.There was a upturned sheep lying nearby,fallen over,unable to walk.By the look of its many attempts to right itself  it had been lying alive on this hillside for several days and they were both now waiting patiently for death.Bird and animal.A natural,age old, cycle.We had a go at getting it back on its feet ourselves but  it just fell over again when held upright.It didn't appear to have broken or damaged limbs.just past the point where it could stand. In this remote,sometimes harsh, unfrequented area the game of nature plays out mostly unseen.
Moved by compassion most hill walkers try to play god and superimpose their own judgement on events like this.Sheep and wildlife do not go down easy though.There's usually a reason if an animal goes over on its side like this.Or maybe it just became fed up with a summer of rain.People are naturally temped to intervene but it can sometimes cause even more distress and suffering than if left alone.Different if its stuck in a bog or in a fence and a solution to free it is obvious.Some aspects of Nature can be hard to watch but the simple truth is wildlife thrives without any help from humans.We are the ones who  usually mess it up as we cant stop interfering  in everything thinking we know best.When I was young I once drowned a pigeon with a broken back in a bucket thinking I was doing it a kindness as it had lain in a neighbours back garden for two days during cold weather.The neighbour said I should drown it to put it out its misery.What she actually meant was she couldn,t bear to watch it anymore and it would put her out her own misery.Even weak as it was it struggled so hard to live I knew I should have just left it alone.Holding it under It took ages to die and it suffered more as a result.Drowning is a hard way to end.I realised then people can superimpose their own emotions on wild animals,trying to take away their own feelings of suffering.Out of sight out of mind is a cliche for a reason.She was happy and at peace with herself once I'd drowned it but it taught me a valuable lesson,both about wildlife and humans.
Two lucky woolies not destined for a birds sharp beak.The great drop off wall behind.A dead sheep or deer may mean the difference between  life or death for scavengers that depend on this to get them through the winter.Save one maybe kill the other.Nothngs ever simple.
Lees Hill and the deep trench of  cliffs leading to the Spout of Ballochleam.
A view across to Meikle Bin,highest summit in the Campsies.Some people like this hill surounded by its dead ,dark carpet of pine trees.
Looking down on Fintry again from the top of the escarpment.
A garden in Fintry that reminded me of a chalk stream.Also took this because it reminded me of Willy Wonka land.This is obviously a highly sculpted,well tended cherished vision by the owner of this property and I,m always drawn myself to places and people that seem not of this world.In art ,architecture,film, music.Little bubbles of wonder, beauty,exotic appeal or just unusual strangeness in an ordinary everyday humdrum existence.Its what has always appealed to me.That other world.That landscape beyond the normal.Better 'A company of Wolves' than any number of forgettable blockbusters.That striving for enchantment rather than settling for the mundane.
A really varied day.We didn't manage all of the escarpment as that would have taken us too far from the car,turning back when we'd had enough of the surprisingly tough walking.As hard as most Munro days and a good six hour walk with only one short break.

As its almost the end of autumn now and the start of winter the video this week is very topical.
On one level it could just be taken as a comment on the pointless nature of bullfighting.
Dead can Dance. Persephone. A unique and hauntingly memorable video.
The ancient Greeks tried to make sense of the world around them through myth.Persephone was the daughter of Zeus and Demeter who later became the queen of the underworld after she was abducted by her uncle,Hades to live in darkness underground as his wife and companion.Her mother came after her,cursing the land to create the first autumn  and a deal was the result.Persephone could live with Hades for six months of the year as his wife if she was allowed to rise above ground for the other six.This gave us the seasons we know today.In spring she bursts out as new vegetation,flourishes and delights in sunlight then descends once more into the underworld leaving the surface a dark,empty place til her rebirth takes place again each year.Humans mourn her presence.I certainly do and wait for her appearance with longing during her underground period.
The Eleusinian Mysteries were founded around her and her mother Demeter.They are both connected to the golden harvest,one of the most important events of  the ancient world as each year success or failure could mean food in plenty or starvation.Sometimes she drops below far too quickly other years she lingers longer ,and has to be persuaded by Hades to return to his side.This video should make perfect sense now :)   Or maybe not.

Monday 8 October 2012

Lesser Mell Fell.Lake District.

Sunday morning dawned to the sound of rain hammering off the windows.A truly awful day and conditions where no sane person would even contemplate going up a hill.The water in the streams(becks down here) poured the overnight deluge into  nearby Ullswater.Mind you shopkeepers have to be optimistic about these things.They have to make the best of any situation to make ends meet.Even heavy rain was catered for in Keswick.
A fine selection of outdoor craft. In Scotland I would never dream of going up a hill in conditions this bad but as It was our last day in the Lakes I was looking foreword to it.
Last year Great Mell Fell had rescued a wet day,also our last day of that trip.Little Mell Fell sat nearby,feeling neglected, so we had our eye on that.With driving rain and wind predicted all day ,Alex,drinking his coffee in the hut ,asked if I was still keen.I was.
I captured his expression as I said this.
We had noticed on the map however that a minor road climbed up the flank of Little Mell Fell to around 320 metres where there was a lay by leaving only a short hike up to the summit at 505 metres.I felt more compassion for the poor cattle as they huddled together in a open field with no shelter available.You could actually sense how depressed they were.It was palatable.I had been looking around out of curiosity for horse chestnuts this season but they were few and far between on the trees,pollination being disrupted by the poor summer this year.
Even in the rain the autumnal colours looked magnificent as we set off.

I think this is Great Mell Fell.Little Mell Fell is a carbon copy of this nearby,only without the trees on its slopes for shelter.Two great hills to save for bad weather,although the views are good from the top in fine conditions.
All we could see today was driving rain as we approached the waterlogged summit.A new tick for bagger Alex,so he was happy. So was I as the misery had only lasted an hour.Even with full waterproofs on we were both soaked through by the time we returned to the car.
A few extra photographs to highlight what I love about the Lakes.Even in wet weather the Lakes are beautiful due to the range of habitation merging with the mountain landscapes.I always find Scottish mountains so empty and depressing in bad weather when I know just how many people used to live there,trees covering the slopes and the glens.What we see now,what we tend to think of as 'wilderness' is actually a barren, man made desert devoid of trees,but maybe that's just me.The presence of people in an area can actually enhance the landscape.The Lake District,for example,despite having loads of inhabitants ,is blessed with  countless trees and  deciduous woodlands.We have little pockets of ancient woodlands clinging on here and there... The last remnants of the great wood...the rest is mile after mile of deep, dead, conifer plantations where nature can only cling to the margins.Nature's equivalent of a black hole  on OS maps,only good for timber production,tax evasion,hiding dead bodies and big cat sightings.Having lost most of its trees Scotland seems to collect these un-natural squares of modernity instead.Wind farms being the latest trend to hide and pour your money into.
Let,s See how you like this train of thought that's just occurred to me.
I was going to write a  brief post called 'the last generation 'after the news of the abduction of that little five year old girl in Mid Wales.'The parents there still felt safe enough to let their children play outdoors in line with various bodies recommending this is necessary for proper human development.Who would have thought that then? That one incident sadly may have changed all that as people will naturally think differently about their children's safety.
The generation after mine was probably the last to have complete freedom outdoors.Also the last to know what it was like to spend annual holidays at British seaside resorts.

The great thing about Scottish tenement culture years ago was that it was so practical.It evolved,partly,to minimise space but also to cope with the Scottish climate.I grew up,like millions, in a three level close.When it rained you simply played in the stairwells.Traffic was irrelevant.You could use chalk to write your name if you felt inclined but it washed off.You tried to behave and not to make a lot of noise as that would get you chased outside.When it was dry you played outdoors,everywhere,even miles from home.I was only ever inside the house itself to eat meals.There are still little pockets around where children are like that but they get fewer each year.Media was something your parents looked at occasionally. A tiny black and white box in the corner...or a newspaper.It was of minimal interest to children Except for watching cartoons and jerky puppets on strings.It didn't control our life's.An adult affair mostly.Fast forward 10 years...tenement closes are now covered in graffiti  with the development of spray can paint .. pop culture and  celebrity worship increases with colour TV and vandalism and social problems from shared living becomes rife as people and especially children obtain more freedom and learn to be dismissive of all authority.They no longer eat at a communal table but in front of the television.It becomes the main authority figure dispensing wisdom to the young.The fire becomes electric, killing  race collective memory in an instant. No one even notices that  physiological shift even though it is one of the most profound events in human history. Eventual Solution to increasing anti social behaviour? Knock the tenements and high flats down.Very few basic tenements are left in the big Scottish cities now as no one wants to be that close anymore to their neighbours.The move is towards individual housing with or without gardens.Children and teenagers now start playing in bus shelters in the rain as its one of the few places left to go to outside.The few closes left are locked by door entry systems.Community centres tend to get vandalised and broken into or are too short on funds to open for extended periods.Due to freedom of expression bus shelters get vandalised and are then taken away.The elderly and the infirm at bus stops now stand in the rain like the cattle we observed on Little Mell Fell.This is progress at work.Any New ideas and inventions always seem to have unexpected side effects as well as benefits.That's chaos theory at ground level.Due to the volume of traffic and perceived threat of danger children now play indoors,in boxes, becoming more and more informed/brainwashed ,watching programmes about the outside world  just beyond their doorstep they can only enjoy now with supervision although they can fly to the other side of the world easily enough.They watch other things too.Like it or not insidious,all prevading ,celebrity culture and Internet porn stars quickly become the new inspirational icons as soon as they grow past the telly tubbies stage.Thank god I only had Roy Rodgers, Superman and space exploration to look forward to in my era.Our generation are also lucky Tattoos and piercings were still for south sea pirates in those days as I don't fancy a tongue stud when I,m eating or a nose ring if I get a cold.
I,m not looking at the past through rose tinted glasses.The Jimmy savile case alone proves that many problems were swept under the carpet or were just accepted as part of the culture then,like shipping kids in children's homes off to Australia then abandoning them to their fate,separating travellers children from their parents,supposedly for a better life;Sticking 'fallen girls' in institutions, smoking at the office desk or doctors smoking inside hospitals.Times change and every generation looks back at the last with amazement that things like that went on,not realising that current times will be looked on with equal incredulity.Maybe a future generation will look back enviously at 2012 as a golden age.'The Internet was free?!!!.  You still had summers then ?!! You actually saw real birds ,butterflies and bees?!!! There were hundreds of different shops in every city and town?!! What the hell is a 'High  Street' Anyway? You could actually have a conversation with someone else without  interruptions from a mobile phone? How did you cope?That sounds so scary.'
The Golden age should always be the one you are living in now and each new generation will always find a way to push the boundaries in their own unique style.
Motto? Whatever you,re circumstances try to enjoy life while you can.There will always be threats of some description and frequent ups and downs.The only certainty is that things will never stay the same.

Today's video is very different. Rock climbing at a level beyond insanity.I can just about understand folk that jump out of planes or throw themselves off cliffs as at least they have a parachute. This guy is on a whole different level.The only thing he cant do is fly though give him time.Some of you out there may even have trouble watching this.If you put it on full screen its breathtaking as that puts you beside him in a situation your mind may not be able to handle.Even as a former rock climber myself this is mental.This is certainly not a dull video.Hopefully I don't even have to say 'dont try this at home.' You will die. National Geographic now have a fully archived collection of all their magazines on line with new inter active video segments.Well worth visiting.

Wednesday 3 October 2012

St Sunday Crag.Fairfield.Hart Crag.Lake district.

Saturday was a better day with a mixture of sunshine and brief heavy showers.These were supposed to clear by lunch time so we set off at 9.00am.This is the view from the hut.
Four of us set out.Myself, Alex,Graeme and Alan.This is Alex and Graeme with Ullswater behind.Weather was sunshine one minute brief cold shower the next.Typical autumnal weather.
We picked this horseshoe as it was right above the hut,looked good, and was new to us.Last year down here we had traversed Striding edge,Helvellyn and Dollywagon Pike in a howling gale before coming down Grisedale.This is the southerly continuation of that mountain chain.At our age we probably will not finish all the mountains in the Lakes but it gives us a target to aim for and its fun trying.
You need a reason to get up in the morning and this is ours.Not as bad as last time but still windy on the summits which helped move the showers through quickly.
Graeme on Cofa Pike just before the final climb up Fairfield.A nice rocky ridge and a great mountain.St Sunday Crag is a fine way up the horseshoe as well.

Alan getting blown sideways near Grisdale Tarn.

Fell runner on the summit plateau of Fairfield with the High Street range in the background.There is definitely a different quality of light to the Lake District hills compared to Scotland.When its dull and miserable in Scotland it tends to be duller and greyer somehow.These hills have more colour even in poor conditions.We observed a lovely rainbow.Also met a lone women who told us she sings in a choir.Alex being Alex he soon found out it was a famous London one who back celebrities on a regular basis.Always amazes me the ease with which Alex can meet strangers and find out all about them in casual conversation.Its a gift.
Anyway,as we were going at the same pace we all walked together to the summit of Fairfield.
This is the broad summit of Fairfield.We then headed over to rydal head and Hart Crag.The rain had stopped as predicted and the sun came out for the rest of the day.
Our return was via steep wet slabs down onto the lovely long ridge of Hartsop Above How looking down Deepdale at the three lovely villages of broken biscuit,newton sludge and butlers balls.
This is four Liverpool guys we met coming off the summit of Hart Crag.Its a sterotype to say that folk from Glasgow,Newcastle and Liverpool always get on well together but in a lot of cases its true.All three cities shared a working class dockland environment in the past and have well supported major football teams with large council estates and  also share a strong Irish element in the mix so theres a common thread of identity there right away.The Lakes are only an hour and a half drive from Liverpool seemingly.I,ve heard a few people on TV recently trying to include Manchester in this northern triangle but they are too far from the sea.A ship canal doesn't count.Sorry. :0)
There,s not much to Patterdale but it has what you need.A well supplied local shop and a couple of pubs.At £7 to £15 a round depending on numbers involved we cant actually afford to drink in pubs much these days...the last time was in Knoydart in May but as it felt like a holiday we went in here for a few cheeky beers before heading back to the hut.
Another cracking day out.One more to come.
This weeks video is one of the strangest I`ve ever seen.  Laibach.  Across the Universe.
Stumbled across this looking for another singer with a similar name. Great singer. great song,... But It looks suspiciously  like an advert for a new Hitler Youth  style 4th Reich.
 Top tip folks. Please don't phone the number given at the end.A strange man with a funny accent in a big hood will probably ask for money to train up his 'Boys.'