Sunday 28 December 2014

Mugdock. Strathblane. Lennoxtown. Blairskaith.

A trip undertaken in the autumn with my mate Alan when it was still warm and sunny and T shirts were worn for the last time before the chill of winter set in.
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This enjoyable bike run of a few hours duration covers a variety of landscapes on cycle trails and rough tracks suitable for mountain bikes or hybrids and only has one real hill climb from 50 metres at Lennoxtown  to 218 metres at Blairskaith Muir summit trig. It starts at the car park in Mugdock Country Park. This is the restored castle which they have been working on for years.
I've been here loads of times before as it,s nearby but this was the first time I've seen it open to the public in summer. A small entry fee.
The rooms that you climb up the stairwell to visit have been decorated to give folk an impression of what it may have looked like. As it,s only a minor castle it,s pretty basic but the entry fee is very modest as well.
From the roof top there is a good view of Mugdock Country Park, looking in the direction of the landscape we would be cycling through under the slopes of the nearby Campsies.
The route goes from the park onto the minor road past Deil's Craig Dam into Strathblane then takes the flat cycle track past the volcanic plug of Dunglass, 153 metres where there is a fine example of the same kind of columnar hexagonal basalt that can be seen in Fingal's Cave on Staffa; Samsons Ribs on Arthur's Seat; and the Giants Causeway in Northen Ireland. Worth a look as is the view from the grassy summit, seen here, of the village of Strathblane.

After the flat traffic free run along the cycle track with great views of the Campsies we entered Lennoxtown and had lunch in the old church yard. This is a magnificent building but unfortunately it was destroyed by fire several decades ago and is just a shell now.
The wall of the Campsies from the old Church yard. Lennoxtown has an interesting history, found here.
The loss of the church must have been deeply felt by the community as it stands within its own grounds
From here we headed uphill to the only major climb of the day which was the minor road that leads up to.Newlands and then Blairskaith Muir. This minor road passes Celtic Park Training ground and the place where Lulu was born. ( Lennox Castle) We did see a few Celtic players in their luxury cars heading for training but I couldn't tell you who they were these days, even if they removed their designer sunglasses.
Extensive but hazy views started to appear at the highpoint beside the trig at 218 metres. This is a zoom of the Red Road flats.
Although it doesn't appear on the OS map of Glasgow there is a linking track from the trig down to Blairskaith Quarry and this is where we headed.
Panoramic views here too, looking down on the fertile farmlands of East Dumbartonshire.
Watching kestrels from the edge of the disused Blairkaith Quarry. Alan seemed impressed with this viewpoint that very few walkers know about.
We returned along the minor road network past North Blochairn and Mugdock Village. Around 3 to 4 hours round trip at a steady pace. A grand tour. Enjoyable and not too strenuous as you can easily push the bike up the only major hill climb.
A crane fly on a wall in Mugdock village. Nice wing patterns that caught my eye.

David Byrne, main songwriter and front man of Talking Heads was born in Dumbarton before moving to Canada, aged two, then America. He is also well known around New York for being a keen cyclist over many decades. A perfect fit for a cycling post. 

Sunday 21 December 2014

Conic Hill. Loch Lomond Islands. A Dolly Mixture.

A selection of different photos named after a popular assorted sweet packet in years gone by.
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Raindrops looking like boulders sitting on a leaf.
View from Conic Hill over Loch Lomond.
Autumn Colours.
Fungi on log.
Animal shadows from Conic Hill.
Grey Squirrel close up.
Fungi patterns.
Loch Lomond and Islands.
More islands.
Forth and Clyde Canal Boats.
Wet winter day at Auchenstarry.
Bird roost. East coast.... somewhere secret.
Walkers above Loch Lomond.
Deep in the Pentland Hills near Edinburgh.
Glasgow from the Brownside Braes.
Days end in winter.
A merry Christmas everyone and a Happy New Year. Best wishes to you all for a good 2015.

Fast becoming my favourite band. The full electric performance.

Old Kilpatrick Photos. Ian Conboy.

A quick extra post. A while ago I was asked to get in touch with a guy on Facebook regarding some photos I took of Old Kilpatrick that he wanted for his Dad. I,m not on Facebook and I don't normally do requests like this ( unless there's money in it :o) but I happened to be back in Old Kilpatrick recently on another matter so here they are. Feel free to take any of these if you fancy them. Fairly large resolution and the best I can do. Merry Christmas if you see this post.
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Erskine Bridge.
Old Kilpatrick Bowling Church.
Seen from the hill.
A82 Turnoff Road to Train Station.
Local Shops and New Pub.
Looking towards Dumbarton.
Old Pub.
Erskine Bridge again. Hope you see this and find them useful.

Monday 15 December 2014

Prestwick. Ayrshire Coastal Path. Part Two.

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Although my intention was to walk from Saltcoats along the beaches towards Irvine Bay I soon realized this would be a miserable outing as frequent and violent squalls started coming in at regular intervals and the sky turned black. A particularly nasty hailstone shower, seen above, convinced me to turn back after I'd taken this photograph of assorted birds.Mainly starlings. For wildlife, finding food in winter overrides staying dry and big storms like this one throw up a lot of little sea beasties caught in the waves that would normally be inaccessible under the sea.
With the wind chill it started to feel very cold on the bits of my body that hadn't stayed dry so I took a few more wave shots here then cut my losses and headed back to the car.
Another big wave.
One with seaweed and bits of wood in it which can be a real hazard if you stand too close and get hit  in the face with something hard like a small stone.
More of the seashore lands on the esplanade. I found out later the wind speeds off St Kilda, an isolated island past the Hebrides, hit 144 miles an hour. Electricity was also knocked out on Orkney which experienced colossal waves even by the standard of islands well used to rough weather. Luckily, it didn't cause much structural damage on the mainland or elsewhere but with warming seas we could yet experience hurricanes in the UK at some point in the future according to the programme on Britain's extreme weather I watched tonight as we already get mini tornado's occurring here now.
It's only a short hop in the car further down the coast to Prestwick but when I arrived I couldn't believe the difference in the sea conditions. It was maximum high tide here and a different seabed surface near the shoreline which changed the sea. Normally this is a sandy beach, popular in summer, so maybe for that reason the waves didn't have anything hard to smash against and instead had turned into a foot deep blanket of foamy lather that hid the edge of pavements and anything sitting on them.I found out later the foam is created during severe storms by millions of dead tiny sea creatures getting mashed up by the waves and the fatty residue left mixing with sea water to create this effect.
The wind was also getting stronger and the seas wilder, probably because they didn't have the full shelter of the outlying island of Arran anymore and the waves were able to travel further unimpaired.
This town was a whole different ball game as the spray was more or less continuous where there was a sea wall and they were all "punching" waves, traveling a good way inland in a solid front almost a kilometer long. Getting any decent photographs here would be far harder if I wanted to protect my camera as there seemed to be very few places you could stand without getting a torrent of spray in your face. Once again observation was the key although at times it was hard to see anything and a shower of freezing sleet started to come on. The normal easily defined boundary between land and sea no longer applied.
I persevered through and started walking along the promenade which is lovely on a sunny summers day but was really grim on this occasion. It was hard at times to stay upright in the wind.
The wind increased even more until it did indeed feel like a "weather bomb."
Huge seas at Prestwick.
There was a lot more ocean coming on land here and even with boots and full waterproofs on I began to get soaked and started to get cold. With my experience of winter mountains I usually know how far I can push this chill as my core temperature drops and I did have a change of warm clothing in the car.
A brief lull allowed me to do a section of beach walk further on where more deep form obscured any obstacles underfoot and made progress tricky in the gusts.
 You only really see the full power and grace of seabirds in conditions like these as the gulls were completely at ease in 70mile and hour winds and were actually swooping down occasionally to pick off small sea creatures from the tops of the wave crests if they spotted an opportunistic meal. Shortly after this it turned very dark and the town lights came on although it was barely 2:30pm in the afternoon and more hailstones, sheet lightning, and thunder made an unwelcome appearance.
At this point I threw in the towel and started heading back towards the car as I'd tempted fate long enough and was feeling really cold. When I reached the car I was so frozen my hands could barely grip my keys (actually a flat card reader device) and I was so weak finger wise it took me ages to push the button, open the boot, then get my boots off. Many people die on the hills in winter just because of this fact and they may even have something in their rucksacks or they find some sort of basic shelter that would save them but their hands are completely incapable of opening anything by that time, even with gloves to protect them.. I've actually had to use my teeth on a few occasions on mountains in the past to pull up the zip on my jacket tight to the top, even with winter gloves on, due to frozen fingers. I,m not that keen on winter mountaineering these days in grim weather. It's just too bloody miserable.
Anyway, the really dangerous part of the day was driving back on the A77 from Kilmarnock to Glasgow as it was dark by this time and the highest section across Fenwick Moor had ice and frozen snow on the road yet people still insisted on driving far too fast for the conditions and I witnessed three separate crashes on the journey home which took ages because of tailbacks and holdups. Nature I can usually predict and avoid real danger points most of the time but the sheer unpredictability of humans in cars (as everyone unfailingly thinks they are the best driver to ever past a test) is another matter. I was very glad to arrive back unscathed.
The end.

Another performance video from Beats Antique with a completely different theme highlighting how versatile and different this unusual group are.