Saturday 24 February 2018

Stronend 511 metres. Fintry Hills.

                                                 ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN
A welcome day out with company for a change as I received an invite from my friends John and Gail to join their geocaching circle for a walk up Stronend. This is the village of Fintry, above, a nice little place completely surrounded by hills with the Campsie Fells on one side and the Fintry Hills on the other.
We met up at the car park then proceeded through the picturesque Culcreuch Castle estate grounds, past the pond and avenues of mature tall trees to gain the slopes of this small mountain.
It was a good choice as we were in the sun all day and it felt distinctly spring like. This hill has always felt very 'Yorkshire Dales' country to me as the landscape, contours and crags here match that area perfectly.
A party of eight I think, including myself.
A jackdaw looks on.
On the other side of the valley dark clouds lingered over the summits so we had a choice of mid winter or spring in the same view.
The higher munros were still covered in snow and ice with cheeky winds dropping temperatures well below freezing but the promise of spring at lower sheltered levels seduced me as it always does every year. I like Spring... my eternal muse.
Crocus glade.
Still abundant berries for the thrushes and blackbirds this year.
Keep spotting bullfinches now since the Fife walk.
Some folk look forward to the simplicity and purity of snowdrops but for me its these showy, brash, decadent disciples of spring that float my ocean liner every time. The flower equivalent of glam rock or graphic novel artwork. 'I'm here- I'm in your face- cant ignore me!'
They rock my world anyway.
Sunlit fields from Stronend escarpment cliffs.
Stronend summit. Out the sunshine here, exposed to the wind and much colder.
The view across to Loch Lomond and the start of the Scottish Highlands where there are still ten foot snowdrifts on some higher mountain roads further north and another period of arctic weather predicted to hit next week. Lot of snow this year over the mountain ranges but not much here in the Central Belt region.
Meikle Bin- the highest peak in the Campsie Fells.
Corrie of Balglass area. A remote and unfrequented region. Probably less folk walk here each year than on any of the Scottish munros.
Measuring tree girth. I think this was a Western Red Cedar as Culcreuch has many fine old trees of substantial height and girth.
A spot of geocaching going on at height. I can honestly say the last time I witnessed a female climbing a large tree like this was around twelve years old and my childhood friend was really putting me to shame for both bravery and gymnastic ability. We were egg collecting and I was stuck halfway up, repulsed by a committing airy section and unwilling to go any higher with the sudden humiliating knowledge that I was pretty crap at large tree climbing while she stood twenty feet above me, ransacking a crows nest on the swaying upper branches and attempting to gleefully spit on my head to rub in her achievement/superiority further. (which I found a bit over the top and cruel considering my vocal unstinting support urging her upwards as we both wanted those eggs. It was the 1960s and this was the accepted munro bagging sport of that era for children. It was either that or train spotting and this was a far more exciting activity.... apart from being beaten into second place by a girl that is. She might well have gone on to be a top rock climber in a later decade but travelled down a different path entirely in the intervening years. But still completely fearless and very brave.) Brought it all back this did. A memory bubble.

The Voice is a programme I never watch but stumbled across this recently looking for new music.
This is the French version and the five acts featured here are outstanding, each in their own way, especially the final two artists. Unusual instruments and song choices make this worth a watch. If it was this extraordinary every week I'd be a convert.

PS. I seem to have altered my computer somehow by unloading a lot of older day trip photo files onto an external hard drive to free up space as it was getting full. It was running very slow and this has fixed that but its harder to comment on other blogs now in the meantime until I figure out what add on I've unintentionally taken out of service- hence the different ID tags instead of the usual Google Blogger I used to comment/ reply with. Not letting me do that option for some reason.A total scunner but at least I can still post the same way.

Best or most surprising five voices and instruments here in this You Tube link.


Friday 16 February 2018

Fife Coastal Path. Kirkcaldy to Kinghorn and The Inland Circular Route.

                                               ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
I enjoyed my day out through in Fife and Kirkcaldy so much that one week later I was here again- this time to walk the coastal path in the other direction from Kirkcaldy to the picturesque village of Kinghorn. This is a small part of Kirkcaldy's main shopping street- the more traditional, quieter end with period buildings and small businesses rather than shopping arcades and covered malls.
This time I'd judged it perfectly for low tide and Kirkcaldy's beaches were exposed allowing me to walk over the sands for the first few km of the trip.
Kirkcaldy's success and growth was founded around the manufacture of Linoleum floor coverings and for almost 100 years it dominated the market for this product- both in the UK and worldwide. I've still got linoleum in my kitchen and bathroom and it still looks bright, clean and fresh after 40 years of use. I love lino and have great memories of it as a child... the smell, the look and the feel of it crawling across kitchen floors of relatives houses before I could walk and even after.... Even working in the 1980s and 1990s in houses we were continually lifting up floors covered in lino with 1940s and 1950s newspaper underneath- which we would keep and read during our tea/lunch break. Often the most memorable and enjoyable part of the day. Lino sales started to decline at the end of the 1960s as it gradually fell out of fashion but I believe they still make it here in this remaining factory as it has non allergenic and bug killing properties due to its linseed oil base so is once again popular in hospitals, schools, and many health centres as an easy to clean floor covering and sterile aid to defeat super bugs and other surface landing viruses/bacteria. With the recent debate over plastics contaminating the planet and new virus/bacteria threats occurring every year eco friendly lino could yet make a major modern comeback and the material and muted colours of today have evolved so much most folk would never guess what it was they were walking over. Kirkcaldy used to be the linoleum capital of the UK, its skyline dominated by large factories but only this example remains here as far as I'm aware.
A more open coastline awaits the walker on this stretch but it still has some great features. Arthur's Seat in the distance framed by the impressive remains of an old sea wall.
And out to sea- just visible in the sunshine- Bass Rock and Fidra- each island with its own lighthouse.
Ships and oil platforms.
The island of Inchkeith- fought over by Scots, French and English in the distant past and at various times a handy quarantine/ isolation retreat for plague and syphilis victims, prostitutes and pirates. In both world wars it was a hedgehog of guns, like the other islands in the Firth of Forth- a front line defense against any attackers, protecting the nearby city of Edinburgh.
Edinburgh itself was looking rather grey on this day with low cloud over the Pentlands and Salisbury Crags and a strong threat of rain while Fife remained sunny and dry.
As I got closer to this impressive sea wall the thought occurred that I might well be able to hop out to its end point. Something about this fallen giant really appealed to me and as I couldn't reach far flung Inchkeith this might be a more achievable challenge.
It was much harder than it looks here with rocks heavily coated in slippy seaweed  but eventually I made it by crawling in places to the end point. Once I'd started determination got the better of me and I ended up wading the last section where there was too big a gap to jump across. By that time I'd given up turning back after the effort involved already and was totally committed ... to success. Luckily my trousers dry out quickly and I'd removed my boots, leaving them at the gap.
It wasn't too long after that self generated adventure when the ruins of Seafield Tower came into view,  (seen here) once owned by the Bishop of Orkney and the Archbishop of Glasgow, one and the  same person (James Law) who came from Fife.
An overcast view of Grangemouth. 'Dark satanic mills' where most of Central Scotland, Northern Ireland  and Northern England's petroleum supplies are produced.
Yet this coastline is also home to amazing wildlife .
A goldeneye duck showing its golden eye.
The beautiful village and beaches of Kinghorn. From here my intention now was to head inland- up through Kinghorn golf course and over the fertile interior of Fife back towards Kirkcaldy.
This was the main climb of the day, offering suberb views over the coast. Kinghorn's other beach here with the rising tide chasing in a lone dog walker- viewed from the caravan park above the golf course. From the Bents ( OS landranger map 66 Edinburgh and North Berwick) the track I was following snakes past a farm then Kinghorn Loch.
A nice varied walk and a change from coastal scenery. Highland cattle here.
The horned one.
Hut community.
Grey partridge. Male and female I think.
A young male pheasant in the growing crops. Sowing starts early in fertile Fife- one of the breadbaskets of  Scotland.
A view back towards West Wemyss and Buckhaven- the setting for my previous coastal walk.
And a view of Kirkcaldy again with the bus station tower in copper green and Raith Rovers football club stadium just in shot right and below. Another five star day out. Around 10 to 12 km and a walk of great variety. 4 to 5 hours easy pace with stops.

Although Marc Bolan is still well remembered for his glam rock hits he had a whole other musical life before that as a floor squatting hippy troubadour in the late 1960s. Along with the multi talented and oft underrated Steve Took (backing vocals and playing a wide range of  unusual instruments) they perfected a unique sound together and made several stunning albums full of gentle poetry, whimsical quirks and beguiling imagery that still sounds original and fresh today. Luckily, Tyrannosaurus Rex albums (not to be confused with the later glam era T Rex) are all on You Tube and are well worth hearing and watching. David Bowie gets most of the credit these days as a chameleon entertainer switching between different characters but Bolan was a genre shifting, musical virtuoso as well and did it very successfully first and I'm sure Bowie picked up loads of ideas from his rival and  friend...and vice versa ...including the essential ingredient....when to jump ship before the fickle fans get bored with a certain image.  M.B died early, after a meteoric rise and fall, so might well have been intelligent and talented enough to change style again into something else with a different singing voice and sound if he'd carried on. We will never know now.   Here's a tiny taster in this link.

Saturday 10 February 2018

Fife Coastal Path. Kirkcaldy to Buckhaven. Part Two. Caves, Bullfinches. Industry.

                                                 ALL PHOTOS CLICK FULL SCREEN.
Part two of my solo day walk along the Fife Coastal Path from Kirkcaldy to Buckhaven. This is Dysart, seen above, which is picture postcard photogenic and could easily enter a 'best kept coastal village' competition and be in with a chance of winning.
The coastal path from Kirkcaldy to the village of West Wemyss is a six km scenic joy ride, full of architectural interest, surprises around every elaborate twist and bend and a real star turn.

  Beyond West Wemyss  the path is much straighter and the scenery more industrial- less picture postcard pretty but still interesting.
You could cycle this 10 mile section between Kirkcaldy and Buckhaven quite easily but I was glad I was on foot as I'd probably not have noticed the small flock of bullfinches feeding on berries in the woods if on a bike.
It's not often I spot bullfinches this close- let alone take decent photographs of them so I was chuffed with this. An adult male.
And a female- lighter coloured lower body not that obvious here as the sun had disappeared briefly behind a cloud.
The bullfinches seemed to be feeding on these berries although I didn't actually see any being swallowed- but that might have been my presence making them slightly nervous. One of the largest UK finches and a rare sight for me- maybe spotted them around four times in 45 years yet I do look out for wildlife on any walks.
This stretch was much quieter with no-one around  so a few seals were spotted here as well.
And a strange medium sized diving duck. No idea what this is at all. I did look at a relevant info guide but wouldn't like to identify a definite candidate as nothing appeared a good enough match... unless its a late juvenile and still to get its adult colours.
Three curlews (or possibly whimbrels) in the crops looking for insects and grubs.
I soon came to the Wemyss caves which I thought would be one of the highlights of the walk. Around a dozen in total within a short distance of each other these are well known to locals and the wider community for having carved ancient pictures on them deeply scratched into the soft rock. Some show bulls, long ships, fish, Medieval symbols, and humans with tools. It is one of the best collections of Pictish cave art anywhere so it's a real pity that the caves have been left largely un-preserved/ unguarded for so long. Luckily, I could crawl into this one, moving like a snake that's just swallowed a large capybara. Not very graceful or speedy in other words. Think of a tortoise exploring a basement.
Previous visitors have left their own graffiti in the various caves, over hundreds of years, sometimes next to the important carvings so it's hard for a casual visitor without much in depth knowledge of the subject matter to work out the genuine article and if its been tampered with or bits added on.
an obvious fish shape here.
What looks like a bull.
Some caves were deliberately chosen and carved out to encourage rock doves to nest in them- the wild ancestor of the domestic pigeon. This would be an important and reliable source of protein in lean times- both birds and eggs- as a living larder you could dip into when required. The first supermarket or corner shop.... but only for the local landed gentry. Lairds and suchlike folk that owned everything valuable in the area.
I was quite happy wandering around the larger caves where you could stand upright...
but the caves where you have to do a spot of crawling... well...I did not relish them as much as I used to...must be getting old... There is another inner cave to explore through this small hole but it's very dark inside this second chamber.
and I soon packed it in.... even with a headtorch... (I keep thinking of that bloody horror film about cave exploration 'The Descent' in tight dark places like this now since I watched it)....a guided tour would be best methinks.
A full guide and info here.
Out to sea in the Firth of Forth a pair of oil platforms sat with the distinctive shape of Berwick Law in this one rising on the mainland behind.
And in the distance ahead Buckhaven with its fabrication yard, a wind turbine, and Largo Law hill summit, marked the end of this walk.
The Jimmy Shand memorial. A legend on the country dance circuit.

Buckhaven mural.
Snake birds. Itchy neck.
The joy of gardening and watching things grow.
And from sunny Buckhaven it was a no 7 bus back to Kirkcaldy then the X27 bus back to Glasgow. Then another bus home. Six in total in one day.

A lot of travelling and a 12 hour outing so this seems an appropriate video.  The no 62 bus from the city centre past Partick and Scotstoun to Clydebank was my local bus route for the last three decades. Had many funny or unusual journeys on the no 62 coming back from a night out over the years but this is a classic. Great musicianship and a fine choice of songs. Half bus---half moving concert hall :o)