Adventures of the Early Ooters

Friday, 16 August 2019

Talla Reservoir to Broughton 14 August

Alan McQ, Allan, Davie C, Davie Mc, Dougie, Francesco, Graeme, Gus, Hugh, Iain, Ian, Ian M, Jimmy, Paul, Rex

Alan had brought Graeme and Ian to accompany us, and Rex had brought Francesco, so, by the time everyone had got there, there would be fifteen of us, a great turn out. Another walking group arrived to do the walk we had done last year (part of the John Buchan Trail) and they recognised us as the Earlyooters. Indeed, one chap was known to some of us as he was a former K.A. teacher. We spent some time renewing acquaintancies and having a general blether whilst awaiting the arrival of the Killie car which had had to make a detour due to roadworks in Strathaven. None of the occupants had seen Davie’s, sorry, Kay’s, email! However, they were only fifteen minutes late and had made good time to arrive as early as they did.
The forecast was not too great, but we were in good spirits as we took some of the cars up to Talla Reservoir (opened 1905) at Tweedsmuir and, by the time we got there, the rain, albeit light rain, had started.
The Talla Railway line (built 1895-97) had been constructed as a branch of the Caledonian Railway to bring materials and equipment for the construction of the earth and clay dam (similar to the one at Whaley Bridge) and, after the dam was built, the track was lifted in 1910, leaving only the ballast. When you consider the effort and cost of constructing the railway, not to mention the engineering skills, it seems a pity that it did not have a longer life, but it was deemed commercially unviable due to the small population it would serve. The reservoir itself serves Edinburgh and the pipeline which takes the water to the city was another masterpiece of engineering and tunnelling.
It was nearly twenty past ten when we started off, following the line of the track below Victoria Lodge. The walking for the first couple of hundred yards was tricky over the remains of the ballast that had made the track bed, but after that it was no bother. The only obstacles at this stage were the wee bridges that had not survived, but it wasn’t an issue to go down the banking and back up again, and, as the route was downhill, progress was good. We crossed the Tweed on the bridge that also takes the water pipes, making our way across the A701 Moffat road, and following the track to Alan’s hut i.e. The Albert Watson Memorial Hut, aka the Polmood Hut.
Having reached the hut about 11.35am, and having covered the first three miles, we spent a good half hour or so having tea/coffee and enjoying our hosts’ hospitality. Thank you, guys! As we were about to leave Mike Chalton arrived in his Pinzgauer (we met him recently on the Loudoun Hill walk) and made himself a cuppa. It took the bothy group another ten minutes or so to tidy up the hut in readiness for some ladies arriving in the afternoon, so it would be about 12.15pm when we set off again in the rain. The rain, just drizzle, had been on and off all morning and that was to be the pattern for the rest of the day.
A welcome break!
'Haw, mister. You don't expect me to go in there.'
'Don't worry, Holly. It's too overgrown, even for the Ooters.'
Crossing back over the main road again, the line had become so overgrown that it was deemed impassable, even for the Ooters, so we dropped down into a field and then back along the road for a bit, before we could rejoin the line. At just after half-past one lunch was called for and we sat on a small banking for our break. Not for long though as the rain immediately came back on and we decided not to hang about.
The going thereafter was variable, from longish grass on the line, to short grass, to the odd farmer’s field, to tarmac, before we found the line again and made our way towards Broughton. Eventually the village came into sight and the last wee stretch was on some tarmac past the Bowling Club, where it was obviously Ladies Day.
Where we emerged was at the opposite end of Broughton from the cars but, by this time, we were in warm sunshine as we trooped up the main street and arrived back just after three o’clock. Four and three-quarter hours for the eleven-mile walk were today’s figures.
As we changed, Alan, Graeme and Ian called us over and offered each of us a bottle of Broughton Ale as a thank you for making the trip. Thank you again, folks! Absolutely unnecessary, but much appreciated.
FRT was taken across the road at the Laurel Bank Licensed Tearoom where a relaxing hour was spent, although some had to spend some of the time retrieving cars from the car park at the reservoir.
This had been a long and tiring, but satisfying, day out. The only regret was the iffy weather. On a better day we would have enjoyed the scenery much more and, for a few of us, would have kept our feet drier.


·         For the record, our esteemed treasurer had spent 50p on a new wallet/purse. He was well proud of himself, but what will the auditors say?

·         There is good information on the construction and history of the Talla Railway and Reservoir, and, indeed, the Hut, on the internet.

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Images of the walk along the Talla Railway

featuring Alan McQ, Allan, Davie C, Davie McM, Dougie, Francesco, Graeme, Gus, Hugh, Iain, Ian D, Ian M, Jimmy, Paul and Rex.

    (photo courtesy of Ian M)

    (photo courtesy of Ian M)

    (photo courtesy of Ian M)


    (photo courtesy of Dougie)

    (photo courtesy of Dougie)

         A "mostly downhill" walk 🤣

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

Friday, 9 August 2019

Tunskeen Bothy 7 August

Alan McQ, Allan, Davie C, Davie Mc, Dougie, Gus, Hugh, Iain, Ian, Jim, Johnny, Kenny T, Malcolm, Robert

We assembled in Straiton before heading, in convoy, down Newton Stewart Road until we came to our cut-off point onto a forest road which took us, eventually, to the car park overlooking Loch Bradan.
The weather was dry, but overcast, as we set off down Forest Drive, but, given the rains of the last week or so, wet weather gear and umbrellas were to hand. This section was familiar to us as we use it on the Four Lochs Walk but, after about half an hour, we turned up right onto another forest road, ignoring the no entry sign which we assumed was for vehicles. With Loch Riecawr below us to our left, this was unfamiliar territory for most of us, but the going was good and the pace, as usual, was brisk. The only stop on the way out was to allow the more adventurous of us, some would say ‘the weans,’ to climb up on the rocking stone by the side of the road. The rest just looked on and wondered why.
In another ten minutes Alan led us off the road and onto a grassier track to the right. Just as we wondered how far we had to travel on this track, the whitewashed walls of Tunskeen Bothy came into view and by twenty to twelve we were sitting down having our lunch. The bothy was very clean, tidy and well maintained, with plenty of room for the fourteen of us to relax over our pieces.
The return journey saw us encounter some warm sunshine for a spell but by the time we reached the cars, like last week, the rain had come on, but didn’t last long.
Again, we had been extremely lucky with the weather, encountering only two or three short light showers during our walk which had taken about three and a half hours to cover the nine miles or so.
Where to go for FRT? Some suggested Kirkmichael but the decision appeared to have been made to continue back down Forest Drive, past Loch Riecawr on our right, and on to Loch Doon. From there we would follow the road down to Dalmellington and the Dalmellington Inn. As we travelled down the road to Loch Doon we were extremely grateful we weren’t walking it as it seemed to go on forever, and even the road section from Loch Doon Castle to the turn-off for Loch Finlas appeared to be longer than we remembered – maybe auld age is creeping in!
Anyway, a good time was had at the pub where bowls of crisps were provided for the hungry Ooters, and those who had opted for a coffee were treated to a caramel wafer as well – jammy dodgers! Thanks to the staff for this. We don’t forget these wee things.
Another satisfying day out!


Wednesday, 7 August 2019

A short pictorial history of Tunskeen Bothy

   Tunskeen was in use as a shepherd's cottage until the 1930s.

    The cottage was abandoned after the war and soon fell into disrepair until 1965 when the newly-formed Mountain
     Bothies Association took it on as their first renovation project.

    It remained as a small bothy until...

    it was practically rebuilt in 1999

    into the larger, improved bothy which we see today.

    Further information about the Mountain Bothies Association can be obtained from their website: