Friday, 22 February 2008

20 February Portincross Circular

We gathered at Johnny’s this morning. We might have met elsewhere but Johnny promised coffee and scones so we gathered there. Well done again, J

With respect to the weather, the day was a disappointment after the spell of frosty nights and calm sunny days. Although the thermometer said it was milder than of late, there was dampness in the air and a threat of rain and the wind off the sea made it feel colder than it actually was. When we arrived in the car park at Portincross the fist tentative spots of rain hit us. The side of caution won the debate over waterproofs - best to prepare for the worst. So we set off in waterproofs and in a light shower of rain.

Our fist port of call was to examine the ruins of Portincross castle set on its defensive spit of land. Much more of this remains than was first thought. Jimmy talked of history, Peter admired the stonework and Davie cursed the steel safety fence round the bottom that prevented a full circuit of the building. They retraced their steps to join the rest of the group. Davie also cursed the rolls of razor wire and ‘keep out’ notices that topped a small crag and ran into the scrubby wood. Quite rightly, for this is lethal looking stuff and does nothing to improve the look of the place.

We walked on with the wind blowing the drizzle into our backs. The track took us along the raised beach under the old sea cliffs. These cliffs are impressive, rising to around two hundred feet and reputedly the haunt of peregrine. Davie promised us birdlife but apart from some eider at the start of the walk, only two fulmar and a few gulls flew around the cliffs. And nothing was on the choppy sea. To improve the mood of the group Davie told us of the murder that took place in the house under the cliffs sometime in the early nineteen hundreds. A cheerless tale to suit the mood of the day. But at least now, the rain had gone. Jimmy, the optimist, pointed out the brightness in the western sky and the Wee Cumbrae was becoming clearer by the minute but the waterproofs stayed on. Johnny recalled a visit to the Wee Cumbrae many years ago and, since he made it sound extremely interesting, a similar visit by the Ooters was mooted. Johnny would suss-out the possibilities. Then we were round the corner of Huntertson point and into the lea of the headland. Hunterston nuclear power station became the topic of conversation for we were now beside the very thing. Pros and cons were debated in the usual vociferous way with Jimmy’s opinion for being soundly (appropriate?) defeated by Johnny’s argument against.

The group now split into two - the bird watchers and the others - for there were birds to be seen on the sheltered bay. The aviphiles saw eider and widgeon and mallard and teal, curlew and oystercatcher and black-headed gulls, shell duck and redshank and black-backed gulls. The non-birders saw jucks and broon burds. A tree creeper crawled its way up a saugh by the side of the road. Davie promised us birds and he delivered. The advanced group waited for the other and, eventually, the two were united.

We were on tarmac now and would stay on it for the rest of the walk. A cycle-way past Hunterston Castle was taken. The conversation was crap. Literally. Jimmy regaled the company with a description of the practicalities of sampling faeces for bowel cancer screening. Not to be outdone, Rex told of the anal cleansing needed before an endoscopy. Then we stopped for lunch. Delicious.

Post lunch the way lay along what must have been an estate entrance road for metal fences lined it and gateposts stood where it met the Main Largs road. Another byway took us back towards the sea. Holly’s stick throwers were out of form today and we had to duck a more than once as wayward branches were mis-thrown. Rex wins the prize for the highest mis-throw of the day. A microlight airplane was examined in the passing as was a house ‘built the wrong way round’. Flocks of greylag geese and thirty or forty curlew delighted the birders as we walked down towards the shore road and West Kilbride golf course. Tatties were being planted in a field near the car park and Peter managed to pick up some spillage from the roadside. We are all going to his house in the autumn for chips.

A shorter walk than of late but an interesting one and some new territory for a few of us.

PW We gathered later that evening for a curry to celebrate Davie joining the bus-pass brigade. OK, his birthday is not officially until next week but it was the best night for most of us. All together now, ‘Happy birthday to you,…………’

Monday, 18 February 2008


Help! I need commentary for the following walks to be included in the Annals of the Early Ooters.
If you could see your way to scibing a few words of description it would be appreciated by all the Ooters.

9 March Byne Hill, Girvan
28 June River Ayr - Sorn to Catrine
19 July River Ayr
26 July ???????
20 September ???????
27 September Muirkirk to Glenbuck
7 February Tinto
13 March Ben Ime
4 April ???????
11April ???????
25 April Upper Clyde Cycle - Davie and Rex
13 June ???????
5 September Darvel to Eaglesham
12 December Knock Hill, Largs 2

At the moment I am working my way through 2007 and if there are any memories of any of the walks of that year please let me know.

Friday, 15 February 2008

For Jimmy

100 Number facts about the Early Ooters:-

The Early Ooters consists of 1000 young (for their age) men.

110 took part in the Muirkirk – Glenbuck walk.

10 had excuse notes from their better half.

We have £10000 pounds, plus a few pennies, in the “kitty”.

For Johnny

There are only 10 kinds of people in the world - those who understand binary and those who don't.

13 February Cairn Table and Glenbuck Loch

St Valentine’s Summer arrived early this year, starting on the ninth of the month, but it continued at least until today. When six of us - Alan, Davie, Jimmy, Johnny, Paul and Rex - gathered at the Institute at Muirkirk the sun was already warming the air after the frost of the night. Despite this frost, Jimmy felt it necessary to don gaiters for he knew the way ahead to be boggy. Davie, on the other hand, knew the frost would have hardened the ground and dried it out. Jimmy was mocked. Incessantly.

We walked southward along the old Sanquhar road, into the spring-like sun. The frost had cleared and only a thin crust of ice lay in the puddles. So the way ahead would be mucky after all? The going was easy now, the crack was good - Alan recalled shooting the white hares here. No wonder there’s none left now - and the Sanquhar bridge was reached without effort. Then came the hard and mucky bit. The old road was left and the path through the heather to the west shoulder of Cairn Table was taken. Davie was right. The frost had dried the ground sufficiently and any squelchy bits were easily avoided. Jimmy was mocked.

The slope steepened and we climbed through increasingly stunted heather on the dry flank of the hill. Elevenses were called and we halted at a cairn somewhat more than half-way to the summit. The view had been increasing in compass as we climbed and at coffee it was checked out. It was mainly to the west, down the valley of the Ayr to the coast. The peaks of Arran just showed above a clag hanging over the sea - ‘Polution’, said someone. ‘Atmospheric fog’, said Paul, ‘caused by the cold air meeting the warm water’. (Paul knows things.) Snow still lay in stripes on the New Cumnock and Galloway hills to let us know that it was still February despite the unseasonal warming of the day. We were now on the dry shoulder of the hill, the thin, dry peat overlying porous sandstone. Jimmy was mocked.

The climb to the summit was easy. The spring near the top was examined and an attempt at repair was made for the pipe was loose. But this was less than successful and the pipe stayed loose. Some time was spent on the top of the hill for this was a day to tarry there. The view was extensive. From Ben More in the north, through Arran (showing more clearly as the sea fog burned off) in the west, the Galloway hills and the Lowthers in the south to the Culter hills and Tinto in the east it was limited only by the horizon. Cameras clicked constantly.

The descent was made on the east side of the hill for we could see the estate road that would take us to Glenbuck lying below us. At first the going was good, through the stunted heather. Some crystalline snow was found lying in dirty patches and Jimmy delighted in tramping through it - he had gaiters on. Then the short heather gave way to tussocks of rank grasses and the going got harder. Wet patches and sphagnum bogs were encountered. Jimmy took these in his stride - he had gaiters on - while some of the rest had to pick their way carefully. The group split into two, Jimmy and Rex and Paul (not forgetting Holly) forming the advanced group. The sluggards were waited for near the end of the estate road. Jimmy was not mocked again.

This road took us eastward yet. Lunch was taken where the road crossed the infant Douglas Water. The temperature rose. Davie, who is known for his short legged attire, regretted not wearing the shorts today. Jimmy stripped off his gaiters, unzipped the legs of his trousers and walked in shorts and T-shirt for the rest of the day. The road lead on. ‘Downward all the way’, said Davie. Alan would like it noted that there were at least two mountainous climbs on this downward journey. On the second of these climbs we disturbed an early butterfly but it was against the light and was difficult to identify. It might have been a small tortoiseshell. Eventually the road took us to Parish Holm Johnny, looking over the drystane dyke asked, ‘Is that the lake?’. As one, Jimmy and Paul (our token Englishman) exclaimed ‘LOCH!’. And Johnny’s an Irvine man. A great drift of snowdrops nodded in the spring-like sun at our passing from Parish Holm to Glenbuck Loch.

The east dam of the loch provided another rest in the sun while Holly swam and chased sticks in the water. A flock of oystercatcher sported above the loch and some golden eye floated on the water but, apart from a young mute swan, nothing else could be spotted as we walked round the loch to the bird hide. Again some rest was had for it was a day for such things. The River Ayr Way was picked up here and followed back towards Muirkirk. Davie commented on, criticised and condemned the block of zinc coloured metal purporting to be art that marks the start of the Way.

The long walk on the straight of the old railway was just that for this is a particularly uninteresting bit of countryside. Davie, Jimmy and Rex remembered this part from the last time we did this walk but, try as we might, we could not convince Johnny that he was part of the group that day. It must be his age. The overly dressed stopped to take on water and cool down. Jimmy was perfectly dressed for the conditions. Did he mock? No, he remembered the old proverb, ‘He who laughs last gets a smack in the mouth’, so kept his shut.

The pace was upped at Auldhouseburn road as the infantile jockeyed for position for the final sprint. It was good to note that no matter how fast Paul set the pace, the group stayed intact, a comment on the general fitness of us all now. Enough energy had been preserved for Paul, Jimmy and Johnny to attempt a run to the finish. Paul won. The *@***#!

We pinted that day in the eighteenth century Coach-house Inn in Muirkirk.

PS These jottings are a personal recollection of the day. If there are any anecdotes that you would like included plese tell me.

Friday, 8 February 2008


Alan, Davie, Jimmy, Johnny, Paul, Rex & Robert
Sunny and early-spring-like

Old Munroists never die, they simply pass their peak. It is well know that mountaineers have a keen sense of direction honed by many long years of practiced navigational skills. So how come they can get lost in the city?

We gathered - eventually - at Speirs Wharf on the north-east side of Glasgow for what was to be a flat walk along the canal bank. Despite the forecast and the promise of the morning, it looked as though we would get rain for a heavy shower could be seen scudding across the city and a few spots hit us. But this was the last we were to see of it and the day was passed in early spring sunshine, albeit with a cool breeze. We wandered casually along to Port Dundas, the end of this spur of the canal. This eighteenth century industrial area has been preserved beautifully. Though the canal carries small pleasure craft instead of commercial barges and the warehouses are now flats, the character of the district has been maintained. And the canal manager’s house is intact. A few minutes were spent here before the onward trek was continued.

The canal sits high on the north side of the Clyde valley and afforded us some superb views over the city. Paul set about capturing this with the camera. When we stopped for elevenses the view extended to the hills on the other side of the estuary, the Renfrew Heights. These heights became a topic of conversation. It was they we were on a fortnight ago when we did the Greenock Cut.

Wildlife became the topic after coffee for we were now in a rather untidy part of the city and the birds of the canal took our attention. Goosander, tufted duck, moorhen and mallard were the main waterbirds. Magpies could be heard chattering, and were occasionally seen, amongst the stunted trees. Jimmy gave us a nature lesson as we walked. (No quivering leaves spotted today!) The group split into two when we saw the heron standing among the reeds. The advanced four “missed the craggy heron nabbin’ puddocks in the segs”, well, fish actually. But the second party watched intently as the bird stalked its prey, ‘nabbed’ it and had a small fish for elevenses.

The multi-coloured houses were commented upon and opinion split as to their merits but the majority was positive. Paul was delighted when we found Partick Thistle’s ground at Firhill and added this to his collection of photographs of football grounds. The cormorant drying his wings in the sun was also photographed. Then we came to Stockingfield Junction and the Forth & Clyde Canal. This was to be followed for the next part of the walk.

We were now on the north-east of the city passing through the suburbs and the growing spread of new housing. Then we were into the country by Possil Marsh Nature Reserve and enjoying the warmth of the February sunshine. And we weren’t alone. Joggers, walkers and cyclists took advantage of the day. A group of local worthies, gathered in a sheltered spot, exchanged pleasantries but never offered to share what was in the bottles. Police cadets from the college ‘fartlecked’ their training run to an end. And everybody and their dogs seemed to be alive to the day after the dead spell of a wet winter. Lunch was taken in a sunny spot at the edge of a small wood at Bishopbrigs.

The return journey was the reverse of the outward. The same ‘worthies’ greeted us again. Yet again there was no offer to share the bottle. I doubt whether the offer would have been accepted in any case but it’s the thought that counts. Stingy auld sods. The return seemed to take less time than the outward journey and we were back at Stockingfield before we knew it, a kestrel hanging in the sky at Possil Marsh being a highlight. A casual walk took us back towards Port Dundas. Then the competitive in the group upped the pace for the final sprint. Childish, I call this. Johnny beat me!

A different and interesting walk. It was suggested we might like to try this on bikes some day and it might be interesting to travel further along the canal.

PS Pinted in Fenwick.

Thursday, 7 February 2008

6 February: Glasgow Canal Walk photos

I've posted some photos from the walk to Flickr.

Canal Walk photos
(Click on the 'open in a new window' icon next to View as Slideshow)

Apologies for the random chronology of the pictures.

More party confusion

Sorry everybody, must have been on the second glass when I typed last night's post. 29th is a Friday I meant to suggest the previous Saturday which is the 23rd February.

Wednesday, 6 February 2008

Party chez Davie

Davie invited you all to our house on 8 March. Only problem is I will be on way back from day trip to France that evening! So if 1st March is no good how about the 29th February?

Friday, 1 February 2008

30 January Culter Fell 2

The day promised much. The overnight frost meant a bright and sunny start to the morning and the destination was an interesting and scenic part of the country so, when we gathered at Davie’s place, spirits were high. And six of us - Davie, Jimmy, Johnny, Paul, Peter & Rex - travelled eastward towards Biggar and the valley of the Culter. Yet, as we came towards the hills, it was obvious that the promise of the morning would not be fulfilled for these were the hills making the clouds that now trailed the sky and the tops were clothed in thick, grey mist. Even in the valley of the Culter the raw wind was felt and we knew it was blowing over unseen snow on the tops. And it was into this wind that we started our walk.

The first 300m (325 yards for the old folk) was on tarmac and the pace was kept high to warm the blood. Then tarmac was left and the grass path was found that would take us to the sharp climb onto the shoulder of Culter Fell. Peter, whose first outing this was since before Christmas, found the climb and the pace testing today. At this point Davie would like it minuted that it was not he who was setting the pace today, it was Mr Porter! Peter’s discomfort was not eased by the strength and temperature of the wind that blew constantly on our right sides as we climbed. So a halt was called to admire the view. Not much in the close view for the clag still hung on the hills but the sun still shone in the Clyde valley and lit up the high flats of Motherwell. Then it was upward again. The path took us up beside a line of shooting butts and it was suggested that coffee should be taken here as these would provide some shelter from the arctic wind and there would be none on the top. Three stopped in one butt while three made for another higher up.

After coffee, the climb was continued steeply but eased as the shoulder of the hill was gained. By then, though, we were into the freezing fog and a dusting of snow. The ground was frozen just sufficiently to bear the foot until weight was put on it when it gave way with a crunch and provided slightly less than easy walking. But the top was won easily enough given the conditions. The bitter wind and freezing fog combined to grow horizontal icicles from the trig point and fence and Rex got busy capturing this with the camera. But these were not conditions in which to linger and we were soon making the descent.

The initial descent was through the frost rimed grass and powdery snow into the teeth of the wind. But conditions improved as we came out of the mist into the shelter of the hill and it was a lighter-hearted group the came down the heathery slopes to find a shooter’s road. And Rex continued to set the pace. The group split into two - the fit and the sensible - four to the front and two in the rear. The four stopped for lunch at the reservoir dam and waited for the two. And waited for the two. And waited. Holly’s bark attracted the attention of the two who had somehow lost the shooter’s road and had taken to the heather again. They appeared out of the trees above and to the right of the diners, thanking Holly for attracting their attention. Navigation lessons needed here. Or at least lessons on how to tell a road from a heathery slope.

The way was now down the service road. Estimated were made of the time it would take to complete the trip and these ranged from 15 minutes to three-quarters of an hour. The fifteen minute guessers set the pace, the three-quarters of an hour boys took their time. It took thirty-five minutes. Well done Davie.

Another good outing despite the cold wind.

We chose The Crown in Biggar for our post walk refreshment.