Thursday, 14 August 2008

13 August Auchincruive Again

The enforced lay-off for the last few weeks was taking its toll - stir-crazy comes to mind. So, despite the rain of the night and the poorish forecast, we gathered at Auchincruive House for a low level, short walk. All of us came out today, all except Johnny, that is, who was engaged in work at his Galloway house.
The best part of the route has been travelled many times before and requires no further description here. (Though some did come armed with the Herald’s description of the walk. And a map forbye.) We were to walk up the north bank of the river and return by the south. And the pace was to be slow for the walking wounded were with us today. Davie was still hobbling on the ankle he sprained at Loudoun Hill and Jimmy had a touch of Sciaaaaaaaatica. The pace suited everybody, though.
Some were returned from distant airts and regaled us with tales of their exploits. Peter talked Australia and Rex recognised, from his own visit last year, the places mentioned. Robert spoke of Canada. And Paul, who had cycled the Danube some weeks before, was now returned from Sutherland’s west coast. Jimmy and Davie were jealous of their wildlife encounters, particularly those of Robert whose Canadian adventure took in the whale coast of Alaska. We look forward to seeing their photographs.
By the time we had hobbled, strolled and blethered our way up the river, we were at the edge of Mossblown. Paul and Davie recognised the church in which they had attended a funeral some weeks previously. It’s amazing the number of retired teachers of our acquaintance who have suddenly handed in their jotters and are gone to the great staffroom in the sky. Sorry to say this is the stage of life we are at now - more funerals than weddings or christenings. And bodies susceptible to aches, pains and auld men’s complaints. (Hey! Enough of this morbidness. Get on with the narrative!)
Holly was leashed for the road was to be followed now, and a reasonably busy road it is. At the bottom of the hill leading into Annbank we halted. Davie suggested that to cut through the village would make the walk too short and we should stay on tarmac to Gadgirth Bridge. Out came the Herald maps. Not surprising really for we have followed Davie’s directions before. But blue dots indicated we should take his advice on this occasion. He also pointed out the pub at the top of the brae, appropriately called ‘The Tap o’ the Brae’, and suggested we return there for post walk refreshment. We were inclined to take his advice again. But first we had to finish the walk.
We stuck to tarmac, rounded the village and came to Gargirth Bridge. Engineering work was being carried out at the viaduct some hundred metres upstream of us. Important work it looked as well, for a large crane was lifting parts into place as we watched and a road had been driven in for lorry access. We hope it’s worth the expense.
But we turned away from the work and headed downstream. Holly could now be unleashed for we were back onto the riverside path, part of the River Ayr Way. There came a wooden seat and we stopped for the first break of the day. The sun came and outer layers were stripped off as the heat hit us. Somebody suggested coffee but Davie (we seem to be taking his advice a lot today) suggested we wait until we got to the picnic table at Annbank which was only ten minutes away. We did. It was. And we coffee’d.
Annbank had to be passed through, there was no avoiding it. But we made the visit as short as possible by cutting through the houses and taking the Mill Road towards the river again. This part of the walk belongs to the Annbank Angling Club and lacks the ‘improvement’ of the long distance walk. It is grassy and nicely dry. Steps slope down to the river and shelters stand at intervals along the bank and, as if to prove the ownership, two fishers stood thigh deep in the river pools casting flies. It was Paul who picked up the names of some of these pools. Wee Beth was followed downstream by Big Beth. We looked for Extra Large Beth but she wasn’t to be found, at least not before Tarholm Bridge. (Unless she was buried under the enormous log pile trapped in the middle of the river.)
We crossed the river at by Tarholm Bridge and came back on to the ‘improved’ path. This part really was improved since we first came this way, the bogs, narrow pad and slippery clay banks being replaced by a well constructed, wide path. And this good path took us all the way to Wallace’s Seat and peece time.
We had been there fully ten minutes when Jimmy saw the couple on the path above and haled them. They came down to us, she clutching a Herald map. Red dots had brought them here. Red dots would also see them home providing Peter’s warning of floods on the trail ahead come to nothing. We pointed them in the direction of the red dots. We, ourselves, were with the blue dots yet.
Peece finished, we took the riverside path back to Auchincruive. A slight diversion was made by Jimmy and Peter who wanted to see the Wallace and Burns cairn. They were joined by Paul, our token Englishman. Peter noted the absence of trees lying across the cairn (see 21/03/07) and Paul noted the inscription on the cairn. ‘Syne to the Leglen wood when it was late, To make a silent and a safe retreat.’ ‘He got about, did Wallace, going by the number of caves he had.’, was his comment.
The rest of the group was found on Oswald’s Brig staring at the water below. This was noticeably higher than it was when we set out, the night’s rain on the Muirkirk hills finding its way downriver in the few hours we had been out. ‘Pit’s ye in the notion o’ a pint’, said Jimmy. We all agreed and returned to the Tap o’ the Brae.
We sat outside on a deck and looked down into the valley of the Ayr and down that valley to the coast. Arran looked super in the afternoon sunshine. It was good to be together again.

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

25 June Not Cairnsmore of Carsphairn

Alan, Robert, David, Rex and Paul gathered at Bridgend at the allotted hour for the ascent of Cairnsmore of Carsphairn.

After 15 minutes of cursing Jimmy for being late it was remembered that he was out of the country, having told us the previous week that he was planning to visit his beloved England.

The cursing then continued.

The weather was distinctly unpleasant with rain falling and the Water of Deugh (for a sassenach, this is easier to write than to pronounce) impressively in spate. After a walk of about a mile we came to a footbridge over the Benloch Burn, a tributary of the aforementioned Deugh. The footbridge was down and looked as if it had been down for some time.

This didn't matter much to Holly who merrily crossed back and forth between the banks, but for we mere humans the burn was impossible ford at this point. We followed the burn upstream, looking for a crossing point but although one or two locations appeared promising to some (to your correspondent they seemed akin to the Soldier's Leap at Killiecrankie) we finally admitted defeat.

After some deliberation it was decided to return to Bridgend and to visit the Woodhead lead mines and smelter instead.

En route we encountered the farmer at Garryhorn out with his 4 collies. Good natured as the dogs were, the farmer lacked David's mastery of the breed. As they charged about, out of control, Robert remarked "I take it you don't take them to sheepdog trials!"

Thankfully, the farmer was good natured too.

We explored the mines etc, identifying the line of the old flues up which workers were sent to scrape off the lead which had condensed on the inside. Mind you, unpleasant as it must have been, it might still have been a marginally better job than teaching 4C last period on Friday. David explored a mineshaft whilst the rest of us headed up to the final building of the village to seek shelter for lunch. A search of the web suggests that this was the old school.

The Lead Mines at their peak

In somewhat improved weather we returned to Bridgend. From there we headed for our refreshments at the Loch Doon Hotel in Dalmellington, which had reopened after modernisation. We were greeted like long-lost friends by 'Chic Murray'. Initially we sat outside in the courtyard but eventually we were driven indoors by the inclement weather. The indoor area in which we sat was notable for the water cascading down one wall - a thoughtful, impressive and novel feature of the modernisation.

Monday, 4 August 2008

more poetry - discuss!


Once, people spoke their maps.
Everyone knew where lay
rough moorland of the perilous region,
the hill of the eagle,
mountain of awesome grandeur.

Once, people were wary of the crag
of the storm-swept range, made pilgrimage to
the hill of the memorial pile or that other,
above the hollow of the warrior’s tomb.

Once, people spoke their land
and what it meant to them,
before strangers, with inflexible tongues,
bringing pen and parchment, plotted

names which whisper only an echo
of what they once were:
Palgowan, Benyellery, Mulwharchar,
Craigmasheenie, Pinbreck,