Sunday, 31 May 2009

William Wallace

For the benefit of our English friend, Willie Wallace was a centre forward who played for Celtic in the late sixties and early seventies. Since he was born in Stirling, it's a mystery why he is commemorated in Elderslie.
Your friendly historian

Friday, 29 May 2009

27 May: A Day in the Saddle: Lochwinnoch-Pollok House-Lochwinnoch

Seven EOs (Davie, Ian, Johnny, Paul, Rex, Robert and Ronnie) gathered promptly at 9.30 am, outside the Vistors' Centre at Castle Semple Loch, Lochwinnoch.

Seven EOs - but very nearly only 5 bicycles. Robert had failed to notice a speed bump in Stewarton which left the bicycle rack holding his and Davie's bike hanging at a precarious angle from the rear of his car.

The weather at 9.30 am was wet and dreich and we all wondered why Davie had not been phoning around to cancel the cycle run. Still, the forecast was for an improvement and we chose to delay our departure in the hope of ameliorating conditions and headed off towards the Centre for a coffee, only to be informed en route that the the cafe didn't open till 10 am. Your correspondent headed off back to his car, to change into shorts, and found it odd that no one else had returned to their bikes. Eventually he spotted Johnny waving frantically from the door of the centre and upon rejoining him found that the rest of the group was tucking into a variety of cakes and biscuits and awaiting the serving of coffee. Quite what charms had been used to elicit this unexpected service can only be speculated upon by your correspondent.

The delayed departure proved to be a wise move because when we emerged from the Centre, filled with coffee, chocolate crisps, banana sponge and goodness knows what else, the rain had more or less stopped .... and the rest of the day proved to be rain-free other than for the very lightest smirr.

Off we set heading north along the route of the old Dalry & North Johnstone Line with Robert immediately steaming on ahead. Had no one told him that this would be a marathon rather than a sprint? There were pleasing glimpses of the loch, and 'The Temple', a folly, which was constructed on Kenmore Hill in 1770, was sighted by those not pedalling nose-to-handlebars. At one point a buzzard swooped low just ahead of us on the track.

Our first halt on an old railway bridge brought forth the expression of a little discomfiture from Johnny. He thought his saddle needed adjustment. Robert was quick to diagnose the problem as 'lack of f***ing preparation'. Ronnie, on the other hand, delved into his tool kit; a tool kit sufficiently equipped to rebuild a complete bicycle. (Why do cyclists buy ultra light bicycles and then load half a ton of scrap iron into their tool kits?)

Without getting too technical Ronnie appeared to take the saddle apart and put it back together again. The only difference your correspondent could discern was that Johnny now appeared to be in grave danger of sliding off the back of the saddle onto the rear wheel of his bike.

Davie too was having trouble. He reckoned that his legs seemed to be too long for his pedals - wisely he chose to adjust the height of his saddle rather than the length of his legs.

Onward we pedalled, skirting Kilbarchan and the northern edge of Johnstone.

Our second halt was also on an old railway bridge and again Johnny expressed some discomfiture in the nether regions. This time a little more vehemently. Suggestions were made that Johnny should nip back to the Morrison's store we had just passed and buy a £59.99 bike - keep the new saddle and dump the rest of the bike in the river - which appeared to be a local custom. Ronnie, however, was not to be deterred. The rest of us stood around in awe as he set about his task of taking apart Johnny's saddle and reconstructing it. It was suggested that Rex should be filming all this for an instructional video on bicycle maintenance. Ronnie's secret this time appeared to be to take everything apart and then reassemble it in a different order. (This works for me with IKEA furniture.)

A perceptive passing friendly native helpfully told us where the nearest bicycle repair shop was.

Having refitted the saddle, Ronnie and Johnny then set about adjusting Johnny's front brakes. The need for adjustment appeared to be a consequence of the saddle adjustment. At this stage it was becoming all too technical and high powered for your correspondent and instead he turned his attention to the shopping trolleys and bikes in the river under the bridge.

Off we set again. At Elderslie we made a rare diversion onto a public road. The Wallace Tavern was spotted. Does anyone know who this Mr Wallace was?

We were soon back on the old railway line and after a couple of miles arrived at Paisley Canal Street station! Facing us was Saucel Hill, rising up to its full height of 42 metres, and with some difficulty we pushed our bikes over the grass to the summit, which afforded a fine panoramic view of Paisley and its environs.

Since a picture is said to be worth a thousand words, here's a picture:

...and here's one of Rex's pictures, posed as we pored over the map, pretending to be lost:

L-R: Robert, Ian, Davie, Ronnie, Paul, Johnny
As we took in the view, there was discussion about where we should go next. Paul suggested the Erskine Bridge. Johnny suggested Lochwinnoch.

So Glasgow it was.

Some of the more daring in the party descended the hill on their bikes, the more sensible pushed. A short ride along a road took us to a more open but also more dodgy area: Injun Territory. However no braves could be seen lining the tops of the grassy slopes which rose up to our right and so we pedalled on at full speed. We passed a host of derelict buildings on the site of the Hawkhead Hospital for Infectious Diseases. This site is now being developed for luxury homes but it looked as if the credit crunch has taken its toll.

And then it was along the banks of the White Cart and over a bridge from which had been dumped, surprise surprise, shopping trolleys, bicycles and traffic cones. Soon we were in Pollok Park, where we had decided to lunch.
A costume drama was being filmed close to Pollok House and Davie took exception to the Extra's sign posted on a couple of the caravans on the set.

We had lunch outside the House at a couple of ideally situated picnic tables alongside the White Cart. The eagle-eyed amongst us spotted a pair of kingfishers flying up the river - a first for Ian - and we were unanimous in our expressions of regret that Jimmy had missed this rare treat.

After lunch arty-farty photographs were taken on the steps outside Pollok House, evidence of which can be seen in Bob's photo above. At one time the intention had been to visit the Burrell Collection but in the event we decided to give it a miss.

The return journey? Well it was like the outgoing journey, only in the opposite direction.

The group split up badly on the return as the miles began to take their toll on some legs and glutei maximi (I hope that's the plural, Davie).

For those in the lead, not that it was a race at all, Davie provided some protection against the wind as he pulled the main peloton along. However, once his usefulness was over he was dropped by Ronnie and Rex as they made a breakaway, pulling out of his slipstream and opening up a substantial gap as Paul tried to hold on to Davie's rear wheel.

Paul then pulled away from Davie and started to close the gap on the leaders as the finishing line came into view, not that it was a race at all, and in the last few metres the gap was closed.

The final résultat de l'étape, not that it was a race at all:

1 Thompson R 3:02:24

2 Porter R même temps

3 Crankshaw P même temps

4 McMeekin D à 25 secondes

5 McGarry R à 3:17 minutes

6 Hill I à 5:13 minutes

7 Matthews J même temps

Not that it was a race at all.

Refreshments were taken in the Corner Bar at Lochwinnoch. We settled in the snug. It was so snug that Rex had to go into the Ladies' toilet in order to take group photograph.


In the evening, Paul, Johnny, Ronnie, Alan and Rex enjoyed the splendid hospitality of Davie and Kay as they watched Manchester United being humiliated by Barcelona in the Champions' League final.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

27 May, Cycle, Lochwinnoch,Castle Semple to Pollok House

In front of Pollok House

Climbing the hill behind Canal Street Station, Paisley

On the run!

27 May: Cycle Route - Lochwinnoch-Pollok House

A map of the route taken - for the benefit of those who didn't know how we managed to end up in Glasgow

Distance: 48 km (30 miles) according to the OS map. 32 miles according to the trip computers on Paul's and Rex's bikes

Friday, 22 May 2009

Davie's top 5 outings in 2009 (so far)

  1. Coran of Portmark
  2. Luss hillwalk
  3. Linlithgow Cycle
  4. Maidens > Dunure
  5. Dunure > Alloway
What are yours?

20 May Ayrshire Coast part 6 – Dunure to Alloway

All’s well that ends well
To paraphrase the poet, ‘The best laid schemes o’ mice and men though aften gaein’ agley, juist as aften turn oot for the best’. Or, to quote yon ither bloke, ‘All’s well that ends well’. So it was with today. The proposed tour of Bute by bike was cancelled in the light of a poor weather forecast and Davie’s reluctance to get wet on a bike. Instead, we opted for the short section of the Ayrshire coast from Dunure to Alloway with the view that if the weather did turn nasty, we would be out of it quickly and into the warmth of a pub somewhere. Oh we of little faith.
We gathered at Rex’s place. Jimmy and Peter would like it noted that, not only were they early but they were first there. But everybody else was early so their glory was short-lived. We left cars at Rex’s and took two to Dunure. Though a cool southwesterly blew as we left the cars, the morning sun still shone and Davie was getting peculiar looks from some who suspected the sun also shone on Bute.

Rex had the book so we were relying on him to set uson the right path. ‘Climb away from the harbour to the railway bridge at Fisherton’ read Rex. So, off we went in that direction. Hawthorn flowers scented the air as we took the road up through the trees, came into more open farmland and climbed away from the sea towards the railway bridge. Concern grew when we realised we were walking too far away from the sea. We halted to re-examine the book. This time Rex read the right paragraph, not the one that had us on the diversion over the Carrick hills.
So back down the road we came, through a field gate, down through the field to the sea and lo, we beheld the coastal path. (Sorry fellows but poetry may well be a recurring theme of this posting.) Now that we had found the path, it was easy enough to keep to it: all we had to do is follow the white paint marks on the rocks. We could ignore Rex’s book now.

The path led us through a machar festooned with spring flowers.
If we thought that last week’s walk was the epitome of ‘flow’ry May’, today was to prove us wrong. Apart from the afore mentioned hawthorn, red campion grew in the hedgerows and the higher parts of the shoreline; blue spring squill, white daisies with yellow centres and red buds, orange-yellow bird’s-foot trefoil and field buttercups decked the drier sward; pink thrift and stonecrop filled crevasses in the orange-lichened rocks while early purple orchids and yellow marsh marigolds grew in the wetter areas. And the flower show continued all along the shore, with white bladder campion, oxeye daisies, green wall pennywort and sea spurges all flowering in their own particular habitat. We all agreed that it was a superb show.

One of those wetter parts took us down to the beach where we were to stay for the next four or five miles. At first, the going was on coarse sand but this soon gave way to shingle and larger cobbles. Peter was in his element, looking amongst the tide-washed boulders for agates and examining with enthusiasm many of the coloured cobbles. Jimmy and Ronnie were a willing audience for his passion. Said Jimmy ‘Isn’t it great, Peter, that we have reached sixty-odds and still retain a childlike interest in the world around us?’ This childlike interest extends from rocks and landscape features to wildlife and history, all of which we would encounter today. Peter loaded his rucksack with pebbles which, no doubt, will appear in a painting in due course.

By this time, we were split into two groups, Davie and Robert in the van some twenty metres in front and rest examining the beach for treasures. There now came a burn to be crossed, a shallow burn and not too wide. There should be no problem here for we didn’t have Paul today. But there was a problem. The advanced pair cleared the stream and walked on. Rex cleared it and waited for the others. Jimmy could see the boulder in the middle was dry and provided a safe stepping-stone. Jimmy was wrong. His foot slipped on the wet algae and in went the left foot. Not content with this, when he tried to retain balance his right foot slipped. It also went in. Now both feet landed on the slippery bottom and gave way. Doon went Jimmy with a resounding splash and a yell. He emerged form his unexpected bathing drookit from the waste down, torn breeks, a might graze and bruise where his shin hit the offending boulder, a gash dripping blood on one hand and a staved finger on the other. A sight to behold.
This was when Rex displayed his well-honed first-aid skills, applying the plaster to the cut on Jimmy’s finger. For this act of mercy, we have awarded Rex an honorary doctorate. Henceforth he shall be known as Doctor Porter and never again as that wee Aussie b******.
The advanced pair walked on oblivious to the drama being played out behind. But, being hailed from a hundred metres back, they halted to let the rest catch up. We were now at a point where the beach gave way to a rocky outcrop and behind this, sheltered from the breeze we sat for coffee.
Many were the words of sympathy offered to Jimmy.
‘If you had two walking poles, you could have kept your balance’
‘Mair like twa crutches he needs’
‘Better wear a cycle helmet next walk just in case’
‘He’ll no damage onything if he hits his heid’
‘I wish I’d seen it. It must have been funny’
‘Did ye get the video, Rex?’
‘Can I put this sticky plaster on your hairy leg?’ asked the sadist.
Jimmy declined the offer. While he accepted the sympathy, he would have preferred drink.

Post coffee we continued the walk (or hobble according to who you were). We came onto the flat sand again under a low crag and the walking was easy. The day was turning pleasantly warm and we hadn’t too far to go so the pace was casual. The birders enjoyed themselves, the stone gatherers enjoyed themselves and the novice botanists enjoyed finding new plants. We all enjoyed that section of the walk. But it was now approaching twelve-thirty and lunch was called. Again, we found a sheltered spot behind a crag and sat for lunch, a long lunch as the day warranted.

We came under a high cliff, the start of the Heads of Ayr, where ‘the raven soars and the seabirds nest’. There were some shallow caves beside a waterfall. The adventurous climbed to examine the caves while the timorous and the lame waited for their report. ‘Shallow caves, barely twenty feet deep and not worth the effort to see’, was the comment. So we continued along the shore. 

The sand and shingle gave way to boulders and rocks around the cliffs at the north end of the Heads. Care had to be taken here. Somebody offered to take Jimmy’s hand just in case. Jimmy asked for a carry but this was refused so we all took our own degree of care in crossing the boulders. But the rocks were soon passed and the sand was regained.

Greenan Castle now came in view, perched on its crag at the far end of our sandy bay. Daviesuggested we cut the corner by going straight across the bay. ‘The tide’s out and the sand’s firm’ said he. We followed Davie (Again?). The tide was out but burns, broadened to river width on the flat sand, ran across our path. There was no option but to wade through. ‘I don’t mind’, said he of the torn breeks, ‘My feet are wet anyway’, and off he strode through the flood. We were forced to follow, picking our route carefully. But we all reached Greenan with relatively dry feet.

Greenan castle had to be explored. We climbed up the steep grass beside the crag to get to it. The door of the castle is bricked up but a hole has been punched in the brickwork and, with sufficient wriggling, it would be possible to gain entrance. None of us tried it.

From the height of the castle, we could look over the sea to Arran bathed in sunshine and right up the Ayrshire coast to the Clyde islands. ‘What a great day this would have been for a cycle on Bute’, said somebody. Davie ignored the comment and recounted his Greenan Castle tramp story instead. Then we turned our backs on the castle and walked on.

Not only did we leave the castle but we also left the Coastal Path and the shore and turned inland. We came by Greenan Farm and the road by High Greenan to find the cycle path along the old railway. On the flat tarmac amongst the trees, the pace was gradually increased to our usual rate. We came to the Doon and stopped on the railway bridge. Here was a superb view upriver to the two brigs o’ Doon, the auld one seen through the arch of the new. Photos were taken.
Immediately on the left of the north end of the old railway brig is the well made famous in Tam O’ Shanter as the place ‘where Mungo’s mither hanged hersel’’. This was examined by some though others missed it and marched on past.
The old railway was left and we came into Alloway near ‘the auld haunted kirk’. But we didn’t visit there today. Instead, we turned our footsteps along past the ‘auld clay biggin’ and on to Rex’s place.
This was another superb section of the walk, probably made so by the weather. None of us was too unhappy to have cancelled the cycle on Bute.

But we had to get back to Dunure for the cars left there. And while we were there, we partook of a small refreshment in the same place as we did last week.

Photos by Bob.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

The Sair Finger

An Ode to Jimmy's Finger.

You've hurt your finger? Puir wee man! Your pinkie? Deary me! Noo, juist you haud it that wey till I get my specs and see!
My, so it is - and there's the cut! Noo, dinna greet nae mair. See there - Dr Rex MD(geriatrics) has got a plaster! I'm sure that wasna sair?
And noo, to make it hale the morn, Put on a wee bit saw, And tie a Bonnie hankie roun't Noo, there na - rin awa'!
Your finger sair ana' Ronnie? Ye rogue, You're only lettin' on. Weel, weel, then - see noo, there ye are, Row'd up the same as Jimmy!

Future Recommendations from the H&E Executive

Use a pair of walking poles on outings

Wear a cycling helmet when walking over rocks( this will also protect you near wind farms).

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Proposed cycle May 27th.

Meet at Lochwinnoch Visitors' Centre around 9.30 a.m. on Wednesday 27th May. Cycle into Paisley for a curry. (Some people will meet at Johnnie's around 9.00.a.m.) Forget the curry,bring a packed lunch, - Kay is providing a cold curry for those attending the final of the European Champions League.

The warning notice amongst the Dunure walk pictures has Ronnie terrified. He has arranged a special mortgage to cover him in case he needs a dump in South Ayrshire.

13th May Ayrshire Coast, Part 5 – Maidens to Dunure

Sweet is the morn in flow’ry May,
And sweet the e’en in autumn mild,
When roving through a garden gay,
Or wand’ring in some lonely wild.
The Bonnie Lass o’ Ballochmyle
Robert Burns

What the autumn mild has in store for us we will need to wait to see, but it was certainly a sweet May morning that greeted us when we gathered at Dunure for our next leg of the Ayrshire coast. The sun shone early, the air was clear. The only thing that sopped this being the perfect morning was the cool westerly that greeted us when we left the cars but the forecast was in our favour and we expected the day to warm up nicely as it progressed.
And there was to be no lonely wild for us today. There would be ‘gardens gay’ though, both formal, as in the sunken lawn and borders at Culzean Castle, and informal as we walked through the ‘Pleasure Garden’ of the Culzean woodlands and the flower-decked machar of the coastal fringe. The botanists amongst us anticipated it eagerly. And the birders anticipated some excellent spotting.

Leaving Maidens

We left Maidens in two groups with the first ambling along the beach to allow the other to catch up. Davie had turned to the north car park and the rest to the south one some half mile away so we left in two groups. But the first group enjoyed the speed of the amble; it was a day for taking time. The sand was firm and the walking easy. The second group set off at the usual speed and we were all together by the time we approached the caravan park. They were reduced to the speed of the first bunch. Somewhere along the beach we lost the wind; we came into the shelter of the Culzean cliffs and lost the breeze altogether. Coffee was called for, but Davie suggested we wait until the top of the headland where we would get a great view seaward. This is what we did.
A flight of sandy steps rises from the beach to the scrub-covered headland some fifty feet above. This should be no problem for any one of us but Johnny had us stopped. Not that he had a problem; it was just for one of his photo-shoots. We posed dutifully as directed and then continued up onto the scrubby cliff-top. Davie led us through the shrubbery to a grassy clearing overlooking the sea where we settled down for coffee.

Off the beach into Culzean

Heading for Culzean

Davie was right, this was a superb place to stop. We were in the sun and out of the wind and the view seaward was first class on a day like this. The sky was azure, though high altitude cloud trailed the southern horizon adding creaminess in that direction: the sea reflected the blue of the sky but turned it cobalt and ultramarine: the greens and yellows of cliff-top whins added colour to the scene while orange lichens and thrift tinted the rocks below. The Ayrshire coast was visible all the way from Turnberry lighthouse in the south to the crags of Portincross in the north. The Clyde islands and the hills of Cowal formed the northern horizon. Arran filled the north-west skyline and, west of this, the blue-grey line of Kintyre ran southward to its Mull. Paddy’s Milestane stood proud in the southern sea. And Gannets, dive-bombing for fish, entertained us as we took coffee. Bob said ‘The Med would be goin’ some to beat this the day’. Nobody argued.

Ailsa Craig

We spent some time over coffee, just lazing in the sun. Surprisingly, Peter made the first move. (Robert would like it recorded that he didn't move first - this time.) Reluctantly we raised ourselves from the sun-warmed, springy turf and followed Peter.
Culzean’s swan pond was through a wood of more mature trees. When we reached it, we turned right for there were some who wanted too visit the aviary. What a disappointment. A notice on the door informed us that the aviary was now closed. The PC brigade has triumphed again. It seems that it is unacceptable now to keep birds in cages so all the Culzean birds have been given to local breeders. Eh! Do these breeders have bigger cages than Culzean? We very much doubt it. But the birds are gone now and NTS are looking for a new use for the aviary.
The path on the east side of the swan pond was taken. This took us into more mature woodland, a woodland that was alive with birdsong and decked out in spring flowers. Here was ‘flow’ry May’ in all its grandeur. Bluebells, red campion, wild garlic and a yellow flower Jimmy identified as Doronicum coloured the ground level under a canopy of fresh spring green. And, once again, we were sheltered from the breeze. This really was an enjoyable part of the walk.

The battery

But the wood ended, too soon for the naturalist who was still tuned into the birdcalls, and we came out into the immediate environs of Culzean Castle at the Battery. We were now into the more formal part of the park. Davie spoke of the Orangery and this was our first port of call in the formal garden.
A collection of different varieties of oranges and lemons grew in pots under the protection of the Orangery. We had to watch Rex for, as an Aussie his natural inclination was to pee on the lemon trees. But he managed to contain himself and the lemons avoided urination.

Oranges and lemons

The sunken garden, with its lawns and fountain was a suntrap today and heat built up as we wandered by the formal borders and up to the castle itself.
Culzean Castle is such a well-known feature of Ayrshire landscape and history that it needs no description here. We halted for a few minutes on the mortar terrace to look over the sea to Arran and see the Ayrshire coast run northward. The naturalist was disappointed not to see any seals on the water, which he assures us, is the usual case from this terrace. But Peter and Ian had other interests apart form wildlife and landscape: Peter for the gashouse and Ian for the caves underneath the castle.
Down at sea level, we turned left for the caves, assuring Peter that we would return to view the gashouse. The rocks were scrambled over, too much scrambling for Ronnie and Johnny who chose to remain on the sand and await our return. The first cave is nothing more than a shallow opening in the cliff face so excited no particular interest from the newcomers. But the second was deeper and longer and allowed us entry, after a duck through a manmade doorway, into a netherworld, a dark and damp netherworld. While the rest of us were content to remain in the spacious cavern with a chink of daylight reminding us of our own world, Jimmy and Ian were for further into the cave. They were, until Jimmy, in the complete darkness, stood in the mud-slimy puddle. His howls, as the cold water oozed into his trainer and his head hit the roof as he stood up, might have been interpreted by those hearing it outside as some modern day Minator roaring in its labyrinth. But it was only Jimmy with a wet foot and a sore head. The speleologists returned to the company and we all returned to the daylight world.
The third cave was to be the one that provided most interest according to those who knew. More rocks were scramble over to reach it. But it was to prove a disappointment for both entrances are gated and barred now. Health and Safety rules, OK! We could do nothing but gaze into the darkness through the bars before admitting defeat and returning over the rocks to find Ronnie and Johnny and return to the gashouse.
The gashouse was worth the visit and we spent time here examining the information boards. It’s amazing the number of Ayrshiremen who were at the forefront of the social, economic and technological developments of the industrial revolution. (For further information, consult your history expert)
We left the gashouse and took along the shore. The going was easy on the firm sand and the walking was casual. Culzean policies were left when we turned round a headland and came to Maybole Shore. This is a name you won’t find on a map but it is a local name for this part of the shore and Ian told the story of its naming. It is too long to quote here but if you wish to know, the writer feels confident that Ian will relate it again.
An excited cry from one of the birdie folk drew our attention to a pair of birds that Davie identified as whimbrel. They looked like curlew to us but we were assured they were whimbrel and we should consider ourselves lucky to see them. Some of us were underwhelmed.
Lucky or not, we continued the walk along Maybole Shore. Hunger came calling for it was now approaching lunchtime and, on flat rocks at the end of Maybole Shore, we settled down to eat.

Lunch was long and unhurried for we were only a short distance from our destination, the day was turned pleasantly warm and the view over the water to Arran was superb. Again, there was a lack of interest in moving after it. But we forced ourselves reluctantly to our feet and continued the walk. The beach was stony now, multi-coloured cobbles as far along as we could see. But we had time and took plenty of it to find a way through. Peter looked for agates. Some, naughty boys, helped themselves to a brightly coloured stone or two and carried them home. Some just took their time and enjoyed the day. The cobbles lasted for two or three hundred metres but it must have taken fully twenty minutes for us to cover this distance. When we did leave the cobbles, it was not by choice.
We approached another bluff where crags came down to the shoreline and a sign pointed us inland and upward over the head. We climbed with a track of sorts. This ran out though but further signage pointed us down into a wee burn that ran full of last week’s rain. There was a shoogly, four-inch plank across the burn beside a fence but no other way over. We looked forward to the antics of the hydrophobes, Rex even getting the camera ready for the inevitable fall. But there was no fall and we were all safely on the other side. Rex was disappointed.
Dunure Castle


Approaching Dunure

The path continues upward beside fields of sprouting corn, towards the road. One of those military lookout posts, the remainders of WW2, stood beside the field. The sensible ignored it and walked on. Those in their second childhood were for into and up it. Was it worth it? The sensible would say no for the view wasn’t improved any. But the boys enjoyed it.
We thought for a moment that the path would take us onto the Dunure road but we were wrong. It took us back down through grass, long even at this time, to the short, springy machar above the sea. Now we had only a few hundred yards to Dunure Castle and it was taken at a very leisurely pace. Here the advanced group waited for the sluggards. We all waited for a while before making our way back into the village and to the Anchorage Bar for FRT.
Perhaps it was the day, perhaps the easy pace, perhaps the way the path avoided roads, but it was the general opinion that this was the best section of the walk that we have done so far. We look forward to more.
Leaving Anchorage Bar

Photos by Johnnie

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Sponsors clamber for Early Ooters

Sponsors rush to back Early Ooters in the Laxative League

Paul - SJFA
Davie - Guide Dogs for the Deaf
Peter -
Robert - Mosset Tourist Board
Johnny - Performing Rights Society
Alan - Killit Bang
Jimmy - Noel Harrison (in memory of his big 60's hit)
Allan - Stannah Stairlifts
Holly - Guide Dogs for the Wandered
Rex - Age Concern (Dollar)
Ian - British Bakeries
Ronnie - Portaloo

'Laxative League now shit shape'

Teams from near and far have committed themselves (some say have been
committed) to the new League.
TV rights were to be have been provided by Setanta but the paperwork
was never completed.
(Well seen that teachers were involved).
This now confirms once and for all that there ain't no Setanta Clause.

AC/DC Milan - the Italian giants have been promised new frocks for the
opening ceremony.

Ayr Town Senna - this lot are so quick off the mark that they leave
skid marks all over the place

CSKA Moscow - coming from a small village these boys did well to
qualify for the Eurology Cup, UEFa's new trophy for the over 55's.

Patna Back Juniors - well done to the boys for being able to wheel
themselves on to the park for every game

Pro State Dribblers - previous winners of the Catheter Cup, they are
well respected by their peers

Craigmark Burntonians - composed (maybe even composted) by those who
couldn't remember that you press your pants before putting them on

Dailly Doses - another local outfit who are sponsored by the makers of
Viagra. They will be hard nuts to crack

FC Porter - this Portuguese ladies team are the only squad to wear knee
pads as well as shin pads. Get a lot of doggies abuse.

Sanquhar (Without Trace) Rovers - Team of former submariners who are
very used to each other's company. The lads have gone from living in
metal tubes to surviving in iron lungs.

Maidens United - the second ladies team to grace the league. In the
unlikely event that they score a goal, the scorer celebrates by doing
three zimmersaults

Early Shooters - spectators need to come early to see this team in

Fartick Pissle - gloriously won the Incontinental Cup sponsored by
Goodyear Rubber. Blew the opposition away

Cardiac City - produced some heart - stopping moments when bypassing
Glasgow strangers to qualify for the tournament. Have been in the
transplant, sorry, transfer, market looking for new blood.

Paris Amyerman - Recently won 'France's got talent', but not for their
footballing prowess. Less likely to score than Susan Boyle.

Bayern Munchkin - coached by the Wizard of Oz (WCP gets everywhere)
this small outfit benefited from the introduction of some fruity South
Africans. The Merlot the Merrier is the team's motto.

Monday, 11 May 2009

6 May A Cultural Day in Glasgow

The weather for the past couple of days has been atrocious for the time of year. Heavy rain has been accompanied by strong, cold winds. The forecast for today was for a continuation of the deluge and high winds. So, at last night’s curry, it we decided to have a day indoors and absorb some culture in the metropolis of Glasgow. Yet, when we left home it was dry, and the sun had been shining earlier. But, by the time we made Glasgow, the rain had started. It was to stay with us for the day though, mercifully, the wind stayed away.
Appropriately, we gathered ‘frae a’ the airts the win’ can blaw’ in the Glasgow Concert Hall. Our cultural leader for the day, Peter, suggested that we visit the Burns exhibition in the Mitchell Library and, on our way there, take in the Art School. And who are we to argue with such a cultured person as Peter.
We came out the Killermont Street entrance and turned left for Renfrew Street. The architecture of the city was examined and commented on as we wandered along Renfrew Street in the rain. The mixture of splendid old Victorian buildings was contrasted with the concrete ones of modern times. This brought out the Luddite in Davie and we were treated to a rant. ‘If oor David ever designs an abomination like that I’ll disown him’, was what we thought was the end of the tirade. But it would resurface occasionally, though in a milder form from now on.
While we had to agree with Davie on some of the Eastern Block-style, utilitarian, grey concrete of the nineteen-sixties, there were some admirable examples of glass and concrete architecture to see. And we saw it through the steady rain.
Then we came to the Rennie Mackintosh designed Glasgow School of Art. This was new territory for all but Peter and Robert who studied here more years ago than they care to remember. Yet, the building hadn’t changed in all these years. We admired it from the outside but we were all keen to see the inside. Peter led us in.
The interior of the building was what the writer would expect of Mackintosh - dark wood and elongated rectangles, a mix of Art Nouveau and Modernism. A flight of stairs bedecked with the busts of long dead directors led us up to the exhibition space on the first floor. The present exhibition was the art on a collection of Tarot cards. It might have been Davie who said, ‘There’s a limit to the number of Tarot cards you can look at. And after the first hundred or so, most of us agreed. Johnny was completely underwhelmed.
Johnny was underwhelmed but not so Peter and Robert. Half way round the exhibit a young lady in tight jeans and a close-fitting, green T-shirt approached them. (Even if the scribe hadn’t noticed such things as tight jeans and T-shirts, it was brought to his attention.) The young woman turned out to be a former pupil who was keen to show her teachers that she was following in their artistic footsteps. Their conversation lasted for some time with Paul joining in, having also recognised a former pupil. The others waited patiently. And waited. And waited. There is also a limit to the number of Rennie Mackintosh rectangles you can look at.
The exhibition space at the top of the stairs is the only part of the school open to the public but there were tempting glimpses of another Rennie Mackintosh world through the glass-panelled doors. We would have liked to have seen more of the school but were restricted to the small public space. So we sat and waited. And waited.
Eventually the conversation finished and the two artists, flushed with the thought that their teaching had inspired another dauber of paint, joined us. So did Paul.

Back on Renfrew Street, we turned left and approached Charing Cross. A footbridge would carry us over the busy cross and motorway. Halfway across the bridge our leader had us stopped while he pointed out the flat where he spent his student days. We duly admired it, had a photo taken and walked on to the Mitchell Library.

The Mitchell was running an exhibition on Burns for the Homecoming two-fiftieth anniversary of the poet’s birth. The library is known as a great depository of Burnsiana and some of it was in display cases at the doors. This was examined in great detail by the Burns enthusiasts. And even those with a moderate knowledge of the poet had their knowledge increased. This was an interesting part of the exhibit.
But the main display was a collection of artwork themed on Burns. This was far superior to the Tarot cards of the Art School and elicited a fair variety of comment from the Ooters. Not everybody agreed on what was good, bad or indifferent, though some works got more comment than others. One thing we were all agreed on was the Tracy Emin cartoon. The general feeling on Ms Emin was far from complimentary. ‘A crude, untalented woman hiding behind a pretentiousness purporting to be art’ was the consensus. And this wasn’t just our opinion. On the way out Davie asked the caretaker for his views on the cartoon. ‘Loada shite’, responded the wee bloke, getting right to the nub with characteristic Glasgowness and emphasising the ‘shite’.
But there was some superb art on display and the exhibition was well worth the visit. Well done, Peter, for the suggestion.
Before we left the Mitchell, Johnny would have his photo for the records. There is a policy of ‘No photography’ in the building. ‘But’, said the caretaker seeing the disappointment on Johnny’s face, ‘if I was to walk away and didn’t see you, you could do anything’. Johnny had his record shot.
Lunch was calling when we left the library and Davie had the perfect place in mind, a place that offered cheap steak pie and real ale. We came by Woodlands Terrace, Park Circus, Kelvingrove Park and University Avenue to the Tennents Bar in Byres Road. Whether the food was really good or we were hungry enough to eat anything it would be hard to say but the steak pie and chips went down a treat. Not quite so the real ale. The Dark Island proved a disappointment and most switched to Deuchars for the second glass. But the company, as usual was good and the meal hour passed in jovial banter.
But Jimmy and Peter had appointments to keep and had to leave the company to return home by the fifteen-fifteen bus. So we parted, they for the underground and we for the Hunterian Museum.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Glasgow bus trip 6 May

At 14:30 said goodbye to Jimmy and Peter as they set out to catch the Cumnock bus. Jimmy
had to curtail FRT as a long bus journey and two pints might play havoc with his bladder. We remaining six made our way to the top of Gilmour Hill along a wet, dismal and busy University Avenue into the Hunterian Museum. The Whistler collection entertained mildly. Sketches. etchings and half detailed life sized paintings. A quick turnaround the Macintosh rooms resulted in two slapped wrists as David and Ronnie were intent on touching the exhibits. Ian managed to get away without reprimand. 'Ye can take 'em nae where'. Watches were consulted and a dash through Kelvingrove Park, along Park Circus, along Renfrew Street got 5 of us to the Bus Station (Paul returned by train) just in time to catch the 3:55 to Kilmarnock.

Rex orders a soft fruity merlot at the Merkat Inn!

(thanks to Hugh Dodd for this small extract
of one of the best exhibits at the Burns 'Inspired' show.)
Title - 'The man who ordered a souffle at a Burns supper'
Mitchell Library, Glasgow. 4th Apr - 20th Sept 2009
admission free

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

29 April Glen Trool 2

Land of the brown heath and shaggy wood,
Land of the mountain and of the flood,
Walter Scott

Eight of us drove into Galloway and gathered at Bruce’s Stone in Glen Trool. The intention of the day was to traverse the Awful Hand range from north to south but the view of the fog-covered hills as we drove southward and the forecast of later rain caused a change of mind. We would now stay low and hope the rain would stay away.
Jimmy, who knows the area well, suggested a couple of routes that would keep us reasonably low and yet give some superb views. We took his advice for we are mostly novices in this part of the world and, in some cases, complete Glen Trool virgins. He also warned us that part of the route would be through a wet, boggy area (what else could we expect from a Jimmy walk?) but we were all willing to try it anyway. So off we went.

We started up the Merrick hill path towards Culsharg bothy, Robert and Jimmy leading the way. At one point, we were strung in Indian file along the narrow path. ‘Reminiscent of a canal cycle’, said a voice from the rear, ‘All you can see is the a*** of the person in front’. At this point we had to agree – if you weren’t watching your footing, you were trying to avoid running into the back of the person climbing in front. And we continued like this for half a mile or so with the path climbing, narrow and steep, beside the Buchan burn into the hanging valley.
When the slope eased and the path widened sufficiently to allow side-by-side progress, we were into the trees so still could see nothing. But, at least we weren’t staring at each other’s backsides now. Then the trees ended and we found ourselves in the wide valley of Culsharg with the bothy barely a hundred yards in front of us. We stopped at the bothy for coffee.
Somebody was in the bothy when we arrived. A chap from down south had spent the night there and was for the Merrick in the afternoon. He was still determined even after we told him the forecast was for hill fog and rain. Not everybody is as sensible as we are. We hoped he would enjoy himself and left him to it.
Davie led the way upward from the bothy, still following the Merrick path, on to the forest road. Here we met the tree planters, two older men, two young men and a lassie. They were carrying out an experimental planting of hardwoods on the Merrick path with both native and exotic species. They were armed today with sacks full of Tealeaf Willow (Salix Phylicifolia). ‘There are only five examples of Tea-leaf Willow in Galloway’, said the one who appeared to know, with a modicum of pride in his voice. Yet he didn’t seem unduly concerned by the fact he was about to ruin the rarity value of the other specimens. We let them to go about their business and turned left along the forest road.
This was new territory for all except Jimmy. A lot of the more mature forest has been felled now and the clearing afforded us a good view back down the hanging valley towards Glen Trool. The cloud hung on the top of Lamachan and the glen looked dismal in the dull light. We were glad of our change of mind.
Amongst the clear-fell, dead trees stood up like totem poles. Many and varied were the reasons put forward for leaving these but the consensus was that they were left for the benefit of wildlife – for perches for birds of prey, rotting wood for insect food, feeding stations for insectivore birds etc.. This must be true for it was the conclusion arrived at by two independent think tanks of Ooters. It’s amazing what we can turn our intellect to now that it isn’t taken up with filling up teaching paperwork. And we turned our intellect to many things as we walked along the forest road.
A mile or so after talking to the tree planters, we left the road. Now came Jimmy’s wet, boggy bit. There was a path of sorts, which Jimmy said was the route of the Merrick hill race. But it was a rudimentary path, formed only by the feet of the runners. Yet it was not as wet nor as boggy as he led us to believe and, with the trees felled, gave us good views out over the Moors of Wigtownshire. We walked along the path, in single file again, until we came to a wee heathery top where we halted for the view.

This was the Fell of Eschonchan and, even in these overcast conditions, the view was superb for so little effort. We looked down on Loch Trool snaking away westward towards the Wigtownshire Moors, and eastward to the Glenhead of Trool. The dark green tree-clad slopes of Muldonach rose on the other side of the loch and Lamachan behind this was now free of its blanket of cloud. Curlywee, Millfore, Craiglee and the Rig of the Jarkness formed the eastern skyline. Below this, ran the pass to Loch Dee and the road through this that we followed for White Laggan bothy (11/7/07) was pointed out. The fresh spring green of the ancient oak wood filled the base of the glen and ran down to the Englishman’s Holm and the loch. And a hint of sun dappled the glen floor and silvered the falls of the Gairland burn. Were we to regret our change of mind? Were we heck! Behind us, Benyellery and Merrick still brooded under a mass of boiling cloud and the valley of Culsharg was dark and sombre. We were happy to continue the way we were.
We dropped steeply from Eschonchan top, being careful of underfoot conditions, and came quickly to the car park at Bruce’s Stone.

But the day was young and the rain seemed far away so the walk wasn’t finished yet. We turned our footstep down the track to the Buchan Brig. A brief halt on the Buchan Brig to view the falls and read Scott’s stanza from ‘The Lay of the Last Minstrel’ and we were off again. Still on the road yet, we continued past Buchan, over the Gairland bridge and on towards Glenhead Farm. Then we left the farm road to follow the Sustrans route that runs through to Loch Dee. We were in tow groups now, Robert, Johnny, Davie and Jimmy in the advanced with Ian, Ronnie, Allan and Paul bringing up the rear. But the fast waited for the slow on the bridge over the Glenhead Burn where we joined The Southern Uplands Way. We would take the westerly branch.
Robert led us uphill beside the forest of Muldonnach. Somebody suggested lunch but Jimmy thought it better to wait for ten minutes until we got to The Steps o’ Trool where we could make use of the duckboards as a seat. This was thought sensible. (That made twice today when Jimmy has been accused of being sensible.) But, before we could make the Steps, the promised rain hit. Lunch was taken in two groups crouched under the trees at the steps for the boardwalk was exposed to the worst of the rain. We sat and watched as the downpour swept up the loch.
The rain was to continue for a while yet. We left the lunch stop, suitably waterproofed, and followed the path westward through the trees. Sometimes there were gaps in the forest and we could look out over the loch but the views over to the other side were washed out by the incessant rain. We were glad now that we didn’t take to the hill today.
The path brought us close to the loch side. Jimmy and Davie, both veterans of this walk, had us diverted away from the main path onto a wee pine-covered promontory for they said this gave a superb view of the loch. This was Jimmy’s favourite picnic spot and it certainly was a super wee area with a great view of the loch running eastward into its hills. But the rain was still on so not too long was spent admiring the view. We came back across the peninsula, through the grove of mature Scots Pines, to find the main path again.
Glen Trool Lodge sat on the other side of the water. Two large rhododendrons in full flower took the attention, spectacular even through the rain. Johnny suggested we would see them better when we passed later but Jimmy said this was the best view. We had to take his word.
The main path was followed upward and downward to Caldons. Another diversion was made to view the martyr’s grave. This was where five covenanters*, James Dun, Robert Dun, John Stevenson, James McLive and Andrew McCall were surprised at worship and were shot and buried. The enclosed grave sits among the trees of the ancient oak wood and is worth a couple of hundred yards diversion to visit.

Back on track again, we followed the road over the Trool and took the path through more clear-fell and into a wood of mature spruce. Ian and Ronnie dallied at the rear. We thought they might want to be alone so left them to it and walked on into the forest. But sympathy for the pair overcame our natural instincts and we waited for them to catch up. We were all together again, at least until the bottom of the slope up to Bruce’s Stone.
We were back on the road and the walking was good. We thought perhaps the climb to the stone would be taken easily as well but Johnny had different ideas. He took off like a man possessed. Only Davie, being dragged along by Holly, went with him. But even he had to concede as the slope took its toll and Johnny was left to race out the remaining few hundred metres to the car park on his own.

The only problem with a visit to Glen Trool is the lack of nearby watering holes. We had to return to Minishant for FRT today but, as usual, it was worth it.

Distance: 14.1 km

*A history lesson for those interested in such things
The history of the Covenanters is long and complex. They took their name from the a document called the Solemn League and Covenant signed in Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh in 1643 and culminated in a period known as the Killing Times in the late 1680’s.
During the reign of the Catholic James VII, a system of Episcopy was imposed on the Scottish Presbyterian church with Episcopal ministers enforced on the congregation. Those who disagreed with this left the church and formed their own congregations. These were then outlawed in order to get the people to accept the Episcopalian system. The Presbyterian Covenanters then met in outdoor meetings called Conventicles. The army was employed to hunt down these Conventicles and to impose an oath of allegiance to the king and his religious policy. If they refused to take this oath, they were summarily shot. They were refused burial in sanctified ground so were buried in the place they were shot. This is the reason that covenanters monuments are in remote areas.
Three of the most barbaric of the covenanter hunters were Graham of Claverhouse (Bloody Claver’se), Greirson of Lagg and Cornet William Douglas. One or more of these three names will crop up on most martyrs stones in the country.
The Killing Times ended with the Glorious Revolution when James VII was replaced on the throne by the protestant Mary II and William II.

Old Mortality
Old Mortality was the epithet given to Robert Paterson who, in the middle of the eighteenth century, left his wife and family to travel the country erecting headstones over the graves of the covenanters. When he was an old man he was introduced to Water Scott who named his novel of covenanting times after him. Many of Paterson’s original stones still stand in situ but the Caldons one has been removed to Dumfries museum to avoid the effects of vandalism.

Report by Jimmy
Photos by Johnnie
3D map by Paul