Thursday, 30 July 2009

The Dailly Walk

Smile please - the camera is taking a picture!

At the trig point on Barony Hill

Keep together lads - that's the way.

How many times have you taken a movie by mistake?

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

22 July Ayrshire Coast Part 7 – Alloway to Troon

When the moon is fair and roon,
The fishes swim frae Ayr tae Troon.
But when the moon is roon and fair,
The fishes swim frae Troon tae Ayr.
Jimmy was late again. Not that his lateness bothered us too much today for we sat in Rex’s place drinking his coffee, eating his ANZAC biscuits and watching the rain fall in his garden. After last week, nobody was in too much of a hurry to go into the wet today. Then Jimmy arrived and spoiled everything for us. Now that we were all gathered, we had to go for a walk.
Learning a belated lesson from last week, waterproofs were worn from the start. The rain wasn’t too heavy, just sufficient to be wetting, and the need for waterproofing was felt us all. So, fully watertight we set off, leaving Rex’s place around ten o’clock.

Rex disappeared into a hedge. It is a good job somebody kept an eye on him. None of us would have noticed the slender gap in the hedge that admitted us into a wee wood edging Rozelle Park. But we saw Rex disappear and we followed him through the hedge, through the wood and into the park.
We came through Rozelle and crossed the road into Belleisle golf course where we were all shushed and stood still as some suitably attired hackers drove their balls at an unseen green. This was the first of several golf courses we would encounter today and it set the ball hitters off. Last week’s games were discussed, performances were analysed and scores compared. They expressed their disappointment that Tom Watson, at the age of fifty-nine, hadn’t won the Open at Turnberry, a feeling that even the non-hackers among us could share. However, Tom has struck a blow for all of us oldies and we hope that our own gowfers are inspired by his performance. Watch this space.
We left Belleisle by the north gate, a gate that hasn’t been open to traffic for many years, and came onto the Doonfoot road. The rain eased to a gentle spit and the sky appeared to be clearing from the west. Waterproofs came off. Then, turning down Carnwinshoch View we came to the seafront. The rain went and the day definitely improved. The weather gods smiled on us once again.

The esplanade at Ayr is longer than it looks. From where we joined it, to the harbour is at least two miles; two flat miles, but two long miles for we could see in front of us the buildings of the harbour and they never seemed to get any closer. And the area was too familiar to all except young Davie C to provide any interest. Only the banter of the Ooters provided any form of diversion as we walked along the seafront. Forty-five minutes it took us to cover the distance to the fort. Sometime during these three-quarters of an hour, the sun came out. It would stay with us for the rest of the day.
Now that we were in the older part of the town, the history lessons started. Ian pointed out St. John’s Tower where Bruce held his first parliament after Bannockburn. Then the walls of the fort built by Cromwell were pointed out. ‘Cromwell must have been some brickie’, said the cynic, ‘for the walls to last as long’. We ignored him. The corner bastion with its turret was examined as we walked round to the harbour.
We walked up the South Harbour to the new brig, crossed it and came into The Newton. This was the busiest part of the walk, both with vehicular and foot traffic and we upped the pace to get away from the buzz as quickly as we could. Then we found ourselves in the old industrial part of the town, passing by the shells of former works and abandoned railway lines, the remnants of once thriving industry. Most are closed and abandoned but some are still working and the drones of heavy machinery accompanied us to the sea again.
We left the industry of The Newton and came along the top of the sea wall. Coffee called and, just where the town gave way to the open country again, we sat for a break. Some managed to get room on the bench there but most of us had to make do with the sea wall. Now Jimmy could enjoy Rex’s ANZAC biscuits. But not for long for the keen were already packing up and we were on our way even before Ronnie had drained his cup.
The ‘open country’ was the golf course of Prestwick St. Nicholas. After coffee, we walked alongside this, between it and the sea. The sun was shining and the coarse dune vegetation, complete with wild flower show*, was alive with butterflies. The naturalist was in raptures. The cloud was beginning to break on the peaks of Arran adding a landscape interest as well. This part of the walk was a treat. And it was to stay a treat until we reached the esplanade of Prestwick seafront.
Once again, we encountered the crowds. But they only hung about around the attractions of the built-up area and we were soon into quieter reaches, this time around Prestwick Old Course. Our path climbed the dunes to overlook the course. ‘Look at the length of that!’ exclaimed Ian. We thought he might be boasting again but he was only drawing our attention to a long, straight fairway. The golfers were suitably impressed. The non-golfers shrugged their shoulders and walked on.
Now we were joined by a pup; a pup that preferred our company to that of the two women who followed us; a pup that was determined to accompany us all the way to Troon if we let it. Despite calls from the rear, it stayed with us. Eventually, as it appeared that we were walking away from its owner, Jimmy called for it to be captured. Rex did the necessary and the pup was reunited with its owner. Now we could walk on in peace.
We had to walk round the edge of the golf course to find the bridge over the Pow Burn. A track took us from there down past the caravan park of St. Andrews to a long, sandy beach. Whether it was the thought of the fish supper waiting for us in Troon or just a rush to get off the sand, the scribe cannot say. All that can be said is that the pace was picked up. And by the usual bunch. Even when the ringed plovers were spotted, there was no let up, just a brief acknowledgement then on again. We raced along that sand.
Eventually we left the beach, climbed through the dunes and came to another golf course, the Ladies Golf Course of Troon. Yes, apparently the ladies of Troon have their own golf course. And, to prove the point, two ladies swung freely along a fairway to our left. The golfers admired the swing; the rest just admired the ladies.
The Ladies Golf Course stretches to Troon’s South beach. As we had worked up a fair old sweat on the beach and tongues were hanging out with thirst, when we reached esplanade of the South Beach, we sat for another coffee. Fortunately, this one lasted longer than the first.
Troon Beach was busy with holidaymakers and children enjoying a South Ayrshire Council ‘Fun Day’. (By the expressions on the faces of the supervisors, the weans were enjoying it much more than they were.) This time it was pleasant to stroll among the crowd along the promenade in the sunshine. We came round the Ballast Bank to the harbour, found the Wee Hurry open sand ordered our fish and chips. We sat outside to eat and watch the seals sunbathing in the harbour.

After lunch, we walked back into town, took the bus back to Ayr and took FRT in Smiths on Dalblair road. Then we bussed back to Alloway to the start of the day’s outing.

*Note from the botanist: Ian questioned my assertion that Tormentil was the only four petalled, yellow flower native to Britain. Today he drew my attention to another. Yes, Ian, I have to concede. I was wrong. All the cabbage family (Cruciferae), as the Latin nomenclature suggests, have cruciform, yellow flowers. Perhaps what I should have said was that Tormentil is the only cruciform, yellow flower native to the uplands of Britain. I apologise for any misunderstanding (said he, with his tongue in his cheek). Now that I know some people actually listen to what I say, I will need to be more circumspect when making statements like this.

Alloway to Troon: 22nd July 2009

Ooters on the Ayr Prom.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

15 July A Wet and Dry Day on Merrick and a Thorough Soaking at Loch Neldricken

When thunders in the mountains roar,
And dark’ning clouds their deluge pour;
That’s when you’ll find the Ooters
Where torrents down the mountain side,
Spread far their waters, deep and wide;-
That’s where you’ll find the Ooters

Only seven of us ventured into the wilds of Galloway today. There might have been eight but one of the old boys has forgotten how to tell the time, so there were just the seven of us. The tardy one was replaced in the ranks by our young guest, Davie Clunie for his first outing since the Deil’s Back Door in April of last year. We reckon his feet must have dried out by this time for he has come back for another go.
The ascent of southern Scotland’s highest peak, Merrick, and the return by Lochs Enoch, Neldricken and Valley was the objective; a long day, so we were gathered at Bruce’s Stone in Glen Trool for a ten o’clock start. The start of the excursion was familiar to all, having been the starting point for the abandoned attempt at the Awful Hand at the end of April and the consequent round of Loch Trool. We were to take the ‘tourist’ path for Merrick.
Indiana led the way. But, remembering his leadership skills from last week, we kept an eye on him today. He led us to the first gate on the ‘tourist’ path. Then, either sense or fear of getting lost overcame him and he called for Allan to lead. We older Ooters have learnt from experience that it is always better to have somebody else to blame but poor Allan has yet to learn this so he cheerfully led us up through the forest to the bothy at Culsharg.
Coffee was called and we sat down outside the bothy for our first of the day. There was nobody in the bothy but there were obvious signs of occupation. The floor has been cleaned up and a new table has been installed. A tent hung over a wire to dry it off, a Mars Bar was stuffed down the inside of a toilet roll and two half drunk bottles of coke sat on the table. But there was no sign of an occupant.
We sat as long as we could for coffee. Two people of our sort of age, a man and a woman, came towards us on the Merrick path. The shy Jimmy approached them to make inquiries. They were a couple from Switzerland on a walking holiday in Scotland. They enjoyed our country very much, apart from the midgies. And we could see why for the wee blasties had just started on us. We lingered not.
Davie made the first move and took us up to the forest road to where a gentle breeze warded off the midgies. Everybody gathered on the road for a breather before attempting the hard bit, up through the forest. We were glad we rested for the path steepened in the forest, the air was warm and the climbing was hot. The wee breeze could not be felt among the trees but we had hopes for it when we cleared the forest. Until then, the sweat continued to pour.
We found the breeze when we cleared the trees on the flank of Benyellary, just the gentlest of stirrings from the west but enough to cool us a bit. We also found the cloud approaching from the same direction; a cumulo-nimbus cloud, tall and white with an ominous dark grey underbelly. We watched as the accompanying shower approached over Bennan. The first spots of rain hit and we donned waterproof jackets. We wondered why Davie pulled on his waterproof trousers as well for it was only a passing shower and not liable to last long. Ha! Davie, like Rudolph the Red, knows rain, dear. For fifteen minutes it came down and came down heavily. And we went up, up toward the drystane dyke on Benyellary.
The ‘shower’ went eventually but not before all, (except Davie, that is) were soaked from the ar hips down.
The rain went and left behind cooler, clearer air. By this time we were well up the drystane dyke on the steep of Benyellary, so we stopped to drip-dry, look at the view and count the lochs (see 07/03/07). Even the two who were well uphill (you may guess which two) stopped to look around. A couple of light aircraft, bi-planes with open cockpits, droned into sight from the west roughly on level with us. We thought by the look of them that they might be left-overs from WW1. The red one in the lead we suggested might be Baron Manfred von Richthofen, Der Rote Baron. ‘In that case’, said somebody, ‘the yellow one chasing it must be Snoopy’. Ian was heard to chant, ‘♫Ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty or more......♪’ At this point we felt the need to climb on.
We met the fast pair on the summit of Benyellary, talking to an English couple. We spent a few minutes on this top while the English folk moved on towards Merrick. Davie and Jimmy took the chance to examine the view, Allan changed into his second shirt, Johnny and Davie C took advantage of the time to rest at the cairn, Rex drank his second coffee and Ian did what Ian does – he ate. We all took the opportunity to remove the waterproofs.
The day was clear and the views superb; as far as Luce Bay and the Mull of Galloway in the south-west, the Moors of Galloway running up into south Ayrshire in the west and Cairnsmore of Fleet in the south-east. And in between, a wild landscape of rough mountains and nebulous lochs. To the north Merrick heaved his bulk in front of us and this is where we turned our steps now.
Davie, Rex and Jimmy led the way off Benyellary top and a cracking pace they set. Down and along the Nieve of the Spit we went, to where the ridge narrows. No let up in the pace. Round the corner of the drystane dyke we went. Still no let up. Slanting up the long grassy south flank of Merrick we went. And the pace was kept high. We were catching the English folk fast but there was no let up in the pace. We must have climbed that hill in world record pace for old blokes.
We arrived at the summit cairn of Merrick at the same time as the English couple - and at the same time as the fog. Another cumulo-nimbus had drifted in and was now blanketing our top. And it threatened to rain again. We huddled inside what shelter the hollowed out cairn could afford, donned the waterproofs, grabbed a bite to eat and awaited the deluge again. The English couple joined us while the Swiss pair sat some twenty yards away under an umbrella and staring into the fog at where Loch Doon should have been. It looked like it was going to be another viewless day on Merrick.
But the rain came to nothing and the fog began to break up. Were we to be lucky this time? We certainly were. The fog broke gradually revealing tantalising vignettes of a landscape beyond. Then it went altogether, the sun reappeared and a whole panorama of hills, lochs and forests opened up to us then. To the west, across the defile of the Black Gairy, the low-lying, forest-clad Moors stretched northward into Ayrshire; in the immediate north, Kirriereoch blocked any distant vista but Troon and the Ayrshire coast could be seen to the right of it; below us, in the north-east, the spruces of the south Ayrshire forest surrounded Lochs Macaterick and Riecawr and Loch Doon was exactly where the Swiss thought it was; in the east, the Rhinns of Kells, in its entirety, filled the skyline. ‘It looks a long way from one end to the other’, said one, recalling the superb long day we had traversing this ridge back in October 2007.
Johnny took advantage of the break to change shirts, much to the delight of the English woman. ‘That’s the second semi-naked man I’ve seen today’, said she with at twinkle in her eye. Johnny was delighted that he still has this effect on women. So delighted was he that he presented the pair with an Ooters blog card, presumably so that they can admire his hat again.

The English couple took their leave of us. They were for back down the ‘tourist’ path while we were to abandon paths of any description and take a direct line for Loch Enoch. Jimmy had warned us about the terrain and now we could see why. High granite outcrops broke the surface with low, boggy areas between. It would be easy to get separated in such terrain. But we stuck together (well, as together as the leading pair allowed) and stumbled on ever downward, even clambering down a cliff at one point, to find ourselves on a beach of granite sand beside the loch. At sixteen hundred and fifty feet, Loch Enoch is the second highest Loch in Scotland.
Since most of us were newcomers to the area, Jimmy insisted that we had to see the Grey Man of the Merrick. You might think that, as we were on the descent, all our climbing was behind us. Not so. We now had a hundred feet of steep, boggy slope to climb. That’s when the first grumbling started. Jimmy was being accused of all manner of sadism. If his ears weren’t burning, they should have been. Then the ground level out and we found ourselves at the rock ‘face’ of the Grey Man. Was it worth the effort? That was remains a point of debate.
Rex and Jimmy led us away from the Grey Man to find a pad on the Rigg of Loch Enoch. This was easier going now and the accusations of sadomasochism were beginning to subside. The path continued high and we strode along the rig conscious of the approaching cloud once more.
Rex and Jimmy still led the way for Jimmy knew where he was going and Rex had his GPS set. Anyway, we could see the path round Loch Neldricken lying below us. We followed some distance behind, confident in our leaders. Suddenly the guiding twosome left the path and took to a slope of lank grasses and many tall, green ‘doogals’. It dawned on us then that the experts were lost.
Down through the doogals we followed with the leaders some distance in front and moving away. It’s a good job they were out of earshot for the abuse directed at them was severe and plentiful. Though we could see they were heading for the path round the loch it didn’t help ease the pain as we stumbled and staggered down the slope in their wake. However, they had the decency to wait on the path near the Murder Hole for us to catch up. We reached them just as the rain reached us.
Another shower was our guess, a quick wetting and then the sun again. We waterproofed just in time. Now there is rain and there is rain. But this was a monsoon. Large drops of warm water were thrown at us. Then the thunder started. Then the rain became so heavy that it was difficult to see thirty yards through it. And there was no point stopping for a conversation for the incessant drum of rain on jacket hoods made anything less than the thunder almost inaudible. Never had any of our group been out in such rain. And we had some very experienced mountaineers with us. The falling water couldn’t be absorbed by the ground and was running off in all available channels. The path that Jimmy said would be wet anyway, was now a running stream. Sometimes it would be just wet. Other times it lay under six, seven or eight inches of running water. There was no point in trying to find a drier way. The best way was just to plough through it for the rain had already found its way into our boots and feet were squelching already.
There came a wee burn which, at normal times, is barely a break in the stride. Right now it was running deep and washing the top of its bank, threatening to overflow any time. The first two jumped a four foot burn but such was the rain that when the last made the attempt, it was six or seven inches wider, and rising. Had we been ten minutes later, we would have had real problems crossing here, such was the downpour.
And the thunder continued to rumble and echo from the mountain. And the rain continued to come down. Johnny found the next wee burn where there shouldn’t have been one. He found it rather unexpectedly and rather wetly. His problem was not the wet but how to climb the four feet of the slimy bank. He made it though. Allan was next to try his luck, diving sideways into the burn instead of jumping like any sensible body would do. Not that any of them noticed the extra wet for, by this time all of us were thoroughly soaking.
Eventually the rain went but the thunder rolled for a while yet. Somewhere on a drier section of path above the Gairland Burn we sat for a break. Jimmy removed his boots and poured the best part of a pint of water out of each. At least he only squelched a bit now as we walked on.
We came round a corner of the hill and found ourselves high on the side of Glen Trool, on the flank of Buchan hill. ‘It’s now an easy stroll downward’ said the experts. Ha again! We had bracken to go through. Not quite as high as last week but high enough, and wet. We slithered and slipped our way down to the forest road at the Buchan. NOW, it was an easy stroll back.
What a pleasure are dry clothes. We arrived at the cars having experienced the wettest day we have been out in and took pleasure in our dry clothes.

Today was hard and something of a trial but, funnily enough was an experience worth going through. ‘How can one appreciate the heaven of dry clothes without experiencing the hell of thunderstorms in the mountains?’ It remains to be seen when Davie Clunie will dry out for his next outing.

This was the week-end of the Open golf at Turnberry and our usual howf was cordoned off for security reasons so we crossed the hill from Straiton to Dalmellington to take FRT today.

Friday, 17 July 2009

8 July Ben A'an

A wildering forest feathered o’er
His ruined sides and summit hoar,
While on the north, through middle air,
Ben-an heaved high his forehead bare.
From; The Lady of the Lake
By Walter Scott

Ben A’an in the Trossachs has been neglected by the Ooters for far too long. The 14th of June 2006, was the one and only time we went as a group. Today we were to put this right.
Seven of us travelled north to the car park beside Loch Vennacher that was the starting point for the short climb of the hill. The day was to be short for in the afternoon we were visiting the incapacitated Robert to help in his recuperation – beer and pakora are well-known restoratives.
The walk was to be short and the pace easy. Yet, from the outset, Jimmy was champing at the bit, raring to go, prowling around the car park while the rest of us were drawing ourselves together. Needless to say it was Jimmy who led the way on the first part of the climb.
This first part of the climb was a delight. The path climbed through the ‘wildering forest’ of mixed deciduous and coniferous woodland that clothed the lower slopes. The sun shone above the canopy and dappled the tree trunks and forest floor with pools of brightness. The path was dry and climbed over rocks and boulders. Yes, this was a delightful part and might have been even more delightful if those at the front had set a sensible pace. Some couldn’t enjoy the delights of the woods for gasping for breath as they tried to keep up. Eventually we were split into two groups, the sane to the rear and Jimmy, Paul and Rex away in front.
We passed a young couple. ‘Hello’, said Rex. ‘Bonjour’, came the reply. For a brief second we were transported to Mosset again. The sun, the trees, the dry, stony ground and the cheery ‘Bonjour’, and we were back in La Belle France. But our reverie was broken by a shout from the rear for a ‘view stop’. We let the French couple pass us again while we gathered together for our ‘view stop’.
This was to be the pattern for the day. Climb a bit, rest a bit; climb a bit, rest a bit. And let the French couple overtake us again. Our next stop, and a fairly long stop it was for a breather, came at the bridge over the burn. The French couple passed us again.
It was noticed here that your scribbler was the only bare-head* today, everybody else sporting hats of various description. To say Johnny is proud of his hat is an understatement and every available opportunity was taken to draw our attention to it. Dressed as he was today in his desert khakis, he reminded us of somebody. Rex put his finger on it immediately. Henceforth, Johnny will be known as Indiana.

With Johnny’s hat duly admired for the umpteenth time, and not for the last, we walked on, ever upward. Somewhere in the trees we lost the sun and the day turned slightly overcast but lost none of its heat. The trees thinned and the path levelled for a bit. Then, through a gap in the foliage Ben A’an could be seen ‘heaving high his forehead bare’. And an impressive forehead it is. The naked rock rises almost vertically on our side and it looked as though there was no way up to its ‘forehead’. Yet, those who knew, that was all except Allan, knew that there was a path all the way to the top, a steep path in places but a walkable path.
Coffee was called as we cleared the trees and was taken on a level grassy area just off the path.
It took the midgies some time to find us, perhaps because, learning a lesson from last week, we all wore long trousers today. So coffee was a relaxed affair. The French couple passed us for the last time as we sat. The next we would see of them was on the summit. But, eventually the midgies found us and we knew it was time for us move on.
The flat ground didn’t last. Almost immediately after coffee we were climbing again. Who let Johnny get to the front we don’t really know but this won’t happen again. With the directional instincts of a bouncing rugby ball, he led us up a steep, rocky path only to be stopped by a rock face rising in front. We had no option but to clamber down rocks into the stony bed of a burn, much to the consternation of the lithophobes©, then clamber up more rocks on the other side to find the path we should have taken. Indiana won’t lead again.
The path continued steeply for a while yet before easing off on the east shoulder of the hill. Now we had a gentle walk and a short climb to the bare, rocky summit of the hill. What an international groups met us on top. Apart from the French couple, a cheery ‘Bon giorno’ identified an Italian family. The English pair were next followed by a Glasgow grandfather pointing out the distant hills to his grandson.
For such a low eminence, Ben A’an must have one of the best views in Scotland. Even in today’s overcast conditions the view was superb. Loch Katrine lay directly below running away to the west showing us its full eight miles length. To the south of the loch rose Ben Venue. Walter Scott describes it better than I can:

High on the south, huge Benvenue
Down on the lake in masses threw
Crags, knolls, and mounds, confusedly hurl’d,
The fragments of an earlier world;
A wildering forest feather’d o’er
His ruined sides and summit hoar.

In the distant west, the Arrochar Alps formed the horizon and in the north-west, Ben More at Crianlarich. Behind us, on the skyline, Ben Ledi showed. It’s little wonder that Scott’s poetic muse was awakened here.
Due south, in the blue distance away beyond Dumgoyne, a darker blue mass showed. Debate ensued as to what this might be. Some were for Arran but it lacked the ruggedness; some for the Renfrew Heights but it wasn’t extensive enough in the east-west direction. One even suggested the Galloway Hills. Further research by the scribe proved this to be The Rhinns of Kells in Galloway, a distance of some ninety-odd miles ATCF.
As we took lunch on the summit, we were joined by many others of differing ages and sexes. Before long, the top was crowded and it was time for us to move on again.
We shunned the tourist path we had just climbed in favour of a route less trodden, down the west side of the hill. This should have been easy but a few hundred feet from the top, Indiana found the hole. A deep hole it was, and mucky. Fortunately it was only one foot that found it but poor Indi was clarted up to the knee, his pale khaki trousers turned a dark peaty brown. Sympathy was dealt out in the usual Ooters manner.
Still we came down, on a path that was gradually being overgrown by summer greenery. What should have been a reasonably easy descent was turning into something other. Then there was the burn to cross. Then there came a point when the summer growth, bracken in this instance, became so lush that it towered above our heads. We felt like that well known African tribe trying to find a way through the jungle. If it wasn’t for the fact that there was the trace of a path visible underfoot, we might have been lost altogether in the jungle of bracken fronds. Still, as was pointed out, we would only be there until the bracken died down in the autumn.
When we left the bracken, we entered a wood. This was only slightly easier than the ferns. The path steepened and ran over slippery tree roots and boulders on its descent. At one point there came a bog which meant a diversion around it. Just as Jimmy said ‘Don’t go that....’ Indiana was already up to the knees in glaur again. Now both legs of his khakis turned dirty brown and the water seeped into his boots from the top. It just wasn’t Johnny’s day.
But the trees (and bogs) were negotiated successfully by the rest of us and we found ourselves on the loch-side road with only Johnny looking worse for wear. The mile and a half of the road back to the car park was a casual affair by comparison, broken only by a ten-minute stop at the Loch Katrine pier-head.

Robert’s garden caught the sun. When we visited him to sympathise/gloat/mock, he had pakora ready. The depute treasurer had invested in a lake of beer and a mountain of crisps all for the princely sum of £23. (Watch out keeper of the purse, this was even better value than you provided last week.) The afternoon was spent in the usual convivial Ooters way.
Robert was looking well after his operation. Perhaps he will be with us again earlier that first thought.

* While it might be humorous to make comments about the lack of hair when reading this phrase, your scribe refrained from making such. Please have the courtesy to do the same. Us skin-heads are sensitive people.

© Jim Johnstone 2009.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

15th July - The Merrick and a few of the 27 lochs that can be seen from the top

The Gray Man - can you see him?

The white granite sands of Loch Enoch - Jimmy says

Rex cracking nuts with a big stone

An antedeluvian picture

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Wednesday 15 walk

Sorry guys, I've only just re-established internet connection this morning.

Wednesday's walk is to Merrick and Loch Enoch. Meet at Straiton 9:00am.

See you all there

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Some pics from Arran and Dumgoyne

Under the mist, yea - that's Goat Fell

A fine well bitten leg!

Could be anywhere - but it is the top of Goat Fell

Spectral something or other....

Start of the Corrie path to Goat Fell

Man at C&A

Ben Goyne summit


The mad hat race - not quite 'one size fits all'

A good fit - feeling good!

Definitely a size bigger would help!

Smiling - not an easy task!


Right-on man!

What a poser.

Does not have any issues.

Surprisingly effective

Who has the cahonees?
Not to be outdone, Davie's got himself a hat.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

I July Arran – Goat Fell

Arran of the many stags,

The sea reaches to its shoulder;

Wanton deer upon its peaks,

Mellow blaeberries on its heaths,

Over its fair shapely crags

Gambolling of dappled fawns leaping.

It is delightful when fine weather comes,

Delightful at all times is Arran.

Translated from the medieval Gaelic of an anonymous Irish poet

Somebody in our group has offended the weather gods for, for the second week running, they chose to cover our walking area with cloud and leave the rest of the country in glorious summer sunshine. But, no matter what the weather gods did, they couldn't dampen our spirits today, for we were for Arran once again, this time for an ascent of the highest of the island’s peaks, Goat Fell. They did try, though. As the ferry approached the island, the cloud thickened and the fog was thrown down like a wet blanket on the high peaks, flat-topping them around the two thousand contour. And this was how way it was to be for the rest of the day. But the Ooters laugh in the face of the weather gods and a little fog wasn’t going to put us off. (Your scribe just made that last bit up. Some of us were nearly at the point of cancelling the climb and having a low level walk instead when there appeared to be a brightening in the sky and the decision was made.)
Nearly all of us were in light spirits as we sat in the bus that would take us to our starting point at Corrie. The exception was Jimmy who had overindulged last night and was trying hard to retain the contents of his stomach on the twisty coast road. But we reached Corrie without real incident and started on the walk around eleven fifteen.
Much has been discussed in the Ooters about hill paths being sanitised but this was ridiculous. A tarmac road lifted us up behind the village, up behind ‘The Croft’ at High Corrie and up to a reservoir some five hundred feet above the sea. Then a forest type track continued the easy walking. This was climbing at its easiest. Even when we left the track, the path we took was well constructed and though steeper, it still provided easy walking.
We climbed with this well constructed path, between the burn valley and the forested area, among stands of mature bracken fronds. Even before we left the tarmac, the clegs were biting the naturalist. In the bracken, they redoubled their efforts. Exclamations of ‘Ooyah!’ and Ohyah!’ and words that should not be put in print, punctuated the conversation. Nature lover and pseudo-Buddhist he might be but the clegs that bit himnever lived to bite anybody else, swatted to death with a loud slap on bare skin. The way we saw it was that if they were biting him they were leaving us alone. And they never lived to bite us.
By the time we’d heard the eighth or ninth ‘Ooyah!’ we had left the bracken behind, climbed a style in the dee r fence and come onto a heathery slope. As the first spots of rain hit and the slope began to steepen, we halted for a breather and a drinks stop. We were spoilt for choice on the sweetie front today: Paul opened with his offer of Liquorice Allsorts, Rex countered with Jelly Babies and Johnny chipped in with Wine Gums. We were to be chewing most of the day.

The rain came to nothing and didn’t even occasion a happing up, so we sat longer than we might otherwise have done. We looked seaward to watch a new naval vessel, battleship grey and sleek, being put through its paces on the Clyde testing range. Only Allan gazed inland to where the rocky peaks disappeared into the cloud. What he thought of the prospect, he kept to himself but we could imagine his thoughts. So, to keep Allan happy, we moved on up the steep path through the heather to the lip of the corrie.
The slope eased on the floor of the corrie and the path split, the main one to climb onto the east ridge of Goat Fell and the minor to cross the floor of the corrie heading for North Goat Fell. It was the latter we took.
The walking on the corrie floor was easy. A slight breeze had sprung up to keep the clegs away, much to the relief of one person, and now the temperature was comfortable for climbing. It’s a good thing that the temperature had dropped to a reasonable level for the path steepened as it made the final climb on to the high ridge, and into the fog, was warm. We were split into two groups on this climb – the fit to the front and Allan, Johnny and Ronnie bringing up the rear. Despite frequent halts to allow the slow to catch up, we arrived on the crest of the ridge in that order.
Lunch was called. In the lea of some boulders, we sat to eat. The breeze was now fresh and the smirry fog was cooling. Waterproofs were donned for the first time today.
Only once did the fog break to reveal the floor of Glen Sannox a couple of thousand feet below but the rest of the world remained hidden in a secret whiteness. And it was into this whiteness that we went after lunch.
The Stachach ridge of Goat Fell is spectacular and is one of the best ridge walks in the country, offering superb views of rocky ridges and distant islands. But, apart from the granite tors rising above us in to the whiteness and the steep, grass slope falling away to our left, we could see nothing of its grandeur today. Only one of us fancied the crest of the ridge, over the stacks, the circumspect opting for the path under them. Hence the steep grass slope on our left. So, we all took the path to the east side of the ridge, dropping down rocks and clambering up over bouldery crags again. Once more we were split into two groups, Allan, Jimmy and Ronnie in the rear this time.
Only the first four saw it. The spectral image of a many-pointed stag solidified out of the fog, watching and listening to us invading its secret world. Then, without a sound, it turned and vanished into the whiteness once more leaving only photos as evidence of its existence. We keep the photos to show the disbelievers.

The summit of Goat Fell came quickly. We came up through a boulder-field, rounded a group of large boulders and there it was, complete with its trig point, viewfinder and those who had slogged up the ‘tourist’ path. The viewfinder indicated a height of 2866ft much to Davie’s delight and Jimmy’s disgust for they had argued the point on the way up and Davie had just been proved right. Again! Not quite Munro height but with 2850ft of climbing from Corrie, it is much more of an achievement than many Munros are. Some rejoiced in a job well done, some reflected on many previous ascents and some were just relieved to sit for a bit and stare into the fog for there was nothing to see beyond a few metres.
A quick drink and a few photographs for the record and we started the descent. We had already spoken of sanitising the mountain with paths, destroying the feeling of wildness. But here was a path sympathetically built into the boulder-field and blending superbly into the landscape. And it is necessary for the number of people taking this ‘tourist’ path every year must run into the thousands. Erosion is a major problem so the path is necessary. It was a path that dropped us quickly down the summit boulder-field to the broad east ridge of the mountain.
Somewhere along this ridge, before the split in the path, we came out of the cloud and saw the sun shine on Brodick and its bay. And it wasn’t long before we too were in the sunshine. The day was turned warm, the down-slope was gentle, and the walking relaxed. We sauntered down the tourist path watching Brodick and the trees of the castle policies getting ever closer.
We stopped at the bridge over the castle inflow for the day was warm and we weren’t in a particular hurry. We were in the sun but when we looked back, the peak was still swathed in thick, grey cloud. We were glad that it hadn’t lifted just as we left.
At the lower level, the air was again still and humid, ideal conditions for insect flight. When we came into the trees of the castle forest, the clegs bit again. This time they left few of us alone and there was a general ‘ooyah’ing as they fed their bloodthirsty appetites. Rex and Jimmy walked on trying hard to ignore biting insects and that was the last we were to see of these two for a while.
The rest of us strolled down the path, through the young plantation, into the more mature woodland and the shade of the trees, down through the castle policies and down to sea level at the old home farm. The farm and sawmill has a new use now, as a centre of commerce. A perfume factory, a brewery, a leather shop and a pub all share the old farm buildings. A shout came as we passed the pub. It was the fast pair with pint in hand. We had no option but to join them for it would have been bad manners to let them drink on their own, wouldn’t it? We sat in the sun and took a relaxing pint.
But our treasurer would only allow one pint here citing strains on the group finances so we were forced to rise and finish the walk. An unhurried stroll across the golf course, where Holly was warned not to lift any wee white ball she might see lying around, and along the shore brought us back to Brodick around five thirty.
We took FRT in the afternoon sunshine on the lawn of Mac’s Bar looking back over the bay to the high peaks still covered in clag. The fog did clear briefly but just long enough for the Goat Fell virgins to see where they had been, before it closed in again.

PS. The Arran beer must be cheap for our fiver contribution to the fund bought us three pints, a packet of crisps and a pokey of chips. Well done to the treasurer for elastic funding.

Delightful at all times is Arran.

Goat Fell, Arran 1st July 2009

New Hat Competition. . . .

Who's wearing a new hat?

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1 July - Goatfell route

Distance: 12.9 km