Sunday, 27 September 2009

23 September - Four lochs and four adders

Distance: 22.6 km, (14.0 miles)

After last week’s adventures in the undergrowth, seven Ooters (Davie, Rex, Allan, Paul, Jimmy, Johnny and Robert) succeeded in following Davie's and Kay’s directions to a spot halfway along Loch Doon.

A snell wind, harbinger of the coming winter, greeted us as we stepped out of the cars and for the first time in several months a few of the Ooters felt the need to don woolly hats and gloves.

Davie wore shorts.

“You’ll soon warm up” said Davie, and he was right . As we climbed up through the forestry the exertion and the windbreak provided by the trees meant that before long we were stripping off.

Davie had recently reconnoitred the walk and this time had come equipped with binoculars to view more closely the castle in the middle of Loch Finlas, which he had spotted on his earlier visit. However, since his previous visit it had disappeared only to be replaced by a few nondescript rocks. Still, the view along the length of the loch was fine and afforded an excuse for a wee breather. Davie tested Jimmy over the whereabouts of Balloch Castle and after Jimmy admitted ignorance Davie set Jimmy the task of finding out for homework

Soon we were out of the forest and after a brief change of direction as we skirted the edge of the trees, we continued to head West/South West, still climbing, but this time over open terrain and on a poorer track used by mountainbikers. The view back over Lochs Finlas and Doon was admired.

Morning coffee was taken on a convenient rocky outcrop overlooking the third loch of the day, Bradan. Naturally, conversation turned to the path, or lack of, on the far side of the loch. In discussions alarmingly reminiscent of the previous week, some doubt was expressed about following the path below us which seemed to be going away from our destination. However, this time commonsense prevailed and we followed this track down the hill towards the loch. Here we met the path we had followed on our earlier never-to-be-repeated circumnavigation of Loch Bradan.

The wind was driving waves across the waters of Bradan, but the idyllic beauty of the location was disrupted by the roar of jet engines as one RAF fighter chased another at low level over the loch.

Further round the loch two fishermen were observed. Davie informed us that they had been there the last time he did the walk. Whether or not they had left the spot in between times must remain one of life’s little mysteries.

The walk along the lochside was brisk on a well-made path and Ballochbeatties soon came into view. On reaching the the Forest Drive we paused for a break and Johnny settled down on his rucksack-cum-armchair in the middle of the drive. However the sight of a 20 ton log transporter driving towards us soon had Johnny heading for the side of the road.

The driver was lost. He had a map but he was lost. We empathised with him. Now how unlucky was that - to be lost in a forest and of all the people you might meet, you encounter a group who the previous week had got lost in somebody’s overgrown garden? There was a touch of the blind leading the blind but we soon worked out that he had overshot the side track he wanted and that he would have to turn round. Forest Drive wasn’t designed to permit 20 ton lorries to do U-ies (I’ll check with Bluey for the correct spelling) and a good 10-15 minutes elapsed before he passed us further down the track.

Mention of “Ballochbeatties” had stirred a few brain cells amongst some of those who had listened to Davie’s earlier question and Jimmy was excused homework when it was declared that “Balloch Castle” must have been the old name for “Loch Doon Castle”

And to prove it, here’s one of the photos Davie took when he was a lad:

Walking through the forest, the group disintegrated into 3 sub-groups. The pay and display machine for motorists using Forest Drive was spotted and the general consensus was that the chances of Ooters paying the requested fee were akin to Fort William’s on their visit to Auchinleck at the weekend. Nevertheless we proposed stopping the next vehicle to check that a valid ticket was being displayed. Needless to say we didn’t carry this out when a car did approach us, but we were surprised to see that it carried a French registration plate.

Riecawr, the final loch of day, came into view and lunch was taken at a viewpoint, complete which picnic area and adventure playground. There was room for six at the table so it was as well Johnny had brought his own furniture with him. A chill wind blew off the loch and there was a smirr in the air, but we hunkered down and tucked in. Afterwards some of the kiddies went off to play in the adventure playground.

It has oft been remarked upon by Jimmy that there are those in the group who walk in order to get from A to B as quickly as possible and those who walk in order to take in the landscape. As the former raced off down the hill to the Doon that awaited them, the second group encountered an adder on the road – one missed completely by the sprinters. Charitably the wannabe Bolts were called back to view this rare sight. It was alive, but not very. Or perhaps it was just feeling the cold. Either way, all it did was raise its head slightly and tried to adopt an aggressive look. It made no attempt to slither away. With growing confidence, photos were taken from an increasingly close range.

Photo opportunity concluded, we continued our descent to Loch Doon, taking in Riecawr’s dam on the way. By the time we reached the loch more than one Ooter was complaining of sore feet. The hard track had taken its toll, and there were at least of couple miles of tarmac still to walk.

Afternoon refreshments were taken at the castle-formerly- known-as-Balloch. Or was it? Philosophical discussion ensued, about whether this was the ‘same’ castle that had once occupied the now-submerged island in the loch . The conclusion was, erm, inconclusive.

And off we went again; a little wearier by now. Amazingly we spotted another adder by the roadside. The adders were multiplying. Including Johnny and Allan that made it four in one day. This one was decidedly dead but it didn’t stop some of our number being a little edgy as it was lifted up on a walking pole. It might just have been pretending.

We trudged past Lambdoughty or Lamdoughty, depending on the side of the road you live on, and after a further mile during which we had time to contemplate the beauty of the area, we reached our departure point, where the morning’s chill wind was still blowing down the valley.

It was a great walk with plenty of variety. Well done again Davie.

Refreshments were consumed in Dalmellington, in a pub whose name escapes your scribe. However, you can’t miss it. It’s the one that isn’t boarded up.

Monday, 21 September 2009

16 September Falls of Clyde 3 – An Adventure for the Early Ooters or Falls, spills, breaks, brakes, losses and losts

Davie was missing today, consequently so was Holly. This was a great pity for both have done this walk many times, and know the route like the back of a hairy paw. But we had with us four who have done this walk before and Paul even had the sense to bring a map. So, there should be no problems today, should there? Well, maybe.
Other absentees today were Peter, Rex and Ronnie, which meant that seven Ooters gathered at Alan Stewart’s place in Kilmarnock to take coffee and scones in his new conservatory. (Much appreciated, Alan.) But even before that, our troubles had started.
Johnny had noticed an occasional thud at the rear end of his car as he drove to Killie. By the time we had driven from Killie to Kirkfieldbank, this had turned into a regular solid thump and a jamming-on of a rear brake. But Johnny is a member of the AA (the automobile one, not the alcoholic one) and a quick phone call set his mind to rest. Yes, since we were there for a walk, it was ok for Johnny to join us and the man would come and rescue the stricken car between three and four o’clock. This settled, we prepared to cross the old bridge at Kirkfieldbank.
Robert and Jimmy appointed themselves leaders and led us off. Jimmy opened a gate into somebody’s garden, at least that’s what it looked like to the rest of us. But Jimmy knows where he’s going and the gate admitted us on to a path beside the river. This path took us to the sewage works – we do see the best bits of our country – before rising away from the river onto the road towards Lanark. Now familiarity began to dawn on those who had been this way before. Not so familiar though, was the path he took us into the park, but he did take us to where we should have been, at the top of the path back down towards the river. Isn’t it great to have somebody who knows the way? Anyway, Paul had a map.
Yes, Paul had a map. He was the only one, so what follows must be his fault. Agreed? Anyway, that’s what our two co-leaders are saying.
The two took off down the path with the utmost confidence. We followed. It all looked so familiar to the pair at the front and they strode out. Even the steep ‘off-path’ section cutting the zigzag seemed familiar. All was going so well until the path started to run back down the river towards the bridge from where we started. Not so familiar now and doubt crept in. On the advice of our leaders, we turned back. Jimmy was confident that the path that branched off on the left was the correct one. And Jimmy knows where he is going.
We took Jimmy’s path. Though this started as a woodland path, it soon degenerated into a woodland with no walkable path, in fact no path at all. And the bank down to the river was steep. We clambered over fallen trees slimy with moss, struggled through nettles and brambles, crawled under overhanging branched that scratched at bare flesh and all the time trying to keep our feet on the steep bare earth slope, searching for a recognisable path. At one point Allan was about to phone Ray Mears for advice but then another prospective path was spotted and our leader struck off uphill again. No luck again. We clambered, and struggled and crawled on while our leader shot off in different directions in search of a get out. Half an hour of this jungle travail eventually brought us out onto the side of a grassy valley under the houses of Lanark and well away from the river we thought we were following.
On the other side of the valley rose a steep grass slope topped by a row of houses. ‘We should make for there’, said Jimmy but by that time mutiny had broken out in the ranks and we sat down refusing to move until we had coffee. This is where Paul showed us his map!
The grass slope presented no real problems and we found ourselves looking into the back gardens of the row of houses spotted at coffee. Which way to turn? Our intrepid leader made the decision. We turned right. The path through the trees was good to start with but this too disappeared before long. At the end of the houses, we had two choices – to go on through the wood to wherever it went, or to force our way through brambles and nettles to the road at the front of the houses. We left the decision to the barelegged one who promptly opted for the latter.
Once on tarmac, we sought the advice of a friendly native (a native with an English accent) who was able to point us down a path (a well-constructed one this time) to New Lanark. A full hour after we should have been there, we found ourselves walking down into New Lanark. We were now an hour behind schedule and Johnny had an appointment with the AA. Still, we had plenty of time for the day was yet young and there was no real need for hurry; we would explore some of the village.
Ian pointed out the rooftop garden on the visitor centre. Since we didn’t have Holly with us today, it was suggested that we visit this but when we heard that it would cost us and we are pensioners therefore stingy auld so-and-so’s, this plan was abandoned and we walked on. We came through the village to find the start of the Falls of Clyde path, remarking on the developments since the trust was set up in the nineteen-seventies.
The walk up the river was interesting though by comparison uneventful. We found the boarded way alongside the river and came along this to the power station, exchanging greetings with passing tourists. Then we climbed to the top of the gorge of Corra Linn, halting only for a view of the falls and a few pictures.
Our next stop was at the peregrine viewing platform but, as there were no birds about today, we walked on upriver. We crossed the river by the barrage and, since it was that time of day and stomachs were telling us it was that time of day, we sat down in the sunshine for lunch.
An incident occurred during lunch that nearly put us all off our food. (Well, it might have put most of us off our food but we have yet to find anything that remotely puts Ian off.) A collie appeared, and just behind it, a jogger swung onto the barrage, a female jogger and by the build and speed, a female jogger of the older vintage. As she joobled closer to us we realised that she was not as old as first thought but by the wobbling build and shuffling gate, we suspected a complete novice. Neither she nor the dog looked the direction we were on as she swung down the path we would follow later, and toddled out of sight. We sat quietly and let the apparition pass. For all we knew it might have been a figment of a collective imagination brought on by the trauma of being lost in the woods. ‘At least she’s trying’ said Alan, breaking the silence at last. ‘Aye...........’ was the response. Then we finished lunch.
Time was wearing towards Johnny’s AA appointment so we set off to follow the jogger fully expecting to find her lying by the side of the path, the victim of a heart attack. The walk down the river was fast but unhurried. We had time to stop at Corra Castle to look for bats and again at Corra Linn to view the falls from the different side. New Lanark was commented on in the passing and we found ourselves by the new houses of Kirkfieldbank with plenty of time for Johnny’s appointment.
The woman with the collie saw us coming and pulled the dog into the side but this didn’t stop it barking savagely at us as we passed. Jimmy, who fancies himself as something of a dog whisperer, stopped to speak calmly and quietly and proffer a friendly hand to be sniffed. Sure enough the barking stopped and the tail wagged. Then, quietly and cautiously, the dog came towards the outstretched hand. We might have been impressed if the hound hadn’t got to within a few inches of the friendly hand before lunging forward and nipping it.
We left the woman and her treacherous collie, trying not to laugh as the blood trickled down Jimmy’s hand and arrived at the cars just in time to prevent complete blood-loss with the application of a plaster.
Alan’s day didn’t improve much either. All day he had talked about recycling some slates – he is making bird houses – from a derelict building near where we were parked but when we got there somebody had beaten him to the good ones leaving only broken fragments. Poor Alan was miffed.
We arrived at the cars at ten minutes to three, perfect time for the AA.
But, as the song nearly says:-
‘That wisnae a’ oor troubles yet,
We’d mair tae seek beside,’

Five of us left Johnny and Allan to wait for the AA and retired to the leather soffa’d luxury of the Tillietudlem Inn to take FRT. The barman, who acknowledged us coming in, was on the phone so we waited. Ten minutes we waited, only to be told by the barman, who had finally finished his phone call, that the bar shut at three and refused to serve us. Another pub to cross off our list? We moved on to the Popinjay. More success here and FRT was enjoyed by the five.
How were the other two getting on? Jimmy offered to phone and find out. They were ensconced in the cab of an AA pick-up on their way to Irvine. By the time he found this out, it was time to go. It wasn’t until he was back home in Cumnock that he discovered his wallet to be missing. A few phone calls were made. No, it wasn’t in Ian’s car. No, Allan and Johnny never found it in the car park. Yes, it was in the Popinjay. It had dropped out his pocket when he drew his phone out. It was another run to darkest Lanarkshire for Jimmy.

This was definitely a different kind of day for the Ooters and, as Johnny says, we can make the simplest of walks into much more of a drama than any sane person could imagine. Let’s hope all our bad luck was dished out on this walk and we can get back to normal for our next outing.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Falls, spills, breaks, brakes, losses and losts

A big thanks to the AA. Broken brake caliper was not allowed to spoil the Ooters walk.
They arranged to pick us up when we finished our walk and at 1555 a marvelous character driving a flat bed recovery truck whisked Allan and me to Andy's Autos. The hour journey passed in double quick time due to the informative and entertaining conversation of our rescuer. If you manage to get to read this. Thanks again. Andy duly fixed said broken caliper. Have wheels again. We can make the simplest walks into much more of a drama than a sane person could imagine.

Robert unimpressed

There is a lovely view of the falls in the winter!

Bats! Who is bats?

Our leader reflects

This is where we should be - 40 minutes ago

Seeking the lost tribe - and the path
People who know this walk will wonder where this is.
So did we!

A nice pleasant stroll.

All too easy at the start.

September 16 - New Lanark/Falls of Clyde route

Distance: 9.4 km

Jimmy's wallet

Jimmy's wallet was retrieved from the Poponjay Hotel last night. By the way, they do an excellent meal.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

9 September Arran - Laggan Cottage and the Sannox Coast

The seals sunning themselves on the rocks above the high tide provided some interest for the passengers on the bus. ‘Gets our seal of approval’ said our wag. We ignored him but it caused some amusement among the rest of the passengers and he was pleased enough with himself. We were pleased with ourselves as well for nine of us were on the bus travelling the coast road northward from Brodick towards Lochranza; we were for another day on Arran, this time for a lower level walk round the coast from Lochranza to Laggan Cottage and Sannox. And this time the sun was shining. (See 01/07/09)
We had taken the 9:45 ferry from Ardrossan and the connecting bus service in Brodick and found ourselves travelling along the coast, over the pass of Boguillie to Glen Chalmadale and disembarking at the golf course in Lochranza.
Apart from the seals spotted from the bus, we also saw deer, red deer, as we came over the pass from Sannox, groups of fours or fives browsing the heather slopes above us. But this was nothing to the numbers we saw on the golf course of Lochranza, not fours or fives in this area, but tens and dozens in different groups along the fairways completely undisturbed by the hackers trying to play through. An obliging stag came close to the road and posed for our cameramen. It will be interesting to see who took the best photo, that is if they don’t all turn out the same. We will wait and see.
The deer provided the topic of conversation for the next few minutes. The wildlifers extolled the beauty of the stag, while the golfers wondered about the ruling if your ball stuck somewhere on its anatomy.
Such conversation took us to a sign designated ‘Laggan Cottage’ pointed us up a gently sloping track. We wandered up the track leaving the floor of Glen Chalmadale and the golf course behind us but we weren’t on this too long. Another signpost saying ‘Laggan Cottage 2 1/2 miles’ directed us up a well constructed path, a steeper path but not unduly so and we climbed casually with it through the heather.
Our wildlife spotting continued with insect life. An iridescent blue damselfly darted across the road in front of Davie but remained unseen by the rest of us. Nobody could fail to see the butterflies, though such were the numbers. Red Admirals, Peacocks and different species of Whites flitted in the heather around us, landing to feed and sun on the maturing blossoms. We also felt the need to feed and sun ourselves. So, beside a wee bridge over a wee burn, on an outcrop of sunlit rock, we stopped for coffee.
We stopped, but the wildlife interest didn’t. A buzzard could be heard but not seen on the far side of the glen and a dragonfly, a Common Darter, dashed past us into some bracken as we sat. And we sat for some time; it was a day for that.
When we roused ourselves after coffee, we continued to climb with the path. It rose more steeply now and lifted us high on the side of Glen Chalmadale. The high, rocky peaks of the north Arran mountains began to show on the far side of the glen - Suidhe Fearghas (Fergus’s Seat), Ceum-na-Caillich (Witch’s Step) and Caisteal Abhail (The Castles) with the Goat Fell ridge behind. And the view improved the higher we got.
We rose beside the Allt Chailean. Some suggested we were rising in the allt for the path here ran with water. After the kind of summer we have had, this was less than surprising but that didn’t stop the hydrophobes complaining. However, this was to be the only wet bit of the day and we were on drier footing when we came through the pass of Tom a’ Buidhe and found ourselves high above the sea, looking out to the Isle of Bute and the north Ayrshire coast.
As the relic of a sea cliff of glacial times, the ground fell steeply away from our feet to the raised beach some seven hundred feet below but the path slanted much more gently down the flank of the steep. The path was narrow but well constructed and graded, and feet could be placed with confidence. This gave us ample opportunity to look about us. The view was mainly to the seawards for the ground sloped equally steeply above us but what a view it was to the seaward. The low-lying ground of Bute lay immediately across the water and to the south of this the cliffs of the Wee Cumbrae stood out; the coast of Ayrshire ran away southwards and in the north the ‘lum’ of Inverkip power station marked where the Clyde Firth turned towards Greenock. Superb.
Gannets fished just offshore and amused us no end by plunging arrow-like into the sea only to bob to the surface a few moments later swallowing their catch. They continued to amuse us, especially he with the binoculars, as we dropped down the slope towards Laggan Cottage.
A young couple came towards us up the path. Recognising one of our number as a former teacher of theirs, they stopped for a blether. While teacher and pupil reminisced, the rest of us walked on and waited out of earshot. The gannets kept us amused until the blethers rejoined us. Then it was downward yet, to the cottage at Laggan.
Three pinkish grey and black ‘hoodie craws’ lifted from the ground as we approached the cottage adding to our wildlife for the day.
Lunch was called at the cottage and we settled down in the sun once more. A man was already there when we arrived and a few minutes later he was joined by a woman*. ‘Did you find them?’ he asked her but she answered in the negative. Then she asked us which way we were heading. When we told her, she asked if we could keep an eye out for a brown leather spec case with a pair of specs inside. Being the obliging kind of folk we are we promised to keep a lookout for them. She thanked us in advance and left contact details with Allan who promised to leave them in the ticket office on the pier at Brodick. ‘They’re either beside a large boulder where I stopped to spend a penny’, said she, ‘or in the ladies toilet at Sannox’. There was no shortage of volunteers among us for a search of the ladies toilet. ‘Also, keep an eye out for the basking sharks’, said he changing the subject, ‘There’s two of them near the fallen rocks’. Then they thanked us once again and went on their way towards Lochranza.
We however, turned our steps southward along the raised beach towards Sannox and we were to stay on this raised beach for the rest of the walk. The going was level, dry and easy and we strolled along the path looking seaward, ever hopeful of spotting sharks. Holly played water-sticks with anybody who could throw the stick as far as the sea. Down the shingle beaches she ran, over the slippery rocks she clambered and all the time splashing into the sea and swimming to retrieve the stick. How we wished we had half her energy. But we had energy enough to wander along that path taking pleasure in a rare day of warm sunshine.
We approached the Fallen Rocks with still no sign of specs, or sharks. A sudden yell of ‘Shark!’ had us all stopped looking seaward at the blue-black dorsal fin slicing through the water. This disappeared and reappeared, shrank and grew according to the swell. It was occasionally joined by a tail fin. We estimated the distance between dorsal and tail to be around three metres, giving a total length of around five metres – a fair sized fish and, had Rex been with us, he would have been calculating how many shark steaks this would have made. Then another dorsal appeared some twenty metres away. There were at least two sharks patrolling that stretch of water.
Not only were there sharks here but, as we watched, a large salmon leapt from the waves adding another sighting to our wildlife list for the day. ‘We just need a snake or a lizard and we’ll have covered the five orders of the animal kingdom’, said the naturalist, but we felt this was just asking too much, considering what we had already seen.

We left the fallen rocks and the fishes behind and came into the trees of Sannox Wood. Here, on the arm of a bench was the missing spec case complete with specs. Allan collected it, texted the owner and promised to leave them with the ticket office. Then, feeling that we had been of some use to humanity, we walked on though one or two were disappointed that we wouldn’t get to search the ladies toilet now.
A break was called when we reached the toilets and car park at the foot of the Sannox Water. A man with binoculars stood looking out to sea. We thought perhaps he was looking at more sharks but the two spots we could see turned out to be two more seals, heads up looking back at the man with binoculars. How disappointed we were that they were only seals.
Robert said, ‘We don’t need to go onto the road. There’s a path round the shore from here’. Yes Robert, there may well be a path round the shore but good as we are, we haven’t yet mastered the walking on water bit. We had to turn back a little, come up the side of the river for two or three hundred metres to find a bridge and come back down the other side. We were now only forty metres from where the master spoke but he was right - there was a path round the shore.
The path took us under high sandstone cliffs where some of our number learned the techniques of abseiling. But that was before time and beer added a few more pounds to their frames and we wondered if there would be an abseiling rope strong enough to hold them now. They chose not to hear this thought and walked on.
We emerged from the scrubby woodland surrounding our path at the bus stop. We had five minutes to wait for the bus back to Brodick. The five minutes was taken up by measuring the length of a basking shark in the gravel (there are at least three sizes for the same fish depending on whose stride length you believe) or by planning future outings on the high peaks. Two walks have been added to our ‘to do’ list - The Witches Step and The Castles from North Glen Sannox and The Ben Nuis horseshoe. Before any more could be added, the bus arrived.
The bus took us to Brodick in time for the 16:40 ferry to the mainland. We didn’t think it would so we got off the bus before the pier to take FRT in Mac’s Bar. But then we saw the ferry and made a dash for it. Such was our hurry that Allan very nearly forgot to leave the found specs and had to make a hasty trip back to the ticket office. But he managed the ferry just in time.
FRT was taken on the ferry on the way back to the mainland and next weeks walk was ‘planned’.

*The lady in question was Judy Angel and the man was Henry Ferris both of whom have placed a comment on the blog under arrangements for the next walk. All we can say is that it was a pleasure Judy and despite our appearance and misogynistic approach to women in our group, we really are nice people.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Suggestion for a walk

For discussion after your walk this Wednesday: I (David, not Kay!) did the 4 lochs walk on Friday. Weather was absolutely superb and it turned out to be a lovely walk. However, it took me 5 and a half hours an I reckon it must be about 12 - 14 miles long. Have a chat and a think about it. Is it too long or are you up for it? It's mostly good underfoot except for the hill section between Loch Finlas and Loch Bradan, which is quite rocky. Views are superb.
We' ll drink a glass of hock to you on Wednesday!

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

16 September - arrangements

Meet at Alan's at 9 am for visit to Falls of Clyde.


09 09 09 Arran

Making a spectacle case of themselves!



"If you see a spectacle case...."

On the way down to Laggan

At the top of the walk

Leaving Lochranza behind

First stop of the day


Can I play through?

Shark! Shark! Shaaaaark!

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Auchincruive route

Distance: 10.0 km

2 September Auchincruive 4 - Another Halcyon Day or 'Whit Bloody Kingfisher'

There was a roaring in the wind all night,
The rain came heavily and fell in floods,
But now the sun was shining, calm and bright,
The birds were singing in the distant woods.
William Wordsworth

Peter had a sare back so missed the walk today. This was a great pity for it was Peter’s kind of walk, it was in one of his favourite parts of the county and, for something of a change this summer, the sun shone and the air was warm. But he had a sare back and missed it. However, nine of us gathered at Annbank Bowling Green car park for an excursion by the River Ayr. (Ronnie was the other absentee, having had a better offer)
We have done this walk many times before as a group yet was still new territory for some of us and we looked forward to an easy and interesting walk in the sun.
Holly led us away from the car park down through a wee wooded area on a footpath still wet and muddy from the summer’s rain. She obviously remembered the route well for she took us down through the wood to the path beside the river, a river that ran deep and brown, swollen once again by another night’s rain. But the sun shone on us this morning and we enjoyed the walk down the river into Auchincruive policies.
We stopped as we cleared the trees, came through the perimeter wall and the river scene opened out to us. Some sat on the riverside wall, some stood around, but all enjoyed the view downriver and the welcome sunshine. Somebody mentioned coffee but Davie suggested we wait until we get to the Burns Monument for there were seats there. And, anyway, that’s where we always have coffee. We all agreed to wait but this didn’t stop Ian devouring his first roll of the day.
We came to Auchincruive House. Davie and Robert were for walking on but a shout from the rest brought them back for we were for a closer view of the old house. The original part of the house dates from the middle of the eighteenth and was built for the Oswald family to a design by Robert Adam. Though it has been extended and altered since then, the original facade is still obvious. A header on one of the rone-pipe bears the date 1767, possibly the date the house was finished. As Oswald Hall, it was incorporated into the Scottish Agricultural College as halls of residence but it now houses a banqueting hall, conference centre and various business offices.

We crossed Oswald’s bridge and came to the Leglen Wood and the cairn commemorating the area’s connection with both Wallace and Burns. Here, we took coffee.
After a longer coffee break than we have been used to these past few months, we left the cairn, crossed the road and took the fishers’ path up the river. Two herons flapped their lazy way downstream and a buzzard could be heard ‘meowing’ above the trees. The latter was seen as we started the climb to the old Ayr to Annbank railway.
The walk through the woods above the railway cutting was a delight. ‘The light is super’, said Johnny, our official photographer ‘almost spring-like’. He wasn’t wrong. The sun shone through the foliage turning it bright spring green and dappling the tree trunks with spots of summer light. His camera clicked as he tried to capture the scene for us. We look forward to seeing the pictures.
The woodland continued as we climbed above the river to Wallace’s Seat where, on the crag high above the water with superb views up and down the river, we halted again. Ten or fifteen minutes we sat there while the newcomers admired the view and the old-timers blethered in their usual manner. But, wooden benches are hard on auld bones and either sair bums or itchy feet began to tell. We were off again.
The trees gave way briefly and we emerged onto the road at Tarholm bridge. From path on the other side of the bridge appeared a man with a dog that barked furiously at Holly. The dog was reined in to be put into the car parked there and the man stood aside to let us past. In passing, Allan said to no one in particular, ‘That chap’s from Fenwick’, and walked on. Of course, the shy Jimmy and Robert had to make inquiries. By the time the inquisitors had done their stuff and found out once more that it was nice to have a dry day for a change; yes, the man was from Fenwick – forty-one years ago; yes, he remembered Allan when his name was mentioned - his sister and Allan’s were friends, the bold Allan was a hundred metres up the fishers’ path with the rest of the uninterested.
As the crags gave way to a broad grassy holm, the need to eat was felt. On a seat by a shallow sloping bank opposite the point where the Coyle adds its waters to the main river, we sat to eat, to eat and to laze in the sun. Holly was for none of this lazing about; she is far too young for that. Robert obliged by throwing a stick into the water for her. Playing water-sticks is one of Holly’s favourites. This ploy was successful until the time he threw it slightly too far and the puir dug was swept downstream in the flood making landfall some fifty metres below us. Robert gave up at this point, not so Holly. Johnny was next choice for games and stood by the bank while Holly showed him how to swim. And the rest of us lazed and watched. For a good while we lazed and watched.
‘Kingfisher!’ yelled Allan and all eyes turned towards the river to watch a dot of sapphire and orange streak up the water; all eyes except Robert’s that is. ‘Where, where?’ shouted he, but such was the speed of the bird that by the time it was pointed out to Bob, it had moved on. He missed it. He still hasn’t seen a Kingfisher and is beginning to doubt the existence of such a creature, accusing us of inventing it just to tease him. As if.
The birders were delighted though, for not only had we seen a kingfisher but five herons, two buzzards, a single kestrel and a grey wagtail had also been spotted.

Irrespective of the length of the walk or the warmth of the day or the luxury for this year of lazing in the sun, there comes a time when we have to move on. We had reached this time now. We walked on.
We were now on the sunny side of the river, on the fishers’ path that took us underneath the sandstone and shale crags that are a feature of this stretch of the water. The sun was warm and bright on our faces and edged the ripples of the water with silver. More than one of us took the opportunity to get some good pictures.
Then the crags gave way to another grassy holm. Two hundred metres or so upstream stood two men, blethering. When we got nearer, we could see a fine big salmon lying at their feet. One of them, Owen Clark, had landed it earlier in the day. An eleven pounder it was, and took some time to land according to Owen who was ‘seeventy-two' and had ‘been oot fae seeven o’clock this mornin’’ and was ‘knackered’. Like most fishers, Owen doesn’t eat the fish he catches but gives it away but despite pleas from the fish eaters amongst us, he refused to give it to us for he had somebody in mind for it. Johnny took his picture and gave him a blog card so that he could see the picture on the internet. Then we wished him well, left him to blether on to his companion and walked on upstream.
We were now barely a mile from the cars, a mile that was taken at a leisurely pace as befitted the day and we arrived at the cars around two o’clock.

Fluid replacement therapy was administered in The Tap o’ the Brae. We sat outside on the decking taking in some more sun and looking down the valley of the Ayr to the coast and Arran beyond. ‘A good day’, was the general opinion. ‘And nice to see the kingfisher’, said one. ‘Whit bloody kingfisher!’ exclaimed a frustrated Robert.

PS. The rain came back around five o’clock

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Some more pictures from yesterday

Some more pictures from yesterday. Note how the sun shines on our walks - sometimes!

The original auchincruive House dates from 1767

Burns and Wallace moument

Auchincruive House

Holly teaching Johnny how to swim

Ian photographs a scene on the river