Wednesday, 31 March 2010

31st March - Last trip of the Renfrew Ferry

Right! Early Ooters - If you are going?
Get a Move on for the last ferry!

The last of the old and the first of the new.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

17 March The Kelly Cut or If we ever lay hands on that ****** that writes up the walks for The Herald ..............

We met three fellows as we prepared for the walk this morning, three fellows of our own age. We were at Cornalees Visitor Centre donning boots when they arrived; three fellows, one from Glasgow, one from Paisley and the other from Bridge of Weir. Our intention was to do the Kelly Cut, a walk that was new to all the Ooters. Their intention was to do the same and they were in the same degree of ignorance as we were. Still we had a map and they had the route description cut from The Herald. They would follow us, or we them, depending on who was at the front at that time. Life was hunky-dory then.
The weather was kind, well as kind as mid-March can be, overcast but bright, dry and mild and the sun did its best to come through at times. The views weren’t exceptional as a haze hung in the air restriction visibility to a few miles. Nevertheless we expected a good walk, an easy and short walk for this was another birthday curry evening and we didn’t want too hard a walk or we might all doze off over the curry. What we didn’t expect though, were the patches of snow still lying deep in the gullies, even a low as the visitor centre. And great swathes of the stuff corniced the hill above the Greenock Cut.
But we were not for the hill. We turned our footsteps on the path signed ‘Kelly Cut – Wemyss Bay 6miles’. We looked forward to an easy walk for the path was level and firm with only the occasional muddy bit to slow our progress. The pace was brisk from the outset with Robert, Ronnie and Davie setting it and Jimmy and Allan trailing on at the rear taking photographs. And it was kept brisk for the first mile or two until the blood warmed up. We walked beside the cut as it curved in and out of the gullies to maintain its level. Sometimes we felt that we were making no progress as we walked for ages to find ourselves barely fifty yards away on the other side of a cleuch. But the walking was good, the crack was good and the pace was just on the high side of comfortable. We might have walked along that path all day but the time approached eleven and coffee was called. On a dry bank overlooking Daff Reservoir, we sat down for coffee.
After coffee the pace was eased. Jimmy and Alan got to the front and slowed Davie to a reasonable pace where everybody kept together as one group. The first frog spawn of the year was spotted in a shallow pool in the cut and we stopped for a few minutes to examine it. But this was the only halt on our progress towards Kelly Dam. The road steepened towards the dam and a sign directed us away from it towards Inverkip. But we were for none of these signs; we would follow the fellows in front who had the route description from The Herald. At the dam we caught them up. ‘We just came off the route for coffee’, said they. So it was a return to the sign for us, but not before we had crossed the dam and Jimmy had led us into another bog.
We followed the service road down towards Inverkip. Not only was more frog spawn noted but also the frogs. ‘The big ones are the females and the wee ones are the males’ said Robert, showing off his knowledge of wildlife. We watched the puddocks for a wee while then Rex set off again and we followed.
A wee bit of concern crept into some as we approached the caravan park, a caravan park that shouldn’t have been there according to our map. Some suggested we should have turned off the road further up. Some suggested we should go on yet. Where were these Renfrewshire men when they were needed? Robert, the old Munroist, looked at the map and said that we should turn sharp right at Kelly Mains Farm. We hadn’t passed that yet, had we? We didn’t think so and walked on.
At Kelly Mains Farm we turned sharp right, left the tarmac of the caravan park road and found an ancient, abandoned road lined with trees. We knew where we were then – well, some of us did – and walked on confidently. By this time lunch was calling. On some convenient logs in a copse of mature elm, beech and limes, lit by a warming blink of March sunshine, we sat down for lunch.
Barely had we finished lunch and were back on the old road when we were caught up by our Renfrewshire friends. They, like us, were bemoaning the lack of signage on the route. Despite the description in The Herald, they still found difficulty way-finding. Each group congratulated the other in getting this far.

Davie found the sign saying footpath and directing us off our road and up a field track, but our map reader said we shouldn’t turn off until Finnoch Bog Farm, then we should make a sharp right. We followed the map reader, a move we would regret.
At Finnoch Bog farm we found tarmac, a broad, busy road but with a pavement beside it. We walked up the pavement looking for the track on our right up that would take us into the trees we could see on the skyline. Instead we found a modern housing estate, Langhouse, which shouldn’t be there according to our map. Still, we followed our road into the estate. Then it bent away from where we wanted to be and we stopped for a conference. It was as we stood looking lost that a kind soul, taking pity on these wan’ert auld men, leant over her garden fence and gave us the directions that we so sorely lacked. ‘Back to that turn-off and you’ll find a path to take you behind the houses on to a track. As the track swings right, take to the left and cross the field to the waterworks. You’ll find the road there’. With grateful thanks to our saviour, we retraced our steps to the turn-off. And who should we meet coming towards us? That’s right, the Renfrewshire men.
The path we found did take us onto a track, an old forest road. Surely this would take us up into the trees? It certainly appeared to, so we followed it. It climbed straight up the hill. The first quarter of a mile was fairly steep but, on the track, the walking was good. And we could see the waterworks over to the left. Then, as the slope eased the track ran out into a marshy stretch of field. Despite misgivings from the rear of the group, the map reader was adamant that the drystane dyke that we followed would take us onto a forest road through the trees. Once again we followed our map reader.
At a gate in the dyke we entered the forest and found the forest road, a long abandoned forest road but a road nevertheless. But which way to turn? Davie suggested left for that was where the waterworks were. A conference of map readers suggested right for Davie’s road ended in the forest after a bit. Right would bring us to where we should be for the road curved round. Anyway we wanted to be near the electricity pylons. The ‘righters’ won the day and we set off right.
Right proved the correct decision for the road improved after a while and brought us on to and arterial road where we could see the electricity pylons. ‘This looks like it comes up from where I saw the sign’, said Davie and, sadly, we had to agree with him. We probably could have saved a good mile or so if we had taken his advice. Still, as our new road swung round to the north, confidence in our route finders was regained. And, at one point, through a gap in the trees we could see the cut we had walked alongside in the morning. We were definitely on the right road now.
A mile later we came to a clearing where the trees had been felled and we could see the waterworks in front of us. We could also see, some four hundred yards down over the fields, the housing estate we left the best part of forty minutes ago. We could have saved another mile if we had come up over the fields to the waterworks. But, hey-ho, what’s a mile among friends? 'A helluva distance,' says Johnny who was beginning to flag at this point.
The map readers said that our next path should lead off to the right. We came to the waterworks looking carefully for any path that went right. There was none. But, at the waterworks, a road ran off to the right. ‘That’s it,’ said the mappers confidently. We believed them.
They were right. This road took us out of the forest to the dam of Daff Reservoir that we had looked over at coffee this morning. Above us we could see the scar of the cut running across the hillside. Not so far to go now, but not before we had a rest. We had come from our lunch stop with barely a break and it was telling on some now. So we sat against the dam wall and had a break.
The ‘not so far to go now’ proved to be the hardest part of the walk for legs were tired and the ground broken. The Munroists, Rex and Alan, opted for a direct line over the rough ground towards Cornalees while the rest took a longer route alongside a drystane dyke and found the vestige of a sheep path to ease the way. Holly ran between the groups. Whichever way was chosen, the walking wasn’t easy on tired legs and we all struggled on this section. Eventually we came down into the gully of the Kip Water and found a boardwalk. It was a tiring group of Ooters that climbed that boardwalk to find the level path alongside the cut. An easy and slow amble brought us back to Cornalees.
Wildlife was at a premium today. Apart from the frogs and spawn, we spotted a single snipe on the old road before lunch and Alan spotted the deer bounding across the fields as we came from the housing estate into the forest. But the best spot of the day came as Alan and Rex crossed the doogals towards the boardwalk.. A woodcock sprung with a flutter of wings just as Alan was about to stand on it. We feel sure that the adrenalin will have subsided and Alan’s heart rate will have returned to normal for next week. But it did help him over the difficult bit.

We were changing out of boots at Cornalees when the Renfrewshire boys arrived. What did they think of the walk? ‘If we ever lay hands on that ****** that writes up the walks for The Herald ..............’ said they, obviously having had as much trouble way-finding as we had.

This was a much longer walk than we anticipated today (fourteen to fifteen miles said Jimmy) and there will be some tired bodies tomorrow. We had no time left for FRT for we were later finished than we ettled and we were conscious of the time approaching for our evening curry. And the opinion of the walk? Well, we’ve done it now, so we don’t need to do it again. It’s not nearly as good as its near neighbour, The Greenock Cut.

Distance: At a guess around 22Km

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

From The Urban Dictionary

Porange is a pronoun, used to describe a piece (or pieces) of hair growing where hair does not normally grow. Also referrs to the appearance of one hair which grows longer and faster than its surrounding follicle mates.
Is also the original word rhyming with orange.
Any occurance of seemingly misplaced or oddly fast growing hair (or hairs).
NOTE: Mole hair does not count.

OK. It might not be the OED but the word seems to exist somewhere.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

How many stick does Jimmy need? For a guy that refused to use a stick before Christmas, see how many he uses now. But does it help him get to the top any quicker?

3 March Blackcraig Hill, Glen Afton

Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
Matthew 6:34

The day was fair and lightly overcast, which in itself was something of a disappointment considering the superb clear, frosty days we have had this past week or so. The intention of the day was to do Davie’s ‘four tops’ in Glen Afton. A fresh fall of snow in the early part of the week left the hills gleaming white in the frosty sunshine and we anticipated one of those special days on the tops, the kind that keep the hill men coming out again and again. But the day dawned with thin, high-level cloud obscuring the sun and the forecasters suggesting it would remain for the day. So the day was merely fair and we had to put up with it.
The fishers' car park in Glen Afton was under a few inches of icy snow so we opted not to venture up the wee slope to it but to park just off the waterworks road under some old spruce trees. By the time the auld yins got themselves ready – socks, boots, gaiters, jackets, woolly bunnets and walking poles - the time was wearing on to ten o’clock. In fact it was dead on ten when we started to walk back down the road we had just driven up. The gentlest of breezes began to stir and cool the morning air as we walked down the road towards Blackcraig Farm keeping the pace brisk to warm the blood against the chill.
We decide to do the walk the way we have always done it, i.e. from north to south, not because we have always done it this way but because this is the best way to do it, providing the easier slopes and the best of the views. Despite the disappointment of the weather, the hill country looked superb; a monochrome world of white snow contrasting with the bare black rock of the crag tumbling down into the glen. Only the tussocky reeds growing out of the snow on valley bottom and the dark green of the spruces showed any colour for even the sky itself was white with thin cloud this morning. And our hill looked inviting.

The spirits were high as we walked down the road. Johnny talked computers. Your scribe has to confess that he must be turning into a geek himself for he understood everything Johnny said. Davie, on the other hand, just walked quietly on, humming to himself and occasionally trying to change the subject.

At Blackcraig Farm road we left tarmac and immediately met our first snow of the day, soft and powdery but occasionally overlying older icy stuff. We suspected the snow on top would be just as hard and icy for some of it has lain since before Christmas. We looked forward to it.
As the slope steepened, the snow deepened and the pace was slowed accordingly. Holly was first to reach the gate that would allow us on to the open hillside but was closely followed by the rest of us. We were now on the Victorian pony track between Glen Afton and Dunside in the Kello Valley, a track that would take us high on the shoulder of Blackcraig. We climbed with the track.
At the sheep fank well up the glen side we found the only piece of ground in the whole white world that was free of snow and sat down for coffee. Yes, we know it was early but we always stop here for coffee! We did so again. The day wasn’t as cold as we thought at the start and we were now sheltered from the breeze so the opportunity was taken here to remove jackets. We walked for a fair bit in fleeces for the first time this year.
It was during coffee that Rex noticed Johnny’s gaiters – they were on the wrong legs. Aye, they were on Johnny’s legs right enough, but the left was on the right and vice versa. A rather embarrassed Johnny spent the coffee break changing round his gaiters to the right legs. (Well he would have been embarrassed if we had not all reached the age where embarrassment is a thing of the past.) However, Rex promises to make sure Johnny is properly dressed before we leave the cars in future.
With the coffee finished and Johnny properly attired, we set off up the track again. And as we climbed the snow got deeper. Jimmy led us on the first stage, setting a good pace and finding the shallowest of the snow. The rest of us followed in a crocodile line in his footsteps, literally in his footsteps for the snow was soft powdery and calf-deep. Then Davie took his turn breaking a way through and immediately found the deep stuff, knee deep stuff. Our progress was slowed almost to a crawl. But, with each taking a turn to force a way through the snow, we climbed the track to the cairn on the skyline. Then, as the track swung away eastward towards Dunside, we left it and took to the steepest climb of the day, the shoulder of Blackcraig Hill.
Many were the ‘view-stops’ called as we climbed up the slope, ploughing through the soft snow and crunching it under the boots. And the view was becoming good. Beneath us to the left, Glen Afton ran down to the Ayrshire Plain. To the right Tinto showed itself and to the south of this the radar station on Lowther Hill was easy to identify. And the vista broadened as we climbed higher. Now the hills to the west, Cairnsmore of Carsphairn and Windy Standard, came into view. And, higher yet, the high Galloways showed.
Then, as we approached the top and found the breeze again, a longer halt was made to don jackets again. This was where Jimmy found his latest loss. Jimmy is getting a reputation for losing things; bunnet, specs, phone and wallet have all been mislaid during the last year. Now came another loss, a permanent one this time. When we had stopped for coffee, Jimmy took his camera from the pocket on top of his rucksack. Did he not forget to zip it back up again? Somewhere on the slope underneath where we stood lies a bank money bag with two fivers in it. The day was such that Jimmy was not inclined to go back down the hill to look for it and can only hope that whoever finds it has fun spending the tenner. We will need to make sure Jimmy has everything and has closed everything properly every time we stop.
By this time we were on the broad flat summit of the hill and expected to find the solid snow. We were disappointed. The deep, soft stuff persisted. This was tiring stuff and was slowing us up quite a bit. Well behind schedule, we arrived at the trig point on the summit. Here we ate and took in more of the extensive view. ‘The best thing about the haze is that we don’t need to look at Irvine while we’re eating’ said the Cumnock man quite proud of the fact that we could see his house some nine miles away. No doubt the Irvine men will respond in due course.
Davie reckoned we left the trig point at least an hour behind schedule. We had to be in Cumnock by three for we were to partake of Saidie’s stovies in the Mercat there. The snow on the southern slope was just as soft and deep as before and the going was hard. A summit was held as to whether we go on as planned or drop down the hill to the burn, find the new forest road and come back into the glen that way. Since it was felt that we would be late for stovies if we went on, we decided (Well Jimmy made the decision) to leave the hill.
Whether this was a mistake or not will be open to personal interpretation for the going now was really tough. The snow deepened and the ground fell away in snow-covered ‘doogals’. We came down the slope as best we could, kicking mini avalanches before us and finding unexpected holes and boulders. Johnny found a deep, mucky, wet hole into which to stick his gaitered leg and, for some reason or other Rex thought it a good idea to sit down in the snow. Perhaps they did this to take our minds of the tough going. If this was the case they succeeded but only for a few minutes. Then it was back to the travail.
Light relief came near the burn when a deer was spotted on the other side, bounding seemingly effortlessly through up Steyamara through the deep snow. We envied it. Alan was the one to spot the other deer near the crest of the ridge and we watched as the two came together. But this relief was only temporary for we had to cross some rough stuff again.
Stumbling and slipping, we came through the new plantation. We never thought that walking us a forest sheugh would be the easier option but it was, even when the bottom turned to icy brown sludge. Jimmy unexpectedly found the boulder with his backside. Bruised and battered was he, but he was able to stumble on. As we all did. Eventually, and much to our relief, we found the forest road. Though it too was cover in snow, it was smooth by comparison with what we had come through and provided the first easy walking since we left Blackcraig Farm this morning.
We followed the forest road to Craig, crossed the Afton by a bridge and came back to the tarmac at Craigdarroch. Now we only had a mile or so of easy upward walking to get back to the fisher’s car park and the cars. Though it was somewhat disappointing not to have done the horseshoe, the words of St.Matthew ring true for the day. The right decision had been made for each had had enough.

We repaired to the Mercat in Cumnock for FRT, just in time to savour Sadie’s welcome stovies. Much appreciated, Sadie, and many thanks.

Blackcraig Hill 3rd March 2010

Auchinleck to Ochiltree 24th Feb 2010

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Jesus I only hope I never have to write a blog. Well done Jimmy. You have set the bar very high indeed. I can only gaze up in wonder from the foothills of this literary peak of excellence.

Shirty rhymes with thirty. So now you have dirty and shirty and nine thirty. I know. Pathetic isn't it.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

3 March - Black Craig photos

Walks for the next three weeks

Once again we are away ahead of ourselves. Stuffed full of stovies and strong ale, we fixed up the following for the next few weeks.
Wednesday 10 March Barr area. Meet at Crosshill at 9:30
Wednesday 17 March Kelly Cut. Meet at Johnny's at 8:30
Wednesday 24 March River Ayr Walk - Muirkirk road to Sorn.

I was chatting to my Sorn pal and he says a very small stretch of the Muirkirk-Sorn road is under repair. Locals still use the road and there is no problem unless they are actually working on the road - which isn't very often! Paul

Monday, 1 March 2010

Cumnock-Ochiltree route

Added this in here- rather than another post - JM

Distance 9.1 km

Many thanks to our native guide and bard, Jimmy, for plotting the route for me. For once I was flummoxed!