Friday, 28 May 2010

The Cobbler 26 May 2010

With military-like precision eight Ooters met at the car park at Arrochar for the walk up to The Cobbler. The 'Kilmarnock' contingent, Ian, Robert, Alan and Davie (not to mention Holly - OK there you go I've mentioned her), had travelled from Ian's, whereas the Coastal Command, Rex, Paul, Johnny and Allan, had set off from Irvine. The weather was ideal for the walk with blue skies, some puffy white clouds and a slight breeze to make sure we didn't overheat.
The path opposite the car park was taken which led us on to the newish zig-zag path taking us up the first part of the ascent. Without the resident ornithologist, much debate was had about the egg-laying habits of a cuckoo, one of which was flying above us. The question 'How many eggs does a cuckoo lay in a year?' was robustly answered as either one or seventeen. Figure that one out Jimmy!
The older part of the road was attained at 1100ft and another mile took us up to the Narnain Boulders. From there it was a short journey to where the path forks and there the left path was taken for the direct ascent up the hill. It was here that Allan decided that discretion was the better part of valour since his old knees had done enough of a climb for the day. He decided he would wait at the base for the rest to climb to the top. Johnny decided to stay with him and keep him company and so six Ooters, rallying to the motto, scrambled up to the summit whilst the other two went back to the fork in the path and took the other route which takes you up between the Cobbler and Ben Narnain. They stopped for lunch at the base of the 'Stairway to Heaven' and awaited the six pack to return.
The boys up top could vouch for a fabulous* view including Jura, Inverkip and the Kelly Cut! Now why would anyone want to see the Kelly Cut again - unless they could determine the correct route from the housing scheme. Iain, keen to show that he was still a dare-devil, climbed through the eye of the needle and make the true summit of the hill. Some thought him brave, most chipped in some money to buy him some new marbles. The top of the hill was busy with a party of pupils from K.A. (don't panic - Kelvinside Academy) amongst the mass. Discussions were also had with a Dutch couple who claimed that the highest point in Holland was 200ft (or was it metres) above sea-level.
Meanwhile back at base camp lunch was taken on Ben Nicknairn whilst the time of day was passed with walkers heading off up Ben Narnain. Allan and Johhny had already been up to the top and back whilst waiting for their erstwhile colleagues to come down from the Cobbler. Now the views from the top of Ben Narnain were truly fabulous*. You can keep your Kelly Cut. From the top of Ben Narnain you can look down on the Cobbler.
The eightsome reel eventually joined up again on the path home which afforded some simply fabulous* views across to Ben Lomond and up Loch Long. The cars were reached by 3.30pm, 5 hours after setting off.
Let it be known that for FRT the committee chose to retire to the Village Inn in Arrochar which had an interesting range of ales on offer including Avalanche and Vital Spark (described by Ian as engine oil) and a very convivial hour was spent in the beer garden. However the influence of the treasurer in choosing this hostelry was evident as it transpired that this was a crisp free pub. It did sell plates of chips but this request fell on deaf ears.
On the McMeekin scale of fabulousness (see below) this had been a 5 star day.

* fabulous - an oft used term to describe anything that is O.K up to being the dictionary definition of fabulous i.e. legendary, incredibly great, wonderful
** simply fabulous - as above but better
*** truly fabulous - indescribably fabulous
**** bloody fabulous - massively fabulous, especially after 3 pints
***** f-----g fabulous - it doesn't get any better

Please note that in the absence of independent witnesses, and in this age of photoshop technology, we must assume that the tops were reached as described. Poetic licence has only been used in the interests of one-upmanship.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Fabulous Day on the Cobbler

Just fabulous!

Sometimes we just sit!

Sometimes we think!

Beinn Ime

Spot 6 ooters in this scene

Enjoying the conversation along the way.

Monday, 24 May 2010

19 May - Cock of Arran

Distance 14.6 km

On fair Loch Ranza streamed the early day,

Thin wreaths of cottage-smoke are upward curl'd
From the lone hamlet, which her inland Bay
And circling mountains sever from the world."

Lord of the Isles, Sir Walter Scott

Seven Ooters (Paul, Ian, Ronnie, Robert, Johnnie, Davie and Jimmy) gathered at the ferry terminal in Ardrossan for the 0945 crossing to Brodick.

Trips to Arran have not been without their problems in the past - we remember the time Jimmy famously watched from the quayside as the ferry departed - and there was nearly another misfortune this time as Paul set off to Ardrossan sans (or is that ohne?) rucksack. Luckily his dear wife (she sometimes reads the blog) noticed this oversight and raced to Ardrossan where she handed over the forgotten rucksack at the entrance to the ferry terminal.

The plan had been to climb something - just about every hill had been mentioned at one stage or other - but the cloud was low and it didn't look as if it would lift any time soon. So Plan H was put into operation and we opted to walk around the Cock of Arran (this could be another blog Ian's brother won't be allowed to read), from Sannox to Lochranza. As the freeloaders piled on to the bus to Sannox, the driver seemed pleased to see the cash proferred by Paul. The bus was busy, with a group of walkers from Bristol helping to fill it up.

Parked by the shore at Sannox was a Belgian-registered camper van with the front wheels resting on a ramp to level off the vehicle. Quite why the occupants couldn't just fall out of bed like other occupants of camper vans and caravans, I don't know. On our last walk along this stretch of the coast we had been treated to some spectacular sightings of basking sharks but Jimmy, our resident naturalist, informed us that there would be no sighting this time - the water being too cold, or something like that. And a bird that Paul thought might have been a diver was confirmed by Jimmy as being a cormorant. He stated this just as the bird-that-wasn't-a-diver dived under the surface. At sea a naval vessel was on exercises. It was variously described as a frigate, minesweeper and destroyer ... it definitely wasn't a submarine, or a canoe.

Robert had done this stretch of the walk during the previous weekend and informed us that at Laggan Cottage, our traditional lunch stop, an author staying in a tent there was selling, nay giving away, one of his novels. And so it was that we spotted the tent and its occupant who came out to greet us as we settled down for our lunch. Books were laid out and we were invited to help ourselves to copies of the 'Honesty Edition' of Dreamwords by Paul Story - making a payment if we enjoyed the book or passing it on if we didn't. Johnnie who has dabbled in printing and binding books himself and whose son has written at least one novel, was soon deep in conversation with the gentleman who had printed and published the books at his own expense. Paul Story's Dreamwords website can be found at and Laggan Cottage is the inspiration for 'Creggan' in the novel.

The stretch beyond Laggan Cottage was new for some of us and we were soon into scrambling mode over a small rockfall. Those with a sensitive nose detected an unpleasant odour - "Death" said one and we soon found the source of the stench - a dead stag lying amongst the rocks - and not that long dead going by the state of the corpse. Just as we completed our traverse of the rocks we bumped into a group of walkers travelling in the opposite direction. One of them was a Swiss lady who had lived for some time in California but had recently returned to live in Switzerland. She just loved Scotland. As most of the Ooters moved on, Ronnie and Ian remained behind to get more of this lady's life story. We waited close to the remains of buildings which old maps show to have been associated with coal mining and with saltpans. Whilst resting here we observed three canoeists hugging the shoreline whilst approaching from the south and after a little banter had passed to and fro (we weren't really Somali pirates) the threesome rafted* and turned their backs on us.

* this is a technical term which the canoeists amongst the Ooters knew all about.

We passed the the large sandstone boulder which is the actual 'Cock of Arran'. I only know this from reading about it subsequently. Jimmy was clearly not doing the job he is paid to do and should have pointed this out to us.

We also passed Hutton's Unconformity without Jimmy telling us. Certainly the tilted layers of sandstone were remarkable at this point of the walk, but when James Hutton visited this area in 1787 he deduced from the very different angles of rock stratification that the earth was much older than had been thought at the time.

It's even older now.

The big rockfall at An Scriodan meant more scrambling. This was a tougher barrier than the previous one but we were able to make our way down on to the beach to avoid some of it.

It was becoming clear that we were not going to catch the bus that connected with the 1640 ferry and discussion turned to what we could possibly find to do in Lochranza for a couple of hours. We were stumped until someone suggested we might visit the Lochranza Hotel. At this point the pace moved up a gear as we turned the corner on to the east side of Loch Ranza. After a brief halt at the orientation table and a hurried discussion about the age of the earth, religion and creation, the group began to fragment as Robert, Ronnie, Paul and Jimmy (and Holly, of course) pushed on.

Those not at the front missed the entertaining spectacle of Ronnie tripping and falling into the boundary fence of the golf course we were about to cross. Having picked himself up he then tripped over the fence landing unceremoniously face-down.

Why was he in such a hurry?

Apart from a few patches of Scotch mist the walk had been dry but as we walked along the main road the rain became a little heavier, but conditions were so humid that donning waterproofs would not have made us any drier. Holly is not usually allowed to walk along a busy road without being on her lead, but her master was way behind. It should be reported that she behaved impeccably, keeping off the road and advancing through undergrowth and along the shore so as to avoid setting foot on tarmac.

The leaders waited outside the Boguillie Bar for the stragglers to appear. The bad news was that dogs were not allowed inside whilst food was being served, so with the usual amount of Ooters sympathy, Davie and Holly remained outside whilst the rest piled in. Eyebrows were raised at the prices but no one suggested we should walk out and stand at the bus stop instead. After a while we asked the barmaid if Davie and the dug could be allowed in. She mentioned 'wet and smelly' but we jumped to Davie's defence and he was admitted with Holly.

After a happy hour (or two) - see Johnnie's video for evidence - we managed to get the bus back into Brodick were we ordered our fish suppers before boarding MV Caledonian Isles for the return journey.

It was another great day out on Arran.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

12 May Bowling To Balloch And Back By Bike

When it was discovered that Davie would be absent from today’s outing, we opted for a bicycle trip. But where? Rex had the idea of Bowling to Balloch – new territory for the rest of us. So, for the first time this year six cyclists met near the canal basin in Bowling for the start of what we hoped would be a good outing.
But the recent cold spell continues, even depositing a fresh covering of snow on the hills. Though the sun shone, we were well wrapped up and even wore rain jackets to cut the cold air.
Rex led us across the road and on to the cycle path along an old railway lined with shrubby trees. The way was tarmaced and smooth and the running was easy. We soon got into a rhythm, a rhythm in which it was easy to get carried away and go far too fast for our own good. But we had been warned by the experts to keep the pace easy and conserved energy. We kept the pace extremely easy – eight and a half miles an hour for the entire outward journey.
The track left the old railway and dropped to join another, giving us the first and only decent freewheel of the day. Full advantage was taken of the drop and we wheeched down that slope like schoolboys released for the day, enjoying the freedom of the speed. Then the track levelled out on what might have been another old railway and the pace was eased again. Just as well, for the freewheel was beginning to turn chilly. But the easy rhythm resumed and we soon warmed up again.
The track took us into Dumbarton and through the delights of this county town. We left the old railway and followed the indicators on to the streets, quitet streets of a fairly modern estate, then through lightly industrial area, past a sign for Dumbarton Castle, past Dumbarton Academy where we noted some poor sods still tied to the chalk face, and on into the town centre. This was the main shopping street and gave us the only major traffic problem of the day with cars and buses and pedestrians trying hard to obstruct our progress. But we are Ooters and not a lot hinders us. All hazards were avoided and we wheeled over the Leven Bridge and back on to the safety of the cycle track. Almost immediately, we left the buzz of Dumbarton behind us. We would now follow the River Leven northward to its source in Loch Lomond.
Once again the path was smooth and level and there was a danger of getting carried away with speed. But the experienced lot got to the front and kept the rest in check.
At first the path ran close to the river. Goosanders, a large white male with blackish green head and a brown-headed female, fished the slow-running water; our first for the day but not our last. Then the river turned away and the path ran crossed a footbridge and through a marshy area bedecked with violet-white may-flowers. There was no indication of the curling pond that used to be here, just an open expanse of marsh running down to the river and covered in may-flower and bright yellow marsh marigolds. Rex was right; this is a pleasant cycle.
There came a shout from the rear for coffee. (There always comes a shout from the rear for coffee just as those at the front are getting into their stride.) It was closing on half past ten and we weren’t in a particular hurry but Rex, assuming Davie’s role today, said there was an excellent spot for coffee just ahead. We cycled on and came back to the river. A halt was made here for an information board took the attention of some, an information board detailing the industrial past of the Leven Valley, an industrial past based on the production of textiles. All very interesting but did we have coffee? No chance. We cycled on.
Another pair of goosander was spotted on the river as we ran towards Renton. Then we came to another of those information boards, this time detailing the history of Renton FC. Further on football ground lay on our left. Speculation was made as to who played there. Where was Paul when we needed him? It certainly wasn’t Renton FC. The eventual conclusion, rightly or wrongly, was that it was Vale of Leven. (We stand to be corrected, Paul.)
By the time the football team had been discussed, we were running through the housing schemes of Alexandria. But then the path returned to the river. Another pair of Goosanders floated on the water. Then it was boats that floated there. Dozens, hundreds of small craft lay moored in rows and columns right across the river and we knew that we were approaching Balloch and the source of the river in Loch Lomond.
We ran towards the loch. Ian told us that The Maid of the Loch was tied up and being renovated at a pier. We just had to see this and ran towards it. Visits aboard the steamer can only be had at week-ends so in that respect we were disappointed. But we weren’t disappointed in our coffee stop. (Eventually, said Allan) We sat on the picnic tables on the Maid pier and looked up the loch to where ‘the sun shines bright on Ben Lomond’. The Ben looked enticing with just the sun and cloud chasing each other across its flanks in the northerly breeze. The Luss hills were equally inviting, as were those above Inverbeg. We sat and watched the scenery or the folk at work on the jetty or on The Maid, and relaxed in the sun.
The intention was to cycle to Balloch and have lunch in a pub here. But it was far too early for lunch. Rex suggested we visit Loch Lomond Shores, a shopping complex not too far way. So, mounting up again, we casually rode the half mile through a park to the shopping complex on the shore of the loch. Notwithstanding the coffee of a few minutes ago, the gannets made straight for the cafe. Coffee and apple turnovers seemed to be the preferred sustenance.
Post coffee, a turn round the retail outlet was in order – Ronnie’s suggestion. By the time we had looked at and discussed the price of designer polo-shirts, packets of shortbread, single malt whiskies and bottles of Peroni beer, it was nearly lunch time. So, mounting up again, we ran back into Balloch in search of some pub grub.
We found The Tullie Inn and went in. The haddock goujons were pretty average but the Deuchars was good. We felt it best to stick to Deuchars today and avoid the Peroni, especially at £4.40 a pint.

With bodies refreshed, we started on the homeward journey. The return was to be the reverse of the outward journey so back down to the riverside we went. Past the boats we went. Into Alexandria we ran. The speed was just slightly upped on the homeward leg but not uncomfortably so and we kept together as a bunch. Back down through Renton then, past the football ground and the may-flowers and the goosanders. Rex’s phone rang. It was the missing Paul, obviously bored by waiting in airport lounges, texting to let us know he was on his way to France. We wished him the usual Ooters compliments and cycled on.
No time now to look at information boards but we did halt where we had on the outward, just to catch our breath. Then it was on again. Back through Dumbarton we came and on to the old railway again. Now the child within got a hold of some. The pace was subtly increased by those who know what they are doing. Twelve miles an hour, fifteen, seventeen and increasing. Flat out for the last mile or so. Some dropped off the pace early, some later and left only Jimmy, Ronnie and Rex to race it out. Then the brae came. Jimmy dropped off the pace as the fit two climbed away to arrive on the top as joint winners. There they waited in triumph (or exhaustion) for the rest to arrive.
A much more casual three hundred yards brought us back to our starting point in Bowling.

But that wasn’t us finished for the day. With the bikes stored, we took a turn down to Bowling basin on the Forth-Clyde canal. A delightful stroll it was, affording splendid views up the river to the Erskine Bridge. A perfect way to finish off a most relaxing day.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

12th May Bowling to Loch Lomond cycle

Notice - Pizza Night - Chez Rex - Tuesday 1st June at 1900
Next Week's Walk - 19th May, 0945 Arran Ferry

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

5 May Over Cairn Table to Glenbuck

Young Johnny reaches the age of maturity on the thirteenth of this month and in true Ooters style, we were to celebrate his coming of age – bus pass age that is. But, since holidays were in the offing, Johnny chose to celebrate early and this was his chosen day. Because of this, a short walk was the order of the day and Cairn Table at Muirkirk was the preferred destination.
It looked as though the weather gods were smiling on us today for the sun shone in a clear sky and there was a warmth to the air. But, when we gathered at Glenbuck Loch car park, thin wisps of cloud crept across the sky.
We left cars at Glenbuck and motored back to the walkers' car park at Kaimes in Muirkirk. That’s where we felt the first stirrings of a breeze, but it was a mild breeze and we walked on ignoring it.
The old Sanquhar road was taken, not because we always go this way but because this is the best approach to the hill. The road is level and firm and the walking was easy. The moor was alive with birdsong; a whaup burbled in the distance, pipits ‘pipped’ in the heather and skylark sang overhead, invisible to us. But the naturalist was hopeful of better and carried his binoculars just in case. Up past Springhill we went, where John Loudoun McAdam once lived, up past McAdam’s Cairn marking the spot where McAdam’s British Tar Company had their works, and past the Whisky Knowe where barrels of whisky are reputedly buried. A sandpiper piped its way up the Garpel as we approached the Sanquhar Brig but this was the last wildlife we were to see until Glenbuck.
At the Sanquhar Brig there was a split in the ranks. The leading group swung off the main way to follow the newish section to a ford in the burn. Jimmy, Peter and Ronnie went to examine the brig. ‘The Caul’ Watter Spoot’s just ower there’, said Jimmy rattling the words off machine-gun-like. ‘Whit?’ asked Ronnie with a note of incomprehension. ‘The Coeld Woter Spout’, said Jimmy in his best Home Counties accent. Ronnie was relieved; he thought it was some sado-masochistic thing. But then, what else could we expect from a psychologist.
Meanwhile, the rest, having discovered the absence of the three, waited on the footpath by the Tar works Lade. That’s when we saw the trio crawling round the river bank, clambering over the heather and sliding on the bare earth. They had attempted to follow the old footpath only to discover that it had been washed away and ended up clambering round a landslip. Robert’s comment was right - silly auld buggers.
Re-united now, we followed the path through the heather. Despite some grubby sections, the path was surprisingly dry and progress to the foot of the steeper rise was swift. The heathery flank of Cairn Table though steeper, isn’t unduly so but it did separate the men from the boys.
Somewhere up the slope a thin cloud crept in and the sun disappeared. So did the bonhomie of the group. Davie and Rex - who else? - set a fair old pace on the climb. They were followed by Jimmy and Alan and Robert and Ronnie and Paul. Peter, Johnny and Allan brought up the rear, watching the rest disappear into the distance. There came a shout from the tail-enders for a stop. But Davie – who else? – said ‘We’ll stop for coffee just up here’, and walked on, the rest following. Judging by the abuse hurled in the direction of the leaders we don’t think that this action was appreciated by the trailers but we walked on regardless. ‘Just up here’ proved to be three hundred yards further up the flank of the hill. At the cairn where we always stop, we stopped for coffee and to let the rest catch up. When they did, there was dissension from two. Peter and Johnny, with an air of ‘We’ll show you, you sods’, walked on past and on up the hill throwing various comments at the leaders. Allan on the other hand, just happy to have somewhere to relieve his burning legs and lungs, collapsed in a crumpled heap beside the rest.
Whether Allan took in the view from the coffee stop was difficult to say but the rest of us did. From the Glen Afton hills through the high Galloways to the pale blue lump that might have been Ben Lomond in the north, the panorama wasn’t as good as it might have been. A dusty atmosphere hid Arran though the Ayrshire coast was clear. And the Highland line was shown only as a pale blue smudge rising to the lump of The Ben. But various Ayrshire landmarks could be identified so the view occupied the attention during coffee.
It was a short coffee stop for we wanted to catch the dissenters. So upward we plodded, Davie and Rex setting the pace again and the rest strung out down the slope. A brief, very brief, stop was had at the spring near the summit to test the water and catch the breath. This spring is a conundrum. It is situated just off the summit of the hill, higher than any of the surrounding landscape and flows at a constant temperature summer and winter, an indication of the complex geology of the Muirkirk area. It is reputed to have the same chemical make-up as Loch Katrine in the Trossachs, but this is more than fifty miles away. But even if it doesn’t come from this source, how it gets as high is a mystery. No doubt somebody at sometime will resolve the mystery but to us, a mystery it remains.
From the spring it was a short fifty foot climb to the summit where we found the rebel two ensconce in the shelter of the cairn having their own coffee. We sat down to join them.
The view to the east and south was open to us then. Tinto looked good with the sun still lighting it. From here through the Culter Hills, the Moffat hills and the Lowthers to the high Galloways, the panorama was extensive even if a bit on the hazy side and points of identification indicated by those who know. A pale grey-blue patch on the southern horizon showed where Criffel stood above the Solway. ‘Can you see Wanlockhead from here?’ asked a mischievous Paul alluding to a previous dispute on the subject. We could. But Allan’s inquiry about the number of lochs was completely lost on Davie in his own quiet world by the side of the War Memorial.
We sat for quite a while on the summit. But tempus fugit; so must we. So, with bodies recovered and esprit-de-corps restored, we set off downward, into Lanarkshire.
We could see the road we were heading for, a forest type road some half mile away, running down the valley of the infant Douglas Water. But between us and it lay a rough trackless slope of doogals. According to the Porter-Johnstone categorisation of Doogals, these were hairy but they were only grade three and were on our down-slope so presented little problem. We strode down the slope to find the end of our road.
This road was to take us nearly to the end of the walk at Glenbuck Loch. But before that lunch had to be taken. Where the road crossed the infant Douglas, we sat for the peece. We sat on the end of the brig – no more than two concrete pipes with the road laid on top – and dangled our legs over the edge. Though the water is still small here, at this side of the brig was a deepish pool, a pool that we thought Holly would enjoy. To entice her into the water, some started to throw small stones. Whether by accident or design, these stones with their accompanying splashes crept closer and closer to us spraying the legs with water. Retaliation was the order of the day. Eventually, Alan, with Hiroshima style overkill, lifted a boulder and heaved it into the pool. The resultant explosion sent a mushroom of water in the direction of Rex and Jimmy, drenching them from the knees down – particularly Jimmy. Since this blog might be read by those of a sensitive disposition, it is best not to write exactly what Jimmy said to this. Suffice to say that he wasn’t best please and swears (appropriate word) vengeance. Beware Alan. But like Hiroshima, this brought an end to our particular war and, with our infantile antics over, we walked on.
The sun made reappearance as we left the brig and followed the road down the waterside.
After a bit, the road left the side of the Douglas and climbed high on its valley side. At one time there was a breeding programme for Red-legged Partridge here but the birds seem to have disappeared now. Not so their pens. We passed one and the stench of rotting flesh hit us. Dead sheep, possibly casualties of the severe winter, were laid out in it. The smell rather than the sight caused a quickening of the pace. Or perhaps this quickening was due to the road for we were now on the down-slope, heading for Parish Holm. Whatever the cause, we found ourselves at parish Holm in good time.
Now there was only a short mile of level walking along the loch side to our destination. An angler stood on a boat in the water too busy returning his catch to the water to notice us passing on the bank. Perhaps Holly splashing into the water might have drawn his attention but he never acknowledged our presence as we walked round to the bird hide.
The new-comers were impressed by the hide; not only by the quality of construction but the fact that it has remained un-vandalised for so long. We sat in the hide for a few minutes while Davie plunked oranges seeds at all and sundry. He was lucky, on a day such as this, that he didn’t find himself up to the neck in loch water. But he didn’t and we all arrived back at the cars dry, even Jimmy and Rex had dried by this time.

This is turning into a favourite walk of ours. And to finish of another good day we took FRT in the Coachhouse in Muirkirk.

Later that evening we met again – this time joined by Ian – in the Rupee Room in Ayr for Johnny’s birthday do. After the meal we went over to the Wellington for the pub quiz. Result: Them 32, Us 30. Fluky @@@@@@s.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Cycle 12th May 2010: Bowling to Loch Lomond

  • Meet in Bowling 10am
  • Distance 20 miles.
  • Lunch: Fish & Chips from Pub in Balloch
  • Directions: After crossing Erskine Bridge take A82 to Dumbarton then 1st left A814 to Bowling.
  • Park on A814 as close as possible to the footbridge crossing the Railway line and leading to the Canal and Bowling Basin.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

28 April West Kilbride to Largs Over the Hills

The clear cool clear weather of last week went sometime over the last few days and left us with a mixed bag of rain and showers and sunny intervals. The wind was in the south today and the sky was overcast and ominous but at least the overnight rain had gone. When nine of us - Alan and Davie were the missing two, Davie for the first time this year - met in Johnny’s to partake of his usual hospitality, there was a general reluctance to move, and a questioning as to the wisdom of today’s proposed route. However, Paul, who suggested this walk and who is our resident weatherman, said that the day would clear up and the walk was not too high anyway, we should definitely go. We trust Paul for he knows things, so off we set for West Kilbride Station and the start of our days walk.
We set off north from the station, leaving the town by Meadowfoot Road and taking the B781. But we weren’t on tarmac too long today. In a little over half a mile we left it altogether and took the Avenue for Crosbie reservoir. The day began to brighten and the hill before us was clear. As the Avenue rose, we should have had a view behind us, but a haar hung over the sea restricting views in this direction. But our spirits were high for the hill before us was clear and brightening all the time we walked towards it.
Through Crosbie Mains Farm we climbed, past all the treasures scattered around – slates, stone sinks, old chains, rusting corrugated iron sheets etc. If we had just bought a JCB with us we might have plundered the treasure. But we didn’t have, we didn’t do and we walked on up the, now steepening, track. When the track swung down to Crosbie Dyke cottage, we left even this and took to the open hillside.
A green path took us through banks of bright orange-yellow whin, skirting the flank of Glentane Hill and paralleling a drystane dyke. On the other side of the dyke a man and a dog were working sheep. While we would usually pass the time of day with those met along our way, the tone the man addressed his dog suggested we would be wasting our time with him so we walked on.
We were now high above the power station of Hunterston, heading round the hill for Glenburn Reservoir. With the time approaching eleven, coffee was called. So, finding a spot behind a group of hillside boulders, sheltered from the freshening southerly and overlooking the waters of the reservoir, we settled down for elevenses. Paul was congratulated for the walk, the walking and the weather had been good. ‘So far’, said Paul promising some rough stuff to come. ‘Where does the path go from, here?’, asked one. ‘Up there’, answered Paul pointing to an outcrop on the skyline, ‘You can see the path climbing the hill’.

The path degenerated as we dropped down to Glenburn Reservoir after coffee and we had to find our own way over the waterlogged ground. Rex, with the skill of the true bushman and some encouraging words ringing in his ears, found a way through the mire and down to the burn. This had to be crossed but it was running too full for a clean jump. (Yes, we know that a couple of feet would be too much for us oldies to jump, but the burn was running full anyway.) The water was crossed with the aid of an iron frame suspended under a few strands of wire and it was crossed without unexpected plunges. Now Rex found a path that led us up to tarmac on the Dalry Moor road.
We crossed this slant-ways and were on Tarmac for fully twenty yards. Then Paul pointed us uphill on the abandoned service track for the old quarry on Kaimhill. This was the outcrop we could see from our coffee stop. The way steepened now. Though the climb wasn’t as steep or as long as some, it was enough to raise the pulse and shorten the breath and we strung out up that slope according to general fitness.
The quarry was a millstone one and great lumps of millstone grit still littered the ground. A few minutes were spent here while we examined the boulders and caught the breath after the climb. Then we moved on, upward yet but on a much gentler slope now.
We topped out of the climb on the scarp of Kaimhill, and ancient sea cliff laid down in some Silurian sea but now heaved high above, and removed from, the sea. Again we stopped, this time to look down on and out over the sea. The haar still hung there and restricted the view to a few miles. The Cumbraes, Great and Small, were visible with Millport easily picked out and Arran tried hard to show itself through the haar but all else disappeared into the greyness. We could only speculate on what the view would be like on a clear day, something we might like to find out in the near future. But the wind that was fresh on the lower ground was strong on the higher. Jackets were worn to cut its strength but it was chilling nonetheless. We moved on.
Now cam some familiar territory. We found the path on Kaimshill that we had taken on the Fairlie High Walk (15/04/2009) and followed it to the summit of the hill. Now came Paul’s rough stuff. No path took us towards our next objective, Blaeloch Hill and we took to the rough grass. And it was rough. Great tussocky doogals and mossy sheughs had to be negotiated. But the doogals weren’t all the same, some were grassy and some mossy. Thus was generated the Porter-Johnstone classification of doogals; hairy – those composed of course grass; spongy – great mounds of moss that give way when stood on; spiky – reeds and rushes that sometimes held the weight and sometimes gave under it. No doubt there will be more added in due course. But whatever type they were, at least three quarters of a mile of them had to be ploughed through to reach firmer ground on the slopes of Lairdside Hill.
That’s where we collapsed for lunch, sheltered from the wind behind a few rocks on the leeward of the hill.

Whether it was the conditions or whether it’s always like that, the scribe wouldn’t like to say, but Blaeloch Hill looked much further away than it actually was and we were on its top quicker and easier than we thought. ‘It’s all downhill from here’, said Paul. We hoped he was talking about the walk and not making observations on our advancing years. We noted, with some relief, that he meant the former and set off looking for an easy descent. But it was those damned doogals again! We stumbled and staggered our way down from Blaeloch top into the valley of the Clea Burn where we found a sheep fank. An afternoon break was called, for we were now out of the wind and, somewhere down the slope of Blaeloch, the sun had come out.
While most relaxed for a bit, Peter went to explore the burn. What he found there he didn’t say but he returned with a smile on his face. And now that we were reunited, we set off again.
A track was found just beyond the fank, a track that took us down towards Fechan Farm and the Kel Burn. We never made the farm. Coming through a gate, we crossed the field, came through another gate and found the track for Kelburn estate. We knew we were in an estate when we found the gates on the track, great ornate things about ten feet high supported by stone pillars. They were obviously Victorian things but they were well maintained and swung open easily to admit us into Kelburn Castle policies.
We followed the estate road down into the gorge of the Kel Burn. A nice wee waterfall greeted us where the road met the burn and a path made down the side of it. But we didn’t take this path; we followed the road we were on. It was now only a mile or so on the estate road before we found tarmac again. That’s when the infantile started their usual games.
The pace quickened, and quickened and quickened until five were racing on ahead. The sensible let them race on and took a more sedate pace. The fast arrived at the bus stop at the foot of the Haylie Brae some five minutes before the slow.
This was another good walk and one which is worth doing again in clearer conditions. Well done to Paul for his suggestion.

We came back to West Kilbride by bus and repaired to The Merrick for FRT. Please, nobody tell the Keeper of the Purse how much it costs for a pint of Italian lager.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Barmaid of the Year

New Entrant for the Ooters Barmaid of the year Competition.........