Thursday, 29 July 2010

28 July - Arran - Dun Fionn route

Distance 14.5 km

Walk for Wednesday 4 August

Meet at Jimmy's about half eight for a nine o'clock start. The walk will be to Andy Goldworthy's Striding Arches walk at Moniaive. Walk is ten kilometres according to the official blurb (though none of us has actually done it yet to verify this) and takes in hill and high moorland. Be prepared for wet feet. (According to blurb!)

A foul weather alternative will be in place.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Portencross Circular 21 July 2010

We had been very fortunate with the weather last week but the forecast for this week's walk in Arran was so bad that Robert, our decision meister, started phoning round on Tuesday night to suggest that we seek an alternative. And so it was that seven ooters plus the junior member assembled in Johnny's before setting off to do the Portencross circular. The weather was dreich but the threatened downpour had not arrived by the time we arrived at the carpark and got suitably waterproofed. This is a walk that has been done many times before and has been well documented, suffice it to say that we started off in a clockwise direction and before long had reached the castle, taking time to see if access was available - it wasn't. Work has continued on it though with new doors, windows and lead roofing visible. The journey up to the power station was brisk and, with the light rain easing off, jackets came off to cope with the warm temperature. As we neared the 'Hunterston bubble' we were almost overcome with the smell of rotting seaweed, allegedly. Allegedly, because the appearance of the smell coincided with Johnny opening his jacket to reveal his new semmit. He had warned us earlier that the said garment would absorb the sweat but would also 'ming'.

He said it would ming
He wasn't wrong
Like a rotten bing
It truly did pong

Soon the rain returned; a steady, relentless drizzle. The pace hastened as we made our way off the shore road and on to the track that would take us towards the A78. Coffee was called for at our usual spot along this wee road and since it was decided we wouldn't be stopping again, coffee became lunch, Before long though we were on our way as we wanted to finish before we got too wet. We turned up the main road and then veered right at the sign for the smallholdings and followed the road past the new house, that still has not been finished, until we met the road up to the carpark. By this time the rain, although not stoating down, was relentless and by the time we made the cars we were well drookit.
'2 hours and 35 minutes', called Davie. 'Is this our fastest ever walk?'
FRT was taken, not at the Merrick, but at the Lauriston in Ardrossan where Davie C appears to be well known, the hostelry being a stone's throw from Ardrossan Academy. Davie's party piece today was 'how to sign for the deaf in Chinese'. As the pub television was then switched from the news to the racing, now there's a surprise, Davie will next week demonstrate the art of how to do tic-tac in Swahili whilst sitting on his hands.

We will try for Arran again on the 28th, weather permitting.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Walk for 21st July - Arran

0930 - Ardrossan terminal - Dun Foinn Walk

On top of Dun Fionn, there is a round eminence which seems to have been a vitrified fort, such as abound in the N Highlands, though it is now concealed by soil and grass.
J Headrick 1807.

Hardly a trace remains of this fort (Balfour 1910). McArthur (1873) describes the ruins of a wall, 3-5ft thick, running round the flat summit of the hill, and following its configuration, enclosing an area about 140ft in circumference. Balfour's dismissal of the suggestion that this fort is vitrified is probably sound (c/f An Cnap: NS04NW 2).
J McArthur 1873; J Balfour 1910; R McLellen 1970.

NS 0464 3384 A small oval fort situated on the edge of a vertical north facing cliff. It consists of an earth and stone bank, 0.6m high and spread to 3.0m enclosing an area 30.0m east-west by 10.0m. The bank has been mutilated on the east and north-east and although there is no entrance visible it was probably on this side. There are no facing stones and no sign of vitrifaction.
A probable annexe on the east side, 1.9m below the main enclosure, consists of a flat area 14.0m by 10.0m levelled into the slope. A defensive ditch, now partially silted, has been dug on this side where the approach is easiest. It is 15.0m long, 6.0m wide and 0.8m deep.
A series of natural bracken-covered terraces lie on the steep southerly hillslope; they vary in width from 4.0m to 15.0m and have clearly been cultivated, perhaps from prehistoric times. There is no evidence of agricultural features except for a modern head dyke crossing the lower of these terraces.
The name 'Dun Fionn' could not be confirmed locally.
This fort is similar in its size and situation to that on Bennan Head (NR92SE 3).
Surveyed at 1:10 000.
Visited by OS (B S) 3 November 1977.

Durisdeer 14 July 2010

Ooter #1 'Where are we going this week?'
Ooter #2 'Durisdeer'
Ooter #1 'Thanks darling, but where is Duris?'

The names of the those involved have been deleted to protect the guilty.

Jimmy hadn't made last week's walk as he was on duty at an athletics meet so it must have come as a surprise to him that we decided to assemble at his house for this week's trip to Durisdeer. Jimmy is never fazed by any of these walks, but it still was a surprise to see how laid back he was about today's trip when he opened the door in his slippers - a funny place to have a door admittedly, but apparently all the rage in Cumnock. The explanation was soon forthcoming in that Jimmy had hurt his back pulling out a weed and that he would be resting up today. However, even though he got little sympathy (whatever happened to compassion?) it was good of him to see to it that we had a coffee before starting off - thanks, Elizabeth.
So it was that 5 Ooters plus the junior member set off on the familiar route and arrived at the starting point at 10.30. The weather forecast had not been encouraging following a lot of overnight rain but, despite overcast conditions, it was warm enough for the climb up the path to the bothy to be accompanied by jackets coming off and shirts being soaken with sweat. Coffee was taken in the well-kept bothy and as Peter added an entry to the comments book the rest of us left. He did catch up with us and we did try to reassure him that there was no deliberate ploy for us to abandon him in this neck of the woods, but parallels were drawn to the last time we were here when Davie and Jimmy drove off without him. By this time the sun had come out and we were in shirt sleeves and the walk over the hill was made all the better by having a stunning view - a first for most of us on this walk. As we descended we were able, possibly for the first time, to clearly see the reservoir below us on our right hand side and across the countryside towards Thornhill. Before long tarmac was reached and we progressed along the road before turning off at the farm and heading towards Morton Castle which again could be seen clearly in the distance. It was whilst going along the road that Davie spotted hares in the adjacent fields, no doubt looking for their lunky hole - see last week! Further up the road the apprentice ornithologist identified the big burd that was flying above us as a red kite. The burd, which had a speech impediment, went hame to tell his mammy that he saw six kites walking along the road.
Lunch was taken at Morton Castle, but unfortunately this coincided with the only shower of the day. The rain lasted long enough for us to decide to put waterproofs on, and then went off by the time we had got them out and struggled into them. So it was back to shirt sleeves as we set off on the road back to Durisdeer. Johnny, however, was regretting the dress code as he was nursing some cleg bites by this time. Crossroads were reached by which point we could see Drumlanrig Castle in the distance and there was a moment's hesitation as we decided whether to go straight on on turn right. Nobody could remember but Davie's sense of direction (is this an oxymoron?) prevailed and we turned right and continued up the road until some familiar landmarks were spotted. It was here that Robert made the comment that we were about to approach a farm with a really funny name. Well, haud us back, we couldnae wait. When we got to it the name was revealed to be Gateslack. Johnny laughed and roared and Davie Clunie almost stopped talking, such was the hilarity of the name - a touch of sarcasm here, folks. Robert walked on with his tail between his legs whilst the rest of us composed ourselves for the last mile or so. Another attempt was made to detach Peter as he stopped to gather raspberries at the roadside but he had caught up by the time we had reached the cars. It had taken us about 4 hours and 15 minutes and, though it started to spit as we changed, we really had won a watch with the weather.
Before setting off on the return journey we made a quick visit to the church, as we do, to show Davie Jnr the marbles and the enscription relating to the Marquis of Queensberry. Peter, though, stayed by Davie's car.
FRT was taken at the Crown in Sanquhar, our usual haunt when in this part of the country.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Muirkirk Circular 7 July 2010

'On the trail of the lunky hole'

Davie had kept us on tenterhooks all week, in fact our hooks hadn't been so tenter for a long time. On last week's walk he challenged us to what a lunky hole was. As befits a company of retired professional gentlemen he got lots of replies, all of them unprintable and some physically impossible, but alas none were correct. Davie would reveal all during the Muirkirk walk - he would also tells us what a lunky hole was.
And so it was that six ooters assembled at Davie's Darvel muffin maison for coffee and a blether before setting out for the aforesaid Muirkirk. We parked at the Coach House, it's not often we plan this well, and set off for a walk of 4 Davie hours. The route took us up past Kames (see Paul's map) and on to the River Ayr walk, stopping to read the information boards on the way and chatting to a group of Duke of Edinburgh Award teenagers on their way to Sanquhar. We crossed over Tibbie's Brig and followed the walkway in good weather conditions - dry and bright with a good breeze - until coffee was called for within earshot of the opencast mine. Here Paul celebrated his 60th birthday with his pieces today being made from plain bread and, wait for it, butter. Healthy eating was 'oot the windae' for a day. As we moved on we ignored a warning sign and went over to have a look at the mine. What a big hole it was, but sadly not a lunky hole.
We crossed the main road and went up the wee road we had parked on the last time we did part of the River Ayr walk and continued straight over the Sorn road and up to Netherwood Farm where the farmer assured us that a short cut back to Muirkirk was possible further up the road. Despite calls for lunch, we walked as far as Burnfoot Farm, turned in there, and gained the path over a wee bridge that would lead us over in to Muirkirk (the short cut). It had been decided that it was too windy at the bridge for lunch so we stopped further up in the lee of a conifer plantation. But not for long though as the midges soon attacked us. So we upped sticks and walked on with half eaten pieces until we were well into the open, and the breeze, again. Thankfully our fears about the former opencast mine in this area were allayed as it had been filled in and replanted and further down the track we had what was left of our lunch. In no time at all we emerged on to the Strathaven road beside the cemetery and as we walked down towards the town Davie took us across the road to the information boards beside the examples of dry stane dykes. And there it was - a lunky hole is a hole left at the bottom of a dyke to allow hares to pass through. It may also, if larger, accommodate a ditch.
A few more minutes and we were back in the town taking time to go into the memorial garden dedicated to the miners before reaching the cars exactly four hours after we left. However Davie did admit that the short cut we took had taken an hour off his original walk plans.
FRT was taken in the Coach House where we can reveal that the barmaid was not offered a job with Ryanair after all. We believe that her friendly nature and her ability to hand out drinks was not what they were looking for. However she is almost certainly going to work for the NAAFI in Afghanistan. Watch this space!

7 July: Muirkirk walk - route

Distance: 13.9 km