Monday, 29 November 2010

24 November Cairn Table Once More

Alan, Allan, Davie, Ian, Jimmy, Malcolm, Paul, Peter & Robert

The weather was as you would expect for late November; a plunge of cold air from the Arctic gave us a heavy overnight frost and a bright, sunny but cold morning. It was bitingly cold when nine of us gathered at Kames car park in Muirkirk for a walk over Cairn table.
It was stated from the outset that this would be a much more relaxed outing than the yomp through the rain of last week. Anyway today had much better weather and it was a day for taking it easy.
The pace was casual as we walked up the old Sanquhar road, well wrapped up against the numbing frost. Up past the golf course clubhouse we went, up past Midhouse farm, up past the ruins of Springhill, up to McAdam’s Cairn, all without a break in the rhythm, trying to warm the blood against the frosty air. The moor was looking grand in the low sun and Jimmy (he of the fickle memory) decided he must capture the scene with the camera. Well, he might have done so had he not suddenly remembered that he’d left his camera on the passenger seat of his car. Not only that but he had left his wallet beside it, both in full view for anybody to see – silly auld bugger. So back went the somewhat abashed Jimmy, back the best part of a kilometre to retrieve the camera and secrete the wallet. He went with our usual words of encouragement ringing in his ears - ‘Have ye got yer specs oan?’ ‘Are ye sure you came in a car?’ ‘Will ye mind the wie back?’ ...............
Anyway, as Jimmy retreated, we walked on. For some reason Alan offered to carry Jimmy’s rucksack. We thought it somewhat strange but Alan was unconcerned and walked on double-loaded. Then the mischief came on us again. In Jimmy’s absence and with his rucksack in our possession, a dastardly plot was hatched. We would remove his peece-box before he arrived and watch his reaction when we stopped for lunch. Such childish antics still amuse us. Half an hour after leaving, Jimmy rejoined us where we waited at the Sanquhar Brig.
We left the old road at the Sanquhar Brig, taking the iced-up pad alongside the Garpel, kicking the cranreuch from the grassy stalks and heather. This is by far the easiest and best access to Cairn Table. The path rises gently away from the burn before climbing more steeply on the heathery flank of the hill itself. And as we rose with the path and the sun rose higher in the morning sky, so did our body temperature. The slope is steep but not too steep; it is just steep enough to make the effort hot and sweaty. And the air was cool, cold enough to catch the breath in great clouds in front of us and chill the sweat on damp skin. Yet we climbed higher, and as we climbed we caught the first stirrings of a bitterly cold northerly which added to the discomfort. It was in this state of freezing warmth that we stopped at the cairn half-way up the slope for a breather, turning our backs to the northerly.
While the rest of us had coffee while waiting at the Sanquhar Brig, Jimmy hadn’t and was determined to have one now. We waited, anticipating the fun when he discovered his peece-box to be missing. Jimmy took out his flask, poured himself a cup, rummaged through his rucksack obviously looking for something but said not a word. He is wise to us all now. Eventually his peece box was returned to him and he graciously thanked Alan for carrying it up the hill for him. So much for fun in this group!
Now with Jimmy in full possession of his belongings we walked on. The slope eased but the breeze didn’t. It continued to freeze exposed skin on one side while the sun warmed the same on the other. Yet we climbed. Peter had heard of the spring near the top and was always asking if we were near it. He was told, like all youngsters are, ‘Not yet. We’ll tell you when’. Eventually we came to the spring. ‘Nobody knows for sure where the water comes from’, said he who knows these things, ‘but it runs at the same temperature summer and winter and it’s higher than any of the surrounding hills’. He took time to say that the mineral make-up is the same as the water in Loch Katrine but drew the line at saying for sure that the water came from there. His lesson on artesian springs took a few minutes but the wind was chilling so we didn’t hang about too long. It was sad to note before we left though that the stainless steel cup that provided the thirsty with a means of drinking the water was no longer there. Another sorry comment on society.
The spring is barely twenty metres from the large cairn that acts as a war memorial and marks the summit of the hill. It was here that we settled down in the lea of the cairn and the rocky outcrops beneath it for a break in the winter sun. The view west, south and east was good. ‘You can see Wanlockhead from here’, said one, repeating a longstanding joke in the Ooters, a joke that has long since run its course but which still causes some amusement in the ranks. He who knows these things pointed out the hills from Tinto to Merrick and Arran. He might have pointed out some of the northern hills as well but none of us was prepared to leave the shelter of the cairn and face the, now fresh and bitingly cold, northerly. So we contented ourselves with fifteen minutes or so of relaxed blethers, taking in what view we had. But the itchy feet lot can’t sit too long and after quarter of an hour were champing at the bit to be off again. So off again we went.
It surprised most of us how sheltered we were behind the cairn for when we set off along the hill again, we came into the full force of the Arctic blast. Hard to believe though it is, not a lot was said for the next few minutes as it was heads down into the wind and down over the doogals towards Wee Cairn Table. We had a choice now; Davie was for doing the whole round to Glenbuck but none of the rest of us was up for that. ‘We could just go to the top of the hill there and drop down from there’, said he hopefully. None of the rest was up for that either. At Jimmy’s suggestion and much to Davie’s chagrin, we dropped down the hill beside a wee burn, the beginnings of the Crossflat Burn. Despite Davie’s dire warnings of huge doogals, deep sheughs and slimy bogs, an easy enough descent was made using what sheep-pads we could find. Eventually the myriad of sheep-pads unified into a more distinct path dropping us gently down the slope. And as we dropped the wind eased and the temperature became more comfortable. On a bank of short-cropped green grass we settled down for lunch.

We might have taken the path over the moor to Auldhouseburn Farm after lunch but the day was still young and to do this would mean an early finish. Instead, at Jimmy’s suggestion, we followed the Crossflat Burn, finding the remnants of a path to ease the way. This brought us down to the old railway that forms this section of the River Ayr Way. The Muirkirk area is a fascinating one for the industrial archaeologist. The courses of old railways criss-crossed the valley, running to long abandoned mines and works; the remains of a viaduct were noted where one of these crossed the river; the short section of the Muirkirk to Ayr canal was pointed out, a canal that was started only to be abandoned when the railways arrived; all fascinating stuff for those of us not familiar with the area. And it was with examining and discussing these industrial remains that the next hour or so back to Kames was spent. We arrived back in the walker’s car park around two, just in time to take FRT in the Coachhouse (or, as the pedants pointed out on the sign on the wall, the Coachouse)

This was another very good local walk and most were glad we didn’t take Davie’s suggestion to do the round to Glenbuck, especially Jimmy who did a couple of kilometres more than the rest of us. We wonder if he’ll remember to turn up next week?

Sunday, 28 November 2010

A few pics from this year

I won't say what walk the the pictures were taken on. I will leave this for you to work out.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Christmas Curry Booked

Following our latest discussion I checked out the Ashoka at the Mill (Darnley) online to discover it was shut on a Wednesday lunchtime. However I was at Silverburn today and went along to the Ashoka to make doubley sure. Thankfully I was assured that they would be open during December for lunches and hence I've booked a table for 11 people on the 15th at 3pm. No deposit was needed. Their Xmas lunch menu costs £8.95 for 3 courses.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

17 Nov 2010 Muirkirk to Sorn

Alan, Allan, Davie, Ian, Malcolm, Peter, Paul and Mary, Ronnie, Rex, Holly, Nola
Peter had organised this walk for today. We assembled at the car park at the cemetery in Sorn for a 9 o’clock start. Guess who thought it was a 9.30 start!
Anyway, the weather was gay dreich (spelt this way so as not to further confuse our antipodean associate member) and there was talk of curtailing the walk and making the starting point the Greenock Bridge. Somebody calculated though that walking from Greenock might not curtail the trek at all and after another of our famous votes the optimists won and we set off for the usual starting point (wherever that actually is). By the time we reached there the weather had deteriorated further but, with waterproofs on, we set off. To be fair the weather for the rest of the day was to be better than forecast, light rain blown by a strong wind, and chilly. Because of this the pace was brisk -now there’s a surprise – and we followed the River Ayr Way until coffee was called for at the normal spot beside the wee bridge. We sat down the banking and enjoyed the shelter from the wind before it was time to get under way again. It was heads down as we yomped to our next stop which, as per usual, was beside the river for lunch, closely watched as it happens by a herd of cows in the neighbouring field. ‘The stick of the year’ award was then given to Peter who had cut a perfect piece of hazel into a walking stick, much to the chagrin of Holly and Nola who couldn’t understand why it wasn’t being thrown for them. Soon it was time to move on and before long we were back at Sorn where Peter bade us farewell for the day and walked off back to Catrine. ‘3hours and 42 minutes’, cried Davie as we took shelter whilst the drivers returned to pick up their cars. By this time the wind was perishing and the prospect of a pint in a warm pub was uppermost on our minds.
FRT was taken in Nansie’s po… sorry, Poosie Nansie’s in Mauchline where it has to be recorded that those partaking of lager shandies had to return their drinks as the lemonade was aff. Is this a first?

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Arrangements for next few weeks

24th Nov : Cairn Table, meet at the car park at Kames at 9.30am

1st Dec : Falls of Clyde, meet at Davie's at 9am for a 9.30am start

8th Dec : Browncarrick Hill, meet at Rex's at 9.30am for a 10am start

15th Dec : Glasgow Bridges walk followed by curry at Mother India(tbc)

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Irvine to Ardrossan 10 Nov 2010

Distance 15.5 km (the route from Allan's to Eglinton may not be 100% accurate. My excuse is that I was giving tax advice at the time.)

Allan, Davie, Ian, Jimmy, Johnny, Paul, Peter, Robert
It was a bright, frosty morning as the Ooters met at Allan’s house for coffee and scones before setting off through the back of his estate (well not actually his estate, the estate where he lives) and up towards Lawthorn. On the route we paid homage to the cottage where Colin (he of the Canigou and the endless stories) once lived as we proceeded past the Lawthorn Farm Restaurant and Pub, out beyond the Lawthorn Wood, and onto the old Glasgow Road. Crossing this we were soon on the New Town Path and headed towards Eglinton Park, taking the route that leads towards the Lugton Water. It was a fine day for walking and feeling good not to be at school (Am I allowed to mention that word?). Soon we were passing an old but substantial piece of farm machinery which adorned the side of the path – the consensus of opinion being that it had been used to haul timber and would have been pulled by a tractor, possibly steam. The ruins of the castle were passed by as we made our way to the visitors’ centre only to find it was shut for the winter. However, the coffee shop was open and, much to Peter’s delight, we partook of coffee and massive home-made scones.
Reluctantly we moved on and soon were crossing the renovated Tournament Bridge (see picture) taking time to read about its history and the craftsmanship that went into its restoration. Further on our way was obstructed by workmen in full protective clothing felling and burning rhododendrons. They explained to us that they were diseased and had to be burned on site to stop the disease spreading. The workmen also had to be ‘disinfected’ before leaving the area for the same reason. Apparently there is a major problem with the same disease over at Brodick Castle – maybe it had blown over on the wind.
As we left Eglinton Park and crossed the road to join the pathway to Ardrossan we bade farewell to Johnny and Robert who were off to Mosset later in the day and hence did not have time for the full walk. The next part of the walk, from Kilwinning to Stevenston, has been well documented before, but it was in Stevenston that Paul suggested a wee change taking us down the cycle path which was adjacent to the beach. The sand dunes looking over towards Arran and Ailsa Craig gave us a perfect place for lunch, even better since there was pleasant sunshine and no wind.

Having enjoyed a leisurely stop we continued along the beach and on to the road that leads into Saltcoats. As we entered Saltcoats with the calm sea to our left and railway line to our right we could not imagine that a picture taken 24 hours later and displayed on the front page of Friday’s Herald would show gale force winds blowing gigantic waves over the breakwater. The leisurely theme continued as we sauntered along the sea front taking time to read the information boards about the history of the harbour and inspecting the large stone cross on the way.
The bus stop at Ardrossan was reached and there was a bus there waiting for us so before long we were back at Irvine Cross and following Allan round the corner to get another bus up to Perceton. It was whilst on this bus that we observed Johnny and Helen marching down Bank Street on their way to get the bus to Prestwick Airport - small world, eh?
This had been a good walk made better by the kind weather.
FRT, most unusually, was not taken today as we were having a curry night at the Rupee Room later on to belatedly celebrate Peter’s 65th.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

3 November A Wet Day East of Sanquhar

Allan, Jimmy, Johnny, Malcolm, Paul, Rex, Robert

Seven stalwarts sojourned south to Sanquhar. Why we should have gone anywhere though, given the rains of the night, the overcast sky and the threat from the met office of more rain through the day is way beyond reason. But we went to Sanquhar to investigate Rex’s new walk, optimism overcoming discretion once more.
The Southern Uplands Way comes through Sanquhar somewhere but we weren’t sure exactly where. Jimmy had a vague notion that it was towards the south end of the town so we set off in search of it in that airt. Luckily we bumped into a local fellow who pointed us in the right way. Good job too that he was walking his dog in this road for the sign for The Way was high on a wall and hidden from us coming in this direction. Are the Dumfriesshirers trying to prevent good Ayrshire folk from finding The Way? Anyway our Good Samaritan pointed us in the right direction and we wandered under the railway bridge and out into the country.
We had just started to climb away from the town when the first rain came, sweeping down Nithsdale in a dirty grey mass driven on by a freshening breeze. Even those who were silly enough to start off without waterproofs donned them now for the rain was threatening to get serious. They were to stay on for the rest of the walk.
There was no stopping for views as we climbed the Coo’s Wynd up onto Sanquhar Moor; there was no point for the rain obscured everything beyond a mile or so and that which wasn’t hidden was a washed out version of itself. We plodded on, upward towards the hills that form the eastern boundary of Nithsdale. At least the rain was on our backs and it appeared to be lessening as we climbed onto the moor. And the path levelled out. Things were looking better, not much better but better.
The path is well constructed and way-markers make it easy to follow. Only once were we offered any sort of challenge. The path dropped off the moor into the shallow and soggy valley of the Loch Burn where, for fifty metres or so, tufts of rushes grew in wet slimy earth and puddles. Where these gave way to deep patches of sphagnum or open water, boardwalks have been constructed but over the years these have been twisted and tilted off the level and are coated with slimy green algae. Today they presented us with extremely treacherous footing. With a little judicious placing of feet and careful transfer of weight, considerable weight in some instances, all crossed safely even if one or two chose to jump the burn rather than cross the last one.
A style in the fence fifty yards beyond the burn saw us on to the service road for Bogg Farm and fifty yards along this we took the branch for Brandleys. We were to stay on this road for around quarter of a mile as it climbed slowly round the corner of a plantation. Then we left it and took to the open hillside over a style on a drystane dyke.
The path still rose gently to the top of Coupland Knowe. There must be a view of sorts from this point but, though we could see where the Lowthers rose from Nithsdale, there was no sign of the hills themselves. Nor was there much of a view over the dale either for there was more rain sweeping in from the west. So ignoring the possibilities of views, we turned our backs to the weather and pushed on.
We could see the path rising steeply in front of us, a dark scar on the hillside rising up the snout of a rounded ridge, and before long we were rising steeply with it. It took us to our highest point of the day, a col between Conrig Hill to the north and Glendyne Hill to the south, a col that seemed an ideal place for coffee. Barely had we settled for coffee when the rain hit. Though our col wasn’t particularly high, at around the fourteen hundred contour it was high enough to feel the strength of the westerly wind and high enough to turn some of the rain to hail. We took coffee with our backs to the fresh wind, looking down into the next sodden valley and listening to the wind-driven, hail-salted rain battering on waterproof hoods.
The prospect didn’t look good – the valley in front of us brooded darkly through the rain and the sky showed no signs of breaking up. A decision was made. (We are getting better at these decision things.) Discretion seeming the better part of valour, we would retreat for the day and leave the walk for another. So back down the path we came, back to Coupland Knowe and guess what? Yes, the rain went and the sky lifted. But it lifted only sufficiently to show the other side of Nithsdale and Blackcraig at Glen Afton still gloomily grey under heavy cloud.
Back down the Coupland Knowe and back over the drystane dyke we came. Somebody suggested lunch and we found a comfortable spot on the lip of an old, shallow quarry and settled down to eat.
On the outward journey we came across a sign pointing along a level path to Black Loch four hundred and ten metres away. The leading trio of Jimmy, Paul and Rex opted to take in the Black loch. It turns out that this is open water to the extent of half a football pitch with a reedy island near the western end. A notice pinned to a board told us that this was an SSSI and that when the loch was partially drained in 1861 a log boat and a crannog were discovered. We could see why the loch was of historical interest but why it should be of scientific interest, we couldn’t quite fathom out. Perhaps we will need to return in the summer to find out.
When the trio returned to the path the rest had gone on ahead. We were not to come together again until we reached the cars in Sanquhar.
This was an unfortunate day with the weather but the walk looks good and it has been added to the ‘to do’ list for the spring of the year.
As is our wont, the Crown in Sanquhar provided the FRT today, the second time in a fortnight that we have been here.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Arrangements for Wednesday 10 November

1 Meet at Allan's house in Irvine at 9.00am for a 9.30am start. Irvine to Ardrossan via Eglinton Park. Return by bus.

2 Curry Night at Rupee Room in Ayr. Be there for 7.00pm.

Also: Annual Christmas Curry in Glasgow to be organised by Davie (assuming he has survived the bubbles). Recommended date: 8th December.

2 November - Sanquhar route

Distance: 11.7 km (including detour to Black Loch)

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

27 October So This Is Windy Standard Then

Distance 13.8 km (or 14.2 km if you believe Ian's GPS)

Allan, Davie, Ian, Jimmy, Johnny, Paul, Rex & Robert

Some would argue that the air of confusion that hangs over a meeting of the Ooters would indicate a complete disorganisation within the group or perhaps the early onset of senility. Others would see it as an ability to think on the hoof, re-evaluate the situation and act accordingly. Whichever your viewpoint this was another morning of confused chatter when we gathered at Ian’s place in Kilmarnock in the dark of a late October morning
In the convivial surrounds of the Crown in Sanquhar last week we hatched a plan. The intention was to travel to Loch Katrine, take the steamer to Stronachlachar and walk back; this would be our last chance for the year for the boats stopped sailing on Halloween. It also explains why we gathered in Ian’s somewhere before dawn. But, when the day arrived, so did the weather. A depression centred off Iceland was throwing rain bearing fronts in our direction and the area round Loch Katrine was to be subjected to some heavy rain. While one or two were still keen to make the trip north, there were those who, given the rain of yesterday and the forecast, preferred not to go so far for a soaking. And when our weather-man said ‘No’, we were inclined to take his word and cancel our Trossachs sojourn. The boat trip will need to wait till next year.
The foul weather alternative was to walk along the old railway from Kilmarnock to Irvine. Now, we have done this walk before and it is just that – a slog along an old railway through not particularly interesting territory (The scrappies yard at Knockentiber notwithstanding). A change of mind was creeping in. When the weather-man said it might be drier and brighter further south, we sought alternatives in that direction. Ayrshire coast? Loch Doon area? Ness Glen? We eventually settled on an old favourite - Windy Standard from Glen Afton.
The sun shone as dawn broke but cloud still hung on the hills as we drove towards New Cumnock and it looked for a bit like this was going to be another ‘Windy Standard day’ (see 31/01/2007 & 11/03/2009) But there was blue sky above this and as we drove up the single track road of Glen Afton we could see the clag break up in the sunshine. We might be lucky after all. The only fly in the ointment of the morning was the cool westerly we experience when we left the cars at the waterworks. (The fishers' car park was closed due to ‘Dangerous trees’ so we were forced to find a spare piece of ground by the waterworks)
The route taken was the same as previously – up to the dam, find the forest road and walk westward on this toward the base of the hill. The pace was brisk on this upward section, brisk enough to raise the pulse and keep us warm against the westerly blowing in our faces. What made today different from other times we have come this way though, was that today there was a view. Near the top of the rise we stopped to take in that view and recover some breath. Behind us lay the deep blue waters of the Afton Reservoir and beyond this the winter yellow hills of Davie’s ‘Four Tops’ walk. To our left the ‘windmills’ on Windy Standard turned on the fresh westerly. And to our right the rubbish dump of generations of Glen Afton farmers – tangles of wire and fence posts, old fridges and cookers, tyres and wheels, and drums of unidentifiable liquids. ‘It’s the view that makes it all worthwhile’ said Rex. But we didn’t spend too long admiring it, even if the old wardrobe looked interesting, for the wind was chilly and sweat was turning cold. We moved on.
We thought that when we entered the forest plantation we would be sheltered from the wind. Not at first though, for the road ran directly into the wind and the trees acted like a funnel for it. But as the road turned and veered and dropped toward the Deugh, the strength of the wind was lost and the walking was a bit more pleasant. At the bridge over the infant Deugh Water, where we always stop for coffee, we stopped for coffee.
After coffee, Robert made a quick check to make sure nothing was left at the bridge – yes, Jimmy had his specs – and we moved on.
No more than a quarter of a mile along the road we came to the base of our hill, left the road and took to a steep fire break that would raise us to the heights of Jedburgh Knees. That this is Allan’s favourite part of the world became obvious as he again took his time savouring every upward step through the dripping grass and soggy peat mosses while the indifferent rushed on to the top. Only Johnny waited (eventually) to share Allan’s pleasure in the climb. When the two cleared the trees and came on to the open hill they saw the speedsters waiting for then on the crown of the ridge barely fifty metres away beside one of the many wind turbines that occupy this top.
Windy Standard is well named. Even on its lower subsidiary top of Jedburgh Knees we felt the strength of the westerly. We suppose that is why they planted wind turbines here. One advantage of having the wind-farm here (‘There are advantages?’ asks Jimmy) is that there is a service road right along this ridge and on to the top of the hill. We followed this upward towards the summit, taking in the view as we did so. To the east were the hills of Glen Afton – Black Craig, Black Lorg, Alwhat and Alhang with the lower rocky peak of Steyamara looking down the glen – and behind rose the Lowthers with the ‘golf ball gleaming white in the sun. To the north Glen Afton ran out onto the plains of central Ayrshire, Cumnock and Auchinleck being the most obvious settlements. To the west Cairnsmore of Carphairn looked very close much to the surprise of some of the group whose spacial awareness wasn’t to the fore today. But beyond this the Rhinns of Kells and the high Galloways still hid in clag and the sky in that direction was greying. We could only hope that this wasn’t the start of the forecasted rain coming in our direction.
'So this is what the view from Windy Standard looks like', said Paul taking it all in as we walked.
But we didn’t stop to take in the view for the wind was fresh and cooling, and we pushed on for the top. Well, one of us pushed on to the top. Davie left the road and took a path directly for the summit trig point while the rest of us stuck to the road. Davie would like it recorded that he was the only one who reached the summit today for the road swung round the top and missed it by fifty yards and some thirty feet of height. Did we care? Did we heck! We’ve been there before – we think!
‘It’s all downhill from here’, said Davie when he rejoined us, ‘Follow me. I know the way down’. No offence meant to Davie but on a clear day such as this, the way down was obvious to us all. So down we set. Now that we were on the lea side of the hill, a suitable place to eat was sought. Robert, Rex and Johnny found a spot on a dry, well dryish, mound sheltered from the breeze. But Davie had a better place ‘just down here’ so we walked on. ‘Just down here’ turned out to be down beside a fence* for quarter of a mile, over the fence and up the side of another slope, Millaneoch, and down through a boggy area toward the Afton Water. Half an hour after we left the original lunch stop, we stopped for lunch on a boulder some hundred feet or so above the floor of the valley.
The car park at the waterworks was barely an hour away from or peece-stop. We came down through the bog to a wee cleuch (gorge, Rex) on the Afton. The burn had to be crossed; there was no other way to find the track that would take us to the forest road round the reservoir. A place was found near a sheep fank and the burn crossed without mishap, though not without consternation in some quarters. The quad track was found easily enough and took us down past the old fruiterer’s van now serving as some sort of storage shed for the shepherd, a fruiterers van which, for some reason or other, always causes amusement in our ranks. Rex stopped to photograph it while the rest walked on. The track took us down the side of the Afton Water to the forest road where we waited for David Baillie to catch us up.
Now it was just a half hour saunter round the reservoir to the dam and back to the cars. And still the sun shone on us.
This was a good day, better than the forecast suggested and easily the best of our outings to Windy Standard. ‘Just over 14 Km at just over 5Km/h’, said Ian consulting his sat-nav. We were happy enough with this.
Another instance of our trying new things came when we went to the Craighead in Cumnock for FRT

* Holly found out the hard way that this was an electric fence and was live. Some of you in New Cumnock might have heard her squeals as she retreated sharply from the offending object.