Monday, 31 January 2011

What a night!

Many thanks to Alan for the opportunity to gub the A? team after a superb meal. But what a great idea from Ronnie to celebrate in an ‘empty’ after the quiz. Don’t know where he got a key to Robert’s house but the location was ideal.
I’m sure the smell of vomit will have been nullified by the smoke by the time he returns. Just as well the fire was out by the time the fire brigade arrived and no real damage was done although he won’t be able to lose any curries in his oven for some time, at least until he gets a new one. Sad to say his sloe gin was actually quite good; he won’t notice that we drank it because Davie topped it back up with some concoction he found in Robert’s workroom. No chance of winning the competition now, but then again, the Ooters have drank worse. Jimmy managed to find some wine, not bad either. Did he remember to shut the freezer door? Does Jimmy ever forget?
I don’t think Robert will notice the improvements we made to some of his pictures, didn’t know you had it in you Alan – well it isn’t in you any more, it’s on his pictures.
Star of the night though was wee Davie. Didn’t he look good in Kate’s clothes? Ronnie was getting quite excited but a few buckets of cold water soon calmed him down. I trust that Davie will have managed to release himself by the time Robert comes home.
And who gave Derval Davie the mouthie? Robert’s floor in Mosset must have been much sturdier that that in Kilmarnock. Ian’s famed leg-stomping managed to damage the floor but a few subtle changes to the position of the furniture soon covered up the damage. He’ll never notice the crack in his TV screen either, Johnny did a good job with the cling film and it looked as good as new.
Paul’s parlour game gave us all a great laugh. Based on the current BBC Scotland comedy, ‘McGarry, *ank Commander’ was great fun. Well done to Johnny again for assembling a replica tank from bits of old furniture – well they are old now.
How time flew. We’ve all agreed to do this again next week.
P.S. I must remember to remove this before he returns from NZ – although remembering is not my forte at present.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

26 January Maybole - Kirkoswald Circular – The Cairn O’ Drummochreen

19.9 kms

Allan, Davie, Ian, Jimmy, Johnny, Paul, Peter

The leaflet said the walk would be thirteen miles on mixed terrain of moorland tracks and quiet country roads. We had to take the word of the writer for none of us had done the walk and this was new territory for the Ooters and we looked forward to exploring this part of Ayrshire. The morning was slightly overcast when seven of us gathered at The Green in Maybole at half past nine but the forecast was favourable so we didn’t care what the terrain was, we anticipated a good walk.
Paul was put in charge for the day for he had the leafletand we trusted his ability to read it. (As well as that we wanted somebody to blame and Paul hasn’t been blamed for a while) With one eye firmly fixed on the leaflet, he led us from The Green down to the High Street and southwards along the A77. A few hundred metres of the main drag and he had us turning down a road exotically named Coral Glen towards, he said, the football ground of Maybole Juniors. Then he turned us upward on Allan’s hill.
Allan’s Hill was a street of council houses that rose up one side of a hill and dropped down the other side, but it took us out of the town into the quiet rural landscape of Carrick. Sheep, with our first lambs of the year, grazed the fields only lifting their heads to watch our passing and keep an eye on Holly. They needn’t have bothered for our passing was swift and Holly was, as always, more interested in sticks and ran on oblivious of the wary watching eyes. And Holly, stick in mouth, led us down the lane, over the Abbeymill Burn, under the railway and towards Kildoon Hill with its monument rising high on the skyline in front of us.
Fortunately for us we didn’t have to climb the steep front of Kildoon for the leaflet said, ‘Less than half a mile from the railway bridge a sign indicates the line of the old coach road which is our path’. We climbed the old coach road on a well maintained track. By now the blood had been warmed nicely and halfway up the track a stop was called to remove extra layers. Looking back from our halt on the hillside, we could see the lane run away to climb Allan’s Hill into the build-up of Maybole; and see the sun beginning to break through the layer of high cloud.
We continued to rise on the well maintained track until it topped out. Now we had a choice. An indicator pointed out a path to the top of Kildoon; our guide, human quoting leaflet, said go straight on. Only one voice spoke in favour of a visit to the hilltop, the rest preferring to leave it ‘till next time’. The eejit being outvoted, we walked straight on. Then another sign pointed out a track on the right, a way back towards Maybole but we left this one for ‘next time’ as well and carried on down the old road.
The old turnpike degenerated on the other side of the pass, only the parallel drystane dykes and a foot-trod showing it to have been a major road in times gone by. Whin has begun to colonize it and in one place this was so thick that the field had to be taken to, but it was only for a short stretch and we were able to join the line again before crossing the Altewan Burn. We reached tarmac at the burn. While the line of the old turnpike ran on, our guide said turn left on the tarmac. We turned left and came down to Lower Burncrooks.
Lower Burncrooks looked to be abandoned, outbuildings crumbling and windowless but the dogs barking in the kennels showed that the house at least was still occupied. And, because of the dogs, we didn’t spend any time looking over Lower Burncrooks. We came to a T-junction and turned right, our leaflet reader doing a wonderful job – so far.
But now, for once, the reader let us down. Not once did he tell us to look for the Sunny Brae – it might have been a pleasant place to take coffee – nor did he mention the supernatural dangers of the Ghaist Glen. (Then again, being from Lancashire, he probably doesn’t know what a ghaist is.) He did draw our attention to a reservoir on our right though, a reservoir that we couldn’t see for it was beyond the ridge on our immediate right. But he drew us to a halt where the tarmac ran out at Lochspouts road-end and, with our backs to the fence and the Ghaist Glen, we sat down for coffee.
After coffee we followed another track, part of the service road for Craigdow Farm. Where this turned away northward, we were directed to leave it and take to a grass road through a newish plantation a grass track that may have been a continuation of the old turnpike according to our roads expert. The Green Well that we should have seen was not at all obvious unless it was the slimy water and spongy green sphagnum we waded through before the track rose to firmer footing. What was more obvious, well more obvious to the second group for the first three were for walking past it until called back, was the Drummochreen Cairn.
Drummochreen Cairn marks the spot where, in 1599 when our track was a thoroughfare, Andrew Macalexander was waylaid and murdered by Hew Kennedy of Girvanmains. The cairn is ancient – stones probably robbed from a nearby burial cairn - but the plaque was erected in 1982 by a descendant of Mcalexander, Col. G C Alexander. Being as we are cynical by nature, we came to the conclusion that Macalexander was likely an obnoxious so-and-so and was probably nane the waur o’ a guid murderin’.
This was turning into an excellent walk, far better than many expected. From the high ground by Drummochreen we had our first long view of the day, looking down to the coast and over to Arran. And that wasn’t the last of the views. As we gained the top there was Arran in all its magnificence, and beyond that the Mull of Kintyre. Even Ireland showed well in the clear air, Belfast Loch being a marker to help identify the Antrim Hills and the Mountains of Mourne. We rounded a ridge and looked down the lower Girvan valley, over Dailly to the coast at Girvan.
But we weren’t for the Girvan Valley. Paul told us to turn along the track to the right, a track signed for Kirkoswald and a track along which Holly was already trotting. We followed Holly to find tarmac again near High Newlands.
This was a quiet enough road and brought us by twists and turns to a track heading towards Kirkoswald. Taking the track - Holly had already turned on to it – we came down to Carrieston, up past the new church of Kirkoswald and down into the village. Three hours after leaving Maybole, in the sunshine, in the ancient churchyard of St Oswald’s Kirk we sat down for lunch.
Those with a Burnsian interest took the opportunity to seek out various graves of those associated with the Bard – his maternal grandparents, the Brouns; Hugh Rodger, his schoolmaster here; John Davidson (Souter Johnnie); Douglas Graham (Tam o’ Shanter); Jean Kennedy (Kirkton Jean). Meanwhile the philistines were gathering at the kirk gates champing at the bit to be off again.
The walk back from Kirkoswald wasn’t quite as interesting as the walk to it. We ambled up past Souter Johnnie’s house and out of the village following the main A77 for a wee bit before being directed onto another quiet country road. This took us the two miles over the hill to Crossraguel Abbey. The abbey precinct was closed so there was no visit today. Next time perhaps. Now came the worst part of the walk, alongside the main drag of the 77 with lorries and buses and white vans threatening to lift bunnets off heids as they wheeched by. The only highlights on this section were seeing how the old road twisted and turned before the ‘improvements’ of the latter part of last century and watching the sun play on the distant Galloway hills.
We were happy to turn off the Maybole’s main street early and come back to The Green using side roads.
According to leaflet today’s walk was thirteen miles but it didn’t feel anything like this. Perhaps this had something to do with the interest of the first part and it being new territory. Our thanks go to Paul for leading us so expertly and to the English education system that taught him to read leaflets.

FRT was taken in the Greenside Inn, Maybole

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Curry & Quiz Night

Thanks to Alan for a great night. The curry was superb and the quiz very enjoyable. Good job you were helping the B team to their victory!!

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Robert in Oz

Message From Robert down under:- 26/01/2011,0830

" G day cobbers oz is brilliant sydnay is buzzing
and hot enjoy your baltic walk
ooters rule ok "

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Maybole Circular 26 Jan 2011

Arrangements for 2 and 9 Feb

2nd February
Reedsirud: meet at Jimmy's at 9.00am for a 9.05am departure.

9th February
Arthur's Seat and Edinburgh: exact arrangements to be confirmed.

N.B. A decision was made that the inaugural Ooters Burns Supper would be held in 2012. Well done to Johnny for making this suggestion.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

19 January Glen Afton’s Four, Three, Two, or One Top

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

Just before Christmas Robert mentioned how easily traditions become established. It seems there is now an Ooters tradition of having stovies in the Mercat in Cumnock after doing the Four Tops walk in Glen Afton. This was the case today and stovies had been booked for 3 o’clock. It was felt by some that we might be pushed for time to get back to Cumnock for three and that might go some way to explaining what happened today.
All seemed right with the world when we gathered in Jimmy’s in Cumnock for an early start. The forecast was favourable and the time for departure was set early enough. But it might have been an indication of things to come when the Kilmarnock contingent arrived to say that Alan had slept in and would be a few minutes late. We delayed departure to wait for Allan. (See us! See compassion!)
The time was approaching quarter to ten when we left the waterworks car park, taking the road we had just driven up for we were to do the walk in the traditional Ooters direction, i.e. clockwise. (‘The best and easiest direction’ say those who know these things.) So we set off back down the road we had come. Conscious of time, Jimmy pressed the pace from the start taking Johnny and Paul with him and leaving the bulk of us trailing on behind. Down beside the river we marched, down onto the floor of the glen we marched, down to the Blackcraig Farm road we marched, and still no let up from those in front. On to the farm road we turned, across the river we came, up to the farm we marched, and at last came a halt for a well earned breather.
Now we were set to tackle the upward slope on the old pony track, a track that would lift us high on Quinten Knowe, on the shoulder of Blackcraig Hill and the pace could be eased - or could it? We strode on upward, Jimmy setting the pace again and stringing the group out down the track. Allan struggled on the upslope but those in front were oblivious to his pain and kept the pace high. The glen might have opened up for us then and given us some superb views – it has done in the past from here – but there was no time to take in the views as the front men pushed on.
Thank heavens for tradition. At our usual coffee stop by the sheep fank, we halted for coffee, the struggling Allan arriving at the coo’s tail. Coffee was taken and we waited only long enough for Allan to distribute his Allsorts. Then we were off again.
The slope steepened but did the pace slacken? No! The front bunch pushed on leaving the rest panting upward in their wake. We were strung out on that track, Jimmy and company shooting on in front and the struggling Allan bringing up the rear. His only consolation as he watched the backs of the rest of us disappear into the distance, was that he had his Irvine companion for company for Johnny also found the pace too brisk on the climb.
The sky had been breaking up ever since we left the waterworks and now the winter sun shone in its full glory. As we neared the cairn on Quinten Knowe, we came into its full glare. With the speed of the walk, the steepness of the slope and the now warming sun, it was a sweaty bunch of speedsters who stopped at the cairn to wait for the strugglers.
We were to stay in the sun for the rest of the walk; well, nearly for the rest of the walk but I will come to that in due course. For the moment we were in full sun and the day was pleasant. Not that it was too pleasant for some of us though, for Allan and Johnny continued to struggle and now came the steepest part of the day. We left the old track at the county boundary fence – well, who wants to walk in Dumfriesshire anyway – and took to the open hill on the flank of Blackcraig itself. That’s where we encountered the first snow, icy snow, solid snow but snow that only lay in patches now that the thaw had worked for a fortnight. The snow was easily avoided. Jimmy did make an attempt to cross one patch but could make no impression on the concrete-like surface. Muttering something about discretion and valour, he joined the rest of us in climbing the steep grass slope to the broad level summit of Blackcraig Hill.
The views on the way up had been mainly to the east across Nithsdale but now, as we walked across the summit plateau to the trig point they turned more to the westward, to Windy Standard and Cairnsmore of Carsphairn. A blanket of fog draped the tops of these hills, shining white in the sun and looking to be rolling in our direction. Sure enough when we stopped at the trig point for a bite, the fog rolled in and we were enclosed in a world of our own on the flat top of Blackcraig Hill. Was our good day gone? It certainly seemed that way for when we were ready to move on after lunch, the clag was still with us. But it was a thin layer of fog that covered our hill blue sky showing through it some twenty feet above us, and it looked as though the sun would burn it off again fairly quickly. And it did. We walked off southward into the fog, south towards Black Lorg, dropping down the steep grass slope. Barely had we dropped off the summit when the sun made its reappearance and stayed for the rest of the day.
Thank heavens for quad bikes. The southern slope of Blackcraig is covered in deep, course hill grass, grass that clings to the boots and makes walking difficult. But the herd has used his quad bike on the hill and quad tracks flattened the grass and made an easier track for us. And the tracks continued to Black Lorg giving a route through the sea of lank grass. We followed the quad tracks, staying more or less together as a group on the down-slope to the col between the two hills.
It is not a difficult climb from the col to the top of Black Lorg but it is long and drawn out. It was ‘heads down and plod on’ time for there was nothing to take the mind off the interminable upward slog of Black Lorg. And, as the usual suspects kept the pace up, the Irvine pair fell behind again. We would wait for them on the top.
Black Lorg is one of those rounded hills that when you are at the summit, you can’t see the flanks. So we waited on top for the Irvine boys to appear over the edge of the rise. And we waited. And we waited. We waited long enough for Ian and Jimmy to walk through three counties (The county boundaries meet here) and for Rex, despite his advancing years, to be able to pee over three counties. And yet we waited. Jimmy went out as scout in one direction while Robert retraced the journey towards Blackcraig. Both returned with no sightings of the missing twosome. We had to conclude that they had skirted the top and were in front of us heading towards Cannock Hill.
With a little anxiety concerning the lost souls, we dropped off Black Lorg following the remains of a drystane dyke towards Cannock. Holly shot off in front recognizing the two red dots in the distance as the missing Irvine men. We were right; they had flanked the hill and were now away in front. They were to stay in front, missing out the other tops as well, till we caught up with them at the reservoir.
Meanwhile, we dropped off Black Lorg at a fair old rate, Jimmy still pushing the pace from the front. While Jimmy climbed to Cannock top and Peter followed, the rest of us chose to follow the Irvine two round its side. Then down off Cannock we sped, to the marsh between here and Craigbranneoch Rigg, the rise onto Steyamrie, the last top. Jimmy had already made up his mind on Blackcraig, succumbing to his dodgy knees, not to make the final climb to Steyamara. The rest of us, with two exceptions, decided enough was enough for the day and opted to join him. The two who chose to make the final climb were Paul and Davie; full credit to them.
We parted company with the peak baggers and dropped down to the side of the Afton Reservoir where we met up with Allan and Johnny. Mobile phones are wonderful things – when you can get a signal. On top of Black Lorg of Glen Afton there is no signal. Those who had been trying to contact others to let them know that they were skirting the hill couldn’t get through; those who were trying to find out where others were couldn’t get through. That’s why we waited and Allan and Johnny went their own way. Still, no harm done and we promise to show more compassion to the slow on the next walk.
We had all of twenty minutes to wait for the return of the peak baggers before motoring back to Cumnock. At 3:02 we were ensconced in the Mercat taking FRT and tucking in to Sadie’s stovies. Many thanks to Sadie for the feast and to Jimmy for organising this.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

12 January Falls, Falls, Slips and Slithers

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

Distance: 9.3 km

Anywhere last week-end’s snow had been compressed by feet had been turned to ice thanks to the daytime thaw and overnight freezing. Not that we in Ayrshire would have known this for the snow had all but disappeared from God’s own county and the countryside had long returned to green. And, though the morning was overcast, there was sufficient lightness in the grey that promised a good day ahead so we were full of the joys of the morning as ten of us motored into darkest Lanarkshire for another round of the Falls of Clyde.
Yet, even before we reached the Clyde Valley, we had a hint of what underfoot conditions might be like for icy-looking snow lay in the fields and roadsides beyond Stra’ven but no way were we prepared for the full extent of what was to come. When we reached the bridge at Kirkfieldbank we were to find out. The bridge and the access road were caked in an inch or two of bumpy wet ice, wet ice that proved treacherous to Vibram soles. And we now suspected the path round the walk would be the same.
We were not daft enough to try to cross the bridge. Instead, working on the theory that the thaw that caused the wetness of the ice would have worked its magic by the afternoon and the bridge would be safer to cross, we decide to do the walk in and anticlockwise direction for a change.
So up the dry road we started, up to the start of the path. As soon as we turned off the road onto the track we knew we were in for a difficult walk. The same treacherous ice that coated the bridge lay along the length of the track as far as we could see. Extreme care was taken as each tried to find grip on the hazardous surface. Only Rex strode out, his Christmas present of Yak Grips doing what they were supposed to do; the rest of us slipped and slithered our way along the path watching carefully where we placed feet.
There might have been things to see in the trees or over the river but we never saw any of them, we were too busy with heads down watching where we put feet. At one point Rex, twenty metres in front and confident in his Yak Grips, shouted back ‘Careful of the branch’. Jimmy raised his head to see what branch and promptly tripped over the one directly in front of him. Down went Jimmy like a Lithuanian footballer, spread-eagling on the ice. Those behind sympathised in the usual way; those in front walked on oblivious to the drama behind for their heads were down watching where to place feet. Jimmy, bleeding though he was from a cut in his hand, picked himself up and slithered on manfully.
We did stop occasionally, to catch breath and look at any view. Across the water the footpath looked even icier and even more treacherous than the one we were slithering along. With a little reluctance on some parts, we skated on. After what seemed hours of slipping, sliding, glissading, pirouetting, holding on to branches to regain balance, we slid to a halt on the viewpoint overlooking Corra Linn. Here we took a welcome break for coffee.

A lot of water dropped over the falls today, brown water, snow-melt water. None of us, not even Davie, a veteran of this walk, had seen the falls as spectacular as this. Metre long icicles still hung from overhangs and ice still coated some rocks. And a flood of ice-cold, brown water threw itself over the drop into the gorge below. Absolutely stunning. The photographers took the opportunity to get the cameras out. WLFTSTR.

But the cold dampness began to chill old bones so we moved on.

The workers, who appeared to be digging a hole in the path at Bonnington barrage only to be filling it up again with concrete, were as surprised to see us as we were to see them. We thought for a minute or two that they were going to say that there was no way across the barrage and that we would have to go back the way we came. But we needn’t have worried. They were a pleasant bunch of guys and invited us to step over their trench, clamber over their pile of debris, step round their barrowful of wet concrete and cross the barrage. This we did and came to the east bank of the river.
If the thaw had done anything in the last few hours, it was barely noticeable. Under the trees, where the snow hadn’t lain, the ground was clear and we could walk normally, well as normally as we usually do. But these patches were few and far between and we were as often as not back to our slithering progress. Now it was Robert’s turn to see the ice close up. Coming down a slope, a gentle slope, a slope that would not normally be noticed, Robert’s footing went and Robert went. He received the same sympathy as Jimmy, picked himself up, wiped himself down and slid on.
After considerably more pirouetting, glissading, pas-de-basing, arabesque-ing, cabriole-ing and generally flaffing about, we found ourselves down past the peregrine watch, the power station and the board-walk entering New Lanark. Here we found two picnic benches free of ice and wet, on which to have a bite of lunch.
The village was free of ice and it was a pleasure and relief to be able to walk with heads up, not constantly looking down at feet. The relief didn’t last too long though, and we were soon back onto an icy track by the riverside. But was the thaw working its magic? This ice seemed crumblier, less solid than before, and less treacherous. Only in places though, for there were still sections of precarious footing and more ballet steps before we reached the safety of Castlebank Park. Now we had only half a mile or so back to Kirkfieldbank and the icy bridge.
The thaw had indeed worked it magic on the bridge for most of the ice had gone by the time we reached it; only in patches did it lie. We crossed the bridge without breaking stride and returned to the waiting cars.
And the result of all this cavorting on the ice? A walk that would normally have taken us three hours took nearly four. And we expect some stiff thighs in the morning.
FRT was taken in the Bucks (sic) Head in Stra’ven on the way back to safe, green country in Ayrshire.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

4-3-2-1 Tops 19 Jan 11

Following the ‘concern’ shown during last Wednesday’s Tops walk it has been decided that in the interests of safety, harmony, compassion and keeping the group together, the undernoted procedures (in order to slow the fastest down to the speed of the slowest) will take effect on future walks:

Paul will carry Allan’s rucksack.
Rex, the Tojomeister, will carry Allan.
Davie, aka Pop of the Tops, will pull a large ball behind him (no change there then).
Ian will be in charge of communications. He will source two empty tin cans and a length of string not less than half a mile long.
Robert will be handcuffed to Johnny. He will also carry a swear box, Johnny for the use of. (Helen to make sure that Johnny has a supply of large denomination notes sufficient for a 4 hour walk).
Alan to ride shotgun. On the days he is unavailable, Frank McAvennie has offered his services.
Jimmy to sweettalk Sadie in to providing stovie and beer stops every mile. Jimmy will provide the glasses and will organise the Cooncil to retrieve same after every walk.
Peter will hypnotise Holly with his stories and jokes.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011


Next Wednesday: Meet at 9:30 at The Green in Maybole for a different kind of walk (13 miles approx.)

Friday 28 quiz: Meet at Alan's in Killie at 5pm for a bite to eat before going on to the quiz for 7:30 start.

PS I was locked out for half an hour after our Glen Afton walk today. Somebody trying to tell me something. Anyway I went for a walk to pass the time.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Ooters visit Mosset

Here are the provisional dates I have identified as reasonably priced for our visit to Mosset this year. The dates are :- 21st-28th Sept. Flight costs return £56 ,Prestwick - Gerona. Carcassonne this year at the same time £80. We can discuss the suitability or otherwise when we meet up on Wed. Robert

Saturday, 8 January 2011

5 January Portencross Circular

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

Our first walk of the New Year could have been better; it could hardly have been wetter. Yet the morning started promisingly enough with our inland members waking to a keen frost and clear sky, a clear sky that extended to the coast. When we gathered in Allan’s in Irvine the sun had risen and was filling the landscape with a warming light. All of us had hopes for a decent day for a favourite walk.
We were pleasantly surprised to see Rex waiting for us in Allan’s, his recovery from surgery coming sooner than expected. But there was no Robert this morning. He was awaiting the arrival of the roof man for the second time this winter. And Ronnie was working. That left ten of us to car share to Portencross for what we expected to be a pleasant short walk to start our New Year.
It was on the high ground of the Ardrossan bypass that we saw the weather coming in; a great dark-grey swathe of rain-bearing cloud approaching from the north-west. By the time we reached the car park of Portencross the first rain hit. And there was a wind with it, a cold wind, and a wind that churned the sea and sent green rollers breaking against the rocks by the car park and throwing spray to join the rain. We donned waterproofs from the start, fully expecting to cast them off after the shower had passed and the sun had returned.
We set off into the weather taking an anticlockwise route round the circuit, the, now hail salted, wind driven rain stinging into exposed flesh. This was not a time for hanging about. Heads tilted into the weather, we walked on. A car tooted at us and, as we lifted heads into the weather, we recognised the missing Robert who had come to join us after all. It wasn’t a time for hanging about so we walked on quickly enough to build up the heat but slowly enough to let Robert catch us up. When a field of geese was seen opposite the Ardneil road-end we still walked on, even the birders, for though the hail had gone, the wind-driven freezing rain still stung into faces. It was not a time for hanging about even for a field full of geese. We would wait until the shower passed before we stopped. We walked on
In the lea of Goldenberry we lost the wind; unfortunately not so the rain, though this had eased to a steady drumming on the jacket hoods. Robert caught up with us as we turned from Thirdpart towards the main A78. Then all eleven of us walked on. And walked on. There was no point in stopping until the rain went.
Out on to the main road we went. Then onto Hunterston old drive. Past our usual coffee stop we went – we would have coffee when the rain went. Past Hunterston Castle we went – no stop to examine Latin inscriptions today. We walked on in the rain. We would stop when the rain went.
On to Hunterston Power Station road we walked. It was there that we noticed Paul was leaking. A white excrescence - that’s a good word, Davie – oozed from his black waterproofs and trickled down his arms and legs. Since none of us could identify the white ‘stuff’, Paul was given a wide berth for the rest of the day just in case it was catching for there’s no saying how bad ‘white excrescence’ can become. And we’re all at a delicate age now.
Still we walked on in the rain. Even the shelduck and the wee broon birds in the sheltered bay couldn’t tempt anybody to stop. We walked on in the rain. We did stop briefly; very briefly, in a bus shelter at the power station for Peter was now beginning to squelch, his waterproofing having succumbed to the constant downpour. While compassion is the Ooters watchword and we sympathised with the dripping Peter, there wasn’t a lot could be done at that time. He would have to thole the wet for the next mile or so back to the cars. We walked on in the rain.
From the raised beach we could see the brighter weather coming, again from the north-west. Arran began to appear and the rain began to ease. By the time we reached Portencross it had gone and the day was brightening. The wet Peter made a direct line for the cars through the hamlet. The rest of us though paid our usual visit to see the castle. Some would have had coffee/lunch at the castle but the consensus was that we join Peter at the cars, change into drier gear and have lunch sitting in the comfort of the cars. Well, we did say we would stop when the rain went.
This was rather inauspicious start to the year. Still, in the words of the fabulous D:Ream ‘♫Things can only get better♫’.
FRT Was taken in the Laurieston in Ardrossan for the Merrick in Seamill has lost its attraction now.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Some River Ayr ice photos

Taken by Ken Baird from Sorn


29 December 'Into the Lost Valley of the Incas', Ness Glen Again

Allan, Davie, Davie C, Ian, Jimmy, Robert & Ronnie

The ‘big freeze’ broke on Christmas Eve and a slow thaw has been working since. This though, left us with heavily overcast skies, occasional rain and a dampness in the air that made it feel cold no matter what the thermometer said. And the thermometer said three Celsius when we gathered for the last walk of the year, another old favourite, the Ness Glen via Dalcairnie Linn. Still, the air was calm and there was a hint of blue showing in patches through the grey clag so we had hopes for a good day.
Seven of us - the less infirm, the less hung-over and the less henpecked - met, not at our usual place at Loch Doon but at The Promised Land on the outskirts of Dalmellington. We would make the walk different by starting at a different place.
Davie, Jimmy and Robert led us off. Well, ‘led us off’ might give the wrong impression. They strode away along the path while the rest of us were still changing into boots and jackets. When we looked up they were two hundred metres down the side of the Muck and disappearing into the distance. Would this be a portent of things to come? But there was no need to worry for, decent souls that they are they waited for us at the Scout Centenary garden. Now that we were together, we would stay that way for a bit.
We came to the Straiton road. Before Davie could put the lead on Holly, Jimmy and Robert crossed the road and took to a path that would keep us off it so Holly could run free for a while yet. This would have been a great idea if half the path hadn’t been washed away leaving us with deep, crumbly gullies to negotiate. And there was no way round them for the saughs were thick here. Jimmy’s ears were abused. Would this be a portent of things to come? But the path levelled off and half a mile later decanted us onto the road again.
The Straiton road was crossed as was the Doon – ‘That’s the river doon there’ said a wag. Ah, the auld yins are the best. – and we found ourselves on the road for Dalcairnie. The goosander was spotted on Bogton Loch and we stopped to see what a goosander was. Well, when I say ‘we’ stopped, I mean most of us did. Allan and Robert walked on. By the time Davie C’s binoculars had done the round and we all knew what a goosander was, the front two were well out of sight. We found them examining the young sheep at Dalcairnie Farm.

By now Robert’s tongue was hanging out for the lack of coffee and when we reached Dalcairnie Linn he decided that this was the perfect place. ‘Well, don’t we always stop here?’ said he and promptly sat down. We joined him. The falls, impressive as the usually are, had a special impressiveness today. The ‘big freeze’ had frozen the falls into a thirty foot high curtain of ice draping the far end of the cauldron and falling to a jumble of ice boulders on the bottom. Likewise, the pool at the bottom was solid with ice. But the recent thaw has set the burn flowing again and brown peaty water now stained the ice where it flowed. The overcast conditions had softened the light turning the walls of the cauldron black, contrasting with the white of the ice. ‘It’s like something you would find in Iceland or in Lord of the Rings’ said an imaginative one. And we enjoyed our coffee stop in Lord of the Rings land.

Most of us enjoyed the stop and were prepared to stay for a wee while but Jimmy was keen to push on and was already back up on the road pacing. So we left the linn behind us and made our way up to join Jimmy on the road.
The tarmac finishes at the Linn but we followed the track up towards Barbeth. On the high ground beyond Barbeth a herd stood on his quad bike on a high knoll whistling while his dog worked the sheep. Being as we are sociable fellows we stopped for a blether. Again, ‘we’ meant everybody except Davie, with Holly on lead, and Robert who walked on. (Portent of things to come?) By the time we had ascertained that the ‘snaw wisnae as bad as last winter’ – it wasn’t as deep and the sheep could reach the grass underneath – and that the dog was about two and a half years old and was the one he used in trials, the wayward two were well out of sight, down towards the Craigengillan woods. We found them standing on the tarmac of Craigengillan drive.
The walking had been good and easy up to then but in front of Craigengillan we found our first real icy obstacle. We had had some ice on the way down from Barbeth but nothing to what lay at Craigengillan. Sizeable areas of wet ice covered the track giving no traction to Vibram soles. Robert was very nearly on his backside before he realised he was on it and again before he could get off. The rest took this as a warning and took to the narrow grass verge between the ice and the rhododendrons that crowded onto it. And this continued all the way down the track to the bank of the Doon.
Now we could enter the ravine of the Ness Glen. This gorge has been described many times in these scribblings but today it was something special, something that needs to be recorded. Only in the summer months and only for a few short hours of the day does the sun enter the gorge. No sun shone in the outer world today and the diffuse grey light found its way into the defile of the Ness Glen, casting no deep shadows. As we walked further into it the roaring of the waters increased, resounding from the vertical rock walls, walls that were green with mosses and liverworts. Ferns of different kinds both large and small grew amongst the moss. Trees, crusted with grey lichens clung to vertical rock where they had no right to exist. Sixty feet above our heads more trees, filigreed against the grey sky, stretched over the gorge trying to touch their own kind on the other side. The black water of the river was flecked with white in the smoother sections and running milky white in the rapids. ‘It’s like entering the lost valley of the Incas’ said Ronnie, stretching our imaginations a bit, but not too much in our present surroundings. Giant boulders standing out of the river were capped with fantastical slabs of water-sculpted ice. In our imaginations these metamorphosed into fantastical birds and beasts. ‘The lost valley of the Incas’ reiterated Ronnie. And this lost valley was to continue for the next three quarters of a mile or so.

But the fantastical ‘lost valley of the Incas’ was lost on Davie and Robert who were pushing well ahead up the gorge. (Some folk have nae imagination, Ronnie.) Wet ice flowed across the path between the rock and the river hindering our progress. Some care and what little diversion that the narrow ledge offered, was used to get us over and around the worst of these. And as the gorge began to level and widen out near the top, we found the fast pair waiting by the footbridge that takes a path up the east side to the Loch Doon road. Now, we have never been across this bridge as a group and we had no intention of crossing it today. We have always followed the glen to its end and fully intended to do so again.
Twenty metres beyond the bridge we encountered a patch of ice, a real patch of ice, a broad, wet, treacherous patch of ice, a patch of ice that completely blocked our path. Whilst the intrepid would have gone on – Davie was already half way round it on the river side – the more sensible amongst us saw danger and were for turning back to the bridge. We turned back to the bridge.
The path rose quickly up the gully side and gave us a different view of the upper end of the gorge; not a better view, just a different one. And it took us across a frozen boggy area to the tarmac of the Loch Doon Road just fifty metres from the end of the dam. We crossed the dam, found a picnic table and sat down for lunch.
The light on Loch Doon was superb. The heavy sky turned the water steely grey fringed with lighter grey ice. Away to the south one of those blue patches of sky allowed the sun to shine on the Rhinns of Kells whitening the hill-fog on Coran of Portmark and reflecting the same in the loch. We suspected snow under this hill-fog and we were to be proved right for, as the sun increased its brightness, the fog rolled away to reveal white patches on the hill. Then the cloud closed and the hill returned to greyness. Nearer to hand, another break in the sky lit the western side of the loch, burning off the clag from Craiglee and showing the colours of the winter moor. The cameras were in action again. WLFTSTR.
We didn’t go back into ‘the lost valley’ after lunch. Davie had promised us a look at ‘Fort Apache’, the wooden stockade built by the local scouts and army cadets. So he led us through the woods along the top of the gorge. So much for promises! When we reached a point where we might have gone to see the ‘fort’, Davie said, pointing ‘That’s it. It’s no’ worth gaun ower tae see for it’s a’ locked up’ Then he promptly walked on. Talk about disappointed. Still some of us managed to sneak up and have a closer look. By the time the sneakers examined the stockade, Robert and Davie had led us down off the gorge lip and back to the river again. We waited at the Craigengillan Bridge for the wayward to rejoin us.
We have never seen the Gaw Burn as big as today; the ford was a full six to seven inches deep. The hydrophobes picked their way carefully over boulders but the brave just hitched up their breeks and strode manfully through the flood. Whichever method was chosen all arrived safely at the other side.
Now it was just gentle stroll under Bellsbank and along the Craigengillan main drive to the cars. Or was it? All those portents now came to fruition for that’s when the pace picked up. Jimmy, Ronnie and Robert, silly auld farts, decided to race it out to the end and left the rest of us ploughing on behind. Who won the race the scribe wouldn’t like to say - modesty forbids - but whoever it was arrived just a minute or so in front of the rest of us.

What a superb start to the year this was. And to finish of the super day, we took FRT in the Dalmellington Inn.

PS. See if you can spot a common factor in those charging on ahead today.
1. Leading off at the start – Davie, Jimmy and Robert
2. Walking ahead to Dalcairnie – Allan and Robert
3. Down from Barbeth – Davie and Robert
4. Through the gorge – Davie and Robert
5. Back to Craigengillan – Allan, Davie and Robert
6. Racing back to the cars – Jimmy, Ronnie and Robert
Who says the wee man’s competitive?

Saturday, 1 January 2011

Ne'erday Quiz

Ubi coitus sumus?

Those of you whose heids are not too sozzled with strong drink might like to try the following teasers. The answers are all places visited by the Early Ooters during their weekly sojourns.

1 Rearrange
Where were we when we were "up" the following:


likewise rearrange the following to find place names.

2 Historical facts picked up en route
a Where is the Promised Land?
b Where were the Blackgannoch Conventicles held?
c Where was a battle fought in 1263?
d Where will you find "Adam's Stane"?
e Where is Balloch Castle? (clue: not the name it's known by now)

3 Quotations
Where were we when the now famous quotations were uttered?
b Well, this road goes this way and that road goes that way!
c What f****** kingfisher?
d Hey, Jimmy, huv you goat yer specs?

4 Robert Burns
Where do you see the following quotations from Burns? (Have you been paying attention?)
Syne to the Leglen Wood when it was late,
To make a silent and a safe retreat

At Wallace's name what Scottish blood
But boils up in a springtime flood?

and where is Burns referring to when he writes? :-

My Mary's asleep by thy murmuring stream
Flow gently, ........ ............ , disturb not her dream!

In ev'ry glen the mavis sang,
All Nature list'ning seem'd the while
Except where greenwood echoes rang
Amang the braes o' ............

While winds frae aff ............. ................ blaw,
And bar the doors wi' drivin' snaw,
And hing us owre the ingle,
I set me down to pass the time
And spin a verse or twa o' rhyme
In hamely westlin' jingle.

(This one's probably got smart-arse Jimmy puzzling!)

5 Hostelries
Where are the following pubs?

a The Mercat
b The Merrick
c Poosie Nansie's
d The Tap o' the Brae
e The Tennents Bar
f Mac's Bar

6 The answer to this question could possibly be debatable
What are the three longest walks the Ooters have ever done? (discounting walks in France)

There you go. Not too difficult. You have till Wednesday to think about the answers before I post them. ( Sorry, till I get Kay to post them!!)