Tuesday, 31 May 2011

25 May The Deil’s Back Door

Allan, Jimmy, Johnny, Paul, Rex & Robert

Six of us ventured into the wind and rain today; wind there was for the storm that battered the country on Monday hadn’t quite subsided yet, and the rain that drummed on the car roofs as we drove to Jimmy’s place in Cumnock didn’t bode well for the day. Nevertheless six hardy souls were prepared to venture into the elements. (Peter did turn up at Jimmy’s but had already decided that a walk wasn’t for him today so it was down to the hardy six.) The walk was to be a straightforward in and back on the same route so we might, if so inclined, to walk until we were fed up with the weather and then turn back.
Though the sky remained overcast, rain that fell as we left Jimmy’s had gone by the time we drove the five or so miles to Dalblair where we intended to start and some even began the walk jacketless. We would see how long this would last.
Dalblair is a collection of houses, kennels and a farm stretching in a line beside the Glenmuir Water on the bottom of a narrow valley. What this meant for us of course was that within a few hundred metres we were climbing steeply up that valley side to the high grass moor that lies between Cumnock, Muirkirk and Sanquhar. Fortunately for us there was a road, a farm type road, to take us up the valley side and to within a few hundred metres of our destination of the Deil’s Back Door.
When we cleared the shelter of the valley we met the wind. Through it was on the right shoulder, it was fresh and blew through fleeces. The jacketless weren’t too long in donning them as a wind-cutting layer. And the jackets would stay on for the rest of the day for the wind didn’t let up at all. But, one thing about the wind, it seemed to be keeping the rain at bay – so far.
The Glenmuir Water cuts a deep glen for itself into the high moor. And in the glen, far below us, a herd on a quad bike tested the strength of a rickety wooden bridge thrown over the water. Whether he saw us or not we couldn’t tell for there was no acknowledgement and we could only assume that he was too busy to notice us high above him. We walked on.
According to the one who knows these things, this section of our ‘road’ was built in the late eighteenth century as part of a projected route from Cumnock to Crawfordjohn but was never complete beyond Glenmuirshaw. It has been maintained as a farm road and a shooter’s road ever since. We were glad it was for the moor around us was rough with tussocky grass doogals and the walking there would be extremely tough. But we were on the road and it took us to the abandoned homestead of High Dalblair. Since it was nearly that time and the drystane wall surrounding High Dalblair offered the only shelter from the wind for miles around, we settled down for coffee.

The next abandoned habitation we came to was Glenmuirshaw. After coffee we had continued along the old road splitting into two groups according to pace. And it was the first group who saw the owl as they approached the old farm. By the description given to the birder among us, it would seem to have been a tawny owl but it had disappeared up the ‘shaw’ by the time the second group including our bird man arrived on the scene. Though we waited for a few minutes, there was no sign of the owl returning. We walked on with the agreement to spend a few minutes ‘birding’ for owls on the return journey.
The road runs out at the Shaw but a grass track continues to a sheep fank. It was here that we left the track and followed a quad-bike trail to cross Glenmuir by a rather ancient and precarious looking bridge into the gorge of the Connor Burn. The burn was running high with this month’s rain and doubts were expressed as to whether we would be able to cross it. These doubts were not unfounded for the usual crossing points were all under nearly a foot of fast-flowing, peat-coloured water and we were forced to clamber round the steeper parts of the gorge. Then came a part some fifty metres from the waterfall where we little option but to clamber up the bank out of the gorge – at least three of us did, the other three choosing to have lunch where they could look up the burn to the waterfall known as the Deil’s Back Door. The clamberers took their hint and on the top of the gorge, only looking down into the pool at the base of the falls for the cascade itself was hidden from view, they settled for lunch.
The wild flower display was at its best today, blooms almost glowing under the overcast May sky. Among the usual moorland plants we had already found a clump of white saxifrage of some species in the gorge. Now it was purple orchids, violets and pale mauve mayflower that decorated our lunch stop. Our nature lover attempted to capture them with the camera.

After a few minutes the groups we reunited for the gorge lunchers had decided that clambering up the steep side was the lesser of two evils, preferable to clambering round the slippery rocks above the burn. And with us all together again, we set off on the return journey, a return that was to be the reverse of the outward.
We came back to Glemuirshaw via the lip of the gorge and the rickety bridge and we stopped here for the promised spot of owl hunting. No owls to be seen this time, though Jimmy did find a swallow’s nest complete with half a dozen hungry beaks gaping wide at his waggling finger. And wheatear kept us amused as we made the return along the old road.
The wind that was on our right shoulder on the way out had now swung round and was on the left shoulder on the way back. And the rain that almost threatened only once to come on had stayed away and it was a more comfortable walk back than we had expected.
We were nearly back at Dalblair when we met the herd. As is our usual, we stopped for a blether. This was the chap we saw in the valley this morning. Yes, he had seen us. ‘It’s guid tae see folk oot walkin’, said he. He was impressed that we had been as far as the Deil’s Back Door (I think he was impressed that we had been as far as the Deil’s Back Door at our age!) and was even more impressed when Johnny handed him our blog card. ‘Aye, I’ve got a computer’, said he, ‘but I’ll need to get the weans tae show me how tae work it’. We left him our card anyway.
We lost the wind when we dropped into the valley at Dalblair and a comfortable, slow meander brought us back to the cars around two.

This was a better day than we could have expected given the morning and the walk was easier than some remembered. Though we never got right up to the falls, this was a good day in the wilds of east Ayrshire.

FRT was taken in the Sun in Cumnock.

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Jimmy's new camera

Techno wizard Johnny checks out Jimmy's new 10.5 Megapixel SLR digital camera.
"Hey Jimmy, you're one pixel short of the full 10.5 Meg!

Friday, 27 May 2011

Ailsa Craig-alternative transport

Just discovered a way to cut transport costs by half! From Mon 30th May, Lidl are selling inflatable 2 man Kayaks for £29.99. We could buy 5, fit Holly with a high-viz vest and she could lead a convoy of Ooters to Ailsa Craig because she always knows the way(unlike her Master). This would provide a more energetic outing and for those so inclined we could have a race at the end.

Any takers?

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

18 May Irvine Byways

Allan, Alan, Jimmy, Malcolm

May, it would seem, is a month of choice for Ooters holidays; two had just returned, one was returning this very day, one was still on holiday, one was leaving today and one was preparing to leave on Saturday. Given this, and that two were tending to infirm better halves, one was floored with sciatica and two were up to their necks in building projects, it was a depleted band of four that met in Allan’s in Irvine this morning.
The intention was to travel to Cornalees for a favourite walk on the Greenock Cut. But the gathering cloud and the depressing forecast for Renfrewshire had Allan suggesting a more local walk; at least we wouldn’t have too far to travel after a soaking. There were no dissenters and we set off from Allan’s place for a walk on the byroads around Irvine.
We left Allan’s around 9:30 and came by paths and pavements to the old Lawthorn Farm, now a pub and Indian restaurant. An old road, now more a public footpath, took us past the nature reserve of Lawthorn Plantation. Here we found the tarmac that we were to stay on for most of the day. We turned right on the old Glasgow Road. But we weren’t on this busy road for long for almost immediately we turned right again on to a minor road. This took us by High Armsheugh and Millburnside to the bridge on the Annick Water near Annick lodge.
Not a lot could be seen on this section of the walk. The highlights were the robin spotted by Jimmy on the ash twig overhanging the roadside sheugh and barely four feet away from us and the buzzard being mobbed by the magpie and crow. But, these incidents apart, the walk had been uneventful so far.
The sky was still overcast but at least the rain had stayed away. It was recalled that the last time we came by Annick Lodge Bridge we stopped for lunch. But the ground today was saturated by the month’s rain and a better place was sought for the peece. Just beyond Overton Farm we found the place and sat on an old tree stump for lunch.
Dundonald Hill with its mast had been visible to us for quite a while but now at the highest point of our walk, a mere 55m above the sea, a more distant summit appeared in the south, a summit that Jimmy said was Cairnsmore of Carsphairn. In the absence of somebody to contradict him (where’s Davie when he’s needed?) we had to take his word. But this meant that even under the heavy sky visibility was extensive.

We had been lucky with the weather so far but as we entered Springside the first heavy spots hit causing Jimmy and Malcolm, who had so far walked without them, to don waterproofs. But the shower didn’t last long and nor was it particularly heavy and by the time we had turned on to the footpath along the old Kilmarnock railway it had gone and jackets came off again. The old railway disappeared near Capringstone but the path continues down the riverside as part of the Irvine New Town Trail. We continued with it as it followed the river below the houses of Dreghorn, Greenwood Academy, the Long Drive and the Irvine bypass.
When we came round the Menzies Hotel to the Annick Road Allan offered us a choice; we could follow the Town Trail to the harbour and either walk back from there or take the bus back, or we could just walk back through the town. Malcolm helped make the decision by suggesting that if we went through the town we would be able to visit the Porthead Tavern on the way. ‘Nough said, we turned towards the town centre and found ourselves ensconce in the Porthead taking an early FRT.
We had been lucky with the rain again. While we were relaxed in the warmth and dry of the Porthead, the weather gods did their worst to try and wash Irvine off the map. When we came out of the pub it was still chucking down and the street was awash. We waited inside until the monsoon had done its stuff and dry returned. Then we turned along the Glasgow Vennel and followed Bank Street back to Allan’s place.

Not the walk we had intended but a fair stretch of the legs nevertheless. And in relative dry forbye.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Arrangements for Wednesday 25

Meet at Jimmy's at 9;00 for a walk in to the Deil's Back Door from Dalblair.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Maidens to Dunure 11 May 2011

Allan, Davie, Ian, Johnny, Malcolm, Paul, Rex
Seven Ooters met at Rex’s for coffee on a morning which, weatherwise, could have gone either way i.e. lots of sunshine and few showers or vice versa. Thankfully the former was to prevail. Rex was with us because his wife was unwell and they couldn’t go to Italy. Davie was with us because his wife was unwell and needed a break from him. It was good to see Holly again!
It was 10.30 am before we started walking at Maidens and, as the walk has been recorded many times in the past, it is sufficient to say that the usual route was taken. On the way to Culzean Rex managed to slip on some stones covered in seaweed. Thankfully no serious damage was done and he was soon able to give Davie a masterclass on how to make the perfect fajitas. The trick is to put half a lime (or maybe the juice of half a lime) into the pan with some oil before adding the meat. Once we had explained to Davie what a lime was, he seemed to catch on before suggesting that if Uncle Ben didn’t say it, he wasn’t going to add it.
We didn’t stop at our usual coffee place on the clifftop but made our way to the cafĂ© at Culzean where we partook of coffee and scones. Sad to say the scones were not as fresh as they looked although they were devoured just the same. Johnny collected all the small jam jars for future use so all you folk expecting a pot of gooseberry jam later on may well get less than you bargained for.
The walk from Culzean to our normal lunch spot was uneventful other than us having to get the waterproofs on for a shower that lasted about ten minutes.
Lunch having being taken we walked up the hill and progressed steadily to Dunure stopping briefly at the look-out tower. We made the car park at 1.55pm and were surprised how quickly we had done the walk considering the stops we had. This had been another grand walk in weather which had been kind to us.
FRT was taken at the Dunure Inn where the flavour of the day was ‘Jolly Beggars’ made by the Ayr Brewing Company.

Arrangements for 18 May

Greenock Cut

Meet at Allan's in Irvine at 9.00am.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

4 May - Gleniffer Braes

Gloomy winter's noo awa', saft the westlin' breezes blaw
Amang the birks o' Stanley Shaw, the mavis sings fu' cheery o
Sweet the crawflower's early bell, decks Gleniffer's dewy dell

Bloomin' like your bonnie sel', my ain my darlin' dearie o
Come my lassie let us stray o'er Gleniffer's sunny brae
And blythely spend the gowden day 'midst joys that never weary o
Robert Tannahill

Six Ooters (Johnnie, Allan, Malcolm, Paul, Robert and Ian) gathered on the affluent southern edge of Paisley for our walk over Gleniffer Braes. Robert had arranged for local guide John to accompany us on our walk over the Braes and John even brought a map with him.

We passed a substantial reservoir, now colonised by plant life, and a lade which we presumed had once fed one of Paisley's many cotton mills. Our first viewpoint above the town provided a fine view sweeping round from Ben Lomond to the pimple of the Meikle Bin in the Campsies (the wet nature of the walk over the Bin was recalled).

We emerged from woodland onto the open hillside this was the kind of terrain, with big views, that we were to have for the rest of the walk. Signs reassuringly told us there were no cattle in the fields at the moment.

After examining the orientation table, coffee was taken at Robertson Park. Unfortunately for Ian, his vision of a burger van in the car park turned out to be no more than a camper van. A couple of largish birds were spotted in the trees but with Jimmy absent we had to guess what they were. They definitely weren't seagulls. "Thrushes" we thought. To your scribe they looked much bigger than song thrushes so maybe mistle thrushes.

We headed up the hillside to The Paisley Golf Club (sounds posh), passing through the car park and past the clubhouse. Here Johnnie met one of Irvine jazz buddies as he was unloading clubs from his car.

At this point an omen was witnessed. On the eve of polling day, aircraft contrails and the blue sky formed a perfect St Andrew's cross.

Climbing to the highest point of the walk (219 metres) we heard a cuckoo and there were lots of hairy coos in the fields. From the top we looked down on Glenburn and Harelaw reservoirs and out towards the Whitelees windfarm. We weren't quite sure what the hill to the left of the windmills was. We decided it was Tinto Hill but it could have been something quite different.

We descended towards Barrhead over the Fereneze Braes, stopping for lunch close to one of the tees on Fereneze golf course, where Ian and Robert set off in search of lost balls in the rough. We were in no hurry and we made the most of the pleasant weather.

Soon Arthurlie FC's ground, Dunterlie Park, came into view and we dropped quickly off the Braes into Barrhead where refreshments were taken in the Brig Inn. The walls of the Inn were filled with sporting memorabilia - football programmes, player and team photos, pictures of boxers. There was even a 1946 Scottish Junior Cup final programme. Magic!

All that remained was to get the bus back to close to our starting point. Only our young guide had to pay!

Many thanks to John for leading us on this fine walk on a super day. Not once did we get lost!