Tuesday, 30 August 2011

24 August Fishponds, Fenwick and Furious Fermers

Allan, Davie C, Ian, Jimmy, Johnny, Malcolm, Paul and Robert

In the six years of our existence we can count on the fingers of one finger the number of times we have been challenged as to our right to walk on a certain piece of land. Today would take us on to our second finger.
Due to holidays, Munro-bagging and various other reasons, only eight of us gathered in Robert’s place in Kilmarnock for a walk we have done before, a low level and easy walk to Fenwick and back. (See 15/09/2010) After the delights of Robert’s coffee and half a dozen of Wee Davie’s wee scones (an egg cup size doesn’t satisfy hungry walkers or indeed greedy Ooters, Davie) we set off.
Conflicting weather forecasts had us unsure about when the rain would arrive but we set off anyway expecting to be rained on at sometime in the day. We came through Kay Park admiring the new Burns Monument Centre – well done to East Ayrshire Council for producing a building of some quality and not just the usual cooncil tat – past the Reformers Monument, a monument to the Killie men who struggled for the parliamentary reforms that eventually led to us all having a vote, and on into Dean Park.
In this park, Ian had us round the new Fallow Deer enclosure. Sure enough there were the deer grazing away and trying very hard to ignore us. But we will not be ignored. With whistles and ticks we managed to stir up enough interest among the deer for them to lift their heads and be photographed. Then we walked on.
A country road took us towards the Craufurdland estate and a track through the wood took us to Craufurdland Fishery. Since coffee was calling we looked for a place to sit and have a caffeine boost. But, since the last time we were here, last September, a new eatery of sorts has been opened in the hut and we felt that it was not de rigueur for us to use their tables; we looked around for a suitable seat. That’s when we were approached by a chap emerging from a land rover, a chap who had the air of authority in such a place. Pleasantly he asked us what we were looking for. When we explained he said it was OK for us to us the tables but if we felt uneasy about this then use the picnic benches round the back. This is what we did, thanking him for his courtesy.
Only two fellows appeared to be using the fishpond today but whether they were actually fishing or just cleaning out the pond, we couldn't be sure. We decided on the latter for they were far to active to be anglers and, anyway the net seemed to be full of green stuff ather that fish. We watched them do what they had to do while we relaxed and drank our coffee.

After coffee we found the public road and walked towards Fenwick. Then, taking a right, we turned away from the village on the road for Waterside. An old road, long abandoned, leaves this one to join with another old road from Horsehill to Netherraith. This was the way we intended to go. The first part of the old way is now used as the service road for Dalsraith Farm and we turned up this as we have done before.
That things have changed since we were last here should have been obvious from the closed circuit TV camera installed on this drive. Still, we walked on. The old road comes close to the farm building, between this and an old shed. Again we noted a difference for the way was now blocked by a static caravan and since there was no alternative route created, we had no option but to walk by this caravan to the other side of the farm. That’s when we were approached by a chap of a very different hue from the Craufurdland one. ‘Do you know you are on private property?’ he snapped. This was the wrong thing to say to us and the wrong attitude to approach anybody with. There then ensued a debate on rights of access. For reasons of civility we will draw a veil over the arguments of this debate. Suffice to say that a rather furious farmer retreated to his house muttering things to himself and we walked on.
The freedom of access laws give a right to us all to walk responsibly along old tracks and field edges even if these have been sown. Our old track was obviously an old road, twenty feet broad and separated from the fields by hedges on either side. Though overgrown, the firmness of the surface underneath confirmed it to be an old road. Even if there had been livestock in the fields, we would not be disturbing it for the hedges we fairly high. But there was no livestock to disturb and we walked along the old track wondering why this chap should be trying to keep us out.
Then the track made a sharp left turn and came to a gate. As we are responsible users of the land, in our usual fashion we opened the gate – barbed wire not withstanding – and closed and fastened it behind us. Now the track came along a field margin but the firmness and the map confirmed that it was still the old road. We walked on. Where this track joins the other, we found the muddy bit. This lasted almost a field length until we found more solid ground that proved we were still on the old track. This track brought us down to Netherraith Farm and tarmac again.
But we are not great tarmac lovers so at Craufurdland Bridge we crossed the public road and took the path down beside the Craufurdland Water. That the farmer was busy spreading slurry was evident from the aroma drifting on the breeze. Where we usually stop for the peece got the full effect of this country perfume and those with sensitive olfactory organs decided that this was not the best place to eat. We walked on. Further down the path we found the cause of the aroma. In a field that we were to walk through was a working tractor dragging a hose behind it and spraying brown, evil-smelling, watery slurry twenty feet in the air. We were lucky. He hadn’t quite reached our path but we hurried on just in case. Unlike the last farmer we encountered, the driver of the tractor gave us a cheery wave in the passing.
Now that we were downwind of the offending smell, we could sit down and have a bite to eat.
The rest of the walk was uneventful. We came back to Dean Park. We had been lucky with the weather so far but between here and Kay Park the rain came. The sensible donned waterproofs but Jimmy opted to walk on in shirt sleeves. ‘No point in getting my jacket wet’ said he. Anyway he had a dry change waiting for him on the other side of the park.

So ended another pleasant, if not uneventful, excursion. We returned to Robert’s house and took FRT in convivial surroundings watching the rain being driven away by the sun.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

27 July Pinwherry to Ballantrae

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

According to the leaflet, ‘Walks from the Ayr to Stranraer Railway’, that Johnny passed to Jimmy and Jimmy passed on to Paul, there is a path along and old coach road from Pinwherry to Ballantrae. Since none of us had been there before, today seemed the perfect opportunity, especially as the weather was settled into a warm summery spell and we needed an easier walk than last week. That’s why seven of us waited at Girvan harbour for the bus to Pinwherry. The seven was soon raised to eight when we were joined quite unexpectedly by Ian who had come away from an appointment rather earlier than expected and had rushed down the road from Killie to join us. Now there was eight of us (and Holly forbye) we set off on the bus for Pinwherry.
The hamlet of Pinwherry is nothing more than a scattered collection of houses along the Girvan to Newton Stewart road with a country station, hence the inclusion in the Walks from the Railway leaflet. But we weren’t to go to the station. The bus dropped us in the middle of the village and Paul, reading the leaflet, directed us southward through it and over the bridge on the Duisk Water. A hundred metres further on he had us turn off the road on to a well surfaced track under the railway. This was the start of the coach road.
The track climbed into some trees through stands of tall, purple-pink rosebay willow-herb through which small tortoiseshell butterflies fluttered, and upwards yet on the side of the Stinchar valley. Then, as the willow-herb died away and the trees cleared, we could look behind us to the upper Stinchar valley around Barr, and forward to the impressive landmark of Knockdolian guarding the lower valley. This, then, was the valley we were to follow all the way to Ballantrae.
. There was one point of concern when the well surfaced track came to an end and there was no sign of anything continuing through the field, but a recent tractor passage had left a trail and we followed this more in hope than in certainty. We were now into the full sun and we enjoyed its warmth as we crossed the open field for days like this have been few and far between this year. We wandered on with Jimmy lagging behind trying out his new camera and the rest still unsure of the way. But the tractor track did the job of taking us through the field to a gate hidden from us at first by the contour of the hill. This gate allowed us out of the field, across a ford in a wee burn and on to a broad grassy track lined with beech trees on its north side. ‘This’, announced our ancient roads expert, ‘is definitely the old coach road’. We took his word for it and continued along it.
Well, some of us took his word for it for less than quarter of a mile later the leading group were for turning off this track as the recently passed tractor had turned off and into another field. But our roads expert was adamant. This is the old road’, said he, pointing across a boggy section to the line of trees still marking the old way. He was right. We crossed the boggy part and found the track of the old road again. We would not get lost again. Huh!
By this time coffee was calling and on a sunny bank we settled down for a long, lazy coffee in the sun. That’s when Johnny produced the cake. It was his fortieth wedding anniversary at the week-end and a friend had baked Helen and him a cake for the occasion. Forty, not out. ‘Well done, Johnny’, was the general comment but whether this was on account of his anniversary or on his supplying cake, the scribe is not quite sure. Still, it is well done Johnny.
After one of our longest coffee breaks ever (please note Mssrs. McGarry and Porter!) we set off, still following the grassy track of the old coach road. Then the grass gave way to a more solid farm track that led down past a cottage. The woman in the cottage garden had the right idea for a day like this; ensconced in a deck chair, sporting both sun hat and sun glasses, she sat reading a book, sipping from a coffee cup and soaking up the, now hot, July sun. We told her in the passing that that was the best idea yet we continued to walk into the heat of the day.
Then the gravel of the farm track gave out on to tarmac, the old coach road still carrying modern traffic on this section. The postman passed in his van and we stepped aside to let him pass for, though the road was tarmaced, it was just as narrow as the old coach one. Then he came back past and we stepped aside again. But when he came back for the third and fourth time we suspected he was just doing this to see the look on our faces as we gave way. Maybes naw, but by the smile on his face, maybes aye. However the fourth time was the last time and we walked on keeping the ever approaching Knockdolian as our reference point.
The road took us to a T junction. A quick consultation with the leaflet showed the right hand branch would take us to Colmonel. But there was no consensus for this today and we turned left for Heronford. This road swung away from the main Stinchar valley and started to climb. A fellow in a tractor worked a field on the slope, summer ploughing and causing a flock of gulls to dot the sky looking for a free meal as the plough turned over the ground. Jimmy saw this as an opportunity to add to his collection of Ayrshire photographs and stopped to capture the scene. The rest of us, compassionate as we are, walked on and left him to it. Half a mile later, as the slope started its descent, we left the road, crossed a burn by a wee bridge and came into a sun-drenched field of short grazed grass. Here we lay down for lunch. Ten minutes later Jimmy appeared and joined us in the field. ‘How often have we been able to lie in the sun this year’, was the question. ‘Gie few’, was the answer. We lay luxuriating in our lunch stop for as long as we have stopped anywhere this year. (Ditto the above note) But that time came as it always does and, reluctantly in some cases, we moved on.

We came to Heronford, a group of houses beside the Water of Tig. ‘There should be a caravan park around here’, said our guide, human consulting paper, ‘and we should go through it’. We found the park, Laggan House, easily enough and went through it down the slope towards the floor of the valley. It wasn’t until we came to the fence at the bottom of the slope on the far side of the park and had another look at the guide that we realised that ‘through it’ meant enter the park and immediately turn left. Time to retrace the steps.
We found the old coach road again near the entrance to the park, continuing as a track through a wood. That the sun never reaches this track was obvious by the wet mud and puddles that we had to avoid on this stretch. And that it had been a public road until recently was obvious from the patches of rotting tarmac that we came across. But that stretch through the wood seemed interminably long. We had lost the sun and though the air was still mild, it was definitely cooler in the trees. And we had lost all views. All we could see were trees and nettles and each other, and our feet as we tried to avoid the worst of the puddles. We tramped on, and on, and on. Eventually the wood gave way and the track turned to tarmac again. And at last we had a view, down towards Ballantrae and the sea, and back to Knockdolian that we had last seen before lunch.
Our road took us to join the main A77 just south of Ballantrae Bridge. Some of us kept to the main road but others decided to take in the old bridge so turned down the old road, now only a footpath. But, no matter which route was taken, we all arrived in Ballantrae in plenty of time for the bus – at least an hour of time.
FRT was taken in the sun-soaked beer garden of the King’s Arms in Ballantrae reflecting on another good walk and planning our next outing in the sun.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

17 August Maidens to Dunure

Alan, Allan, Davie, Davie C, Ian, Johnny, Malcolm, Paul, Peter, Rex, Robert

11 Ooters met at Chez Rex for coffee before departing on one of our favourite and oft-described walks. Thanks for the hospitality Rex! This was a momentous day for Davie C, wee Davie, Davie minor (good job his name wasn’t Maurice), or Davy – we really have to agree on how to differentiate between the two Davies – as it was the day that North Ayrshire pupils started school again and he wasn’t there to greet them in his customary way. Having reached 55, (a discussion ensued as to whether this was years, conquests, or inches before sense prevailed and we realised that this was the percentage mark he had got that last time he tried a General Biology paper), Davie had decided to become a fully paid up member of the Ooters. Welcome Davie!

Due to the logistical requirements of positioning cars today Rex was disappointed at having to take his car meaning that he had to put on hold his liaison with a cheeky merlot, or was it matelot? Nevertheless we started our walk around 10.00am and made good progress along the beach and into Culzean. Debate had taken place as to whether we should skirt round Culzean on the beach or do what we usually do and enter the park. The decision was made to deviate a bit from our normal route and head for the coffee shop via the walled garden. It was here that the gardeners informed us that dogs were not allowed in the garden. Despite us assuring them that Holly wasn’t our dug they refused to relent. Davie, Davie, has anybody seen Davie? Davie and his namesake were posted missing. Robert and Johnny had to escort Holly along the road whilst the rest of us had a look at the garden – an impressive sight at this time of the year.

As we met up with Robert again his phone was ringing. It was Davie enquiring as to our whereabouts – and we thought he didn’t do technology. He was at the coffee shop and within minutes we had joined the terrible twins, the gruesome twosome, Little and Large, whatever. Please note that not once had he enquired as to the location or welfare of his dug. Sad to relate the scones were like bricks again and since we were being molested by wasps, attracted by the jam, we pushed on and headed for our lunch spot on the rocks by the beach. It was on this stretch (if I’m right) that the Kilmarnock Academy contingent encountered a former colleague heading in the opposite direction. It wasn’t until later that the ex-Ravenspark guys realised that the walker, John Harris, had also been a former colleague in the seventies.

Soon we were on our way again and made our way up from the beach and on to the path that skirts the cliff. Before we knew it we were at the look-out tower and, heavens above, we didn’t stop as we usually do. What is the world coming to? Anyway the car park at Dunure was reached at 2pm, just in time as a drizzle had begun just as we had approached the castle.

This meant that FRT (Fluid Replacement Therapy, for info) was partaken inside the Inn rather than outside. Allan, driving, was able to report that the calibre of the Kaliber would have blunted Excalibur.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Friday, 12 August 2011

10/11 August: Culture, Curry and yet more Culture

Decisive as ever, the Ooters made a very early decision to abort the proposed visit to Dunure in light of the dire, and in the event accurate - weather forecast for Wednesday.

Instead we opted to visit the Riverside Museum in Glasgow - the new home of the Museum of Transport and Travel.

Six Ooters (Robert, Paul, Allan, Davie, Malcolm and Johnny) were outside the Museum waiting for the doors to be opened at 10 am. Whilst we waited we marvelled at the water feature, which had gone unreported in all press articles about the new museum. Water cascaded from the roof onto the ground close to the main doors. It was quite reminiscent, on a larger scale, of the indoor cascade at the Dalmellington Inn.

The overall verdict on the museum was positive. One or two Ooters lamented the fact that compared to the Kelvin Hall Museum it was less of a "hands on" experience - but then Ooters are always complaining about the lack of hands on experiences.

Two hours was about right for the visit and when we left just after midday the car park, which was empty when we arrived, was stowed out and traffic was backed up to the main road. During the school hols in Glasgow, when the weans are whining and wailing, a wet Wednesday works wonders for the pursuit of culture.

We decided to lunch at the Ashoka in Ashton Lane, so we left the cars in the usual spot behind the Botanic Gardens and walked through the near-empty gardens. Allan complained about the hill at the entrance to the gardens. The business lunch menu was chosen and was voted a success.

The Ooters new-found decisiveness was in evidence again when the Christmas Lunch was booked!

A fine day, making the most of the rotten weather.

Glasgow Group Exhibition

On Thursday evening, at Peter's invitation, the same personnel (along with wives and some children, or was it children and some wives?) attended the preview of the Glasgow Group Art Exhibition in the Harbour Arts Centre, Irvine.

The exhibition was impressive, but the kitty was insufficient to purchase anything, although Allan had obviously been watching too much of the London lootings for he was seen, at one point, with one of Peter's paintings under his arm.

For the ex-KA contingent it was a chance to meet up with former friends and colleagues. Established artists Jim Wylie and Dougie Lennox were there as was up-and-coming artist Andy Lindsay. Painting in oils is a new direction for Andy for your scribe only remembers him as a p*** artist (only joking!) Andy claims to read the Ooters' blog occasionally - but Johnny still gave him an Ooters' card.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Irvine Incorporated Trades - Tailor Craft - Wee Pie

David will attend the Tailor Craft Wee Pie where he will deliver a toast to the Tailor Craft.
Allan and Johnny, who have sponsored David are delighted at his acceptance and will be there to
support one of the three Ooter Grand Founders (OGF) David. This 360'odth Wee Pie could
be something special. All Ooters are welcome. It is a twee wee night full of history, community,
solemnity and drink. A distant twinkling star in the Irvine social firmament.
Cost - £15 includes meal, membership of the Tailor Craft, minutes for the year, and the
evening raffle(could be as much as £50, £30, and £20 prizes(based on a company of 40).
Drink, if taken, will be extra,(remember we are in a sport's club - reasonable prices).
Those who attent a Tailors' Wee Pie are 'defacto' Tailors!
Those attending a Wee Pie are keeping alive a near 4 century's tradition of community and charity.
A large Ooters support would be immense(fabulous in David's words).
Johnny and Allan - happy to support enquiries
Friday 30th September 1900 for 1930 carriages ~2300.

Ooters attending would gather 'chez moi' 1800 - 1900 for pre event FRT

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Christmas Curry

The Ashoka curry house in Ashton Lane has been booked for our annual Christmas treat . The arrangements are as follows :- canal walk and then meet in the Ashoka at 2.00p.m.on Wed 14th December. The set meal costs £12.95 for 3 courses +coffee ,mints and a glass of wine. We have provisionally booked for 13 people so contact David if you can't make it. Don't say we are not organised.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Thursday, 4 August 2011

3 August Muirkirk to Kirkconnel

Allan, Davie, Ian, Jimmy, Johnny, Paul
5 Ooters met at Cumnock bus station for the 9.45 bus to Muirkirk where we would meet up with Davie who was cutting the walk short by getting Kay to run him up to Kames. We were not to let him forget about this transgression.
A recurring feature of this walk was to be the inaccuracies of the signage. As we left Kames on the Sanquhar road the first sign said Sanquhar 12 miles – aye right! As usual the progress was brisk, after all we had a bus to catch at Kirkconnel and Jimmy assured us that we could catch the 3.45. We were lucky with the weather having the last good day before it was scheduled to break on the Thursday and so we marched on through familiar territory until we deviated from the more often used Cairn Table route and followed the Sanquhar coach road. A mix of underfoot conditions from the very dry to the boggy was encountered until we reached ‘the gate’ where a coffee stop was made.
A suggestion to do a ‘wee’ detour to take in the ‘Deil’s back door’ met with the response it deserved and so we marched on. The forest we were heading for soon came in to view and was eventually made with Davie warning us that the road through it would be the worst bit of the walk. Fortunately, although wet, It was not as bad as anticipated, and didn’t delay us at all. We were heartened to see the sign for Sanquhar saying 7 miles. 40 minutes later we encountered another one saying exactly the same!
Lunch was called for just after 1 o’clock. The spot was not very comfortable and we didn’t wait long before setting off again heading towards Fingland. Route markers were now being treated with disdain as we eventually reached the tarmac road and made our way up the incline and on to the point where the path to Kirkconnel deviated to the right. (We were not following the road to Sanquhar because 1. Jimmy said the long walk on tarmac was sore on the feet, and 2. Jimmy said it was shorter). By this time Johnny was suffering; his boots were hurting his heels again and he was generally feeling sore all over.
But we had a bus to catch and so we followed the path up and over the hill and saw what we thought was Sanquhar away to our left. Unfortunately it was Kirkconnel that we saw and it confirmed that we still had quite a trek in front of us. The descent down the hill towards Kirkland was done in good time and Jimmy pointed out - to some of us- the remains of St Connel’s Church . The tarmac road into Kirkconnel was to prove to be the straw that nearly broke the camel’s back as it seemed to go on and on. Light relief was had by watching Johnny jogging, jigging, bouncing his way down the long hill. He was so knackered that he hadn’t the power to slow himself down so he felt it easier to go with the flow.
Kirkconnel was reached at 3.35 and the bus stop thankfully was close by. As we confirmed on the noticeboard that the bus would be here at 3.45, lo and behold it pulled up 10 minutes early and six weary Ooters got on, went upstairs and had a well-deserved seat. How was that for timing? Mind you if we had got there at 3.40 and missed it, we wouldn’t have been so happy. Cumnock was reached at 4 o’clock and we made our way up to the Sun for FRT only to find our bus driver in for a pint, or two, or three. He was still there when we left despite this again for the Ooters being a three pint day.
Was the walk to Kirkconnel any easier or shorter than going on to Sanquhar? Jimmy assures us that it was and, since he’s always right, we’ll go along with him, this time anyway. One thing for sure is that the walk was longer than the signposts indicated. Hopefully Paul will be able to suss out the exact mileage.

Glasgow Group Exhibition in the Harbour Arts Centre

The Glasgow Group Exhibition in the Harbour Arts Centre, Irvine.
Preview Thursday 11 August 2011 6-30 pm. All members of The Early Ooters are invited no need for a ticket. Cheers Peter

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

10 August Maidens-Dunure arrangements

The plan was to leave cars at Dunure and get a bus to Maidens, walking back. The only fly in the ointment is that there are no buses from Dunure to Maidens timetables

Otherwise it was a very good plan.

I propose that we meet at 9.30 at the pub car park in Dunure and there we'll attempt to solve the logistical problems.