Tuesday, 27 September 2011

21 September Ness Glen Again

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

Once again this year the weather put paid to the planned outing. We had thought to do a high level walk on the Rhinns of Kells, to Carlin’s Cairn and back. But the present rain and the forecast gales and heavy rain put paid to that idea and we found ourselves gathering at the dam of Loch Doon for another circuit of the Ness Glen/Dalcairnie Linn walk.
The Kilmarnock contingent was late. Oh, excuses were made but the bottom line is that they were late – end of story! Still their lateness gave the opportunity for another classic Ooters faux pas. As we stood in the rain and waited, Davie Mc suggested that as soon as they drove up we would all look at and point to our watches to indicate their tardiness. Then, when Ian’s car was spotted coming along the road, Davie gave the countdown - three, two, one and we all held up watches to the car. It was not until it drove past with a stranger in the driver’s seat giving us an even stranger look, that we realised our error. Oops! There were seven rather sheepish looking Ooters standing in the rain by the roadside at Loch Doon when the Killie boys eventually arrived.
So, with the party now numbering eleven, we set off down the glen into the rain. Robert set a cracking pace on the first section, apparently not wanting to be late twice in the one day. Conversation was at a premium as the pace was kept up and the heads were kept down into the rain. Along the top of the gorge we trudged, along past ‘Fort Apache’, along past the remains of Tracy’s bench and down to the Bridge on the Craigengillan road. In trees it was difficult to decide whether the rain was still on or whether the pattering on the jacket hoods was just drips from the trees, shaken off by the freshening breeze. It was still on but, as the breeze was south-westerly, it was on our left shoulder. It might have been worse; it probably would be later when we turned out faces into the wind but for now it was on our shoulder and we trudged on tholing it.
At Bellsbank ponds we stopped for coffee. Some sat on the bench (only room for four), Johnny sat on the seat of his rucksack and the rest stood around in the constant dribble. Needless to say coffee this morning was a speedy affair. Then we trudged on down to The Promised Land.
Was the rain easing slightly? Yes it was and by the time we had gained The Promised Land, it was off. But there was no brightening of the sky; it remained as steely grey as ever. The walk along the road to Dalcairnie * was better than it might have been with only the occasional drip from the trees, the damp air and the wetness of the road to remind us of the rain. The breeze was still with us though, but as we dropped off the road to Dalcairnie Linn, we lost both the dribble and the wind. And here in the shelter of the trees at the linn we stopped for lunch.
As was to be expected on a day like this, the linn was spectacular, a forty foot wall of brown-white water roaring down into the rock-walled cauldron and sending clouds of misty spray downstream. While most were content to eat, Allan tried to capture the scene with the camera. We look forward to seeing the results.

Lunch, like coffee, was a brief affair – there are some amongst us with itchy feet and even a ten minute stop is too much for them – and we were soon on our way again. We hadn’t realised just how much shelter we had down at the linn. Now we realised for when we reached the road again, a fair old blow greeted us. And the rain was with us again. Once more it was a trudge into the elements.
We met a rather soggy-looking herd working soggy-looking sheep at the buchts at the top of the hill. He remembered us from the last time we met in the snows of December last. Had the weather been better we might have stopped longer for a blether but it wasn’t and we didn’t. The herd returned to his soggy work with his soggy sheep and we returned to our own wet travail. We trudged on over the high ground towards Barbeth.
One of us must have upset the weather god today for, at Barbeth, he unleashed his spite. Torrents of rain were thrown down on us and, if we hadn’t been so heavy with water, the accompanying ferocious gusts of wind might have thrown us off our feet. As it was, it threatened to tear limbs from the tree we chose to shelter under, great rattling and groaning above alerting us to this. Daft we may be, but stupid we are not. Needless to say, we didn’t shelter under that tree for long but chose to suffer the storm rather than be crushed by falling branches. We plodded, rather we slogged, on into the mini hurricane.
The pace was quickened as we dropped off the high ground of Barbeth into the valley of the Doon again. Here we were sheltered from the wind once more and the rain had eased to a steady dribble. Yet the pace wasn’t eased any. Jimmy, Davie Mc and Rex kept it high along past Craigengillan, down to the river again and into the gorge.
The gorge was its usual spectacular self with millions of tonnes of water roaring down through the chasm. But we didn’t take time to examine it today; we kept our heads down and the speed up. Up through the gorge we came then, up towards Loch Doon again. And somewhere along here the rain went. We arrived back at the dam in the dry just as the first patch of blue sky showed, having covered the distance in record time – 3 hours 28 minutes for a walk that would normally take us four to four and a half hours.
This was one soggy, wet walk, and windy as well on the high ground of Barbeth, but we consoled ourselves with FRT in the Dalmellington Inn, and the notion that the weather would have been ten times worse on the heights of Carlin’s Cairn. By the time we came back out of the Inn, the sun was splitting the sky and the day had turned pleasantly warm. Typical!

*Dalcairney, Dalcairny – choose your own spelling for it has been spelt all three at one time or other.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

14 September Culter Fell - Fourth Visit

Allan, Davie C, Davie Mc, Ian, Jimmy, Johnny, Malcolm, Paul, Peter, & Robert

I to the hills will lift mine eyes,
From whence comes my peace.

We defy anybody with any feelings at all to stand on a high place on a clear day and not be moved by the scene below him (Or her – Ed). One of our favourite high places, one with almost three hundred and sixty degree views and the one we intended to get to today, is Culter Fell, a two thousand three hundred foot plus top on the border between Lanarkshire and Peeblesshire near Biggar. But as for the clear day, that remained to be seen.
The remnants of hurricane Katya battered the country on Monday and brought a day full of rain on Tuesday. Wednesday dawned considerably calmer and though the morning was lightly overcast, there was the hint of sun in the sky so our intended outing was still on. Ten of us made the journey to darkest Lanarkshire and into the valley of the Culter Water with the hopes of a decent day on the hill for a change. And as we travelled east, the day turned brighter and the sun made an appearance.
As we arrived at our car park in the Culter Valley we were surprised to see a car already parked there. The occupants were four people, two men and two women of our own vintage, from Dalmarnock. They were for our top as well. As we changed into walking gear, we conversed with them and Jimmy presented them with our blog card. If they are reading this blog can we say that we hope that they enjoyed their day.
That Jimmy was in fine fettle this morning should have been obvious right from the start when he was champing at the bit to be off while the rest of us were still getting ready. It should have become even more obvious when he and Robert and Peter walked off leaving the rest with one boot on. They claim that they took it easy along the four hundred metres or so of road to the foot of the hill to let the rest of us catch up. Huh! At least they were in sight as they took to the track towards the steep of the hill. Here they were joined by Davie Mc and Holly.
Those who know Culter Fell will know that the grass track climbs gradually to the foot of a steep heather slope, the knuckle of a broad ridge. The speedsters waited at the bottom of this slope for the sensible. Then they moved smartly off again.
The path steepens on this slope, rising beside a series of shooters butts, eight shooters butts in total according to our Culter veteran. We took this slope climbing between shooters butts and stopping for views. And what views were presented to us today. The advantage of the recent weather was to clear the air and, with the sun shining the views were not only extensive but well defined, and in a wide arc. Firstly Tinto and the Clyde valley appeared over the other side of the valley. Then, as we climbed from butt to butt, the Ayrshire Hills, Cairn Table and the Glen Afton Hills, started to appear. Then the Lowthers and, to the north, the Ochils and the Pentlands began to show. And there in the blue distance was the Bass Rock. Yet over the Clyde conurbation nothing was visible for a haze hung in that direction. That Allan was enjoying these views and the climb was apparent as he took up his usual position at the rear of the bunch and let the speedsters climb on ahead. But this time he was joined in his delight by Johnny and Malcolm who are both now beginning to appreciate Allan’s viewpoint; splendid views behind and the backs of the fit b****** climbing on in front.
As we climbed we found the great disadvantage of the day, an ever freshening westerly blow, the last remnants of Katya. It was to be a problem later but now it was on our backs pushing us up the broad ridge towards the final rise. On a dry bit at the bottom of this rise, the fit, now including Paul and Ian, waited for the others. But the wind was chilling and we didn’t wait there very long, only long enough for the slow to catch their breath then we pushed on for the summit. Needless to say it was the revitalised Jimmy and Davie Mc who gained the summit first. The two made an executive decision. The wind was far too strong to have coffee on the summit so they decided to climb over the fence into Peeblesshire and drop over the summit to the lea of the hill where some shelter might be found. This was the case and they settled down for coffee. They were soon joined by Paul and Peter and Ian and Robert and Davie C and a few minutes later by the slow trio. The Dalmarnock folk joined us a few minutes after Allan and co.
Now we had a different view to delight us as we took coffee. There were the Tweedsmuir Hills, White Coombe and Broad Law and Dollar Law, and the valley below running down to the main Tweed one. We defy anybody not to be impressed by the views from Culter Fell. But we didn’t spend too long admiring this view for the wind still reached us and it was chilly.
‘Where are we going now?’ asked Peter, hopeful that somebody would say ‘Back down’, for Peter is not too fond of hills. But he was disappointed. ‘Over there’, replied Davie Mc, pointing to Capelgill Hill, a top barely a mile away as the crow flies. But since we are not crows and a deep defile lay between us and our goal, we had to settle for the longer way round by King Bank Head. We packed up and set off into the wind towards King Bank Head, Jimmy setting a cracking pace on the down slope from Culter top.
King Bank Head is a peat-hagged, soggy watershed between two drainage systems – the Culter and thence to the Clyde and the Holm Water leading to the Tweed. Our grateful thanks go to the inventor of quad-bikes for without the tracks made by one of these, we would have found ourselves following the county boundary fence and trudging through the peat-hags but the quad tracks took us round the hags and eased the way to the bottom of the slope to Capelgill
Two bodies of opinion existed in the group today; there were those who could have walked all day for nothing was too much bother, and there were those who wondered why we were heading for Capelgill just to come back to where we were. The group split in two; the Capelgill group climbing away to the east and the others following the fence to the low top of Cardon Hill.
Wind-assisted, the fit lot reached the summit of Capelgill just as the others reached the base of Cardon. Capelgill Hill presents a different prospect of the Tweedsmuir Hills than its close neighbour Culter fell. We now looked into the heart of these hills and there was Talla and Fruid reservoirs lying blue in the sun. And below us Tweed wound its way towards Peebles. But still the wind was strong, stronger it seemed than it was before, and we couldn’t spend too long admiring the view. We turned our faces to the wind and retraced the steps to the county fence.
The other group were found settled for lunch in the lea of Cardon Hill. We joined them and sat for a while enjoying our cheesy peeces and the view down Tweed.
We hadn’t realised the strength of the wind for it was on our backs or behind our left shoulders up till now. When we left the shelter of Cardon Hill we realised the strength of it. A forty miles an hour blow hit us on our right and gusts well in excess of this threatened to tumble us off our feet. We came back to King Bank Head heads down and fighting the wind, fluttering of wind-blown jacket hoods drowning out any conversation.
But we made it back to King Bank Head and a little relief from the worst of the wind. The sensible found the quad-tracks and followed these while some others chose the direct route through the peat hags. But whatever route was chosen, we came together before we climbed the county fence and came back into Lanarkshire. Our route now lay downwards, still following quad tracks, on the flank of Tippet Knowe. We lost the wind as we dropped and the day turned pleasantly warm. A well graded path eased the drop on the hillside and when Jimmy, a hundred metres in front of the rest as was his usual today, stopped beside a group of boulders to remove his jacket, we all felt the need for a break and stopped with him. There we sat enjoying calm air after the blow on top and took in some warming September sun.
The rest of the walk was taken whichever way we fancied; some jogged down the grassy slope, some sauntered slowly and some grimaced as the down-slope took its toll on old knees. However we all arrived back at the cars wind-blown, sun-kissed and happy. By this time the Dalmarnock folk had gone. We hope they enjoyed their day as much as we did ours. We have never been disappointed with Culter Fell.

FRT was taken in our usual howf in Biggar, The Crown, before the long drive back to Ayrshire.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Wee Pie

For those of you who can't contain yourselves at the thought of having to wait a couple of weeks before this prestigious event, here is a wee ditty to whet your appetite.
Just remember the old adage 'Never mind the quality, feel the width'.

The Suit

There was an old tailor called Nobby
Who in truth was a bit of a jobby
He needed a suit
To let him get oot
So he called on his old pal Bobby

Now Bobby was painting a lobby
For this was a bit of a hobby
But he knew how to stitch
And without a hitch
He enlisted his boy called Robbie

Robbie was known as a dandy
In his hands the ladies were candy
One of his latest loves
Had plenty of curves
Oh! how her legs were so bandy

But to Robbie the two had to pander
And lodged him a wee back hander
For one of his joabs
Was to make a’ the robes
When he worked for Claude Alexander

The boy was most imperial
With glee went after the material
He lumbered a smasher
A local haberdasher
And risked disease so venereal

The encounter got him some cloth
And so with a bit of a froth
Took it back to his dad
Said it looks no sae bad
But watch oot for the sign of a moth

To Nobby the cloth they did move
It was up to him to approve
He said he would take it
And imagined the jaiket
Which would put him back in the groove

So on they went at their leisure
And Nobby they duly did measure
But he had to beg
On his inside leg
They didnae mess with his treasure

Instructions were barked
And the cloth was then marked
A command was made
And an extra bit laid
On the place his bum would be parked

Every team has its fault
And this one’s was malt
They were sorely tempted
For the bottle to be emptied
Hence progress soon came to a halt

They resumed the work wi’ a passion
The tin flute would be the height of fashion
They cut with a knife
But after the water of life
The boys’ false teeth were a’ gnashin’

The three cavaliers were almost in tears
For realised were the worst of their fears
The legs there were three
How could that be?
So they decided to stop for some beers

After emptying a keg
Nobby phoned his wife Meg
When telt o’ the faffing
She peed herself laughing
At the breeks for Jake the Peg

But these boys were no losers
So they made some new troosers
With the cloth that remained
The pants were regained
And off they went tae the boozers

When it came to the fitting
It was more like a flitting
Lots of pins and thread
And material to be shed
No time for talking or sitting

In time the new suit
Had really come aboot
The team were well pleased
And Nobby they teased
What a spectacular colourful rig oot

Big stripes were the theme
Caused Nobby to beam
He truly was glowing
And the plaudits were flowing
As he walked down through the scheme

He was told one thing mair
Because his friends they did care
Of this we beseech
Don’t go down to the beach
Or be mistaken for a bloody deck chair

Nobby took this on board
For the beach he ignored
He got some new shoes
With similar hues
And how his street cred had soared

To stop his hair getting mocked
He delved into his inside pocket
Brought out his fur hat
Wi a tail like a cat
And marched on like Davy Crocket

Although the end is now nigh
Without the word of a lie
This is no fable
For he took the top table
At the Irvine Tailors Wee Pie

So a suggestion I moot
To think long aboot
We could maybe remember
As part of the agenda
To make an Address to the Suit

We would a’ pipe it in
And clap wi’ a din
As the suit was addressed
And then be well blessed
With wine or whisky or gin

But such is our habit
We’ll no get a’ crabbit
Because haggis it’s no
So respect we will show
And certainly we’ll no want to stab it

You may think this was daft
And my brains have gone saft
But charge your glasses
Get aff yer asses
And toast the Irvine Tailor Craft

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

7 September Cathkin Braes

Allan, Davie C, Ian, Jimmy, Johnny, Malcolm, Paul & Rex

Ian is a Rug’len boy, born and bred in the ancient burgh. He is proud of this fact and many a time he would have us there for a walk but this is not an area that any of us, apart from Ian, is familiar with and we would never have thought that it’s an area that would interest us. How wrong we were.
On a morning of heavy showers and blustery winds we gathered in Ian’s in Kilmarnock to car-share to Rutherglen. Some doubts were expressed when the showers rattled against the windows but when Jimmy arrived from Cumnock and announced that the sun was following him from the south-west, the decision was made. Rutherglen here we come.
The oldest burgh in Scotland (granted burgh status by David 1 in 1127) welcomed us with damp air, wet ground and a spot or two of rain. Yet the sky to the south-west was clear and we set off from the car park behind The Croft in the Spittal to explore Ian’s boyhood haunts in Rug’len and the Cathkin Braes with hopes of a better day.
We wandered along Lugar Place and Kirkconnel Drive to the burn where the young Ian and pals practiced burn jumping then turned up Alloway Drive where his boyhood home was. Then we climbed Alloway Drive to Croftfoot road. ‘You’ll have noticed’, said Ian, ‘that all the streets in this area are called after Ayrshire places.’ It took the pedant amongst us to tell him that Kirkconnel was actually in Dumfriesshire as if it mattered that much. However we left the southwest named streets and turned right across Croftfoot Road. A hundred yards of this and we left tarmac to climb gradually beside the burn in a wee wooded glen towards where stood the old Castlemilk House. This was a pleasant escape from the buzz of Croftfoot Road and despite the supermarket trolleys and buckie bottles, this was quite a scenic part of the walk and it took us up to the swan pond of Castlemilk House. Ian delighted in telling of his boyhood adventures in this wee wood.
Castlemilk House no longer exists. The lands of Cassilton of Carmunock were acquired by the Stuarts of Castlemilk in Dumfriesshire in the Middle Ages, and in the 16th century they renamed the estate Castlemilk. In 1938 the estate was acquired by Glasgow Corporation for housing, but the outbreak of the Second World War delayed building work. The mansion was used to accommodate evacuees from the city until the end of the war, and then until 1968 as a children's home until closed in 1968. Castlemilk House was demolished in 1972.
We left the site of Castlemilk House and came up through the Glen Wood to Ardencraig Road. Again we took a right turn and a hundred metres or so of tarmac later turned left on a made path towards the Big Wood of Cathkin. The path now turned slightly steeper than we had experience so far today but not sufficiently steep to take the breath away. It did, however take us up through scrubby trees to a seat in the Big Wood. Over on the right was the golf course of Cathkin Braes and slightly above us the trees of the Big Wood.
The rain came when we entered the Big Wood and jackets were donned. The drizzly rain lasted no time at all but the jackets stayed on for when we left the shelter of the trees we met the wind, a strong wind and chilling. We crossed the grassy slope under a telecom mast to the edge of the Cathkin Braes and what a panorama of the city greeted us. From Cumbernauld and the suburbs of the east to Clydebank in the west and from Newton Mearns in the south to Bishopbrigs in the north, the whole of the metropolis was spread out like a map. Landmarks were pointed out; Celtic Park, Hampden and Cathkin Park (who thinks we are obsessed by football); Glasgow green and the Doges Palace; the armadillo and the university. Dumgoin and the Campsies formed a backdrop and away in the east the Lomond Hills and the Pentlands just showed themselves. We spent some time standing picking out landmarks but the wind was chilling and we sought out a sheltered spot for coffee. This was found a few yards along the scarp where we could still get the view.
After coffee we came across the grass again to the boulder known as Queen Mary’s Seat so called because legend has it that Queen Mary rested here after the battle of Langside and before her fateful flight to England. We also sat on the seat – well, what else would you expect?
We came down a slope, crossed Cathkin Road and found a minor road for South Cathkin Farm. That’s where we found the ‘blind’ horse; at least Ian who had done a recky last weekend said it was a blind horse. As far as we could determine the horse had some sort of skin complaint and its head was covered in a gauze-like net giving the impression that it might be blind. But it could see us all right for it came towards us when we stopped to see it. It’s a good job Ian taught physics and not biology.
The tarmac ran out again and we took to a well constructed path into a marshy wetland which was a former reservoir but is now a wetland nature reserve. In the hide there we settled down for lunch. That’s when Ian spotted the buzzard. At first the birder dismissed it as a crow but as it got closer and he got his binoculars out he was forced to change his mind and apologise to Ian. It definitely was a buzzard and we watched it for a few minutes as id hovered over the bank then disappeared over the hill again. And with the bird gone, it was time for us to go as well.
We found tarmac again at the far side of the marsh and turned back towards the city. When we came to Cathkin Road again we turned along it to the golf club. That’s where we bumped into Steve. Steve was a chap slightly younger that ourselves but a fellow walker doing our route in reverse but able to break off his walk for a blether – that’s the kind of walker that we like and we spent a few minutes sharing walking experiences with him before Johnny presented him with one of our blog cards. If you are reading this, Steve, welcome from the Ooters. But the time came for us to take our separate way – Steve towards the nature reserve and us into the Big Wood once more.
‘It’s all downhill from here’, said Ian and on the whole it was. We came back to Queen Mary’s seat and down an old estate road into Castlemilk. A contorted route through the streets of Castlemilk brought us to the house where lived the Celtic legend Bobby Murdoch, then to the street where lived Ian’s future wife, Sheila. Then we came back to the ‘jumpie-over’ burn and The Croft.
This was a very interesting walk in an area that none of us except Ian would have thought about. Well done, Ian.

FRT today was taken in the most convenient place – The Croft in Rutherglen.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Arrangements for 7th September 2011

Meet at Ian's house at 9.00am for tea/coffee etc. and depart 9.30am for Hill's Heritage Tour of the oldest Royal Burgh in Scotland,Rutherglen(1126 granted by King Davie I) including Cathkin Braes(not Cathkin Park Paul) and Cathkin Marsh Wildlife Reserve for the birders. Estimated distance of 12.5 k and only 192 m of climbing Allan.