Monday, 28 November 2011

9 November Portencross and Goldenberry Hill

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

Hill of Stake, that mysterious top that lies on the Ayrshire-Renfrewshire border, a top that we have tried and for various reasons have failed to find, remains a mystery. The plan to walk there and prove for once and for all that it really does exist was abandoned today again for the weather forecast was anything but good and we have had enough of walking in the rain this year. So where to instead?
After a bit of head scratching in the pub last week, we opted for a wet weather alternative of the Portencross circular. (See 5/01/2011 inter alia) So, four cars decanted eleven Ooters onto the car park at Portencross in North Ayrshire.
The forecast was for rain arriving sometime during the morning but at the moment it was dry though overcast. It was dry yes, but a raw sea breeze kept the temperature down and we were glad to be walking to stir up the blood and raise the body heat.
Most of us thought that we would be doing the usual circuit but Ian had other ideas. "Since we’re here and it’s dry at the moment, why don’t we climb Goldenberry and make the walk different?" His suggestion was accepted gladly, even by those with an aversion to climbing, for we have done this circuit so many times that we welcomed anything that would make it different. So we set off back towards West Kilbride. Robert spotted a path leading up the hill and proposed that as a route but the consensus was that this might be mucky and we should perhaps stick to the track through Ardneil Farm barely half mile further on.
That’s where Johnny stopped. Just as we were about to turn off the tarmac onto the farm track, Johnny met an old colleague and stopped for a blether while we walked on. But are we not compassionate people? As the track left the farm steading we stopped to wait for Johnny. And we waited. And waited. And waited......
Eventually Johnny arrived and we could walk on.
We might have stayed on that track and taken a direct route for the mast on top of Goldenberry but there was an interest in viewing the dun on top of Auld Hill, a top rising immediately on our left. This entailed coming through a field gate, rising slowly along the edge of a turnip field, through another gate, climbing steeply in a gap through the bracken and then more gently up the southern ridge of the rise. This sounds long and arduous but in fact it was easy, the distance to the top being nearly half a mile and the total rise somewhere around the eight hundred mark. And the effort was worthwhile. Why the ancients chose this point for their defensive farmstead was obvious as we took in the view from the top. Even on this dull day it was remarkable: from the heads of Ayr in the south to the hills of Cowal and Argyll in the north and from the hinterland of north Ayrshire to the islands of the Clyde and with the steep slope on one side and the cliffs of Portencross falling steeply to the village and its harbour on the other we could see why this was such a strong defensive position.
To add to our enjoyment of this wee top, shafts of sun broke through the cloud spotlighting the firth and surrounding landscape. Those with an eye for such things tried to capture the scene with their cameras.
We left the dun, clambered down the steep slope to the north-east and carefully stepped over an electric fence into a stubble field that sloped gently up towards Goldenberry. Some kept to the top of the sea cliffs above Hunterston and others made a more direct route for the top. But, no matter which route was chosen, we all arrived at the mast on top at the same time. Here coffee was called and we settled down in the shelter of the mast buildings for a caffeine boost.

After coffee some were for following the quad tracks towards Hunterston but Ian directed us in a more northerly and steeper line to find a track among the trees above the power station. This track took us gently down to the tarmac at Hunterston Castle. Now we were in very familiar territory and followed the tarmac to the power station road.
So far the rain had stayed away but the first spots were felt as we walked along the shore towards the power station. Rex and Robert, fearing that they might dissolve in the rain, picked up the pace leaving the birdwatchers little time for their observations. This was maybe just as well for the rain came seriously when we got to the power station. However, compassion compelled us to stand in the rain and wait for Ian who was seen to be sitting some hundred metres behind, but when we discovered that he was not medicating as we thought but just donning waterproof trousers, we were somewhat less than compassionate. Ian’s ears burned and we walked on into the steady dribble.
Nearly back at Portencross we came across a motorist with a predicament. Somehow he had managed to squeeze his car between two boulders to get into the old pier but couldn’t quite negotiate his way back through on his exit. Despite the rain we stopped to offer our advice and assistance, even trying to move the boulders for him. But when it became obvious that it would take time and a great deal of shuffling back and forth and the rain was constant now, we left him and his mate to it and came back to our cars parked in a more sensible place. We can only hope that he is not still stuck there shuffling back and forth between the boulders. We will find out next time we are this way.

Given the forecast, we had been lucky to get a dry walk at all. Yet, on the whole, the day was good, only marred by the rain on the way back.
FRT was taken in the Laurieston, a place that is rapidly becoming our howf after walks in north Ayrshire.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Not the Hill of Stake ... for the umpteenth time 23 Nov

Allan, Andy, Davie, Davie, Ian, Johnny, Malcolm, Paul, Rex, Robert
It was chucking it down as we arrived at the Visitors' Centre at Muirshiel for the proposed ascent of the Hill of Stake. Some of us had arrived on time but others i.e. the Kilmarnock car driven by Ian and navigated by Robert were late - not for the first time recently I may add. Having missed a turn off they managed to get bogged down in a verge – you couldn’t make it up!
Given the weather, even the alternative lower level walk was out of the question given overhead and underfoot condition so we adjourned to the Visitors Centre at Castle Semple Loch to take stock.
Coffee and buns were duly consumed and, before we got far too comfortable (and much too excited after having drooled over Johnny’s pictures of his foundations – and they can’t touch you for it!), Robert, who else?, announced that we were going for a walk.
Therefore at 10.55 we set off down the cycle path towards Kilbarchan. This brought back somewhat sore memories of the cycle to Pollok Park a couple of years ago – a trip maybe to be repeated in better weather. The rain had moderated by this time and was in our back anyway as we made good progress (guess who was in the front!) along the well maintained path. After about an hour it was decided that we should turn around and retrace our steps. Again progress was good even into the rain until Johnny decided, within sight of the Visitors Centre, that we should deviate from the high path and take the lower one beside the loch. Bad move! We were in and out of puddles (good one Jimmy!) for the quarter mile back to the cars arriving at 12.50.
Use was made of the changing facilities in the Centre to get into dry clothes and we were made most welcome to bring our packed lunches inside. Every cloud…, as they say. Thanks to the staff there for being so hospitable!
We got soaked running the 50yds back to cars for the short journey up to the pub on the corner. Here, Ian graciously presented Rex with the Mosset trophy. Rex, in bouleish mood, accepted in typical Aussie way by suggesting that it had been far too easy. Next year there will be no Aussie rules boules – Johnny will make up the rules!

Friday, 18 November 2011

Dundonald to Irvine 16 Nov

Alan, Andy, Davie, Davie, Eddie, Ian, Malcolm, Robert
This may be a first for the blog as the blogger was not on the walk. Who says the blog is a work of fiction anyway?
Six ooters were reinforced by Eddie and Andy today. Davie, hearing of the shortage of regulars, sent 3/4. With the smell of bacon rolls wafting through Dundonald everybody made the meeting point at Malcolm’s and tucked into his (sorry, Anne’s) tasty treat. Ian Hill, noticing a surfeit of the rolls, had a second and allegedly stopped after that. What is the collective noun for bacon rolls anyway? Maybe we’ll just call it a malky.
Suitably fed and watered, the expedition set off towards Troon following, at least most of the time, the Smugglers’ Trail. Robert, as usual, set a comfortable pace – who’s kidding who here? – and legend has it that by the time lunch was called for on Barassie beach, in lovely sunshine I may add, the distance from the first to last man was a mere 2km.
After the trek along the beach to Irvine, a pit stop was made at the Ship Inn before returning to Dundonald by bus and car (Allan by this time had served his punishment and had been let out for the rest of the day).

Further refreshments were taken at the Old Castle in Dundonald.