Tuesday, 31 January 2012

25 January Glen Afton’s One Top

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

The late John Denver sang ‘Some days are diamonds, some days are stones’. The last time we were on the Glen Afton Hills the day was unquestionably of the precious variety – blue, sunny skies, glistening, powdery snow and views that went on forever. And we had hopes for something of the same today given the snow fall of yesterday and the forecast for a clear and sunny day. But somebody up there doesn’t like us. Whatever we have done to offend the provider of our weather we don’t know but with what has been given to us this winter we feel he is definitely against us.
This is the truth we found when we gathered in Cumnock on a dreary January Wednesday. Already there was dissension in the ranks. There was some thought of the foul weather alternative but our weather man suggested that it would be late afternoon when the rain arrived. We took his word for this and set off into Glen Afton.
Barely had we left the cars at the waterworks than we felt the first spits. But, according to our weatherman, this is only a passing shower for the rain was forecast to arrive no earlier than late afternoon. And go off it did though by the looks of the sky and the hill fog it could come back any minute. We walked along the forest road on the west side of the reservoir watching to see if the fog was lifting or coming further down. By the time we had reached the bridge over the upper reaches of the Afton a decision had to be made; should we go ahead as planned or cut the walk short and come back along the east side of the reservoir. The party split in two; the wimps opting for the lower walk and the adventurous, unwise, foolhardy and downright stupid opted for the hill despite Johnny’s hip-flask bribery.
The wimps: wise, intrepid, mathematically principled souls: we three giants of the maths teaching fraternity know a thing or two about gradients, turning points and distance formulas. All too obvious, the approaching poor weather, no need of TV predictions. We could see it coming. A walk around the Afton reservoir seemed a prudent move. Bullying JM over-ruled concerned AS about completing the circuit. As it turned out AS was right. The path, though not impassable, was unpleasantly deeply muddied. We retraced our steps back to where we had become the splinter group. Here we could see our brave brothers battle the elements as they crested the summit and disappear from our view. We made it back to the cars in good heart. We had lunch. We wondered back up to the reservoir dam just in time to see our courageous comrades caper casually along the edge of the reservoir.
We await (inserted above JM) a report from the wimps for the scribe was in the latter group. This was the group that made its way up the side of the river to the old fruit van that sits on it own on the hillside. That’s where the rain came. When we had been in the shelter of the forest, any rain that came was no more that a steady dribble. But we were no longer in the shelter of the trees and the steady dribble was wind blown and wetting and when we left what little shelter the fruit van afforded, we were into the weather proper. Though the wind-driven drizzle stung the faces, we still had faith in our weatherman and his prediction that the rain would arrive until the late afternoon and so set of for the first climb of the day, Alwhat
Not only was it wet overhead, it was extremely wet underfoot for the first fifty metres or so until the ground steepened and we found the drier grasses. Thank heavens for quad bike tracks; at least the climbing would be easier than the coarse hill grasses and rushes that surrounded us. It certainly seemed to be easy for Jimmy. What he had for breakfast certainly worked for he took off up that slope like a whippet on ecstasy and left the rest trailing in his wake. But not only had we Jimmy’s pace to contend with; as we gained height we also changed direction and now found the wind driving the rain directly into our faces, and it stung. But at least we could see where we were going so far.
Ronnie felt the pressure on this climb - he is recovering from major surgery and has not yet regained his fighting fitness - but struggled manfully on in Jimmy’s wake crossing the tufted grass of the slope to the fence on Alwhat summit. Here we found Jimmy waiting with alternate routes in mind. But Ronnie was done for the day and was for returning the way we had come up. And we, being of a compassionate nature and anyway having had our fill of soakings for this year, offered to keep him company. We turned to retrace our steps back down to the fruit van in the valley.
Back in the shelter of the trees at the bridge we stopped for a bite. The time was twelve-thirty and the rain was still on. We are beginning to lose faith in our weatherman.
When we came out of the trees again the rain had gone and a decision was made to return by the east side of the reservoir. To this end we followed the forest road to its end and then took the path to the dam where we met with the renegade three. Half a mile later we were back at the waterworks and the cars, our walking past for the day.

This was another dreich day and the best that can be said is that we got some exercise. Come on ‘ye pow’rs wha mak mankind your care’ gie us a break and a dry day for a change.
As usual in this neck of the woods FRT was taken in The Sun in Cumnock. New grandfather Ian stood the first round to wet the baby's head. Congratulations to the proud mum and dad and equally proud grandparents.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

18 January Annbank - Auchincruive Circuit & The Burns Supper

Allan, Andy, Davie C, Davie Mc, Jimmy, Johnny, Paul, Rex, Robert & Ronnie

Today’s walk was to be short for this was the night of our inaugural Burns Supper and Johnny had to get home early to peel the tatties. Just as well for the weather was as it has been for a few weeks now, dull, damp and dreich. Surprisingly, given the weather and the nature of the evening ahead, most of us turned up at Annbank bowling club car park for a short walk over very familiar ground. This number included Rex who had returned prematurely from his holiday in New Zealand – he just can’t stay away from us for too long.
The walk has been well described in these pages the past ( December 2010 and 2 sep 2009 and others) so there is no need for further description here. Suffice to say we wandered down to the river and on to Auchincruive House and the Burns/Wallace monument for coffee. Considering the day, this was an appropriate place to have coffee. Some thought of returning by the same route, and one even thought of going downstream to the next bridge. But, when it was pointed out that the next bridge was on the Ayr bypass, he changed his mind and went with the consensus that we return on the south side of the river.
This is exactly what we did, returning by the River Ayr Way past Wallace’s Seat and Tarholm Bridge to the confluence of Ayr and Coyle. Here we stopped for a bite to eat then continued up the river to Privick Mill and back to Annbank.
There was no FRT today for Johnny would need all the time for his preparation for our shindig later.

Later than evening we gathered in Johnny’s place in Irvine for our inaugural Burns Supper. As you can see from Allan’s pictures below, the night was a great success with everybody contributing to the merriment. The scribe can say that the evening started off well but can’t say for certain how it ended. ‘The nicht drave on wi’ sangs an’ clatter and aye the usquabae grew better’. He can only hope that he was in a better state than the chairman when he got home. Johnny’s video should be very enlightening. But, Johnny, we are pensioners and can’t afford the blackmail money. ‘We were fu and unco happy’
Our collective thanks go to Johnny for hosting this event and we look forward to the next one.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

11 January Clyde Walkway in Glasgow

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

It was a great idea and like all great ideas it was so very simple: Johnny would check the time of the bus leaving Irvine and arriving at Kilmarnock bus station, Ian would check the time of the same bus arriving at the bus stop near his house in Killie, the outlying contingent would meet at Ian’s place and we would all travel to Glasgow on the same bus. Simples! But this is the Ooters we are talking about here and if anybody can muck up a simple idea it’s the Early Ooters.
Jimmy and Peter were first to defect from the plan. They couldn’t get a bus to connect with the one from Irvine so would travel direct to Glasgow and wait there for the rest of us. This they did, having coffee and bacon rolls in the Concert Halls while they waited. Andy from Largs had a similar problem with the same solution, only without the coffee and roll. He was found loitering by the ‘Tempus Fugit’ when the other two had finished coffee and had made their way back to the bus station to await the arrival of the others.
The bus from Irvine arrived bang on schedule. That’s not to say that all the Ooters arrived on schedule. The first part of the plan had been carried out to perfection. The Irvine contingent caught the bus and two of the Killie men boarded at Kilmarnock bus station. So far, so good. But what we had failed to factor into our plan in our alcohol induced euphoria last week was the capriciousness of the travelling public. It appeared that the whole of Kilmarnock wanted to travel to Glasgow on the same day, and on the same bus. The inconsiderate so-and-so’s filled the bus at the bus station leaving no room for those poor Ooters waiting at Ian’s place. Five of them were forced to stand and watch as a full bus sped past with familiar faces gesticulating furiously from the upper deck windows.
Now there were seven Ooters in Glasgow and five waiting in Kilmarnock for the next bus. There was nothing to do now but to spend the time having coffee in the Concert Halls while we waited. (Remember when this was a walking group? - Ed) Nearly half an hour later the missing five appeared having been fetched from the bus station by Robert. They had no time for coffee for the rest of us were ready for the off.
Sometime before noon we wandered down Buchanan Street admiring the city scenery. (One of these days one of you will be arrested for admiring the scenery too closely – Ed) We crossed Argyle Street, came through St. Enoch Square and came to the Clyde Walkway at the foot of Dixon Street. We thought we were turning eastward along the riverside but Davie Mc and Ronnie turned in the opposite direction - ‘Just going to show Ronnie La Pasionara’ – and we followed. La Passionara, the sculpted tribute to the men of the International Brigade who fought Fascism in the Spanish Civil War, has had a lucky escape. The recent storms have blown down a tree the branches of which just missed the upreaching arms of the bronze lady on top of the pedestal. Luckily no damage has been done and La Pasionara still looks defiantly over the river – ‘Better to die on your feet than live forever on your knees’. While we admired the artistic and other interest of the memorial, Davie and Ronnie wandered further westward to look at some Greek inscription on the remains of the old railway bridge.
Once the Greek had been examined and La Pasionara commented on, we did turn eastward along the walkway following it to Glasgow Green and beyond. A skuller from the Glasgow Rowing Club drifted upriver with a casual stroke passing us easily. He passed us again drifting just as casually downstream. We would see him again later. Then we met a walking group coming in the opposite direction and we being of a sociable nature, stopped for a blether. They were a group from East Kilbride who had started at Dalmarnock and were walking into the city centre. They did tell us the name of their group but the scribe has forgotten it. Johnny presented one of them with our blog cards so East Kilbride walkers if you are reading this get in touch and we will give your group a mention.
But time was now wearing on, nearing lunchtime, and we had promised ourselves lunch in West, the German pub on Glasgow Green. An arrangement was made that we would walk on until one o’clock and then turn back. The designated hour came with Andy, Davie Mc and Robert some hundred metres in front of the main group. When they thought one o’clock was we don’t know but they were walking on. Despite shouts from the pack, they walked on. We turned and ambled slowly back along the walkway. We were passed once more by the skuller but this time he was accompanied onshore by a coach on a bike, a coach with a megaphone, and his stroke was more intense. And they passed us again going downstream. But, this apart, there was very little to record before we came to Glasgow Green for the second time.
The errant three caught us up as we came to the Green and we made our way as a group to the Doges Palace and the German pub. Ian’s brother, Alistair, was waiting for us in the pub. It was nice to meet one of our regular readers and it might be nice to meet the other one sometime. However a convivial couple of hours were spent over lunch and refreshment and we can only hope that we haven’t put Alistair off joining us some other time.
Peter and Alistair left us early for different reasons – Alistair to make his way home and Peter to view some art work in St Andrews Cathedral - but the rest of us sat for a while yet. Then we made our way through the city centre to the Buchanan Bus Station and the bus back for Kilmarnock and Irvine and Largs. This time we all managed to get on whichever bus we required.
Next week we are not using buses!

Sunday, 8 January 2012

4 January Darvel to Galston Or What IS the capital of Wisconsin?

Alan, Allan, Davie C, Ian, Jimmy, Johnny & Ronnie

Johnny is learning the state capitals of the USA. In order to preserve his ageing memory he has set himself the task of memorising lists, the first of which is the state capitals of the US. We would put his new learning to the test throughout the day.
Davie Mc wasn’t going on the walk today. He was suffering from sinusitis which was a great pity from his point of view for we all descended on his house in Darvel to enjoy his hospitality whether he was feeling up to it or not. From our point of view this was one of the highlights to the day for the morning was dreich, the forecast dire and the rain had just started. Not only were we reluctant to carry out the proposed walk, we were also reluctant to leave the warm comfort of Davie’s living room and take to the cold January dribble. In view of this reluctance and the conditions outside, Jimmy’s suggestion that we curtail the walk from the long, high level to a more direct low level one along the river, was eagerly accepted.
The walk itself was a wet but fairly straightforward affair. We crossed the Ranoldcoup Bridge and found the road down the south side of the river towards Newmilns. The effects of Tuesday’s storm and the rains of the last four months were evident as we walked down the road. Blown-over trees, sawn up and roughly cleared from the road, and large pond-like puddles lying on the sodden fields reinforced our belief that this had been a particularly wet and windy winter so far. A tree yet to be sawn and cleared caused a minor diversion but no real inconvenience to our progress down towards Newmilns.
The decline in manufacturing in our area was commented on as we passed the empty and demolished mills and factories of Newmilns. Even the large employer Vesuvius Crucible is in a state of dormancy with only the office seemingly occupied. And Newmilns is typical of many Ayrshire towns. Yet there are signs of possible recovery with smaller units occupied. We will wait and see.
We left tarmac west of Newmilns and took to a pathway beside the river. There was a warning notice there that the path was temporarily closed due to flood damage but we don’t pay much attention to notices. We walked on. Near Galston we came across this flood damage to the path. The river in spate had changed course and washed away some fifty metres of the south bank and with it the path. The authorities have erected a temporary fence along the steep bank and local feet have created a temporary pad alongside this. This is the way we went, joining the made path at the side of the football ground in Galston.
The bus drew up at the bus stop just as we arrived. We took it back to Darvel. Lunch was taken in Davie’s and a fine old Macallan was liberally dispensed by our host – just to drive away the dampness of course.
After lunch we repaired to the Black Bull for FRT. That’s where we really tested Johnny’s new-found brain training. What’s the capital of Texas? Austin! Florida? Tallahasse! New Jersey? Trenton! Johnny was in good form. Idaho? Boise! Alabama? Montgomery! Quick as flash was Johnny. Nebraska? Lincoln! Wisconsin? Em! Em! Try as he might this was one that stumped Johnny. Not only did it stump Johnny, it stumped the rest of us as well. For all the time we sat in the Black Bull Johnny scratched his head (metaphorically not literally or we might have suspected that he was keeping pets) but nothing would come back. Not that anybody cared for we had better things to take our attention.
When we were only half way through our first pint, the barmaid came over to our table. ‘Have you boys had your Ne’erday from us yet?’ she asked. When we replied in the negative she gave us the next round on the house. Many thanks to her and to the Black Bull – may they have a happy and prosperous 2012.
And a Happy New Year to all our readers - both of you.

PS The capital of Wisconsin is Madison - Ed