Tuesday, 27 March 2012

21 March Mochrum Hill, Culzean

Allan, Davie C, Ian, Jimmy, Johnny, Malcolm, Rex & Ronnie
It’s always a good idea to see what other walking groups have been doing. This is what Alan was doing when he came across a report from the Ayrshire Ramblers in one of the local papers. They had an excellent day on Mochrum Hill just above Culzean and left a route plan with their report, a route that Alan presented to us last week. As this was new ground to all of us, his suggestion was readily accepted.
Due to holidays and other things, it was a depleted band of Ooters that gathered in Rex’s; even Alan with his route plan was missing. Still the eight who turned up motored to maidens where we were sure the route started. And Ian had a map so we had a fair idea of where we were going.
The morning was bright with the promise of sunshine later but a cool breeze blew off the sea to remind us just how early in the year it was. This breeze was on our backs though, and proved no great discomfort as we set off north-eastward along the Ardlochan Road of Maidens.
The tarmac soon gave way to a farm service road, a road that would ultimately end at Kintarran farm at Morriston. But we would not reach Kintarran. Like all sensible farmers*, the one at Kintarran has put in paths through his land and it was along one of these paths that we now turned our footsteps, along the track of the old Turnberry railway. Even from this low vantage point the landscape was opening out for us. Below us lay Maidens and beyond this, Paddy’s Milestsane rose out of the firth. Arran looked particularly inviting. And the Ayrshire coast was becoming increasingly visible. But, then the old railway track ran into a cutting and the view was lost.
We stayed in that cutting, coming through a pleasantly wooded section, until a sign indicated the path turned off and back towards the sea. We didn’t turn off. We continued with the old track for Ian’s map indicated that we should, at least until we reached Kennels Bridge then we should come on to the main road for a bit. But we have amongst us those who abhor walking on main roads. Jimmy and Ian between them made the decision to stay with the old track for a while yet. We should know not to trust them. The track continued in the cutting, getting progressively wetter and muckier. And the muck got deeper. The leader’s ears were ringing with the comments from the rear. Eventually, approaching the Glenside Burn, we found the cutting to be filled in and a steep b ank, a steep slippery bank, blocking our way. This was scrambled up as best we could and we found ourselves twenty metres from the main road. And there was a track to take us there. This brought us out on the tarmac barely fifty metres from the Thomaston and Glenside service road, the road that would take us to the foot of Mochrum Hill.
Near Glenside Farm a forest road led through the trees. We took this and followed it to its end. Then a path, a trodden way rather than anything constructed, led us to the end of the plantation. Now we came on to the open hillside beside a straggly wood of weather-stunted birches, hazels and alders. And it was beside this open wood, on a spot that gave us a view southward over Girvan, Byne Hill and the Hadyard Hill wind farm that we settled down for coffee.
With our caffeine levels topped up, we set off again. Now the ground steepened for we were on to Mochrum Hill itself. But this hill is not high, 270m, and the climb didn’t last too long and we found ourselves at the trig point that marks the top with little effort on our parts. What a magnificent viewpoint this wee hill is. Below lies Culzean Castle and Maidens. Ailsa Craig stands proudly out of the waters of the Firth. Behind Girvan the high ground of Byne Hill and Hadyard lead round to the south where the high Rowantree Hills beyond Stinchar form the skyline. Then the High Galloway Hills fill the horizon from the Awful Hand through the Loch Doon gap to the Rhinns of Kells and Ca irnsmore of Carsphairn. And Maybole and Crosshill lying below us. Then, in the east, the hills around Glen Afton – Windy Standard and Blackcraig. Then, turning northward, Cairn Table at Muirkirk, Blacksidend at Sorn and the Ayrshire plain below them – a plume of white steam showing where the chipboard factory at Auchinleck was. To the north, across the low ground of Ayrshire, the Renfrew Heights showed well – ‘There’s Hill of Stake bathed in sun’, said one. And then there were the hills of Arran, always Arran, rising magnificently in the west. This is a top worth visiting again and again just for this view.
But needs must and we had to get ourselves down of the top for we were only half way through our walk. A path of sorts ran away to the east but for some reason we ignored this and turned directly for Culzean, a route without a path. Still, we could see where were going for below us was the forest road we should be taking. But, coming off the steep part of the hill, we found the straggly wood and our forest road disappeared. So, it appears, did our sense of direction. Zigging and zagging, avoidi ng overhead branches and stumbling among dead bracken fronds, we cleared this wood only t o be confronted by a spruce plantation. Fortunately, Rex, showing the way-finding inst inct s of a true Ooter, found a wee burn running down through a narrow fire break. This broug ht us to the forest road.
The forest road decanted us onto the main road some two hundred metres west of Balchriston lodge. Opp osite the lodge a road runs down to Maybole Shore. (No, you won’t find this name on the map; it’s the local name for the stretch of beach around Goatsgreen cottage) This is where we went. The sun made an appearance now and the day turned unseasonably warm. Jackets and fleeces were removed for the first time this year and we enjoyed a pleasant walk down the road to the beach. Now, with the time approaching half past one, we settled down on a fallen tree trunk for lunch.
The walk along the beach was very pleasant indeed. The cool breeze of the morning had dropped a bit and the sun was warming as we came along the beach to the Culzean gas house. Eighty-one upward stairs later we were at the castle itself. We came past the Battery and through the woods – they are making a clearance of all the rhododendrons here and the woodland is beginning to open up to the sunlight – to the Swan Pond and the Pagoda. Then, taking a path beyond the Pagoda, we came back down onto the shore at Maidens Beach and back to the cars.
This is a walk that is worth doing again. Perhaps we got the time of year right for vegetation wasn’t too high and the views through the leafless trees were good but a change of season might bring it own interest.

FRT was taken in the rather up-market surroundings of Souter Johnnie’s in Kirkoswald. Don’t anyone tell the keeper of the kitty how much a pint costs in here.

*Sensible in that, given the freedom of access laws, paths channel walkers through the land and prevent incursions into crops or livestock fields; people will always prefer a trodden path to finding their own way.

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