Thursday, 26 April 2012

Sorn to Auchinleck House 25 April 12

Allan, Davie, Davie C, Ian, Paul, Peter, Rex, Holly and Nola
Seven Ooters met at the car park in Sorn for the proposed walk to Blacksidend and beyond but Peter, today’s leader, advised against this and recommended walking to the Auchinleck House Estate and back. Although the weather seemed to be reasonable for the day there were no serious complaints especially from the boys recently returned from Mosset. We look forward to seeing the blog about the sojourn to France but listening to the myriad of tales you get the impression that these guys really shouldn’t be let out on their own any more, and certainly not without their carers. It was hoped that by this time (Wednesday) Robert would have found his way back to his holiday home!
And so we set off from Sorn along the familiar River Ayr walk for Catrine. The morning was dry after some earlier light showers and we progressed at a sensible pace reaching Studio Peter at around 11 o’clock. Having been invited in, we partook of coffee and were shown round by our host. Well done, Peter!
Soon it was time to get on our way again with Holly and Nola leading the way. Holly was having a job staying calm as Nola kept pinching her stick. Justice was nearly done though when Nola followed Holly into the river and then struggled to get out. For a minute it looked as though Peter might have to wade in and pull her out but eventually she was coaxed to safety.
It was one of those days when the jackets were on , then off, then back on again for, although we had little rain, when we hit the wind it certainly had an edge to it. When we reached  Catrine House tearoom Davie suggested deviating to the Haugh but the consensus was to continue towards Auchinleck House. Just before reaching it we cut off down to our usual lunch stop at the ‘cave’ where we enjoyed our piece.
Climbing up from the ‘cave’ towards the ice house was extremely mucky and in fact the next part of the walk through the estate was mainly glaur. It had been noted that the recent horse trials, the course of which we had just passed through, had been cancelled due to the soft nature of the ground. Having reached firmer footing the eagle eyed amongst us noted a pheasant caught in what was probably a trap set for grey squirrels. Luckily help was at hand as Davie C decided to rescue the poor bird and with great dexterity managed to release the trap and pluck the pheasant to safety before releasing it into the adjoining field. Thankfully it seemed OK as it scuppered away- its progress being closely monitored by Nola. What is it they say Davie? A bird in the hand etc. A good job well done!
Next stop was the ruins of the old house before we completed our circle back to the main house itself where, as usual, we couldn’t quite remember the translation of the Latin inscription. (Thanks to Paul for supplying the same.)
It was now a matter of retracing our steps back to Sorn encountering on our way a fifteen minute shower and stopping to chat to a group of fellow walkers from Ayr whom we had met as we left Catrine earlier in the day. They seemed to have the right idea- walk up to the Sorn Inn, have lunch and then walk back to their cars at the tearoom.
The cars were reached at 3.25, almost a five and a half hour day. A good day out in good company.

FRT was taken at Poosie Nansie’s in Mauchline.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Auchinleck House - inscription

Quod petis, hic est, Est Ulubris, animus si te non deficit aequus 

Whatever you seek is here, in this remote place, if only you have a good firm mind

Thursday, 19 April 2012

11 April The Lowther Hills – All three of them

Alan, Allan, Davie Mc, Ian, Jimmy, Paul, Peter, Rex, Robert & Ronnie

Hubris is not a word that you will read often in these pages, mainly because most of us don’t have a clue what it means. Still, according to our linguist, a classic case of hubris got its comeuppance this morning.
The morning was bright but lightly overcast when we gathered at the fire station in Wanlockhead for a climb of Lowther Hill, a walk we have done a few times and will probably do a few times again for it is a favourite. The morning was bright but a snell northerly breeze kept the temperature down reminding us just how early in the year it was. However, it was this same breeze that kept the air clear and we looked forward to the views from the tops.
Paul was reminded, as if he needed to be, of the first time he did this walk with us (16 Jan 2008). I quote from the blog of that day: ‘Paul, having failed miserably to demonstrate his long-jumping skills, now attempted to demonstrate his paddling and bank climbing skills’. He fell in the burn. Not that we took any great delight in the misfortune of poor Paul. Oh no, we didn’t.
But to get back to today’s venture. We set off along the old railway track towards the Sanquhar road at a fairly brisk pace to stir the blood and build up a heat against the chill breeze. Unlike the time when Paul went for a swim, we didn’t stay on the Sanquhar road. Davie Mc, who knows this area better than any of us, had us turn off and up a shooters' track on to Middle Moor. Already we were rewarded with views for the landscape began to open up to us. The Nith Valley was clear, as far as Corsencon in the west but the hills around Glen Afton still held their morning mist. We had hopes that this would clear by the time we reached the top of our hill. But Paul was reminded, rather gleefully we thought, by Davie not to get carried away by the views for he still had the burn to cross. And remember what happened the last time!
The descent from Middle Moor was steep and the party fragmented as each took his own time coming down. Davie, walking with Paul, reminded him again that the burn was at the foot of this slope. Perhaps Davie should read The Book of Proverbs especially the one that says, ‘Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall’. Hubris ill becomes an Ooter. Still in our ones and twos we came down to the burn which, to be fair, most crossed with little effort. But Davie reminded Paul of the difficulties of crossing it. No problem to Paul this time though, his long legs making short work of the crossing. Not so Davie, however. Pride certainly goes before a fall. Not just metaphorically but literally in his case. Down went the proud Davie, down on his backside in the middle of the burn. Did Paul laugh? You bet he did. And so did the others when the drookit Davie joined them at coffee at the start of the Dempster Road. Davie had to remove his wet breeks and walk for the rest of the day in waterproofs.
After coffee we followed the Dempster Road as it rose gently above the Mennock Pass. Then we left it to make its way down towards Dalveen and took to a well walked path on the flank of Threehope Height. Then we climbed towards Auchenlone or East Mount Lowther - ‘Why is it called East Mount Lowther when it is the most westerly of the group?’ asked one. ‘How the blazes should we know, we only walk the hills, we don’t name them!’ was the curt response. Anyway, as we climbed we could look back and see the sun shine on Nithsdale, and the rain shower blowing on the breeze towards us. The whole of the Nith valley from The Ayrshire boundary to the Solway was spread out below us, Corsencon marking its north-west entrance and Criffel the south. Jimmy set the poser; in which of Burns’s poems does he say, ‘Nith shall rin to Corsencon and Criffel sink in Solway’? The other Burnsian in the group, Davie, smiled a knowing smile but held his peace. Answers please by comment to this post.
The climb wasn’t too arduous and we crested the top of Auchlone without a great deal of difficulty. But before we could get to the viewpoint indicator that marks the summit, the rain and hail that we could see coming down Nithsdale hit us with ferocity. All we could do was turn our backs to the breeze and let the rain and hail bounce off the waterproofs while we waited for party to regroup. Then it was down as quickly as we could.
‘Down’ was the short drop to the head of the Enterkin Pass. Even before we got there the rain had gone. But the going of the rain only exposed the steep face of Lowther Hill looming before us, a patch of snow still clinging tenaciously to a high cleuch. Now the going would be tougher. Fortunately a track led up to a corner of the ‘golf ball’ service road and this eased the climb somewhat though nothing eased the burn in the old legs and lungs. Even when we reached tarmac the slope was taking its toll and once more the group was fragmented as each took his own time on the climb. At the door of the ‘golf ball’ we collapsed to the ground and had lunch.
It was during the peece stop that the hill fog arrived. When we left the ‘golf ball’ on the service road for the masts in Green Lowther, the fog was still with us so the view wasn’t. All we did then was walk on talking Ooter stuff with each other. A pair of birds ran across the heather before taking to the wing into the fog. ‘Golden Plover’ said our ornithological friend. Then, just as quickly as it had come, the fog started to break up. By the time we had climbed to the Green Lowther masts, the fog was gone and we were left with crystal clear air, clear air that allowed extensive views.
When all around was named and commented on we looked further away. The Moffat hills held patches of snow but most snow could be seen on the hills and mountains marking the highland line some seventy miles away.
Below us we could see the wee unnamed reservoir that would be our next objective. Despite the cool breeze, the afternoon was turning pleasant and the progress now was downward and relaxed. We wandered down that slope taking in the changing landscape around us. Then, at the reservoir, we sat down for an afternoon break, the first such this year. Alan spent the time watching wee fishes jump for insects and Ian finished his umpteenth sandwich but most just sat around enjoying the early spring sunshine. Then it was time to move on.
The short stretch of moorland between the reservoir and the service road for the ‘golf ball’ was upward and rough, testing already tired legs. While the fit charged on, some plodded manfully behind and were more than relieved to find tarmac at the top of the slope. We came on to that tarmac barely quarter of a mile from the Wanlockhead fire station and the waiting cars.
Though there was a point half way through the day when we had a poor spell, on the whole this was a super day, one of the best of the year so far – hubris and wet breeks notwithstanding.

FRT was taken in our usual howf, the Crown in Sanquhar.

Lunchtime 'entertainment' at Kirkoswald

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Moray coast

Nice easy walking on Moray Coastal Trail.



Lossiemouth, heading east

Hopeman harbour

Lossiemouth, heading west

lowering skies

Burghead harbour

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Holiday pictures - continuing a theme.

Holidays can be many things.
This is the hard work variety

All I have to do in the next few months(?) is THE REST

While keeping an eye(just one) on the garden

Holidays are such great fun

Can't wait to get back

Getting back home is still the bees knees!

Some pictures from the Lowther Hills walk

Dropping down from the shooters track on Middle Moor toward the Mennock valley. The Dempster Path can be seen scarring the hillside on the far side of the valley.

 Rising towards the top of the Dempster Path.

 Rising on the side of East Mount Lowther. The sun and rain are sweeping eastward down the Nith Valley. The rain and hail hit us as we approached the top.

 The rain and hail splash into a puddle on top of East Mount Lowther. But it wasn't to last long and was gone as we dropped down to the Enterkine Pass.
 Hill fog closed in as we climbed to the summit of Lowther Hill where we stopped for lunch. As we walked along the road towards Green Lowther this fog broke up affording tantalising glimpses of the landscape beyond.
 The sun caught us on the summit of Green Lowther and the clear air gave excellent views. This one is to the north where we could see the snow-capped peaks of the southern highlands.
 Ian and Paul take in the view as we dropped off the top of Green Lowther heading for the rerservoir below.
 It was difficult not to take pictures on this descent. This is another one.

The 'Golf Ball' on the top of Lowther from the wee reservoir.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Ayr to Annbank 4 April 2012

Allan, Andy, Davie, Johnny, Malcolm, Paul, Rex, Robert, Ronnie and Holly
A decision had been arrived at the previous evening. Given the recent snow and the forecast of high winds, it would be better to leave the Lowthers for another day and instead do the Ayr to Annbank walk, another first for the Ooters as we have never done this walk ‘backwards’. And so it came to pass - nice touch for Easter weekend – that 9 regulars met on Ayr seafront on a bright and cold morning with a biting easterly wind meaning that jackets, gloves and hats were the order of the day. Only Robert ‘The Mouse’ McGarry, known as Mousey to his friends, seemed disappointed about the alternative venue. The word ‘wimps’ was definitely used but, given the recent exploits at Durisdeer, discretion was certainly the better part of valour.

Rex had some of his photographs on display at the Carnegie Library as part of the Ayr Photographic Society exhibition so the company, other than Davie and Holly*, went in and not only congratulated him on his photos, but voted en masse for him in the visitors' choice category. Before continuing on the walk Allan and Malcolm made a quick visit to the nearby ‘Sugar Cube’ café to say hello to former colleague Ian and wife Rena who with son Peter own and run the café. Soon we had reached the new UWS building and given the fact we were now partially protected from the wind a stop was called in order to remove jackets. Soon after though, the jackets were back on as we followed the north side of the river up to the stepping stones where a coffee stop was made.

Not even the foolhardy considered crossing over the stones today so we crossed back over the road bridge and proceeded briskly along the well-known minor road to the Burns monument where lunch was taken. The trek back to Annbank was longer than many of us had remembered but, as Paul’s route map shows, we took the longer path back following the ox-bow in the river before emerging at the bus ‘terminus’. Here another decision had to be made: jump on the waiting bus and go back to Ayr for badly needed FRT or go up to the Tap o’ the Brae and refresh ourselves there first. A vote was taken but Holly had the casting vote and she decided on the Tap o’ the Brae as it was a ‘dug-friendly’ pub. Good choice, Holly, as we need to support our local pubs. What would we do on a Wednesday without them? However some clarification is needed. We know a cat has nine lives, but since when has a dug got ten votes? And talking about cats, Mousey said there were no hard felines about not going to Wanlockhead, other than perhaps the stiff one on his embryonic bonfire, his one and only entry for the Turner prize.

All too soon it was time for the bus and despite, calls for fish suppers, we made our way directly back to the cars and home. Another good, but surprisingly tiring, day out!

*Holly was OK’d to enter but the security guard took one look at Davie and sent him packing.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

4 April - Ayr to Annbank route

Distance: 16.6 kms

28 March A Pie, A Pint, A Play and A Potter Around Paintings

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

All the world’s a stage and all the men and women merely players.

It was Ronnie’s birthday and in true Ooters fashion a celebration was called for. Ronnie’s idea of a cultural visit in the metropolis was accepted when it was realised that there was a pint going along with the play. So it was that nearly a full compliment gathered in the cafe of the Royal Concert Hall at the top of Buchanan Street in Glasgow on another bright and sunny March morning. Rex was the only missing one, holidaying in different climes. I almost said warmer climes but it was doubtful if Italy would be any warmer than the unseasonable weather we have been experiencing over the last few days, days when the mercury touched the low twenties, days meant for the hill. But we had other plans for today and once the bus from Cumnock arrived bringing those from the far flung corners of the county, we were ready for the off.
Our first port of call was to be the Glasgow Group’s exhibition in the Kelly Gallery in Douglas Street. Peter is a member of this group and had some work – paintings and pottery – on display so it was only right for us to visit. The wee lassie at the desk was absolutely amazed, shocked, horrified as thirteen old geezers piled into the small space that acts as the gallery, but she was somewhat relieved when Peter introduced himself as an exhibitor. The exhibition contained a variety of styles of painting though Peter was the only artist to display pottery as well as paintings. There was no doubt in our minds that Peter’s pottery is of the highest standard even if his painting is slightly too esoteric for some. Some of the other pictures appealed to some of us while others had no appeal whatsoever to any of us and after some learned discussion and suitably meaningful comment, we left the bemused wee lassie to get back to her slumbers and moved on.
There was a new exhibition in the Glasgow School of Art so this is where we made for next. Already the philistines had had enough of art and a quick wheech round the exhibition was enough for them. But others took their time and appreciated what was on display before coming out to find the uninspired lot waiting impatiently on the pavement.
Now a gentle saunter brought us through Park Gardens to Kelvingrove Park. Even on this Wednesday, the park was busy. Dog-walkers threw balls for enthusiastic pets to chase. Folk of all ages in summer clothes walked and sat and lazed about on the grass. By the side of the Cyprus-shaped pond a chap had set up an easel and was daubing quietly away trying to capture the scene through to the university. ‘Go an’ tell him tae keep aff the grass, Peter’, was a suggestion from one of us. But Peter didn’t and we left the artist to his work and carried on.
Half way up Byres Road we lost Ronnie. Normally this would be no bad thing but today was – he had the booking for our Pie, Pint and Play. When it was discovered that he had gone into the Oxfam bookshop, we waited in Oran More with varying degrees of patience. Eventually Ronnie appeared and the tickets were duly bought. The pie was good but the pint was something of a disappointment to the ale drinkers for there was just Guinness, cider and various lagers. The play, though hardly of Shakespearian standards, was perfectly okay and was very funny in parts. Altogether, the experience was just that, an experience, one that one or two of us might repeat but that most won’t. However when the play was finished there were pies left over. There wasn’t even a crumb left over when we left though.
Alan announced that he would have to buy us all a drink to celebrate the birth of another grandchild, Zoe. So back up from the bowels of Oran More we came, back to the sunlight and the upstairs bar where Alan stood the round. Here’s health and prosperity to Zoe, her parents and proud grandparents. Two, including the scribe, left the party early for they had to get the bus to a remote corner of the county so it is not known as yet how long the remainder remained. But, if recent events are an indication, it could have been some time. The scribbler awaits a report.

This was a different sort of outing for the Ooters. See us! See culture! See that stuff they grow in Petre dishes in labs? That’s us.