Thursday, 27 September 2012

Alan Stewart & Rex Porter - The Final Munro Sponsorship Details

Fundraisers:  Alan Stewart, Rex Porter


My page:


After 30 years of hill-walking, and 281 Munros* already bagged, on the 27th October 2012, we will scale our final Munro, Aonoch Mor, at Fort William.

We are using this occasion to raise funds for Speur Ghlan Early Intervention Service, a small Scottish self funding charity supporting young children with autism. Emma, Alan’s grandaughter has recently been diagnosed with autism and is receiving therapy from them.

This fantastic wee charity provides the early intervention approach advocated by, but unfortunately not at present delivered by the NHS.  Speur Ghlan ( Gaelic for Blue Skies ) provide a programme of play-based therapy tailored specifically to the needs and strengths of the child, which will encourage communication, interaction, language and play. In addition, they provide training and support to families to empower them to support and work with their child at home.

Please help us raise much needed funds for Speur Ghlan so they can continue their fantastic work with children across Scotland whose needs are not being met elsewhere.

Thanks in advance


*For those of you not in the know, a Munro is a mountain in Scotland over 3000ft. There are 282 of them.

 You can sponsor us through the internet by accessing the following web site and following the instructions.



Sunday, 23 September 2012

12 September Not Carlin's Cairn Again

Allan, Davie C, Davie Mc, Eddie, Jimmy, Johnny, Malcolm, Paul, Robert & Ronnie Most of us were late this morning. Road works at Ailsa Hospital and the volume of traffic around the three hospitals there caused a snarl-up which meant most of us were late. Only Jimmy arrived at the meeting point on time having come across country from Cumnock and managing to avoid the hold-up. At the Green Well north of Carsphairn he waited. And waited. And waited. Eventually, twenty minutes after the appointed time, the last car arrived with the Kilmarnock contingent on board. All might have been well now had Malcolm not found that he had left his boots at home. By the time this was made known and Davie Mc had found a spare pair that fitted Malcolm, another ten minutes was lost. However, just after ten o’clock we were ready for the off. Yes, we might have been late starting but, as it transpired, not late enough or we might have had a better day. It had to happen of course. The last four or five Wednesdays have defied the weather trend and turned out bright and sunny. So, by the law of averages, it had to happen that we would get a wet day. This appeared to be it. It was waterproofs from the start for the sky hung heavy and a light but constant drizzle fell as we set off along the Garryhorn road heading for the old lead mining village of Woodhead. Yet the forecast was good; the rain would go away and the sun would come out late morning. And we believe forecasts don’t we? Our intention was to climb Coran of Portmark and there we would decide whether to head on for Carlin’s Cairn or not. For now, though, we trudged up the road in the constant drizzle toward the hills that hid themselves in thick, grey clag. Then the drizzle went and optimism rose. But what water didn’t fall from above crept up from below. Last night’s rain had swollen all the wee burns to raging, brown floods and formed wee rivulets on our road, some a few inches deep in places. On we splashed, feet getting damper and damper. (Especially those of one who is constantly boring us with the quality and longevity of his German made boots!) Then the drizzle came again. At Woodhead we stopped for a caffeine top up. That’s when the drizzle turned to heavier stuff. We took coffee in what shelter was afforded by the roofless ruin of a house, hunched up against the persistent rain - where was that promised sun? - and the hill was still hidden in clag. Allan was first to dissent. He had had enough of the wet and didn’t see any point in climbing in the rain for no view. He would walk back and wait at the cars for us. Then Jimmy suggested a low level walk from here, a suggestion that Allan was willing to accept. Then others decided to join them. Eventually seven, including your scribe, wimped out of the climb leaving Davie Mc, Paul and Robert to head for the top. At the gate on the old road for Drumjohn we split up, the wimps to head on along the road and the imprudent to head up into the clag. We only hoped that we would see them again. Not that we worried about them particularly but Davie Mc had the beer kitty. The Low Level Walk: The old road from Woodhead to Drumjohn and Ayrshire was abandoned when the village was abandoned. At first it is only visible as a flatter area in the landscape then as an overgrown track full of rushes and lank moor grasses but a hundred metres or so beyond the gate it becomes a forest road. We were to follow this road until near its end at Drumjohn. The forest road was just that – a road through the forest. The views were restricted trees or what could be seen along fire breaks on either side. Nor was it worth looking upward for the sky still hung low and a soft drizzle still fell. The only thing that brightened the day was the blethers of fellow Ooters. ‘Whitever the weather, ye ken that the blether, O’ Ooters is heard far and wide’. Comic and serious social comment was made; walks on routes around here were recollected and the road where we had gone wrong the last time we were here was noted (see 28 September 2011), barely three-quarters of a mile from Woodhead; long distant memories we recalled and humorous stories told. The crack, as usual, was excellent. Nobody noticed the rain go and the air turn drier. Where the soggy, peaty pad from Blackcraig found the harder surface of the road (see 28 September 2011), our road turned downward, down through a grove of ash and beech, the first deciduous trees since leaving Woodhead. These trees surrounded the house of Lamloch and extended almost to but not quite reaching the bridge on the Carsphairn Lane barely a hundred metres further on. It was on this bridge that we decided to stop for lunch. Now at last we had something of a view, down the river towards Carsphairn. As we sat at lunch, the sun broke through. Patches of blue sky appeared and the sun began to light up more and more of the landscape. Yet above us Blackcraig still held its cloud and, though we couldn’t see, we felt sure that Coran of Portmark still did as well. But we were in the sun and could enjoy it for as long as it lasted. The sun lasted for the rest of the walk and we could dispense with the waterproofs for the first time today. We followed the road back to Woodhead where a tryst with the high levellers was to be made. One incident on the return should be noted in these pages and that is when new boy, Eddie, tried to impress us with his diving skills. For reasons known only to himself, he decided to walk backwards. That's probably why he didn't notice the boulder lying in wait for him but then again neither did any of the rest of us. When his foot hit the boulder Eddie took off backwards, turned gracefully in mid-air and landed belly first. Why he chose to dive on to the hard surfce of the road is beyond us; he would have been better waiting to find a puddle then we would have been really impressed. As it was, while we admired his effort we had to tell him we had seen better from many of our number - Jimmy at the Falls of Clyde, Davie on the Luss Hills, Allan at the Deil's Back Door to name a few. Still, Eddie, they say that practice makes perfect so keep working on it. The hill men weren’t there when we arrived at the trysting place so we sat on the same stones in the same house where we sat this morning and had another coffee while we waited. Quarter of an hour later we were joined by the others. We look forward to a report from them. The walk back down the road to the Green Well was so much of a contrast to the way up. Now we could saunter down the road in the afternoon sun. (As you realise, Alan, saunter is a relative term!) We arrived at the cars around two and looked back to the hills of the Rhinns bathed in sun. Yes we were late in starting but, as it transpired, not late enough. FRT was taken in our usual howf in Dalmellington where a sociable, good-natured hour or so was spent while trying to decide where or next ‘adventure’ was to be. PS. Jimmy got wet feet today because the sole of his super-duper German boots finally succumbed to age and cracked right across the bottom. New boots for him I’m afraid. PPS. Malcolm promises to remember his own boots in future.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Loch Katrine

Meet at Ian's house at 8.00.a.m. for an immediate departure to Loch Katrine. (ferry leaves at 10.30.a.m.) The plan is to buy a single ticket and walk back along the road. This is obviously a good weather plan, the alternative is to walk to Irvine along the cycle path and get the bus back to Killie.
Another plan hatched in Sanquhar today was a Currie night on Wed 3rd Nov. in Balbir's on the Ayr road. This is to belatedly celebrate Peter's 65th birthday. Time 7.00.p.m.

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

26th Sept Walk - Greenock Cut

1000 at the visitors' centre.  Helen's walking group abandoned the
Greenock cut walk 4 weeks when they encountered the closed road
coming from the main road. Those coming through Largs may approach
via the Brisbane Glen road.  Mind your springs! It is a rough old road.
Good , , , very good, walk today,  Well done Davy.

Monday, 17 September 2012

5 September The Smugglers' Trail

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

            The Smugglers Trail is a way-marked path from Troon to Dundonald. It is supposed to be the way smugglers took their booty from the sandy shores of Ayrshire to Glasgow and the central belt and is now a well constructed footpath. The route is approximately six miles long and rises no more than five hundred feet in its course. This was to be an easy walk for us today for we had another of our social evenings planned for tonight, this time bowling at Kilmarnock and the Smugglers Trail fitted the bill nicely.
            Six miles long the trail may be but we, being the Early Ooters, have our own version of it, which extends its length slightly. And, because we are an awkward bunch, we decided to ‘do’ the trail in the ‘wrong’ direction; that is from Dundonald to Troon. ‘It’s bound to be downhill all the way for we are walking down to sea level’, said our eternal optimist. We would see!
            Whether it was the short distance, the nature of the walk or the promise of a pleasant spell of sunshine the scribe a cannot be sure, but whatever it was, all fifteen of us turned out today, including new boy Eddie. And the walk itself was a relatively straightforward affair notable only for a few incidents.
We left the car park of Dundonald Castle following the way markers under the castle hill. Then, much to Ian’s surprise, we left the way-marked path to take a narrow pad through the trees, a narrow pad that had us strung out in Indian file over a length of thirty metres or so. Any people we met along this stretch gallantly stepped aside to allow this long crocodile of auld men to pass. Any thoughts they might have had, they kept to themselves. Then the path opened out into a clearing round the ruins of Auchans House (see 23 February 2011) and the crocodile came together as a bunch to view the ruin. While some would have spent some time exploring the structure, the head of the crocodile began to stir and we were off again. A gentle slope brought us to a gate onto a track of sorts.
At the other side of the gate those who should know the route turned right and those who knew better followed them thinking that there was another alternative route. There wasn’t! A few hundred yards along this track and we all realised the error. Not that we blamed the leaders and not that we questioned their intelligence in any way. Oh no, well not much anyway. We just turned on our heels and retraced the step to the gate. This time we took the left hand way and followed the track upwards to the lip of Hillhouse Quarry. This we did examine, looking down into it from the height. But the itch-footed were all too ready to move on so move on we did.
When we left the lip of the quarry we dropped down through the wood to find the way-marked track again and followed this to Collenan Reservoir. Now coffee called and we settled down on the grassy bank of the dam for a break. And here we posed for Robert’s classic photo.
We took to tarmac for a bit now, probably the least interesting part of the route. This brought us down to the main road for Loans along which we turned for the village. Through Loans we walked, still on the tarmac. Then we turned off the road and the walk became more interesting again. A path took us to a track and the track took us to where Fullarton House once stood. We stopped here for there were picnic benches to sit on, and more importantly for some of us, a toilet. While some made use of the facilities, the rest waited on the picnic benches.
We might have had lunch in the sun on the picnic benches here but some had other ideas. We should walk on and have lunch on the beach, it might be the last time this year that we could do this. So we walked on.  The route took us to Crosbie Kirk but there was no stopping here to examine it. We walked on. Across the golf course we came. That’s where we first felt the breeze. A cool breeze it was and freshening. When we reached the beach we found an old tree trunk on which we could sit and have lunch. And we felt the breeze, the cooling breeze. But did we remind those responsible for this lunch stop about the calm, warm air and sunshine at Fullarton? You bet we did! And did! And did!
As we sat there minding our own business and bothering nobody, a woman of our age approached us. ‘I know who you motley crew are’, she said,’ You’re the Early Ooters’. We looked at each other: Yes she was right, so we are. But motley, madam? Us? But we could hardly take offence at this slight for her sheer delight in meeting us after all these years of following this blog overcame any insult and, if truth be told, we are rather flattered to be recognised. But, madam, this is not the Sunday Post and you don’t win a tenner. Getting her picture taken with the most handsome (well the least motley of us) only added to her delight before she left us having had her day made. And soon after she left us, we left our lunch stop as well.
The sands of the beach were firm beneath our feet and the walking was easy. We came along the shore into the town where we expected to take a bus back for Dundonald. But buses are awkward things and run to schedules. We had just missed one and had another hour to wait for the next. How to spend this hour? We could only think of our usual way - we would go to the pub. McKays provided the venue for a rather unexpected FRT today.
When we eventually arrived in Dundonald, Malcolm invited us to his place for he had laid on some refreshments. Most of us partook of his hospitality and we thank Malcolm for this. It rounded off another good Ooters walk.

That evening some of us gathered at Alan’s bowling club in Kilmarnock to try our hand at throwing some woods. For some it was a success, for some it is best forgotten but it was an interesting insight into another sport. Thanks to Alan for arranging this.


Wednesday, 12 September 2012

What all the best walkers are wearing this year.

Eddie the trend setter, wearing the latest in storm proof gear all the way from America. We were all jealous.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

I was sitting outside the caravan enjoying the afternoon sun yesterday when this fellow came wandering down the garden. No, it is not a photoshopping trick, it is genuine.

I whispered to Elizabeth who was inside to bring my camera. The buck seemed totally unafraid of us and posed for the camera. Even when we spoke in a normal tone, he paid no attention but just continued to feed on our plants. He even had a go at the bird feeder with his antlers until he succeeded in dislodging it and then helped himself to the seeds. We watched him for fully ten minutes until he started to eat the flowers then we chased him away but only as far as the path up the bank where he stopped and disdainfully turned to stare at us. He appeared a couple of times later that same evening. 
We expect to go back to the van at the weekend to find the garden decimated.

29 August Another Great Arran Day

Alan, Allan, Davie C, Davie Mc, Ian, Jimmy, Paul, Robert & Ronnie

The weather forecast was reasonable which, given the unsettled pattern and the rains of yesterday, was as much as we could have hoped for. Yet, this less than brilliant forecast didn’t prevent nine of us gathering on board the ferry, Caledonian Isles, for the trip across the firth to Arran once more. The northern hills of the island still held a blanket of fog when we left the harbour at Ardrossan but it was a fog that appeared to be breaking up as we neared Brodick and this break-up was encouraging for our intention for the day was to tackle the island’s highest peak, Goat Fell.

It was also the intention to take the easiest, the ‘tourist’, route up the mountain but Jimmy had different ideas. On board the ferry he outlined his plan: We would take the bus to Corrie and climb from there. This he said would provide a shorter but steeper ascent and those who wished could climb the ridge to find the ‘tourist’ path to the top while those who felt like it could continue to North Goat Fell and come along the Stacach Ridge to the summit. This seemed to all like a good idea to all so in Brodick, we boarded the bus for Corrie.

Around the half eleven mark the bus dropped us at the bottom of the Goat Fell footpath in Corrie. Jimmy had told us that this route was steeper but he didn’t tell us just how steep, or when the steepness started. Almost immediately we left the coast road the ground rose, and rose much steeper than we expected. Still, the first section was on tarmac and the footing was excellent. Then, at High Corrie, we left tarmac, took to a track and eventually found a narrow path signed for Goat Fell. And still the ground rose steeply away in front. It was heart-pumping, leg-burning stuff as we climbed with the path and a break was called for by those already feeling the effort. Just beyond the second fence gate, around the thousand foot contour, we stopped for a cup and to take in the view behind us.

Below us lay Corrie, bathed in sunshine despite the generally overcast sky. Across the firth lay Bute and Cumbraes, Big and Little, Millport being seen clearly. And the Ayrshire coast appeared to be in sunshine as well, all the way from the hills above Largs to the Byne Hill at Girvan, the towers of Hunterston power station gleaming in sunshine.  Yet in the other direction, above us yet, the peak of Goat Fell still held its cloud. Would we be lucky or unlucky on the summit? Would the sun break up the fog or would this persist and spoil our day out? We would see.

How we enjoyed that coffee break but there came that time again when we had to move off. Suitably rested and refreshed we set off, steeply upward again. And how that slope was steep! Then the steepness eased as we gained the lip of Corrie Lan and heart-rate returned to something approaching normal. We had been climbing beside the Corrie Burn, watching its rain-swollen water rush over great granite slabs and gush into dark pools and some doubts had been expressed as to whether we would be able to cross it further up. To find this out, Robert went on ahead though why we couldn’t all find out together was beyond us as we struggled on up the slope in his wake.

We caught up with Robert at the split of the paths where the North Goat Fell one ran on up the corrie and the Goat Fell one crossed the burn by a series of huge granite boulders. Those of you who follow this blog regularly will be aware that we have in our number a few who find burn crossing difficult. We had the choice at the burn as to who would walk on up the corrie and climb on to North Goat Fell and along the Stacks and who would cross the burn and take the path to Goat Fell itself, but by the time we had encouraged and cajoled the hydrophobes over the burn with only one wet foot, the enthusiasm for the Stacks had evaporated from most and, as Davie Mc said ‘we should all stay together today’. So we would all climb directly for Goat Fell.

And stay together we did, at least as far as the steeper climb on the Meall Breac ridge. While most of us kept together as a party that was the last we saw of Davie Mc and Paul until we reached the summit. On the ridge, a relatively level and easier section, we came to the ‘tourist’ path coming up from Brodick Castle. At the path junction Davie C and Allan decided they had had enough for the day, especially as the summit still stubbornly held its fog, and were for down the Brodick path. The rest carried on upward. Goat Fell is one of those mountains that don’t make it easy to climb, saving the steepest part for the last few hundred feet on to the summit. We came up through the boulders and into the fog every man for himself as different levels of fitness showed. But we all made it and found Paul and Davie Mc ensconced in the lea side of some granite boulders having lunch. We were only too happy to throw down the rucksacks and join them. And to thank Davie Mc for suggesting that we all stay together today!

Then, wonder of wonders, the fog broke and blew away and the sun made an appearance. We were lucky on the summit, lucky enough to have some superb views. Jimmy wandered around the rocky top with his camera. Ian wandered around taking in the views in all directions. And what magnificent views are to be had from this peak on a day like this. As the sun started to light the landscape there was Glen Rosa directly below, running upwards to the Saddle. Beyond this and not too far away, rose the ‘Three Bens’ horseshoe ridge and coming round from this ridge is the jagged ridge of A’Chir and the pyramidal peak of Cir Mhor rising above the saddle; then rocky top of The Castles lowers above the gap of the Saddle; then the ground rises from the Saddle by a sharp ridge to North Goat Fell – all summits above two and a half thousand feet above the surrounding sea. From the height of Goat Fell the Stacach ridge between the two Goat Fells loses some of its grandeur, looking rather flatter and less rugged as it rises to the higher summit and it was suggested, rather belatedly, that this would have been an easier ascent than the one we had just done. Away from the immediate outlook, the distant prospect includes the Paps of Jura in the west, the hills of Cowal and Argyll in the north and Bute, and the Ayrshire coast to the east. Brodick lies below to the south with Paddy’s Milestane prominent in the middle of the firth and the high hills of Galloway fill the distant horizon. All this was revealed to us today as the sun spread its brightness to the landscape.

We lay in the sunshine and enjoyed the view as long as possible but the thin blooded were beginning to feel the chill of the altitude. It was now time for the descent. To say that the descent was a lot easier than the ascent, would be the understatement of the year. Well, it was a lot easier for most of us but some of us have joint problems (It should be remembered that we are hardly in the first flush of our youth and joint problems are becoming more and more common in the group) So it was two groups – Alan, Jimmy, Paul & Robert making up the lead one and Davie mc, Ian & Ronnie bring up the rear - who came down the ‘tourist’ route to the Brodick Brewery.

The day was now hot and the effort had taken its toll on body fluids so, when the first group reached the brewery, it seemed like a good idea to replace some lost fluid while we waited for the trailing group. Half an hour and a refreshing pint later the two groups were united and a casual stroll across the golf course brought us to Brodick around five. The two summit renegades were found sitting in the sun on the patio of The Douglas Hotel having their own version of fluid replacement. So that they wouldn’t feel alone and bad about missing the summit, we joined them. A very convivial couple of hours were spent taking FRT while waiting for the Caledonian Isles to return for the last trip of the day.  

This was a hard but well worthwhile day on the island with some fabulous views from the top. We should visit Arran more often.