Monday, 22 April 2013

17 April The Falls of Clyde Again

Taken on 15 Dec 2012
Davie C, Davie Mc & Jimmy

            The weather was hardly promising – a south-westerly airstream bringing a constant dribble interspersed with spells of heavier rain. And the forecast was for this to last for the day so our proposed visit to Arran was postponed in favour of an old faithful, the Falls of Clyde at New Lanark.
 The recent visit to Mosset has taken its toll with most of the visitors down with a similar lurgy and with holidays and other duties to take care of our group was reduced to three for the second week running when we met at Davie’s in Darvel.
It was without enthusiasm that the three of us stepped out into the dreich weather for the trip through to darkest Lanarkshire. But as we travelled east the rain went and a silvery streak in the dull grey sky showed where the sun was making an attempt to come through. And it was dry when we set off over the old bridge at Kirkfieldbank for the Clyde Walkway, Davie Mc covered from head to foot in waterproofs while the other two braved the damp air and lowering sky without jackets for, despite the overhead conditions, it was reasonably mild.
Up into Lanark we went, through Castlebank Park we came, and down to the river again we dropped. That’s where the first spots of rain hit us. Waterproofs were the order of the day for the rest of us now. And the rain continued as we came up to the New Lanark viewing platform above the river and on into the village itself. A party of school children came out from the ‘New Buildings’ and walked in the rain to the sweetie shop and we reminisced on how the old ruinous village of the nineteen-seventies has been transformed into this World Heritage site and school trip attraction. Then we thanked our lucky stars that we were no longer in charge of such trips. And there was no point in hanging about in the rain reminiscing. We walked through the village and took the path for the Falls of Clyde.
            Davie Mc pointed out some nice wee signs at the side of the path showing what wild flowers were to be seen in the immediate area. We kept an eye out for the tiny, yellow-green Spurge, Primroses and Wood Anemones among others as we walked alongside the river to the power station. Then the rain went and we were to have it dry for the rest of the walk. We climbed away from the river to the top of the gorge to look down on Corra Linn, probably the most spectacular of the Clyde falls – at least it was today with the snow melt on the Lanarkshire hills swelling the river and throwing countless gallons of brown water through the gorge and over the cliff. We stopped here for coffee and couldn’t have picked a better spot, especially when the sun broke briefly, very briefly, through the cloud.

            The peregrine was sitting on at least one egg according to the red-headed young man who was manning the observation post. Looking through the scopes trained on the nest, we could see a bird sat there keeping its head down as though it expected the rain again any minute. The young naturalist told us that they man this observation post during the day but there is a twenty-four hour guard on the nest with closed circuit television recording pictures twenty-four – seven. What a sad comment on society, or at least a small section of society, when wild birds are not safe from human interference. Sad.
We left the young man to look after his station and continued upriver. Bonnington Linn is not quite as spectacular as Corra Linn but it has its own grandeur, especially now that the sun was breaking through and lighting the water for us. Had we cameras, we might have attempted to capture the grandeur of both linns. But we hadn’t, so we didn’t. We walked on up to the barrage.
            Now, mechanical things are not normally an attraction to Jimmy who prefers the wonders of nature but something on the barrage caught his attention. A grab is slung on a beam across the water intake for the power station. The purpose of this grab is to clean debris from the filter, grab it underwater and lift it out and over the barrage into the river again. Jimmy was fascinated by this grab and was stuck watching it working, automatically, for a few minutes until we shouted that we were moving on.
On the other side of the barrage we turned downstream to come to the other side of Bonnington Linn. The fall does look more spectacular from this side and a few minutes were spent just watching the rush of water over the linn before we continued downstream. Downstream we came, past Corra Castle with its roost of Daubenton's bats to a viewpoint overlooking Corra Linn. Here we stopped for a bite.
A couple of fellows were already there when we arrived, a couple of chaps of our own vintage. These fellows knew how to have lunch. The Primus stove roared underneath the pan of hot tomato soup and the chunks of rough bread in their hands showed they were connoisseurs of the al-fresco lunch. We had our flasks of coffee and our sandwiches. Still, as they say, hunger is the best sauce and we enjoyed our lunch as much as they.
After lunch we followed the river downstream. We came to the path diversion where the riverside path is closed to prevent disturbance of the peregrines and then down to the riverside opposite new Lanark. A wildflower, unknown to our botanist, grew in profusion in the wet patches beside the river. This time there was not a wee sign to tell us what it was so we walked on in ignorance. (So, what’s new? – Ed.) Further research showed that it was probably White Butterbur – one more to add to our combined knowledge.
We came back to Kirkfieldbank around the two mark having been lucky enough to have had a mostly dry day with the occasional blink of sun while back in Ayrshire it rained all day.

And it was back in Ayrshire that we took FRT, in the Black Bull in Darvel.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

The Early Ooters enjoyed an evening in Le Royal restaurant in Molitg Les Bains. Eric and Emmanuelle are excellent hosts and the food is always first class. Thank you for an excellent evening.
Unfortunately Rex missed out on this as he had a sore throat which he duly passed to his room mates.
One of the many pictures taken of the dramatic Gorges de la Carança.
Spotted in the water of the small canal between Mosset and Molitg.
Kate and I walked up to the barage near the area known as 'Les Lacs' near Mont Louis. It was frozen with deep snow drifts. Some of the drifts beside the road were around 6 feet.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

10 April Awa’ for a walk and a gate to naewhere

Jimmy, Paul & Peter

With most of the gang in foreign climes and others otherwise engaged, it was a severely depleted band of three that gathered in Catrine for an all too familiar yet not so familiar walk.
            We started off in very familiar territory, taking the River Ayr way from Catrine. Crossing the river by the ‘Timmer Brig’, we turned downstream past the sewage works examining the visible remains of Catrine’s industrial past on the way. But then a came the first deviation from our regular route, our first adventure of the day. Where the path leaves the river to climb away, at a fishing hole Peter called The Grey Mare, we decided that we should stick to the riverside. This involved scrambling round a rocky outcrop, a thing that Paul is unsure of. While Peter and the writer scrambled on round, Paul thought discretion to be the order of the day and retreated to the official path. We came together a few minutes later as the two of us climbed away from the pool known as Jock Miller’s Hole to join Paul back on the path.
First adventure over, we continued on ‘The Way’ under the Howford Brig and on to the old Howford road. An ancient estate wall, crumbling now and well robbed out in places, borders the road as it climbs towards Catrine House entrance. Jimmy and Peter remember this being much more intact and it would seem from the freshly exposed stonework that the robbing is still going on. We would find out shortly.
At Catrine House entrance we turned right to follow the road for Auchinleck House. At the first cottage by the roadside we found out the reason for the freshly exposed stonework on the old wall; the owner of the cottage was building a new garden wall and was recycling the stones of the old estate wall. We will return this way to see the results of his labours some other day but for now we pressed on.
So far our walk had been in the valley and when the week sun broke through, the air was as mild as it has been all year; that’s not to say that it was warm, just tolerable. But here in the top of the valley we were exposed to the biting easterly that had been with us for the best part of a month and it was chilling. The pace was upped to fend off the cold. We left tarmac for a while and came on to the drive for Auchinleck House. A lot of work has been carried out on the equestrian cross-country course since the last time we were here and new fences and jumps have been constructed. But we didn’t linger long to examine the new work but hied on to get out of the cold breeze. And at the Dippol Burn we did just that, turning off on a freshly surfaced estate road beside the burn and coming into the shelter of some scrubby trees.
This road took us across the burn by a bridge few hundred metres downstream form the grotto and ice-house. And it continued to take us downstream towards the Auld Place of Auchinleck. Peter remembered a short-cut to the old place so we left the road and followed a pathway in the process of being constructed. Then came our second adventure of the day. The new construction stopped and the path continued as a trod. Then it disappeared altogether and we found ourselves in an overgrown grove of thick rhododendrons and tall Douglas firs with no apparent exit. Peter recognised this as part of the garden of the old place so we couldn’t be too far away. So crunching through fallen rhodi leaves and rotting twigs, we came through the bushes and found the Old Place of Auchinleck, the house abandoned when the new one was built in the mid seventeen-hundreds. As we were now sheltered from the easterly, we spent some time exploring the old place and speculating on various aspects of its construction and use.
Paul had never seen the original Auchinleck Castle, the one that was abandoned when James Boswell had the Auld Place constructed in the early seventeenth century (1612, according to Dane Love) Guess where we went then! The snowdrops were still in bloom in the valley and a few primroses flowered beside the track as it dropped down toward the Lugar Water and the rocky promontory on which stood Auchinleck Castle. Not a lot is known of the history of Auchinleck Castle and not a lot of it is extant, much less now than is shown in Francis Grose’s engraving of the late eighteenth century. Still there is enough to tell us that there once was a considerable building here. And there was enough room on the top for us to sit, speculate and have a cuppa. Down in the gorge below the Dippol met with the Lugar and just downstream of this is Wallace’s cave. Today, with the foliage yet to come on the trees, we had a good view of this cave. It appeared to us as man-made and there is no evidence that Wallace ever used a cave in this area. We surmised that it was probably excavated as part of Alexander Boswell’s plans for the new estate in the seventeen-hundreds, another folly like the grotto further up the Dippol.
After coffee we made our way back to the Auld Place and on past Garden Cottage to the stables. A lot of work is going on here converting, as Peter has heard, the old stables into a café and visitor centre and forming car parking. We stopped for a word with the brickies restoring the brickwork of the old doocot. They confirmed Peter’s café story so we set off for a look at the renovation work. What a superb job these guys a doing and we must return to examine the finished article some other day. However, today we must move on.
We came along Alexander Boswell’s Via Sacra, the road Boswell had constructed from Auchileck House to the parish church in the village, at least as far a Langlands. It was here that Jimmy suggested a third deviation. A shelter-belt of trees ran down toward Ochiltree and, though Jimmy was unsure, he thought that it might be a way of keeping us off tarmac. So we left road of any description and came through the trees. They ended in a sharp drop into the Lugar. We turned left and scrambled down the bank through the briars and over the quagmire at the bottom into a field. The old Ochiltree bridge was just over the field and we made directly for this. Crossing the bridge we came into the old cemetery where we found a convenient seat on the wall for lunch.
After lunch we followed the Lugar Water pathway towards Cumnock and Dumfries House for there was something there that Peter and Jimmy wanted to investigate. Along the waterside we came, past Mill Affleck wheel, up and over Barony bing and down towards the walled garden of Dumfries House. But we never made the walled garden.
Over a field beside the path stood a ruinous structure that had fascinated the Peter and Jimmy for years, ever since we started to explore this area. Getting there proved a slight problem; not getting over the field but getting over the barbed wire fence into the field. Great care was exercised to preserve good walking trousers and skin on parts of the body that are best not mentioned. And great care was needed for the barbs were new and sharp. Still all three made it without mishap and we crossed the field towards the ruin.
As we hadn’t a clue what it was at the time suggestions and counter-suggestions were offered. Then Jimmy remembered from his researches that the was a proposal to build a road from Dumfries House to join with the Via Sacra from Auchinleck House but due to a dispute between Lords Dumfries and Auchinleck, this was never built. Perhaps this was a gatehouse built with this in mind. (Further research shows this to have been the case and the structure is now known as The Temple from its ecclesiastical construction. See Dane Love’s History of Auchinleck and The Temple was designed and built by John Adam who designed and built the bridge over the Lugar at Dumfries house and the houses attached were occupied until 1933. Now we know.
Having clambered over, walked round and speculated enough, we walked on. Not far, twenty metres or so,  into the woods we came upon the remains of the old Nissen huts that was Pennylands Camp. Further research by Paul produced the following link which shows the archaeology of the camp from the air. It would be interesting to find some old photos of the place in its hayday. 
Now we were nearing the end of our walk for the day. We had just to come up on to the Barony Road, turn into Auchinleck and get the bus back to Catrine. We arrived at the bus stop at four minutes past three and the bus arrived at five past. Great timing and a perfect end to a good day’s exploring.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

More from France

On the Fillols walk.

Mosset in its spring glory

The Canigou

The weather was much improved by the Sunday

Mosset again

Guess who won the boules...again!

Coffee in Port Vendres

Forever upwards towards Cap Bear

Heading back into Port Vendres

Enjoying Kay and Davie's hospitality in Banyuls

Those of a delicate disposition should look away now

Mine hosts at the Royal in Molitg-les-Bains

French leave

on the patio at Banyuls

Spot the designated drivers!

Port Vendres, where coffee was taken at the Tramontane (blue awning)

on the path to the tour Madeloc

D playing soldiers at the Spanish frontier

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

3 April - Irvine

Johnnie, Allan, Malcolm, Paul, Robert, Davie C, Davie McM, Andy, Peter

In view of the fact that nine Ooters would be boarding the 7 am flight to Carcassonne the following morning, it was agreed to have a relatively short walk around Irvine bookended by Johnnie's legendary hospitality.

First Course
Scones with jam and cream.  Tea or coffee

Second Course
On a cold but sunny morning we headed out towards the Sourlie Hill standing stones which afforded both a fine view over the coast towards Arran and a photo opportunity.

From there we headed to Eglinton Country Park, examining on the way an ice house and chatting with a very friendly workman eating his piece whilst seated on a camping chair. He was well wrapped up against the chill and bemoaned the recent theft of his cement mixer.

A passing local explained to us the significance of a very large plough-like artefact on display  alongside the path - it was used to break up the surface in order to loosen the coal seam just below the surface.

By now it was warming up and layers of insulation were being stripped off.  There followed a walk along the cycle track across Irvine Moor and then back through the town to Johnnie's.

Third course
Freshly-baked bread, a choice of soups - lentil and ham with chili and lentil and ham with more chili, rolls and sausage, locally sourced beers.

A great day.  Thanks once again Johnnie for the splendid hospitality.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Some Whitelee Pics

'Now where did I leave my bag?'
Compassion? Waiting for Ian

'Why am I here?'

Monument to John Howie and Covenanters

Row boats in a row

Holly eats Davie. Only gloves and stick are left

Sun and a wee bit of warmth at last