Saturday, 28 July 2018

Glen Afton's Four Tops

Alan Mc, Alan St, Davie C, Davie Mc, Doogie, Gus, Ian, Jimmy, Kenny T, Paul & Robert

It has been on the cards for a wee while now but various things have conspired to prevent us carrying it through. In fact, Doogie, who has been with us now for a few years, reckons it hasn’t been done in his time. The wet summer of last year had us abandon attempts in favour of softer walks for it is not a walk for bad weather and notions of previous years have led us elsewhere. But the weather recently has been dry, sunny and warm and the inclination was for a bit of hill walking so today the walk on Glen Afton’s four tops was on.

Eleven of us made the journey to the fisher’s car park at the head of Glen Afton and at five past ten we set off for our hill walk. Not up the hill as you might expect but back down the road we had just driven up. Why? Because that mile and a half of road would take us to the track by Blackcraig Farm to the shoulder of Blackcraig Hill, the first of the four tops.

Beyond the farm the old pony track over to Nithsdale started to climb the side of the glen and we climbed with it. But only as far as the sheep bucht high on the glen side. ‘Why are we stopping here? It’s too early for a stop.’ said one of our number. ‘We always stop here’ was the reply. (Who says we are creatures of habit?) Stop we did but not for long, just enough time for a refreshing drink for the day was warming nicely. Then, suitably refreshed, we started up again.

The land-rover track which we were on since the farm gave way but the old pony track continued. The old track is reverting to nature again and is usually wet in places but today it was bone dry thanks to the continuing spell of Mediterranean weather we have been experiencing this summer. And the old track took us up to Quinten’s Cairn on the flank of Blackcraig. Now we left the track and took to the first real climb of the day up beside a fence on the steep shoulder of the hill.

What a view we now got down the glen to the Ayrshire plain with Cumnock and Auchinleck the main focal points though one did say we should be able to see the Burns Monument in Mauchline. But we had little time for the view for the hill rose steeply in front of us.

As the climb eased on to the flat summit of the hill we stopped to gather the group together again. But Jimmy, near the coo’s tail, walked past saying that we would catch him up shortly. And catch him up we did but by this time he was stopped with his finger to his lips indicting silence. And the cause of this? Just over a wee grassy rise was a flock of twenty-five to thirty golden plover standing face into the strengthening breeze. A great spot J.
We left the birds to themselves and walked on over the flat, rock-strewn summit of Blackcraig to the trig point where lunch was called for the clock was saying it was mid-day and for some it was a long time since breakfast.

After lunch came a drop down the broad, grassy flank of Blackcraig followed by a long drag up the equally broad and grassy flank of Blacklorg. A pad is now being established by footfall and this eased the slope considerably. And there was time to admire the view for this is a better viewpoint than the previous top. To the east of us was Cairn Table at Muirkirk, Tinto near Biggar, the Lowther hills across Nithsdale with the ‘golf ball’ showing through the summer haze, the Durisdeer hills and Queensberry. To the west beyond the growing wind farm the bulk of Cairnsmore of Carsphairn rose and beyond this the high Galloways with Merrick just visible. And Arran showed itself as a silhouette in the blue distance. Superb. And the view kept changing as we climbed to the wee cairn that marks the summit of our second top, Blacklorg Hill. Again, we waited to assemble the group.

Now it was down again, for our third top, Cannock Hill, lies way below the level of the first two. But this wee top has a sting in its tail for, just as you think you are nearing the top, the hill steepens and tests tiring legs. The top was gained, easily for some, harder for others. Time for another drink stop. From our stop we looked directly down on the Afton reservoir looking deep blue in the summer sunshine. Pity the view from this wee top was spoilt on the west side of the reservoir by the massive wind farm and associated paraphernalia, roads scarring the hillside. And new electric pylons and road heading toward lower Nithsdale. Yet, some of our number, the cyclists, saw this as an opportunity for a new route to be wheeled. There’s nae accounting for folk.

From our third top our course lay downward yet again. At the coll between Cannock and the rigg of Craigbraneoch that leads up to Steyamara some of our number opted to wimp out of the last hill and head directly down to the reservoir leaving seven of us to complete the four tops. This one was reached without too much trouble, Bob, oldest of the group today, reaching it first. What a superb viewpoint this wee top is. The glen lies deep below and runs down toward New Cumnock where it opens on to the Ayrshire plain and its settlements. Today the view was ‘fabulous’.

All that was left now was the quick descent to the dam of the reservoir and the walk down the road to the cars. We arrived some ten to fifteen minutes after the wimps.

A great walk was finish off with FRT in the Black Bull in Mauchline. Let’s hope that it will not be too long before we are back on the four tops.

Thursday, 26 July 2018

Taj Tandoori Prestwick

The private room in the Taj restaurant has now been booked for 16 people at 7.00.p.m.on Wed 15th August. If for any reason you can not go please let me know as soon as possible.

Some images from the four tops walk

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Tuesday, 24 July 2018

Prestwick to Troon and back 18 July 2018

Alan McQ, Alan S, Dan the Man, Davie C, Davie McM,  Dougie, Gus, Iain, Jim, Jimmy, Kenny R, Kenny T, Malcolm, Paul and Peter

Whether it was the promise of a nice easy walk in nice weather or the lure of Irene's scones, 14 of us gathered at Dougie's house in Prestwick and enjoyed a lovely 30 minutes or so sitting in Dougie's garden enjoying their hospitality. Thanks for the teas, coffee and scones, Irene. We'll be back for more!

Thereafter we made our way down to the old swimming pool at Prestwick shore where we would start today's walk. Davie remembers that as teenagers he and Jimmy once attended a bathing beauty contest there away back in the day. No Jimmy didnae win!

Anyway we set off at 10:10 am and followed our usual path thro' the dunes and down along the Pow Burn (how low the water was) and heading north along the beach towards Troon. We had our first stop at the toilets in Troon, where Gus was forced to spend 30p. Imagine 6 shillings for a pee! If Davie McM had to pay 30p every time he needed to piddle he'd be bankrupt in a fortnight!

At this juncture it should be mentioned that we had been joined by the youngest person ever to accompany the Early Ooters on one of their walks, no, not Alan McQ, but Alan Stewart's grandson, Dan, who was brave enough to dare (Dan Dare geddit? Aw, please yersels) to be seen with a senile bunch of old degenerates. Well done, Dan!

After a short stop, we headed back towards Prestwick going past the South Beach  Hotel and past all the grandiose big hooses before joining the cycle path that runs alongside the golf course. When we reached the railway bridge that takes you across the golf course and onto the beach a lunch stop was called. By this time it was getting extremely warm, so we all ensconced ourselves in the shade of some trees. Here the botanists  among us discussed the the big tall plants with Davie McM surprising everybody by knowing that one of them was called Evening Primrose.

After lunch the pace seemed to step up as the thought of a cool pint in the Pioneer drew ever nearer. We arrived back at the cars 3 hours and 35 minutes after we had set out, ready for the banter and the FRT which was enjoyed for a good hour and a half. For some it was a 3PD, for the drivers it was orange and bloody tonic.

PS Holly was absent from this walk due to an infected paw which elicited some very sympathetic comments from the Ooters, more than her master got when he had a sair fit!

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Durisdeer and Morton Castle 11 July

Alan, Alan McQ, Allan, Davie C, Davie Mc, Dougie, Gus, Ian, Malcolm, Rex, Robert

It was raining as we left the west coast heading for Durisdeer, but, as we motored down in to Dumfries and Galloway, there were no signs of rain, and we were not to see any during our walk.
Skies were cloudy with blue patches as we set off from the village before turning at the cemetery and heading up the track to Kettleton bothy. The temperature was ideal for walking, so it only took about forty minutes to arrive at our coffee spot, although these days most bring water or juice rather than a hot drink.
By eleven we were on our way again continuing upwards on the track, passing by a drystane wall complete with lunky hole, before reaching our highest point of the day which offered splendid views all round. Drumlanrig was easy to pick out and Morton Castle came into view as we moved down the track above Kettleton Reservoir. Halfway down we stopped to ponder whether to go cross country to the castle or continue on the road. The majority opted for the shorter hike, but Allan, Dougie, Ian, and Malcolm decided to stick to the road and set off first. Holly, liking to be at the front, joined them not realising that her master? was not to follow. At times she looked a bit bemused as to where the rest of the guys were but once we found her a stick, she was fine. Although following the road was easy going, given the fact that it was getting hotter, the four were pleased to reach the castle. As expected the others had been there for about fifteen minutes and had finished their lunch by the time the four arrived. Nonetheless, given the surroundings (although the water in the loch was a strange colour of green and looked decidedly unhealthy) and the sunshine, it was no hardship to wait another fifteen minutes whilst the four ate.
Leaving the castle, we did not take the nature trail but stuck to the road. When reaching the crossroads, the front runners followed Holly straight on, much to the delight of those who were walking at a more leisurely pace and who knew to turn sharp right. Robert & Co had to turn back and retrace their steps and take the proper road. Well done, Holly! Our plan had worked!
The road walk up past the restored cottages and past Gateslack always seems to go on and on, particularly in the hot weather, and we were more than happy to reach the turn-off up to Durisdeer and the road up to the cars. A few minutes over four hours and about ten miles was the call.
Much anticipated FRT was taken at the Crown in Sanquhar where we were greeted by our friendly barman.
Not the longest walk we have ever done, but there were some tired souls heading home.

Durisdeer Church

On the up!

Looking back at the reservoir

Decision time

How far is it now, Allan?

Leaving Morton Castle

I spy with my little eye... a golf ball

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

Arrangements for Wednesday 18th July 2018

Meet at Dougie's at 9.30am for home-made scones, a variety of preserves and served with tea and coffee before walking to Troon and back.

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Willowbank Challenge

Thank you from the Management Team of “Friends Of Willowbank” and from me.

You will remember a fundraising event I have been taking part in over the past year to raise funds for the children of Willowbank Special School in Kilmarnock where my granddaughter, Emma, is a pupil.  The event was called the “Willowbank Challenge” and it involved 100 volunteers, each in their own way, raising £100 to help the pupils who all have complex and life altering disabilities. The £10,000 raised was to then form the foundation for other normal annual fundraising events throughout the session. The event was scheduled to finish at the end of June 2018.

This letter is to update you on my progress and to express my thanks and the thanks of the “Friends of Willowbank” for the considerate way you responded to my plea. You will remember that to raise money I undertook to do jobs for any person who would hire me, and they in return sponsored me at a rate of £7.50 per hour. Over the year I have undertaken lots of different jobs, and received lots of donations to this worthy cause. Your response has been outstanding. When I worked I was rewarded well above the agreed rate and those persons who didn’t have any jobs gave generous donations to the cause.

The “challenge” finished on the last day of June and whilst I tried to raise £100 at this date, with money still coming in, I have now raised over £850.

My wife, Ann, was also participating. She did this by clearing our loft spaces, and sending some items to auction, and selling all the other items at a car boot sale at Ayr. She has raised £750.

The project as a whole is still receiving monies as it comes to an end, and to date has raised nearly £25,000.

You have been part of a huge success story and have thoughtfully provided support for those children who can do little to help themselves.

I thank you again for your support with this cause.

Alan Stewart

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Muirkirk Circular aka The Lunky Hole Walk 4 July

Alan, Alan McQ, Allan, Davie C, Davie Mc, Gus, Ian, Jimmy, Malcolm, Peter, Rex, Robert

The brilliant spell of weather continued as we set off from Kames (or is it Kaimes?) on the path out to Tibbie’s Brig. The bench in memory of Councillor James Kelly gave us the opportunity to have a team photograph before we continued, skirting the Garpel, and taking the path on the old railway line down towards the Covenanters memorial. As per usual, coffee was called for, but, today, this shaded spot was infested with midges so little time was spent before we continued past the River Ayr and up to the opencast site which has now benefitted from landscaping. We reminisced that it was not too long ago that we could see to the bottom where men and machines were still working and wondered how deep the water was now. Peter left us at this point and followed the A70 back to his car. Crossing the main road, we stopped briefly at the bridge over the Ayr to take on fluids in preparation for the next section which would be the hottest part of the walk. We followed the road across the Sorn Muirkirk road (closed at the moment for some works apparently) and passed Netherwood Farm, before making our way up to the entrance to Burnfoot Farm. In a change to tradition, we stopped here in the shade of the trees and took lunch. The aforementioned shade and a wee breeze made for a pleasant fifteen minutes and allowed the more sweaty of us to change shirts.
Continuing on, we crossed the bridge over the Greenock Water and made our way up the track to the site of the old opencast, now covered in trees. Indeed, some tree felling had already taken place. It is not too long ago that the whole area was barren. Given the dry weather we, for the first time in a while, were able to take the lower road (usually flooded) and before long we emerged at the Muirkirk to Strathaven road and turned right towards Muirkirk. Our junior member was underwhelmed by the lunky hole in the drystane dyke and matters were made worse since the information board had been vandalised and the details had gone.
Almost to a man, the decision was to head straight back to the cars from here rather than take a detour through the woods to the churchyard, and so Kames was reached at ten to two, three and three quarter hours or so after having set off. The distance was averaged out to have been nine and a half miles, quite enough on such a warm day.
FRT was taken in the Empire Bar, where old friendships were renewed.

Tibbie's Brig

Today's starting eleven

The guid auld days?

The big hole in the ground

Holly cools off (normally the track is flooded at this point)