Thursday, 10 September 2015

Do'nt go down the mine, Dad

Alighting from the bus, I looked around for someone from whom to ask directions. The only person in sight was a little old lady carrying two shopping baskets apparently containing only Pringles, Rizlas, and chocolate bars. I asked her how to get to the museum, and her response was “ Wow. Yeah, the museum. Cool. Might be over that way. Hey. Cool,”
Yes, I was in Wanlockhead, the highest village in Scotland.

I soon located said  “Museum of Lead Mining”, and registered for the mine tour. At its peak, there were 47 lead mines and several copper, gold and silver mines in a two mile stretch between here and the neighbouring village of Leadhills.The lead mainly went to the Low Countries by way of Leith.

A lot of work has gone into re-opening this mine and making it suitable for visitors.


The galena ore was dragged out on these sledges by wee boys, You had to earn your X-box in those days.

  The remains of the smelter

One of the deep mines. Some went down to 600 ft below sea level. Big deal ? Well yes, if you remember that the surface here is 1500 ft above sea level.
The spoil heaps are a mecca for mineral collectors


The beam engine - unusually operated by a water-filled, self-tipping bucket at the opposite end from the pump.


 A lump of Wanlockhead galena.


A good day out, including a wee rail trip from Glasgow to Sanquhar  I realised that I hadn’t been in Ayrshire for a ridiculously long time and resolved to remedy this at the earliest opportunity .

I think Liege and  Lief is in my Top 5 albums


Saturday, 29 August 2015


Yes, for a limited period only, it’s “Blog one – get one free”

(Terms and conditions apply. Remember, hillwalking can go down as well as up. By reading this blog your house may be at risk.)

In an attempt to further increase the popularity of this blog, I am including details of two (not one – TWO ! Count them.) recent  walks, or bimbles, if I may borrow a mot juste from the lexicon of Professor Sloman.

First up, we have a wee wander up to the Bracklin Falls at Callander.

Callander is an unlikely conglomeration of chip shops, ice cream parlours, and shops selling tartanoiserie, which owes its popularity to its position a mere charabanc  excursion distance from the great city of Glasgow. Its situation at the edge of the Highland Boundary Fault (OK, I’ve already done all the culpability jokes on this),  allows the day-trippers to admire the glory of the Dalradian metamorphics without exposing themselves to the risk of altitude sickness.
Now, you can drive up the hill to the tourist car park- if you’re a wimp. However, regular readers know that I am made of stuff sterner than a German magazine, so I walked up. This went well – nothing spectacular, but quietly pleasing.
From the car park the path contours round the hill and then drops into the gorge at the falls.

 Some vertical bedding which may be of interest to those of you who sleep standing up.

The original bridge was swept away some years ago and replaced by this award-winning structure.


Heading up the gorge

At the top of the gorge I crossed over and returned down the farm road. I was looking out for the unsigned path off the road which led to this.


One of many Red Wells or chalybeate springs where people used to come to drink iron oxide infused water long before Barrs invented our other national drink. Still trickling, to prove that, as Neil Young claimed, Rust Never Sleeps.


This bench, next to the well, commemorates the founder of Callander’s  leading Scots-Italian families. For years they had the legendary Ben Ledi chip shop.


Part The Second was a little spin up Myreton Hill.

But you don’t do hills. OM

Well, I do. But verrrry slowly.
I had already summited Myreton Hill as part of my compleation of the WhaMs. (Wee hills above Menstrie) so this time I was not heading for the top, but following the old pony track to the calcite mine.


No one seems to know why anyone tried to mine a relatively common mineral such as calcite in such a remote location. It certainly didn’t seem to be a success, and only a small quarry and an adit blocked by a large gorse bush remain.

Good walk, though – stretched the legs, expanded the lungs and worked what is left of the heart. Onward and upward !!


Poor quality clip ,  obviously taken on someone’s phone, but worth it for a classic song by one of my favourite ladies.

Saturday, 15 August 2015

Now, there's something you don't see very often.

Well, not on this blog anyway.

It being that time of year again, I resolved to road-test my birthday socks with a traverse of Sauchie Craigs. This year’s bad boys are ultra high-tech, featuring wifi, satnav and differential cushioning. They also are designated “right” and “left”, something I naturally only discovered after putting them on – on the wrong feet.

The trek up to the foot of the Craigs from the nearest bus stop is a long , steep, tarmac slog, so I was delighted to scrounge a lift for part of the way.

As elsewhere in Scotland, the post-war timber planting is now being harvested. I find it quite spooky, and often disorientating, when a familiar patch of forestry is suddenly transformed into one of these “Hiroshima” landscapes.

Sauchie Craigs are at the western end of the line of basaltic intrusions which cross the Forth valley at Stirling and include the Abbey Craig (WallaceMonument) and the Castle Hill. Whereas the others are typically plugs, with the crag and tail configuration, this is more of a continuous sill.

I’m very slow on hills these days, so it took me a stupid amount of time to get onto the top of the escarpment, but, hey, I had nothing else in my diary for the day, and it doesn’t get dark until 10 o’clock, so suck it up.

 North Third reservoir.


That’s Carron Valley in the distance. It was a relatively sunny day, and I had hoped for good views, particularly north to the Highland Fault, but instead there was an annoying haze (“all in my head”).

 The Craigend lime kilns. The valley used to be covered in limestone, deposited when it was an inlet of the sea, then the glacier scraped it all away, except for the patches “protected” by the hard volcanic rock. There was lime burning here from very early days.


Blue spruce.


And a return to civilisation at the quaint rural hamlet of St.Ninians.


Good game, good game. About 8 miles and 900ft of upness.

Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. Indeed.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Gartmorn (slight return)

Our story starts here in 1694.

No. Wait. Over a bit. There, that’s better.


 Alloa Tower. erstwhile home of Sir John Erskine, who “entertained” Mary Queen of Scots here. (nudge, nudge). Now, as some of you may be aware, entertaining young queens doesn’t come cheap and Sir John was skint. One day, while out serf-hunting with the dogs, he noticed Mr. and Mrs. McBaldrick scraping black shiny stones out of the ground and setting fire to them to amuse their 28 children.
Soon the estate’s entire peasantry was busy 28 hours a day digging the black shiny stones out of the ground and transporting them to the nearby Alloa docks for onward shipment to people who had a use for them.

As the holes got deeper, so they filled with water and children were being drowned at a faster rate than their parents could replace them. Sir John called in a Welsh mining engineer who decided that the best way to deal with the water was …….with water ! A local burn was dammed and a system of water driven pumps was set up. When more effective drainage systems became available, the water from the dam was still used by several local mills (including a snuff mill) and a distillery. The outflow ended up at Alloa docks where, at one time, it was collected in large cisterns and released at low tide to flush the silt out of the harbour.

The dam wall was raised several times and a weir was built on the river Black Devon with a lade supplying top up water. At one time it was said to be the largest man-made water feature in Europe.


Overgrown lade

At various times it has been used as a hydro-electric scheme and as a drinking water reservoir. Currently it’s a country park and recreation facility.


 Filter beds from drinking water incarnation – now a sunken garden.

 The remains of Sherrifyard colliery – in production up until 1921.


The line of the old railway to Alloa.


I believe that, in a previous post, I told you ‘bout the swans (that they live in the park)


Good walk – about 4 miles bus stop to bus stop – negligible up. A stroll in the park, really