Monday 27 June 2011

Blog now unfunny. "Official"

The occasionally sober among you may recall that some radge hacked into the blog recently and played silly bloggers with the stats.
Thankfully, this knuckle-dragger appears to have had his fun and moved on.It certainly opened my eyes to the stress some of you must suffer from having pageviews almost every day. It was so reassuring to see the return of the tumbleweed.

I  have, naturally had to take security measures such as changing all my passwords and making sure I am always wearing pants before going online.

Saturday 18 June 2011

One more heartache

Perhaps today.
I rise early, don the smoking jacket over my PJs, and head downstairs.
As I excitedly bobbit a banana and crumble a suggestive biscuit into my porridge, I convince myself that it will be today.
I make myself comfortable in the widow seat with a cup of English Breakfast and look for the flash of red through the hedge which indicates that the postman has entered our street.
He's getting closer
Be still my beating heart !!!!
Damn it. He's walked past our gate.
Another day without a parcel from any of the leading outdoor retailers containing  examples of the latest exotic gear for me to test  and  review.

It's so humiliating. Suppose I meet another blogger on the hill (or on a bus), and they remark on my socks and enquire  who I am testing them for. Imagine the shame of having to admit that I went into a shop and bought them. It's so unprofessional.!
Now, I'm fully aware that I'm not a proper grown-up bloggger . I can't expect to get tents and jackets and rucksacks and stuff.
But surely - a spork? a whistle?
Perhaps tomorrow
I extinguish the jacket and slip back under the duvet.

Wednesday 15 June 2011

The Girthgait - a gait less travelled.

In which OM fails to find a Roman road and other minor misadventures on an otherwise lovely day.

Well, the weather has been pretty Octoberish , and Tuesday seemed to present a bit of a window. The plan was to walk from Soutra  to Lauder via the Girthgait and a section of Dere Street. This was going to be  a tight schedule for me, involving about 13 miles in 6 hours in order to make the bus connection at the finish. I had done this walk about 25 years ago, but in the opposite direction and, apart from that I have absolutely no recollection of the details.However the route is clearly marked as path/track all the way, and is in fact a Heritage Path as listed by Scotway. It seemed do-able and I wanted to push myself a bit.

The bus driver let me off right at the Gilston road-end on the A68 and I toddled up the hill to Soutra Aisle with a huge panorama unfolding to the North and East, probably from Ninemileburn to Dunbar.

This small building, a chapel, is all that now remains above ground of what was a huge medieval hospital run by the Augustinian order. Excavations have revealed that remarkable medical practices were performed here, including herbal anaesthetics for amputations !
In fact this bleak bit of hillside has seen some history in it's time.

Dere Street, the Roman road from Corrbridge to Camelon, came this way, and subsequently the "Kings Road " also used a section of the same route , part of today's planned walk. Girthgait means Sanctuary Road, provided here and at Melrose Abbey.
After the battle of Nevilles Cross, the Scots were pushed back north, and for a time the border between Scotland and England passed through here

So far so good !

The future !! I saw 4 wind-farms today, and walked right through the middle of one. At no point during the day was I out of sight of a turbine. What to do ? stay in the house ? And to add insult to injury, I'm told I will be paying an extra £200 pa on my leccy bill to subsidise this nonsense. Nuff said.

The path was indistinct. No, let's be honest, the path was non-existent. At times you could imagine a section of embankment or cutting, but it soon disappeared. I searched for all the usual signs - nicks in the horizon, gates, styles etc but - zilch. Heritage path my arse ! Now, I knew exactly where I was at all times, the map details conformed to what I saw on the ground, I knew exactly where I was going, and I knew the bearing that would take me there. But no path.

The reason I carry a 75litre rucksack !

At one point I came to a wind farm access road which cut across the route at right angles. I walked up and down in both directions, but........

So it was a couple of hours of bog-trotting and gate-finding (I don't do fences!)

Exactly where I expected, I hit the cart track down to Kirktonhill farm and spotted this Historic Scotland sign indicating that I had just come along Dere Street. Aye right.

One for the geologists. I was vertical - the ground slopes !

There was no no chance of getting to Lauder in time to catch the bus, so I headed down to Oxton

Channelkirk Kirk.

In days of yore, whenever I was in the area, I would have popped in here for a pint or two and a good argument with mine host Bill Cowe, described in his obituary as "family man, superhero,  landscape architect, and folkie."
He's no here anymore. The clue was in the word "obituary".

Saturday 11 June 2011

Carry on up the glen

The day started badly. I boiled over my porridge. The mood worsened when I read that that odious little shit Brian Souter had been allowed to purchase a knighthood.In fact Mrs. OM had to contact the community council and the village's state of alert was raided to Defcon 1 ( Imminent probability of radge attack !). Fresh air and exercise were prescribed and I set off for the Glen Road. Now, as you probably know, every town and village in Scotland has a Glen Road. I think it was an edict of Malcolm Canmore or something.

They tend to be much the same - big hooses sitting up on terraces. Old stone ones lower down and flashy modern ones of the type favoured by drug dealers, gangland enforcers, people traffickers and IT consultants further up.

Our Glen Road is now  a footpath, although it used to be a full-on tarmac B road between Bridge of Allan and Dunblane, popular with the youth for experimenting with motor vehicles which they were not legally entitled to drive/ride. The polis rarely came up here, and if they did, they were obviously engaged in some illicit activity of their own, and never bothered us.

This is the reason for the change in status of the road !

There are some fields up here that look a bit - well odd.
That's because they used to be orchards. Scotland once had a significant top fruit industry, In this area Scott of Drumdruills was the big name, and I think they had connections with the jam industry in Carluke.

This is the bridge where, I remember still, I had an OMFG moment on the Velocette 350. Character forming, but.

Who remembers this scandal ? The politician involved claimed that it was a sett-up

The road/path now joins up with Dunblane's Glen Road and the pair of them skip merrily, hand-in-hand towards Sheriffmuir.Now I had itended carrying on to Sheriffmuir, but thunder was starting to rumble and I didn't fancy 3 miles of narrow tarmac on a Saturday lunchtime with everyperson and his cousin heading for the Inn.So I cut off on the Kippenrait track and headed for the Waltersmuir reservoir.

There's something apocalyptic about clear fell.

I was fascinated by this bogie at the base of the dam wall. Flanged wheels running on metal rails(hidden by the grass) with a cable going up to a pulley at the top and coming down again (you can just see it in the foreground). Presumably something (bagged ?) was loaded onto the platform then onto the trolley - the cable is hitched to the lorry( land rover ?) which then drives forward and pulls the load to the top station. But what is it that needs to be carried up ? All was revealed later - much later

I raced up the steps(?) expecting to see several hectares of prime Scottish H2O, but hey - shockaroonie !!!!!
Naturally, my first reaction was that some white van(tanker?) men from the drought ridden South had 'ad it away on their toes. Then I reckoned that it had been emptied for maintenance.

The truth, dear reader only penetrated my thick skull when I was uploading the piccies. Duh ! It's now a fish farm innit ? You spotted that right away, didn't you. And the bogie is to take up the bags of ants eggs or whatever.

Beautifully preserved "Water Board" iron fence.

So.where now ? I was heading for Pendreich farm, and the 25k showed a path about a mile from where I was across the moor. It did look a bit suspiciously green and tufty. I squelched off on a bearing to intersect with the track.( Hope that wasn't too technical for you there.)

I came across a raised grassy road which I followed for a while even though it did not appear to be going in the direction I wanted to go (OS- what do they know) At this point it became obvious that it wasn't a road - it was a pipe track. This called for desperate measures, and, as a last resort, I got out the map and compass, worked out where I was, where I wanted to get to, and how to get there. Now, I know some of you consider this to be cheating, but it was starting to rain

Found the farm, got on the road and home to tea and scones.

Maybe I should try this. Seems like great fun for coffin dodgers like me !

Friday 10 June 2011

The Project

As there seems little likelihood of purging this "thing" that is parasitising the blog, I'm doing a bit of tidying up prior to deploying the ultimate sanction.
Some of you may recall me talking of The Project,  a long distance walk which I once dreamed of doing myself. Not  to be, I'm afraid, so here's an outline on the off-chance that someone may be interested. I can find no reference to this having been done before
It's a cross- Scotland route, north of the Southern Upland Way, but south of the Central Belt. It goes from Dunbar to Ayr, linking two counties with fishing/farming/mining traditions.There is a variety of types of walking, good public transport at either end, and town/villages at regular intervals.

Stage1 The Herring Road from Dunbar to Lauder. Well documented Heritage Path, but with several variations. Pick your choose.When I was hard, I did this in a day, and some of you may still mange this, but as day one of a long walk most will prefer to break it with a wild camp in the once lovely Lammermuirs.

Stage 2. Goes over Lauder Common to Stow, Up to Scroof and then either high level by Windlestraw Law, Whitehope and Glentress and down to Peebles, or lower level to Walkerburn and into Peebles along the bank of the Tweed. Again a long day, or two comfortable days.

Stage 3. The simple option here is the John Buchan Way to Broughton, or there may be the possibility of a route over the Manor Hills to Tweedsmuir.A relatively short day, or the possibility of pushing on into the next stage.

Stage 4 The Culter Hills. Find your own way. Not many obvious tracks, but mainly good walking, as I recall.
A couple of Donalds are available for the dedicated bagger, but the target is to aim for the Camps reservoir and then down to Abington. Probably a wild camp.

Stage 5. North out of the town alongside the M74 then through the underpass and follow the forestry tracks to Glespin, then Glenbuck and Muirkirk.

Stage 6. The River Ayr Way  via Failford gorge, Auchincruive gardens and into Ayr. 2/3 days depending on how much of a hurry you are in.

There you go. Something to get your teeth into. I've walked all the areas, albeit some time ago. Should take you somewhere between a week and a fortnight depending on what kind of walker you are. Enjoy

Send me a postcard.

Thursday 9 June 2011

FAO 92.18.9 # of Manchester

(who has spent about 10 of the previous 24 hours on this site)
"Imogen, I've told you. It's over between us. Ever since I found out about you and Ryan.
Now stop stalking me.

Wednesday 8 June 2011

Blog's been a bit funny today.

Well, makes a change,eh ? Starting at 6am, there has been a veritable orgy of pageviewing on here today. (Relatively speaking of course)

 At first I suspected dodgy eastern European spammy stuff, but everyone seems to be arriving through the "usual suspects" blogs. So what then ?
The thunder ?
Have details of the super injunction leaked out?
Virtual coach parties ?
Perhaps a rumour that I had died ?

All very worrying. Has anyone else being having a similar problem ?

Update Thursday morning

Seriously. It's still happening. Someone or something keeps coming on via the regular referring sites (pieblog, alansloman, phreerunner etc) and sometimes apparently via archive posts on these blogs. I can't seem to identify any pattern from the stats although a single ISP in Manchester seems to figure prominently.It's even more of a step-change than the Gear Review post, but without the "new" people leaving comments or becoming followers.

Monday 6 June 2011

Castle Law

is an Andrew Ridgeley/Ernie Wise type of hill - eclipsed by it's more illustrious partner, Dumyat.It is, however well worth a visit even for those who are not trying to bag all the Denises.

For me it's an "out the back door and onto the hill" type walk- up through the Mine Woods and on past the reservoir. Now those of you who are stalking me will be aware that I normally have a seat on the dam wall here for a bit of a blaw. Imagine my surprise today (go on, try) when i crested the hill to see this.

My immediate reaction was to rush over and see if it had a brass plate with my name and 1947 - 2011. Fortunately I couldn't find one so icontinued, suitably encouraged.

I was surprised to see no cars parked at the Highlandmans Well, however as I headed up the hill, I could see a couple of cars parked in the remote Forestry Commission carpark on Black Hill. You may remember I passed through this car park a few weeks ago, and facetiously mentioned "Dogging" in the blog post.Well I now get page views via Google searches for porn sites!

I had intended to take the less travelled lower path to avoid the masses, but at the path junction I was considering whether Dilshan would declare at 600 and carried on along the main path. As it happens I saw three people in the 4 hours I was out.

After passing the scree section, I was looking for a path heading off right, and sure enough there was a faint trod in the heather

Not exactly a castle, but the remains of an iron age fort.
The coming of the iron age was a massive engine for social change. Men naturally welcomed the prospect of harder tools and smoother clothes, and it gave women something useful to do between getting the kids off to school and making her man's tea.

Although slightly lower the views from here are actually better than from Dumyat

From the left Ben Ledi Crianlarich Munros and SAC Ben Vorlich

For any rock heads

Must have been noisy in the ice age, with all that scratching and gouging

I'll post a full kit list later

Saturday 4 June 2011

Today's Teaser

What is the connection between a rather twee little village in Stirlingshire and the ill-fated space shuttle Challenger ?
Here's a clue
It's not Rocket Science.

In fact it's Oceanography and the link is Sir John Murray.

Murray was born in Canada, but moved to Bridge of Allan as a boy , to be raised by his grandfather. John McFarlane.

McFarlane had made his fortune in property in the Manchester area and had retired to live in this house. In those days there was no lightweight backpacking and internet porn to occupy retired gents, so he devoted his later years to good works, improving his estate and building up one of the finest natural history collections in the country.

After a couple of previous homes proved inadequate, the imposing Museum Hall (now flats) was built to house the collection.

Across the road from the Museum Hall is the Memorial Park, gifted to the burgh by the Pullar family, of whom more later.

Grandson John Murray was educated at the High School of Stirling, where some of the greatest thinkers of their respective generations were educated up until the mid 1960s. He then went on to Edinburgh University where he was a contemporary of R.L. Stevenson and the pair of proto-hippies drifted from faculty to faculty and left without degrees.
He had, however, picked up enough to become the curator of his grandfathers collection, which grew in size and repute.
When Professor Wyville Thomson managed to persuade the government to fund an oceanic survey using the rather decrepit HMS Challenger, he asked Murray to join the team as naturalist.The four year voyage which followed was as significant in its own way as the voyage of the Beagle.The ship crisscrossed the oceans of the world, taking soundings and dredging samples.At this time, the ocean floors were as unexplored as the moon. The "headline" discoveries were the mid-oceanic ridges and troughs, discoveries which are behind much of the modern thinking on tectonic plates and continental drift.
Wyville Thomson died soon after their return, and Murray undertook the massive of task of analysing and writing up the findings.Such was the significance of these discoveries  at the time, he became an international scientific celebrity.

He then turned his attention to setting up Scotland's first marine research laboratory and, almost as a hobby, began a project to survey the depth of all the Scottish Lochs.

In his days at Bridge of Allan, Murray had become friendly with Laurence Pullar, scion of the family who owned the village bleaching and dyeing works at Keirfield. Laurence was in the tradition of gentleman naturalists.When Murray began the bathymetric study of the Scottish lochs, Laurence's son Fred Pullar was his assistant , but, in 1901, the young man was tragically drowned in Airthrey Loch (now part of Stirling University) while trying to rescue two young ladies who had fallen through the ice while curling

As a memorial to his son, Laurence Puller funded the completion of the loch survey, as well as building this social club for the employees of the Keirfield works.The results of the study still form the basis of of the OS mapping of 562 Scottish lochs

When Sir John Murray died he had received knighthoods from the UK, Prussia and Norway and honorary degrees from Edinburgh , Oxford, Harvard,Oslo and Toronto Universities. His picture has appeared on the stamps of two countries, various medals and scholarships bear his name, and, of course, the Challenger spacecraft was named after his famous voyage,but as far as I am aware, there is nothing to mark his upbringing in Bridge of Allan.

(Much of the factual material for this post was published in the Forth Naturalist and Historian )