Thursday 29 September 2011


Blogger is not allowing me to respond to comments.
I have not been able to see my followers for about 6 months
There was a suspicious level of activity yesterday.
Someone altered yesterdays post. I have restored the original from the saved copy.

All in all, completely unsatisfactory even for something that is free.

So sod this for a game o' sodjers - I'm off.

Thanks for all the fish.

Wednesday 28 September 2011

Visiting Scotland - a warning !

If any of youse had been considering popping up from Englandshire for an afternoon's frolic in the heather - well don't !

It is oppressively hot here in the Centrals, and the natives are not responding well.

However the good news is that the rain (albeit of the warmer sort) will resume tomorrow continuing what has been the wettest, most miserable summer since before Hibs won the Cup. You will find that we have topped up all the bogs for you and installed several new ones where once there was terra firma ; all the burns are now running like rivers and the rivers - well, better get here quick before the bridges get washed away. All in readiness for the rainy season and then the snow.

Look forward to seeing y'all !

Tuesday 20 September 2011

Vital signs

There being an unexplained gap in the otherwise perpetual precipitation, I was allowed out to play for a couple of hours this afternoon, on the understanding that I didn't get my feet wet, and I didn't talk to any strange women.

A leisurely stroll round the yew-knee-versity campus seemed appropriate, and a fine wee walk it proved

A sign of Autumn. (Acer sacharinum)


This strange triptych apparently marked the spot where the old counties of Stirlingshire, Perthshire, and Clackmannanshire met. You can just make out the P for Perthshire on the facing stone. The boundaries have long since changed and the marker itself has been moved and re-assembled facing the wrong way.

This baby is supposed to mark the spot where Malcolm Canmore defeated the Picts to create a united(sic) Scotland. Or it marks the site of a fair held by the locals to sell stuff to the Highlanders on their way through on the cattle droves. Or possibly both.

This has to be the worst drawing of an oystercatcher ever. !

And finally

I leave you with this.

It made my day, it did.

Monday 19 September 2011

Twelve Glorious Months

Well that went quickly !  A whole year since I started this.

I had hoped there was a niche for something different, but like many before me, discovered that it is a very fine line which  separates "different"  from "shite"

My big break came early on when I posted Gear Review and Alan Sloman puffed it on his blog. Many hundreds read it, but 99.99% never came back. It's really been down hill from there on in, with followers departing and other bloggers dropping it from their lists.

Perhaps I should listen
After all, as Dick Tuck famously said ".......

However, I must thank the dozen or so long suffering souls who read this on a semi-regular basis and those bloggers who still link to it. I discovered as I went along that doing this blog helped tremendously in my recovery/survival programme. So if you stop visiting now, you'll  feel guilty for the rest of your life. Your call !

Thursday 15 September 2011

Water Falls

But you knew that. It's one of the basic scientific facts they teach you at school. Like shit happens etc. Way back when I was a temporary junior acting unpaid hillwalker, I used to console myself as I struggled through squelchy stuff at the beginning of the climb that gravity will have brought all the water down here and the peaks and ridges will be firm and crisp underfoot. Aaah, bless ! The discovery that you could still lose a boot at 4000 ft came as a nasty shock.

Nowhere near 4000ft today, but I did spend  a bit of time contouring across a pronounced slope -pronounced s-l-o-p-e. (thank you Milligan) which was remorselessly moisture retentive

Anyway, Gargunnock.
The Gargunnock hills are part of the escarpment that forms the southern wall of the Carse of Stirling. Same sort of idea as the Ochils to the north, but not so high and not so many deep glens.I had considered going up to the top, but correctly opted for the low level circle.

Looking North to the start of the Highlands

This is Downie's Loup, named after some clown who tried to jump it on his horse. He was killed at the third attempt, becoming one of the early recipients of a Darwin Award.

Part of the way featured a kind of causeway through the bog along an overgrown dyke, but this came and went.

More water falling

Now it had been peeing down quite a lot recently, but the vegetation just said "Squelch !"

So how squelchy was it ? Let me put it this way.......

At this point I was savouring a custard cream and asking myself , more in sorrow than in anger "Why didn't you put your gaiters on, Dickhead ?"

Looking East to the Ochils. Ah can see ma hoose !!

The rich farmland of the Carse of Stirling. At one time this was under the sea. At another time it was under a glacier and a mere 200 years ago it was under a thick layer of peat. Some time in the future it will be under houses.

Some interesting livestock at the farm on the way down

I'm guessing Balwens, unless you know different.

Indian Runners !!

Harris Hawk.  ( No - I'm sure it's not an oyster catcher. Now piss off !)

Harris Hawk in the huff.

Not sure about these. They are cattle. And they are white. But I don't think they are White Cattle.

"Stop it. You're just encouraging him" !

Nice wee kirk in Gargunnock. Note crowstep gables and cross at one end and horns at the other.

Now I've noticed that the popular blogs usually feature a reason for each walk - either preparing for another excursion or testing of an item of kit. Well today's objective was to evaluate a new ancillary equipment  management system which I have developed in conjunction with NASA. This consists of two elements. First the carrying of  essential items such as compass, monocular, spectacles, teeth etc on lanyards (ok - string) around my neck. Phase two involves the over-the shoulder carrying of a map case. Now, I have hitherto regarded the  map cases in the same light as man-bags and earstuds as sending out completely the wrong signals. But hey, don't knock it till you try it, as they say.
 You will be surprised to hear that this turned out somewhat less than the total disaster which I am sure you were expecting. It will however require some management practice to avoid a bit of a bourach involving the sternum strap. Perhaps I could go on a course.

Well I enjoyed that ! Wet underfoot but a delightfully warm and sunny late summer's day. 5 ish miles and and, dunno, 5/600 ft of lift . Just what the doctor ordered.

Monday 5 September 2011

Boot Review

I am often asked what I do to occupy my time between the exquisitely chronicled adventures which feature on this blog.
Well, sometimes I sit and think ......
and sometimes I read books.
Here are some what I have red recently, by the way.

To begin with, the second volume of Tim Neat's biography of Hamish Henderson. When I started reading the first volume, I wondered if the writer's closeness to the subject would render it a piece of hagiography. Having completed both volumes, I think not. It's not "warts and all" , but he does touch on, however sympathetically, the obvious weaknesses.

I knew Hamish, as did hundreds of people with connections to CND or the Forrest Hill Bar (Sunday name !),  in the late '60s. By this time he had already squeezed in several lives - war hero, poet, folklorist, song writer and international  political activist. Sadly, thereafter, his light burned less brightly. I found him, like John Martyn, interesting when sober, good company with a few drinks, and boring and irritating when drunk.
He wrote many letters, fought many battles, some real - some imagined.
Tim Neat was a witness to, and participant in much of the latter period of Hamish's life. He helped scatter his ashes on Ben Gulabin above the little cottage at Spittal of Glenshee where he had spent an idyllic childhood.
He was a remarkable man with mysterious antecedents (I had always believed the Duke of Atholl theory, although Neat puts forward a more mundane explanation) .  I believe his true worth will only emerge after the death of most of the people he pissed off.

And one of the people he pissed-off on a regular basis (and vice versa) was Norman MacCaig. Moving on the fringes of these circles, I was temperamentally more drawn to MacCaig,  "the sarcastic lizard" as Allan Bold had called him. Both were tall, distinguished looking figures in those days, but could not have been more different - war hero versus conchie for a start. At one point they both worked for Edinburgh University and held court at opposite corners of George Square

Which brings me by a typically circuitous route to my second book
At the Loch of The Green Corrie by Andrew Greig
Like most good books this operates on several different levels. When I borrowed this from the library, the librarian said "Oh, my husbands just been reading this"  "Really," I said. "Is he interested in poetry ?"  She looked confused, then said "It's about fishing". Ah well, maybe it is. It's about fishing, and hills, and Assynt, and Norman MacCaig. But it's also about Andy Greig, and ultimately about all of us.
I've never met Andy Greig ( you'll be pleased to hear!) but he is a Central Belt laddie of roughly my generation with some Incredible String Band stories to tell. He did go to Dollar, but we won't hold that against him. I thought  Kingdoms of Experience,  about his expedition to Everest  with Mal Duff was excellent and a cut above most of your "Mountain Literature" I intend to read more of his stuff.
I once went out with a girl who was attending MacCaig's creative writing seminars, and who confided in me that Norman had written "A Man in My Position" for her. Some 20years later I was at a cocktail party in College Station, Texas and met a woman who had been an exchange student at Edinburgh in the late '60s. She told me that "Professor" MacCaig had written A Man in My position just for her. The old rogue !

And finally two books specifically about walking

Extreme Rambling by Mark Thomas. is about a walk along the length of The Wall or Security Barrier that the Israelis are building to separate the Jewish part of the country from the Palestinian West Bank area. This is obviously such a sensitive political topic that, just as when talking about Northern Ireland ( The North Of Ireland, Ulster, The Six Counties etc ) the very vocabulary used crackles with religious significance.

Now Mark Thomas is an activist. You may have seen him on the television. If your world view is reflected by the work of, say Richard Littlejohn, Jeremy Clarkson and Melanie Phillips then forget about his book .
Mark wears his heart on his sleeve, and although he does interview Israeli government spokespeople,  as well as Palestinians and Israeli peace activists, they tend to shoot themselves in the foot , metaphorically speaking of course. However this is not a polemic. It's about a walk. He walked 450km along The Wall through some of the most beautiful countryside in the Middle East (if you screw up your eyes and block out the razor wire).
There's mud, there's blisters, there's flies. What more could you want ? Even Martin Banfield hasn't done this one !! (I think)
I thoroughly enjoyed this book.You know, the kind that feels when you finish it,  as if a friend who had been staying with you has gone home.

I found  Ribbon of Wildness by Peter Wright a bit of a puzzle. It's about the Watershed - the imaginary line up the spine of Scotland separating the land which drains west to the Atlantic from that which drains to the North Sea. That sounds fairly straight forward, however ,at least in parts, the line is open to interpretation and of course there are sections where it is impossible to walk.

Now, in the frontispiece Mr Wright claims to have walked the entire 745 miles of his version in 64 days. I have absolutely no reason to doubt this, but could I tell from the text ?  No. You would think that a high level walk of over 700 miles up the spine of Scotland would be a cracking read. Imagine what some of the Challenge bloggers could make of it. But this is not a walk journal - nothing about the weather, campsites, support etc. It could not even be described as a guide book - I don't think you could follow his route with just the book and an OS. If anything, I would describe it as a "Companion" to the Watershed, with lots of background information to read in the tent or the pub. Mr Wright is obviously involved in "Countryside Management" and faithfully list where the route crosses from a SSSI to LLNP to FC land etc. The foreword is by Robin Harper, scarf-wearing former Green MSP.Says it all really

Several years ago, Ben Cleuch fetishist Dave Hewitt (The Angry Corrie) walked his version of the Watershed and wrote an entertaining account which was  available to download free on the Tacit website. Save yourself £14.99.