Thursday 30 May 2013

The brain is a funny thing


Well, mine is anyway.

This morning I read a post by one of the proper bloggers entitled The Gentle Perfume of Socks

And all day the expression “sweet essence of giraffe” keeps forcing itself into my consciousness

And anyway, it’s been far too long since Sir Vivian and Co have been on here


Innes is God !

Sunday 26 May 2013

Gear Reviews : An Apology




Previous posts on this blog may have given the impression that I am morally, ethically and implacably opposed to the idea of bloggers doing reviews/plugs for items of outdoor equipment (henceforth referred to as gear) in return for cash or freebies.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Except for Boris Johnson's explanations to his wife for being late home. Obviously.

In the mistaken belief that my organ is a thing of influence in the outdoor world, I have been inundated (inundated, I tell you) with requests to puff stuff on this blog. I have wavered. One guy was going to pay me £25 just to post a link to a website. I thought about it, but it just seemed a bit shitty, so I made my excuses and left

However, these marketing people are nothing if not tenacious, and, in particular, these lovely people at Berghaus, who ( through their marketing company) have been very active in the blogosphere recently. I may have previously used the (affectionate) term “carpet bombing” to describe their campaign. Now, when approached by potential suitors, my first response is “Have you actually read the blog ?” This usually burns off most of them. However the Irish fellow working for Berghaus was made of sterner stuff, and, putting his job on the line, said that they were prepared to take the risk

Still, I remained unconvinced. My moral compass was birling like F. Scott Fitzgerald in his grave. Then they wheeled out the big guns. Who could resist a tearful late night phone call from Sir Chris Bonington? It made continued refusal seem unpatriotic

So, what are my background perceptions of Berghaus ? Well, they're British despite a Germanic sounding name – a bit like our own dear royal family, in fact. They've been around for a relatively long time during which I have owned and been satisfied with several of their products. I currently own a navy  fleece which is a bit of a classic ( the outdoor equivalent of The Little Black Dress !) and a pair of Deluge overtrousers which I bought (as in paid for !) because of the breathtakingly innovative idea of producing trousers in different leg lengths. I see Berghaus as a Volvo – reliable middle-class, stylish but not trendy, well made but reasonably priced. So that should have really pissed off their design department who think they have a cutting-edge down-with-the-kids image.

Now, having taken the plunge, I shall be giving this project my all.

I shall be testing The Product to destruction on the mean streets and paths of Central Scotland and providing a detailed evaluation on intrinsic, extrinsic, and subjective levels.

As an appetite whetter, I took it out yesterday for


Lab testing (It's a labyrinth FFS ! Do I have to explain them all ?)

DSCF4183 And an assessment of it's place in the history of the Universe and The Great Chain of Being.

Watch this space.

OK, suit yourselves.


Tuesday 14 May 2013

in which one old ruin visits another old ruin



Know what it used to be ? The one in the photograph , I mean.


Ah naw” I hear you groan. “It’s going to be one of his tedious Scotch history posts (little clue there). When will that nice Alan Sloman be back with pages of useful statistics on electricity generation ?”


Well Michael Gove has decreed that history has to be taught chronologically. And who am I to disagree with the pompous, swivel-eyed little sheep-shagger ?


We start today in Clackmannan, the beating heart of The Wee Coonty.








The origin of the name Clackmannan and its motto Look aboot ye is contained in a legend involving Robert The Bruce, a stone, and a lost glove, but the detail of the story is too complex for the limited attention span of readers of this blog.



I headed east through woodland in the old Kennet estate.



The old walled garden



Soon I was approaching the shoreline of the Forth estuary at Kennet Pans.

The Industrial Revolution in Scotland could be said to have started along the Forth in the 16th century.Brine was boiled in huge iron pans to leave salt. Production  centres tended to be close to easily accessible coal supplies and a suitable pow or tidal inlet where ships could dock and take away the finished salt ( presumably packed in little blue sachets). Prestonpans, Culross, and Kennet Pans were at the forefront of this major industry, which in turn drove the development of the coal mining industry.





The invention of ready-salted crisps had, of course meant the death knell for salt panning, many years before local farmer John Stein built the first industrial scale whisky distillery here in 1720.(yes that’s it in the pic!). You can see some of the story on the the information board, and if you are interested in more details try Here







All that’s left of the harbour pictured on the board



For the bridge-fetishist who, I know, read this – an artistic superimposition of the new Clackmannanshire Bridge,and the old Kincardine Bridge behind.


Kit list. What was I wearing ? Well typical mid-May walking outfit of semmit ( baselayer to you) two fleeces,rain jacket wooly beanie hat and Dachstein mitts. And I was frozen.Vicious wind, driven rain, snow flurries and brief sunny spells. Truly you have to suffer for your art.


Chris Knight writes some lovely dark songs

Monday 13 May 2013

Urgent safety warning for walkers



Lingering patches of snow and the need to go to the toilet have been flagged up as a potentially dangerous combination for hillwalkers.

Mountaineering Council of Scotland's Heather Morning said the situation could pose the greatest risk to women.

She said a friend had sought out a discreet place "to go" and ended up sliding down a patch of snow with "her pants round her ankles".

Ms Morning said her friend slid a few metres onto grass and was unhurt.

The MCofS's safety advisor said patches of snow that survive into late spring and early summer tended to be hard and high up on sheltered, northern slopes of mountains.

Ms Morning said: "Ladies should be particularly careful regarding their choice of location to take a pee.

"A friend of mine, in a bid to search out somewhere discreet out of the sight of the rest of the party, stepped onto an old patch of snow and headed off down the hill with her pants round her ankles.

"Fortunately, she only slid a few metres onto grass and the only thing that was hurt was her pride."

Carey Davies, of the British Mountaineering Council (BMC), said: "Mountains in Scotland often hold areas or patches of snow well into summer.

"The higher mountains, like Ben Nevis, are never snow free."

The BMC's hillwalking officer added: "If you're going into the hills remember you may encounter the white stuff - anything from the odd patch to large areas. So be prepared."

From BBC Scotland website

and, of course, don’t eat yellow snow !


Saturday 11 May 2013

Just popped oot for ma messages



Now I wouldn’t want you to get the impression that these days my walking takes place exclusively in exotic locations like Gargunnock. Oh no.

Sometime I just wander into town to pick up some marked-down vegetables, as recommended by the admirable  Ilona.

And so it was today, a dull,cold windy one as most have been this year, that I set off to Stirling along the river. Now, I may have blogged about this route before, but I’m right intae yon re-cycling, me.


The path round the back of the allotments was badly eroded last winter, and The Koonsil originally pleaded hard-up, but after sustained pressure they “found” some money to do repairs and upgrading.


Unfortunately, some of the allotments nearest the river seemed to have been lost, and the dreaded Giant Hogweed seems to have got a foothold. Bad News.


This section was constructed by miscreants on the Community Payback scheme.Sorry, I can’t help thinking of Cool Hand Luke.




The Glasgow/Edinburgh to Perth railway. One summers morning about 55 years ago my pals came round to see if I wanted to go swimming. I had arranged to play football that day, so turned them down.We were having our tea when somebody came to  the door to say Dougie Watson had drowned. Every time I pass here, I think about him and wonder what he would have made of life.


Nesting place for a colony of sand martins and the occasional kingfisher



“In Allan Water,near by where it falls into the Forth, we found a little sandy islet, overgrown with with burdock, butterbur and the like low plants that would just cover us as we lay flat.Here it was we made our camp. As soon as the dusk began to fall, we waded ashore and struck for the Bridge of Stirling, keeping to the fields and under the field fences”

Kidnapped. R.L.Stevenson



Where the Allan Water joins the Forth. The Forth is still tidal at this point.



The Prison Steps. The prison is Cornton Vale, Scotland’s only womens prison.There are some nasty characters in here, but most are just feckless wee lassies who put too much trust in even more feckless men.



The new technical college, built with Wonga type PFI funding on the site of the former Kildean Auction Market. This used to be the lowest ford on the Forth before the first bridge was built at Stirling, but I reckon that before the flood prevention banks were built the river was much wider and shallower.


The Cornton – a scheme. No, not an estate. Balmoral is an estate. The Cornton is a scheme. The only famous former citizen that I can think of is Willie Carson.


Student flats, formerly the rubber works. Older readers may have used some of their products



“The bridge is close under the castle hill, an old, high, narrow bridge with pinnacles along the parapet”



The Stevenson Bridge, built by a relative of RLS.

And so to Tesco

And to think, we would have missed all that if I had ordered my stuff online !


Maybe we’ll get a summer sometime..


Thursday 9 May 2013

A short walk in the Gargunnock Hills



The Gargunnock Hills, like the Touch Hills (pronounced Too-ch), The Kilsyth Hills and the Campsie Fells, are part of that splodge of basaltic stuff that forms the southern wall of the Upper Forth rift valley and separates The Carse from the Edinburgh-Glasgow corridor marked by the Forth and Clyde Canal.

OK ? Got that ? I shall be asking questions at the end.


I wasn’t the only ‘60s icon in the area, but the juxtaposition with the reaper was a bit grim.


Leaving the village, the route follows the old tramway up to the quarry.






 After squelching round to the top of the quarry, and finding the gap though the scarp wall, I followed the burn uphill passing a succession of fine waterfalls with inviting swimming holes. Inviting, that is, had not the temperature been about 3 degrees with a biting wind and driving rain sqalls



Not sure what this is. Bit small for a sheep fank – no sign of the stones being dressed. Initial research in the usual places comes up with zilch. Will keep trying.



As I expected, it was very wet underfoot

As a little gear aside, this winter I’ve been finding the grip on wet mud and peat slopes is much better with the Contagrip soles on my Salomon Cosmics than with the old-school Vibrams on my KSB350s.The latter, however are more rigid and better in snow. And more waterproof. (That should double the page view count !)


And in conclusion – a little ray of sunshine.

About 7 miles and 1400 ft of up.That’ll do me.




Monday 6 May 2013

Supply blogging



I was enjoying a well-deserved post prandial snooze in the smoking room of my club, when I became aware of the protective copy of The Daily Telegraph being removed from my face.

On opening one bleary eye, I was confronted by the florid physiognomy of the noble Lord Blogger, my erstwhile employer.

“You, dear boy,could be the answer to a maiden's prayer.”

Having dispatched his catamite, Jeremy, to fetch me a refreshing brandy and soda, he delivered his tale of woe.

Apparently there is some sort of Saga sponsored zimmer-fest taking place up in darkest Jockshire over the next couple of weeks and most of his Lordship's top-style bloggers will be leaving him in the lurch while they generate enough material for the following 11months posting. This will leave a nasty vacuum in the Blogger International bandwidth, and apparently the old fox had had the idea that I might be the man to help fill it, albeit on a temporary basis.

“But I quit, remember ? After the unfortunate little contre-temps over my exies, we agreed that I should pursue other interests, develop my career in different areas,and spend more time with my family.”

“Of course, old thing. But that was then, this is now. Line in the sand – move on- lessons learned and all that.That debt-to-society Profumo stuff is so '60s.

Truth is, old bean, I'm well sorted for Lakeland weekenders and wannabe gear testers, but I've never quite filled the “cynical whimsy with cheap music” chair. D’ya get my drift ?”

“Up to a point, Lord Blogger, but what about my readers.? Surely they will have “moved on” too ? These heady days of 8 page views per day will have gone forever.”

“Fear not. I've thought of that. Blogger International will relaunch your thingy with massive advertising featuring women's breasts. You can run regular showbiz competitions and make disparaging comments about Trades Unions and immigrants. They'll lap it up, particularly as their favourites are “on sabbatical”. And don't call me Shirley”

I shook my head wearily and repositioned The Telegraph in snooze mode. And then someone seemed to whisper a large sum of money in my ear.


Welcome to the all-new post-capitalist One Small Step !!