Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Lewis Hill and the North Third Reservoir

Although I love the open spaces of the hills, I also like a bit of variety for my walks. It had been a while since I wandered amongst trees so I tried to think of somewhere close to home that had an old forest of oak and beach trees....

Where moss and lichen grows in abundance....

Where the evergreen trees grow that thick and cover such a huge area that it is easy to get lost .....

Where silver birch grow in abundance on steep hillsides ...

Where I can let the dog off the lead with no fear of her chasing sheep....

Where there is a good chance of seeing roe deer, or at least finding lots of interesting scents if you are a dog ....

Where there is a trig point on top of a hill, surrounded with great views ....

Where there is lochs and burns...

Where there are lots of paths to follow...

Where there are lots of airy cliff views ...

Where the path weaves along the edge of the cliffs...

Where there are balancing boulders ....

Where you can stick a finger up at the world because it is Monday Morning and you are not working .....

I can only think of one place in Scotland like that and Im lucky that it is only four miles from my house.

I was walking on a four mile round trip of Lewis Hill and Suachie Craigs, at North Third Reservoir, near Stirling :-D

Sunday, 29 January 2012

The Ochils and Lossburn Reservoir

Saturday promised to be a great day in the hills. Dry, sunny spells and no wind was the forecast. I was in two minds to do the Ben Cleuch circuit which takes in the highest summit of the Ochils at 721m, but it was still very cold and there was a fair bit of snow on the tops. I wasn't sure how Holly would get on in such cold conditions for her longest walk yet, so decided on another low level circuit.

I also wanted to see how she would fair on the steeper slopes so decided to go back to Menstrie Glen but this time approach it by going over Dumyat from south to north.

I parked in the carpark at Blairlogie but instead of heading directly up Warloch Glen, I first headed west then took an airy sheep path to the right that weaves diagonally across the steep front of Castle Law.

The beauty of climbing any of the Ochils from the south is that you dont have far to go before the views open up.

The path can give a feeling of exposure at places as it twists and turns its way across the deep gullys that scar the front of Castle Law. You can make out the path on the other side of this gully.

I could see Ben Lomond and the Arrochar Alps in the distance looking lovely in their winter coats.

It was refreshing to see familiar sights from a different viewpoint on the front face of Castle Law. Holly wasn't bothered by the heights at all, in fact she wanted to head down a very steep drop to have a look at some sheep that disappeared over the edge as we approached. I keep her on an extending lead now so she cant get into trouble when we go walking.

The path passes some flat spots above the crags which would be great places to rest and watch the world go by of a warm summers day. Only one or two people climb Dumyat by this way.

This is a panorama from one such flat spot and is made from three photos joined together. Its worth clicking to see it in more detail at a bigger size.

It gets very airy just before the summit cairns of Castle Law. There was a pictish fort at the top at one time, but it was long gone before I got there. The Picts would have seen their enemy approach across the plains of the central belt from miles away.

Moments later we where at the top of Dumyat and Holly looked across the plains to her new home. Heights and scrambling on slopes dont bother her.

She does feel the cold though so we didn't hang around on the summit. We dropped off the north side heading for Jerah again. Since I first visited it only a week ago..it has quickly becoming my favourite place in the Ochil hills.

But first we stopped off at Lossburn Reservoir. There was not a ripple on its surface in the cold still air.

Colsnaur still had a sprinkling of snow on its summit.

I stopped for a quick sandwich beside the outfall of the reservoir and watched in amusement as the water tumbled down the steps in spurts. Im not sure why as it was still flat calm above on the loch ?

I then walked round the loch to get a photo of Colsnaur from the far end. I couldn't help notice the rubbish and empty beer tins scattered around its banks. Dumyat is a very popular hill and there is no rubbish on it. Why is it that the few people who use the loch cant tidy after themselves ?

It was a beautiful day for a walk and it could have been spring in the Menstrie Glen. The good weather certainly put a spring in my step.


I visited Jerah again to get another photograph or three then headed back by the track to Menstrie, Dumyat Farm and then the carpark. It was Hollys longest walk to date at 6.5 miles. She wanted to go further too :-D

My recent walks around Dumyat have inspire a painting or two too..so watch out for them shortly :-D

Thursday, 26 January 2012

The Ochils and Menstrie Glen

I was surprised to see the stars twinkling in the sky when I awoke this morning. I have been following the weather forecast and had expected a cloudy overcast morning. I didn't need any other excuse to put on my walking boots and head for the hills with the dog.

I decided to go back to re-visit the ruined farmstead of Jerah but this time approach from Menstrie and do a circular tour of the glen. I had read that at one time there were around 25 crofts farming this area but now it is uninhabited. Jerah was the last to get abandoned in the 1960's.

I started walking up the twisting farm track that I followed when I went to the top of Colsnaur Hill a month back. It was a beautiful morning with a low sun setting the dead bracken afire with golden light.

Dumyat is now begining to look very familiar to me from this angle. The deep ravine of Menstrie Glen separated me from the hill but I could clearly see the cleft of my return route slashed diagonally across its eastern slopes.

The steep track quickly gains height and offers some great views over the industrial plains of the eastern central belt of Scotland.

I kept Holly on the lead as this is sheep country. Farming the land with plough and crops ceased long ago ... around the end of the 18th century ? I was looking for the ruins of some of the old farmholdings.

This photograph shows the area known as Menstrie Glen. I had to navigate round the burns which cut the deep ravines that form the glen. The farmstead of Jerah is in the dark strip of trees below the distant Loss Hill.

Three burns, imaginativly named First Inchna Burn, Second Inchna Burn and Third Inchna Burn flow off the slopes of Colsnaur Hill into Menstrie Burn. This is a photo of the Second Burn with Dumyat in the distance.

An old tree standing on its own gave away the location of one of the ruins I was looking for. I wondered what stories that tree could tell about the place.

This farmstead must have had lovely views over the central belt and they would not have been spoiled by the Grangemouth Oil Refinery when it was inhabited.

I had now reached the steep slopes of the Third Inchna Burn at Red Brae. I could see another ruined croft on the other side of the ravine.

It looked in a better condition than the first ruins I came across at the Second Inchna Burn. I presume it was inhabited until much later. The summit and ridge of Colsnaur Hill had a light dusting of snow. The sky was darkening and I could sense more snow in the air.

It was now downhill to the approximate half way mark on my walk. The farmstead of Jerah was abandoned until the 1960's and its gable ends were still standing. Lossburn Reservoir shimmered coldly in the background

A photo of one of the outhouses of Jerah. The farm had been built in a lovely setting but I guess it just became too remote and difficult to operate for its owners when things like electricity and running water fed all the houses in the surrounding villages.

There are a few more ruins not too far from Jerah but the looked as if they had been abandoned much earlier. However it is clearly evident that there was quite a large community working and living in the glen in days long gone.

As I wandered back along the farm track on the other side of Menstrie Glen, I wondered what the glen would have looked like several hundred years ago. I also wondered if in another few years ... will it be planted with Windfarms and Pylon routes :(

I enjoyed my morning exploring in Menstrie Glen and so did Holly. Its her longest walk to date at 5 miles and climbing 1000 ft. She will soon be fit enough to see the windfarms already planted on the Ochils. They are an eyesore but I guess without electricity in the towns.. there would be a lot more abandoned homes.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

First time seeing the sea at Ayr

Although the dog is very happy as a land lubber, she will also have to be an old sea dog and first mate in my boat. I intend exploring the sea lochs around the west coast of Scotland in far more depth this year, camping overnight in the better weather, beach combing and fishing for my supper. She will need to accompany me or get left behind.

I took her to Ayr at the weekend, to get a medical checkover by the family vet. Im glad to say she passed the MOT with flying colours and I was told that she has a good few miles left in her yet.

I then took the opportunity of being by the coast to introduce her to the sea. It was a very blustery day on the shorefront, with both wind and waves making lots of noise. Initially Holly was a bit timid seeing the sea, but she did go to sniff the edge of the water on her own accord.

I suppose it must have been quite trumatic in dog terms, seeing a seathing mass of white water constantly moving and changing shape ? Where does a dog bite such an adversary to put it into submission ?

Curiosity and the strange smells of a long dead seagull helped overcome her fear as she got a little bolder and tentativly dipped a doggie digit in the foaming water.

That is when the sea struck back to let her know who was boss and that it would show no mercy to anyone who was stupid enough to try and ebb its flow. Holly got cold feet, turned tail and fled.

But she soon settled on the sand and wanted to go walking. Time will tell if she will make a good sea dog but things are looking promising.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Holly at Jerah in the Ochils

So far, I am enjoying the dog's company and the work routine that is required in keeping one. I'm finding it is a very good way to break away from the hectic routine of my previous working life and into the more leisurely routine of not working.

Im still an early bird and after my breakfast, feed and water the dog, then its out into the morning rush hour, come hail, rain or sun. However, now Im walking the pavements and grassy areas near my home, instead of battling with hectic traffic on the way to work and a day of stress.

In my later years at work, I was mostly office bound but now Im back in the field and thoroughly enjoying the freedom to walk again and spend my day in the great outdoors. Holly is loving it too.

Im pleased to say that Holly seems to be a perfect hillwalking companion and although I doubt if she will ever stand on all Munro tops, at my time in life, I have no interest in doing that either.

Im still taking things easy with her and limiting our mid day walk to around three miles or so, but Im sure that will increase as she builds up her fitness too. She would probably go further as she doesn't look tired at the end but I dont want to push things.

Today was a beautiful sunny day although there was a bitter wind. I decided to stay off the tops so went a walk off the Sherrifmuir Road, past the Lossburn Resevoir to the ruined croft of Jerah. It is a three mile return valley walk on landrover track, just behind Dumyat. It was another first visit for me and Im pretty certain for Holly too. Its hard to believe that although I have lived in the area for sixteen years and walked all over Scotland, Im only now discovering the pleasures of my own "back yard".

Unfortunately, when I went to take my photographs during the walk, my camera said "sorry..no CF card"

Yup..I had left the memory card in the computer, so I will have to return one day to get my photographs. I look forward to that day too although I will probably walk in from Menstrie next time, just for variety.

Not far from from the ruins of Jerah I was delighted to come across a beautiful tree full of red berries. I took a couple of sprigs home as a good omen. It was a Holly Tree :-D

Friday, 20 January 2012

Its a Dogs Life on Dumyat

We can never plan or foresee everything that affects our lives. Sometimes we have to make life changing decisions and adjust or adopt our life styles to suit needs at short notice. One such incident happened to me this week.

I have never been a dog person but I have never been anti dog either. I guess I just took them for granted. As a kid, my parents always had one around the house and sometimes two. My father was a vet and I guess his love of animals has passed down the family line as all my brothers have dogs in their lives too. However, I was always too busy to think about them. My working life made sure of that as I chased the coins.

Now Im free of the shackles and stresses of working life and when I heard, an owner could no longer keep their dog, I had to made a quick decision. I offered to take the dog and see how I got on with it. If I had not, this seven year old Staffy bitch was destined for a deep sleep. Is this a face only its owner could love ?

I enjoy walking and decided that as long as it did too..then we would both get along just fine. It has been a town dog all its life so Im not sure if it liked walking. It certainly liked sleeping as I introduced it to its new home. It doesn't realise just how close it is to never wakening again :(

Yesterday was my first full day with Holly (the dogs name) and I was keen to test her out. I suspected that a dog would be like a new pair of boots. Its best to go short walks to begin with to see how they get on rather than embark on a sojurn march and get crippled with blistered feet. We started up Dumyat but I turned back when the snow started. It was a bitter wind but it was also a good guide to see if I thought Holly would make the top at a later date.

This morning the weather looked better and so did the hill, covered in white. We started at the Sherrifmuir Road so the walk to the top is only 3 miles return and climbs 700ft. A good distance to test a dogs feet. When I let her out the car, she looked a little puzzled at the snow but was ready to go.

She has not been battered black and blue although I think her skin is needing some attention due to a poor diet ? She did have a fight with some hair dye and came off worse. I think its all part the reason her owner can no longer keep her, as the dog was left on its own all day, shut in the house.

The sky looked ready to snow again so we didnt linger. I think she was glad of that too as I suspect bare paws of frozen snow would feel cold ? I kept a close eye open for sheep and only let her off the lead when I knew there were none about and I wanted a photograph. I wasn't sure how she would react to wild life yet and I didnt want to get into a situation to find out the hard way.

I was please to see some sheep just ahead. Holly was on the lead. We got to within ten feet of the first one and she didnt bat an eyelid. She glanced at them and carried on as if they didn't exist. There was no glower or growl, no pulling at the lead or barking. Even the sheep didn't spook. Holly passed test number one with flying colours.

Looking over to the river Forth.. Im pleased to say her day seemed to brighten a little.

Once well clear of the sheep I let her off the lead for a little while. She trotted happily at my heels and if she got in front.. which she didnt do often .. a call brought her straight back. She was obviously well trained from that respect.

I was also please to see that she could walk without complaining. We were now not far from the summit and where I suspected test number two would be.

Just below the summit there are usually a lot of wild rabbits and today was no different. There were no sheep in sight so I let Holly off the lead when I saw a rabbit about 25 feet away. It was hopping around just below the rock I call the Nodding Bishop. I prayed that Holly would behave reasonably well. I pointed to the rabbit and said.. "Look Holly"

Holly looked, crouched a little then playfully bounded over the snow towards it. The rabbit started to run and so did Holly. I shouted "Holly.. come here" The dog stopped and the distance between dog and rabbit got bigger. She hesitated then started after it again. I called again, quite firmly. She stopped again, looked at the disappearing rabbit and then trotted happily back to me. I thanked the Bishop before heading for the top.

We made it to the top and I shared the biscuit I had brought, with Holly. I respected her for the way she behaved. I hope she wasn't just being good to escape the long sleep treatment.

As I watched the cloud thicken again, I also felt something stir deep inside me about this dog. I have a feeling we will be walking together to the top of many more hills. She adds some scale and interest to my photographs.

Holly is sleeping soundly as I write this..
but it is in her bed ..and when she awakes ..we will go another walk :-D

I guess every dog has their day ... and her previous owner is very happy too