Monday, 30 April 2012

Glen Finglas and the Compass of Past Present and Future

Last Friday was one of those lovely mornings where the early moring sun came shining through my bedroom window. It gently woke me filling me full of the joys of spring, at 6 am. I was still hoping to see forests full of bluebells and cuckoos hollering in the trees so by 7 am I was on my way to Glen Finglas in the heart of the Trossachs.

I parked at Little Drum Woods and started my wander in the ancient trees where former kings of Scotland hunted. It really was a joy wandering among the ancient woods and my imagination wondered what stories the trees could tell of our past.

As I wandered I also wondered where the bluebells had gone ?

At a small clearing I looked across to the steep slopes of Landrick hill and low and behold, I was delighted to hear my first cuckoo of the year. I wouldn't have been so happy if I knew that a couple of hours later, I would be carrying a heavy Holly down that same slope... but more of that later.

I then set off along the track that heads into the heart of Glen Finglas. There are not many ancient trees left but it is still a very scenic area. The woodland Trust have planted thousands of new trees. They looked very fresh with their light green buds about to burst into full leaf.

As the path gained height I stopped to take in the views at the remains of an old croft. It must have been lovely waking to these views every morning but I also realise it was a hard life living in such remote places before the days of electricity and the internet

I mused at the knarled trees in the older parts of the woods. I guess my knarled ageing body looked something similar to their twisted trunks

The view across to Ben Venue dominates this part of the walk. I may have felt as old as the trees but I still managed to climb that hill twice last month. Yup..there are a few springs left in my step as yet :-D

The path then turned northwards and I stopped to listen to a noise I had never heard before ? It sounded like a sudden burst of compressed air followed by the cackle of some baby chicks ? At first I wondered if it was the hiss of an adder attacking some new born birds, or perhaps a stoat or weasel attacking a baby rabbit.

Even Holly started to move forward very carefully, ears pricked up and four feet ready to run. Then the source of the noise displayed itself with a fast flurry of wings. A black grouse burst out the undergrowth and flapped skywards. The dog and myself breathed a sigh of relief as it was not some fearsome monster waiting to ambush us.

Soon after, I could see the reservoir start to appear through gaps in the trees. I was now in the very heart of Glen Finglas

The sun dappled on the waves on the water and shimmered between the ancient silver birch tree trunks on the bank

Although I didn't see a single bluebell..there were plenty primrose.

I strolled along the loch shore for a while before returning to the path.

When I arrived at the Glen Finglas compass, I stopped for some lunch. The views were fantastic and it was such a lovely morning, I was glad to be alive and well.

I read the inscriptions on the compass. I was certainly enjoying the present and had reflected on the past during my walk. I was a little unprepared for the future ...

After lunch, Holly and I headed towards Stuc Odhar .. a very craggy hill to the south east .. between the future and the past ...

To be continued ....

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Pooch Painting, Snoot and Scooby

It was a busy week for me. As well as a few walks, I also managed some more Pooch Painting practise. These two were for my own interest and were inspired and adapted from a couple of dog photographs in the National Geographic magazine.

I have not got a clue what they are called but I thought "Snoot" (He looks a bit snobby) suited the English Setter and "Scooby" (after Scooby Doo) suited the Great Dane. Im very happy with my progress in Pooch Painting, considering Im teaching myself :-D

Scooby was my first steps into trying to paint black fur. I couldn't face attempting an all black dog case it ends up looking like a black hole. The Great Dane is a lovely tan colour with an all black snitch. I think I handled the black colour well

Snoot was for more practise at long hair dogs.

The Ochils, Woodhill and Silver Glen

While pounding the pavement on my local dog walk route, I couldn't help notice that the bluebells were now in full bloom in a small wooded section of the walk. That made me wonder if there were any bluebells to be found on the Ochil Hills ?

If there were any, I thought Woodhill would be the obvious place to see them as bluebells like old wooded ground and Woodhill is about the only decent woods on the Ochils. I also thought it would be the perfect place to see if I could hear my first Cuckoo of the year.

These bluebells are in the woods near my house

Woodhill sits behind Alva next to The Nebit and there is a good car park in the Woodland Park area. Its part of the Clackmannanshire Path Network

There are some big houses in the Estate. Perhaps they once belonged to Sir John Erskine ? He owned the estate land around the 1700's and discovered one of the richest silver mines in the UK in the glen beside Woodhill. The money raised from the silver was used to fund the Jacobite Rebellion in 1715. This is the Stables

It was a lovely morning and spring was in the air. The trees are budding and turning green. I walked the dog along the many paths that weave through the estate.

Plenty of moss and lychen grew on the rocks among the trees but there was not a sign of a bluebell anywhere.

We followed the path as it twisted and turned, started to climb up the hill. I was straining my ears listening to bird songs. Plenty of sparrows and other types of birds were singing happily in the sun.. but not one cuckoo

The path finally broke free of the trees and I was on the open hillide above the Silver Glen. I presumed the silver mines were below me and I wondered if there were any signs of them left. I made a mental note to explore the lower reaches of the glen on my way back to the car.

I began the steep grassy climb up to the top of Woodhill. Beautiful views opened up towards Stirling. I could see heavy rain showers in the distace but it was dry on the hill.

At the top of Woodhill are the remains of an ancient forest of Scots pine but still not a sign of a single bluebell.

Holly and I stopped and lay on the grass in the warmth of the spring sun. Although there were heavy showers all around..we felt we were in heaven on our hill

I could have happily fallen asleep in the long grass ... until I suddenly jumped up. I saw the first tick of the year crawling across my trousers towards my waist. Time to go Holly ..... I hate them.. they suck blood and can give lymes disease although I often find them with their heads stuck in my flesh after a day on the hills

On the way back to the car..I remembered to hunt around in the lower reaches of Silver Glen. I found two Adits (Mine entrances) They were closed by a low iron fence which I could easily clamber over but I heeded the warning signs. I had read that one of them has a very deep winze not far from the entrance. A winze is a vertical shaft and can be hard to see in the dark... I wasn't going to fall down one. Besides..the mines can be very dangerous with poisonous gasses... I want to see more springs arrive so left without exploring further .. Im not cuckoo :-D

Ah well.. I know spring has finally sprung when I start seeing ticks.. but I have still to hear my first cuckoo of the year

Monday, 23 April 2012

Ochil Hills and The Nebit

Who knows why it has taken so long for me to climb The Nebit (the nose) in the Ochils ? It sits right at the front of the hills above Alva and it is not the highest or even a difficult walk. I have passed it many times on my way to Ben Cleuch and even circled it completely on my way to other walks so I thought it was time to conquer it's summit. Just as well it is not too long a walk either as I tried to get up and down between the heavy showers we are having lately.

I parked at the Alva Glen carpark and started off up the footpath. I love Alva glen and go there quite a lot, but today I felt as if someone or something was watching me ?

I stopped at the waterfall in the Glen for another photograph. I have hundreds of this waterfall..but I cant resist snapping it every time I pass.

Instead of heading into Alva Glen itself, I cut across the hillside to the road the windfarm turbines were hauled up. They had been burning the gorse since the last time I was on this path.

I then headed up the road to the turnoff that circles the Nebit. I was taking the left fork.

I followed this track for a few hundred yards before heading up the steep slopes of the Nebit itself. This is the view from the track looking up Alva Glen and across to Bengengie. I have walked there several times over the past couple of months.

Its a steep slog up the Nebit..which probably accounts for the reason I have always passed it. I also discovered that it has several false summits which fooled me into thinking I was almost there , only to discover, yet another ridge to go.

I got there in the end. My first ascent of The Nebit .. who knows when my next ascent of it will be. I didn't hang around at the small summit cairn as I could feel the rain starting.

Looking south east towards Edinburgh..I could see a heavy squall coming my way.. I started to run downhill.

By the time I reached the track again.. it was well and truely raining.

Im afraid I got more than a wet nose climbing the nose of the Ochils ... but at least I have now been on the top .. I will try to pick a better day next time :-D

Sunday, 22 April 2012

North Third Reservoir again

It was a lovely morning today and I was up with the larks walking round the North Third Reservoir again. Its one of my favourite local walks and nice to see the landscape turning green again after the winter browns. I have written about it before on the blog so will just post the photos to let you see the scenery I was walking through. Life can be so hard at times :-D

Friday, 20 April 2012

Dog Tired on Dungeon Hill

After our early lunch stop on Craignaw, we began our journey across to Dungeon hill. It is a tricky hill to find the steep gully to get off Craignaw but my memory served me right and took the right route first time. In misty conditions it can be treacherous trying to find a way down to the Devils bowling green.

The devils bowling green is an area of huge "boiler plates" of granite slabs with lots of small stones scattered around resembling bowling balls. The small stones were not placed there by humans but left when the glacier melted and dumped its deposits on the slabs. This photo is of the bowling green looking back to Craignaw.

Looking towards Dungeon Hill from the bowling green.

My friend Russell standing in the foreground which gives the photo of the area a better feeling of scale

Finally we arrived at the cairn marked on the OS map which is on the bealach between Craignaw and Craignairny. We were now approximately one third the way round the circular route that we hoped to do. My legs started feeling the strain of climbing to the top of Dungeon Hill. Holly silently hopped along behind us. She doesn't complain and doesn't wander far.

A final push through the rocky crags on the top of Dungeon Hill brough us to the summit cairn. By now all our legs were feeling the effort of hiking in the rough goround of the Galloway hills.

However the views made it all worth the effort. Looking northwards we could now see the third and final hill on our walk. It also marked the half way point, after that it was downhill all the way back to the car at Loch Trool. However.. I knew it would be a struggle climbing the round lump of a hill called Mullwharchar.

The full length of the silver flowe shimmered in the valley below. I could make out the various bogs that make it such a dangerous place

Zooming into the closest bog, I could see the stagnant water that had no bottom.. however there appeared to be the odd path crossing the flowe

North east was just as an impressive view looking along the cliffs of Brishie towards loch Doon. After another short break we headed for Mullwharchar. Somewhere on the descent route, Holly lost her coat and I never noticed until too late. We couldn't find it despite retracing our steps for a fair distance. The cold wind could have taken it for miles.

We started the slow slog up Mullwharchars featureless slopes and were around half way when Holly made it clear that she had enough of this hill. She started to make a little nest in the long grass and sat down refusing to go any further. I picked her up and noticed she was wet and cold so I too sat down so she could sit on my dry legs. No sooner had she settled ..she then started snoring loudly. I waited with Holly while Russell topped the summit of Mullwharcher. This photo was taken looking over Loch Enoch from our resting place. It was another six miles back to the car.

However..with the occasional coaxing with pieces of sandwich, Holly made it all the way back. In fact she had some energy to spare because she started pulling on the leash when she saw some sheep, not far from the car. This is undoubtably our longest walk together. It was twelve and a half miles and climbed a total of 3500ft. I know of at least six legs that were stiff the following day. Hope your's were OK Russell and thanks for your company..we enjoyed the day :-D