Thursday, 5 July 2018

Ross Back Sands

It is once more, that time of the year when Mike and I begin our annual visits to Ross Back Sands. The one downside to these visits is the need to carry water in. The sea fret was quite thick on the Friday, not clearing until the evening. Setting up our beach hut, come bird hide was a little tricky with a bad back!
An enjoyable afternoon dip was most welcome. Shortly after, the evening sun came out to give us a most pleasant end of day. Later that evening we were paid a visit by a national trust warden. A colony of terns were nesting at the far end of the beach and his main concern was dogs disturbing the birds.
Early morning at Ross back Sands. Miles of deserted beach.
The suggestion of a beautiful day to come.
Early morning light.
Haze in the early hours.
Mist in the early hours drifting over the dunes.
Saturday was largely spent dipping and sun bathing. A lazy day just chilling out.
The three quarter of a mile walk in, means that Ross Back Sands never becomes busy. It is highly likely that the 'beach pavillion' will soon be called upon for it services once again!

Thursday, 28 June 2018

Langstrath dipping.

Mike and I had visited Langstrath earlier in the year. The valley is mentioned in the Wild Swimming book. Blackmoss Pot is a favourite among many people. Mike had an idea, which comes close to having a plan! Thus it was that on the Wednesday afternoon we booked in to Chapel Farm campsite.
The idea was to leave the tents at the campsite and head up Langstrath on the Thursday taking a bivi sheet and then spend a night high up the valley.
Rain during the night had meant water levels where up a bit.
It was a pleasant day. At one point we were entertained by flocks of Herdwick sheep all heading down toward Black Moss Pot. Probably they had been fed there over the winter months.
The ground was a tad boggy underfoot, however, we found a nice wee spot to set up the bivi.
The rest of the day was spent, meandering, exploring waterfalls, drinking tea and not doing a lot.
Friday was mostly spent in the same sort of mode. Also included were some dipping, little swims and chilling out.
A few people passed lower down but only one or two actually came past us.
It was surprisingly hot as indicated by Mike's mode of dress!
More on the watery theme.
Cool, clear waters and invigorating pools.
A day to be savoured.
Tumbling water shoots.
Clear, blue skies.

Meet the locals
We made our way back to the campsite on the Friday afternoon, to find it fling rapidly. On the Saturday we headed home.

Friday, 15 June 2018

Peebles to Selkirk.

Possibly this should read 'how not to end a day of superb walking'! Took the train up to Edinburgh on the Monday and then bus on to Peebles. Fancied something from a chippy before setting out. None to be had, all closed. Went in to a cafe for a cup of coffee and toasted tea cake. Horrors, no toasted tea cake left! Had to settle for a scone. A tad inadequate lunch ! A blustery northerly breeze, but it was dry. Set out around three in the afternoon.  The intention was to follow the Cross Borders Drove road. It was going to be a long haul up to Kailzie Hill. Briefly I considered picking up water before I left town. However, the though of lugging 3 litres of water even a short distance up a steep hill was daunting.
, slowly, with several breaks, I plodded upwards. Yes, the legs were protesting, but otherwise I was holding things together.
Saw a hare on the way otherwise it was surprisingly quiet with little in the way of birdsong. There was a happy grin on my face as I made the cairn. There was still a way to go but I felt the hardest part was behind me.
My one concern was water. The ground was was so dry, all the boggy bits were totally dried out. Mike and I had done this route before, that time we had come from the other direction. We had crossed a good stream by Yellow Mire hill. My hope was that it was still running! At first glance it looked bad. By the track there were pools of slimy green gunge. From higher up though I could hear water actually running. It took a bit of thrashing about but eventually I found a mini waterfall of clean water. Last time we had passed through,  a lovely grassy spot on the edge of the trees had been noted. Unfortunately heather had taken over and I had to drop a little further down the hill to camp.
It was just after seven when I stopped. A good afternoon of walking but I was exhausted. Supper was just a snack and a large mug of tea, all I could manage.
The night had been busy with the calls of a couple of cuckoos, the barking of a dog fox, the scream of the vixen, the churring of nightjars. At one point there had been the distant rumble of thunder.  A steady breeze ensured there was no condensation on the flysheet, always a bonus. Reluctant as I was to get moving, an early breakfast and a couple of mugs of tea and I was packed up and underway around eight thirty.
Plans had been adjusted slightly. Originally I had considered walking over to Hawick. Bad weather had been forecast for Thursday. Thus I now had planned to follow the Minch moor road, part of the Cross Borders Drove road,, camp fairly high and drop down to the A72 and get a bus back to Peebles on the Wednesday.
A steady descent down to The Glen and  then over to Traquair. The Minchmoor road is an ancient road and at one time was the main route through southern Scotland.
 It was uphill all the way and I took it easy and slow, stopping every so often for a breather. Mind, it was steady going and I was shuffling along non too badly!
memorial slates to horses.
A top up of water at the Cheese Well spring. My aim now was Hair Law and on to  Katy Thirsty spring.
An interesting sculptor!
 Despite keeping a close eye on the map, I failed to find the spring. This was not good. Water was not to been found.. Thin, misty cloud drifted over the hills, bringing with it a very fine dampness. Enough to dampen, not enough for waterproofs. The walking was lovely This part of the Minchmoor road was a stagecoach route and it contoured around and down the hill. My problem was that I was pushing on too far. A peruse of the map and I considered the idea of dropping down to the Gruntly burn and finding a spot to camp. This would mean I could make my way back up toward Lucken head in the morning and head out from there. That idea was quickly scuppered. Machinery was at work lower down and what looked like a new road was being  made up the glen.
Now I was in a quandary. Descending down Hangingshaw Brae would mean a very steep descent  and I would have to come back up in the morning. One other idea floated around in my head. Earlier I had met a guy out from Selkirk and he had mentioned Victoria Park,  by the Ettrick Water, where camping and caravans was permitted. He had told me that it was never that busy. That would entail more miles than I intended. It became obvious though as I came in to Yarrowford, that Selkirk appeared the easiest option. It was going to be a tidy step to get there though. It looked to be around five miles.
A navigational error did not help matters.  Coming out on to the main road I turned right instead of left. Fortunately it quickly dawned on me that the river was on the wrong side of the road and was flowing in the wrong direction, duh!
As I came down by General's Bridge and on to the main road, there was a sign for a cafe one mile up the road. With visions of tea and cakes, my footsteps quickened a little. There were people sitting at outside tables when I arrived. A quick fumble in the rucksack for my purse and I hurried in to order a pot of tea and some cake, The lady behind the counter looked at me as I eyed up the delicious cakes. What came next was cruel, 'sorry, we're closed' It was five past four and they closed at four. The till had been totted up and I was not even able to buy a piece of cake. That hurt, worse was to follow. When I got to Selkirk, I was horrified to find that much of Victoria Park had been taken over by a funfair. A caravanner who had just arrived,  threw up his hands in disgust. 'No way'  He drove off in disgust. With quite a degree of trepidation , I mooched about trying to find a quieter corner. As I looked about, a squadron of kids on souped up mini moto bikes, swarmed around the site, engines screaming like a hoard of banshees on a night out.
No way was I even going to even consider camping there. Disgusted, I headed up in to Selkirk. The town is built on a hill and my legs protested strongly as I slowly plodded up. An hour of searching produced nothing. Everything was full or, as at one hotel, the cheapest on offer was ninety five pounds. Aware of a bus service over to Melrose, I decided to head for the campsite there. A bus pulled in as I was checking routes at a bus stop. The driver informed me that the Melrose service had been cut. He advised that I best get on his bus and head on over to Galashiels. Just by the bus station was a B&B sign, with vacancies. The chap who answered the door just gave me a wide grin, 'no,no singles rooms. All I have on offer is probably more than you would be willing to pay!' Alright, I am not looking my best. My clothes may look a little shabby, after all I have been walking all day and by now I was getting a tad shaky. However, my money is as good as the next person's! Some two hours of searching proved fruitless. Coming back to the bus station I saw a bus for Berwick. Much searching there produced nothing either, unless I was prepared to spend loads of money.
About to head for a bivi on the beach, I turned up a side street. A sign, just marked 'accommodation' caught my eye. It was late and the house did not look like the rather typical B&B. With nothing to lose, I gave it a try. A lady stuck her head out from a side entrance asking what I wanted? She did not do B&B as such. It was more of a boarding house for workmen. By now I was rather wobbly, something the lady recognised. Her sister has Parkinson's. A room on the top floor and cash up front, no card or cheque and all sorted.
An interesting couple of days? Not what I intended but I got some grand walking in. A later check of the map indicates that I walked somewhere in the region of fifteen miles to Selkirk, From there I must have added several miles  searching for accomodation.

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Peebles via the Pentland and Cloich Hills.

Travelling up on the Monday, things did not start that well. Even before starting out I was feeling out of sorts. On the odd occasion, I have a peculiar bit of a wobble where I tend to slightly veer off to one side. Normally easily corrected. Heading across a car park to catch the Newcastle bus, I experienced a rather more significant wobble, almost side swiping a parked car. Also felt a little light headed. Not a good start!. Getting off the train at Kirknewton I was still not feeling right.
Although not marked on the map, there is a well marked footpath over to Little Vantage and the start of the Thieves road and the Cross Borders drove road.
The path leads up past the camping pods of the Hilly Cow. There are fine views over to the Firth of Forth.
It was tempting to snuck in to the woods and have a stealthy camp. However I pressed on.
. The way on from Little Vantage down to the Water of Leith was hard going. The ground was boggy and very wet.
 A rather optimistic sign. Carefully measured on the map, I would suggest adding a couple of more miles if following the drove road route.
Negotiating a way through the quivering bogs and wet ground was tedious.. Arriving down at Gala ford it was an easy decision to find a spot for the tent and camp for the night. Technically speaking wild camping is permissible in Scotland. However, with a farm not that far off, I preferred to to be discreetly tucked away out of sight. A bit of casting around and the tent was soon tucked away among the blossoming gorse bushes, their heady scent wafting on the afternoon breeze. Bumble bees buzzed and bustled from bush to bush.
After a chilly night, the warmth of the early morning sun was most welcome. It was a fine morning too, however, a north easterly breeze kept things on the cool side. It was a long, steady push up the Cauldstane Slap. As is often the case, from a distance, the way up looked daunting. However, the path  gently eased its way  up and around the contours and nowhere was it really difficult.
Taking it slow and easy, apart from a few odd moments, I managed the climb not too badly, with a few stops to admire the views!
A steady path leading ever upwards.
An unusual marker made of metal, possibly marking a boundary, another could be seen not far off.
Coming over the top it was noticeably windier and quite chilly. Although the Pentlands are in reality a small range of hills, the tops  offer a suggestion of much larger wide open spaces than there actually is.
A lovely undulating path led over open moorland. These are managed grouse moorlands but at the moment lapwings and curlews were in abundance. Skylarks in full song,soared overhead. All to soon the track began to descend out of the Pentland Hills pasing Baddinsgill Reservoir.
Below lay the broad Tweeddale valley and beyond stood the outline of the Cloich hills. That, probably would be my destination for the night! It looked a long way off! There was though, no indication of anywhere else where I might find a spot to camp.
The village of West Linton offered quite a few amenities. There was a pub, several shops and even a tea room. Handy to know for any long distance backpacker. My immediate concern was making my way across the valley. The marked path on the map looked odd. It appeared to dog leg all over the place. In reality it was even worse. The road out of the village was a busy one. Once the pavement ended, traffic whizzed past at speed and offered little room for someone on foot. A sign indicating the right of way pointed up a track leading up to the radio mast on Broomlee Hill. the road in to Kaimes was clearly marked, 'Private, Keep out!' Another sign warned 'Keep to right of way!' It was a frustrating bit of navigation that made no sense. Follow the track up to the radio mast, staying within the field, bear right, follow the fence line and bear right again down the edge of the field. Three sides of a square? To add to the fun I was escorted by a frisky herd of young cattle. They where no problem though. Worse was to follow, according to the map, the bridleway followed the edge  of Kaimhouse Wood and descened around  by Woodend quarry. There was nothing on the ground to indicate the bridleway. Heading down and around by the quarry I did find a sign. Also though I ran in to a herd of cows with very young calves. Not a good situation. One or two of the cows where clearly unhappy by my presence. There was little choice but to press on. Adopting a passive, submissive posture, head down and avoiding eye contact, I shuffled on, talking to the beasts softly. Fortunately the way on from the field was clearly marked and it was straightforward walking over to Halmyre. More private, keep out signs, another dogleg through a housing estate and finally the last hill of the day was in front of me. It looked steep and it was. A padlocked five bar gate made things that wee bit more difficult. This is on a public bridleway and probably illegal? the average horse rider would have a few problems there!
A steady plod up through the forestry and finally, with a great sense of relief, open ground lay before me. It was then a case of dropping down the hill, finding a place for the tent and setting up camp. The day had been a long one, I had been on the go for some nine hours, had walked some thirteen or fourteen miles and was exhausted.
Again, another chilly night, nipping out in the early hours I found ice on the tent flysheet. Originally I had considered walking as far as Hawick. The problem was that I would not arrive there until Friday at the earliest. From what I could find out, there were no bus services over the weekend and I wanted to be back by Sunday. Considering everything, the best choice seemed to finish at Peebles. With that decision made, there was no rush to get away early in the morning.
There was good walking over to Peebles. An eye had to be kept on the map but there where no real difficulties.
Some of the route passed through forestry. Fortunately Much had been cleared, offering wide open  vistas. The only section I was really glad to get through was from Courhope through to Upper Stewarton. Here the right of way passed through mature forestry. Thick, dense stands of trees, the sunlight shut out, dark, brooding and much colder too.
Meet the locals.
Stopping for a break by a stand  of old pines, I found a spot out of the chilly breeze and settled down with my back against a gnarly old tree. Almost dozing off, a movement caught my eye. Not far off to my left a hare was foraging through the undergrowth. He paused, looking in my direction, nose and ears twitching. Not perceiving me as a threat, he carried on about his business. Keeping  as still as possible, I became part of the tree as the hare went about his business. It was only when was within a few feet of me that he paused, studying me more closely. Finally, unhurriedly and without concern, he turned and loped off.
Two campsites in Peebles where marked on the map. From high on Hamilton hill I could see one of them. Serried ranks of static caravans meant that I would give that site a miss.
It was tempting to find a place to wild camp, especially given the fine weather. However, I wanted a shower and a decent meal, not having had much in the way of supper the previous evening.
Thus I began the descent down to Peebles.
The second campsite was more scary than the first. Holiday chalets, static and touring caravans, camper vans and manicured lawns. All very nice, for those who enjoy such things, but sorry, not for me! Finally I opted for B&B in a pub. Not the easiest trip but it turned out ok.