Sunday, 27 March 2016

silence of the lamms

Sunny Good Friday and Mary suggested we go to the Lammermuirs. I'm almost always up for this especially the 22mile circuit which is a good big trek into the wilderness while still being manageable and you can get away with road shoes as there's little in the way of technical stuff. And the weather was set fair.

Gifford with war memorial which would be about the right distance for a tb across the hills.

As we drove to Hopes Reservoir we could see from the heather burning there was a stiff breeze.

We used to park at Blinkbonny Wood but due to a recently planted private sign we opted for the parking at the road end that leads up to Hopes Reservoir. It worked out really well. Although you miss the climb up the front of Lammer Law and the view down the coast from the shoulder, you instead get a more gradual rise up to the main track that crosses over to Carfraemill. And the paths round Hopes are exceptional. 

Mary was a bit daunted by the distance. In fact by her maths (increasing her distance from 17 to 22 miles, and me having already done a 42 and 50 miler recently) the difference between our perceived exertions was on a scale of 1:6, that she was working 6 times harder than I was. She was certainly scowling 6 times more, and it was several glorious miles before I dared take a photo of her front aspect, by that time cheered up somewhat. The other thing keeping her going was the promise of coffee and shortie at Carfraemill. 

It's funny how you associate places with events or meetings. The small rise above was where Mary caught sight of a lizard a couple of years back (and we got some good photos) and every time I go past there I keep my eyes peeled in case we come across another. Despite the fact that I have never found anything exotic in the same spot twice. There are a couple of corners on the JMW favoured by the deer, and you often see them there in that place time and again. But seeing a lizard, or hares, or a rare butterfly twice in the same spot has never happened. But I can't help but associate certain places with the rarer specimens.

The sun was out making the reservoir deep blue. The wind was also considerable. I tried to stay positive - that although it was in our faces on the way out it would be to our backs on the return journey. It did make the first half quite tough. 

There was quite a lot of random spawn. In some of the puddles it was being left high and dry - sometimes just yards from a river. We remarked on this shoddy and reckless parenting.

The last of the snow.

After going over the first hill the road goes along to Carfraemill. There are a couple of miles of tarmac and they are about the least fun part of the route. The promise of coffee and shortbread kept us focussed and it was nice to stop around the 8 or 9 mile mark for a quick break and slightly overpriced treats. It was quite expensive but came quickly and we were given generous refills. (I had trouble getting to sleep 12 hrs later.)

Owls passing?

After a bit of fast road with no pavements we turn left and follow this delightful road which ends before the hill in the distance. A track to the right goes up the valley and the path follows the river upstream.

On top of the hill at the far end it looks like there is a lighthouse.
One day I will climb it and find out what it is. (Possibly the sun shining off a plaque on a trig point.)

Fab trails.

About half a mile in and we pass this piece of paper. I go back and pick it up. It is a label attached to a burst balloon. They were released by the pupils and staff to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Cross Arthurlie Primary School (Barrhead Glasgow.) Release date was Thursday and I have until the 30th April to return the card and if I am the furthest I win a voucher. I am tempted to send it to friends in Norway.

There are several places you have to cross streams.
We managed to keep dry feet all day.

Apologies to Mary L and Joel, and all other rat fans.
(Esp in light of Brian moving on to a higher place)

This chap was snared in one of these traps they set on logs over ditches and small streams. The grouse farmers set them to trap weasels (and rats) to protect their monoculture. I have also seen hares killed and traps for birds of prey. Happily these log traps are hardly ever successful - I think on all our travels there I have only seen a couple of stoats / weasels caught and this was the first rat. And there are hundreds of them set all over the place. Didn't even know there were still country rats - I thought they'd all moved into towns to work in restaurants and warehouses. Sad to see Mr. Ratty come to such a murderous end.

We had lunch (only about 3 miles after Carfraemill coffee and shortie) at Bunny's Bothy. Which is a pretty swish timber hut with about 24 chairs and a woodburning stove. The door was open but Mary felt it would be trespassing to go in so she sat outside while I had my sandwiches indoors. There were 3 lanterns and some candles, a stove and some cardboard for kindling but no wood pile and not much locally. Somewhat restored by lunch we set off up the steep hill. 

2 hares in their winter jammies bolted up the hill at 90mph. They were about a mile away by the time I switched the camera on. We wondered if they knew they were white and much easier for predators to spot; if they felt conspicuous. And if they have any say-so as to what colour their fur is.

There is always this dip to the river and bothy before the climb up the other side. While it is picturesque it is not always welcome. At least we had a roll down the hill past Hopes rather than the climb over Lammer Law and the rutted descent to Blinkbonny.

Just under 22miles by the time we got back to the van. Excellent day out although the cold wind didn't make you want to stop for a break or snack. We took the shorter option from Bunny's Bothy rather than climb the big hill and then turn left, right beside the turbines. (Maybe another mile + in distance.) Great run and possibly an improvement on the previous. 

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