Wednesday, 31 December 2014

A Winter Hill walk amongst some of the Daer Donalds

The forecast for last Sunday was very good, cold but clear and sunny so it was time to plan another walk. After checking my hill log on the great website for walkers Scottish Hills I decided to do some of the Daer Donalds which aren't too far from home. I read of some of the trip reports for these hills and studied the map and decided to do a circular route taking in five hills and then a walk out on the track in case we ran out of light in the afternoon. 

Start of our walk from Daer reservoir following the dry stone dyke
right up to the top of Comb Fell, the hill in front of us in the photo

Along with eldest son and  my faithful walking fuzzy side kick, Bracken we were also joined by my partner David. This was a longer higher walk with more hills than our last hill walk to gradually build up my fitness again. An hours drive got us to the Daer Reservoir where we parked in a wide bit of road just before the bridge at the end of the forestry. We then went through the gate and followed the wall along the edge of the forestry. Thankfully we have had some hard frost in the past couple of days which made the walking much easier, otherwise it would have been a very soggy walk. The ground was mainly frozen and firm with a light dusting of snow on the hill tops, making it interesting and scenic for photos. 

Having a breather half way up Comb Law, looking back to Daer Reservoir

The sky was clear, it was cold and the air was pure, perfect. We saw some fox prints in the snow on the side of Comb Law our first hill of the day. The walk from the road to the base of the hill is a nice warm up before the some times quite steep side of the hill. We followed the wall as it headed straight up the side of the hill and as it turns to the west eventually giving way to a fence and some gates at the top. 

We had fabulous views from the top of Comb Law which is a Donald. 

Me on the top of Comb Law

It was a bit of an effort climbing Comb Law, so we had a rest and chocolate biscuits while we got our breath back and looked at the views. We could see the Lowther Hill range to the north with their radio masts (a walk for another day) and the Moffat Hills to the east, most of which I have done already. Typically Bracken showed no effort in climbing the hill, four paw drive wins every time. From here we headed west down hill then up heading for Hirstane Rig and avoiding the peat hags as much as possible. We had to navigate a few, fortunately they were frozen so it was a bit easier.

Heading down from Comb Law to Hirstane Rig

David stopping for a breather on the way to
Hirstane Rig

We followed the fence line up to the bealach between our next two hills: Rodger Law to the left which we did first and Ballencleuch Law to the right. From here it was an easy walk up to Rodger Law with its trig point at the top. We met a couple of walkers on their way back down, the only other people we saw all day. Again more amazing views in every direction. Although a cold day, I was feeling warm and the others were wrapped up with hats and gloves, although I did put gloves on as the afternoon wore on.

Bracken and the trig point on Rodger Law

Ben on the top of Rodger Law

Looking to our next hill Ballencleuch Law, a donald and Graham

We headed back down to the bealach where Bracken entertained us with his vole hunting techniques. Stop, listen, pounce, miss, snort in vole holes! Then it was a steady walk up to the top of Ballencleuch Law, a Donald and Graham. There is an interesting bundle of old fence posts as a marker for the top. We stopped here for a few minutes while Ben and David caught their breath. 

Ben approaching the top of Ballencleuch Law

The fence post bundle marker the top of
Ballencleuch Law

Snow and ice encased grass stalks on the top of Ballencleuch Law

From here we headed down hill to the valley between Ballencleuch and Scaw'd Law, once out of the wind we stopped for a bite of lunch. It was great to get some hot coffee and and a seat. Bracken got his coat on while we were stopped. He's not got much fur and starts shivering if he's not moving around. He also got some biscuits for his lunch too, happy dog. We didn't stop long as it was cold and we wanted to make sure we were well on the way back before the sun started to drop. 

Bracken with his coat on while we stopped for lunch

Heading across Scaw'd law with Wedder Law our fifth and last hill beyond

Scaw'd Law, our fourth hill and a Donald is a long flat topped hill after an easy walk up from the dip where we had lunch. Its an non de script top with no marker that we could see. Once over the top we went through a gate and joined the hard track that headed steeply down to Carsehope Middens (great name) where there is a rough shed. Then it was a steep climb up the track to the top of Wedder Law. The sky was still a brilliant blue and the views to the south and west were clear all the way to the Solway Firth and the  Lake district mountains.

The Solway Firth and Lake District Mountains to the south

Once through the gate just beyond Wedder Law summit we just kept following the track. This was nice and easy as we were all tiring now. We saw three hares on our walk, but the closest was between Wedder Law and Shiel Dod, it sat for a wee while and then ran away over the hill, unfortunately it was at the limit of my lens, but the photos weren't too bad. Their camoflage is excellent

Mountain hare on Shiel Dod

The track between Wedder Law and Shiel Dod

Queensberry, a walk for another day

The sun was beginning to dip behind Wedder Law giving some lovely light over the snow covered hills. We could see Queensberry in the distance which is another walk for another day. The track tips over the side of Shiel Dod and straight down hill to the valley bottom of Thick Cleuch.

Sun setting over the Galloway Hills from Wedder Law

Layers, the Galloway Hills

Heading down of Shiel Dod to Thick Cleuch

Here the track winds its way along side the stream past sheep folds and derelict huts. The Daer water widens as it gets nearer the reservoir flowing past the derelict Daerhead House. By now the light was failing, but easy walking along the track that eventually becomes a tarmac single track road at Kirkhope Farm. By the time we got to the car it was dark and we were tired and sore, I think I might have damaged David and Ben and they might never come on a walk with me again. Fuzzy dog snored all the way home but I had a brilliant day, tired and sore yes, but so happy to be in the hills again on such a beautiful sunny winters day. Makes you feel so alive.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

A Year in pictures - What a huge year it has been!

Its been an amazing year. So many big changes, so many adventures, so much happier. We have moved from our wonderful house and garden and are renting until we find the right permanent place. It hasn't been easy, but life is easier, less stressed and I do like having a smaller house to look after. Middle son has left home to go to University in Glasgow and has settled in very well. Older and younger sons are doing really well at college and school. My divorce was finalised in October so now I can really move forward. I left my job in November to take a year out to study, kick back and have some time to get back to the things I love doing and enjoy life. A  massive (or mad) thing to do, but absolutely the right thing for me at this time. Life's too short not to take time and risks and see where life takes us. I am happier, calmer and content, something I have never really had before. Its taken hard work, nerves of steel and support from some wonderful people to remove all the negatives from my life and get me here. It was so worth it. Lets hope 2015 is equally good.

Here is a snap shot of my year in pictures:

JANUARY: A trip to two disused mines in the south of Scotland to record
 hibernating bats with David 

FEBRUARY: A long weekend in Northumbria: walks on the beach,
wood burning stove, Bamburgh Castle and lots of good food

Bracken in the sea at Bamburgh, Northumbria

MARCH: A walk up to The Falls of Clyde at Lanark  with most
of the kids and Bracken

APRIL: A trip to The Burrell Collection and Pollock House in Glasgow

Easter Holidays and a walk around a ruined gunpowder mill and
secret abandoned near home, good for photos and exploring

Another Easter holiday day trip with the kids to Balmino Den in Fife,
then a walk on the beach at Crail and fish and chips in
Anstruther on the way home

A walk along the disused railway from Peebles to Innerleithan and the bus
back to Peebles. We stopped off on the way home to walk across the viaduct
and through the abandoned tunnel at Neidpath

MAY: A trip to Dawyck Botanic Garden near Peebles,
full of spring colour

JUNE: Edinburgh in the rain

A walk round Thriepmuir Reservoir in the Pentlands

A long weekend in Oban, travelling through Inverary for lunch then up to
Oban, visiting some ancient burial mounds on the way

A boat trip out to the island of Staffa and Fingal's Cave. I've always wanted
to visit and we had a fantastic day out, I even coped with sailing in a small
boat out to the islands and back

Fingal's Cave

We then travelled to Lunga to see the Puffins

They were amazing, so many and so close: an amazing experience

JULY: A trip into Edinburgh to visit David's brother
Ian and his exhibition at the Leith School of Art, then dinner with Becky

A weekend in York, visiting David's parent with Adam, and a trip on the
North Yorkshire Moors Railway to Whitby

Walking along the pier at Whitby

The Angel of the North, something else ticked off my
bucket list

Bracken in the garden of our new home. having had to move house in late July.

AUGUST: Summer holidays and a trip to North Berwick and the Beach

The Bass Rock from North Berwick, fish and chips for tea

Me and my boys. A walk to the top of Tinto, a fabulous view,
great weather, even if breezy

Bracken in Dumfries and Galloway when we had a day out and visited Threave, where I was a
student a long time ago

Looking down the valley to Leadhills, a trip on
the Wanlockhead and Leadhills Railway

A night out on the town, its the Edinburgh Festival, great fun

Edinburgh at sunset, festival nights

SEPTEMBER: Another disused railway tunnel near Penicuik

Mosses at Benmore Botanic Gardens

A visit to the derelict 1970's village of Polphail

Polphail is noted for its street art

These huge murals are amazing

In amongst the dereliction

A trip to Edinburgh Zoo when David's mum and dad were up for
the weekend

Fading sunflowers at Edinburgh Botanics

OCTOBER: Venice, somewhere I have always wanted to visit, and now I
have been, it was everything I thought it would be 

and so much more, warm, good food, beautiful architecture and art,
 Italy, love it

NOVEMBER: I stopped work, taking a year out to do some studying and
get back to the things I love doing. This is one of our local views
whilst out walking every day

Loch Leven next to the Gliding club where David flies from, I can now
go over with him occasionally

At last a hill walk, this one was with Ben to Whitehope Heights near
Moffat, and easy one to get us back into it again. Great weather and views

Bracken on the top of Whitehope Heights where we stopped for lunch

Barter Books, Alnwick, fascinating place and
rendivous for the Dodds Chritmas meeting to
exchange gifts, lunch and some Christmas

Bracken on the top of Bishop Hill, Fife. A hill walk for me and some
 flying for David and an opertunity to get some photos of him
in his glider

David flying over Loch Leven and Bishop Hill

DECEMBER: TIme for making the Christmas truffles

A night out in Edinburgh to see the lights and German Market

Edinburgh in all its Christmas glory

Bracken with his Christmas bow tie