Thursday, 13 June 2019

The day ( Sunday 26 May), Biggar Ramblers set out for another 'big hill' started wet clearing to showers but obvious there would not be any visibility on the summit. The big hill on this occasion was Cairnsmore of Carsphairn with the adjacent 'top' of Brenniner. It was a hardy 3 people that set out from The Green Well of Scotland along the farm track and in just over an hour reached the Poluse Burn just before the terrain became the steeper ascent to the summit. At around 500 to 550 metres the group entered the cloud and the wind picked up. The ascent turned into another wild flower walk with lousewort, milkwort and butterwort ( a lot of worts!). Also seen were starry saxifrage and tormentil.

Navigation was easy initially using farm track then climbing alongside a wall that led to the top. At the top the wind suddenly increased to an estimated 50 mph. Due to the conditions it was decided to omit Benniner and come off Cairnsmore over Black Shoulder and here navigation by map and compass was needed. The wind continued to make the walk uncomfortable. After crossing Dunool the wind dropped when the group left the cloud and descended to rejoin the farm track and enjoyed a late lunch. It was only a 30 minutes walk back to the Green Well and the end of a very challenging walk.
On Wednesday 22nd May, a dry mostly sunny day, 12 Ramblers led by Pam Hart started at the Manor Bridge near Peebles along the old railway line to Lyne Station looking at the wealth of wild flowers lining the path. Colourful blue gerrymander, speedwell, pink and purple common and bush vetch, bright yellow broom and startlingly white greater stitchwort could be found. The group crossed the bridge to the opposite bank of the River Tweed spotting the white flowers of water crowfoot in the water and a pair of dippers feeding their chicks. The next part of the walk was through woodland towards Barns Tower, and old Scottish fortified house, thus returning to Manor Bridge.
Biggar Ramblers - Sat 18/5
After some glorious weather for the recce it was probably too much to expect the same for the Biggar Ramblers walk up Broad Law last weekend. Saturday morning was cool and wet but four 'die hards' met up to tackle the second highest top in the Southern Uplands. As ascent from Megget Stone is a straightforward route but the low cloud and drizzle added to the challenge. In such conditions the boundary fence line proved some navigational security. Despite the conditions it proved an enjoyable outing with good company and some good upland natural history. The terrain was bleak and the wildlife sparse but they were rewarded for their efforts with sightings of red grouse and golden plover. The plaintive call of the latter through the mist was most provocative. In addition, finds of cloudberry, clubmoss and starry saxifrage were typical upland specialities. Upon arriving at  the summit the air traffic control installation loomed through the mist like some alien spacecraft! The group had a brief, thoroughly wet picnic lunch break up here before retracing their tracks using the security of the fence line rather than launching off into the mist to make a circular route taking in Porridge Cairn and Wylies Hill. Once back at the Mehmet Stone there was a good sense of having made the most of some unpleasant conditions!
Seven members of Biggar Ramblers set out on the first of 2 wild flower walks this month led by Kathy Henry and Pam Hart.  The group left from Maxton Church to walk beside newly ploughed and planted potato fields.  At the boundary the tree lined bank leading to the Tweed supported woodland flowers of bluebells, wild garlic and dog’s mercury indicating the site of ancient woodland.  After passing Craigover the walk took to the banks of the Tweed and spotted 2 military jets passing over and returning and then proceeded to carry out flight manoeuvres.  The walk leaders were thanked for putting on a fly-past.  Then it was over the wire suspension bridge to the grounds of Mertoun House.  In the adjacent field a herd of about 50 heifers took an interest in the walkers and gathered alongside the fence. And the jets returned to continue manoeuvres to the east.
Passing Mertoun House the walk descended to the lower gardens of the house where the first yellow azalea bush was.  Then it was round past the ice-house to the dove-cote.  Inside the walled garden the bank was covered in flowering blue and white bells and the top of the bank was lined with apple trees in blossom.  Returning to the road the route was lined with the yellow azaleas and sprinklings of Candelabra Primula.  Reaching the main road a lunch break was called next to the village hall prior to the walk down to the river and across Mertoun Bridge to join the St Cuthbert's Way.  The group stopped to observe sand martins flocking and diving into and exiting their nest holes.  Then it was into the woodlands where different wild flowers were found including toothwort spotted by Kathy.  The final part of the route was through the lines of poplar trees laid out in regimented rows a throwback to the days when trees like these were cultivated for matches.  Leaving the trees and up the side of the banking to reach the church and return to the cars.  It was questioned if the 2nd flower walk in the Peebles area in 2 weeks time would provide such an diversity of nature (not to mention a military fly-past with aerobatics).

Monday, 6 May 2019

The last weekend in April saw the Biggar Ramblers hold their walkaway at Gilsland near Hadrian's Wall.  Twenty members enjoyed a number of walks; the first setting out from the hotel on the Friday afternoon.  This was the Gilsland Stepping Stones which led from the hotel drive descending to the River Irthing.  There the crossing of the river was over 18 stepping stones where a group photo was taken.  The route then went uphill past Wardrew House and into the Irthing Gorge woodlands and onto the 'Popping Stone' where it is claimed Walter Scott proposed to Charlotte Carpenter in 1797.
The Saturday walk was a single walk (with varying lengths) at Housesteads Roman fort.  Being a circular walk of 8 miles there were 2 opportunities to leave the route and cross to the return route thereby shortening the walk to either 4 or 5 miles.  Eighteen of the group set out westwards and with no-one taking the 4 mile cut-out the group moved onto Hotbank Farm  to have their first break.  After leaving the farm 7 of the group took the 5 mile option and took the path leading to the return route only a quarter of a mile away. 
Those that took the shorter option crossed the farmland and came to where the route passes through a wood and although it was boggy managed to find a dry spot for lunch.  When they rejoined the wall to return to Housesteads they helped a family that had bitten off a bit too much of the wall and found themselves with too far to walk.  A lift back from Housesteads to their car another 3 miles away was appreciated.
The remaining 11 continued along the wall keeping to the undulating terrain adjacent to the wall which had several short steep sections.  Reaching the iconic Sycamore Gap the group had to wait their turn to get a photograph under the tree.  Shortly after this a lunch break was called sitting inside Milecastle 39 where plenty of stones provided seats and other  walkers could walk past without interference.  At the last section of the wall section coming off Steel Rigg the steepest part was experienced and negotiated with care.  After this the group turned to the return section and a more gentle walk across farmland until the Pennine Way was reached.  This took the group back to the wall and the more leisurely grass track was taken back to the visitor centre.
On the Sunday there were 2 walks; 9 walked on an 8 mile circuit from Coanwood and crossed the River South Tyne under the 100 foot high 17 arch Lambley Viaduct.  Climbing the steps the route took them into the village of Lambley and passing the various cottages reached the open moorland of Lambley Common where several lapwings, curlew and snipe were seen as well as a lapwing chick hiding in plain view on the path.  Before crossing the Glendue Burn an adder was spotted sliding away into the long grass near the path.  Then it was onto Burnstones which was the turning point and a suitable place for lunch.  The return route was along the South Tyne Trail which used to be the railway line between Haltwhistle and Alston.  On reaching the Lambley Viaduct the route took the group downwards below the viaduct and then up the steps on the other side to reach to top of the viaduct and enjoy the views.  Shortly after the viaduct the start at Coanwood was reached.