Saturday, 20 May 2017

Wildflower Walk
Thursday the 18th May saw nine Biggar Ramblers walk from Hazelbank in warm sunshine hoping to find the wealth of spring wildflowers to be found in the Clyde valley. They were not disappointed. The walk took them up some steep steps up the west side of the valley following the edge of the valley before turning back below the Blackhill Viewpoint. After turning left on the road to Auchenheath and then towards Craignethan Castle, they followed a track leading down to the park at Crossford. The 4 mile route followed mostly tracks which were lined with many wildflowers, including bluebells, red campion, white stitchwort, blue alkanet, water avens and the frothy white flowers of cow parsley. A bonus end to a lovely walk, was lunch at Silverbirch Garden Centre sitting in the sun.

Monday, 8 May 2017

The low level walk on Saturday led by Isobel MacDonald left from the hotel in Lamlash on foot to meet with the shore before turning up towards the golf course where, when the pavement ran out, the woodland path began that led the three miles to Brodick. Although the path was often in sight of the road this did not detract from the feeling of walking through a forest with a carpet of flowers. There was a report of slow worms basking in the sun but not for this group. We did recognise the real bluebells - a welcome addition to the walk. Once the two car parks were reached the group kept a lookout for the standing stones on the opposite side of the road - not large but still impressive.
At this point there had to be a photo stop with the backdrop of Goatfell and the range of mountains before dropping down through the Fairy Glen for the final stretch into Brodick. Here there was a short lunch stop before continuing the last mile by the Fisherman's Walk alongside the golf course, the shore and salt marsh to emerge at Cladach shops and brewery where the path up Goatfell begins. There was an opportunity to visit the gardens of Brodick castle, the craft shops and further along the road the famous Arran Aromatics or to simply sit in the sun and have a coffee before returning by bus to Brodick and then on to Lamlash with the final walk up the hill to the hotel.
This was a short, 3.75 loop walk west along the coast from Lochranza, and returning via the Fairy Dell and along the track back to the car park.
We all set off from the car park at NR93195050 on a dry but windy day. Our leader, Jason, recalled last being here on a second-year geology field trip in 1987 - needless to say, a quick internet search was required to jog his memory regarding the geological sites along this trail. The first kilometer was along a tarmacked road and this gave us a nice start to get used to the driving wind that characterized the weather for the half-day's walk. Even on what might be thought of as an uninspiring start, there was lots to see in terms of wildlife - red deer near the car park, a rabbit in one of the gardens, a red squirrel in another, chaffinches and swallows, and in the sea - cormorants on the rocks and a group of grey seals, some of which were porpoising and giving us a good show. We paused near Newton Point ( no relation!) to look at the rocks - Dalradian schists - and talked about the compressive forces that heated and folded these rocks into interesting formations. The geological highlight of the trip though is at the coast opposite. The Knowe - the site of Hutton's Unconformity. James Hutton discovered this in 1787 - here red sandstones lie directly on top of the folded schists, and Hutton recognized that this meant that the schists were subjected to erosion over a prolonged period of time before the sandstones were deposited. This was a major find at the time, as it suggested that we could use geological processes at the present day as a key to explain rocks from the past, and challenged biblical theories that the planet is only a few thousand years old.
By this time we were starting to get a little drizzle, and the rocks were quite slippery so we viewed the Uncomformity from a distance. It was also near here that we were able to view a pair of red-breasted mergansers down the telescope - several efforts to focus on a Great Northern Diver were foiled by doing what divers generally do - diving!
By the time we reached the Fairy Dell, our half-way point, the drizzle had stopped and we were sheltered from the wind until we came out onto the grassy slopes 200 ft above. We heard a cuckoo - whether or not this was the same we'd heard near the shore was never confirmed, as attempts to locate it with the scope during lunch in a sheltered hollow were unsuccessful. We did however see a couple of gannets from our vantage point, and then the sun came out , which prolonged our stop. Once we were on the track which services the houses, the wind dropped as well, so we felt compelled to call at the Whins for an ice cream each. We were back at the car park in the early afternoon after a short but highly satisfactory trip.
Biggar Ramblers on Arran
The big walk on the Saturday led by Brian Henry was to climb Goatfell (2866ft). Nine members set out from the Cladach Sawmill and took the wide, well worn track through the grounds of Brodick Castle up through the forest and were accompanied by the sound of a distant cuckoo. The number of people that passed with the same goal was a trickle but as the day proceeded that became a continuous stream with Goatfell being one of the busiest places on Arran. The stony track let to the Corrie Cairn which is the meeting of 2 ascent routes and then it was a steeper climb over the rocks to the top. Views were restricted at first due to light cloud rolling through bit it cleared to give views out beyond Kintyre and the rugged foreground of the Arran hills made the ascent worthwhile.

On Sunday Brian and Kathy Henry led 11 walkers on a route known locally as the Laggan Circuit - 7 1/2 miles of hill and coastal path. Starting from Lochranza the route was over to the coast between Torr Meadhonach and Fionn Bhealach to the coast at Laggan then north along the Arran Coastal Way. Brian and Kathy talked about historical areas such as the Arran Clearance and the salt extraction works, finding the Arthropleurid's footsteps, clambering inside Ossian's Cave,  negotiating the An Scriodan boulders and discussing the original Hutton's Unconformity.