1st January 2011
Well, here it is, the New Year and the start of a new decade, what better way of starting it off than with a New Years Day walk?
This has become a bit of a tradition – ok so I’ve only been doing it for three years, but all traditions have to start somewhere – don’t they?
Three of us today – me, my dad and my Brother-in-law Bruce. It had been decided early on that we would do a low-level walk, mainly to avoid the inevitable ice that would be gracing even the lower slopes of any hills. The route we had decided to take was a circular one from my parents house in Kirkintilloch. The initial signs were not good. There is a Blaze football pitch in the towns Luggie Park which had just about appeared from under the snow and ice. The surface was like the moon, pockmarked all over the place with holes you could almost disappear down. I don’t think any football will be played there anytime soon!
From there the walk through the park was certainly not a walk in the park (pun very much intended). Although the thaw had rid us of the snow it had not warmed sufficiently to melt the hard packed stuff in the paths. Ice skates would have been more appropriate!
A brief visit to the Forth & Clyde Canal (we would re-visit this later) and we made our way onto a very slippery Strathkelvin Railway Walkway. This is usually a pleasant walk – in fact the last time I had walked down here i managed a few fantastic photos in the snow – the abandoned railway line linking through Milton of Campsie, Lennoxtown and from there to Strathblane where the footpath peters out.
The railway line originally went up as far as Aberfoyle, but unfortunately the path terminates at Strathblane. The West Highland Way, though, does make use of the same line for a few miles around Dumgoyne before heading up a minor road towards Drymen. Also, the path seems to make its way onto quite a few Lejog itineraries, cutting the corner from the canal to the West Highland Way.
However I digress.
The path today was horrific, slow going and purgatory on the legs. For most of the way the path was covered with solid, slick ice with no clear surface to walk on. This meant
a) walking on the ice (not a good idea) or
b) walking on the verge
In places the verge wasn’t too bad, not discounting the vegetation that one had to negotiate every few yards. The biggest problem by far was the amount of dog crap left at the side of the path. On this 4 mile stretch of the walk I spent more time looking at the ground trying to avoid the turds lying every few yards.
Thank you dog owners!
This, you can probably imagine was not in the least bit enjoyable.
It was with a huge sigh of relief then that on the outskirts of Lennoxtown we turned off up a farm track towards the Lennox Forest. Immediately things were easier. With no “turd watch” I could look around at the surroundings and stand actually enjoy this walk. As the path rose we were garnished with some fine views over Lennoxtown and the Campsie Fells, looking bleak with streaks of snow clinging to their face.
While the Campsies always look inviting from below, once up on them they are quite featureless. There are one or two good walks up there but the hills are not particularly popular with walkers, although there is a car park at Clachan of Campsie which attracts many people, especially on a summer’s day. Much of the ground on top is peat hag and even in the best of weather can be quite challenging walking, even over relatively flat ground. As with most Scottish hillsides there is to be found a plethora of sheep and forest plantation although the latter can make for some good mountain biking. There are places worth visiting for walks though. Fintry is a pleasant village, while the Carron reservoir is worth a visit. Dumgoyne (dominating the distillery below) is a fine little hill, and an obvious landmark for miles around.
At the top of the track we turned left onto a single track road and continued to rise past a farm. From there we were treated to a quite fantastic panorama over Glasgow – you could see over the city – and also to the South East. Tinto near Lanark was prominent with hills behind it visible. To the East the range of hills on the Pentlands that include Scald Law were clearly visible, well over 50 miles away on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Not bad for a hill at just over the 200m mark!
At the highest point there is a stud that seems to breed Shetland Ponies. As we approached the farm a number of animals immediately spotted us and came thundering over to the fence to say hello/mooch. These are comical little things with bags of character, but they also have a reputation for being a bit grumpy. These however were probably just chancing their hoof for a spare apple or two!
Next to the farm is the rather large plantation of the Lennox Forest, dominating the small hill above Lennoxtown. There is evidence of Forestry Works going on apace, with many large stacks of timber and the smell of fresh-cut pine in the air (along with the obligatory signs warning unauthorised personnel to keep out). Eventually we drop onto a muddy path and make our way to the edge of the forest crossing a stile and a small bog. Here I managed to submerge a leg up to my knee in a rather noxious brown gloop. Lovely!
Now we began our descent into the village of Balmore, using an old overgrown coach road that must have gone straight over the top of the hill we had just climbed. This was more of a worn track and in places became quite steep and treacherous due to the lingering ice. Eventually the track turned into quiet road, passing a reservoir before reaching Balmore. Crossing the A809 to keep away from the traffic a path led away from the village, eventually crossing Cawder Golf Course and passing by the historic Cadder Church. There has been a church on the site here since the 12th Century, close to a ruined Roman Fort on the Antonine Wall. There is speculation that there may have been an even earlier church but it is known that people were worshipping there in the year 1150 – over 850 years ago.
With the church right next to the canal it was to be a flat walk back along the towpath to Kirkintilloch. Again, in places, the ice made things difficult and impressively the water still had a thick crust of ice over it. Just how thick it was, was evidenced by the large rocks that had been launched onto the ice, just sitting where they had bounced.
A pint later (in the Stables – an old canal building where the boats changes their horse teams) and we were back. 14 miles in a fairly leisurely 7 or so hours.