Sunday, February 08, 2015


A 'pilgrimage' to Carsebreck has been on my bucket list for a while. You see, this is where the Royal Caledonian Curling Club constructed a large pond (more like a small loch) in 1852 to hold its big bonspiels. Twenty-five Grand Matches were held on this loch in the years to 1935. You can watch a marvellous video of the last of these, on December 24, 1935, on the Scottish Screen Archive website here. Just wonderful!

Carsebreck these days is a much quieter place. The area is now an important nature reserve. I had heard that the going underfoot could be really wet, and I had been looking for a clear cold winter's day, with hard ground and some ice on the loch, and perhaps some snow to give it the atmosphere of mid-winter. Well, last Thursday was splendid. Little snow, but otherwise a perfect day for a visit. The sun beamed down!

I began my walk from the north, on the Braco-Blackford Road. In the past the curlers would have arrived by train, or from what is now the A9, to the south.

What's this about a missing bridge over Allan Water?

Sadly, Carsebreck farmhouse is derelict.

This is the south west corner of the loch.

The loch is drained by this little stream, and there would have been a sluice hereabouts to regulate the level of the water.

The Allan Water runs south of Carsebreck Loch. Here's the missing bridge, or here it isn't, as you like. The railway line runs where the trees are, and it's here there were platforms, and sidings at one stage, to let off the curlers arriving by train. You can see photos in this article.

What is not apparent from the map is how large the embankments are which run along the south and east of the loch. I don't know just when these were constructed, but it is safe to say that there have been many changes to the pond and its surroundings over the years.

Walking along the top of the embankments is the driest route if you are trying to get right around the loch.

And how appropriate to find broom growing on the embankment. In the nineteenth century and earlier this provided the material for the curlers' sweeping implements - broom cowes.

Looking across the loch towards Carsebreck farmhouse.

The scene in December 1935.

Looking to the south west.

This photo from 1935 was taken from roughly the same point, and shows the scene on the loch at the 1935 Grand Match.

Don't forget Charles Martin Hardie's 1899 painting of a Carsebreck Grand Match. The National Galleries of Scotland's version of this can be seen online here.

Photos are © Skip Cottage, except that from the Scottish Screen Archive, used as the introductory still from the video of the 1935 Grand Match, and that immediately above which was published in a French magazine in 1936, and entitled 'Un match monstre de curling en Ecosse'. Its attribution is to 'Keystone'.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Wamphray in White

Wamphray has had a bit of a dusting of snow this week. It makes the garden look so different!

I wasn't the first to head out the other morning! On foot. Snow is great, especially when you don't have to drive in it.

Beside the Annan.

 The Jocksthorn Bridge.

Even a little blue sky to lighten the mood!

Back to the garden. Just wait!

Snowdrops in the snow!

Pix © Skip Cottage

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Fitness To Run

Saturday morning, Lockerbie station. The train for Edinburgh (one of First TransPennine Express's new Class 350 EMUs, introduced last year) is just leaving, and I'm waiting for my ride into Carlisle (on one of the older Class 185 DMUs, which are still used on occasion on the West Coast Mainline service).

I wasn't the only one making a special trip to the Citadel Station.

It was my first 'steam fix' of the year, the Railway Touring Company's 'Winter Cumbrian Mountain Express', from Manchester to Carlisle via Shap, and return via Settle.

The railtour arrived in the city ahead of time - I believe that delays south of Manchester had meant that the steam had the West Coast Main to itself! But there was just a tinge of disappointment for us all. It should have been a steam double header providing the power, but 45690 Leander failed its 'fitness to run' examination, and so the railtour was pulled by just one steam locomotive, with a diesel on the back.

 'Black 5' No 45407 'The Lancashire Fusilier' was doing all the hard work.

 The sun had come out, and the locomotive is ready for the Carlisle-Settle line.

The sounds and smell - and excitement - as 45407 pulls away.

There are a number of YouTube videos of the railtour, filmed by others along the route. I particularly liked this one, especially of the train passing through Lancaster. I'm also an 'extra' on the platform at Carlisle - can you spot me?

Here's another video I enjoyed.

Photos © Skip Cottage

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Helpful Signs?

My little walks around Wamphray, where I live, often take me along what I call the 'back road'. This photo is looking north from the roadside. On the left is Wamphraymoor Plantation, a favourite place, which lies between the back road and the railway. There is a smashing wee walk through the trees.

You can access the wood at a number or different spots.

Recently though, I was rather surprised to find that our local walk had achieved some sort of national significance, with signs posted at either end. My first reaction was to get out the angle grinder and indulge in a bit of grumpy old man vandalism and rid the area of such monstrous intrusions. Why is our local council wasting our money on such useless things, obviously designed for those visitors who are too mean to buy a map?

But wait, am I being too hasty? See later.

However, now that one of my favourite local haunts has been outed, I feel able to post some photos.

It's not a place to wander in high winds, that's for sure!

The trees in the centre of the wood were extracted some years ago, but those around the perimeter were left. As you can see, the path is quite well used.

The stumps remain, but are getting lost as the new planted trees are growing away.

Blown over, but still clinging to life!

This little wood has more moods than I do!

This is the line of the 'Core Path 332'. Now I understand. It's all a plan to depopulate Dumfries and Galloway. Follow the path and disappear into the bog, never to surface again!

There used to be red squirrels. Maybe there still is. My only encounters with wildlife today was an angry pheasant!

I asked a 'friend' about the signs. "You know, Bob," he said, "maybe the Council has put up the signs to help YOU find the start point of the walk in your dotage!"

I mentioned the railway. The edge of the wood is a great place to do a bit of trainspotting! Here's a Pendolino, with a bit missing, heading north past, on the left, where Wamphray Staion used to be!

Wamphray Station? Yes indeed. Here's what it was like.  It opened in 1847 and closed in 1960. Read about it here.

And another. The main station building still exists, and is a private house.

Thanks to Jim Storrar for the photos of the old station. Other pix are © Skip Cottage.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

January weather

Early morning on a cold, dark, January day!


Glad I don't have to drive far today.

But look... the first signs of life in the 2015 garden. Snowdrops in the snow!

Photos © Skip Cottage

Monday, December 29, 2014

Year End Nostalgia

Best New Year I ever had? There's been a few memorable ones over the years. In a wee bothy in the Monadhliath, deep in snow, was special. But the one I was thinking of recently was 1982 into 1983, celebrated somewhere in the Himalayan foothills as we trekked across Nepal, from the Indian border to the Everest region. I reminisced about this a couple of years ago, see here.

I came across some on my own 35mm slides of the trip recently, and scanning these brought back a lot of memories. The locals we met were just wonderful and so friendly and welcoming...

... even if not everyone we met seemed willing to let us pass!

It's funny to look at photos of myself, complete with hair and beard! How quickly the intervening years have gone by.

I took this of Everest from the top of Kala Pattar. That was a hard day, but remains a 'best memory'!

I was not much into photography back then but I did try my best with a small Olympus compact camera that I had with me on the trek. I remember taking this early one morning, Ama Dablam just catching the early morning light!

And that got me thinking. With the weather forecast so good for yesterday, December 28, why not go see the sun rising on a Scottish mountain!

So I made an early start from Skip and I was beside Loch Long on a cold, frosty Sunday morning!

Seen from across the loch, the Cobbler was getting the first rays, and looking quite majestic.

Surprise of the day was to find this cafe open early on a Sunday morning, serving the best bacon roll I've tasted this year! Five stars.

This was what I had been hoping for, to catch the pink glow.

It being early, and suitably fortified by that bacon roll, I thought to bring back a few memories and walk a bit up the path. I took it slowly ... it's been a long time ....

... but well worth persevering, following the path beside the Allt a Bhalachaim!

I had my second breakfast at this point. Could not stop taking photos, and feeling so blessed to be there, halfway up a mountain! All thanks of course to Dr McMahon and staff at the Rheumatology Department in Dumfries for giving me my life back.

What was interesting was the people I met along the way. In no hurry myself, I chatted to many of them. One chap with his two collies, complete with LED collars and reflective jackets, had been up high to see the sunrise. Many well equipped walkers were headed in to Beinn Ime and one even to Ben Vane. A few serious climbers were intent on tackling some of the winter routes on the Cobbler itself. There were families with their dogs, three mountain bikers, one fell runner. Some like me, were looking to go no further than the Narnain Boulders. I met a couple of 'serious' photographers. And two couples from England, spending their Christmas break in Scotland. And all just rejoicing to be out on a perfect winter's day with such a blue sky, not a cloud in sight.

It was a day I will remember for a long time!

All photos © Skip Cottage