Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Purple Walk

August 15, 2014. I had been planning this walk for a while - a circular route, beginning at Waterhead, and covering mostly forest tracks, but with a definite destination in mind. I had been holding back for a dry weather forecast, but I got off to a soggy start yesterday when I caught a heavy shower not long after the off. At least the rain was warm!

Described as a 'successful coloniser', Rosebay Willowherb, aka Chamerion angustifolium, was at its best. This website explains that it was once a scarce woodland plant in this country, and that its expansion occurred as a result of clearing large areas of forest and burning the ground in both town and country during the two World Wars - just the right conditions for this plant to thrive in. One of its common names in the south-east alludes to this takeover - 'Bombweed'. I think I'll call it that from now on. The North American name of course is 'Fireweed'.
Most of the trees planted in the 1960s in this area have been already taken out, but a few stands have been left.

The odd trunks left for wildlife make for an interesting photograph.

There's a fascinating selection of names on the map hereabouts: Wet Slack, Windybank Snout, Little Pike, Snabbies Sware, Mary's Grave (who was Mary, I wonder?), Dod Knowes, and (cue schoolboy giggles) Cockplay Hill, which has given its name to an area of the forest, above .
Yesterday, the open areas had a purple glow from the heather in bloom.

There was little wind yesterday, but here's evidence that it does get windy hereabouts!
This is from near the head of the Pothope Burn.

As a Lord of the Rings fan, I had to stop and enquire on the health of Fangorn.
Made it! Lunch time stop.

I'm at Dryfehead, now in the care of the Mountain Bothies Association. The MBA exists 'to maintain simple shelters in remote country for the use and benefit of all who love wild and lonely places'.

I was last here on May 24, 2009, see here. At that time the former shepherd's cottage was derelict and the south gable was about to collapse. That's now been rebuilt, above. I commented in 2009, "Seems a shame that this home for many families for hundreds of years will soon be no more than a ruin." More pics here.

A lot can happen in five years though. The owners of the building offered it to the Mountain Bothies Association who took it on, and several work parties have turned Dryfehead into a quite marvellous little bothy, with three rooms. Very tidy. And so pleasing to know that the building has a future! Its page on the MBA website is here.

Incidentally, I was contacted recently by Chris Halliday who had seen me mention Dryfehead, and he was able to tell me that records for Dryfehead exist back to the 1600s and many of the Halliday families that were tenants there are buried in Hutton kirkyard. 

There's still work to be done, and yesterday I found Rab and Jock, MBA volunteers, who had been working hard all week. And doing a great job. I was hospitably received!

Did I say a lot can happen in five years. Just two years ago I thought my days of being able to ramble around the countryside were gone for good. So, it was a great feeling to reach Dryfehead yesterday!

The Dryfe is contained in a pipe near the cottage.

Leaving Dryfehead for the walk out, I had planned a circuitous route again using forest tracks, and at one point I was on the main timber extraction route. Easily graded, but not necessarily the most interesting walk I've ever had. At least the weather was very pleasant.

Eventually though, I found myself on the old track into Macmaw, which I'd been on earlier this year, see here. It was very different yesterday, with a purple carpet of heather for me to stride down the Dryfe valley.


Just time for one last photo of the Dryfe ....

.... before the welcome sight of my ride home in the distance. Indeed after some 43 km (over 26 miles in old money) it was a very welcome sight. A purple day!

Photos © Skip Cottage

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