Saturday, April 19, 2014


It's a way marker for the Southern Upland Way. The prospect of a good day last Tuesday, and an early start, had me sampling a short section of this long distance walk. Brattleburn bothy was my destination.

I left the car at the top of the Crooked Road behind Beattock, and joined the Way near Easter Earshaig. Not far along are a number of attractive ponds.

The Way passes Holmshaw.

Some parts of the walk were pretty muddy, although an important path like this was easy to navigate, and hazards easily overcome.

This is the Garpol Water ...

... spanned by Foy's Bridge. Who was Foy?

This plaque explains. Lance Corporal Vince Foy was in the Territorial Army and an apprentice at ICI Wilton. He died in a motor accident aged 20 and in 1982 this bridge was built by fellow TA members in his memory.

Although the path goes through this forest plantation it follows the line of a gas pipeline and the trees don't hem in the walker.

One accommodation option for an overnight stay is the bunkhouse at Rivox farm, here signposted.

The effects of winter storms, although there was no problem in circumventing the obstacles!

More wind damage.

Brattleburn lies a little way off the route of the Way.

It is maintained by the Mountain Bothies Association. I was a member back in the day, and I enjoyed some great nights in bothies throughout Scotland. In the days before the internet, knowledge of where bothies were located had to be found by sharing information with friends, or by joining the association. Occasionally, one would stumble across a bothy in an unexpected place.

Nowadays, the association has its website here, and Brattleburn has its own page here.

I was impressed. The bothy was in excellent condition. It has two rooms downstairs, and a sleeping area above. It was clean, and well stocked with wood. I had been prepared to bring out any rubbish, but there was nothing for me to remove! And there were some nice touches - most bothies I have visited in the past have only had an old bottle to hold the candle!

The bothy book indicated that it had been visited a couple of days previously. In the winter months, and in bad weather, the bothy provides a welcome refuge for long distance walkers.

I didn't encounter any other walkers on the day, although there were traces. At this attractive stop for 'morning coffee' a rather expensive hat and pair of gloves had been abandoned. I checked for the rest of the owner, but found nothing. Three explanations:

(1) The owner had rushed off in haste, leaving these behind.
(2) The owner had abandoned the items in an attempt to lighten their pack.
(3) The owner had been carried off by the Greskine dragon*, known to frequent these parts.

The beanie and gloves were still there when I stopped on my walk out at the same spot for 'afternoon tea'! They came back to Skip with me, and have now been washed and dried. If the owner contacts me, then they can be returned. Otherwise the local charity shop will benefit.

What a lovely day it was for exploring Scotland's countryside! I suspect this was not a natural cloud formation though!

Blue skies are to be savoured in this part of the world. One problem. For the rest of the day I could not get an old campfire song out of my mind. It goes:

"Blue skies above the camping ground,
Blue skies, no better can be found,
Blue skies da da da da da da,
And a nice cup of tea in the morning."

I gave myself a right earworm with that bit of nostalgia, even though I couldn't remember more than the tune and a couple of lines.

I had a close encounter with this Peacock butterfly, but this is the best photo I could get, as it refused to pose for me! Here's hoping for lots of butterfly days this year.

* She's called Qailan Baleful, aka Claw the Ghastly. She has scales that glow with an eerie white light. She is a shrewd dragon, specialising in the accumulation of gold and jewels, and is particularly sly and clever (see here).

Photos © Skip Cottage

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


I'm somewhat behind in blogging about recent walks. This was last month, setting out on a cold frosty morning. I had driven over to Boreland, and along a minor road to Waterhead. The plan was a circular walk, along some paths I'd not been over before.

This is the upper valley of the Dryfe Water. Here the river has eroded the bank, and I suspect the old path is soon to disappear.

Pleasant walking along this little used track. This would have been the original route into the farm of Macmaw. Now, with all the forestry roads, there are lots of options. 

High above the Dryfe valley, this is where Macmaw farm would have been. Little trace remains. I was on top of the hill in the distance looking over to here on May 2, 2009. How do I know? The evidence is here on the Geograph website! Where have these five years gone!

Up and down to go forward, into an area of clear fell.

The sun may have been beating down, but it hadn't made any impression on this ice!

This is a the Caple, a tributary of the Dryfe Water. On the map this area is marked as the 'Raven's Nest'. I love the names on the map hereabouts. There's 'Gudewives Hill', 'Seavy Sike', 'Sembletree Burn', and 'Saughty Gutter'. My way led around the side of 'Scoop Hill'!

The ax men have left this remnant.

I had noted this cairn marked on the map, and was delighted to find it still there. The view, roughly north west, gives an impression of what this whole area would have been like before the coming of the trees. Away in the distance - and I hesitate even to mention it - you can indeed see some wind turbines. Such is 'progress'.

It was a great place to stop, have a cup of coffee, and contemplate a fine view, on a splendid day. No extraneous sounds, other than the wind (a cold one - after all this was only the 24th of March), and the birds singing. The cairn is on the north west side of Scoop Hill. It has been there for a while. It is marked on the first Ordnance Survey map of the area, the 6 inch, published in 1861, as 'Shepherd's Cairn'. On the old map, but not on the new, there's another cairn similarly named. There's a story here, I'm sure.

But wait. In the distance there was the growl of a Tigercat working away, making short work of taking these trees down, stripping the branches and chopping the trunks to the required length. Fascinating to watch. Lots of other activity too, with two timber lorries being loaded nearby.

Now, I'm joining a track I've been on before. This is the road in to Finniegill and Dryfehead. I posted some pics of the latter here, and in the comments there was a a note that the derelict building might have a new life ahead of it. I heard recently that the Mountain Bothies Association had taken an interest, and I see that Dryfehead is now on their list, here. That's just brilliant news, and I look forward to walking in soon to see what the volunteers have done.

For me, I was headed in the other direction. This is looking south. The flat top hill away in the distance is Burnswark, with its interesting history.

Looking down to where I was early in the morning!

A little burn meanders down to join the Dryfe Water. And so did I, back to the car and a short drive home. It had been a good day. It was the first longish walk for me this year, and I had no ill effects the following days. So a big thank you again to the Rheumatology Department at Dumfries Royal!

Photos © Skip Cottage

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Spring garden update

The daffodils, on both sides of the wall, have taken a bit of a battering with all the recent rain.

The show in the garden is outclassed by those growing on the roadside opposite the cottage!

I'm not a fan of these doubles.

These with white petals have been at Skip longer than I have! Don't have a name for them.

This is Falconet.

Forsythia was one of the first shrubs I ever learned about. It may be somewhat out of fashion these days, but this old example will always have a special place in the garden.

This unobtrusive little double primrose makes me smile.

My favourite, 'Glory of the Snow'. This little cluster of Chionodoxa has filled out, and looks to be happy in this spot in the garden.

Last autumn a box of these Chionodoxa Forbesii found its way into my trolley at that well known garden centre - a Tesco supermarket! They've done well. I tried some in a container, and was interested to see the colour variation. These will go into the ground somewhere after they go over.

I always look forward to this Clematis Broughton Star giving a good display in June, see here. But the weight of it and the wind this winter has given the supporting trellis a problem. This will need to be cut down completely this year after it's flowered, if I can keep it upright until then.

It started off with just one Hosta that had survived in the neglected garden. I've been expanding my collection each year, keeping them mostly in containers for shady spots around the house. The job at this time of year is to freshen the compost, and divide if necessary.

I bought a drumstick primula in a pot last year. I realised that it had a number of offshoots and could be divided, and now these Primula denticulata var. Alba are coming up all over the garden!

It is always fun to see visitors checking out the garden!

Photos © Skip Cottage