Thursday, January 14, 2016

Footprints in the snow

The weather forecast was good. There had been snow overnight on high ground, although not at Skip itself, and it seemed a good opportunity for the first walk of the year.

So, the question was, "Where to go?" I decided that it had to be somewhere that offered a simple walk, with some snow on the ground, that was not too far away, and was easy to get to.

I decided to visit the Black Esk Reservoir again. Last time I was there, more than five years ago, it was in the middle of a drought, see here, but this time I knew the reservoir would be full!

The day didn't start out perfectly, because I didn't pay enough attention to the 'easy to get to' part of the plan. You see the shortest way to get where I wanted to go is to take the little road from Wamphray that goes over to Boreland and there joins the main Lockerbie - Eskdalemuir road. Ice, hard packed snow, and various gradients made the back road quite exciting! But soon enough I was parked at the small community at Sandyford, between Boreland and Eskdalemuir, and ready to get walking!

My aim was to walk round the reservoir. I hadn't been along the forestry roads on the east side before. The white feature in the centre is where I was headed. That's the back of the reservoir dam.

It has been windy this winter!

It was a cold day, with a fair bit of wind early in my walk. A couple of years living in the USA in the 1970s taught me a fair bit about 'wind chill factor', and I was well enough prepared.

I found myself somewhat out of practice though as far as longish walks are concerned, and I did wonder on a couple of occasions if perhaps I had been too optimistic with my plan to circumvent the reservoir. Slow and steady was the way to go. And the circuit of the Black Esk Reservoir is a straightforward walk.

The reservoir comes into view behind the dam.

I couldn't figure out what this was at first.

This is Kilburn Hill Quarry, which my map says is no longer in use, and it was rather impressive, as quarries go!

You will have realised, as I did this morning, that I was experiencing a rare weather event for this part of Scotland - a blue sky. One really appreciates the sun when it has been mostly hidden for what seems like months!

Nearly at the furthest point of my walk, at the northernmost end of the reservoir.

Almost the whole way on my walk I seemed to be following tracks like these. Fox, most likely. Here it has encountered something!

I didn't see much actual wildlife - some great tits paid little attention to me. But the snow is great for seeing what has passed by. One type of prints I can identify are those made by human walking boots, and, somewhat surprisingly, it seems I had the reservoir walk all to myself today!

Nothing had been along some of the forestry roads. It would have been a good day for the cross-country skis!

I'm on familiar territory now, heading south along the west bank of the Black Esk.

This is where the river enters the top end of the reservoir.

I could see a change in the weather ahead, but in fact it came to nothing.

This is the overflow at the dam, and it was very much in use today. It looks quite different from a previous visit in 2009, see here. Since then, the height of the dam has been raised, and the spillway rebuilt. See how it was done here. The reservoir can now store more water than before. But I'm thinking that we won't be running short of water this year, not like 2010!

This is the Black Esk below the dam. It seems to be living up to its name in this pic.

Nearly back at the car. What a perfect day it was. It was still below freezing at mid afternoon, and the sky was still blue!

It may be winter, but back at Skip there are signs of the seasons ahead, as the snowdrops are pushing their way though the leaf litter.

Photos © Skip Cottage, and taken with my new wee Rollei camera, on its first big outing! It was a little frustrating not having all the controls I'm used to (must read the manual) and it was 'automatic' throughout, but I think I captured some memories of the day with it successfully. Here's hoping for more days like this in 2016!

1 comment:

  1. There's some good pictures there Bob - your Rollei has done well!

    I've never come at Black Esk from that angle, we always used to park near the dam itself - not sure if you still can, but seeing it again reminded me of some great times, from being attacked (and having to run at full pelt back to the car) by clouds of midges, to an all-day fishing trip on a rowing boat with the three of us in the boat being covered by a big sheet of plastic (as protection against the rain), to nearly booting a hornet's nest (mistaking it for a football).
    It's a great place - thanks for the reminder!