Tag Archives: Beecraigs

Trusting the book

Weds 8 August 2012  –   I had to be back in Edinburgh by 4.30pm because I was performing in a show on the Fringe, so Debbie suggested we just do a little low-level walking instead of heading for a mountain. She had come across a booklet by John Davidson giving detailed descriptions of various walks around the Linlithgow area and proposed number 23, a 5 mile route starting from and returning to the Korean Monument near Torphichen .  She was highly skeptical that the walk  could actually be ‘strenuous’ as he classed it, (well both of us were doubtful I admit),  after all, the hills were really just pimples with only a tiny amount of ascent.

I left Edinburgh earlier than initially planned thanks to an unexpected telephone call which got me out of bed, so we were able to set off from Linlithgow pretty sharpish. The route was to be Korean monument / Witches Craig / Cairnpapple / The Knock / then back to Witches Craig and the Korean monument via Wairdlaw. We decided we would trust the book and follow his route conscientiously rather than devising any shortcuts.

According to http://www.scottish-places.info/features/featurefirst10318.html the “small wooden pagoda is surrounded by 110 Korean pine trees (one for every ten Britons who died in the conflict), 1090 Birch trees (one for each of the fallen) and picnic tables along a pathway named United Nations Avenue. This avenue is surrounded by 21 trees, representing the twenty-one nations involved in the UN force in Korea. The traditional Korean pagoda contains lists of those who died in the conflict, the vast majority of whom were young National Servicemen. Maintained by the Scottish Korean War Memorial Trust, the site opened on 27th June 2000, marking the 50th anniversary of the start of the war. “

Further up the hill we came across the Witches Craig wall which is made up of rocks from all over Scotland.  Some of the rocks are lettered and details about them given on an information board.  Said board listed rocks lettered A to Q but we saw an R on the ground level.  We couldn’t see any further info though. There were three seats set into the wall but, apart from both taking a photo opportunity, we didn’t have much use for them – tough walkers like us didn’t need to sit down – hmmm!

Set into a wall nearby was the Refuge Stone  –  According to http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/post/24270/refuge_stones_of_west_lothian.html .  “ ‘Sanctuary Stones’ were at one time common in Scotland, mainly around large religious sites. Once a miscreant had entered within the bounds marked by these stones, he was considered ‘safe’ and could not be touched by civil law. It was then up to the religious experts to decide if he should be cast out! These stones were often of megalithic origin, re-used and ‘christianised’ by the incision of religious symbols. ”

From there we followed instructions which took us across a field and through a wood but then we just had to retrace our steps to Witches Cairn.  We were supposed to see something of interest but I confess I forget now what it was to have been and anyway we didn’t find it!  Duh!

We followed the crest then down through fields and woods along quite well defined paths to be stopped at the end of this section by a wire fence .

Debbie could clamber over with a large stride across it but I stood no chance with my  titchy legs .  I tried climbing it (leg over with foot lodged in mesh)  but it was too flexible to hold my weight steady while I lifted over my other leg.  Luckily Debbie spotted that further down it changed to a barbed-wire fence which had room underneath it so I was able to squeeze through there.

Across two minor roads then up a long winding road to Cairnpapple, the 4000 year old  burial mound.  There are steps cut into the side of Cairnpapple Hill to make ascent a doddle.

At the gate to the site I managed to drop the map into a cow pat – as you do.  Luckily it was only a tiny splash so it wiped off fairly easily (I just had to make certain I didn’t use that particular tissue for my nose!).

Sadly it was not open so we couldn’t visit the burial mound itself but we made full use of a bench there for eating our lunch. The site is run by Historic Scotland – http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/index/places/propertyresultsold/propertyabout.htm?PropID=PL_050&PropName=Cairnpapple Hill.

From there we rejoined the road and trundelled along to The Knock.  This road was definitely my least favourite section.

I found this wee video on YouTube – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lT40RUcqDvI –  which shows the views available.   I often make wee films myself but this time just took photos for stitching into panoramas.

I couldn’t find much information about it but according to another blogger – http://www.kimharding.net/blog/?p=330 – “Local rumour has it that this was the site of a coven of witches up until the 17th century. A little to the north you look down on a ring of stones in field which looks like an ancient henge, however it only dates back to 1998 as a birthday present to the farmer from his son.  “

It took us all of four minutes to get up the wee hump but we spent over 15 minutes at the top taking pictures and generally enjoying the views.  Three minutes to get down then off again retracing steps back to Cairnpapple then onwards to the edge of Beecraigs Country Park to Wairdlaw Path.

We saw a lovely well maintained path going in the correct direction so assumed that was it, but a gentleman farmer we met half way along assured us we were erroneously on the way to his farm.

I hadn’t registered that the instructions referred to crossing a stile at that point – double duh!    The track was a matter of inches from the farm path but not exactly that clear to see.    Following  said track we doubled sharply back on ourselves across more fields.  (That was one slightly unfortunate aspect of this route – there was quite a lot of retracing steps and doubling back rather than it being a genuinely circular route.)

We passed the old silver mines on this stretch but there wasn’t time to detour to them . Every now and then during the day Debbie enquired if I thought the route really was “strenuous” but by the time we had reached this point she had stopped asking – the answer being only too apparent!   I received a phone call so she grabbed at the chance to have ‘a wee sit doon’.   We were both  tiring by then to be honest because we had already been walking for 4 hours and were not finished by any means!  (The booklet estimates 3 hours but that is without the stops we took for photos and generally gazing aboot. )

The way was fairly level for a wee while but just as we settled into the level rhythm it changed to 45degrees (the kind of angle where you feel your feet just are not designed to bend up like that) and cruelly it took us up a short but steep stretch back up Witches Craig .   Down to the Korean Memorial and the car – phew!    Was it strenuous?  By gum –  – yes!  One doesn’t have to be scaling the heights for wee treks like this to be challenging.  Most importantly though, there are enormous rewards for making the effort.

And BTW, I did manage to get home for half four in good time to shower and get ready for my show without stressing.  Despite driving for an hour and a quarter and walking for four and a half hours I was fine – adreneline having kicked in by then.

Me as ‘Mrs Gamp’ in a short extract from ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’ in ‘All About Dickens’ with The Mercators.

Not so much a Corbett as a Caw!

Debbie and I had initially planned to go to Ben Ledi near Callander for our next Feeding The Soul trip on Wednesday 25th July and our good friend Sid reckoned he would like to join us.  It had been a long gap of two decades since Sid had done any serious walking and his interest had been aroused by hearing about our recent hill-walking adventures.  (See my other blogs).  However, Debbie was in the middle of moving house so we had to postpone Ben Ledi yet again.  Instead we decided to do a local walk but Sid was still keen to join us.  Upon learning we only going to a wee hill, another friend, Ionwen, also decided to come along with us as a wee test of her fitness while recovering from an illness.

Debbie and I  had planned to go to Cockleroy Hill near Linlithgow a few weeks ago, but as it turned out high winds had caused major tree damage at Beecraigs and many of the  paths were closed.  (See Onwards and Upwards)   We knew it was a popular local beauty spot but knew very little else about it.   This time, as we were aware of the path closures, we opted to start from Balvormie car park at the foot of the hill itself instead of walking through Beecraigs first.

Now then….as all experienced mountaineers and hillwalkers know, it is essential to prepare properly.  I made sure I had all the safety stuff such as compass, first-aid kit and the relevant maps; packed myself a lunch box, bought juices and chocolate bars, ensured I had waterproofs, boots, walking stick, towel, plastic cover, anti-midge spray – all the usual checks for safety in the hills and to cope with the vagaries of Scottish weather.   The anticipation started to rise as the packing took place – yipee,  soul-feeding awaited.

I collected Sid from Edinburgh, then Debbie from Livingston and made my way to Linlithgow.  At the car park we met Ionwen and decanted from car seats to rucsacs .

Gobsmackingly, the weather was fine for a change so I decided to leave my waterproof in the car – adventurous soul that I am!  Debbie and I opted to brave the elements and rely on after-sun if needed, but Sid and Ionwen both lathered on a good layer of sun lotion.  Mind you, he still kept on his fleece (Sid feels the cold).

The way was clearly marked from the carpark.

The path was flooded at the start and was rather muddy for a few yards but undeterred we soldiered on. 

Once out of the wee wood we started up the hill……..

I’d hardly got going again after taking the above start-off shot when I realised my companions were already half way up…….

No sooner had I caught them up than I found we were at the – ahemm – summit!   On the mountains, the Munros or Corbetts, there are often false summits …one thinks one sees the top only to find there’s yet more to climb.    This time it was the opposite – we all looked around frantically to see where the hill continued but no, this was it – this was the top, the heights, the summit, the end of the route.  Aw naw!  Not so much a Corbett as a Caw!

A fellow walker asked me to take a photo of him and his toddler girls who had come running up behind us (NB: ‘toddlers’ !) so after I had obliged, he took one of us.

There are in fact lovely views from the  – ahemm – summit of Cockleroy so I took shots of

The Forth Bridges  

The Pentlands

The iconic viaduct in West Lothian

Grangemouth

A wee ruin close by (don’t know what it is)

The views are certainly rewarding and, after admiring them, I glanced at my watch  to see that  a mere 20 minutes had elapsed since we started so we must have been ‘up’ in ten!!!!  Ten  minutes to the top!!

I stared at the others with embarassed disbelief thinking “But, but, but – I thought I was going to feed my soul……, Oh blimey,  I’ve invited the others for an adventure…….,  Oh bother, I’ve made a packed lunch ……….oh heck – we can’t go back now!” .    I knew we didn’t really have the time to drive further afield to try another ‘proper’ hill, and in any case that wouldn’t have been feasible for Ionwen, but we had to do something else.

I went to the other end of the wee ridge – ( I use ‘ridge’ for want of a better word) – to see if there was another option for us, but was informed by the chappie with the babies that the only other route down was one which annoyed a farmer, so we had no option but to retrace our steps.  Undaunted and determined to get something out of the day, I suggested we have a walk around Beecraigs and the others agreed.

The way to Beecraigs Loch was through a large play park which was packed with kids having a fabulous time on the various equipment.

To digress…. wouldn’t it be a good idea if there were play areas for adults as well?  I think it’d be great if there was equipment for us to swing on or climb up or bounce on – it’d be much better than just hingin’ aboot watching the kids having all the fun and exercise.  Recycled teenagers rock just now but we could be the oldest swingers and sliders as well.

Anyway – on with the story, such as it is – we stopped at the Beecraigs visitors centre to have our lunch – see the photo below of our joyous group revelling in the sheer excitement of the adventure!

( Seriously, this was just an odd  moment – they weren’t like that the rest of the time.   Honest!   )

I never go anywhere without a camera of some sort so at least I got some  snaps  ……….

Fishermen on Beecraigs Loch

Lovely wee flowers near the causeway crossing the loch…

Just an arty-farty shot of the overflow water rushing past……

Greylag goose from a flock feeding alongside the loch

Reflections of Beecraigs Loch…

There has been a lot of damage done to the trees and many have fallen or been chopped down….but there are many new ones being planted.

The walk around the loch is very pleasant and wee Cockleroy Hill presents a gentle introduction to the rewards of making a little effort. My problem with it was just not realising it was so very tiny.  However, when the loch circuit was included,  we had walked about 4 miles, which was a wee challenge for Ionwen and a nice wee break for Debbie, Sid and me, if not exactly demanding.  The weather was perfect for walking – bright but not hot and with a slight breeze – so I admit I was somewhat disappointed not to have gone further and higher, but we always make the best of what we have at the time.  It may not have been quite what I had hoped for but it still did feed the soul, this time with the pleasure of the company of friends.

Onwards And Upwards

Onwards and Upwards

On 13th June time was once more very constrained so Debbie and I were canny and didn’t attempt to go far or high. We went instead to Beecraigs Park and Loch near Linlithgow with the intention of going up a teeny wee hill, Cockleroy.  It was a very pleasant walk, not particularly ‘challenging’ but still very enjoyable with lovely clear views including over to the Forth Bridges.

I say “not challenging” but a few of the paths around Beecraigs had warning notices about fallen trees and we had ‘fun’ clambering over massive trunks stricken across the paths.  Now, when it comes to leaping over ditches or stepping stones in rivers, Debbie’s long legs come in ever so handy and she often has to help ‘short-ass’ me across,  but when it came to clambering over tree trucks with other low hanging branches my titchy height proved best cos Debbie got trapped by her rucsac.    Once I had come to the rescue (I’m really milking this now! ), we discovered to our great dischuffment that the path to Cockeroy was closed for forestry work! So – snookered by the closed path but undaunted, we made our way into Linlithgow itself and had lunch there, followed by a visit to the museum and maze at Annet House.  I used to live in Linlithgow, which is a lovely town full of character and historical going-on,  but the wee museum wasn’t there then.  It was very interesting and well worth another visit.

On 20th June our adventure was to Tinto Hill in South Lanarkshire.

 This was Debbie’s highest hill being just over 2,300ft.  It is  well known as an perfect introduction to serious hillwalking but is not quite a Corbett (Corbetts being hills between 2,500 feet and 3,000 feet which have ascent of 500 feet on all sides.)

It has the largest summit cairn of any mountain in Scotland and is the highest hill in the Central belt.

It has Bronze Age connections and I had read that there was an Iron Age fortification not far from the bottom of the hill, but I confess we didn’t actually spot  it .  Apparently the name means Hill Of Fire possibly because of the red rock often revealed in the grassy sides. 

We kinda played ‘Tortoise and Hare’ with Debbie going ahead at the pace best for her while I  puffed and panted at my slower pace and got there just the same. It was wonderful not to feel any time constraints or other stresses – just to be able to wallow in the moment.   I tend to assume it’s ‘just me’ when I struggle with ascents so I was most surprised to note just how steep the path was when I came to go down again.

  Despite this pretty steep ascent and descent over about 6 miles my legs were fine – no twinges or aches, so I have acknowledged that I cannae be that unfit after all. All my breathing difficulties must be connected to repressed emotional tension – and this will be conquered as I continue to feed my soul on the hills.  Fingers crossed for the weather being kind next week.