Oh, My Darling Clementine

Muirshiel continues to draw us in. The hills are the first ones we see every day across the river and I always look forward to whatever they have to tell us on my way to the kettle in the morning, are their eastern flanks sunlit, is there fresh snow, are the hidden in cloud?
So it’s nice to visit, they’re familiar shapes on the skyline, but the ground around them not so much and we’re uncovering that a bit at a time.

A late‐ish start with all we could need on my back, we left the car park at the just‐closing ranger station in lovely sunlight on an easy gravel road with smiles and sunglasses.

There’s a proper bridge a little further on but this rickety looking artifact from the earlier days of the old barytes mine at the far end of today’s proposed loop was far more interesting looking. It’s heavy built and still sturdy looking but runs into the ground on the west side of the river and looks like it always did, how did the get vehicles on and off? We may never know, google did not enlighten me.
There is an old overgrown road beyond the bridge which we picked up and eventually joined the regular track, Big blue skies with scattered clouds and a gentle breeze, perfect walking weather.

The locals looked surprised to see us.

There are a few faint tracks that strike westwards and we took one, as it turned out the wrong one becease someone wasn’t navigating to their fullest abilities due to the lovely views and banter.
This led us into some pretty tough ground for Linda’s lower ground clearance as we had to cross country to get to where we were supposed to be. It’s rough going and the heather is thick and deep. Fun aye, but also tiring.

The views opened up as we climbed which was a nice distraction from struggling to stay upright. Lovely Craig Minnan looked just a quick sprint away and the buildings of the central belt soon spilled across the scenery to the east. To the north the Campsies and the Kilpatricks skirted the views to Ben Lomond, the Arrochar and Cowal hills and more. What a magic viewpoint this place is, there’s a real mountain feel to it.

To everyone’s delight we finally got to Queenside Loch which has a narrow path to and past it, the one we should have been on. Hey ho.
It’s a quiet sheltered spot today, we sat warm out of the breeze in the sun and got to work on the contents of our coolbag and flask. We hadn’t seen a soul since the ranger station which is surprising given this place’s accessibility.
This always surprises me though, we go to so many nearby places to walk and where are all the folk, on the A82? The out of town shopping centres?
At the end of the pandemic and afterwards, everywhere was jammed with folk, now I definitely think it’s tailing off. Are we now seeing more of those who have found a genuine affinity to these wonderful places and will always come to enjoy them rather than it just being a venue to do “something” while everything was closed?
I love meeting folk, I love the banter, but I do like my solitude too. I can live with whatever, but hills just being visited by folk that have grown to love them, that’s got to be good for their future.

Oh, I really need to write up those jackets.

There’s a dam on the wee loch, another fading sign on the previous centuries of industrialisation here, which do lurk all around if you look for them. I ran along this dam the other way in the rain many years ago so it’s nice see it better and be taking my time doing it. Running is a thing I’ll be coming back to, I’ve been spending some time in a selection of the current clown shoes that are passing as trail runners. See a TGO later this year.

Here she decks, not in all the difficult ascent stuff earlier, but on the gentle meander to the mine. That’s a lie, the whole place is a broken knee just waiting to happen and it really was a relief when we cut downhill onto the mine track as it got darker.

Lots to see around here, industrial bones stick out of the ground everywhere, rusty metal, shattered wood, wire, rock shards and warning signs to ward you away from it.
I went through the hole in the fence to see why.

The mines are filled in, or at least capped and I wasn’t stupid enough to take any chances, I only walked where the miners walked. It’s fascinating though and since I was last here the whole place has deteriorated further, there’s even less above ground to identify the pace as an industrial site.
Environmental concerns aside, it’s kinda sad. The local villages used to supply labour to here and other sites with thriving industries, now these places are all just affluent commuter enclaves.

Tired knees were welcome of the mine track and the sky while not firework spectacular put on an enjoyable low key shoe for us as we walked back to the ranger station.

Before we dipped down to the river we stopped and finished the flask with the last of the colours above before fishing out the headtorches and carrying on.

Is it this way? We’d probably been as well asking the spider.

The ranger station is 5km down a single track road, which is lovely by the way as the road sits high on side of the hillside above the river. We were the only folk on it and as soon as we left the car park we came upon a flock of apparently escaped sheep.
The group split up and ran different ways, most finding the field they must have just left, bet they were annoyed. A few others found haven on the other side of the road through a hedge, a couple decided to try and stare me out. I gave them time to reconsider before I moved, they just trotted ahead of us.
No amount of “clever” road positioning, stopping, reversing, rolling through the dark or shouting at them out the window did anything. So we trundled along the road behind them at a speed so low it didn’t register on the dial.
I was well aware that this would be stressful for the sheep if it continued, but it was stressful for me too and I was the only one looking for a solution so I was only going to cut them so much slack before the scenario became a scene from a movie that would struggle to gain certification for release.
My nascent darker thoughts hadn’t even risen to the surface as a usable plan when the situation resolved itself.
The road widened and I thought, here’s a chance. It widened because there was a house, oh I thought. They saw the low wall before I did and over they went.
Right into the garden.
We were barely moving and I could see the big kitchen window shining its bright light into the rows of flowers and, oh, that looks like veg too?
The gate was shut so the maverick sheep were safely coraled in the garden, that wall they jumped was about three feet on the other side so they weren’t getting out again. And there was plenty for them to eat.
Plus there were farm buildings on the other side of the road, so the sheep were maybe just going home.

We rolled past the house at the same walking pace with our lights still dim, just in case. I’m sure it turned out just fine.


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