Years and years and years ago, my dad and I visited a nearby abandoned quarry in search of fossils. I literally tripped over our first find, a nice bit of fossilized fern, and he later found a rather nice shark's tooth embedded in a bit of shale. I've always longed to go back, but with one thing or another we've never managed it, and today...we didn't manage it either, instead, heading for a little known rock formation just a little up the hill from the quarry on Craigmaddie Muir.
'The Auld Wives Lift.' -link- -link-
This glacial erratic, placed here rather artistically by a receding glacier during the ice age, has a lot of local folklore associated with it, and the name comes from its so called origin, where three 'old wives' - or witches, depending on where you read it - challenged each other to throw a stone the furthest, and, carrying the stones in their aprons to the moor, duly chucked them, with one landing atop the others. There's a gap between them which you're supposed to climb through if you don't want to end up childless! (something I think I'll pass on, though clambering through the rocks sounds fun!)
They have faces carved into the rock (some folk attribute them to ancient celts, but they're probably much later) and there are some cup and ring marked stones nearby as well as a few chambered cairns. I've always been fascinated by prehistory, especially Scottish prehistory, and as it was so local and my dad had been a few years before, it sounded like the perfect place to go for an afternoon's walk. The quarry was just a short walk from where we'd park the car so we planned to walk to the stones and have a rumamge in the quarry when we got back.
Oh how optimistic we were!
We set off up the road at about half three, from where we'd parked under a canopy of beech trees. Dad pointed towards some trees in the distance and confidently assured me that the rocks were 'just beyond'.
I responded with something along the lines of 'oh that doesn't look too far. It'll be easy.'
*maniacal laughter sounds in the distance*
We turned in from the road, through a gate and came to a wall and another gate, locked this time. Dad climbed over, but I didn't think I could manage it as it was very unstable (it wasn't really, but I'm a massive wimp and not very good at climbing over wire) so we turned back onto the road, and headed up a hilly field full of sheep, which would take slightly longer, but wouldn't involve a gate.
Looking back, I really wish I'd tackled it.
Before I start on this account properly, I have to say that I am overweight and very, very unfit and have asthma, and while I did walk seven miles in an afternoon last year with my friends perfectly happily, I wasn't really exerting myself much and the route was mostly downhill - plus, we were meandering along without any real target to head for.
Today however, we had a target, and unfortunately it lay at the top of a hill.
It was a particularly annoying hill though, as it didn't appear to be phenomenally steep from the bottom, but as I walked up, my lungs protested and I had to go for my inhaler. This isn't uncommon, and usually after a short break and a wee sip of water I'm fine, which I was...until I was nearly at the top of the hill and suddenly felt very unwell.
|The rocks in the distance were what we were aiming for, not where I felt ill, that's the bit I'm standing on. XD|
My vision started going blurry, my ears felt all muffled and blocked up and my heart was racing, while my lungs felt, well, significantly less than happy. I then started to feel very light-headed and had to sit down. (on my dad's fleece, which he helpfully provided, and I then proceeded to get sheep poo on, via my boots. Sorry dad.) I honestly thought I was going to faint, and it was a good few minutes before I felt well enough to continue. I've never been particularly fit and often have to take wee breaks on walks, but I'd never felt like that before in my entire life and I'm not going to lie, it gave me a bit of a fright.
I got some nice photos from the top while I was getting my breath back, including these views looking across the countryside towards the city. Glasgow is only a few miles away, but up in the fields and the moor it was so quiet, you'd never know.
|You can see the Red Road Flats on the middle left there.|
Now, I know, I know, I probably should have turned back at that point, but I absolutely refused to give up at the top of a frankly, pathetic hill, so once I felt better, I carried on, ironically heading down the hill on the other side, towards the wall.
There were no gates, but there was a section where the wires over the top were loose and easily lifted, so dad popped over and then it was my go. I've never been brilliant at navigating walls, and today was no exception. Eventually I made it over, after several minutes deliberating over how safe the other side was as it looked suspiciously like a bog.
While not exactly a swamp, it was very muddy and full of sedge and I had a few near misses when my foot sank deep into a spongey mass of sphagnum moss and dark and murky water. It was mostly ok, but the reeds were so thick it was difficult to see where you were putting your feet and I was getting annoyed that I wasn't making much progress. It was taking a lot longer than it should have to get from A to B, and I was not a happy bunny. I knew that I couldn't make myself fit in a matter of minutes, but I also knew I should have been able to walk that section easily, and not being able to was incredibly frustrating.
We decided to head for the rocky outcrop ahead, more specifically the overhanging section that looked a bit like a cave.
|This shot was taken whilst still at the top of the evil hill of breathlessness, looking down.|
Dad wanted to head left from the tree and head up the hill through the bracken as he thought it'd be an easier climb for me, and we'd be heading in the right direction for the stones.
|I thought it looked like that tree had a hole in it. XD|
I wish I'd listened to him.
|I honestly don't know what my face was doing here.|
The bracken was very thick and the hill far steeper than I'd have liked, so I suggested we go to the right, which looked like less of a climb. Unfortunately, the route I'd chosen also happened to be full of sedge, moss and an awful lot of water and mud, all of which we had to traverse just to get back up onto relatively dry land.
Halfway up, I spotted something hop across my path. A grasshopper! Not particularly uncommon, but it was unusual to actually SEE the insect once it had landed, and this one was sitting right in front of me. (although it's choice of seat could have been nicer - lovely sheep dung)
I snapped a couple of photos, fully expecting it to boing away seconds later, only, it didn't, so I leaned in closer...
|You can actually see it in this shot, right below the dead bit of bracken on the left.|
I've never seen a (live!) grasshopper that close before and I've always wanted to photograph one so this was a really lovely and unexpected treat.
We continued walking, eventually coming to a tiny pond, where we stopped for a rest. The outcrop was just ahead of us, and beyond, Dad assured me, the Auld Wives themselves.
On we went, through the heather and short grassy moorland that opened up ahead of us. This section was nice and flat, with a lovely refreshing breeze and the rough scent of peaty earth and heather everywhere. If the whole walk had been like this, I'd have been a lot happier.
Finally, the brow of the hill came up, we got to the top, looked down and...
...an undeniably lovely view of the Campsies, but not a stone in sight.
How could we have gone so astray? Dad furiously checked his handheld GPS, swearing that it must be around there somewhere, either that or it was on the other side of the outcrop, far to the right of where my route had taken us.
I was absolutely shattered by this point, and as it was a few minutes to five, we decided to head home in defeat, fully intending to come back and do it properly another day.
Avoiding yet more boggy bits, we rejoined the path to the farm by the road, passing a few curious sheep on the way.
Now that we were on a road that was actually stable and not liable to collapse under your feet, we made swift progress and were soon back at the car, though not before admiring the view and the assortment of farm animals we passed by.
While too far away to say hello to properly, I did manage to snap a quick pic of this lovely liver chestnut. :)
Here's where the story gets particularly annoying.
When we got home, we checked some maps and found to our horror that the stones had only been five minutes away from the farm we passed towards the end, and if we'd followed the road all the way up in the first place, we'd have been there in half the time.
Fail level 100000000000000.
Here's a terribly annotated view of the route - apologies for the crapness, my graphics tablet isn't working properly at the moment. According to google maps, we walked about 2.7 miles, which certainly felt like more, I can tell you!
We set off under the trees at the bottom right - the purple blob is where I failed to get over a gate, the blue blob is where I had my near faint experience, the yellow dash thing where I thought going through the bracken was a bad idea
To make matters worse, after I got home, I went to take off my jacket and somehow managed to trap a nerve in my right arm, which was excruciatingly painful if I tried to raise it or bend at my elbow. This made eating my tea rather difficult as I'm right-handed, and it gave my parents a good laugh to see me attempting to cut up my food whilst moving my arm as little as physically possible, wincing all the way.
If the weather's as good next weekend, I've suggested we just go straight to the quarry instead and don't try to go anywhere more interesting. Well, at least not until I'm a bit fitter.