Ill start first with my SOTA activations which were less than I would have liked but due to circumstances, I enjoyed the ones I did, well almost!
It took me to June, first activation was Beinn Dubh, my first hill accompanied by my oldest daughter, Lora. I chose Dubh as a easy tracked hill and I knew with the WX forecast, plus a hill to let her see what excellent views were to be seen with a little effort, I could take my radio gear as well, bonus. The WX stayed excellent the whole trip, I first bagged two contacts in the Mourne mountains of Northern Ireland to start the log, 5 contacts in all which can be the norm in midweek. I didn’t want to spend long on radio but after 30 mins I had my contacts and I tried a few calls over the next 30 mins, nothing. Time to head home, a good day and quality time with Lora.
As is now a yearly event, Beinn a’Mhanaich was my second activation, I used the tried and trusted (and easiest) route starting from the A817 Haul Rd, a stiff ascent to start and a steady ridge walk followed by a couple of short rises. A cairn marks the summit on a large plateau. The WX was ideal, a good day with contacts as far afield as Northern Island and a group activating Ailsa Craig, Robin PKT had come down to active the other Luss Hills to the NE and E of me..
It was off to the Lake District on the annual short trip.
The WX was not looking good even though we’d hung off to choose our days.
I’d chosen my hills but as the last trip, it went all up in the air.
We arrived to steady unsettled weather but I decided to go to standby(and fave summit) Dale Head, I’d planned a round trip there and on to Hindscarth (a WOTA hill) then the short walk to Robinson and drop into Newlands Hause to get picked up. It never turned out that way as the walk up from the top of Honister Pass was to say the least, interesting and windy, very windy.
I arrived at the summit and it was blowing a hooley. It was a handheld activation as the beam had no chance of being erected. I snuck into the side of the large cairn and called on both 4m and 2m. One contact to North Wales on 4 and the other three on 2m, I was ever so glad when John TDM replied so I could bale off the hill, I worked two other lads descending off Blakes Fell, I think according to what they said, I’d the best of the weather but off down and a welcome drive back to Keswick.
I’d been planning this hill since a long time and finally reached the summit in what can only be called a pea-souper..
Katie had dropped me off at Scales car park and off up into the cloud I headed, there is no missing this path as it is a well built stone staircase to the last slow rise to the summit, for once I appreciated the not seeing where I was going but soon I was on the way along the slow gradual rise to the summit, a trip to bag the trig and the geocache which required info off the plate on the trig. Due to a strong breeze at times, I did a handheld activation yet again and the same fella on 4m, I got the other contacts 0n 2m and the last contact was a 216 km contact to John on Stiperstones in Shropshire. More than happy with that! If only I’d used the beam, next time?
As I descended the cloud slowly was being burnt off and as I started down the stone path, views cleared to the W and N..
Another one of the higher Lakes fells ticked off.
That was my SOTA activity for the year, sad really as I now have the time but other circumstances have come into play. I did acheive my 300th ponit.
I’ll be back in ’16.
Carrying on the year as I left off ’14, I was active most early evenings on 12 and 10m when open, I’d arrive home head to the radio and try see what I could work, WAS is now sitting at 47 with three states to get, 2 to verify, I’ll send QSL cards for those, 45 LoTW verified. The cycle is dropping back down with activity over the latter months of the year falling back on those bands, there is always the next peak in about 10 years time.
The rest of the year spent on JT65, JT9 and various PSK modes mostly 31 and 63, a steady stream of new contacts with a drop off late Oct into ’16 as I was now playing with other radio stuff. I did keep my hand in by occasionally having a CQ..
I now achieved 8,000 logged contacts by the end of the year since my return in 2009 (I’ve just worked a German station on 30m to give me the total)
Nothing new planned or tried, I kept up my SOTA chasing and finished the year within reach of 4,000 VHF chasing points (I’ve just made it, 4,001 and counting).
I didn’t do as much portable work in the local hills but that was more down to lack of activity on my part, I’ve still to fully organise the bike for carrying everything. One trip to Scroggy Bank was successful so maybe more planned, it will depend on my reckoning the best LOS for working some of the further N SOTA activations. I’ve a wee thought to trying some of the VHF 2m and 70cm RSGB but it’ll be down to WX and mostly, midge status.
Another foray back into the SDR dongle with the newer R 8202T/2 chip, this is ongoing as I find new ways of using..
I’m doing more listening between VHF and HF and as you may have seen in one of my last blog posts my foray into AIS which is still toodling away on an old laptop, I’ve now hooked my WX station to the APRS and live weather from GAX towers, more plans to go further with this.
I’ve a box with more stuff to get round to but I never do anything in a hurry, I first looked at AIS over seven-year ago and look how long it took me to get round to it, can anyone let me borrow one of the USB AIS rx units to try to see how it performs against dAISy…
I’ve also been playing with PSK on Android tablets, AIS, SDR on Windows Tablet….2016 could be interesting
I think that is it…
If not I’d add as I remember..
It started slowly and gathered momentum..
A year in which I retired from the daily grind, plans to do anything else?, mibbes aye, mibbes naw.
A year in which I spread my wings further out on the cycling trail, a year in which radio latterly took a back seat, a year one small ambition realised – a climb of Helvellyn, a year in which my youngest graduated with a B.A., the oldest gaining his Ph.D…A year in which I realised that I must pack in as much time doing what I want (after housework, of course.)
The cycling bit first, folks..
I’m a nerd who logs everything, radio contacts, mileage either walked, cycled, hiked etc.
I look constantly at my Polar v650 placed on the stem, I see time out, mileage done, speed, ave speed, Heart Rate, ave HR, ascent and descent, obsession? maybe.
2015 cycling highlight?
Too many to choose.
I rarely plan a route, I decide how I feel and some days I do hills, on others the local track does me.
There obviously are high points and I’ll note these as I go.
Making my way up the A82 Rest and Be Thankful taking it easy in the small ring knowing each bend and foot ascended was getting me near the top, I had approached Ardgarten with much trepidation. I punched the air as I topped and promptly got cheered by a large group of middle-aged bikers who had cruised by me at a far greater pace on their motorised machines. I bowed as I came off the bike. I could have gone up a gear or two higher on the lower part but better saving the legs, just in case. I later looked at Strava segment times and I wasn’t the slowest but there were many much more quicker at the ascent, I was happy. Me in my 60s, a hybrid, 700×40 tyres and a body not made for speed.
Parts of that trip was on roads never cycled, I taken the Barbour Rd out of Kilcreggan and when I reached Peaton Rd, I gulped and had a go but not for long. I got off and milked it.
It’s the thought of the return home from the west. Sea level to just under 500 ft ASL, local knowledge then comes into play.
I returned again to Bute to catch the roads I missed first time round, a magical island to cycle (as long as you check the wind direction first), the ferry journey was a highlight, Gourock to Rothesay due to pier works at Wemyss Bay, memories of being 5 or 6 going ‘doon the watter’.
Later that day I’d cycled high above Loch Fyne as I headed to where I’d turn south at Strachur, I decided on a late break to have what originally was my lunch, I parked Polly and sat down on a bench on the shore side, it wasn’t sunny but with the solitary noise of small waves breaking on a rocky shore, I sat back and soaked in the view.
Other views, sitting at the café at Ettrick Bay on Bute looking across to Arran, looking west and south-west from the Haylie Brae above Largs are among too many to mention. It makes all the pedalling worthwhile.
The view from Scroggy Bank above Greenock has to be one of my favourites and I never tire of being there, an uphill cycle on a rough track then an obscure tarmac single track road to the mast area.
I can leave home and have a 20 mile plus run and be back home in under 2 hours, some days it takes 3, 3½ maybe 4.
I’ve got to know folk along the routes I travel and we spend time, talking about this and that. I do a weekly check on all the geocaches I have placed along Route 75 and other areas…
New places visited..
I headed one day with Balloch in mind but nagging for a few months in the back of my mind was the thought of heading further among 7 to Drymen. A case of ‘I’m here, lets go’, a cycle designated route but no level tarmac path, just the up and down of country roads. I sat in the square in Drymen and spoke to a passing cyclist, he asked where I had left my car..’My car? I’ve cycled’..a look of shock as I explained I just point the front wheel and go.
I try and vary my runs so I never get that feeling of ‘not this stretch again’, I have ran out of side roads to explore and meet all sorts of happenings, I occasionally meet the river watchers who check samples of river life, the replacement bridge builders, the taking a trip along ‘paths’ I took the Mill Lade path between Crosslee and Bridge of Weir and cycled around 60% but I’ll walk the next time, the bike and myself were a bit muddy to say the least. I’ve still a geocache to find midway.
A drudge it could have been but December has been a month of heavy rain and constant high winds, I’d headed out more as an escape of the house, it looked okay but as I got to the end of the avenue, it rained BIG rain blown horizontally into my face as I pedalled towards the cycle track , I wished lads I knew a ‘Good morning’, a ‘WTF are you doing out in this?’ came back but off down the track where 5 miles out, I decided to turn back.
I stood sodden at the back door, every item of clothing straight into the washing machine, the bike? ironically got a natural ‘jet’ wash..It’s been a ‘weather window’ hunt. as I write this, I’m 5 mile short of 3,500 miles or 5,632 Kms. I’ve still time to break this total.
I spent last winter making all sorts of plans and never achieved many of them, I’m not making plans this winter as I’m going to dig in to what is already stored by.
I’m writing this in the dog days (alternative world) of December, gales have been constant, rain? more than normal and I’ve been grounded..a light dusting of snow lies outside.
Over 3,300 miles logged, surprisingly not much more than 2014.
Earlier Jan, Feb and March weather restricted my ‘oots’, top month saw over 550 miles logged..
I’ll take that…..
Radio and others, sometime.
I used the full image of Scroggy Bank as this is one view which continues to astound me no matter how often I stand there. Please click on image for a fuller image and appreciation of the view.
You read it correct..
dAISY is an AIS receiver.
What is AIS?
I’ve meant to give AIS monitoring a try for years but being honest, the cost of the USB receivers put me off if I found the coverage would be poor.
I was just googling this and that one evening when I came across a forum and read through all pages on the development stages of the dAISy. I thought this sounds a way of entering the dedicated RX market although I already have the facilities to use a data cable and 9600 rate on a radio needed to decode AIS but as I use that radio for my HF data work, a separate wee box would do nicely.
I read all I could about her and decided to bite the bullet and get one sent over from the US.
I knew the capabilities of reception, knowing that it would not be as sensitive as a dedicated box. It allowed me into the world of AIS rx’ing at very reasonable price.
I bought the little beaut at the Tindie store and I exchanged emails with Adrian who is the developer, excellent quick helpful replies!!
I tracked the package and it soon arrived, I’d downloaded a trial copy of Shipplotter so I could run dAISY and see whether I would keep or possibly upgrade at some point.
The unit was ‘plug and play’ on Windows 10, support is there for other versions, and after a short set-up, I fired up the programme, one or two settings later, I clicked on the green circle. Instantly I was seeing ‘messages’ being logged, I could see the positions of each ship on the map (you do have to calibrate a map when first running Shipplotter but there is ‘How to do this’ online.
I knew dAISy had limits of 8 to 12 miles due to the internals used but that would be enough to me, I did mail Adrian who pointed me to a user who has coverage of up to 59 miles, this user is on the Columbia River which uses an AIS repeater system. My best so far is 16 miles N to Loch Goil, I’m located at just under 500 ft ASL but there is higher ground between me and parts of the river and lochs. My limit seems to 16 m N, 9 miles W and 8 miles E, local geography comes in to play. I’m sure if are suitably placed with a clear view, much better distances could be achieved.
The 21 day trial period of Shipplotter was coming to an end, decision time..
I also did some experimenting with my SDR dongle which I can use straight audio to pnAIS which uses voice to report each message and shows you on a separate open window ships info.
I’ve stuck with dAISY..as it is KISS.
I run an old Toshiba laptop and watch the ship movements on the river and am presently ‘following’ a ship making its way down the river from just under the Erskine bridge, my limit to the E..
I’ve now begun uploading my AIS captures to the Shipplotter server and am receiving other sharers input, I have just expanded my map some to ‘catch’ the boats 15 to 20 miles away. It gives me much more info than before, my own RX’ed ships are still distinguishable from the others.
I also incorporated my AIS info into aprs.fi which I use when out and about, I have recently been uploading my weather station output 24/7 under my ham radio callsign, I’m weighing up running both the AIS and WX but will decide at a later date.
I’m not going to explain all the techy details, see below.
- Single channel receiver
- Receiving on channel A (161.975 MHz) and B (162.025 MHz)
- Quickly alternates between both channels through frequency hopping (<10ms)
- Sensitivity down to -100 dBm
- Very low power consumption, less than 100mW in receive mode (<20mA at 5V)
- No drivers required for Windows 10, Mac OS X and Linux (driver available for older versions of Windows)
- 38400 baud serial over USB
- Optional TTL serial output (3.3V, requires soldering)
- Message output in industry standard NMEA format (AIVDM)
- Small size: 63 x 44 x 23 mm
- Sturdy aluminum enclosure
- BNC connector for 50 Ohm VHF antenna (antenna not included)
- Mini-USB connector for data and power (USB cable included)
- Made in the USA
dAISy is © Adrian Studer…
Thanks go to Adrian for developing a cheap entry point into the world of AIS and you can buy one HERE
Further information on ongoing development HERE
All links and info are given in good faith.
© Google, Shipplotter, dAISy, Terrametrics..
Doesn’t have the same cache as Route 66 though?
This weather has been unbelievably good, an Indian summer methinks.
I spent the time after last weeks Bute run noting further places with easy reach to explore and this wasn’t one of them. I thought with the colder months fast approaching I’d get some ‘outer’ trips in the log.
I did think of returning to Bute but that will be for another day before the ferry returns to its regular Wemyss Bay run. I threw my front lights in the pannier which was a knowing sign I would be out longer. I was still swithering about where to go and what to do.
I set off to look up my old work crew before the intention of crossing the Erskine Bridge with Balloch in the back of my mind. I headed downhill and took the path along the A8 where I soon passed through Langbank before the ascent of Hatton Brae. I stopped to look at the view through the Leven valley towards Ben Lomond and beyond, inspiration of course not tired legs, those would come much later.
I swung through Bishopton and soon I was on the cycle path on the bridge, I see it has had a good sweep since my last visit. It tends to get all the crap flung sideways off the road. A turn under the bridge and I was heading down Lusset Glen where left in 200 yds I’d turn right to join Route 7 at Old Kilpatrick. It was a busy track although I had left much later in the day than I normally do, as I’d forgotten to charge my phone, doh!
The canal was still and it was down to the river viewpoint at the canal entrance at Bowling where I hoped for a few photos but construction work had safety fencing up everywhere, I had a quick chat with a couple of anglers and I was soon heading west.
The track surface is excellent although a wee bit rattly canalside from Old Kilpatrick to Bowling Harbour, and not before long I was passing through Dumbarton, this time I followed the official signs which swung me south then north, I normally take a short cut which keeps you off most of the roads.
I stopped at Dalreoch then up along the path which runs along the River Leven, it was busy with cyclists heading back, I assume early birds plus there were plenty of anglers taking advantage of conditions more likely as the season closes soon and not good water.
I reached Balloch at the Cruise Lomond berth past the Barrage, decision time.
Okay, Route 7 north-east it would be…
It was a case of following the blue signs and off up through Balloch Country Park, winding my way up whilst sign searching, I left the park on to a single track road which after a quick downhill took me to the A 811 junction but I could see my next side road, a drag uphill.
I was now on country back roads, I could see occasional glimpses of the Luss hills to the west and Ben Lomond to the north. I knew the next village would be Croftamie so I took in the scenery and smells as I passed fields full of cattle, sheep and the occasional horse. This was good as it gets, the sun just kept shining and with a slight chill in the air, it made pedalling along comfortable. I wound this way and that and soon dropped down to the path which would take me through Croftamie, the path was a bit rattly and I arrived at the village. Look right left then across the A809 and I left the village, a fleeting visit as I must have spent 20 secs there, through another gate and the same rattly path. The path is a converted old railway track, the Forth and Clyde Junction Railway which ran from Balloch to Stirling. History HERE. Grass is encroaching the first path and it is not more than two feet wide in places, the second part is wider.
Oops, mmmm, a ‘long’ metal bridge. This bridge has been built on the remains of the old ‘Endrick Viaduct’, not much width for Bob and ‘Polly’ but I made it with a stop above midstream for obligatory river photos. I looked for signs of any fish movement but only the odd rise to an early afternoon fly further up river in a deeper pool.
It wasn’t long before this part of the track ended and on to tarmac once more, a sign said ‘Drymen’ 2 miles, I had now joined the ‘West Highland Way‘ so I started off downhill, I was thinking all downhill would be nice until I met another sharp rise and another.
I saw a sign randomly placed on a wire fence between the roadside hedging with an arrow pointing to where I’d come from and the words ‘The Shire’ and I looked for Bilbo and the lads but they must have been on an adventure.
I later discovered I’d passed an old Roman Fort at Drumquhassle which I never saw signage for so one reason for another visit.
I crossed the main road, up some steps and soon I was sitting in the square. 33 mile gone.
The last time I sat here, my old Superdream had collected a slow puncture and it had been another impulse ride where I intended to head to Balmaha but I felt the wobbly back tyre as I turned into Drymen, I had not brought my usual tin of tyreweld which had got me home on a few occasions but the local garage called a local agricultural dealer just outside town who soon got me going again with the premise of not going over 30 mph home, today I’d manage just over 10 mph average on my trip.
A visit to a nearby shop for scran and a decision to make, the route home?…
It was the A 811 down to Balloch, the road was busy and a bit ‘up and doony’, I stopped at one bit to look down on an old Endrick fishing haunt at Mains Farm but carrying on, I met road works and traffic lights at Gartocharn, it was on to the opposite pavement and I rejoined the road just outside the village, this made the following traffic worse as they were all rushing past obviously to make up time. I was glad to meet my cut off to Route 7 again above Balloch.
A long haul uphill at first and meeting a BMW who thought of cutting a 90 degree corner on a single track, tut…
Entering the Country Park I
it was a leisurely downhill run this time. I resisted a Palumbo’s fish supper, I must be getting soft in my old age..One was always the highlight of a stop heading home after fishing the loch.
I’d thought if I’d made this trip a couple of weeks later, the autumnal foliage would be good to see, today just the odd signs of it on the banks of the Leven. Mention has to be made of upkeep of these tracks as I met no broken glass and almost litter free. Hats off to the volunteers and local authority workers en route.
I made reasonable time through Dumbarton and when passing the animal home at Milton, I’m sure it was still the same dog howling that I heard on my outward journey. It had a eerie sounding howl.
The next thought on my mind, the route home after the bridge, I mulled this all the way over the Erskine Bridge to Bishopton and the thought of one hill in particular made up my mind to head over the ammo fields past Formakin to Houston, Bridge of Weir and Route 75 home.
My legs were feeling the last five miles as I rode towards home….
Just slightly over 70 mile on the Polar..
A hot bath, the Radox poured and a long, long leisurely soak was had…
and, of course, a chilled cider followed.
The legs thought it was time for a change of scenery, Renfrewshire’s back roads are a fine place to spend an hour or more toodling but I’d been thinking outside the local comfort zone. A chat with the Roddy fella reminded me that Wemyss Bay pier was out of action and the ferries were sailing from Gourock to Rothesay. A easier way for me to travel over.
I had hoped the night before to load on geocaches to my GPS but I had followed the progress of a geomagnetic storm, at 9 in the evening it was ‘raging’ at G3 (5 is the max intensity) and was planning to head out around 10ish. Twitter reports were ‘trending’ of Aurora sightings.
Just before 10, an email popped in to my inbox from fellow blogger Hugh was cycling over the Green Rd at the back of me and saw the ‘lights’.
Almost immediately, we hurried out and finally ended up above Greenock and waited for a glimpse and it finally arrived, faint at first but then the sky started dancing green to the north above Helensburgh, a green haze with the odd flare began moving, I’ve included a couple of images but I haven’t mastered the art of long exposure yet plus shaky hands, next time I’ll be ready.
Unfortunately Lora had work the next morning and I had this adventure planned so back home we headed.
Ah, the Island of Bute..
Most folk who visit never see past Rothesay and never realise how scenic the rest of the island is.
I read recently it is the second windiest place in the UK, read HERE .
Using the excellent Traveline Scotland app, I checked ferry times and hurriedly packed my pannier. I noticed it an excellent bus route which runs from Kilchattan Bay to Rhubodach with hourly buses (Mon-Fri daytime) to and from Ettrick Bay. Timetable HERE (2014 onwards)
There was an autumnal nip in the air as I headed westwards towards Gourock, a quick ‘hello cheerio’ to an old workmate en route and soon I had travelled the seven miles to Gourock pier and with tickets bought, the ferry was loading, I waited on the lad waving me on the car deck of the ferry. The bike parked up, I headed upstairs to the top deck to enjoy the sail. It brought back old memories of the days when steamers plied the Firth in greater numbers, days of boats such as the Duchess of Hamilton and her ilk, today it is either car ferries or the PS Waverley. The sea was still, the sky free of clouds as we left Dunoon, Cloch Light and Innellan behind before turning past Toward Light and into Rothesay Bay reminding me of a verse from ‘The Song of the Clyde’
60 minutes of sitting soaking the October rays and the view, I’d braved the hard metal outside deck seats but the view compensated missing out on the soft plusher seats inside the boat, it was down to walk the bike off the boat.
Last off the boat, I cycled to the traffic lights and waited and waited..
I’m convinced traffic lights never ‘see’ any cyclists so it was a quick nip back and on to the pavement where I joined the main road and headed up the B881.
My route was to take me past Rothesay Castle, I had a leisurely walk round the outer fence and saw scaffolding placed all along one side, the image I took was the only area free of it and not before long, I was heading upwards on the B881 to leave the town behind and now on open countryside, the views at the top were just as stunning as I expected. I’d decided to take in some B roads I’d missed last time I was over and view the island from its high parts. Arran dominated the skyline as I dropped down, seeing Loch Ascog on my left and soon arrived at the A814 junction where soon I passed the turn off to St Blane‘s Church(worth a visit!) I rode round to the junction at the Kingarth Hotel where I turned right looking for a single track but carried on to Kilchattan Bay, just for a nostalgic look (memories of the 70s). I turned back up to the junction and headed out along the single track Bruchag Rd, mostly riding high above the shore then heading back inland to the A844. A lot of farm detritus along this road. (Polly needed a good wash down when I finally reached home)
Once I rejoined the main road, I resisted the temptation to turn left and cycle back the short distance to the War Memorial where the views to Arran are in my opinion the best on the island(so far), the vista opening out as you head down the road are stunning but it was a right turn today to give me a straight run back to the centre of Rothesay, I descended down past Mount Stuart before swinging off to have a quick look at old sandstone jetty at Kerrycroy.
I cycled through Ascog, Montford and Craigmore past the mix of Victorian villas and newer builds. The long cycle along the prom soon took me to my starting point where I carried on through towards Port Bannatyne, the town centre was busy as I passed through. I passed the old Pavilion which is due for an £9 million facelift. A now familiar road took me through Port Bannatyne, I noted a petanque ‘terrain’as I passed a play area as I headed out to the junction at Kames Castle and to my next destination 2 miles away at Ettrick Bay and my lunch. Note..I used the B road but there is a track which runs to the bay from the junction of the A844 and B875 which has been created on the bed of the old Rothesay and Ettrick Bay Light Railway
Fully sated with the obligatory burger and home fries, I sat outside the tea room and drank in the views, I’d recommend a visit for both food and the views. I did a reccy for a future project before leaving on what would be a roundabout way back to Rothesay and at the junction I headed right and a long steady drag for a few miles before heading north at Greenan on the B 878.
I stopped to take a photo of three Clydesdale horses in a field but they took off to the far side of the field and obviously weren’t impressed. Greenan Loch was on my left , Barone Hill on my right before a sharp right turn and drop, I got passed by a car at the bend and I wondered if I was going to pass the same car on the descent as I hurtled towards it, Miss Daisy was out for the day. This was the shortest stretch of road for the day as I soon quickly headed downhill into Rothesay town centre. 30 miles covered on a day which could be called idyllic although the wind had been breezier than expected on some stretches. A good day once again. I’ll be back sooner next time.
I purposely left out other side roads/areas I intend to go back over and explore on my next trip especially whilst the ferry is still leaving Gourock.
I’d landed in Rothesay at 11.00 (I’d left the house at 9 am) and even with an extended lunch break, I returned on the 14.50 boat and was back home around 17.00 hrs…
I thought I’d add Jack and Toms version of the above song,
I’ve received feedback on the aurora ‘chasing’,
My ‘go to’ sites and apps for this…
I use Twitter HERE
Facebook is useful (I am not a user)
Oh and my previous blog post… HERE
Time to get back to some local places to visit…..
The hill in question? Cairncurran, a local TuMP in among surrounding higher ground. Cairncurran is situated in rural Kilmacolm and is only just over 4 kms away from my home as the crow flies. I’d received an email about the hill from fellow blogger Hugh and thought mmm, one that I’d never really visited although the hill is recognisable for its distinctive summit shape depending on what angle you look from. If you look at the summit as you come over west via Garshangan, it looks like two power poles are planted in the middle of a stone summit but in other views it looks as if the summit is cut across with a sharp knife.
It was time to go look and after the usual checks on Google Maps/ Google Earth. I’d decided to cycle over Auchenbothie Rd and on to the B788 towards Kilmacolm where I would take the single track farm road to look at a couple of access points. A ride to the top of the road at the farm made my mind up to reach the hill lower down up past a conifer plantation. I thought that I’d nip over the next suitable day weather wise but in true Bob fashion, it was a week later plus I got Katie to drop me off at the entrance to the farm road on the B788.
I could hear cutting activity going on in a nearby wood, more on this later. I started up an open field and crossing at a well made stile, the next bit of ground was rough to say the least, I made my way through reeds, long grass and an uneven surface before finding an easier route to the next stile. It was much easier going the short distance to the summit, I’d hadn’t really walked that far so I was soon on the summit, I found a rock, sat down and had some scran while taking in the views.
To the north I could see nearby Corlic and the Luss hills but unfortunately anything higher covered by cloud, the sprawling urban landscape of Paisley and beyond to the south-east, the hills and moorland to the south with Creuch Hill rising behind me to the south-west. I had a walk around the summit area and could see it was like most hills in the area, I’m not going to talk geology but this was obviously the result of volcanic activity which most of the hilltops in the immediate area are, fun fact (as far as I know) is no gold has ever been found in Renfrewshire* although I would like proved wrong so I could bring out my pan and ‘Henderson’ pump which have never been used in earnest.
I came off the summit and walked around the stone ‘wall’, I saw what at first looked like a very small cave, sadly it wasn’t, I had a quick look before taking some summit photos then it was time to head home, once again another local hill with cracking views, I’ll be back.
I headed back down with a slightly altered route and headed towards where I’d heard the forestry work being done, I came across one of the ‘do everything Timber Harvester’ machines working, I spoke with the operator before he got back to work. Interesting machine.
Time to head back home and as I headed I saw an intriguing obvious ‘entrance’ into a conifer plantation, nosey time.
It was a pheasant rearing pen, I’ll let the images posted below tell the story, I was surprised this was so openly findable but I guess not many people will walk and pass this area. I followed the main road back to where I would head east and take the turning to the Green Rd and head back home via the golf course.
A good walk plus I’d enjoyed my day out.
*The ‘gold’ fact comes from ‘At the end of the rainbow’ by G.F.Adamson ( I read this a few year ago when loaned a rare copy).
I checked a local book for the meaning of ‘Cairncurran’ and it came up with ‘cairn of cairns’ although ‘curran’ has other meanings.
The ‘been before’ bit..
I originally was going to add on a piece about a local ruined church but I took a trip to do some checking on the ‘rail’ bridge over the Blacketty Water deep in Muirsheil Park.
I’d been in touch with Mark who has blogged and has(is) built a scale replica of said bridge, I offered to head out and get some more detailed information on the bridge.
Mark’s blog is HERE
I’d been doing more miles than normal the past week so the legs were slightly heavy but off I headed, the bridge is only 3.5 mile as the crow flies but sadly not by bike. I took a left of B788 down Gateside Rd and soon I took the ‘road’ (I use the term loosely) up the where it joins the open hillside past Hardridge Farm. I opened the gate and headed slowly up a good-sized stony track, I soon passed the old railway shed which is showing signs of years of high winds, the roof looked as if it is open at one corner.
I pedalled up where it was possible and I just walked the rest when it got too rough for the bike. I have been up here a couple of times before but I think the track has deteriorated.
I passed the heilin coos’ and as they were on the track, slowly as those horns look deadly sharp.
I arrived at the junction with the Muirsheil Park track.
I parked up the bike and got out the tape and measured various parts of the track setup, I laugh now as I had written things down as I thought they would be called but obviously not the technical terms. All measurements taken, I took out the camera and snapped it from all angles.
A slight shower passed and I sat and had some scran and thought, I must head up here some crisp winter night as I could see the urban sprawl of Paisley and beyond.
Muirsheil or back to Hardridge.
The last time I’d cycled over from Muirsheil so I thought I’ll do the return journey, wrong!!!
I walked roughly half the journey, I waded through a couple of burns and many ‘puddles’ up to knee-deep and I could see no activity signs except an odd bike tyre mark but no vehicle tracks like the last time. Erosion? This track is slowly heading back to nature. Up, down and finally I reached a locked gate leading me into the main park area, the bike lifted over the fence and a quick look at the Calder Water bits and bobs before a quick run down then up into the Ranger Centre, no coffee today as I had soaking trainers/feet, I’d have been welcome, not.
I knew I’d an almost downhill 2.5 ml run to the main road, I met nothing so I coasted to where I had to decide Kilmacolm or Lochwinnoch, my legs said right but I knew it was 17 ml before I’d get home so it was off uphill then more uphill before a sharp drop from Carruthmuir, the road ahead was closed but I knew the work was nearer Kilmacolm and I could have a couple of options to leave en-route but I reached the junction where I’d head down to the outskirts of Quarriers Village.
A quick down then up and I was on the cycle track, 5 ml from home…
I think I’ll walk up.
But how to get there?
There are two tracks to reach the bridge,
a track winds up form the Hardridge Farm area but parking is not advised on the tarmac section of this road and TBH there isn’t any parking areas along the Gateside Road. Personally I’d get dropped off as near as possible and walk up the broken tarmac track before heading on to the open moorland. A return journey to the Gateside Rd of 6 km.
The other option is to head to Muirsheil Park, off the B788 near Lochwinnoch. There is car parking at the Rangers Centre, a long walk along the Hardridge track a 10 and a half km return walk along a rough track with occasional deep puddles along the route with at least one running burn to cross.
The bridge is situated
Ordnance Survey approx NS 301675
Lat Long is N 55 52.269 W 004 42.917
If you need further directions, just leave a comment and I’ll get back to you…
My previous blog post on the area HERE
‘The Been Before
It now seems to be my first place to head to each visit to the Lakes, it was my first fell (1981) that I climbed in the area and the view north is still my favourite.
We had waited on trying to grab some good weather to head down to Keswick and had watched the forecasts for a couple of weeks but nothing seemed to suit, time was running out so with B&B booked, it was off down south we headed.
The journey down was the normal, with Asda Carlisle our brekkie stop but the weather on the way down wasn’t too promising.
Fed and fuelled up it was off to Penrith before heading west along the A66 to Keswick, the base for our stay.
The rain had disappeared but it was windy, very windy, I checked the latest forecast for the area and the wind was to drop…
But it didn’t, we headed down Borrowdale towards Seatoller and then up the steep road to Honister Slate Mine, Katie was to go shopping, I was to hike up Dale Head, the path starts at the highest point of the pass and just under an hour later, I was standing, nay kneeling behind the summit cairn because I was struggling to stand, yes, it was that windy, the gusts were horrendous, I was glad of the shelter but it seemed the wind was coming from more than one direction. I got the handhelds ready, a short activation which is not my thing, I had originally intended Dale Head, a quick WOTA activation of Hindscarth then on to Robinson and getting picked up later at Newlands Hause. Oh and I managed to find the cache just east of the summit cairn.
I worked 3 stations on 2m FM, one on 4m FM, the fourth was most welcome as I then called over the next five minutes but no one came back. It turned out to be almost a hit and run but conditions seemed to be getting windier, I faced into it on the descent and soon we headed back to Keswick, the cobwebs well and truly blown off.
I got MWIS forecasts each morning from our landlady and between this and the Met Office app, I put off my next trip as it wasn’t looking promising for Wednesday BUT they got it totally wrong, there was still a good breeze at low down but the sun appeared late morning so we just headed to check drop off points for a couple of hills and to visit our friends in Keswick, plans were afoot for Thursday but what hill, a choice of two….but there was no choice, Helvellyn it would be.
I’ve planned this hill after visiting Scafell Pike in 2012 and the forecast was for it to clear late morning, I was to find out it didn’t follow this promise.
Everything was double, treble checked and we set out after another monstrous brekkie to travel the 7 mile down the road to the car park at Swirls on the A591. It was in drizzle and low cloud that I set off and I switched on my GPS (I do carry OS maps and compass) and headed upwards but I wouldn’t have needed it as I set off crossing Helvellyn Gill before heading on to the open fell-side.
It was to what I have now christened ‘Stairway to Helvellyn'(sorry Led Zep), a massive thanks has to be given to the volunteers who improved this path by paving and creating what is a stairway which lasts until you reach the higher levels of the ascent, a magnificent job. The stone was wet so I took care and made note that I would have to be extra careful if I met the same conditions on the descent. It was steady going upwards in visibility which may at best got as good as 40m, I met only three figures descending in the mist, each encouraging me upwards. The last lad said I had only 200m of the steepest part to go before the slow gradual ascent to the summit.
This was most welcome as I’d ascended almost 2,000 ft in just over a mile, quickening my pace I headed up what now was a wide, worn path. The trig point was soon reached and I made a note to bag the virtual cache on my way back down. The summit shelter was my target, I soon was sitting having a bite to eat and deciding what to do, it was raining and the wind was gusting strong at times. I decided to do as the same Tuesday, handie only..
I called and got John TDM in Penrith, a short chat whilst he put a spot on the SOTA website, thanks John! Next in the log was Derek MIX from Whitehaven whom I worked the previous hill and this pattern was to follow as John FGQ in North Wales replied to my call on 4m and was my only contact on the band on both hills. A short break whilst I chatted with various people who appeared and wondered what I was up to. If you can get an interested party to take the hobby up and are keen hill walkers the better, I think an information sheet would be a good idea, I’ll get busy..
The wind and rain lightened and I just carried on and notched up another 5 contacts, Rob HRT in Southport, Paul WTT in Elwoe, John ZPL/p nr Bangor, Brian ZRP in the Wirral and finally a STS (summit to summit) with John TQE/p on Stiperstones in North Staffordshire approx 216 kms to the south of me..nice one!
I called on both 2 and 4m but nothing more. The rain had stopped by now so I packed everything away and got ready to head back the way I’d ascended once I called Katie and arranged a pickup time, I had factored in extra time for what could have been a descent on wet stone ‘steps’.
Off to the trig point, and I noted the info I needed for bagging the cache and noticed three padlocks on top of the trig, so it wasn’t just Ben Lomond this happens on, see HERE. I set off down the gradual wide open summit path trying to catch a look down Swirral Edge but I soon reached the slopes of Little Man and soon I was passing Browncove Crags, not long after I passed I could see the cloud lifting and as I reached the top of the ‘staircase’, a quick look back and the cloud had lifted, will I go back?
Nope, it was down the ‘staircase’ which thankfully was now dry, gently picking my way down and having a quick word with the throngs now ascending the hill, I met Magda, a Polish woman I’d spoken with on the summit. She had decided to sit and enjoy the views.
I slowly worked my way down the paved path before heading through the gate and bridge which led me in the car park where Katie was waiting on me.
1 hour 54 minutes to ascend and 1 hour 40 minutes to descend, I was more than happy at this.
I was happy to have done this fell, the third highest point in England. I’ve now done three of the seven 3,000 plus hills in England.
It is now down to planning my next venture to the area….
Katie did ask on our last day if I wanted to catch another hill whilst she did her last shop, I could have nipped up either of the Mell Fells but I thought, another day…
It was then a quick run back over the border to home.
I logged my activations and pleased to see I have now reached 300 points.
There are no images of the Dale Head activation due to the weather conditions.
Another memorable visit to the Lakes, what next?
The Wikipedia page on Helvellyn makes for interesting reading HERE
The blog post title?
It wasn’t a trip to Hel..vellyn, I just thought it was a good ‘un.
During our visit, we took a trip to Surprise View above Derwent Water past the famous Ashness Bridge, I took this photo of Expedition Driver Katie…
Spotted this in a Cockermouth car park, do you know the answer?
Six not out?
Nah, it’s really seven not out as I was on a’Mhanaich April ’14 but no activation.
This was a last-minute thought as no arrangements made until late Friday evening. I had planned a slightly longer bike ride for the Saturday morning when I mentioned that the weather would have been ideal for a hillwalk. A rush then to charge everything as I have lacked in my used to having everything ready to go..
The FT817 and SLaB were forgotten due to time constraints so it was handhelds only and with charging the handie batteries during the night, I was ready just to pack the rukkie first thing in the morning. The plan was an early, early start so I could get back home to catch the next to the last stage in the TdF which finished on Alpe D’Huez. It never works out the way I plan things as it was the back of 9 we left. Like last time I did a hill (Beinn Dubh) across the water, we had nipped into to a garage en route for an excellent coffee and bacon roll, we stopped again. Still good.
The roads were quiet heading with a build up heading south. The A817, the Haul Rd was soon turned into and it was off up along this rollercoaster of a road. In a car you don’t notice this but my memories of cycling it last year W to E does. Soon I could see the route up the Strone as we climbed the last steep hill and parked in a draw off bit where I checked I had everything before waving goodbye to Katie. ‘Remember this spot please’ I said but more on this later.
I set my GPS devices and headed up..
It was up a now well familiar track which looks as if it is not used as often, I kept to the right of the ubiquitous ‘Military Firing Range’ signs, I have heard on two occasions, gunfire on my ascents. Keep further right, I thought.
After a mile the ground and path level out and a steady uphill walk to where the signs disappear to your left, a walk across a somewhat boggy area before heading up the next steep rise where at the top you can see the summit cairn in the distance, the rest is an easy level walk until a short sharp climb to the summit.
It had been breezy on the way up, a welcome NW cooling one and I moved slightly off summit to a nook just below the cairn.
I sat and enjoyed the views before getting to business, Robin PKT was just to the NE on Beinn Dubh so it was a quick contact by the handie with him, I had a quick word with Stevie SGO and Brian HMZ before I set up the 4m JPole, 4M was my first choice today and more in hope, I gave out a call, Brian HMZ came back and that was at least one. I next called and worked Eric FSZ in Girvan, I kept plugging away and the third contact was Norrie in Edinburgh before I got Neil NCM on Ailsa Craig , I’d activated the hill on 4m, a rarity for me and I later logged Alan NLA on the island. A SOTA expedition was happening on the island plus I could see the Craig 75 kms away down the firth. Once again the views were excellent, I could see the big Ben briefly before some cloud killed the further views NW…
It was time for a scran break and as I knew 2m would be busy with NCM and PKT. I scanned the other hills and I only could see a figure across the glen on Chaorach.
I put up the beam and made various contacts to as far east as Edinburgh, Girvan, Glasgow, Ailsa Craig, Irvine, Ayr, Donaghadee (NI), Lanarkshire and I had packed away everything except a handie to wait for a final summit to summit (3 km away) with Robin PKT on Doune Hill. I did see him near the trig point.
A good day, fine weather and an enjoyable walk over now familiar ground.
Whilst waiting I could see three folk coming up from the glen floor, a steep rise of almost 1200 ft..they had also did the direct route to Chaorach from Auchengaich reservoir which I had done (and promised to never do again). I then worked PKT and COX and started my way back down the hill. I’d contacted hom to arrange the pick up and had given myself plenty time to descend and enjoy the views. I meandered down the last track and waited..
I’d no phone signal but got an occasional weak internet access so I got in touch with home and an hour later than I thought I’d got my lift home. Someone had stopped at wrong lay-by and dozed off in the heat of the day. The ribbing continues..
Another good day spent in the hills and hopefully my enthusiasm has returned.
I had been asked if I’d cycled there, now if there weren’t a steep ascent from Garelochhead plus 30 odd miles after coming back down, I could think about it. Unfortunately not many hills are within easy cycling range (for me!)
Like most of my radio/hillwalking posts, nothing seems is planned much in advance.
I received a text for my oldest daughter Lora asking if I’d like to head up a hill the next day as she was off on a day’s holiday.
I think she already knew the answer!
What I didn’t think was she wanted to join me, ‘Do you mind if I play radio for a short time?’, ‘No problem’ so where to go, time to think.
I thought initially one of the Arrochar Alps but on reflection, Beinn Dubh or Conic Hill ticked the boxes for our first hill together, I chose Dubh for its spectacular views of the south basin of Loch Lomond plus the 270° vista of tops as far as you can see at its summit. It was off to charge the handie batteries and get the equipment looked out and all set to pack early the next morning.
Maps printed early, equipment all double checked, scran prepared (the advantage was Lora had bought some quality eats) plus almost a gallon of water packed away.
In to the car then off to fuel then off towards Erskine, the A82 to just beyond Luss, oh and a pit shop for (real) coffee and a bacon roll en route, this is style, we turned into Glen Luss and parked the car.
A quick check, GPS on and off up over the stile, I had explained this hill had more than a few false summits but once we arrive at the fence, it gets easier and were not far from an almost level walk to the summit, the views past the first cairn W and N are cracking.
As we ascended the views behind us over Luss and Loch Lomond spread out before us, this was my third visit to this hill and I think I could never tire of them. I did the Glen Striddle Horseshoe walk last time and would thoroughly recommend it but today we stopped short and we just retraced our footsteps from whence we ascended.
We headed up grabbing occasional water breaks, the temperature was warmer especially in this lower section where there was no breeze and this of course meant that the dreaded beasties made occasional appearances, this was a spur to keep going.
The wood section with its show of bluebells and wood anemones everywhere was soon left and it was now the slog to the first summit, the hill quieter than I thought it would be as it was a weekday. The sun was now beating down and I stopped occasionally to put sunscreen on my nose which was showing the effects of the weeks earlier cycling trips.
Slowly we headed upwards, the fence was soon reached and not before long we passed the first cairn. It plateaued now and soon we arrived at the summit.
It took me minutes to throw up the antenna and mast, I’d just taken the Yaesu handie with a spare battery as I intended to just activate using 2m FM, I’d left the 4m handie at home.
I gave a few calls with no response, knowing I was earlier than I’d alerted for but I soon got someone answering my call but I also heard STS(Summit to summit) being called.
I called the station back and it was Viki BWA who was on Slieve Bearnagh in the Mourne mountains in Northern Ireland, I’d noticed the alert before I had left home and funnily, my only other previous STS to NI was from this summit on my first visit in 2009. Info on our respective hills passed before I worked Rod JLA who was doing a joint activation with Viki. The first two in the log, two to go..
Next call was Eric FSZ down South Ayrshire way, I should have brought my 4m handie after all, eh? after a ‘catching up’ I needed one more contact and not before long, I logged Stevie SGO who was ironically portable about 500m from my home..
The hill activated, time for some scran before calling again, Robert GUF was next (and last) but this time he wasn’t on his normal place of Tinto. We spoke about VHF/UHF activity nights, I must get organised and head out on (breezy) nights to see what exactly this is all about.
I called on all points of the compass with the beam but nothing, I did hear one G station but no joy….
One woman asked Lora if I was spying on the Russians, another had stopped to ask what I was doing just as I finished talking to Rod JLA and was impressed that I could work as far as NI.
I broke everything down, packed it away and got ready to head off the hill.
We spent some time looking at what hills were in their glory today and some to the N still had patches of snow on them, once again the photos do not give you full beauty.
I pointed out the names of nearby hills, I’ve been on them all except one, Cruach an t-Sidhean, ‘the fairy hill’, someday. I’ll wander through the glen for this one and see the history I have only read about. I must see if there is a path from Auchengaich Reservoir to the ruined Gleann na Caorainn. A SW ridge runs to Chaorach’s summit not far away. Sidhein would be best done after dropping down the west ridge of Eich.
I pointed out the path down into Striddle but no, we retraced our steps.
The path was drier than normal with only the odd damp patch to hop across and we had just passed the end of the fence and saw a pair of black socks at the side of the path, we hadn’t seen them on the way up so bemused we headed on and not before long, we got called by a couple descending behind us asking if we had dropped socks.
They hadn’t spotted them on the ascent either, three people had passed us earlier so we assumed it was them. Funny.
We arrived back at the car after a reasonably quick ascent. The parking area felt like an oven and it was quickly we headed back south on the A82 , windows down and the cooling breeze was brill.
It was not long until we reached home and I immediately had a chilled beer.
Unfortunately not many contacts but it was sunny, a weekday so I was happy to bag 5 contacts. 2 points in the bag and my first activation for almost 10 months. I must get going.
I think the Lakes will be on for my annual visit late July/August, I better look out some hills for then.
I’ve not gone overboard with images of the walk as they are on earlier blog posts(see below)
Images © Lora
My thanks first to Lora, for our day out and to the next hill….. also Wikipedia, Peakbagger and walkhighlands whom I have linked to..
It had been a while since I did a longish run.
I’d been mulling over various routes checking the most important fact, elevation. Distance?, no, elevation. I’m not that hot on hills (going up that is!).
The previous week’s weather had not been conducive to anything long although I managed to catch two joined for just over 70 odd miles. It was time to step up and venture across the river again. I’d looked at a trip back to Arrochar but unlike last time I’ll head over the Rest and Be Thankful before falling down through Glen Kinglas and heading home via Strachur then Hunters Quay.
The weather had calmed from the high winds of the weekend and the decision was Monday or Tuesday. Tuesday’s forecast was looking more favourable but being fresh from a few days off the bike.
Monday it was..
I planned it all in my mind and rose to go through the route and check ferry times. I made up some scran, filled the bidons, checked over the bike, oiled the chain, pumped up the tyres etc then finally packed all the essentials into the pannier.
I’d just over 45 mins to make the Kilcreggan ferry and set off into a NW breeze.
I cycled towards Greenock taking the dockside Route 75 trail until I got to the container terminal entrance where I was held up by tourists, hundreds of them just having disembarked off the Royal Princess which towered over the dockside.
Once clear, a quick run along Greenock Esplanade on the shared pathway although a cycle lane is painted down but that means nothing as I had to head off and on to avoid walkers. Before long, I was standing ready to board the ferry which would take me across the Clyde. I chatted with a fellow cyclist who was heading back along the coast road back to Erskine Bridge. A calm sea and quick off the boat and it was time to find my road for leaving Kilcreggan, I headed east up the hill and took the second left, I passed the forestry track which I taken the last time over Clash McKenny but I climbed until I was above the houses, I could see a nuclear submarine taking position, ready to dive, typical I was too busy and missed that part. This road runs parallel along the hillside with Loch Long and is more of an up and down run than I thought. The views down the Firth towards Arran etc are impressive plus I could see the hills to where I was heading.
Not before long I arrived at the junction with Peaton Rd and my heart fell as a I saw a 16% sign at the bottom of a sheer ramp, I got so far and milked it. I got off and pushed Polly up the hill. I read later that the average for that ramp was 13%, phew! a short stretch I can try yes but that long, no.
I soon arrived at the junction which would take me across to the military road which rises from Coulport until the roundabout above Garelochhead, another roller-coaster of a road. I’d climbed up from Coulport on a earlier trip but this time it was to the roundabout where I’d head left along passing Whistlefield before a swift descent into Finnart where the sickly smell of oil was in the air as they unloaded a tanker. The road here runs parallel to Loch Long the way to Arrochar, I met tarring crews repairing sections of the road as it is a bit of a rattler surface in places.
I arrived in Arrochar and decided just to carry on with my intended route, over to Tarbet and down the Loch Lomond cycle path was my get out. I rounded the top of the loch and passed Succoth car park which was busy with folk getting rucksacks ready to head up to the local Alps. I kept a steady pace as I turned up the long drag at Ardgarten, it was down the gears so I could slowly but steadily work my way up the first couple of miles before it ramped up. More than a few coaches passed me and I was glad the road the opposite way was quiet, I slowly made my way and soon I could see the car park in the distance and it slowly got nearer, I was about half a mile when the wind picked up and came down the glen in to my face, cooling yes! but not very helpful.
I soon arrived at the highest point, punched the air and got a laugh from a bunch of bikers at the food van. Was I caring, no..I had conquered.
I soon put an order in for a slice and onion roll, freshly made and a cup of coffee to wash it down, I thought I deserved it!
Fed and caffeinated, I headed down into Glen Kinglas being passed at one point by a couple of fish artics, you could tell. I had looked at the access slopes of Stob Coire Creagach whilst whizzing down to Butterbridge and I don’t know which one took my breath away. The ascent, I think.
The wind was now serious in my face but I kept good pace before I saw my cut off route, the A815 which eventually gets to Hunters Quay. The road ramped up slowly and I made reasonable speed before I got my first view of Loch Fyne just before the infamous ‘Hell’s Glen’ road to Lochgoilhead, I travelled this road many moons ago and was glad it was not my route today, I stopped for a quick water break before I saw a milestone to St Catherines. I soon passed through the village and was having better views of the loch the further I travelled. I promised myself a break in Strachur and not before long I spotted a handy bench looking down the loch.
I sat and drank in the views on a day which at this point was nice and sunny, the scran tub came out and I enjoyed a couple sannies washed down with water. I promised that at the next shop I would stop for a can of fizzy juice. I never sat too long so not to let my legs tighten up and soon turned up through Clachan where I had a quick stop at the local garage for Irn Bru, lovely and chilled.
Off towards Loch Eck and familiar ground to me, I soon started running along the loch side knowing no hilly bits until I get to Greenock, lovely. Nothing much but to pedal away until I reached the Holy Loch where I rejoined Route 75 and my run down the west side and to take the road past Ardnadam then a short run to the ferry.
A calm crossing on which I got talking to one of the ‘tourists’ from the Royal Princess who said how lucky I was to stay in such a scenic area, I sometimes think we are so blase about what we have on our doorstep, I just sit and enjoy them as much as I can.
It was on to Route 75’s shared footpath along through Gourock passing through the station and no I wasn’t tempted, soon I was riding along Greenock Esplanade where I stopped and had another quick look at the Royal Princess, I fancy a cruise but Mrs Mhor gets seasick looking at a glass of water.
Passing along the waterfront at Greenock, I knew I had to start heading up the signposted road part of 75, I climbed slowly until I reached the cycle track and off towards home, the 40% short ramp up from the floor of Devol Glen raised its head, I’d had passed 72 ml by this time and I got off around a half of the way up, milking it again.
In just over a mile and a half, I was back home, first thing? Radox poured into a hot bath to soak my weary legs….
73.8 miles (118 Kms) and 4, 250ft of ascent..
My longest ‘out’ and I had climbed the Rest , now for Le Tour.
No geocaching, no side visits, nothing except the route…
The images shown do not give the full beauty of the scenery, for that you’ll have to follow my route.
In Scottish cycling, there are the well-known 3, 5 and 7 ferries routes. I did the three ferries last year so this time I thought something different, the One Ferry…
Not an awe-inspiring title but nonetheless a varied route taking in areas to the east I haven’t explored until today, I thought as an extra having a tasty lunch at the Braehead Shopping Centre.
This involved all the extras, the Etrex 30 with maps which worked a treat as cycle paths marked clearly, I set up the SJ4000 video cam for some time-lapse en route, the usual extras in the pannier and of course, info on a few geocaches to bag whilst out in the Braehead area.
I left just as the school traffic started to build as I headed down to the lower part of the town. I cycled along the pavement which runs parallel to the A8 east bound. I passed through the quiet village of Langbank with the obligatory stop at the only traffic light, I have never got through without being stopped, typiske!.
I then took the narrow path which takes you through what was the old A8 before a quick break for a swig of water and it was up the Hatton Brae then a drop into Bishopton where I would head out to the Erskine Bridge. It’s a slog up what for once was a cleanish cycle track before dropping down the other side before a quick exit left then sharp right and down the paths through Lussett Glen.
I headed left before a sharp right down the old Ferry Road, the sign said ‘Glasgow’ and I cycled east along the Forth and Clyde Canal on an excellent surface, I soon had to cross the A814 at Dalmuir but I took time nip over to look at the nearby Beardmore sculpture thinking that the dandelions and overgrown grass spoiled the look slightly.
I stopped to have a quick look at the Dalmuir Drop Lock and still on an excellent surface headed towards Clydebank Shopping Centre passing the ‘chippy’ boat, Damn, I was too early although I could have grabbed breakfast rolls. I knew I soon I would have to leave the track along which since Old KIlpatrick had only the odd patch of broken glass to negotiate to head down to Yoker to catch the ferry of the title.
The road was busy and I headed down a cycle lane was as usual blocked with parked cars on occasion but soon, I was at the ferry terminal waiting on the ferry. I’d used the original old red ‘clanky’ ferry in the early ’70s on regular trips to Drumchapel.
Surprisingly roomy, I sat and the journey time was short and sweet.
Off and up the slipway before heading east and through Clyde View Park before heading along the walkway behind Braehead picking up 6 geocaches as I travelled. I came across this statue hauling the bow of a ship (see image). I sat for a break at the end of the walkway before setting the video camera and heading homewards via some more new ground for me. I headed back along the walkway before heading across towards finding a path which follows the river along the Renfrew Golf course before coming out at the swing bridge over the Cart. As I was about to exit this path, I saw a fenced off couple of stones, stones? not really but one is the Argyll Stone and the other is the St. Conval Chariot, I’ll let this be explained more HERE. A geocache is in the vicinity but I failed at this one, any excuse to return, eh?
It was out along the main road bound for Inchinnan but I headed next for a lay by where planes fly low as they come into land at Glasgow Airport, noisy as you would expect.
A slight breeze was in my face as I headed back on to the road and it was a left down through the industrial estate at Inchinnan before it was time to head along the Georgetown Straights but today, I decided to cut across Moss Rd to Linwood then to the Route 75 cycle track, I was 10 miles from home along what is well-known ground for me.
40 miles in the bag, my longest of ’15.
I’ve included the two time lapse videos I took en-route, the first is from the start of the Erskine Bridge until I arrive at the Renfrew slipway, the second is from Braehead until I reach the viaduct at Bridge of Weir.
These are better played at the ‘best available’ quality, HD if possible.
It looked as it could be a day to head out, catch some sun and cycle but no.
I religiously check the SOTA alert page every morning for any alerts in Scotland although I’m only interested in anything VHF. I knew that one regular would be heading out so after seeing his alert, it was on to the OS map to check where, the line back to here and if it would be better heading out to catch them.
The hill being activated in the only alert was Stob Mhic Bheathain, a new one for me to chase, in the Ardgour area to the west of Fort William. On a rough estimation, the Cruachan hills would block the path as obviously a 2,360 ft hill is much lower that the 3,000 ft plus summits of Cruachan. I thought Corlic, Scroggy Bank, Dunrod Hill? No.. I’d revisit Creuch Hill just off what locals call the ‘Old Largs Rd’ which heads SW from Greenock. Tracks loaded on to the GPS unit plus I thought I’d bag the geocache some kind(?) person has placed near the top of this hill.
I’ve blogged about Creuch before and it can be a slog up a pathless, ditch infested hillside with mix of heather, tussocks and grass.
I did intend to go with my full SOTA kit but with the late thought of this hill, I was unsure of my SLaB would be fully charged so the main radio was left and only handies would be carried.
I left mid morning and the single track road above Greenock was already busy, I could see golfers out on ‘medal’ day and wondered if they were going through the mental torment that bothered me when I played off the white tees, as one poor shot could throw the day and a lowering (slightly) of your handicap. I did enjoy it but not as much as being able to head into the hills albeit local ones. Two fisherman were casting a fly on Loch Thom which had a decent ripple.
We headed to the spot where I’d be dropped off not long past past the ‘Welcome to North Ayrshire’ sign at the Rotten Burn (lovely name), Katie waved goodbye and it was off along a rough track, over the gate and a left across a wooden sleeper bridge..
I could see the beginnings of the old track which just disappeared on my last visit but I was glad to see that something had travelled to one of the lower pylons where it headed down the other side and unfortunately not to the summit. I took the direct line from the pylon to the old ruined shielings but using the odd sheep trail I soon passed the ruins and headed across to the ruined trig point, I see OS have removed trig pint symbol as it lies now in a scattered pile of concrete bits.
An open summit but I found a spot slightly out of the strong south-east breeze and first, a call out on 4m FM as the hill has excellent VHF take off to the SW,W, N,E and SE, the higher North Ayrshire hills lie to the S. No takers, I did try again on a few occasions later, I’ll catch someone one of these days although I did hear a station in Northern Ireland.
I gave out a call for Roddy IOB and got a call back from Robin PKT who was almost at his summit so a quick chat and I waited on frequency for him setting up.
The hill had been the correct choice as I worked PKT easily, I had only expected one SOTA station but just as I was debating breaking down everything Colwyn YCJ appeared on Sgurr na Ba Glaise 20km S of Mallaig above Loch Sheil, contact made with no problem so one last check through the band and I heard Jack COX who had nipped up his local Dungavel Hill so more points in the bag…a chat with Jack before one last call on 4m, still nothing so the rukkie packed and off I headed back down the hill but I thought as it was such an excellent day I walk down to Loch Thom and arrange a pick up en route.
It is another one of these hills that images of the scenery do it no justice, the 270° views are excellent. An easy hours walk, it is worth a visit.
I had a quick look at a water work area which shows recent painting of a bollard(?), I know there is a water pipe that runs along the road in places so I’m assuming it is part of that system.
It just had to be cyclist after cyclist who passed me, didn’t it? Envious? you bet. I carried on and called home. The view as I walked down to Loch Thom was excellent as I could see the Luss hills, Ime, Narnain, the Cobbler, Vorlich and beyond. I soon passed Wenchly Top, one of the named small hills to my left, I had headed there many moons ago (just out of curiosity) but could see no connection. A cracking name for a hill plus we also have in the same area, the oddly named ‘Ferret O’Keith or Back of the World’, an old ruined farmstead. ‘Mount Pisgah’ is just downstream of this. Someone with an imagination I guess.
I was halfway along the Loch Thom road when Katie stopped for me, an extra 3 miles added.
After 18 months waiting it finally arrived, retirement. I’d decided many years ago that I would try to finish work early. I had initially thought as soon as possible as I turned 60 but other factors later came in to play. My employer was looking for efficiency savings so I applied to go and now 18 month after my 60th birthday, the day in April arrived. My feelings? non plussed actually. I’ve been told the first month is like an extended holiday but then the enormity of it will hit me. I’m looking to do many things, I have ideas constantly buzzing around in this big old empty head and we’ll see when I get there, I’m pretty spontaneous in what I do so…. I’ve a few things to get sorted before I finally get on with a new dawn in my life, I’ll get whatever done before the younger Mrs Mhor joins me in a few years time. I’ve done work inside the house and being honest, work would have been a rest compared to this.
My culinary skills to be utilised more (I’m told), my place now as a house-husband is assured (I’m told). Where is that dishcloth? No doubt, I will be writing about some of my adventures as life goes along…….
Back to the normal stuff…
( February/March) Radio…
SOTA chasing.. I caught two ‘visitors’ who had three days planned on the hills around Tarbet (the Loch Lomond one). I was waiting and on time, I worked Geoff NON and Robin TQQ on Cruach Tairbairt at the head of Loch Long, a hill surrounded by higher hills, this was the only hill they did on 2m due to the lack of 2m activity. I listened the following day on the chance that Beinn Bhreac or Tullich Hill would be called from but nothing. If I was to do the former hill I’d choose HF due to the site and poor VHF take off, ces’t la vie. Next in the log was Duncan GOG on Goseland Hill, I’d been out for walk but had carried my handie as Iain WJZ was due on Ben Cruachan later that day(if I extended my wanders as I tend to do), A good contact as the hill was 85 kms from the part of the B788 I was at. I also had a quick word with fellow chaser Brian HMZ. I’d returned home and then worked Iain on Ben Cruachan which is almost LOS(line of sight) to the N of the home QTH, a hill which tempts me.
The following weekend, I’d a text pre-warning me that Neil NCM was activating an Ayrshire hill, Benbeoch. I could have just walked up to the trig point above the golf course but I took the bike and headed up the West Glen Rd out of Kilmacolm and looked for a point where I could have a good run into the hill Neil was on. I’d had a good look on the OS map so I knew roughly my destination but I just drew into a farm gate and called and first call Neil had heard me as he was just setting up, excellent and had a quick QSO before I left Neil on a windy summit and I would freewheel to join the Barochan Rd and head on to Houston and home. First in the log in March was Iain WJZ who was on Cairn Table in East Ayrshire, I’d nipped up to the local trig point, 15 mins away to catch him. Two weeks later,I caught Robin PKT on successive days, first hill was Ben Laga on the Saturday plus I’d caught Jack COX a few minutes earlier on Culter Fell, I’d cycled to Scroggy Bank high above Greenock where I had hoped to catch Robin on the handie and only when I arrived and checked the alerts page I found out Jack was out. Two good contacts distance wise, PKT at 107 and COX at 92 kms. Ben Laga is above Loch Sunart in the Ardnamurchan peninsula. I knew it would be a reach but we got there in the end. I must get a portable lightweight beam built that fits in my pannier bag. Robin PKT was out the following day on Morvern on Sidhean na Raplaich, this time I caught him after heading to old favourite hill, Corlic. I’d got dropped off with Euan and waited at the summit to make the contact, the summit littered with loads of cut cable ties and more strangely a 8 ft section of 4″ plastic down pipe(now removed), strange one.
Looks like SOTAEx may be back on for 2015, watch this space !!
I made my first top band(160m) JT65 contact into EI land plus I’d spent more than a few evenings doing WSPR on this band. I did try some SSTV on 20m , I received the shown image from a Dutch SWL station with an ask for me to verify the reception, a QSL card was soon on its way.
A wee health blip mid march but after a good rest, I was back out on the bike with nothing more than my usual routes and runs through the country roads to the east and south of home. I’m slowly working myself back up to hopefully regain the fitness I had last year. I’d enjoyed myself too much with the tasty, cidery wrong things over the winter months, how can they be wrong if they taste so good?
I got one of these as a farewell pressie from my employers(my choice)
I’m keeping an eye on the download data which runs on ‘Cumulus’ on my computer. I have started it on 1st April to log all the data, we’ll see how the first month goes.. I’m debating whether I should have it north facing or south-facing. I’m running it at the north side of the house.
As a funny.. I saw this when googling for info on the Kenwood TS590SG..
Note the sales description and the quick details…..hilarious or probably lost in translation?
As with all images, click on to embiggen.
Thanks go to Wikipedia, Peakbagger and other sites I have linked to.
I thought I’d bring back my regular monthly radio and other ‘report’ more as a tick over whilst things are quiet at Mhor Towers. I’ll see how each month pans out to see if I have enough content but may just randomly post as and when.
I hope everyone had an enjoyable holiday period over Xmas and New Year and some new toys, radio or otherwise to play with. Let’s make 2015 another year to remember.
Without further adieu…
My SOTA chasing activity has been very quiet due to the extremes of the weather, the early month plagued with wet, windy days whilst the last two weeks have had snow, icy conditions. A right winter mix for the month. The brave ones have been out.
I managed only two chases through the month, first in the 2015 SOTA log was Robin PKT on a new hill for me, Creag Gharbh just south of Loch Tay, I had checked location of this hill and thought ‘Nah’ but listened and managed a new summit chase. Next and last for the month was Iain WJZ on part of the Great Wall of Rannoch (the boundary between the old Pictish Kingdom of Alba to the east and the Dál Riata kingdom of the Scots in the west), Beinn an Dothaidh, a quiet month indeed as the winter has been in and out weather wise.
I thought it was time to reformat my computer as it had not been done 3 years ago since I bought the present tower, I had kept regular ‘cloud’ backups of my log files. both ADIF and my home-made ‘paper’ one (I should really print if it off as I go). I bit the bullet and set out forgetting all the drama of getting everything up and running again, Ham Radio Deluxe (v5) was first loaded followed by both softwares for JT65, I use WSJT-X which gives me both JT65 and JT9 but my go to for JT65 is HB9HQX’s version.
Once installed I had loaded all the drivers needed or so I thought…
I was getting receive but no TX but a quick look at the ZLP website and the light went on as I opened the page and I soon remembered it was FTDI drivers I needed so once installed it was off and running.
I thought after a break I should do more PSK work so I got busy and got all the personalised macros set up and it was back to working with only one day off air.
I was soon busy on the two modes..and an occasional look on RTTY.
Contacts spread over the world with over 80 contacts (eQSL cards exchanged). Africa evaded me but I’m guessing the N/S dipole comes into play.
I’m still hunting those 4 states for WAS….
It has been a while since I mentioned this, eh?
I have an old laptop which had become bloated and slow so I thought ‘Linux’. I had tried Ubuntu before but this time I thought I’d give Linux Mint a trial. It didn’t take long installing and soon I was in strange surroundings. I was wary as Linux is a different kettle of fish. I ‘googled’ (on the laptop) SDR dongle as I had some initial problems using the methods on Windows but not this time, I used the code from HERE (thanks David) to set up my dongle and in minutes I was running Gqrx and I had the short video below made in less than 5 mins on the programme. The station is UK Classic FM on 101.7 FM and as you hear the quality of the received stereo signal is excellent. I had thought of running some familiar Windows SDR progs in Wine but thought no, linux based only.
I have spent some time since working and checking out the controls and hope to soon put my Nooelec Upconverter in line so I can explore the HF bands. I had earlier bought the enclosure kit for the upconverter but it was for the newer V 1.2 so after an email to the US before I bought, I knew I had to fit an USB-B connection to enable a proper fit.
I’ve had email exchanges with Nooelec on both occasions I have bought items and the correspondence has been quick and most helpful.
I notice they have an enclosure now for the dongles which should help screen out RFI, I have bought copper tape for this purpose but will wait until after I have fitted an SMA output port instead of the present MCX fitting. Another mod is in the process, more later…
It is an ongoing part of the hobby and a regular check on Reddit’s subreddit RTLSDR will keep you in the forefront of what is happening. I’ll update on my progress as I go on, Linux SDR is new territory for me..
Its been pretty non-existent due to the snow and ice, a couple of spills in my motorbike days (slow speed) kinda wearies me to not head out, the rain I do not mind as my last run of 21 mile was entirely in the wet. It was a snap decision and I was wary of icy patches, I did meet one woman who had gone down on black ice near Linwood. I was heading out Elderslie way but turned back as I met some large icy stretches but was glad I had gone out after 20 days inactivity. I have been out walking some short 5 mile routes near home just to keep the legs working.
Hopefully this weather will clear and get back to the milder conditions but it is high pressure as I write this looks as if there will be no change in the next five days. A slow start to the year but soon the milder weather will return.
If interested in catching the Northern Lights, check out and keep an eye on this forecast HERE, if you have Twitter it would be worthwhile following @BGSSpaceWeather and @BGSauroraAlert.
Oh and I’m playing with another toy but more on this later..
Part 2 as promised..
No radio this time as I obviously covered it in the previous chapter.
Back to cycling or an ‘oot’ as I tend to refer to them as now…
After earlier visits to the Isles of Great Cumbrae and Bute, where could Bob go next? I did have plans for another island jaunt but logistic problems..
It was on a hot and I mean hot mid June day I set off west towards Gourock and the short ferry trip to Kilcreggan where I’d head westwards through Cove whilst geocaching en-route and in true fashion, I didn’t bag the first one…only two failed me on the first part of this journey, I headed out past Peaton beach to the now very secure area of Coulport, it was more a reminisce than a visit as I’d spent my 21st birthday fishing on the beach but it was another destination I had in mind on this day, I steadily climbed toward the summit of the road east and as a matter of principle I kept going until I summited and then turned back towards my cut off road that would take me down to the west side of the Gareloch and scran break at Garelochhead.
In retrospect I should have stayed on the road out of Coulport as it would have meant missing extra climbing out of Garelochead and joining my intended road just above Whistlefield. Lunch was taken at the usual bench on the loch side, I could see the magnetic micro geocache container still in its hiding place.
A gentle climb out of Garelochhead then it was back to serious business, up and up until the roundabout which would take out the Haul Rd to just south of Luss. I had regularly used this road as it is the drop off point for both Beinns Chaorach and ‘a’Mhanaich but I have never cycled it and later as I dropped down to the A82 I thought ‘Phew! that was an experience!’, I had of course taken a diversion up to Auchengaich reservoir for yes, you guessed it.
The road is a looooooooooong steady climb from Whistlefield and I was down in the ‘granny’ gears getting there slowly, I thought I’m near the top but my head fell at a ‘Slow Low Gear’ sign ahead and I just stopped….I soon found out that I’d stopped just below the summit, Doh!. From there it was up and down like a rollercoaster until the almost flat run down Lomondside.
I suffered badly from the heat and had to stop every so often to take on liquid.
A run down the track beside the river Leven then up over Erskine Bridge, Bishopton and soon I was on Route 75 and home, over 66 ml logged. Over 3,400 ft of ascent….Good.
Blog post HERE
The next trip followed the same start and as I had noticed a trail of geocaches (17 in all) placed along a forestry track in the hills above Kilcreggan towards the high point of Peaton Rd. It was a gamble on the condition of the track.
I left Kilcreggan Pier to find the start to this track and at the entrance car park area, I set about finding the first cache and off I headed upwards on what is a relatively excellent track although on one or two short sections I walked the bike due to what looked like water damage but 99% was doable on the hybrid. I soon rose out of the tree line and on to open countryside and I diverted towards the highest point, Clash MacKenny, apparently the Clash part means ‘large hollow or cavity’..I’m baffled.
There was a rough track out to the trig point and a nearby well-placed picnic bench. A well-earned rest enjoyed before a run mostly downhill to the Peaton Rd before a quick descent. I decided this time I’d head over by Helensburgh for a look-see but before I hit the town centre I started working my way up the side streets before taking the A818 (to the Arden roundabout on Lomond side) then at the high point of the road I nipped on to the parallel cycle path and after I reached Arden I returned the same route as the previous run.
Blog post HERE
The last ‘big’ run ?
The famous ‘Three Ferries’….
This time I was oot with Roddy IOB, we’d threatened to get this done at some point and it took until October to get organised.
The train to Wemyss Bay with Roddy appearing at Branchton and soon it was a rush (as usual) to get a ticket and get on the ferry to Bute. It was familiar ground now(to me) as we left the ferry to head out to Rhubodach, a flat run with a short rise and fall en route to the ferry terminal.
It was a short ferry crossing across the Kyles of Bute, on and off before you knew it and after paying our fare at Colintraive it was off westwards along the Loch Riddon shore road for the scenery, I enjoyed the ups and downs but knew hell(to me) was about to appear and sure enough it was up the B836 we headed on what has been almost a new relaid single track surface, I steadily moved up and after some banter with some drivers, one woman said I should be glad that she was so patient, I replied ”I wasn’t stopping anyway!”, I was that determined to get up non stop.
Finally we drew in and Roddy produced the Jetboil (reminds me I must test mine out!!) and a welcome cuppa drank. I knew the next section was a quick fast drop down into the head of Loch Striven where we rounded past the power station and up a more serious hill, a long slow uphill pull towards our next break which was next to Loch Tarsan’s dam wall and another scran break, this was beginning to be a real rollercoaster as we then decided to later add Glen Masson to our itinerary, ‘Does it have any hilly bits?’ I asked, Roddy mumbled something back….was it another Cruach Ardrain ? …Explanation HERE
A fast sweeping enjoyable descent through Glen Lean towards Clachaig where we met up and headed towards the Holy Loch where we would head left towards Glen Masson.
An interesting ride as it was new ground to me and we stopped next to the Botanical Gardens for a quick water break before we started meeting slight ramps, I’d fallen for it again..but finally we arrived at the end of the tarmac and sat for a break but after the slight haul up it was a sweeping quick reverse run back down the glen, a pattern here, climb up and whizz down, I like that.
Soon we were heading down the Holy Loch and took the shore road to Ardnadam heading towards Dunoon and decided we would be quicker getting the ferry from Hunters Quay so not before long we were heading to Gourock.
It wasn’t long before we were cycling along Greenock Esplanade before I struck off to cycle home, yes, another bit of a climb before I finally get off the bike at home. 46 miles and over 2,600 ft ascent. Phew !
Blog post HERE
In the last week, I took my total of cycling miles for ’14 to just over 3,000 in the saddle, 1,200 more than my first year back in the saddle (’13).
2015 has an awful lot to live up to…
and the Island Tours will continue!…
I was talking recently with a friend about what I had did the last two years, my cycling etc and was surprised to hear them say ‘Life begins at 60 after all,eh?’.
Maybe it does…
So watch this space…
Yearly review time again, folks.
Time seems its moving quicker as one gets nearer this year-end.
The blog which started as a diary type chronicling my hill-top and other radio work has taken an almost 180° turn into more a story of my cycling outs mixed with my now occasional SOTA activity in 2014. Car problems earlier in 2014 are now resolved with Mrs Mhor running about in a wee red motor. SOTA activity? I’m stepping it up next year. I did get some hills activated in ’14 so what better than to start than the radio work resumé.
I took ages to get going (May in fact) with the first activation being my now annual yomp across the marshy bogs of Muirshiel Park out to the highest point of the county, the Hill of Stake. It fools you with an excellent track to the old mine area but as you head south, no path nothing but bog and heather until you reach the base of the hill.
An excellent day was had with contacts as far north as Stob Ban, Am Bodach, The Saddle and Aonach air Chrith, as far south as Helvellyn and Bleaberry Fell in the Lakes . a total of 10 STS (summit to summits). An excellent day out. Blog post HERE
That had been the trial run for the biggie of the year, I’d promised myself that I’d stand atop the Buachaille Etive Mor after my 60th birthday in ’13 but a trip to Snowdonia and other family stuff took preference. Finally Euan and I headed north and after a steep haul, we stood at the top of Stob Dearg, was I emotional? yep.
Radio took second place on this one but I soon had the hill activated, it is one of the harder hills I have activated but I got there with six contacts of which four were STS’s. I later caught Iain WJZ and Graeme HLQ when I had arrived on top of Stob na Doire on another part of the ridge walk. A day to remember as we drove home, weary but elated.
I returned to the Lake District for a long weekend in August, the weather forecast was not good and the planned hill got forgotten due to the heavy rain on the Fri but weather windows were to prove handy as I ascended a now familiar Dale Head on Fri evening, working on both 4 and 2m FM. Contacts as far south as Flintshire, Bangor and across to west, Carrickfergus in Northern Ireland. A cracking total of 16 contacts for early evening.
The following day, Great Mell Fell I chose for logistical reasons, a quick ascent etc..
I got to the summit and it poured, it poured harder, it blew and yes, it blew harder.
I’d got three contacts on the handie and had to throw up the beam to activate the hill. 6 contacts hard-fought for.
A drookit Bob was met with laughter as I got to the pick up point, ‘You are soaked’ Mrs Mhor said between howls of laughter. Humiliated I was.
On the last day, its neighbour Little Mell Fell was the choice, the same reasons as for the Great…
The weather decided to mock me as it was excellent as I summited the short ascent, I got 7 contacts that day, excellent views to Ullswater from such a low hill..and a chance to have longer QSOs with
Blog post to cover these activations HERE
That was the total, five hills except for this debacle HERE
I have been busy on HF Data bands, 15, 12 and 10m mostly but occasional trips to the lower bands.
I’m making progress on WAS (Worked All States) with only four to find so if you are in Hawaii, Arkansas, Nevada or North Dakota, I’d like to hear from you.
46 worked, 45 LoTW verified and 46 with LoTW and eQSL verified.
SOTA chasing points were well down in ’14, only 349 to date, I was overtaken on the roll of honour by one of our other bloggers (and gloated at)
Where can I start as ’14 was an epic year for me with ‘oots’ to various places in the surrounding area.
First ‘biggie’ was a run to Largs followed by a Tour de Great Cumbrae.
A mix of road and forest track with a long downhill run over the ‘Old Largs Rd’ from Loch Thom, a quick run around where I stayed in Largs in the early ’70s then a short ferry trip and landing at the ‘Tattie Pier’ or the new styled ‘Cumbrae Slip’ before interspersing a circuit of the island geocaching en route, a fish supper in Largs before an arduous run up the coast road to Greenock and quick rise back over Loch Thom to home. One to repeat. Blog post HERE
The feet got itchy for some new roads and on a May holiday Monday it was a return trip to Largs, this time Route 75 to Linwood before heading down to Kilbirnie on Route 7, a quick off and over the A760 to Largs dropping down the infamous Haylie Brae (did I ever mention about the time I used to shovel salt and sand into a rotating hopper on this very road at all hours of night? No gritting machines then!)
Too early for the traditional fish supper so a scran break on the Esplanade then home via the coast road but then using local knowledge to avoid the main climbs through Greenock..
I’d discussed this next one with Euan (and Roddy at one point) but sitting at work one day, next day I said. I’m impulsive as you may have guessed.
It was a train journey to Wemyss Bay and boy, do they give you very little time to get your ticket if you are a cyclist, on-line booking please, Cal Mac?
After a smooth sailing, I was disembarking in Rothesay, checking the wind en route as it can make all the difference on an island circuit. I set off down past Ascog, rising over Mount Stuart. I stopped at the
War Memorial (geocache) and set off down the A844 taking what is breathtaking views towards Arran and beyond, for old times sake, a diversion to Kilchattan Bay (don’t ask) then soon after a trip down to see St Blanes Church past the Airstrip. If over, this is a must and worth the diversion.
Time to head to Ettrick bay for scran, fully fed it was back to meet the A886 and a quick run up to Rhubodach (a reconnaissance run) then off for the ferry back to the mainland. Blog post HERE
Part 2 to follow…………
I thought time to blog again..
to keep it turning over and with lots happening, I thought ‘Let’s go for it!’
The week started with the elusive cheap’n’cheerful Cree T6 LED bike light finally winging its way from Asia…
and could I wait to try it? No…..
Quickly fitted it was off along Route 75 in daylight, my normal jump off places were forgotten as recently as the week before, the puncture fairy visited me two days in a row, the first as I was heading through Brookfield, I pumped up the tyre and headed back but less than a 1/4 mile I had to put in a new inner tube. The following evening as I was heading down the Torr Road into Bridge of Weir, that sinking feeling again. I walked about 100 metres on to the cycle track and tried the earlier days ‘pump’ but this time being 6 mile from home, I headed off and twice I had to inflate (east of Kilmacolm and as I approached the Port), I’d got home…
The next day, I could find no evidence of damage or puncture of the tyre, both punctures were next to each other, a cm at most.
I just threw another tyre on.
Right back to the test run, I reached the bridge(s) over the Locher Water east of Bridge of Weir, it was now almost dark..
I switched on the Cree and headed home testing the four settings. One was good, two was just ideal for the cycle track, three just slightly better and the flashing mode? unbearable but effective. I’ll pass on its flashing mode.
The next night, I left earlier after a half day off work and did a slightly longer route turning back as I passed Brookfield, I made reasonable time but as I approached the Lost Legion XVII sculpture, it went dark…oh boy, had it burnt out? had it broke? I switched on the standby Smart and finished the run home.
I charged the battery pack which took only 4 hours roughly and connected everything together and light!!!! I’d read up on it and the cut off had done its job when I’d been out but I should have really charged the battery when I’d received it.
Whilst all this drama was going on , a space craft landed on an asteroid. This was a technological marvel, the asteroid was travelling towards the sun at 34,500 kms an hour, now that is fast. It has had its problems by bouncing a few times but some of the images are breathtaking. They hope to kickstart the craft which is lying like a drunk with one leg in the air. I hope they do. An achievement no less.
Friday arrived and it was looking good for a run.
I had a call early in the week telling me the first section of the wind turbine going up on the other side of the hill was up and they intended putting the other pieces up from Thursday. I thought over the Green Road for a nosey..
I passed the clubhouse and headed up the rough start of the Green Road and as soon as I hit the bad bend, wheel spins and a sinking feeling (a pattern here?).
I plodded up the track which had the consistency of porridge in bits and Mrs Bob was a bit unhappy with the state of my trainers when I returned home, oops…
I headed down and could see activity up at the pad with strapping around turbine bits. Ignoring the ‘no unauthorised vehicles’ sign I cycled up and stopped well short and spoke with the contractor who is working on the ‘porridge’ track, I’m assured 300 tons of scalpings are being laid once the track dries out. I’d have though much more but..
I hung about for an hour waiting on movement but it was too windy (12 mph is the upper limit to lift)…
Down the track and off west, I stopped at junction with B788 for a quick drink, a cyclist stopped and after exchanging the time of day, I followed him towards Kilmacolm but he had one of those electric bikes and as we approached the hill over Faulds off he whizzed off leaving me peching up the hill, an idea for the future, methinks…
Nothing exciting as I headed down Gateside Rd, turned right on the B786 and up the short, sharp Carruthmuir hill to turn off down the Torr Rd, I headed home.
I thought out in the dark Saturday morning and to some of the back roads, nope, lazy me just headed out and took the A761 road to Linwood, now I keep forgetting to avoid this road but then it was out across the Moss Rd and back to Bridge of Weir and home…
Still only one bit of turbine showing as I passed east of it.
A misty start and a warm sunny finish to one of my most regular outs, the cycle track then an off at Netherwood up past Balrossie and right towards Gateside Rd. Once more up the short, sharp ramp at the foot of Carruthmuir then a quick whiz down the Torr Rd where I tend to estimate what I need so it down and off through Brookfield rejoining the track on the Barochan Rd then homeward bound.
I did see the turbine cone and blades being attached but the thought of heading down the Green Rd and the muddy consequences were too much. I stopped from a distance to watch and note the turbine wasn’t as prominent as I thought it would be (I think permission being granted on appeal of being a smaller size). I wonder how these are financially viable when you see the preparatory work that goes in to the erection and surrounding works of just one of these although there is a couple of others being placed in the same area. Renewable energy targets being made at a cost?
I must get back to my other regular route out Erskine way…
I had gotten my UTC all mixed up as I thought it was still the 1 hour difference but I hurried home on Sat to find Iain WJZ on Creag MacRanaich, one of the seven I need for top 50 in the GM/SS list and caught Iain later on Meall an-t’Seallaidh… The following day I worked Iain again this time on Meall na Fearna before finally catching Robin PKT on Beinn Leamhain in the Morvern hills.
I’ve been working towards getting LoTW ‘300’ challenge and presently sitting on 277 countries (HF only), hopefully if conditions stay as they have been I’ll realise my goal in 2015.
Oh and at work helped put up two christmas trees in Quarriers Village and Kilmacolm, my last.
A family quandary was had later in the week as my two daughters were graduating on the same day but at different venues, Lora’s graduation in Bachelor of Accounting and Ailsa (now at Uni) picked up her HND in Business but Mum caught one and I the other. Proud parents?, aye!
Finally, congratulations got to fellow blogger Hugh and his family with a new addition Penny May, sleepless nights and all the related things but as you see in the previous sentence, it is certainly all worthwhile.
Have I been lazy?
No blog posts, radio or otherwise..
I’ve certainly been putting in the miles but I haven’t been venturing afar.
Midweek, I get a text ‘Three Ferries Sunday?’
Saturday, I get a text ‘Three Ferries tomorrow?’
Only one answer, ‘Yep!’
I’d preplanned this one by ‘borrowing’ a GPX route from Map My Ride..quickly loaded into the Etrex but folks, no geocaches this time..
Pannier bag packed with the usual paraphernalia, a quick check of all moving parts, me first, of course then the bike with tyres then inflated to correct pressure. Everything was ready, scran and liquid would be ready early the following morning…
An early rise with Katie preparing sandwiches, Camelbak and bidon filled.
The padded shorts etc all on, it was to be a longish ‘oot’ ..
Time to leave, GPS on and off downhill towards the train station..
The first train to Wemyss Bay and a few stops down the line, I could see the flou yellow jacket of my travelling companion, Roddy appearing in the next carriage.
With my flou orange jacket as well were going to be noticed but more on this later.
It was the usual rush to get a ticket and get on to the boat, two trips across this year and only 6 mins to rush and buy a ticket, why not be able to buy online?
Directed to the front of the car deck, it was to park our bikes and head up to the comfort of the lounge, Roddy dined on the breakfast fare available onboard. I looked at the menu but saw no sign of a brekkie, memories of how we had dined well on our Goat Fell trip by having an early morning breakfast on the ferry that day.
We sat and planned other days out (as you do) as the ferry sailed across a near ripple free Firth. The Cowal hills were under mist to low-level but the forecast said it would lift later in the morning.
Soon we were heading off the ferry into Rothesay and a right turn had us cycling towards Port Bannatyne which was built in the 19th century to rival nearby Rothesay where we followed the shore route, amid talk of the excellent ‘home fries’ available at the Ettrick Bay Tea Room (it wasn’t that far away!) but I resisted the temptation and started out towards the ferry terminal at Rhubodach. It wasn’t before long we were waiting on the ferry on what is a short sea journey across the Kyles of Bute. More than a few yachts were making their way down past the ferry terminal in the mid morning. The shortest ferry crossing in the UK apparently.
It was on and off within minutes…
We had to pay our fare as we left the boat…..
A quick resume of GPS devices of which my Endomondo unexpectedly stopped just after we headed out of Colintraive. The choice was to take the lower shore road along the banks of Loch Riddon (B866) before rejoining the main road to Glendaruel but our route today would take us over the rollercoaster B836 (Route 75 of cycle track network).
It was steady uphill from the turn, an average 5% rise in gradient, it doesn’t sound much but on a bike? it is, believe me.
Slowly but surely we made our way upwards and after meeting the odd motorist on the single track sections who kindly waited, one woman rolled down her window and laughingly said ‘Its good I’m patient’, I resisted the ‘I wasn’t stopping anyhoo, dear’, we soon reached the summit of the first climb and just off the road, we parked the bikes against a gate then Roddy produced the Jetboil and a cuppa that was most welcome. The sun had decided to fleetingly appear and the autumnal hues of the surrounding countryside stood out. The browns mixed with the greenery of odd forestry sections still left standing amidst the scarring of recent felling.
The next bit?
Downhill and fast…. not before long we swept round to the bridge over the Balliemoor Burn at top of Loch Striven and up past the power station at the bottom of the next long slow climb towards the west end of Loch Tarsan, everywhere in this area we could see pheasants and at one point, about 30 young birds crossed the road in front of us and scattered in all directions as we passed. Onwards and upwards on what was an excellent surface, tbh most of it has been recently relaid. A stop to take on some liquid then it was off downhill (again), there is a pattern here as it really is a rollercoaster road, sweeping downhill it took through Glen Lean then slipping past the hamlet of Clachaig, Roddy took the opportunity to head off and fill his water bottle whilst yer man kept heading on and soon we were at the top of the Holy Loch.
A discussion on ‘Where next?’ and Roddy suggested the Glen Masson road, ‘Has it any hills? I asked, I never got an answer so I fell for it….
The single track rises very slowly through the glen and the River Masson follows the road and although the water was low, I thought ‘Must be an excellent spate river’. We stopped to look at the ‘Golden Gates’ of the Younger Botanical Gardens, this looked totally out of character with the local countryside, there looks as if there is ongoing landscaping work and fence work at this entrance. The gates do look surreal in their locale. We cycled past the Arboretum looking at the various trees on the hillside.
Heading toward the end of the tarmac track, I met a short, steep ramp (it was steep to me) but not before long we reached the point where we would turn and head back down the Glen, it was my first time in this area and I enjoyed it especially the run back down. A just under 10 miles run.
Time to head to Dunoon and the ferry home riding past what was once the USN housing estate in the 70s, ‘Eagle Court’ then and now Sandhaven…
It was down the shore road to Ardnadam, can you see a pattern here?
A stop at Ardnadam Pier, the longest on the Clyde (a sign says so) before heading down past Hunter’s Quay and our intended ferry was approaching Dunoon Pier, a quick confab and a return to the Western Ferries terminal where we would catch the ‘Sound of Soay’ which would take us to McInroy Point in Gourock. This would add to my intended journey home but an hours wait in Dunoon? no, it was off up towards home using the shared pavement (Route 75) and with a short stretch of road then a quick walk through Gourock station, Roddy decided to head to the east end of Greenock Esplanade so I had company part of the way.
We said goodbye and I headed home, I reached the Victoria Harbour and it was an almost 500 ft climb to home vis the same Route 75 but gradual thankfully, the only blip is a 40% ramp out of Devol Glen but this meant I just over a mile from home.
I was just over 46 mile road work for the day, an excellent run with tough uphill sections but an enjoyable day…
My queries of ‘Are we there yet?’ ‘Are we there yet?’ ‘Are we there yet?’ and ‘Are there any hills?’ funnily got no response…..
I’ve mentioned the nearby lochs Riddon and Striven which we passed enroute, these lochs were the scene of top secret naval testing during the Second World War, it was here that the midget submarines(X Craft)would train which would later take part in the sinking of the Tirpitz, more on these HERE
Bouncing Bomb test(Dambusters) HERE
The Holy Loch?
A well kent US Navy base during the 60s until the early 90s more HERE
I’m sure there is much more info around the web.
First thing was to freshen up, I heard my son coming in the front door with Alison…
‘Were you on the Western Ferry not long ago? Did your pal have on a flou yellow jacket?’….remember my comment earlier on being ‘noticed’ ?.
They had been passing as we were leaving the ferry…they never stopped.
‘You would have only wanted a lift’…..my son said…
Thanks go to Roddy for bearing with me, my granny gear hill climbs, my rotten pun jokes and anything else.
Cal Mac and Western Ferries for not making me swim..
and Katie for the excellent scran.
Thanksgo to Wikipedia, Secret Scotland and the other websites I have linked to.
To embiggen an image, just click for full size.
Where next? watch this space, folks.
The weather had been excellent, hot and breezy..
so it was time again to think about another day ‘out’ on the bike, the previous journey via the Haul Rd had been cycled on what was probably the warmest day in June. I had decided after that if I was going ‘abroad’ it would be done in much cooler times.
Work was busy and with the occasional jaunt along my now well-worn routes throughout mid Renfrewshire being done most weekends. It was time to head ‘abroad’ again.
I thought of another trip across to the Roseneath peninsula although this time I’d take in a forestry track diversion over the top of the lower peninsula starting from Kilcreggan.
I had recently bought the Ram Mount for my bike and the dedicated holder for my Etrex so I could log the geocache information and I would have it visible on the handlebar instead of my old method of listening for the beep which let me know I was in the immediate area of a cache. This proved a worthwhile buy as I had tested it out on a previous ‘out’.
15 caches preloaded and it was off to catch the Kilcreggan ferry from Gourock pier, I cycled the 7 miles from home to the pier but I did collect one cache en route as I had arrived early, a quick sign of the log and back to its hiding place and then I headed the last half mile to the pier.
The ferry this time was more busy as we sailed across a slight swell towards Kilcreggan Pier, I was getting used to this now.
In no time at all I was walking the bike up the pier where I took stock, loaded up the GPS and followed my route to the start point higher up in Kilcreggan, I had pre checked the forest track on Google Maps and further on Google Earth.
I started up the track and logged the first cache then slowly made my was up the ‘Timber Haul Rd’ pausing when I heard the beep informing me another cache. The rise was constant and the track was in better fettle than I thought although on a few sections downhill I dismounted as the track got rougher with water damage in places. I finally topped out and headed along the track to what looks like a radio relay station just south of Clach MacKenny summit trig point.
It was time to take on scran and water, I sat at the picnic bench and took in the views which were surprisingly excellent in all directions, Clach MacKenny’s summit sits at 662 ft ASL, I find it isn’t always the highest hills who have outstanding views but like others, Scroggy Bank and Lurg Moor trig both above Greenock, areas like this are worth finding.
I found that my camera SD card was full, typical eh? but I’d taken the images I wanted as the run would soon be back on previously travelled roads except this time I was heading down past Faslane and heading home via Helensburgh..
I headed back down to join the track and head north along what was a very well-kept forestry track, a bit undulating at this time but soon I could see my exit point on to the Peaton Rd where I would turn right and head quickly down to join the B833 towards Garelochhead. I’d bagged 13 caches en route so that had obviously taken more than a couple of hours of searching although I did miss out 2 as DNF(did not find), one was down a steep banking which I wasn’t taking the risk to fall down and the other, I was attacked by clegs so I high tailed it.
The downhill track covered in no time and soon I exited the side gate on to Peaton Rd. It was back to welcome tarmac as I whizzed down and soon headed north towards Garelochhead.
I soon turned the top of the loch and sat at my now usual spot at the old Pier site, a bench looking down the loch. I sat for 15 mins before it was down roads previous driven down passing Faslane base, it was a slow climb and I joined a cycle path until I entered Rhu, the promenade towards Helensburgh was busy with others enjoying the fine but breezy weather. The Met Office had said WNW winds but no I seemed to meet them at every turn into my face, it made life slightly slower.
I intended heading up through Helensburgh’s Sinclair St which would take me past Glen Fruin and familiar territory of Ben Bowie. I had cut out the bottom busy section as I had taken a slight detour through the upper part of the town but I would soon join the relentless slog up the A818, after what seemed like a never-ending rise I topped and crossed to join an excellent cycle track which takes you to join the Lomond Cycle track at Arden, I passed the summit and passed the entrance to Bannachra woods which is the start point to walk Ben Bowie but not today. One more rise brings you to the ‘Cross Key’ junction. I met a few cyclists heading my way but quiet for me as I quickly arrived at the Arden roundabout, if you have read my earlier runs up this way.
Duck Bay, Lomond Shores and into Balloch where I would head down the excellent path along the River Leven, a quick chat with a couple of anglers who were struggling in the low water and sunny conditions. I did see one fish moving through a submerged weir and with a quick swish of its tail and it moved quickly upstream, its destination? one of the many rivers which fill Loch Lomond if it can get past those angling for it..
I stopped at Bonhill Bridge for another liquid take on, I had my usual fizzy drink which even the pros have in their musettes, a cold Irn Bru…the sugar would give some energy, honest! I thought of the pros climbing towards the finish of the day’s stage in the Vuelta in temps approaching 40c. Phew!
The lower half of the path was now busy as it was past mid afternoon, I stooped as I approached Dumbarton for some more water and off up on to the main road briefly before taking the turn which would eventually take me to the cycle track, I must some day find the proper track but this gets me there. I was soon back on the dedicated cycle path passing whisky bonds, kennels at Milton and the last stretch before turning into Bowling Harbour. A track which is well worth visiting if only to do a return journey to eg Balloch.
The last stretch of track along the canal before heading into Old Kilpatrick, another shop stop for water, fizzy juice and my now go to cycling energy sweet, ‘Jelly Tots’ . Soon I was heading up the glen to the east side of the Erskine Bridge, my phone rang..It was Katie asking if I fancied Chinese for tea…’Eh, I’m the other side of Erskine, dear’..it looked like Chef Beko had my tea waiting…but for the first time, I could feel the wind at my back and as I dropped off the bridge, I headed west towards Bishopton along a familiar road and soon I was through Bishie and heading over to Houston, I was deciding whether to treat myself to a cold pint but I passed through Houston out toward Bridge of Weir and was soon back on Route 75, six and half mile to go….
The miles passed quickly even after the distance travelled and soon rode the last wee ramp before home.
61 mile and 13 geocaches logged, a good day out.
I would have been more suited after ‘doing’ the forest track possibly dropping down left to Coulport and returning past Cove to Kilcreggan, ferry home then cycle home BUT as usual, I never listen to myself.
The next morning?
I felt good, really good and much better than I expected and when it was time to get going at work, no problem..