A Boomerang Hill

Hill of Stake

also known in SOTA circles as GM/SS 155 is a ‘Marilyn’ and is split between the counties of Renfrewshire and Ayrshire. It is the county top of Renfrewshire although whilst discussing this with Jack COX, I leant over the fence and spoke to him from Renfrewshire. I was of course in the Ayrshire side. Banality over.

The post title ‘Boomerang Hill’ ?

I activate this hill and say that is the last visit but I keep coming back..

This is the fourth successive year I have activated this hill SOTA style although I did more than once carry radio gear here in the early/mid 80s. This hill has many memories for me, I sat down early one Sunday morning in clag so thick in the middle of the swampy area just to the N of the summit and thought ‘Sod this, time for a cuppa’ and miraculously the mist lifted immediately then later, our antenna was halved by what was literally a full blown gale, all in 60 mins.

Four maps all printed ready to go, three ‘Marilyns‘ and one local walk sitting on my printer desk.

I’d given up hope of getting out this weekend due to snow levels and almost hourly changing weather forecasts. I grabbed the 3rd map for this hill, HoS, The Stake or Hill of Hell, Soggy Hill and many none too complementary names.

Mine heritage info

Mine heritage info

I had woken early and put everything on extra charge three hours before I had scheduled to leave. I decided to take extra clothing and for a change, the FT 817 so a larger rucksack was needed. This all added extra weight but I was hoping my regular walks would now pay dividends except I’d walked a total of 14 mls the previous two days including some off-road across the Side Hills ridge which was still boggy in parts.

Off through Kilmacolm until we reached the right turn which would take us the three miles on a single track road to Muirshiel Country Park Centre, the starting point. It was a crisp start to the day and the weather looked better than the forecast.

Katie dropped me off before heading back home, a quick ‘Cheerio’ then out the familiar by now ‘Mines’ track which rises steadily heading towards the ruins of an old Barytes mine, the track is excellent and with it being in regular use is easy walk-able. A steady pace passing the remains of an old water management system and crossing a newer bridge across the Calder burn. Just before this bridge is a path heading northwards towards Hardridge taking in the old Grouse railway remains, this is pencilled in for this summer.

Heading out you pass the remains of grouse butts which sadly now are more often only a single 4×4 wooden post, the moor was used for shooting parties which according to articles I have read, travelled up from down south to the big house that once stood near the Ranger Centre. Such luminaries as the Fitzalan Howard once owned the shooting rights to this area which is classic Grouse country and even Winston Churchill himself was a guest.

I was looking for a white post at the left side of the track which used to signal that it was time to head up the hill to Queenside Loch which I have fished before, cracking small brown trout chasing every gold bodied fly you threw at them, there was no size in the fish but allowed great sport on light tackle. The post sadly isn’t there any more but I do remember it was a fair haul to the ‘Queenie’ and the swarms of midges as you walked back down the track in the gloaming.

The track now descends slowly as you approach the mine area, the mine buildings became unsafe and were demolished a few years ago only concrete bases remain but there is still many signs of works activity. Sadly ‘Health and Safety’ has gone bananas with all sorts of fenced off areas and warning signs every 10m. Overkill ? you decide.

Looking down towards the mining area

Looking down towards the mining area

A metal ‘container’ (with a nest built just inside the door) is placed here so a welcome seat in one of the chairs for some scran then it was up a path along the east side of fenced off mine area. This is where it all starts, one and a half mile through marsh and knee-deep heather but I now head towards a top at NS 273638 then head across a marshy area then strike out for the summit along a fence, easier than going ‘direct’.

I received word from Neil 2MØNCM that he was on 4m FM so I set up my handie and made the contact but it was poor quality but there were more than a few high hills between us. I picked up my rukkie from against the top mine fence and headed slowly but surely and finally reached the top of my target spot, the summit of the Stake was now in sight, I walked across and joined a slight path which heads up the fence line and soon I was standing at the trig point. I had hopes of heading to the trig point at Burnt Hill to the west but I decided it would be better just to head home after the activation, I’ll do a lightweight visit out to this later in the summer.

I quickly set up the FT 817 and the 5 element yagi and sought out those who I knew were on 2m, I spoke with Robin PKT who was on the summit of Sidhean na Raplaich situated on the Morvern area north of Mull. Next in the log was Roddy 2MØIOB at home in Gourock, I had internet problems before I left and had to ask Roddy to post an alert for me, thanks !!

It was off round 2m FM and I snagged Neil 2MØNCM who was portable to the SW of me on Blaeloch Hill, another STS (summit to summit) was in the bag, I was later to have a good long chat with Neil.

Jack COX called in, I had worked Jack the previous day when he activated Beinn Dubh near Luss but he was home in the Lanarkshire area today. I moved back to S20 and heard an EI portable station calling so a quick swing of the beam and I worked Victor a GI station who had crossed the border and he was on Muckish Mountain in Donegal, a contact of approx 135 mls with no problems at all. A good one !!

Bob AWV called in from the Greenock Cut next then after quick words it was time for some scran then whilst looking for fellow Paisley club member, Brian HMZ I hooked up with Stuart OXQ in Paisley, Stuart was the third PARC member in the log today.

Neil called and I had a quick word with Cat, MM6CNC who was enjoying the sunshine while Neil worked away on the bands. Fred Eric FSZ called in from Girvan, apologies must go to Fred Eric whom I kept calling Fred.

Hill of Stake trig point

Hill of Stake trig point

I had pulled over a post and was using this to keep my rear off the wet grass, I was having a check through my log when I could hear the familiar sounds of a trail bike, I thought ‘local farmer’ but no, just to the S is West Girt Hill and I saw a biker arriving up at the top and another then another, the three sat astride, I thought ‘Bandits at 12 o’clock’, I stood up and felt my thigh for my trusty Colt 45, damn I’d forgotten it so it would have to be the SOTA pole used ‘Kendo’ style. I’m sure I could hear Ennio Morricone playing the theme from ‘The Good, Bad and the Ugly’. It was just like a movie, one by one they headed off the top heading to the Stake, I was wishing the Lone Ranger was with me…

The lads soon appeared and they had said they had travelled up from Largs, I fancy that as it would save a lot of effort but alas it goes against the ethics of SOTA.  I had a good chat with one about all the plane wreckage which lay in nearby hills (another thing to mark on my list).

I returned to the radio and spoke to Jim GLM who was to the NE on Carleatheran in the Kippen area, another STS in the log. I next spoke to Steve UAU who was nearby in Greenock, the HoS is my nearest Marilyn although I can see Ben Bowie from the shack window. Joe MTJ called in from Paisley and this was my last contact on 2m, S20 was busy with the EI and a couple of GM stations calling out.

It was time to try 4m FM, Neil had said he had tried 4m for a wee while and only raised 2 contacts so I thought, I’ll just use the helically wound ‘duck’, I called and Duncan AHL in Dumbarton was first to call and Fred Eric FSZ called in next, a quick word with both then I thought I better try to find Brian HMZ, I got Brian on S20 plus he was mobile in Gourock so not bad on my wee Baofeng handie and 2 watts.

The wind started to pick up from the NE and had a chill to it, it was time to think about heading home. I packed all the radio gear away and made sure I had left nothing behind as I had mislaid two bungee cords on my first HoS activation which were recovered by Roddy IOB some months later.

Static Cable Winder, I think

Static Cable Winder, I think

Time to head, Endomondo switched on and off to return the route I had come in and as I reached the bottom of the hill, I headed back across the marshy area heading for the previous named top when I saw a couple appearing on that top, I knew this time I had no gun. I met and chatted to them for a few minutes before heading downwards, I heard IOB calling on S20 so a quick QSO as I was quickly losing height.

I met the main burn and followed it down the side of the mine workings and reached the ‘container’ and a swig of water and a healthy(?) option sugar laden biccy and off along the track.

The weather had been excellent and it made for a pleasurable day, I walked back to the Ranger Centre and then headed home. The total distance from car park to hill and back was just under 8 ml, 5 mls on the mines track and 3ml of pathless terrain, great fun.

I’ve not done a wee history bit as the Clyde Muirsheil Park have excellent PDF files on-line and below are the three I would recommend reading, click on the subject.

Muirshiel Baryte Mines

Muirshiel House

Aircraft Crashes in the Country Park

I said I may make this my last activation of the HoS but who knows ? You either like the hill or you don’t, it’s a Marmite type of place. See I’ve said it again !

It was good to be back out giving STS’s back to those I chase, hopefully the start of more hills this year.

If you haven’t been, go…

If you right click any of the images they will open in a new window in a fuller size…

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2 responses to “A Boomerang Hill

  1. As always Sir Rab, an excellent read. Hope I can manage to tag along on another of your hill wanders at some point, especially if you are plane spotting! Good to talk to you while you were on a summit for a change.

    • Roddy,

      Aye it could be arranged…for a change ? I’m always up to summit..

      B.Mhor

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