Tag Archives: South Lanarkshire

walks in South Lanarkshire

The Upper Nethan Gorge Woodland Walk

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The Upper Nethan Gorge

Sometimes it’s not all about big hills or long distances sometimes it’s about taking your time and looking at what’s on your own doorstep. It would appear on the face of things I have an area which is abundant in local signposted walks and ways. One of which brought me to the Upper Nethan Gorge. Literally right on my doorstep. Not 10 minutes from my door. It’s one of two, The Upper Nethan Gorge up at Blackwood and the Lower Nethan Gorge down towards Nethanfoot and Crossford on the River Clyde. Both of the areas are looked after and managed by the Scottish Wildlife Trust. They are also within the Clyde and Avon Valley Landscape Partnership project boundary.

The Upper Gorge

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The Upper Nethan Gorge straddles the banks of the River Nethan. The river starts away up in the hills above Glenbuck in Ayrshire like the River Ayr. However it takes a considerably different and somewhat shorter route to the Clyde. A meandering distance of 21 km. The Upper Nethan Gorge is on the river’s lower reaches before it passes out and flows into the mighty Clyde at Nethanfoot ending its journey. The gorge is heavily wooded and full of all sorts of species of trees.

I’m lucky the walk is so close to my door. There is no parking at the start to speak of or public transport that passes the start of the walk. I have to walk along the Southfield Road towards Tillietudlem. The fictional place from Sir Walter Scott’s 1816 classic story, Old Morality. No longer fictional. It is an actual real place on a map and everything. It was a stop on the old Caledonian Railways in 1856 but more of that later. It’s a back road which is fairly quiet. Nonetheless there’s still a good amount of tarmacadam bashing and car dodging to get to where the track begins.

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The walk starts at NS797446. For those that like grid references. It’s hard to miss the beginning for several reasons. One the fields give way to trees. Two there’s a large kissing gate and 3 the most obvious of them all. A great big sign announcing it as the Upper Nethan Gorge. Once through the gate the path starts off on what was an old railway line now removed as mentioned previously. It was part of the Lesmahagow line that goes all the way to Coalburn. This part is the Blackwood spur.

The Railway Line

These railway lines were originally put in to get the coal out of this mineral rich area. There is also a trail marker which is a rather large 6×6 post pointing you down the track. It’s sending you to a castle. The 16th century fortification, Craignethan Castle. The real life inspiration for Sir Walter Scott’s fictional Tillietudlem Castle. Home of the Bellenden family in the tale.

It does feel like you are walking down an old railway line at the start. Roman road straight with the fence line of the Southfield cottages to your left. However after a bit the trees start to overgrow the path like the roof of a tunnel and the wooden palisade that is the fence stops. Giving way to open fields. A few more feet forward and you feel cocooned in the bark and leaves yet it still doesn’t feel like a proper wood.

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There are a few relics of it’s former use. You can be walking along and become suddenly aware of what looks like a large sandstone retaining wall or maybe the abutment of an old bridge. Green with age and moss. It may the old signal box or junction box there’s always something if you keep your eyes open. The flora and fauna are trying hard to reclaim it from it’s past. It’s not until you are a good way down the line. Close to where the old Nethan Viaduct used to be. That you step down the embankment into the woods proper. This feels how it should feel. Here it feels old and ancient but the trees at most might only be a couple of hundred years old.

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The Woods

Here for me, is the best place to stop and stand awhile in the small glades. In autumn and winter you can catch glimpses of the other side and Auchenheath. You get an idea of just how high you are above the water. In spring and summer when the leaves are growing and the trees feel full of life. The view obscured you can hear and see the birds singing and dancing in the branches. Sparrow and Finch by the dozen. Chirping mad in a frenzy. The occasional an unmistakable cry of a pheasy from the border of the fields and wood. Rooks or Craws circling, cawin’ loud and harsh.

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From here it’s just a short walk to the end of the woods. A metal gate onto a field signifies the limits of the trees. The gorge curves away from you heading to the opening and relative flatness at Corra mill. It then cuts a swathe through the cliffs to the Clyde again. You can see the houses of Tillitudelum. Usually this is the end of the walk for me. Where I about turn and saunter back the way I came. Here you can pass through the gate and follow the hedge. It will take you to the road and the entrance road to Craignethan Castle. From there the path leads to Lower Nethan Gorge and Nethanfoot at Crossford.

That’s a post for another day.

Clyde and Avon Valleys Spring Walks Festival

Clyde and Avon Valleys Spring Walks Festival

Clyde and Avon Valleys Spring Walks Festival.

The Clyde and Avon Valley Landscape Partnership are putting on a Spring walking festival from Friday 22nd to Tuesday 26th May 2015. There’s loads of walks to do and something for every one.

Friday 22nd May

  • Discovering Castlebank Park, Lanark – 1pm
  • Bluebell Walk, Cleghorn Glen National Nature Reserve – 1pm and 3:30pm
  • A Walk in the Woods at New Lanark – 2pm

Saturday 23rd May

  • Restoring the Historic Landscape at Chatelherault – 10am
  • Ranger Guided Walk to the Falls of Clyde, Peregrine Watch Site – 1pm

Sunday 24th May

  • The Good, the Bad and the Beautiful at Dalzell Estate – 10am and 1:30pm
  • Kirkfieldbank Orchard Open Day – 2pm – 4pm

Monday 25th May

  • Lanark Health Walks – 1pm and 3pm

Tuesday 26th May

  • Spring Evening Walk at RSPB Baron’s Haugh – 7pm

The walks are free but booking is recommended. Click on the gallery below for more details.

You can read their official news release on there website or on go straight there with this link. Step Out for Clyde and Avon Valleys Spring Walks Festival. There you can click through and book yourself on one of the walks or you can use this link to go through to the booking page and sign right up.

I’ve booked myself on one of the walks on the Sunday so hopefully I’ll see you there.

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Blackhill

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Blackhill

I’ve moved to pastures new a while ago, further into South Lanarkshire. Deepest darkest Lanarkshire, back to the countryside. Or almost so, if it wasn’t for the rather large M74 next to the village. However saying that it’s all green fields, hills, woods and little glens nestled down next to the Nethan and a stones throw from the Clyde valley and all that it offers. A happier pig in mud could not be found and to my great delight was some pretty good hills not so far away. Tinto and Culter Fell being a couple of big ones within easy driving distance but also some hills virtually on my doorstep. One of those hills being Blackhill. It dominates the sky line because it’s so close. I see it everyday. Not the biggest by any stretch of your imagination. It stands at 951 of your good Scottish feet or 290 metres in the new money. A Scheduled Ancient Monument as well as being owned by the National Trust for Scotland. It’s not big and it’s not pretty but Blackhill is my local hill and at times I have it to myself. What’s not to like?
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Why’s it so special?

That’s easy. It’s has over 4000 years of history seeping up through the very grass and rocks of it’s sides. On the top under the OS trip pillar lies a Bronze age burial cairn. I’m not sure of it’s size but it’s pretty big. 20 metres across. Next it’s has an Iron Age fort and settlement attached with a number of platforms that could have been wooden round house. The fort and adjoining settlement take up the entire hill top. There’s ditches and protective walls running round the whole summit. There’s possibly a Roman road that runs across the foot of the hill that may have been part of a road that ran from Peebles to Castledykes on the other side of Lanark over to the Irvine valley down to Loudoun Hill. There’s archaeological records of standing stones. Apparently at one point it had a couple of standing stones, possibly three. One stone to the south at Clarkston Farm and definitely one but maybe two on the north side at Blackhill Farm. As well as evidence of Medieval occupation and field systems. It’s all going on. The National Trust have had it in their possession since 1936 when Messrs Robert Howie and Sons donated it to them and because of all the history it was designated a Scheduled Ancient Monument in 1969.
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The View

For this particular visit I had a bit of spare time and it was a crackingly clear afternoon and I fancied catching a sunset. I grabbed my camera and jumped in my walking gear. It’s only roughly a couple of miles from my house but to maximise my hill time I got in the car and set off for the little layby at the bottom of the hill. Once parked up I promptly marched to the top off the hill which started with a hop over a fence and stile. Then it was just a case of heading upwards following a farm track. There’s a big gate to pass through then your in the enclosure from this side you enter the settlement first and it’s pretty obvious from the trig pillar where you’re heading. Like it’s not the biggest or most challenging but once up it pays you back in spadefuls for the little effort you put in.
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The sunset was still probably a good hour off so I dumped by bag at the pillar and take out my down jacket and hat as it’s a bit baltic on top. There’s a good breeze going and it is December. What is lovely winter sunshine down by the road isn’t warm enough to heat up even at the top of this modest hill. Wrapped up I set of an wonder over the lumps and bumps wondering what it looked like before loads of the stone were robbed and the walls collapsed. Where the standings were. Were they lined up with something. Did they have anything to do with the fort or settlement. Trying to guess the path of the Roman through the much plowed fields. I’ve got my camera and I’m snapping away. The view’s are 360.

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I still don’t really have my bearings when it come to the hills I can see from here. Tinto is the obvious one, due south or there abouts. Apparently the massive cairn there and here are in alignment. It could be something or nothing or just a giant coincidence. With the trig pillar to my back, Lanark in a south easterly direction, I can only think it’s the big peaks of Mount Law, Bleak Law, Byrehope Mount and the rest I can see but I’m not sure. Over towards the west and to the south I can see Nutberry Hill, again I think it is. It’s all a bit alien to me. Supposedly further over to the west you can see Goatfell on a really clear day. That is one view I would love to catch.

By far the best view is to the north and west. It’s an amazing view and one my camera skills can’t quite do it justice, yet, I hope I will learn to. The Clyde valley opens up before you. All the big towns are there. Hamilton, Motherwell and Wishaw. As well as the famous big city of Glasgow. It’s beyond them that really takes your breath away. I have in one big swathe, the Arrochar Alps, The Cobbler and Beinn Ime and Narnian. Ben Lomond and it’s distinctive table like top, at ease standing proud. Then the full length of the Campsies. However it doesn’t stop there, the hills of the Trossachs and all the way to Ben Lawers. I’m pretty sure it’s Lawers. There is nothing taller then me in that direction. I have that feeling of being on the top of the world. I’m the only person here and the only one seeing this. I’m in deepest Lanarkshire and I can see all the way to the Southern Highlands. An absolutely stunning view for such a small bump. It’s special. I don’t think I will tire of this outlook. Yes, there’s turbines, towns and city in the road but brain filters those out. Maybe they actually help the view be better, making the hills and the natural stand out against the concrete and the man-made.

The Clyde herself is not to be out done. Up close she’s brown, fast flowing and a little bit tumultuous but from up here she’s serine, a silver blue steel metal ribbon winding a path to the sea

Best for last

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After my wanderings and musing I start to try and take some selfies. Not so easy with a dSLR or so I find. I’m a proponent of the @DavyWA, @petesy, @MThomson, @Rye1966 school of the outdoor selfie. Maybe they’ll run classes in the new year. However they do it so much better but it’s a good bit of fun. The sun is on it’s final leg to setting. Tinto has a crowning of grey cloud and little jacket of snow on his shoulders. It’s catching the sun beautifully and try to catch it the camera. Again I don’t do it justice but I’m happy that I’m there to see. Lanark too is looking pretty on the other side of the Clyde. Rooftops, church spires and glinting windows catching the last rays of the sun. Glasgow and the towns to the north are the same. The light is great. It’s crisp like the air. I can see mist gathering over towards the Stonehouse and Larkhall. It may over the Avon water. The river and the woods catching it and holding onto it. I’m looking north again and sure it’s Ben Lawers catching the sun, way, way, way north. Has to be. I turn west and watch the Nethan gorge turn dark as the sun hits the hills. The street lights of home start to light up and burn orange. By pure luck I turn right instead of left to circle round and look at Lanark again. I catch a sight that drops my jaw. The moon is rising over the hills. I have the top of the moon peeking above one set of hills and the sun disappearing over another set of hills. It’s almost perfectly aligned. Where I’m standing I’m the only person that can see this. I don’t know if I should take photographs or just watch. In the end I just watch and try to take photographs at the same time. Then it’s over. That special moment. The sun has gone and the moon is up. I linger on a bit in disbelief. I’ve never seen a sunset/moonrise as good as that ever. Even now I can’t adequately describe it. The photographs don’t either but I was there. The Blackhill really is a bit special in my opinion and any chance I get I walk up it. It never disappoints.

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You can find a full set of photographs on flickr, Blackhill.

Culter Fell, cloudy as hell

Culter Fell

Ever since I moved further out into South Lanarkshire I’ve been looking at walking Culter Fell (pronounced Cooter). I kept going to the circular route that’s on the walkhighlands website and also another walker that blogs, James Boulter (@bpackingbongos) posted a walk that he had done recently on Culter Fell. That really made me want to get out and do it. For the list tickers, Culter Fell sits on 3 list. It’s a Marilyn, Graham and a Donald. It’s the highest point it South Lanarkshire at 748 metres or 2244 of good Scot’s feet so that should make for a good view. It is also part of the Southern Uplands. What’s not to like.

An opportunity presented itself so with the blessing of my wife I was off early Saturday morning. I set the alarm for 0630 ZULU. Up and out the door before the house wakes up. My bag was at the door ready and packed. The only thing I didn’t have was a map of the area. I had a thought to stop at the motorway services at Abington and pop into the WH Smiths and pick one up. Off I went chucking everything in the car and joined the M74 at the ‘gow. I doesn’t take long to get to the Abington junction from Blackwood. I was at the services before I really had time to think. Parking up I wasn’t very impressed with sky, clouds hanging low and heavy but it was breezy and the clouds were moving fast. I was hopeful for clear skies and good vistas.

The service station was busy even at this early hour and with half the concessions were closed at that. I made my way through to the WH Smiths and their books/map section. After scanning the shelf a few times it was becoming pretty clear that they didn’t have the map I was after, the Ordnance Survey Explorer 336, Biggar & Broughton, Culter Fell & Dollar Law or even the Landranger 72, Upper Clyde Valley would have done. I think I could have had any map for the rest of Scotland and the Lake District that morning. A little put off but unperturbed. I’ve got OS maps for all of southern Scotland on my iPhone. It’s just nice to have a back up. Since I was at the services I grabbed myself a roll and sausage. It would have been not to. Extra Fuel for the engine. After stuffing my face and costing myself a small fortune in the process. I jumped back in the motor and headed along the road towards Biggar. A map is cheaper than a meal at a service station.

The village of Coulter is only a few short miles along the A702, parts of which apparently follow the route of a Roman road. I drove into Coulter and turned right where the 702 turns left at about 90 degrees and heads for Biggar. There’s a small junction on the corner. This road takes you past the new primary school and out towards the reservoir. The road is marked as a dead-end but it’s a few miles before you need worry about that. I followed the single track always mindful of other cars driving towards me especially around some of those twisty bends. However it wasn’t cars I needed to be worried about but sheep. A few yowes had squeezed under a fence or through a hole hugging the banks next to the road and getting skittish as I approached. Always makes for fun driving trying not to play dodgems with the yowes. Don’t think the fermer would be happy.

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I continued along the single track road until it forked at Birthwood and Culter Allers Farm just before the public road ends. I swung the car around as the road was wide enough. I was now facing back the way I came. Just in case I need to make a quick getaway. Getting out the car I looked up towards Culter Fell, only not to see it as it was covered in cloud. I was there so there was nothing left to do but get on with it, in the hope the cloud would clear. I grabbed my new hand made wooden walking stick. My dad makes walking sticks of all styles, types of wood, horn and antler handles. I opted for a plain stick that felt good in my hand and light with a vee notch at the top. I swung the rucksack on and headed off along the road. As I went I set up ViewRanger on the phone to record my track so I could upload it later. Airplane mode and locking the SIM to save the battery and only use the GPS. I stuck the phone in my pocket.

I crossed a cattle grid and the road started to climb slightly. I was on the look out for a small burn that the road crosses as after that the path I was to take started on the left. As I wandered along the road looking for the path taking in the glen, I heard the cattle grid rumble and rattle with what sounded like a quad bike coming my way. I waited until the noise of the diesel engine got closer and stepped off the road and turned to see a JCB Workmax with the fermer and his sheepdug in the passenger seat rather than the quad bike I had suspected. We exchanged a couple of nods and a wave has he drove away.

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There was no need to worry about spotting the path as it’s pretty obvious where it starts. It starts off nice and gentle before it picks up a mean gradient. It’s a very clear track to follow up Fell Shin and you soon pick up some great height and the views down the glen back towards Coulter are great. From here though the reservoir is hidden. Views above 600m still weren’t looking good with all the cloud but the wind was still brisk and the clouds were moving fast. I still had some hope of clear tops. I was fascinated by some really old ancient looking stone structures almost kist like in their construction minus the coping stone. Such wonders these are as the followed the path up the hill. Amazing, what was their significances? Who built them? Bronze age, Iron Age? It was also amazing that in some places due to the lee of the land or the way the wind was blowing all of a sudden I would walk into a small pocket of calm. Maybe only for a couple of steps but it was like walking through a door into another room. All of sudden silence and then you would pick up the sound of birds singing and the grouse calling. No wind whistling. I found myself stopping and listening every time I stepped into one of theses areas.

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I turned back to look down the line of the fank like things and noticed some crazies. Hill runners, crazies to me. Why would you want to waste a perfectly good hill walk by running. Not me. It didn’t take long from the to catch me. I was taking my time and enjoying the walk. As they got closer, I moved out their road on the track to let them pass. We said our mornings. I asked is this a regular thing for them, the answer was yes. Crazies. The one at the back walked with me for a bit, talking. I think he was trying to get his second wind. I asked what route they were taking and what I had hoped to do. Weather permitting. The 3 of them run these hills most weekends. See crazies. The route is a good one and the views great on a clear day. Here’s hoping I said, with that he picked up his pace and went to catch the other 2 crazies, I mean his 2 buddies. It wasn’t long before the 3 of them were out of sight and over the top of Fell Shin. Once gone I got back to my structures. Was it coincidence that pockets where the wind dropped was round most of these stones I wondered. It wasn’t till I got home that I found out there was nothing magical about them. Just some old unloved grouse butts. Obvious now looking back. Jeezoh, I got carried away with myself.

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The wind had gone from breezy to a severe buffeting. Nothing drastic, 3 pints of the stellar tortoise on an empty stomach as I crested Fell Shin and up on to Culter Fell properly. There’s a single solitary wooden post here just off to the left of the path. It’s purpose is definitely a mystery to me. One for Scooby Doo and his mystery bus. I took a walk over to check it out and to my surprise a pair of glasses were hanging from it and for a while by the nick they were in Well weathered. Some poor soul had lost their reading glasses and some good soul had stuck them on the post to be found. From there I headed over to a small marker cairn. Here the clouds were drifting across the front of me and up ahead the track was disappearing into some heavy clouds and no views. If I turned my back on the clouds I had good views over to Tinto and the hills otherside the glen, Dod Hill and Hillshaw Head above the reservoir. Luckily the clouds were hiding the majority of the large turbines over there. The closer ones keeked in and out of the drifts. There was some pluses to all the cloud.

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I turned around and head off in the direction of the cloud and the top of Culter Fell or so I hoped. I decided that it would be a good idea to get the phone out hand have a check. I’m really glad I did. The battery was hovering on 21% and I hadn’t even been out for more than a couple of hours. I can only assume that ViewRanger and iOS7 don’t get on very well or it’s how I have my settings in ViewRanger pinging away. This wasn’t going to end well. No paper map and phone not long from flat and me somewhere I had never walked before. Decisions were going to have to be made. Go on or go home. I knew I wasn’t too far from the summit. I could see that from the screen on the iPhone. As the 20% battery warning popped up. I took out my compass and took a bearing. You can’t beat the Silva 1-2-3 style of navigation. Get me doing a bit of proper navigating. Kind of. Compass in hand a followed the path towards the cloud and hoped for the best and the path would hold true. Worse case I would just turn round and head back the way I came. No blood, no foul.

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In the cloud I had the feeling of the distance expanding but my view contracting, almost like time was standing still. Gone were the birds and grouse. Just myself and me with the wind ringing in my lugs. As the steepness levels out here to a gentle incline towards the summit of Culter Fell, the ground is no longer hard but wet and boggy mire. Lots of standing water and a faint track that was flitting in and out. Check the compass, check the path or check the compass and hold to the reading and hope to pick the track up. This really slowed down the last few hundred metres. Felt like I had walked an extra mile, the time it had taken. Eventually the trig point and the summit top of Culter Fell started to solidify out of the cloud. My compass reading had been good and the path had stayed true most of the way. Had I missed the pillar I would have walked into a fence.

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I hung about for a bit had a bar of chocolate and big long slug of water. I tried my hand a taking a few selfies with dSLR; set the timer, run for the count of ten, hope for the best. I really need more practice at this. Some just looked terribly out of focus. There is no shelter to speak of, that or it was hiding in the cloud and the wind was at it’s buffeting best and the view non-existent. My phone was flat so I wasn’t going to attempt to find the path for the circular route I had planned. A the best laid plans o’ mice and men. A bit of a downer. It was what it was. Time to reverse my bearing and head back the way I had come. Culter Fell wasn’t going anywhere. I can come back. I picked up my walking stick that was resting against the trig pillar and started singing to myself;

Let the wind blow high
Let the wind blow low
Through the streets
In my kilt, I’ll go
All the lassies say hello
Donald, where’s your troosers

morphed into….

Let the wind blow high
Let the wind blow low
Through the hills
In my kilt, I’ll go
All the grouse say chut, chut, chutttttt
Tookie, where’s your troosers?

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I wasn’t even wearing a kilt. Plenty of grouse shouting on the lower slopes though. I’m a bit daft in the heid at times. Chanting away to myself it was long before I was back down below the cloud and the world opened back up to me no longer enveloped in cotton wool, enjoying the pockets of quiet on the way down as I had on the way up. After sauntering around for a bit I was back on the road and in the car heading for home.

The full set of photgraphs can be seen over on my flickr set, here