Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Sunday Roast

It may not be the sunniest summer weather at the moment, but of late it has been very hot & muggy, even after probably the most impressive lightning storm I think I've ever witnessed in these parts the air was only temporarily clear & soon after the electrical storm passed it went back to being hot & sticky.
Since buying my new Rocky Mountain bike Iv'e bought a couple of upgrades for it, in the form of a Rockshox dropper seat post & a new saddle, so I decided to go for a hurl around Woodhall Dean as there is a couple of areas to try out the dropper post & see where I fancied going from there...

Although all the vegetation is lush green at the moment the barley is slowly beginning to turn yellow & the swifts & swallows were having a 'field day' scooping up the flying insects above the crops.


Looking down the Brunt hill at an abundance of vibrant green foliage before entering into the reserve of Woodhall Dean.



The Scottish Wildlife Trust have been doing a great job keeping the paths clear from the encroaching plants.





Woodhall Dean is an amazing place, the scenery & terrain is forever changing from ancient oak woodlands, birch tree plantations, thick areas of ferns to waterside pathways cutting through steep ravines along the woodland floor to great views high up in the grassland areas.




Iv'e heard many a local regard this as a Roman bridge which I am sure is pure nonsense I have searched & searched for evidence of this & I can find absolutely no proof of this claim that it's Roman. What I have found looking at old maps that it is nothing more than a logistical problem solved in the form of a stone built bridge crossing a burn & used as a network for old cart tracks linking up the farms in days gone by on now overgrown & forgotten roads.


Looking eastwards towards Woodhall farm & the top of the bridge is hidden by all the vegetation & westwards you can clearly see the hill has been cut into forming a road up through the oak trees then once at the top of the hill the road travelled through where the field gate is now & went between the gap in the trees in the distance before entering back into the oak woods again & onwards to the farms of Hartside & the Halls.


I however continued along the woodland path around the reserve.


Emerging from the oak woods & climbing up a fern covered hill I left Woodhall Dean nature reserve behind & headed towards the Halls farm through a grazing field only to come across...


..this.
 A field full of Aberdeen Angus cattle !
They were all happily lying down chewing the cud until they saw me, after spotting one ripped with muscle & extra dangly bits it didn't take me long to hop over the fence & quickly make my way over to a farm field track.


Hartside farm far in the distance & the field track which takes me direct to the Halls.



The Black loch has completely dried up with the lack of rain, nothing unusual in that for the time of year though.
I love this old railway box van with the Elder bush sticking up through it like a hairdoo, it's always a good place for a picture of the bike, then onwards for the Halls farm.



Nearing the immaculately clean & tidy Halls farm passing by some aniseed plants along the hedgerow emitting their strong aniseed smell which always reminds me of fishing down the Biel burn at West Barns when I was a bairn.
My new addition Rockshox Reverb dropper post & Charge 'canny see me' saddle.


I decided to head for Spott Brock enjoying the sights along the way on the small hill roads. Spott Brock is another wildlife trust walk on a far smaller scale than Woodhall Dean but every bit as enjoyable whether on foot or two wheels.


Arriving at Spott Brock the first part of the trail which is a long down hill track, not too steep but you can still get up to a good speed, I always take a cautious approach since I punctured my eyeball bombing down here a couple of years ago.
 While going hell for leather down the track I was so focused on the track up front that I never noticed a low hanging branch from a pine tree, the result was a bit of stick lodged in my eyeball which needed removed by the doctor & a chunk taken out of the eye white too, not overly painful but very very irritating & uncomfortable !

The large plateau area where there was once a large pond which supplied water to the local town of Dunbar, now crammed full of giant butterbur plants which thrive in damp wet conditions & stand at three feet high.


It's a great wee route which only takes 10 minutes or so to get around on the bike, lots of birdsong for company & nettles which were almost the same height as me, so plenty of stings were to be had.


The route emerges at the ford of which the Brock Burn crosses.


Just outside the village of Spott sits the witches stone. It's not unusual to see coins & other trinkets placed onto the stone, it's always been a tradition within my family to place a coin on it every time we pass by it for good luck.


Spott church where my great grandparents are buried, where I got married & next to the door is a public humiliation device called jougs, now no longer used but maybe should be. Jougs are an iron collar attached by a small chain to normally a church, trees or a mercat cross. The collar was placed around the offenders neck & fastened by a padlock. Time spent in the jougs was intended to shame an offender publicly.


Oswald Dean known locally as Ozzie Dean, I wanted to come down here for a look as there has been a bit of controversy regarding the Spott Burn drying up ! I had a good idea what the cause was but wanted to check it out myself.



Around about 20 years ago the burn was dammed by the farmer to create a pond for irrigating the potato crops, as youngsters who used to fish this burn we decided that this would be a great pond for swimming in which we did on a number of occasions. Years later the dam breached & washed away only for this half hearted mess of a dam to be made in it's place to re-form  the pond. Built up of old building rubble, concrete, old bricks etc along with soil & boulders  & I suspected that the pumps were taking so much water to irrigate the fields of potatoes that this was the cause of the drought drying up the burn, but today the pump was not running so the pond was full allowing the pond to fill & exit through the overflow pipe.


Since the last time I was here a second dam has been made further along the burn & it's far worse than the other one, again constructed of old building materials, scrap metal & even old wood ! It is an absolute mess an eyesore on a beautiful area, it looks more like fly tipping to me. I hate how people ruin our countryside with cost effective measures to save a few quid & this has sacrificed the eco-system of the burn to swell their tatties as well as their pockets ! Two or three generations ago this would of been a proper stone built dam fit for purpose & care would have been taken to keep the burn flowing as well as filling up the pond. I'm a firm believer that no-one owns the land but are only the custodians of it for future generations so it's our duty to look after it & not abuse it.

By the second pond are the pipes that carry the water to the field sprayers.




For now since the pumps are not running, the burn is flowing again as normal but I suppose now with no brown trout & aquatic insects thriving in it like they once did. Plenty of colourful water side plants on display which rely on wet conditions, so I suppose it's a good thing that they have survived the drought.
From the burn side looking up towards Doon Hill.



Under the A1 road & railway I followed a relatively new path which skirts around the edge of a field next to the railway, not a very well known or much used pathway other than for a few dog walkers using it going by the amount of dog shite everywhere.

A choice to make
 (a) take the commute route track past LaFarge cement works to head for home...
 ...or... 
(b) take the more scenic route down by Whitesands beach & Barns Ness...
...not a hard choice !


Up an old farm track separating two fields onto the old A1, now safe passage since the gypsies have been moved on.

With the end in sight it was up the old de-commissioned Dry Burn road to cross over the A1 & back home for a few ice poles to cool down on this overcast but stiflingly hot day followed by a coffee & bath.

And that's that for now
cheers for taking the time to come with me on my travels
until the next ride out bye for now.