Before I begin I should point out that I had no intention whatsoever of doing any hillwalking. As far as I was concerned I was taking one of the dogs for a wee walk along some deserted forestry roads. It’s just…well…circumstances rather got the better of me. It’s true, I could have walked on past the wooden palette bridge spanning the ditch. I could have ignored the rather inviting grassy strip in the middle of what was a rather uninviting slope comprising chopped off tree trunks and reedy bog. It’s also true that I could have ignored the obvious atv tracks leading up said grassy strip – but where would have been the fun in that. You have probably guessed what happened next.
But before I explain allow me to introduce you to “not fit for purpose”. The clue is in the name (in case you hadn’t already guessed).
These days I am stuck with “not fit for purpose” as a solo walking companion while “Little Bear”, her partner in crime, is laid up with a torn cruciate ligament. The cruciate debacle has gone on for some months now, starting out last summer as a possible sprain but developing (with a most definite howl) at the end of November into something a lot more serious. The operation, 8 weeks ago, seems to have gone well so now we wait as the 3 month healing process nears compleation. Which brings me back to “not fit for purpose”.
With an inbred hunt instinct, quite ferocious speed for a Labrador and a solitary brain cell (possibly inactive) little Lottie is probably not the ideal hillwalking companion. That said she is a happy wee soul who is eager to please – if only she could keep that particular thought in her tiny brain for more than 2 seconds.
Since last summer I have done very little walking other than our local dog walks. The initial injury to Mabel (“Little Bear”) led to us taking it very easy in case there was more to it than a sprain and on top of that my sciatica has once more increased another wee bit meaning I am loathe to risk doing what I once did.
However I digress.
Our starting point for this particular afternoon’s amble was the bell mouth entrance to the forestry road at the old Covenanter’s church on the shores of the Carron Valley Reservoir. The intention had been to do a short loop of a few kilometres along the quiet forestry roads to the north. The first change to our plans came at the entrance when I saw a sign indicating this was now a construction access for a windfarm project. Rather than follow the intended route we took a left turn at the first junction a hundred metres or so from the start leading us away from the direction of the windfarm. This proved to be a good choice as we were now heading west parallel to the reservoir with an open aspect to Meikle Bin to the south. As is normal in these sort of places I am always looking for routes off the main drag – just to give a bit of interest for future dog walks. In this case I was (out of habit) scouting out for possibilities on the uphill side of the road just in case I might turn up a route to take us near the hill top.
Cairnoch Hill is a little bump (classified as a HuMP) on the landscape on the north side of Carron Valley Reservoir directly opposite my old friend Meikle Bin. I have, very half-heartedly I have to add, being trying to pick out a route up this hill for a couple of years now. Surrounded by forestry it is a deserted location where I have, from time to time, been able to take the dogs off lead without fear of livestock carnage or the wrath of panic stricken dog owners. It’s not that my pair of reprobates are unfriendly: far from it but their enthusiasm can be a little overpowering for the less confident dog (and owner). They like nothing better than to play “lions and wildebeest”. They never play the part of the wildebeest.
Anyway, this particular wee bump has been a bit of a thorn in my side as far as route finding goes, previous options having been thwarted by forestry operations and bloody big trees.
“Not fit for purpose” was happy – she had found an old plastic water bottle to charge about with. As long as she had that in her mouth she wasn’t trying to eat something disgusting. This gave me time to peruse the uphill slope for signs of an uphill route which was when I caught sight of the palette spanning the ditch and the atv tracks on the other side.
I have to say I was rather pleased with myself; finding a possible ascent route up this particular hill. On the down side I had only my trail shoes and no poles. Oh well, I reasoned that we could follow the atv tracks for a short distance to see how the ground conditions were and if they were ok we could pop back another day to do the full ascent. Aye right! As if that was ever going to happen!
In fairness I did only plan to take the tracks to the top of the first slope to see what lay beyond…and what lay beyond was intriguing. We had been walking up the slope only a few metres from an old stone wall and in the distance there appeared to be a wall T junction. That would be handy to reference on a map when I got home. Ah yes…forgot to mention…didn’t think I’d need a map today on familiar forestry roads…ahem.
Other than the left knee complaining for the first 5 minutes of ascent I did pretty well all things considered. Surprisingly “not fit for purpose” became “almost fit for purpose” as she scampered up and down the narrow grassy belt happily clutching her prized plastic bottle. A bit different from The Fatdog’s steady plod but moderately acceptable in its own way.
As it turned out what I thought to be a junction of walls turned out to be our wall meeting a new section of forestry road – not shown on the map. (yes, that would be the map I didn’t have with me…ahem). Having solved the puzzle of what I thought might be crossing walls the next question had to be – “was there an easy route to the summit?
Luckily our atv ascent route continued as a little track beyond the new road before finally coming to a halt at what possibly had once been an old sheiling. Once again our luck held and we discovered a small upward path followed the continuing line of the old wall. We followed this to its high point before picking up a faint trail heading towards what we hoped would be the summit.
Cairnoch Hill presented a rather pleasant rolling summit, the grassy strolling sort, cut by a number of animal trails. The views were rather good as well but clouds were rolling in and the light deteriorating which meant the distant views were not as clear as they might have been.
All in all I was rather pleased with myself. We’d climbed a hill (a HuMP no less) without any serious catastrophes and “not fit for purpose” had acquitted herself…hmm…adequately in the process. There was almost a tear in my eye as we began the descent with her sitting in FD’s favourite descent position right on my heels.
As we wandered in happy tandem away from the summit my mind drifted back to those happy hill days with The Fatdog. I turned to give the wee Lottie a treat for doing so well.
“Where the f*** has that wee bugger gone!?”