The idea was to bag 3 Marilyns: Common Hill, Nutberry Hill and Middlefield Law, initially in the company of LTD, JJ and Beryl (aka Margaret) This plan failed to even reach the racecourse, never mind get into the starting line-up. According to the map , some intervening hills also could be bagged and all this would put me on 595 Marilyns, just 5 Marilyns short of the Marilyn Hall of Fame (you'll have to Google this, I just can't be arsed explaining it all.)
And so, on a recent Tuesday lunchtime I parked quite near a pie shop in the Lanarkshire village of Douglas and wandered up through wind turbines on easy wind turbine roads beneath wind turbine signs which warned against going up there in freezing conditions or thunderstorms and bagged Nutberry Hill fairly easily, just about the time a huge black cloud appeared and started to rumble a bit. This put the willies up me big time because I don't enjoy being lit up by electricals and for some reason they always bring to mind some really poor jokes about God which I try not to think about. Luckily for Lucky, who hates thunder even more than me, I'd left him at home. I had some suspicions that the walk might be getting beyond his doggy walking powers. There was also the crossing of two grouse moors and he does have an unfortunate habit of trying to eat grouse. Grouse moor peeps who could well have been it and about in this season might well have taken a dim view of this. They can be a bit surly sometimes.
So, after the bagging, and in view of the rain, I cast about for a camping spot. I did notice a security camera on a long pole which overlooked some nice spots, and also the previous rumblings from heaven made me consider not being too close to a turbine. Eventually I found a place by a little beck out of sight of the camera and settled in to listen to the rain and eat some dehydrated chicken fried rice and some cheese and rum and stuff like that whilst listening to an old MP3 player last used on a TGO Challenge five years ago (I found it in a drawer.... it was a fab evening - comfy and cosy and swishy when the MP3 player was eventually turned off.
And in the morning, after porridge, prunes and coffee I attacked the tussocks of Meikle Auchinstilloch (it means "Big Auchinstilloch") and whilst many a Meickle maks a Muckle, this one was quite tough and not a Muckle at all. (Google is your friend) Rough and soggy is a good description and, I found, that this applied to all of the hills to be bagged. So, I continued, sloppily over Little Auchinstilloch and |Priesthill Height and abandoned my pack in a corner of the fence and blundered off to bag Marylin #2 , the very heathery Nutberry Hill. I did find a vague ATV track to the top which made it easier. The view from the summit of Nutberry contains more wind turbines than any reasonable person would want to shake a stick at. It seems possible that with the lively local westerlies, that the Northern part of Britain is destined to drift off and bump into Denmark at some point soon. There must be a tug in that direction, surely.
Onwards - after finding my pack was exactly where I left it and that my 70% proof chocolate was safe - on by that fence to a brew and by the Leaze Burn using burn water which already looked like builders' tea and tasted vaguely of blood (I guess it must have had a high iron content) - and then over the sloppy Spirebush Hill on to the even sloppier Goodbush Hill where I decided I'd had enough.
The weather forecast had said that there would be high winds and rain and Goodbush Hill is no place to put up a Laser Competition in this sort of stuff and, in any case, bogwater isn't nice for rehydrateing a beef stroganoff. I had noticed a space in the forest to the North which might produce a camping spot, although forests aren't often brilliant at flat and green places. And there was Death Grain -a small stream which went through a gap in the trees to a forest road which ought to deliver me to my intended spot in short order - once I'd plodded miserably over the miles of soggy stuff of Goodbush as energy levels seeped out through the now soaked socks and out through my wetted-out boots. AS it happened, Death Grain had a flat bit. The trees were far enough back not to get blown onto my tent and the little beck was more than handy and so, as the rain started, the Laser comp went up and I went in. This particular spot had a large selection of various species of spider and some of the night's entertainment consisted of watching one build a very small web in the top of the tent porch. In the morning there was the shell of a fly in the web and the spider had gone. And my cooking pot and lid, which had been left out, now contained a full litre of lovely fresh rain - much better than the light brown peaty stuff in Death Grain itself. So that went in my water bag for the next day's hydration.
I was just 100 metres from the forest road. This 100 metres was a maze of steep drops, waterfalls, thick forest and wet grass. Eventually I made it and followed the tracks past my intended spot for last night, which would have been quite nice as it happens, to the main road where a chap was pushing broken glass out of the indow of his JCB. Apparently a front window had blown back and broken it. We had a chat. It was the first chat I'd had since...er.... Anyway, there was piles of rubbish which I expect he'd been sent to sort out - left, apparently, by a family from Wishaw who'd "wild" camped there for a few days and left, it seems, without taking their tent, the plastic chairs, the food and drinks wrappers, the tennis rackets.... Its not known whether they'd remembered to retrieve all of their children..... I pressed on down the road, crossing the sinsiter-sounding Blood Moss and on up to bag Bibblon Hill - the boggiest and soggiest yet. And the bit between there and Middlefield Law was energy-sapping and thoroughly draining AND my pack back adjusters fell out , making the whole thing a bit of a trial to say the least. I had to stop for a brew as the wind started to rise again. The summit of Middlefield Law, Marilyn #3 welcomed me in a touselled wind-staggered state and despite the top being the most interesting so far, and with the best view, it was no place to sit and eat a soreen lunch bar or indeed a lump of Wensleydale, so I left, downhill on a good path which took me to a road, which took me to Muirkirk, which was closed and had been closed since 1963 when the gritter failed to turn up. Somebody's been trying to tart it up, but, honestly, when Scotland does decrepit, it does it really well. So I didn't stay.
Instead, I joined the River Ayrshire Way, which here follows a dismantled railway line. This provides easy walking, which is exactly what I wanted, being pushed along by a lively and very wet gale. An unnamed little beck in what we might call a gill in the more Danish parts of England, or a clough, or a cleuch. Anyway it was a lovely spot, in sight of the A70, nicely sheltered and, as it turned out, full of healthy-looking slugs who all wanted entrance to the Laser Comp. I spent most waking hours flicking them off the tent, removing them from boots, my cup, the inner tent and my elbow. I swear that the one on my elbow was going for the throat. Very...slowly....
It rained all night and it was still raining as I left for more of the railway line, ending up at Glenbuch Loch. I abandoned the idea of climbing Hareshaw Hill in favour of a more dangerous, but sheltered scutter along the A70. Roadworks meant that the traffic came in lumps, so , most of the time, quiet progress was made and, sometimes, I could walk along the railway line although it was overgrown and the grass was wet. At Monksfoot Bridge, I took to the hills and followed a track to Low Broomerside, which was inhabited by just a goat - and then, back to the familiar tussocks and bog. But the sun was now shining and a brew in the sun was almost idyllic. I recrossed the railway and descended through some rather nice woodland, with litter (to prove that the public was allowed to go there) - to a road which took me back to Douglas and the pie shop who sold me a very large sausage roll, some coffee and a huge lump of wholemeal bread. There's more stuff on the list before I start to get more sociable again.....