With a weather forecast heralding the return of strong winds, sleet and snow there was no way I would be able to persuade the Fatdog to go hillwalking. I of course would have been only too delighted to have plodded uphill through the saturated gloom into a howling gale and driving snow for hour upon miserable hour, but I just couldn’t bring myself to make the Fatdog suffer. We did a bit of geocaching instead. A truly magnanimous gesture on my part, I thought, as we plodded through the saturated gloom into the howling gale and the driving snow towards the old “blue hole” water tank near to Torwood Castle.
It was never going to be a great day weather-wise. The forecast showed a swathe of rain and snow moving eastwards across the country and I saw nothing in the sky to suggest it might be otherwise. On a better day I would have walked up to Torwood from Denny via a now well established public “Right of Way” network but with today’s dodgy forecast I opted for the closer starting point of Torwood at the gap site “car park” up the right of way track from the village. This parking spot had the benefit of being only 20m from the forest trail up to the broch and more importantly the shelter of the trees should the sky turn nasty.
Although I had the coordinates for the broch cache in my GPS I didn’t need them, I had been at the broch a few times since my first visit circa1964. This forest hadn’t been planted then and the views to the Forth seen on that glorious day were now only a distant memory as the surrounding trees have blocked almost all the panorama other than a restricted view to the west. We took less than 10 minutes to reach the hilltop ruins.
There appears to have been little by way of formal excavation of the broch other than the first excavation carried out by Colonel Dundas of Carronhall (who thought it was a burial mound) in 1864 and a survey by the RCAHMS in the 1950s. The lack of Roman finds has suggested a post Roman date for the structure but I have also seen possible dates ranging from 500BC to between 1st and 2nd Roman occupations. It has a strategic position near to the line of a Roman Road which I imagine has driven thinking towards the post Roman period.
Anyway…that’s it for the history lesson, It was time to whip out the trowels with a view to putting in a trench in our quest for a post millennium plastic tub full of seriously worthless artefacts. Squeezing through the narrow masonry lined entranceway into the walled, near circular, tower beyond was very Indiana Jones, but it was to be no snake infested dusty tomb for us. Collapsed rubble and a few old beer cans left by the local “Picts”, dubbed by the Roman legionnaires as “Painus in Arsium Maximus”, welcomed us to a major site of our ancient past.
The clue said the cache was hidden at the wall opposite the entranceway. I measured the rocks for the size of crane I would require for my site clearance work and was tentatively pulling at the odd immovable object (while cursing my inability to locate, yet again, one of these cunning wee plastic boxes)…when I noticed the second entranceway. We were digging in the wrong place! This was becoming more Indiana Jones by the minute.
Minutes later I was opening my newly discovered Tupperware receptacle to see what this “Ark” contained. Thankfully my face failed to turn to instant runny play dough and I put the eerie wailing noises down to the machinations of the Fatdog’s stomach.
One cache down and one to go, Torwood Castle was to be our next stop. Southwards along the woodland trail we wandered towards our next destination. Only a few minutes from the broch I caught sight of a tree creeper as it marched its way around and up the trunk of a nearby larch. But that was to be all the wildlife we would see today. It’s only a short hop of a few hundred metres from the broch to Torwood Castle and soon we emerged from the trees onto a track where, across a field, the castle was now in full view.
Built in 1566 for the royal forester (Foresters of Garden) the building is thought to be a transition between castle and mansion. Not a lot appears to be known about the remains, the date coming from a stone panel found in a nearby wall in 1918.
Well, the cache was called Torwood Castle and as I studied the GPS the needle was definitely not pointing in that direction but a few hundred metres to the west. I had walked the paths in this area before and knew roughly where the arrow was taking us.
As we set off down the public right of way to Denny a few flakes of snow bounced off the Fatdog’s head. The trees obscured the sky to the west but I guessed this was the start of the promised snow.
The second cache of the day proved to be as interesting as the first but for very different reasons. I don’t want to give too much away but where the first cache had been “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, cache number 2 was more “I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here”!
I’ve to do “WHAT”, was my first thought, closely followed by “YUCK” as my second! Nothing for it…it was roll the sleeves up time. I’m not going to tell how easy…or how difficult… it was to find the wee plastic box but I’m smiling at the prospect of future visitors quaking in fear and disgust! Then it snowed…heavily!
For our last visit of the day we were heading a few hundred metres south, not to find a cache but to visit a tank. Not just any old tank but a tank where the water stays a vibrant shade of blue. Situated in a break in the forest created for major overhead power lines, this circular brick lined tank of some 4m in diameter was created for purposes now unknown but is an oddity visited religiously by those who have heard of it.
Its isolated position, well away from any habitation, coupled with its strange colour gives it a sense of mystery and a puzzle to be solved. But the puzzle could wait. The snow was by now horizontal in the strengthening wind and it was time for me and the Fatdog to head for home and sample another of Tryst Brewery’s ales.