On the Old Drove Road

05 Jan

Yesterday, the last day of my Christmas hols, I took the notion to attempt a wee walk from the house towards Denovan and from there up to Torwood Castle and the ancient broch.  The route followed the remains of an old drove road, part of the network of trails over which cattle were driven from various parts of the country to market in the Falkirk area.  The Tryst (market), less than a mile from our house, began sales in 1785 but by about 1900 had been made superfluous by the railways.  The Tryst common land still exists and fairground attractions still visit on an annual basis mimicking their 19C sideshow counterparts.

The Statistical Account of 1841 threw up an interesting comment about the rise in public houses in Larbert associated with the Tryst market.

It is much to be lamented, that the number of houses licensed for the sale of spirits is so great; and there can de no doubt that the habitual use of ardent spirits has had a most injurious effect upon the morals of the people. The magistrates have endeavoured to check the increase of these houses; but the use of this alcoholic spirit, namely, whisky, is by no means diminished.

Suppose I’d better keep quiet about this as it could have a seriously injurious effect on local house prices.

Ice rutted pavements that had never seen a teaspoon of salt made for a treacherous beginning as The Fatdog and I slipped and slithered our way from the house westwards along the Bellsdyke Road in the direction of the new hospital site.  Two weeks of frozen compacted snow, with only a couple of minor ice generating thaws, had created a solid hummocky surface operating on the slip or trip principle.  Even my trusty old 3 season Raichle boots were struggling to grip other than at the untrodden edges of the footpaths.

It was a relief to reach the gate at the start of the drove road.  No traffic-compacted lethal surface from now on…I thought, somewhat mistakenly as it turned out.  It took a further 50m of triple axles, backflips and Beilman spins before we eventually reached some snow crust to crunch through to keep us upright.

With the new hospital to the left and the motorway to the right our journey begins in earnest

This was not the most attractive part of the walk, but it was vehicle free.  With the new hospital buildings to our left and the M876 motorway to our right this section of our expedition was one to be tolerated, not savoured.

crossing the motorway

Crossing the motorway overbridge we moved away from the modern road network to something much older.  It was not hard to imagine this trail, now only visited by occasional farm vehicles, packed with hairy mooing beasts and their unkempt drovers.  Lined by the rotting remains of ancient trees and crumbling old dry stane dykes time has taken its toll, but there is a special feel to this forgotten track, an echo of an era long forgotten.  Take away the modern fencing and you could easily drop back a century or so.

beginning to move back in time

Lined by the rotting remains of ancient trees and crumbling old dry stane dykes time has taken its toll

The views to the south and west were hazy in the sharp chill of sub-zero temperatures.  The sun pushed hard against the patchwork of cloud but struggled to make significant headway other than in short bursts of a few seconds, before quickly fading back to watery yellow/grey.

Remarkably straight these old drover trails

We had to take a detour.  Our planned “right of way” took a branch off to our right through fields.  I had just steered The Fatdog in that direction when I spotted a group of stomping, jacket clad, horses blocking our route.  Rather than risk their big toothed wrath we continued to follow the last identifiable section of drove road downwards to Denovan.  Two white bummed deer gave us our wildlife bonus for the day bounding away through the trees away from the bouncing Fatdog who was showing unaccustomed enthusiasm for pursuit…well sort of.  She did bounce though…albeit on the spot!

Overexcited by all the "bouncing" The Fatdog buried her head in the snow to calm down

Unfortunately the change of route meant a mad skittering dash along a short section of narrow winding country road before any maniac drivers came careering around the bends on the white glass surface.  I was glad to reach the “right of way” sign at Denovan Church taking us once more away from a trafficked road.  But we now had to endure a few hundred metres of death defying ascent of icy farm track.  By this time I was beginning to wish I’d packed the Spiders.

Very soon we were back on our intended route and heading for Torwood via another right of way trail alongside Pamphelgoat Wood, with its views south across Denny to the start of the hills behind.

Walking along this route you get the feeling a million eyes are watching your every move

Looking towards Denny and the hills beyond

The view SW over the fields

As we did a year ago, we visited the “blue tank”, took a snap of nearby Torwood Castle then followed the narrow trail through Tor Wood to Tappoch, the Pictish broch sitting on a low hilltop overlooking the carse land below.

The "Blue" tank

Torwood Castle

The Broch

Alas from there it was down to the busy A9 and a nervy 15 minute walk on a narrow ice crusted footpath alongside noisy traffic before reaching the relative safety of wider pavements inside the Larbert 40mph boundary.  It had been a walk of some 11km, taking us just over two and a half hours of indelicate skidding and crunching.

Route Map

The route is shown in blue


Posted by on January 5, 2010 in My Local Area


7 responses to “On the Old Drove Road

  1. fenlander

    January 6, 2010 at 7:21 am

    Evocative words and pictures. A beautiful and inspiring post.
    Happy New Year to you all.

  2. fatdogwalks

    January 6, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    Thanks Robin 😀

    A bit more sedate countryside than my usual…but not a bad day for a walk. Infuriatingly, I keep missing the really good sunny days. The past two walks have either been the day before or the day after. I’m trying not to be grumpy about it though. 😆

  3. annienz

    January 6, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    I enjoyed reading, as always! Did you ever find out more about the Blue Pool? Particularly like the long view photos looking straight down the drover’s road. And Maisie with snow on her face!!! LOL


  4. fatdogwalks

    January 6, 2010 at 9:28 pm

    Annie: Here is the ongoing investigation at a web site belonging to Nigel Turnbull. As coincidence would have it I went to school with Nigel’s younger brother. Be prepared for a lot of reading.

    There was a discussion about it here

    last year

  5. Linda

    January 8, 2010 at 2:29 pm

    Hi Ken

    Lovely pics as usual 🙂

    Looks like Maisie is enjoying the snow even if most of us aren’t!

    Interesting reading regarding the Blue Pool. I wonder if they will ever find out its true purpose?

  6. chezwillis

    January 9, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    Wonderful pictures. Normally I would be quite jealous of all the snow, but I think for a change we can match you down here 🙂

    I guess you are sticking closer to home for the time being?

  7. fatdogwalks

    January 9, 2010 at 2:32 pm

    Hi Linda 😀 Maisie really enjoys the snow, in fact we’re just back from Callander Park in Falkirk where she had a long “chase the ball” session whih seemed to involve a lot of “snowploughing” on her part 😆

    I think it’ll be a while before the secret of the blue pool is eventually discovered. I’m not convinced of the mineshaft theory – mainly because I can see a couple of pipes leading into it from the high side. This would suggest someone wanted water running into it – not something you would want with a mineshaft.

    Also to fill a mineshaft in completely such that water is held would take an awful lot of material and there is no sign of excavation nearby or vehicle tracks for bringing infill to the site. My experience of mine shafts is that they are normally covered by a wooden raft then backfilled – something which would not have held water. Generally water disappears down old mine shafts.

    Water tank seems the best bet so far – but for what?

    Hi Paul 😀 good to hear from you again.

    I’ve seen the snow on telly from your part of the world – impressive. Bet that came as a bit of a shock. Looking forward to seeing some photos with snow on your blog – do you intend to take a hike through it…or are your roads at a standstill?

    It’s been snowing here again today but only a trickle, it does however feel a few degrees warmer – so it must be about 0 degrees 😆 !

    Too much snow on the mountains for me and FD. I don’t mind a few hundred metres at the top but all day either slipping or wading has no appeal whatsoever. We’ll start up again on the lower hills once we get a thaw at the lower levels and gradually work our way up to the bigger ones by March – hopefully.


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