There is always something a bit unpredictable about the more unused country roads. The Fatdog and I were only 15 minutes from Stirling, but driving along the little used single track road past Earls Hill towards Carronbridge we were treated to a potted display of local wildlife. Thankfully this was not the pancake flat and mostly unidentifiable version that one normally associates with rural roads, but the very much alive, kicking and desperate to move out of the way variety that you only catch a glimpse of for a few fascinating seconds.
Two totally unconcerned female pheasants wandered across in front of the car before flapping onto a low dry-stane boundary wall. Seconds later, off to our right, the long curved beak of a curlew could be seen sweeping over the adjacent moorland.
I swerved to avoid yet another pothole. A harsh winter and years of neglect are taking their toll on the remote country roads in the area making every expedition a potential car repair. I’m rather glad to have the big 4×4.
A big hare loped onto the tarmac, looked in puzzlement at the (by now) not so fast approaching “Tank”, then successfully squeezed itself through an impossibly small gap in the wall. I stared in disbelief. How…?
It was a busy part of the world.
We’d had to pull out yesterday’s walk up a couple of Tyndrum Corbetts with a few of the ScottishHills mob as it clashed with the birthday celebrations for “The Bleating Sheep”. The weather forecast for today suggested a poorer afternoon, so instead of chancing the hills we opted for a bit of a rest and a spot of local geocaching.
Scouring Google Earth I noticed a couple of geocaches up a forestry track in the hills just west of Stirling, ideal Fatdog walking territory, with maybe a bit of a view thrown in. It was to be a walk of some 6.5km…a tiddler by our normal standards.
There’s not much to tell about the walk through the forestry plantation to the baldy top referred to on the OS maps as Touchadam Muir – lots of trees and the odd dilapidated lookout tower…though what they were supposed to look out over is a mystery to me. Once the trees grow a bit you can’t see very far. Maybe someone will enlighten me.
We discovered the first geocache GC1FAH8 Purple promenade in what I suspect was an old quarry for winning stone for the track we were walking on. There were a number of these shallow excavations along the side of the track. The track had obviously been built some time ago with the old quarries becoming naturalised. Sadly the wee plastic box had been leaking and the log was damp but I dried it out as best I could before continuing upwards.
Eventually we broke out of the trees and onto the more open moorland near the top of the hill. This is where we came across the crossbill sitting on a wee conifer. I hadn’t a clue what it was at the time other than it looked like, with its hooked beak, a cross between a starling and a parrot. I also couldn’t see it’s colour very well as I was looking into the light though I thought I could see yellow on it’s back. I took a number of optimistic photos, inching closer as I snapped. It eventually reckoned I was a bit too close and flew off, accompanied by a couple of others that I hadn’t spotted.
I almost missed the second cache because of the excitement. GCQH2T Find the Flag
On a good day the view from this spot would have been superb, giving a wide angle view east down the Forth Valley towards the estuary. Today it was a bit dull and grey with cloud building above the Ochils and as a result we could only see as far as the chemical towers of Grangemouth.
In the foreground the nearby crags of Lewis Hill and Gillies Hill brought back good memories of geocaching trips within the past 6 months, both providing an excellent afternoon’s walking.
Job done we strolled back down the track to the car. We now had found as many geocaches as Munros we had climbed. Not a particularly meaningful statistic I must admit.