The Fatdog’s Century

I’m not going to pretend I was looking forward to White Coomb, because I wasn’t.  I was expecting it to be boring.  This is probably very unfair of me given I’ve never walked in the Southern Uplands…but I’ve always thought of the hills there as being dull compared with their northerly cousins.  The view from road level reminds me of travel sickness as a youngster.  Every time we travelled south along those narrow rolling roads; through green rolling hills; my desperately rolling stomach complained bitterly.   It’s funny how some things stick in your mind…even after almost 50 years.

Anyway, I’d picked White Coomb because it was easy.  As far as I could make out from what others had written there were no fences and no signs telling dogs to “Sod Off!”.  Given I’ve never met a dog who can read, I’m not sure how useful these signs actually are.  The Fatdog swears she can’t read but I’ve never seen her visit the “Gents” by accident. 

So…an easy hill and no obvious obstacles thus making it a prime candidate for a pair of hill walkers whose capabilities are becoming increasingly variable as time wears on.  After years of putting off walks because my legs weren’t quite right I’ve finally caged that demon.  Early retirement is a grand thing: I’m now more relaxed about the leg situation and just head out regardless.  I must point out however, that his is not necessarily the cleverest decision I’ve come to in the past few years but it can add a certain frisson to proceedings. 

While I’ve been hobbling off and on this month The Fatdog has been doing likewise.  Like me, she seems to have good days and bad days…but never a bad day when a hill walk is on the cards…funny that.  So, today’s big question was – while there was a good chance we would make it up the hill…would we make it back down?

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The Grey Mare's Tail car park - the ascent path can be seen crossing the hill opposite

From the Grey Mare’s Tail car park the path up the east side of the waterfall was clearly visible – as were the sheep.  That meant the lead for Maisie and at least an hour of me being yanked up the hill by an enthusiastic Fatdog.  She does like her hillwalking.  But fate opted to intervene in the shape of four other travellers with whom we were to meet up fairly regularly on the ascent.  We let the four man sheep plough head up in front and clear the trail of the woolly munchers who, on cue, disappeared into the deep bracken muttering as they went.  This allowed Maisie to be de-hitched and me to insert my right arm back into its socket.

The Grey Mare's Tail

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The Fatdog waits patiently as the "sheep plough" clears the trail in front

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Other critters inhabit these hills

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While The Fatdog doesn't mind goats cheese...she reckons goat pie would be a far superior dish

As we moved past the gorge formed by the waterfall the gradient eased and the terrain either side of the winding path became more lumpy.  We had passed our human sheep repellent having a break some minutes before and had now reached the southern edge of Loch Skeen.  What a view!  We had a short break for numerous photos.  Our “not quite” travelling companions caught up and kindly took a shot of The Fatdog and I at this most stunning of locations.

We reach the most scenic part of the walk...Loch Skeen

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The tail end of the "sheep plough" disappears round the bend - Lochcraig Head in the background

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Ain't that pretty!

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Loch Skeen

There was a near reluctance to move on.  While this section of the walk had been a pleasure I was aware the next section taking us to the foot of Lochcraig Head would be less so…and it proved to be a lot less so.  Here’s a view looking down on it from Lochcraig Head.  The “path” led along the loch side (left hand side as you look at the photo).  But what lay to the east were the peat hags.  Now there’s terrain you really don’t want to have to cross.

Walking "Hell" to the left of the photo

It was wet.

It was muddy.

It was up and down.

It was treacherous underfoot.

It was hell.

…and that was just the path, such as it was.

A couple of times we headed away from the loch edge to find a route to the wall that we could see in the distance beyond the bog.  If there was a path we managed to miss it and so kept stumbling back to the shore and towards the rising grassy ground at the end of the loch.  We must have been a couple of hundred metres from the end of the mire when my right leg, which had been a bit dodgy all week, flailed due to a misstep down a hollow in the peat and twinged alarmingly.  I discovered that hobbling and bog trotting are two functions which to not marry well together.

I briefly considered the options.  It didn’t take long.  Although we were only one third into the walk there was no way I was going back along that loch side with a dodgy leg.  It would be much easier biting the bullet and making the relatively easy climb up the south slope of Lochcraig Head and complete the planned round, limping or otherwise.  As it happened the ache eased off (as it nearly always does) and we carried out a ponderous rising traverse across the south face of Lochcraig Head until we reached the stone wall which we would follow across the top of the hill.  There we met up with the sheep plough who had managed to find a way through the bog to meet the wall at a lower level.

The "sheep plough" forges on up the steep grassy slope towards the east spur of Lochcraig Head

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The Fatdog introduces herself to (from left to right) Ed, Mick and Des

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Looking back down the length of the wall to the bog below

While The Fatdog scampered up the hill behind her new found friends I was left to plod behind, contemplating how much easier I used to find ascents.  I was grateful when the gradient eased on reaching the hills east spur.

The view east (looking back down the east spur) was amazing - sadly the photo doesn't do it justice

The top of Lochcraig Head is a rounded lump but a wander south from the summit allows a good view down onto Loch Skeen (earlier photo showing the extent of the bog).  From here the plan was to head for White Coomb via the summits of Firthybrig Head, Donald’s Cleuch Head and Firthhope Rig.   From now on it would be about following the wall which joined up the various tops.

Ed on Firthybrig Head with Lochcraig Head in the background.

After the steep…ish drop from Lochcraig Head followed by the brief ascent of Firthybrig Head, it was time for lunch.  This is the point where the sheep plough made its first mistake of the day.  Billy, Des, Ed and Mick sat down beside me and FD and opened their rucksacks…

…the Fatdog enjoyed lunch.

Deprived of lunch by the ravenous Fatdog the hungry "snow plough" decide they're as well pushing on to White Coomb

It was a gentle amble from our lunch spot on Firthybrig Head, across the intervening bumps, to White Coomb.  In fact it was so gentle I was surprised by our sudden arrival at the summit and kept looking around for the rest of the ascent.  Where the hell had it gone?  There has to be more!

My puzzlement was set aside.  The Fatdog had completed her 100th Marilyn and was, most charitably, treated to a round of applause by the unfortunate lunch-less sheep plough.

The Fatdog's 100th Marilyn!

We picked up a trail which followed a wall leading us back downhill via Rough Crags (White Coomb’s east spur) to the Tail Burn.  It was, in parts, a steep descent.

The Fatdog watches the "sheep plough" scuttle off down the easy slope to Rough Crags - still wondering if there is anything edible left in the rucksacks that she'd missed

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Des contemplates the steeper section of Rough Crags

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Time out for Billy and Mick after the steep section of Rough Crags

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The last shot looking back up Rough Crags before the crossing of the Tail Burn

That only left a wee spot of paddling across Tail Burn to be done before taking the main path down past the Grey Mare’s Tail back to the car.  The burn crossing resulted in soggy bums for those who opted to splash across with their boots and gaiters on.  Des and I opted to remove the footwear, roll up the trouser legs and paddle sedately across the 3m wide stream.  A very sensible…and dry…solution.  The Fatdog ambled across totally nonplussed by the whole experience.

Almost back at The Tank

It had been a leisurely stroll taking us less than 6 hours in total.  This included tea stops, lunch and a lot of blethering.  The sun shone for the whole walk and as a result I have a line across my forehead where the sunburn ended and the bandana began, but it would be churlish to complain given the paucity of decent days this past few weeks.

Route shown in green

So, rather than being bored by our first foray into the Southern Uplands, I thoroughly enjoyed our amble around the White Coomb circuit.  As a result I’m actually looking forward to our future trips down the M74.  Wonder what we’ll do next?

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For Those Who Like Photos – Here’s the Flickr Slide Show.  😀

Once you’ve started the slideshow – click the icon in the bottom right corner to see the slide show FULL SIZE – definitely worth it.  😀

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My thanks to Sheila who discovered this little gem of a code.

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16 thoughts on “The Fatdog’s Century”

  1. I’m not surprised you’re looking forward to a return trip if that’s what the weather’s like in that neck of the woods. Cracking summery photies.

    Hope Maisie got a special Commemorative Biscuit.

    🙂

    1. We haven’t had many days like that recently Scott. Having looked at the reports on scottishhills.com first I think these hills are left until bad weather and done as a last resort. Shame…some good walking and scenery.

      I think a commemorative biscuit might be a bit too brief as a keepsake…although more greatly appreciated than a new collar, for example. 😀

  2. Cracking photos. The lesser known hills are sometimes the best, they may lack the grandeur but they more than make up for it with solitude and new horizons.

    Enough of that flannel – love the photos of Maisie – not so sure about you Ken 🙂

    Andy

    1. This is one of the busier hills because of the Grey Mare’s Tail, Andy. I reckon the rest will be fairly quiet though. There were 3 separate groups/individuals and that was a Thursday. It was actually more people than I’ve bumped into in a while come to think of it.

      I had to plead to be allowed into those photos…very undignified.

  3. The goat pie pic of Maisie is a cracker.You`d love to get inside that head to see what`s going on.If anything 🙂
    I like the odd trundle down to the Border hills myself.Nice short drive and peace and quiet.You should try Galloway Ken.The Loch Enoch,Mullwharchar area is one of my favourites in the whole of Scotland.The Merrick itself shouldn`t be too taxing on the two of you…nice big path up to the summit . Certainly easier on the legs than that bogfest around Loch Skeen by the sound of it 🙂

    1. I looked inside that head once via the left ear…there was a Bonio looking back out at me.

      I’ve still to get down to the south west Alex but I’m certainly looking forward to it after that trip. They have some fantastic names for hills/features in that part of the world. Rig of the Jarkness etc.

  4. Great stuff Ken. I enjoyed reading that. After my tale of daring do on White Coomb I’m surprised that you thought that it might be easy. Well done on getting round. And on preventing Maisie from eating all the pies.

    1. I seem to recall your wee trip to White Coomb was done on one of those days in winter when I wouldn’t even tackle the road in, never mind tackle multiple hills! 😆 Anyway you cheated and took Will with you who probably carried you most of the way whilst running through 3′ of snow.

      Sadly she ate all the pies…and all the sandwiches…and all the rucksacks…and…

  5. Looks like an absolute cracker. Really like the slideshow. I could mebbe make there for a day’s walk, if I get up early….hmmmmm…?

    1. I thoroughly recommend this wee walk Mark…when the sun is shining. Worth waiting for, other than the bog that is.

      Linking to that flickr slideshow allows the photos to be seen…BIG! So glad Sheila discovered how to to it. It would have taken me years before I might have stumbled across it. 😀

  6. Kenny enjoyed your Blog and the great pictures. Sadly I missed the goats which I had hoped to see, Maise didn’t eat them did she? We enjoyed both your company and your friendly attitude to 4 English blokes wandering over the border. I will certainly visit the borders again. On the friday we did Broad Law and Cramalt Craig from the Meggett Stone( parking for two cars) no view though and we got very very wet just as well thursday was a lovely day. I will send you a picture of Maise and the three other lads on the top of White Comb.

    By the way I can recomend Loch Enoch and the Merrick we camped their a couple of years ago and were blown away by the scenery.

    1. Great to see you found the blog Mick. 😀 Hope you and the lads didn’t mind being referred to as the “sheep plough” 😉 . You actually walked past the goats! They were on the slope on the other side of the falls about the same level as the path you were walking up.

      Both Maisie and I thoroughly enjoyed walking with the 4 of you – I’m glad you didn’t mind us tagging along. It was a grand day out. Thanks for sending the photos 😀 Looks like I’ll have to take a trip down to The Merrick, the scenery looks tremendous. Alf looks a character and a half!

  7. You picked a cracking day for it Ken.One bonus of the Southern Uplands is better weather,less people and more grassy ridges instead of knee deep heather.They do begin to grow on you after a while.Glad you enjoyed it.
    I,ve started taking daily Glucosamine tablets now for my joints and flexability as I could hardly get out the car back at my house after Arran I was so trashed .Each Bloody tablet is the size of a small country though.
    I,ll probably choke to death in a few months but in a supple manner.

    1. I’ll let you try some of Maisie’s tablets if those don’t do the trick, Bob. 😆 The vet has put her on medication for early stage arthritis. The wee pills would work just fine on your joints. :D. After her first tablet (yesterday) she was moving at twice the speed. Unfortunately this meant I had to move at twice the speed!

  8. Beautiful pics as always and a tale amusingly told. Nice work with the wee slideshow.
    As has been said – a fantastic pic of FD contmplating goat pie, though it’s a wonder that she would have room for a goat along with all the lunches! 😉

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