Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The Unexpected View

It's been a bit quite on the blog front recently as I've been trying to buy a house which with the best will in the world sort of knocks trips to the wilds onto the back burner. However as Easter weekend arrived with a quarter of the year already spent and too little ticked off my to do list I had to get away somewhere. 

The weather forecast for the highlands looked a bit grotty with lots of low cloud and drizzle bothering the west coast where I had been hoping to do a few days biking. Also with  finances in the forefront of my mind at the moment I'm dubious about spending £100 on petrol to go plod to the top of a cloud bound hill. A happy compromise was to go to the Southern Uplands an area I know less well and where less clag was predicted. 

I only been to the Galloway hills once in the middle of winter 2009/2010 when the whole country was in the middle of a big freeze and conditions were brutal to say the least. I managed to get up The Merrick in a blizzard, but in a big "lesson learned" day found myself as close to exhaustion as I can ever remember in the hills.

Today there is no snow on the ground and I'm heading up onto Corserine a broad rounded hill whose lower slopes are covered with thick forestry commission plantations of almost impenetrable Norwegian Pines. The plantation does make access easy as hight and distance can be quickly gained on the broad forest roads. Even this early in the year the forest feels dry and the air is surprisingly warm.

Leaving the forest behind the route leads into a large open corie and then up onto one of the ridges framing it's edge. Cloud hangs around the top of the ridge line and as I climb the temperature falls off a cliff, and soon I find myself enveloped in cloud.

 Looking west towards The Merrick

From the broad summit plateau there is little to be seen; a sea of short mossy yellow green grass extending away in all directions with a broad path leading off into the mist; after a few minutes the summit trig point comes into view, morphing into solidity from a sea of grey. 

Marching off the summit on a baring towards the Rhinns of Kells either the cloud base lifts slightly or I begin to drop out of it as suddenly through the murk I catch glimpses of hills and  hints of valleys never clear and always transient. Then suddenly through a hole in the mist two craggy peaks stand clear across the valley and appear shining silver in the sun. It's one of the moments where the image is so strong, so sudden, and so stark that gets right inside you and floors you for a minute or two.

Now with a big smile on my face I drop lower and the view opens out across the valley the cloud continues to lift to expose a quite fantastic view over the forest to The Merrick brooding over the far side of the valley. The two peaks I had initially seen form guardians to the lair of there big neighbour neatly framing a broad notch filled with shining blue lochans.

The walk over The Rhinns of Kells is fantastic, the views west and south are particularly superb, its only a short section from Corserine to Meikla Millyea but its a walk to linger over and enjoy. I love the contrast between the dark green  of the forest, the blue of the lochans, and the yellow brown of the high hills. Looking west and south it feels really wild and empty a big remote country to explore.

Looking south towards Loch Dee

From the top of Meikla Millyea I turn east away from the vast space and begin a sharp decent back to the forest followed by a quick jaunt down the forest roads to the car, but the memory is of the interior that lingers, I've got the bike, thats where I will go tomorrow.

There is some excellent biking round the forest including an epic 72km circuit I put the legs through on Sunday of which more in a week or so. Talking of bikes, tomorrow I head up to the Lake District for a leisurely coast to coast cycle, bring it on.

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