Sunday, 10 June 2012

The Start of my Journey

The Start of My Journey

As I begin my journey with John Muir, what better way to start than to do what he would have done and take a walk on the wild side.

I contacted the Ochil’s Landscapes Partnership and booked myself on my first walk, a heritage walk no less starting from The Inn at Muckart, walking down an ancient medieval route to Dollar passing through Vicars Bridge, Rumbling Bridge, Pitgober, and back at The Inn to complete the walk

The Inn

It was a guided walk led by Roger Pickering of Forth Pilgrim who from his extensive knowledge and understanding of the ancient routes added such a flavour to the walk and made it much more interesting and interactive.

With My John Muir hat on I asked myself what would John do?. How would he have enjoyed and taken in the day. The first priority get as far away from built up areas as is possible, so with further ado the walk began, turning right passed the Inn, crossing the road walking approx. 500 meters where upon we came upon the start of the ancient route. I felt very much part of an adventure of discovery, I had not come this way before, I did not know the area, was all new to me and for me lay undiscovered.

I decided to wear a mental new pair of glasses, to begin to see things in a different way use my senses to build up a picture of what I was really seeing. This was a wild place simply because if its age and ancient route way used humans to travel, to herd sheep and cattle and used to connect them to rest of the local area

It was wild too because of the Flora and Fauna. Ancient trees stood to line the route for us to beckon us to come explore me, Scots Pine, Sycamore, Copper Beach, Green Beach, Hawthorn with their tall structures reaching to the sky with their gnarled branches twisting weaving into contorted shapes, with their leave colours bright greens and coppers, yellows filling my mind with colour and vibrant aliveness

I could almost hear John whispering in my ear “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks

As we walked Roger began to tell us about Hollow Ways. Hollow ways by definition are

A sunken lane (also hollow way or Holloway) is a road which has over time fallen significantly lower than the land on either side. They are created incrementally by erosion, by water and traffic.

Simply put a Hollow way would of started 1000’s of years ago as a path level on both sides. Over time through human animal and natural erosion this path would have been worn down to the extent that what you were left with was a bank on both sides been formed naturally with a sunken path lined by ancient trees almost creating a tunnel of invitation for the walker.

Some of these were naturally made over time but occasionally there were artificially made ones, created by farmers to enable them to move their flocks from one part of their land to another safely.

We discovered both types as we walked along and as the walk continued almost as if by natural occurrence I began to explore the area I was walking in taking in the sights sounds the lively birdsong, the flight of the pheasant, the suspended caterpillar, the fallen baby chaffinch from its nest, the newly born calves, the bleating of the sheep, nature is alive and going on all around me and again I heard John’s voice in my head whispering “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.

As we continued our walk crossing Hole Burn, listening to the sound of the stream as we went I found myself speaking about John Muir to the rest of the group, sharing what I have learned listening to other people share their experiences with me and feel connected by our common purpose. We are indeed all connected in some way, at its amazing what you can learn as you walk along.

We stopped for a break at

Vicars Bridge

Sadly the picture shown was taken prior to 1950. In 1950 the original bridge tumbled crumbled and collapsed and was not replaced sympathetically. The council saw fit to replace it with a concreted monstrosity which in my opinion has ruined a beautiful spot.

Carrying on the final leg of our walk we passed by Muckart Mill which has been beautifully restored as a living space

Muckart Mill and Limekiln

Records of Muckhart Mill date back to 16th October 1560 on a deed as witnessed by "Henry Douglas of Muckhart Mill" for Lady Margaret Douglas of Lochleven (née Lady Margaret Erskine, mistress of King James V of Scotland, widow of Sir Robert Douglas of Lochleven, mother of Sir William Douglas of Lochleven, to whose custody Queen Mary was committed in his castle at Lochleven on 17th June 1567.[22]

Later on, the Douglas family sold the mill to Bishop James Paton text who subsequently passed ownership of the farm to Archibald Campbell, 5th Earl of Argyll in about 1571.

The Mill is grade B listed and described as "Complex building of several dates: M.I.M.1666, 1717, 1727 (internally) 1770 and 19th century alterations, including ashlar facing of wheel-pit. Comprises 3 blocks at different angles, all pantiled, disused 20' overshot wheel at N., wooden arms, cast-iron outer frame. Workings and kiln gutted, renovated as children's holiday home 1967."[23] It is believed to have one of Scotland's largest overshot waterwheels which was renovated into working condition by the current owner several years ago but is no longer in operation.

It is believed that Robert Burns would have passed by Muckhart Mill on 27th August 1787 while staying at Harvieston as recorded in his diary. "Monday.—Go to Harvieston. Go to see Caudron Linn, and Rumbling Brig, and Deil’s Mill Return in the evening."[24] While staying at Harviestoun Burns wrote 2 poems, "The Banks of the Devon" and "Fairest Maid on Devon Bank"[25] . Burns fell for the charm and beauty of Charlotte Hamilton but she was more attracted to Burns' friend, Adair whom she later married.

Adjacent to the mill lies Muckhart Mill Farmhouse, a grade B listed property described as "House single-storey and attic with swept dormers dated (17)80; later wooden porch: steading single-storey, partly with loft, pantiled and white-washed".

Further up the farm track lies a grade B listed Limekiln. Described as "Mid 19th century. Very large, about 35' high, square plan, stone-built with battered walls, 3 arched fireholes; operated by the Carron Company."[26] The Carron Company was at the forefront of the Industrial Revolution in the United Kingdom and who built the Carron iron Works in 1759.

The lime was used by local farmers as fertiliser and also used in construction of that period

Turning to face the final leg we stopped momentarily at

Rumbling Bridge

The "lower" bridge, without parapets, was built in 1713 by William Gray, a mason from Saline. It is 22 feet long and 11 feet wide and 86 feet above the average water level. However, an ancient bridge preceded this and is still (just) visible. It takes the form of a single large stone slab over the river at the very base of the gorge, so serves no advantage to vehicles, and was simply a means of crossing for pedestrians without getting their feet wet. This is impossible to date, but is probably at least 800 years old.

The second bridge or Upper Arch (120 feet above the river) was constructed 34 feet above it in 1816 and "gave it an easier gradient"[cite this quote] by removing the steep slope down to the old bridge. 1816 was a dramatic year as ... 1816. "On 18 March, happened the greatest flood ever heard of or seen in Kinross; all the burns were brimfull;"[cite this quote] and later "On 13 August a smart shock of earthquake was felt throughout Kinross at 11 o'clock at night."[cite this quote] Plates rattled on shelves; chairs moved about and were thrown over; beds shook, &c."[cite this quote] There was also a "wet and late harvest"[cite this quote] during which there was snow on four different occasions from five to six inches deep.'

Throughout the walk I took samples of local wildflowers and plants and discovered from research that I had found

Wood Sorrel, Broom, Wild Grass, Lilac, Heather, Meadow Cranesbill and Bluebell. I also found 4 different species of Rhododendron all of whom added colour to a wonderful inspiring walk.

In summary then my first excursion into the wild was amazing uplifting, informative, and captivating and in completing it I now want to do more see more and definitely I have been bitten by the bug.

Thanks to Roger who made the day so special and to my new walkers who shared the journey with me  


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