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Landscape by Keith Ratcliffe  
© 2009

 Breaking Ground

I love going to new areas – they don’t have to be particularly wild but as long as I haven’t been there before I get a sense of exploration. Today was a good example – a walk in the Moorfoot Hills South of Edinburgh.

It took an earlyish start to get round the dreaded A720 City bypass but for once I got a clean run and I was having breakfast by 8 o’clock at the start of the walk. I say breakfast, a NutraGrain bar and a cup of coffee from the flask was what it comprised but set up with this I was ready for action. I was immediately mobbed by a Lapwing (Green Plover or Peewit) and the source of its agitation was quickly apparent. A chick was right in front of me on the path so I skirted round it and left it contemplating what might have been its first human encounter.

I soon met a waymarker indicating a path that was not referred to in the walk description I had but it went roughly in the right direction so I took it and climbed steadily uphill towards the ridge that I intended to follow. As I crested a rise I could see the Trig point of Torfichen hill and a good quad track leading to it so I took the detour to collect it. For a while I have been keeping details of all the trigs I visit – this started a few years ago when I volunteered for a survey of the trigs in my local area but has now extended to any that I can visit on my walks. There was a good view of Edinburgh from the top with some ominous clouds and rain streams over the city but I thought that the weather may hold off for the morning where I was bound.

The walk was a navigational easy ride – I followed a fence all the way to the top of Blackhope Scar – the highest point in the area – then a fence back virtually to the road. That is not to say there was a good path – some vague quad tracks mixed with sheep walks and some human paths were the order of the day but it was never unpleasant. Just the opposite in fact. Birdsong was abundant hereabouts – Curlew bubbled, lapwings peewitted, skylarks performed arias and an Oystercatcher piped me aboard the summit. A great sight was that of a Golden Plover – uttering an alarm ‘peep’ and then moving ahead of me to draw me from its nest.

The summit was bedecked with another trig point – this one set in an area of dried out peat bog with the archetypal hexagon cracks. With my back to the concrete pillar I enjoy a light refreshment of malt loaf and cheese with some energy from a banana whilst contemplating the Forth estuary out to the North.

Trig Point at Blackhope Scar

The return was straightforward – another fence all the way with poor tracks for a while then a monster double groove left by a quad bike. I soon dropped off the end of the ridge and hit a gravel track that took me back up to the road. But not before I passed a superb example of a round sheep-pen typical of the Borders and then a magnificent hay barn with a Wheatear nest on its apex – an unusual site for them.

I was soon back at the car which was parked in the small space by the entrance road that leads to the farm. I am always careful to avoid blocking any access and even though a second car had joined mine there was no blockage for the residents.

No rain and no sign of people all day – well I did notice a vehicle driving up the track but too far away to make contact. Sometimes it is nice to have a walk to yourself with no distractions, particularly when you are breaking new ground – it adds to the adventure.

© Keith Ratcliffe
June 2009

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