Landscape by Keith Ratcliffe © 2010
Cambusbarron Quarry is a short walk ( Or drive on lazy days ) from where I live so it is inevitable that it is frequently visited, an hour here can recharge the cells for several days.
The following encounters are an attempt to capture the variety of experiences that I have had on my visits.
Climbers 1 – An avid, intent pair of route chasers clutch a print out of the latest project on these short intense walls of Dolerite. They avoid me and huddle around the route description and their rucksack full of gear until I am at a safe distance. An hour later and they have begun the siege of the bolt line that picks out their goal.
Climbers 2 - Wednesday is play day at Uni – tradition dictates that it is a sports day and this week sees a group assembled in the quarry about to partake of their rock based recreation. I can tell they are a Uni club – age yes but no helmets gives it away – a youth or paying group would have to wear hard hats. Two routes are set up for top roping and the protagonists are working out the moves as I stop to picture them. As I arrive at the edge of the crag near them I look over and watch one of them – curly haired youth – as he jams to the top and leans back on the rope shaking out his hands in that characteristic gesture of completion. A few metres right and a stud-nosed lass responds with surprise to my appearance. “Uni?” I say “ Aye - Stirling “ she says in pure Yorkshire as she leans back and disappears back down. E1 5b the guide says – perhaps next summer I say.
Dogs 1 - This man made edifice is not beautiful but it has beautiful views and the late afternoon sun is casting some interesting long shadows down below. A horse and some trees in a field occupy my viewfinder attention for a while so that I fail to notice a man with a couple of dogs who has arrived next to me. I pull way from the camera and say hello to my new companion. He comments on the way the water looks like a sheet of plastic and I offer him a view through the camera with the polarising filter attached – he is in wonderment at the different effects produced by rotating the filter. He turns out to be a wealth of information and recommends visits to Polmaise Castle & the burial ground as interesting locations in the quarry. He also tells me that the quarry is about to be re-opened for extraction and that several areas will be fenced off over the next few weeks as the lorries move in. Watch out for red blasting flags and sirens in future. We part with my intention to look at the long shadows and his need to pick up his granddaughter from school.
Dogs 2 – An inquisitive spaniel bursts out of the undergrowth to take up a challenging stance a few metres in front of me. He is closely followed by a belligerent Jack Russell who yaps at me until a commanding voice silences him. A grey haired lady in wellies advises me to ignore them both and informs me that there are five more canines to account for. They appear one by one in cast order – a proud Westie, another spaniel – older, wiser & slower than the first, two white labradors – all tails and fuss and finally a Border Collie intent on a scent trail and oblivious to me. One whistle suits all as she regroups her charges and sets off down hill.
Ghost Riders – Everywhere you look there are bike tracks and constructions for bikers to use – yet there are no bikers. When do they appear – does it require a full moon? – or is it a summer sun activity? A mystery unsolved so far.
Polmaise – Rhododendrons everywhere and no way through, where is this ruined house once known as Polmaise Castle. Eventually the shiny leaves thin out and the jumble of masonry appears. Large beams, lots of chimneys and some sections of wall are all slowly being overgrown by moss & briar. One fine group announces the date of its build – alas no date is obvious for its demise. An improvised bench with some empty cans & a recent fire imply that it is still a meeting place for people but who knows what parties & gatherings it hosted in its hey day. I was told that the cemetary was a wealth of information about the Murray family who owned the Castle but when I finally locate it there is dissappointment – it has been cleared and only one stone remains.
Students – “ After a few years this moss appears as one of the first re-colonising plants” So says the college lecturer as he guides his students round the quarry. Forth Valley College Geography has a field day.
Deer – my noisy tramp to the cliff edge to find the descent route ends with a good view point out to the Carse and the Braes of Doune windfarm – with a strong stand of silver birch trees in the foreground this makes a nice image. My presence alerts a deer on the quarry floor below me. She looks up for a few moments – a silent tableau in the silver trunked trees – she then turns away and melts away into them, her white rump the only discernable feature for a while then nothing but pure camouflage.
The area is currently threatened by a number of developments and the "Save Gillie's Hill" campaign has been working to oppose these for the good of the Stirling Community please support it!
© Keith Ratcliffe
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