Stuc a' Chroin and Ben Vorich

Stuc a' Chroin and Ben Vorich

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Wednesday 21 February - a perfect day

The Frandy Burn was low today so we easily stepped across the ice-free rocks at the usual place and headed out of the shadow and into the sun, eventually following our customary route upwards by the Inner Burn. Once on the broad, gently rising ridge leading to Mailer's Knowe a completely unnecessary sign points to Ben Shee. If you need this sign you probably should be walking in a park.

Someone studying their map and planning a trip here could be forgiven for thinking that there is dense tree cover on these slopes but it's mostly relatively new planting by the Woodland Trust which owns this part of the Ochils. The walking is open with unobstructed views, as you can see below.

The open slopes leading to Mailer's Knowe. Click to enlarge all photos
Despite having walked in these hills regulary for a huge chunk of our lives (I first climbed Ben Cleuch when nine) there are still many nooks and crannies that remain unknown to us. Often these are small glens striking only a few kilometres into the hillsides providing alternative, pathless, tussocky ways, rarely, if ever, used to reach the tops; sometimes no doubt they will prove to be nothing more than short diversions from the day's main objective but either way, I'm sure they will be of interest. They may even prove useful material for that rarest of things of late - a post on this blog.

I've a hankering to explore two of these 'unknown' places in the vicinity of today's walk. They are the two small glens whose burns cradle Middle Hill: Middlehill Burn and the unnamed burn below the western slopes of the hill. We have walked, both in ascent and descent, the third burn which meets this unnamed stream and whose source is just a few metres east of point 442m on the long broad ridge which leads from Skythorn Hill to the road near Backhills.

But back to today's walk.

At the boulder on Scad Hill we considered an ascent of Tarmangie Hill but rejected the idea in favour of Skythorn and a circuit back to the car. Seems to me that we often have this debate with the same outcome.

The final slopes to Scad Hill

The boulder with its frozen moat. A favourite place and favourite isolated boulder.

The walk from Scad Hill by Cairnmorris Hill (a mere bump and off picture). Andrew Gannel Hill ahead, Ben Cleuch distant

It was cold so we moved fast to get out of the wind - as you can see from the above photograph  there's no shelter here - but as we approached the stile and then Skythorn Hill (a minor rise in the picture above) things became more benign.

Tarmangie Hill from near the stile. Typical grassy terrain in the Ochils

We spotted two other walkers, a rare event, as we descended from Skythorn but they had vanished down to Backhills by the time we reached the point on the ridge near the source of unnamed burn mentioned earlier. We on the other hand stopped for lunch, enjoyed some Lapsang Souchong and the growing strength of the sun in our faces. But we had a final hill to cross so eventually stirred ourselves, somewhat reluctantly.

Now, Frandy Moss is a bog but a pleasant one if you know the route through it (and we do) so the last unmarked top of the day was quickly reached via the familiar ATV track. The 500m top is an excellent view point.

From near the 500m point looking to the slopes of Middle Hill (centre) and behind, the long broad ridge of Mailer's Knowe etc with Tarmangie peaking over it

A short distance above the track by the Frandy we enjoyed yet more time sitting in the sun finishing off our food before the lovely walk back to the car. Not a particulary long day (about 12km) but it was indeed a perfect one among our friendly hills.

The 1:50 000 map omits the names of many burns in the Ochils including Middlehill Burn. The route shown across Frandy Moss is not precise

Note: I expect I've posted about this walk before, perhaps more than once. Sorry if it's repetitive!

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Tuesday 20 February - Some hills north of Glendevon

There was a time when Ben Trush (OS Thrush), Green Law, Sim's Hill and John's Hill could be approached easily by the Cadger's Path (Borland Glen), the Glendevon Youth Hostel's small car park providing a convenient starting point. A house now stands on the YH site and the small car park has been absorbed by its driveway. A walk down the busy A823 from Castlehill Reservoir's parking spot and then a loop via the quiet hamlet of Burnfoot is now one of two routes to the former YH start. Apart from the A832 bit it's a pleasant enough walk.

Today though we chose the second option, one which I never imagined walking even in my wildest nightmares: via the appalling Green Knowes Windfarm. Not only did we use the access road but passed under the massive turbines to drop down to the glen. The noise was horrendous, the whole place an abomination. Our intial intention was to cut over Ben Trush's south shoulder into Borland Glen but the turbines are almost as close when in the glen, the noise not much less (or so I thought) so I kept walking up the access road. Lynne was a bit behind watching some roe deer on the other side of Eastplace Burn so was not consulted!

I was wrong about the noise. It was almost unbearable: howling, screeching, whistling, whining, grinding. If you think this is 'green' then you're colourblind. I took a photograph of part of the once lovely route by the wall from Ben Trush's cairn and could have wept.

Passing between two turbines we gained the Cadger's quickly and were soon on the gentle slopes of Green Law, the change in our mood palpable, the feeling of well-being restored.

These are lonely hills, not often visited even from Corb Glen which is easily accessed from the Dunning road. We have been regular wanderers in this area for over thirty years and have watched the wreck shown below turn from a fairly intact turqoise-coloured vehicle to the present heap of rust. It has, as Lynne said, almost attained sculpture status, though it's as unwelcome here now as it was when it first was dumped. There's a second one near Sim's Hill which has been there for about twenty years I think. Why?


It's been a cold snowy winter up here, by recent standards at any rate, and although these modest heights had lost their snow cover, spring felt a long way away in the chill wind. After lunch on John's Hill's sunny slopes, where spring did not seem such a distant prospect, we quickly returned to the glen and the stroll down the grassy path.

A short climb through thick grasses led to a wall which we followed to the small cairn on Ben Trush. We turned to face south rather than look at the first of the turbines straight ahead. The higher Ochils were still holding snow and tomorrow we'd be crunching over it.

60m turbines. A peaceful place, full of memories, trashed.

Pleasant walking from Green Law to Sim's Hill and left John's Hill

Near the Cadger's Yett

Our hills for the following day

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Revell USS Voyager NCC 74656

As a boy I built my fair share of both plastic and balsa wood models, mainly aircraft but also the odd battleship (in plastic). I returned briefly to this hobby when, a few years ago, a knee problem kept me off the hills but these were small Airfix planes such as the Spitfire and Hurricane along with the bigger Lancaster.

USS Voyager at about 52cm long is the biggest and in terms of detail painting and attaching decals, all 162 of them, it's the most complex I've built.

I've learned an enormous amount about painting a model like this, mostly through making numerous mistakes not all of which were possible to correct. The tiny windows were well nigh impossible to get right even though I probably spent as much money seeking out and buying numerous small paint brushes as I did on the model itself and the Revell acrylic aqua paints. Later Lynne bought me a craft lamp with magnifier which would have helped.

My introduction to using modeller's putty on the seams was mixed: sometimes it worked, sometimes not despite watching many videos on how to do this seemingly straightforward procedure. The problem was that I painted the model before assembly which was recommended to me by anyone and everyone I consulted. Consequently smoothing down the dried putty invariably meant the paint was removed down to the plastic necessitating re-painting of that area.  Nevertheless I still think painting prior to assembly was the right thing to do because painting the assembled model would have been a real trial I think. Possibly a disaster.

My introduction to using masking tape was more successful but not on the numerous curved parts of the model. I now know that Tamiya make tape for use on curves.

The Revell paints are excellent though acrylics dry very quickly and need thinned, but water is fine for this. Several thin coats work better than a single thick one.  I needed twently one small pots but some colours were hardly used - a few drops on the end of a cocktail stick applied to the sensor arrays, for example. I chose to paint the hull in matt but would use silky matt in future since it gives a better finish but the final result is very close to the original studio model designed and created for the Star Trek Voyager series. The later CGI model was lighter in colour - as will be my next Voyager build (I've bought it already!)

Lots of people light the inside of the model with a custom LED kit and I considered this, but try as might I could not source a model with the lighting kit included, and no shop, online or otherwise, could obtain one for me - except from Revell Germany which came with wiring instructions in German. In any case all the tiny windows require to be drilled out and stories of some people ruining the model in the process put me off (for the moment).

The decals are the most detailed on any model I know of and most are very, very small.  Mostly I had no mishaps but a full extra decal sheet is on its way to me free from Revell via (excellent service) to replace the two single decals I damaged when applying.

Despite my mistakes and occasional frustrations when building Voyager - I started mid-November - this has been one of the most satisfying things I've done for a very long time and I've renewed my aquaintence with the story around USS Voyager and Star Trek lore/science in general. Lynne reckons I could go on Mastermind! No I couldn't.

Anyway, here are a few photos and a photoshopped one from my cousin Hugh, an expert modeller himself. The email correspondence with him while building this model has been incredibly informative and as enjoyable as building it;  many of the mistakes I didn't make were down to him. If only I'd listened to him about using primer! But overall I'm more than pleased with the final result.

At warp speeds the engine pylons rotate upwards