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Last updated: 15/10/10


'The meet with no bus'
12 November 2006

At 7:20 am on a dank Sunday morning, and an uncommunicative wife by one’s side, Queen’s Road granite looks greyer than ever, all the way down the empty road to the Cross. November meets are always a bit unattractive, without the fading landscapes of October or any pre-Christmas bounce. What has happened? – a misunderstood time (but surely 8.00 is reserved for December?) or even the date (but Garry had been whipping up support only 40 hours before, at the Dinner). Maybe he’s decided to give Queen’s Road a miss, and is even now speeding down the A90 …?

But then a non-descript M reg appears, blinking, and full of hearty mountaineers including Garry. Nothing has turned up at Golden Square , so a Decision had had to be Made, viz. to turn a Bus Meet into a Car Meet. And, given only 9 people, the obvious second car is mine, parked up the road, and now retrieved in order to pick up three more hearty types, including Ian the President, at Great Western Road. Thus, at last down the A90 at 7:45, a little later than planned, but at least en route to the Ochils, where at 9:45 we debouch in Glen Devon, apparently in order to have Gleneagles Hotel handy afterwards.

Quick march up the farm/reservoir road, past a fish farm and a 1924 pumphouse, which is disguised – not very effectively, but more attractive than your modern engineering works - as a cottage, to the first dam. This offers a direttissima up a 60-degree grass slope, or the left-hand Sluiceway Gully. Neither looks sufficiently challenging, so on up the road above the reservoir to the second dam, where we bear away south, up onto grassy slopes, and into sight of our main objective, Ben Cleuch, with its head still below the clouds. A bit windy, but not too bad (unlike yesterday). A pause at 11:00 coincides fortuitously with the Remembrance hour …

Derek and Willie have been well out of sight for some time by now, but, as we reach the main ridge (over a very stylish stile), and a fleeting view of the beauties of Grangemouth over the Forth, the rest of us find the pair of them spread out at lunch on moss (at a place called Maddy Moss, strangely enough) in a sheltered gully, where the hills suddenly become populated with the multitudes (human and canine) of lowland Scotland. We slump down alongside, glad of a rest, and dig out flasks and provisions.

Then it’s up the grassy brae to Andrew Gannel Hill, meeting the mist coming down, and obscuring whatever attractions this minor protuberance might have to offer on a better day. However, it gives Derek, Kes and Ian a chance to get out maps and compasses, and argue about the current magnetic deviation. Ignoring the obvious fence, Derek leads off confidently, straight down towards a large and murky slough, where he unaccountably alters direction. Nevertheless, the final slopes, though in deep cloud by now, are obvious, and we finally reach the Ben Cleuch trig point, which is surrounded by a low shelter wall, a previous trig point lying on its side, and a viewpoint pedestal erected recently courtesy of the Daily Record but already showing its age.

This summit, though more cluttered than AG Hill, is no more attractive in the mist, so we quickly reverse our steps to the latter, and back down to the lunch spot. Then out north-east to pastures new, soon meeting a deer fence which surrounds – so we are informed by a Forestry Commission/BP notice - an incipient nature reserve. Over the mega-stile, we are amongst patches of unhappy-looking twiglets, each about 18 inches tall and apparently devoid of biological activity. They are overlooked by occasional T-shaped posts of uncertain purpose – survey points? water? internal boundaries? But views east and north are opening up; even glimpses of sunshine far ahead. These raise the spirits, and lead us to spurn the dank woods of Glen Sherup down on our right in favour of a final hill, Ben Shee, which overlooks the road and our cars.

Unfortunately, it also completely obscures these features, so that much anxiety over the possibility of being cut off by the river ensues for a good way down increasingly precipitous grass slopes, until a bridge-cum-pipe near the fish farm offers salvation. True, this requires a Grade 3 ladder ascent and traverse, but all (except Garry) manage it successfully, and we are back at the cars by about 3:30, feeling that something had been rescued after an unpromising start to the day.

Of course, the big decision has still to be made, i.e. about the post-meet food and drink. Alternatives include Gleneagles (too expensive), fish ‘n’ chips (too early) and a pub (vetoed by the two drivers). In the end, we repair to the Auchterarder Tearoom, where a small but highly satisfactory repast of tea (Earl Grey for Derek) and fruit scones or pancakes is partaken of, before the drive back to Aberdeen, in time, for once, for a lengthy and relaxing post-walk Sunday dinner and evening.

Post scriptum: All is revealed – as is only proper – at the AGM a few days later: no doubt confused by the many Club events this month, the Day Meets Coordinator had given the bus company a booking for next Sunday! However, bowing his shaggy head in contrition, he has negotiated a Club credit which should stand us in good stead, especially with the expected November bus meet loss turned into a not-insignificant car meet surplus!

Author: Ken Thomson