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Moorfoot’s: enchanted giants, secret cables and frozen land

Moorfoot’s: enchanted giants, secret cables and frozen land

Postby nxmjm » Sun Feb 24, 2013 8:17 pm

Grahams included on this walk: Blackhope Scar

Donalds included on this walk: Blackhope Scar, Bowbeat Hill, Dundreich

Date walked: 24/02/2013

Time taken: 5 hours

Distance: 18.4 km

Ascent: 569m

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11.4 miles 5h 3min ascent 569m


Blackhope Scar-Bowbeat Hill-Dundreich-Jeffries Corse

It was a crisp cold morning with a forecast of snow flurries and summit temperatures of -4° C.

I'll admit that I was uncertain what a flurry might be so researched this prior to the walk. I found the following explanation: “Snow: This refers to the white, cold, flakey stuff itself. It does not describe any particular manifestation thereof. Snow Flurry: Light, intermittent snowfall without any significant accumulation of snow on the ground.”

Gladhouse Reservoir early in the morning

I parked at the southern tip of Gladhouse Reservoir, just short of the “No parking beyond this point” sign. There there is space for half a dozen cars. From here I followed the road to Moorfoot farm and then along the farm track to Gladhouse cottage. The sheep filled fields here reminding me of the flat well drained fields of my youth, in places like Tatton Park, quite unlike the boggy irregularity of my adoptive home in D&G.

Three ridges from Jeffries Corse

There are three ridges descending north from Jeffries Corse, one of which would be my route off the the hills. The easternmost two had definite vehicle tracks, the western a dyke, but from here no definite track. At this point I had thought Long Shank, the most eastern ridge, would be the best choice for descent, but would later change my mind.

Shed at Clinty Cleuch

After Gladhouse Cottage the vehicle track crosses a small bridge over the River South Esk. The track then throws off a branch towards the ruins of Hirendean Castle. This is a rather underwhelming "castle" and looks more like a house. Perhaps an Englishman lived there? A track leads up the ridge from the ruins to Hirendean Hill but I chose to continue on the track along the valley concerned that the steep section might be icy. The track I was on was certainly iced in places.

Rocky path up Clinty Cleuch

At Clinty Cleuch there is a sheep fold and a shed. Here I turned left along the rocky path up the cleuch. Clinty Cleuch is a Y shaped valley. Ideally I would have liked to head along the right arm of the Y but the track leads up the left arm. This section was get-warm-steep (no swearing required), whereas a direct attack over to the right arm would be sweat-buckets-steep (swearing likely).

Path up Clinty Cleuch

At about 500m the path begins a zig-zag. I left at the first zig, but with hindsight the second zig would have been a better choice. There was a snow coated gully leading up but I chose instead to cross the gully to what appeared to be a track beside it. Though free of heather this proved to be a water course filled with sphagnum moss. In warm weather this wouldn’t be a good route but the moss was frozen so it was dry. Once on the plateau though I was faced with trackless heather and moss which was hard going for five minutes until I came upon a track which I think came from the second zig. This soon had me at the fence which would guide me to the summit of Blackhope Scar.

It was a slow climb to Blackhope Scar across moorland scarred by eroded peat hags. The hollows were filled with snow but this was firm enough to take my weight and where there was standing water not covered in snow the ice was weight bearing. I imagine that in warmer weather this route should be reserved for those who don’t care how wet and muddy they get.

Frozen moorland on Blackhope Scar

Blackhope Scar has a trig pillar which allowed me some shelter from the wind for a quick cup of coffee, but by now it was becoming much colder so I decided not to hang about. Over the fence and across more frozen mud.

Blackhope Scar summit

The Bowbeat wind turbines were my next target. I followed the fence along Long Edge where the terrain was similar but with fewer peat hollows. There was initially a very faint track but became more distinct after a few hundred metres when it was joined from the south by a vehicle track. Two other tracks joined later converting it gradually into a substantial track of frozen churned mud.

Long Edge heading for Bowbeat

The section between Long Edge and Emily Bank was more of a dip than I had expected from the map. From the bottom a substantial road heads off SW. I got my map out to see if I should go along it and found I had committed the school-boy error of planning the walk on a 1:25k and walking it with a 1:50k. The windfarm roads aren’t marked on my 1:50k. One of my previous “things I have learned” had been that if you don’t take a map you will regret it. I recalled that I intended to use a road through the wind farm, but this was one heading down so I ignored it and headed directly for the nearest turbine.

Five minutes climbing up here where the heather was deep and neither the ground nor the sphagnum moss was frozen warmed me nicely. I suppose if I was a real wild-man I would have eschewed the road, but, (hanging head in shame), I treated myself to a couple of miles of road walking. When I entered the wind farm, at the sign warning me of the danger of death, the turbines were just starting to move, but by the time I left they had picked up the revs considerably and the temperature had dropped further. The tall gently whooshing turbines had a bewitching quality akin to the mythical sirens. One’s eyes are drawn skyward, one’s attention wanders. Luckily, potholes in the road can rapidly dispel this enchantment. So take care, don’t break your leg gawping at a wind turbine.

Wind turbine, you can’t help looking up

I left the road at its highest point to visit Bowbeat Hill’s summit. The OS map suggests the summit is at a change in direction of the fence but the highest point is definitely before that. Perhaps the fence has been altered?

Chilly times on Bowbeat Rig

Back on the road I walked over Bowbeat rig and along to the most northerly turbine which has a house sized building next to it, the site office. From this last turbine I planned to head up onto the high ground heading NW then between the 590m contours at the headwaters of Leithen Water and Hawkster Gill Burn. This is barren moorland with a ridge at 590m hiding any obvious visual target.

Looking out from the turbine there was a relatively new gate in the fence about 100m away. I had hoped it would lead to a track of some kind but it didn’t. Having said that, as I walked across the moor I would occasionally see what looked to be a track and would follow it for a while. It would fade away then I would find another one a few metres away.


I passed 6, perhaps 7 (I lost count), concrete stones shaped like mile stones and marked ”electric cables” so I presume I was following the line of the cable and coming across paths made by the vehicles used to lay them. The frozen ground made this section easier than it might have been, but frozen ground does still have holes so take care. The ambience of wilderness was made complete with flurries of snow blowing horizontally across the heather.

Sometimes the ice gives way

The ground between the two headwaters is, as might be expected, boggy. I passed a small fenced off area which looked just the same as the surrounding ground but must presumably have swallowed farm animals in its time, unless it guards some rare lichen. This area was wet and my feet sank into the deep sodden moss despite the top layers being frozen.

From this bog the ground rose into the peat hags between Jeffries Corse and Dundreich. Gaining the ridge I was greeted with a view of the Pentlands bathed in sunlight. I was only about 400m from Dundreich’s summit though the trig was not visible until it was much closer.

Dundreich Summit

The views from Dundreich were excellent, the only down side being that I could see heavy rain, or perhaps snow, approaching from the NE. The cairn didn’t offer much shelter from the now icy wind so I hunkered down behind the trig pillar for lunch. This must be what makes it all worth while: lukewarm coffee, freezing cold water, and a slightly dry sandwich, sitting on snow covered ground in an icy wind, the views disappearing in and out of mist and rain approaching. But my boots were dry inside, I was on the home straight and there were just 10 more Donalds to go.

Gladhouse Reservoir from Cotley Hill

As it turned out the rain passed just to the north and the descent was mostly in golden sunshine. I was at Jeffries Corse in no time and had at last to decide which ridge to take for the descent. I had intended using Long Shank, the ridge closest to the South Esk valley, but had seen that I would need to cross the burn at its foot. The burn looked to have plenty of rocks for crossing but given the iciness I thought it best to avoid this, so I left the fence and headed north towards Cotly Hill following a faint track, then followed the dyke down to Gladhouse Cottage.

Hirendean Castle

From the cottage I rejoined the farm track and road back to the reservoir.

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Re: Moorfoot’s: enchanted giants, secret cables and frozen l

Postby Tinto63 » Sun Feb 24, 2013 10:24 pm

I bet you're glad that you have got these three ticks, definitely not my favourite hills and best done when frozen. I see that you haven't many Donalds to go now!
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Re: Moorfoot’s: enchanted giants, secret cables and frozen l

Postby hills » Sun Feb 24, 2013 10:33 pm

Good walk this, and lots of fine detail in your report... :D
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