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Manor Valley Donalds

PostPosted: Sat Aug 31, 2013 12:23 pm
by wjshaw2

6donalds.gpx Open full screen  NB: Walkhighlands is not responsible for the accuracy of gpx files in users posts

Donalds are strange beasts. Climbing some of them, you wonder why they would be on any list - Black Hill has a singularly uninspiring summit, so much so that I wandered straight over the top of it without stopping - spending more time at the lower, non-Donald top of Black Cleuch Hill to the north; Middle Hill has very little of its own climb (30m), no great challenge in navigating to the top (follow the fence), and feels like a bump on the shoulder of bigger hills about half an hour's walk away. Should you really be able to climb six significant hills in one day?

On the other hand, I'm all for anything that gives these "lesser hills" some sort of recognition. Dollar Law is not a Marilyn, but climbed without coming from Broad Law, miles off to the south-west, it has the challenge of a Corbett in height. Black Law, whilst not the greatest summit, has the challenge of getting to it - thou shalt be forced to march over miles of heather and fall into the odd bog on the way (I splodged into a fine hidden bog in the bealach between Black Cleuch Hill and Black Law - there's a funny little curve in the contours on the Explorer map which basically translates to deep bog). Drumelzier Law and Greenside Law are fine examples of where the better, more defined tops in the Southern Uplands are often the lower tops, so why not give people a balloon as an incentive to climb them?

Anyway, I'm probably going on about all that because the walk report might otherwise be rather short. Six Donalds climbed with a full racksack in mist is the summary.

I'm planning a five day walk with camping across Dumfriesshire soon so I loaded my rucksack with what I would need for that to get into training. Judging by how my shoulders feel as I write this the next day, this was necessary punishment. I parked on the grass behind a large layby (an oversized passing place) just before the Manor Valley road crosses the burn coming down the Kirk Hope glen, just beyond the track to Langhaugh farm. There's an obvious foot bridge at the foot of Langhaugh Hill which gives access to the open hill. From the wee top I followed a 4*4 track round the shoulder of Black Cleuch Hill before following the fence up the last 500m to the top. The cloud lifted briefly from here to the top of Black Law to give me hope of it going completely, it was not to be.

N up Manor Valley from Langhaugh Hill.jpg
N down Manor Valley from Langhaugh Hill

Clouds just kissing the tops...for now anyway.jpg
Clouds just kissing the tops...for now anyway

I followed the fence all the way over Blackhouse Heights and the true summit of Black Law, stopping only to look back from the SW top to remember that I hadn't actually stopped to take notice of being at the real top, as the cloud lifted one last time to let me see. I can't say that I noticed the 'pile of stones' the map says is there. I also managed to not see the 'BS' (boundary stone) apparently in the fence line or the 'pile of stones' heading down from Black Law to Redsike Head. In fact, throughout the whole walk, 'piles of stones' were hardly ever obvious, cairns were more reliable. But when does a pile of stones become a cairn? As nxmjm says in his report, the way down to Redsike Head is a little confusing - the map shows it as all downhill, but there is a little bit of up and down on the fence line.

Black Law from SW top with Glenrath Heights and Stob Law in the background.jpg
Black Law from SW top with Glenrath Heights and Stob Law in the background

Foulbrig was a little disappointing as a bog, reasonably boggy, but not Foul in any way. I took a little diversion to see the strangely named Bitch Cleuch, crossing the well-made track that is the right of way from Manor Valley to St Mary's Loch (only a wee dotted path on the map - others indicated in the same way don't exist on the ground). Bitch Cleuch is quite a feature for these otherwise rounded hills and would make for a little drama as a way up for a short walk up Greenside Law.

Bitch Cleuch.jpg
Bitch Cleuch

I went over Greenside Law, again without hanging around for lack of views, but, dipping below the cloud, the best views of the day were at the bealach between Greenside and Water Head, looking both down the Manor Valley to the north and south across to the hills on the other side of the Megget Reservoir, even with clouds still obscuring all the tops.

Upper Manor Valley.jpg
Upper Manor Valley

From there it was a tramp into clag, sometimes following the Thief's Road route (which is sometimes obvious, other times not), over little tops to Fifescar Knowe and on to Dollar Law. There's a little bit of shelter here behind the old wall and I'd suggest using it as there's no other shelter on the tops off to the north. So after a wee bite it was off to Long Grain Knowe where I dumped the rucksack to do a loop to take in Middle Hill and Drumelzier Law. Like last week, although I was in the cloud, there wasn't much in the way of precipitation up to now, but I put on my raincoat as the wind had picked up. However, I didn't put on my waterproof trousers...

Apostrophe abuse on signpost to nowhere.jpg
Apostrophe abuse on random signpost

Pretty mosses in funny little patches on the N side of Dollar Law.jpg
Pretty mosses in funny little patches on the N side of Dollar Law

From Middle Hill onwards (with its strange circular moss marks) the rain picked up and by Drumelzier Law one half of me was pretty wet. Unfortunately I then had to turn round and come back the other way, so the other half of me got very wet as well. Rather too late, I put my wet self inside my waterproofs once back at Long Grain Knowe.

Circular moss patterns #1.jpg
Circular moss pattern #1

Circular moss patterns #2.jpg
and #2. Any ideas how these form? Fairy rings? Tethering an animal to the post in the middle?

Half a wet leg.jpg
Half a wet leg

The rucksack was starting to feel heavy now, so the trudge to Pykestone Hill over the appropriately named Grey Weather Law felt very trudgy. I cowered behind the trig point as the weather had one big blast of proper rain and wind, before descending down into Kirk Hope and along the track from the delapidated cottage at Old Kirkhope.

Misty top montage.jpg
Misty top montage - clockwise from top left: Greenside Hill, Dollar Law, Drumelzier Law, Pykestone Hill, and Middle Hill

Towards the bottom of this track there's a tower marked on the map which now only exists as earthworks - quite extensive ones though and a Font Stone. This turns out to be a old baptismal font now placed between two grave stones (I think, although one of them is fairly illegible and in my wetness I didn't spend too much time trying). Presumably then, there was not just a tower here, but a chapel from which the font was taken. I wonder where?

Font stone.jpg
Font stone and grave stones, taken standing on the tower foundations.

From there it was a short walk back to the car and the glory of dry socks (except I'd forgotten them, but it was at least dry shoes without socks). Pretty tired after the distance walked with the full racksack...

Re: Manor Valley Donalds

PostPosted: Sat Aug 31, 2013 9:27 pm
by gmr82
Good route to take in all 6. You've pretty much combined one of my favourite Donald walks (Dollar Law and co from Drumelzier) and by far my most hated (Greenside and Black) so it brings back quite contrasting memories :lol: I still remember that circular moss pattern at Middle Hill too!

Re: Manor Valley Donalds

PostPosted: Sat Aug 31, 2013 10:06 pm
by Gordie12
I've never walked in this part of the world but 1400m of ascent and a nine hour walk sounds like a tough day.

Re: Manor Valley Donalds

PostPosted: Sun Sep 01, 2013 1:33 pm
by wjshaw2
I have to admit I was quite surprised that it came out at 1400m climb, it didn't feel like there was that much drop between the summits once I was up, but if the GPS Planner says that's what it is, I suppose that's what it was. There was never anything especially steep to tackle to make you really think you're really climbing, so it's not too bad. I do tend to sit around a bit, probably well over an hour in total on this walk, so it needn't take quite that long.

I was sure I'd been over Drumelzier, Middle Hill, and Pykestone before, but couldn't find any record of it. With today's weather, it felt a bit like a box ticking exercise. I've now been up Dollar Law twice and had the same (non) view. I suppose I'll just have to go back some time :) .

Re: Manor Valley Donalds

PostPosted: Sun Sep 01, 2013 7:54 pm
by Johnny Corbett
Still to do these ones. Hopefully get them done this winter. Cheers :D