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Black Law, its tops and some puzzling grooves

Black Law, its tops and some puzzling grooves


Postby McMole » Wed Nov 22, 2017 11:34 pm

Donalds included on this walk: Black Law

Date walked: 18/11/2017

Time taken: 4 hours

Distance: 12.3 km

Ascent: 580m

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It was a frost-free morning drive of one hour to park at the end of the public road beside the Manor Water. This is where the path to Megget Reservoir heads left to cross a footbridge over the river. There was plenty of parking space with no other cars there and still none when I returned four hours later.
P1020162 s.JPG
Car parking with signpost pointing the way to Meggat
It was to be a quiet day collecting the Donald Tops south of Black Law. I had learnt that to be considered a complete Donald compleatist I must visit all 140 summits, not just the main 89. Today was my third walk of the fourteen necessary to do so. My goal was to collect Deer Law and Conscleuch Head.
Black Law tops route.gif
With the sun rising into a near cloudless sky I set off along the track to Megget with sheep quickly scattering from my path. Nearing the Thrashie Burn I headed directly uphill to contour below Black Law's SW top and hit the col between it and Conscleuch Head. I had thought about contouring past that top as well, but decided it was easier to follow the path and fence over its summit. Though both cols on the way to Deer Law had their marshy areas, only short diversions were needed to avoid them. On my return I walked along the other (east) side of the fence. Possibly that side is better than the west, but there wasn't much in it. It took one and a half hours to reach the summit of Deer Law which is marked by a monolith rather than a cairn.
P1020164.JPG
Deer Law summit looking towards Cramalt Craig and Dollar Law
Reversing my course to Conscleuch Head there was no summit marker at all. There isn't a clearly defined summit, but an undulating area with quite a few bumps competing for the title. I thought that the areas around NN 22038 26275 and NN 22037 26299 were both good candidates.
P1020168 s.JPG
On top of Conscleuch Head looking towards Black Law.
On my way to the SW top of Black Law I found a single small struggling conifer - the only one I saw all day at any height. If I return I must check to see if survives (NT 21814 27136).
P1020170 s.JPG
The struggling self-sown conifer
The SW top is not far from a bend in the fence near a fence junction and gate.
P1020171 s.JPG
On the SW top of Black Law looking towards the main summit.
P1020172 s.JPG
Cramalt Craig and Dollar Law from Black Law SW top
From there it is only a modest dip and slight rise to reach the small cairn marking Black Law's summit.
P1020173 s.JPG
Black Law summit looking towards Stob Law to Dun Rig
P1020174 s.JPG
Looking back at the SW top. This also shows the parallel grooves to the right of the fence.
I crossed the fence just after passing the cairn to find a puzzling set of parallel trenches about 3m apart had been 'ploughed' into the ground parallel to the fence. They cut through the peat/topsoil to the underlying harder subsoil. Aerial views in Google Earth and Bing show them following the fence down to Sting Burn in one direction and on past the summit of Black Cleuch Hill in the other to run beside the fence line down towards Langhaugh Burn. There are several short deviations from the fence, perhaps to bypass softer ground. The number of parallel scars varies from three to six, but for most of the six kilometres there are four or five.
P1020175 s.JPG
The col below Black Cleuch Hill with the parallel grooves plainly visible.
I've searched on-line for an explanation but found nothing. Nobody would carve grooves across the hills for amusement, so what is/was their purpose? I can't think of any reason for either forestry or wind farms to need them, and if cables or pipes had been ploughed into the ground the route doesn't make any sense. Does anyone know the answer?
From my last top of the day - Black Cleuch Hill - I got a better view of what appeared to be a new installation on top of the ridge between it and Dun Rig and about 0.5km beyond the col.
P1020178 s.JPG
Dun Rig from the summit of Black Cleuch Hill
P1020180 s.JPG
Maximum zoom on the new installation on Dun Rig - the white speck on the previous photo
It is next to the fence, a new east/west track leads past it, and a white van was parked beside the building and its radio(?) mast. It appears to be a permanent installation, and my best guess is that it is something to do with local communications as it appears too remote to be for general mobile phone use. I did wonder if a wind farm was about to appear thereabouts, but the Scottish Borders web site showing wind farm developments has nothing planned anywhere near the Manor Valley - Hurray!
From Black Cleuch Hill I headed west with the intention of descending Waddyside Rig down to Linghope Burn. As I did I found an ATV track and followed it instead, thinking it might give a better route. When I reached the line of grouse butts marked on the OS map I could see it continuing towards and over Langhaugh Hill, so I reverted to my original plan.
P1020182 s.JPG
The ATV track reaches the grouse butts and continues to Langhaugh HIll
P1020183 s.JPG
Heading down the line of grouse butts
A relatively easy descent past the line of butts took me down to and across the burn disturbing more sheep as I went. I headed for a bridge across the Manor Water marked on the 1:25,000 map (there are others that are not), found it did exist and was soon on the road.
P1020186 s.JPG
Crossing Manor Water
There I diverted to inspect a tall cairn I'd just spotted. Marked on the map it was erected in 1900 in memory of John Veitch by his friends.
P1020187 s.JPG
The cairn to John Veitch
P1020189 s.JPG
Born near Peebles in 1929 he became a professor of Logic at Glasgow University, and was second President of the Scottish Mountaineering Club (1892-94). A well-constructed cairn with a memorial plaque, the sun came out to nicely highlight the lettering as I photographed it.
Though there was no snow ice or frost anywhere on my route and none visible on the surrounding hills, the wind chill made it feel colder than previous walks when there had been plenty, and I had been on the verge of putting on an extra layer. I even wore gloves for a time. A good day out, with added interest and an unanswered question.
McMole
Munro compleatist
 
Posts: 152
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Re: Black Law, its tops and some puzzling grooves

Postby Skyelines » Thu Nov 23, 2017 4:27 pm

Interesting question in a groovy kind of way.

While looking out of the window at the snow on the Storr it occurred to me that it may be a way of protecting the fence from wind blown snow build up. My theory goes like this - the grooves in the ground disturb the air flow and cause the snow to settle in ploughed grooves creating a series of smaller banks rather than one big one against the fence.
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Re: Black Law, its tops and some puzzling grooves

Postby jmarkb » Thu Nov 23, 2017 8:10 pm

My guess is a boring one: that they are ploughed furrows for forestry planting. The spacing looks about right: maybe just the edge of the intended plantation got ploughed and then abandoned for some reason? They are a bit high though, forestry tends not to get planted above the 600m contour.
jmarkb
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Re: Black Law, its tops and some puzzling grooves

Postby McMole » Sat Nov 25, 2017 1:20 am

Skyelines wrote:Interesting question in a groovy kind of way.

While looking out of the window at the snow on the Storr it occurred to me that it may be a way of protecting the fence from wind blown snow build up. My theory goes like this - the grooves in the ground disturb the air flow and cause the snow to settle in ploughed grooves creating a series of smaller banks rather than one big one against the fence.

A couple of problems with that suggestion Skyelines. The grooves divert up to 50m from the fence several times eg on the col north of Black Law, without any change in number, so it seems more important that they are continuous than they stay near the fence to protect it. I also doubt they'd have much protective effect because they'd just fill with spindrift level to the ground.
jmarkb wrote:My guess is a boring one: that they are ploughed furrows for forestry planting. The spacing looks about right: maybe just the edge of the intended plantation got ploughed and then abandoned for some reason? They are a bit high though, forestry tends not to get planted above the 600m contour.

I think you are right that they are too high for trees. Forests in the area don't extend above 550m and I can't find any in the region that reach 700m. If I'd seen the grooves down in the valley I'd have assumed a shelter belt was being planted. I can't believe a 6km long shelter belt running along what is the crest of a ridge. Any saplings that might survive would end up looking like the one I photographed on Black Law!

So what might grow on top of a ridge? I briefly thought about a wind farm development ploughing in cables to connect its wind turbines, but that would be one of the last operations, not the first. I have tried to imagine what sort of vehicle could have produced the grooves in a single pass, but have failed. I do have another hypothesis linked to a construction down next to Manor Water, but I'll need to do some more research before proposing it.

Several friends have, however, after profound cogitation all come to the same definite conclusion - aliens!
McMole
Munro compleatist
 
Posts: 152
Munros:141   Corbetts:50
Grahams:40   Donalds:89
Sub 2000:127   Hewitts:25
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Joined: Mar 25, 2016

Re: Black Law, its tops and some puzzling grooves

Postby thedonalds » Mon Nov 27, 2017 10:19 pm

I am now in my mid-60's and have been walking the Manor Hills since I was about 16 and these furrows appeared when I must have been in my early 20's and if memory serves me right they appeared around the same time as the other forests in the area were being planted/extended. I can recall tramping through the furrows below Dead Wife's Grave before the trees were planted on that side of the valley. I dont believe the Black Law furrows ever had trees planted but there's no doubt in my mind that's they were there to test and they remain visible to this day. The Langhaugh forest on the same side of valley never properly established itself but for a while the scattered areas of trees were good for black grouse.
thedonalds
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Re: Black Law, its tops and some puzzling grooves

Postby McMole » Tue Nov 28, 2017 6:38 pm

thedonalds wrote:I am now in my mid-60's and have been walking the Manor Hills since I was about 16 and these furrows appeared when I must have been in my early 20's and if memory serves me right they appeared around the same time as the other forests in the area were being planted/extended. I can recall tramping through the furrows below Dead Wife's Grave before the trees were planted on that side of the valley. I dont believe the Black Law furrows ever had trees planted but there's no doubt in my mind that's they were there to test and they remain visible to this day. The Langhaugh forest on the same side of valley never properly established itself but for a while the scattered areas of trees were good for black grouse.


It seems so obvious now that trees won't grow well at that altitude that I was searching for another explanation. Like most attempts at explaining the unexpected, one does tend to overlook simple incompetence. I suppose the landowner was persuaded by the large grants that I believe were available at the time to invest in forestry. I guess after work had started work someone else gave him better advice. It shows how fragile the environment is on the summits that the furrows are continuing to erode where they run up the steeper slopes and show no signs of recovery.
McMole
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Re: Black Law, its tops and some puzzling grooves

Postby thedonalds » Tue Nov 28, 2017 10:21 pm

When I am here can I ask another - on your walk did did you see anything interesting on the top of Langhaugh Hill? The reason for asking is when viewed through binoculars from the parking area where the Kirkhope Burn joins the Manor road there now appears to be a statue figure on the top of the hill. As far as I know it only appeared this year and it looks a bit like an Andrew Gormley 'man'. I've not been able to get up to check and its a bit of long view from the road but if you or anyone else has any information if would be really nice to know.
thedonalds
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Re: Black Law, its tops and some puzzling grooves

Postby McMole » Thu Nov 30, 2017 1:25 am

thedonalds wrote:When I am here can I ask another - on your walk did did you see anything interesting on the top of Langhaugh Hill?.


I've looked at the full resolution version of my report photo showing the top of Langhaugh Hill, and there is nothing visible there. Here is a section of the photo at full resolution.
Langhaugh Hill.jpg
If there was a Gormley 'man' near the summit it should be visible. I expect what you saw, however, would be some way down from the summit so wouldn't be visible from where I was. I used Walk Highlkand's GPS Planner to produce a profile of Langhaugh Hill from the road at the Kirkton Burn to the top. Here's the map with a route plotted from where you were to the summit.
GPS with profile.jpg
and here's a stretched version of the profile of that route. The red line shows that your 'horizon' looking up towards the summit would actually be at about 425m.
horizon s.jpg
Anything higher up wouldn't be visible from the road unless it was much taller than a person and then only the upper part would be visible. The good news is that to investigate the object you only need to climb about 150m and not the full 260m to the top! Do let us know what you find. One thought is that the tunnel from Megget Reservoir passes under that part of the hill - there's an access to it at the bottom of the hill next to Manor Water. It is shown on the map. Could what you saw be the top of a ventilation shaft?
McMole
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Posts: 152
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Re: Black Law, its tops and some puzzling grooves

Postby thedonalds » Fri Dec 01, 2017 11:31 am

Many thanks for responding. You're right - it should show in your photo. What I will do is take a photo with the long lens next time I am there and post it for information. Whatever it is, it's only the upper section that's visible and then its more visible from the entry to the forest track just up the road from the bridge. Maybe whatever it is has been there all along and I just never noticed.........just need to get up there again.
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Re: Black Law, its tops and some puzzling grooves

Postby thedonalds » Sun Dec 03, 2017 5:09 pm

The reason the mystery object was not in the Langhaugh Hill photo was because its actually on Horse Hope Hill! Sorry, that's what happens when one relies on memory......anyway got photos of the mystery thing. Sometimes its just not your day.........

P1000027 copy.JPG
Horse Hope Hill from Manor Valley
P1000033 copy.JPG
Left of centre above the gulley, sticking up above the ridge.......looks promising.
P1000034 copy.JPG
Looks like something......
P1000036 copy.JPG
Long lens.......after all that it looks like a tree.
thedonalds
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