Spring, frogspawn, new life

Frogspawn photographed a couple of weeks ago in a trackside pool in the Pentland Hills not far from West Linton.

Takes me back to my formative years a long time ago now, when as a boy, I collected some spawn, put it into an old fishtank in the garden with rainwater, large stones and some chickweed and was absolutely fascinated over the next few weeks watching the growth progress of the tadpoles. Observations ended when I was told to get rid of the tank contents after many tiny frogs appeared.

In some ways, when it came to being interested in nature and the environment, my parents were philistines! Probably one of the reasons I rebelled. 🙂





Rural views

Roughly five miles from West Linton is the small hamlet of Ninemileburn. There was once a nice little pub here, the Habbies Howe, now long closed. The cottages facing the road are now private housing and where the Habbies used to be.

The pub was named after a river gorge a mile away, now within the Newhall Estate and mentioned by the writer Allan Ramsay in his work ‘The Gentle Shepherd’ first published in 1725.

If this pic had been for an advertising or tourism brochure, I would of course have firstly removed the ugly wheely bin!


Just along this small road from Ninemileburn towards Carlops, in the same direction the postal van is travelling is Patieshill, a comfortable bed and breakfast which is part of a working sheep farm. Patieshill B&B is popular with walkers and hill explorers.

Following the track in the picture below leads to a footpath through the trees that runs parallel with the main road and then to a series of steps back down onto the A702 just outside Carlops.


Credit: Ordnance Survey maps





Trig points

Before the days of global positioning satellites, the Ordnance Survey used triangulation stations to aid in mapping the UK. Surprisingly there are active groups of trig spotters who visit as many of these as they can and tick them off. A quick search on the internet throws up several of their websites. A curious pastime I suppose but nevertheless a healthy one since getting to these concrete pillars keeps a person reasonably fit. For me they’re the culmination of a (mostly) enjoyable walk up a hill as well as a handy waist-height flattish surface for the cheese rolls, hot water flask and mug of cuppasoup!

Looking towards Livingston from West Cairn Hill near Baddinsgill
Mount Maw trig point looking towards Black Mount with Westwater Reservoir just visible
Mount Maw trig looking towards the Pentland Hills
A visitor leaves his mark on Mount Maw
Mendick trig point looking towards the Pentland Hills

Barely visible from the moor road over to Penicuik from West Linton, this trig point below on Auchencorth Moss is in danger of being lost as the peat extraction works expand.


Right of way

This lovely old right of way sign stood on a wooden pole near Baddinsgill for years. It fell off at one point a while back due to wind or weathering… or maybe the screws just rusted.

For a while it lay face outwards amongst the grass against the base of a nearby drystane wall still indicating the righ path, then happily it was then put back up onto its pole. Every time I passed it though, I thought to myself that sometime ‘someone is going to have that away in their rucksack’.

A couple of years ago it disappeared. Probably now adorning some student or other individuals bedroom or house wall – or worse, melted down for scrap. Our heritage is slowly disappearing. If there’s one thing I hate more than anything else, it’s a disrespect for our countryside and for others’ enjoyment of it.

At least there are still pictures. To the person or persons that took it – if this old sign still exists, why not return it to where it belongs! Two very important rules when visiting the oudoors: take nothing but photographs;  leave nothing behind except footprints.





Covenanter’s Grave

Six miles from West Linton, deep in the Pentland Hills and on the western slope of Black Law is the Covenanter’s Grave. It can be tricky to find, particularly in claggy weather. Although in an isolated spot, last time I was there a few months ago there was a surprisingly strong O2 mobile phone signal. Good footwear and waterproofs are strongly advised for a visit. Also some food and maybe a hot drink since it’s a fairly lengthy walk there and back.

The history: On November 28th, 1666, a battle took place at Rullion Green near Penicuik. On the night after the battle, a local shepherd Adam Sanderson answered a thump on the door of his isolated cottage. It was a desperately wounded fugitive from Rullion Green, John Carphin of Ayrshire, who wanted help but would not come into the house in case his presence should bring trouble on the occupants.

The shepherd helped Carphin to stagger a few hundred yards up the West Water. “Bury me within sight of the Ayrshire hills,” was the Covenanter’s last request.

Sanderson carried his body up Black Law and buried it near the summit with a view across to the hills – an act of charity he performed at risk of his own life. Later a memorial stone was put up, discreetly lettered so as to be indecipherable to unfriendly eyes.

Another stone stands on Black Law today, erected in 1841 and inscribed with the facts of the burial.

I sat nearby for a while enjoying the tranquility and bit of lunch. Before heading back, I pulled up a clump of heather and placed it in front of the stone.




Mendick Hill

Mendick (OS grid ref: NT 122 505) is a lovely little hill two and a half miles southwest of West Linton. Not particularly high at just 451m, its summit is easily reached in just over an hour’s walk from the village for a reasonably fit person. The southeast face is steep and quite honestly a bit of a slog. There’s much less strain on the muscles decending on that side and then walking back to the golf course via the Old Drove Road.

The easiest way to the top is up the northwest side via North Slipperfield estate, the entrance to which is at the end of the single track road through the golf course. After the cattle grid and beyond the large shed, take the left fork signposted to Garvald and walk for about a mile. Go through a gate on the left (NT 113 513) and follow the track to reach a plantation of conifer trees. Walk up alongside of this to a low fence and then up over the tussocks to reach the trig point.

Note: North Slipperfield is a working estate and there are days when shooting takes place, so please observe any warning signs or advice from gamekeepers.


Mendick from the golf course
Trig point and the Pentland Hills
View of West Linton from Mendick Hill


Harbour Craig

Just over a mile from Carlops, Harbour Craig isn’t one of those features that when you see it for the first time hits you in the face and makes you go ‘wow’. It’s not even significant until you get closer. After vaulting the odd barbed wire fence or two and moving onwards to a small valley, seeing the outcrop for the first time if you’ve already read what happened beforehand, brings the tale together.

History relates that 17th century covenanters used this place as a retreat and meeting point where they took refuge during their struggles in opposition to the interference by the Stuart kings in the affairs of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. In terms of strategy, it’s really a no-brainer why they chose this spot. It’s nicely hidden.

There are vague weathered inscriptions and names carved on the rocks which clearly aren’t modern graffiti. Harbour Craig is an interesting place to visit but chose when you go. My outing took me through knee high mud, so possibly I didn’t follow the correct path or maybe I just went at the the wrong time of year.

At the end of the Kitleyknowe road looking back towards Carlops
Harbour Craig and aircraft contrail