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Ramble Reports 2015


Falkirk Wheel Cruise - Saturday 29th August 2015


A few members and volunteers from the Forth & Tay Disabled Ramblers club decided to leave their electric mobility scooters behind when they recently went for a trip on the Union Canal.

They met up with volunteers from " The Seagull Trust " at the Bankastine Boathouse located on the canal at Falkirk. The Seagull Trust operate specially converted barges, which can accommodate groups of people with special needs, allowing them to experience life on the canal.


After the ramblers had received a warm welcome from the trust members, they safely embarked on the barges by means of level ramped access on to the upper deck,.from where the wheelchair users  were lowered  to the cabin deck by means of a hydraulic lift

When everyone had been made comfortable, the barges slipped their moorings and headed westwards along the canal towards the Falkirk Wheel. The sun glistened off the fresh paintwork of the two barges as they cruised along at a leisurely pace, passing the reed beds and woodland on each bank. Shortly, the ramblers were enjoying some on-board refreshments being served by the trust volunteers as the barges were busy navigating  their way across the Greenbank Acqueduct carrying the canal over the road below .The towpath running along beside the canal  is very popular with walkers, runners and cyclists who are always ready to give the barges a friendly wave.

A bit further on, the barges passed under the stone arched "station house" bridge before reaching the point where the canal widened out to provide a small basin which allowed barges to pass each other and also help them navigate as the canal made a fairly sharp right turn before reaching more open countryside.


The "on-board" ramblers were kept entertained by the antics of the different varieties of wildfowl as the barges passed by, skimming the reeds and disturbing their otherwise peaceful habitats. The only exception was a heron who was totally focused on his recent catch and was too busy digesting it.

The next stage of the trip along the canal involved the barges having to navigate their way through two sets of locks at Boghouse and Clobberhill.  There was plenty of friendly banter between the barge crews and the canal staff  who manned the lock-gates as the barges were lowered  approximately eleven metres down to the next stretch  of the canal leading up to the Roughcastle  Tunnel. This 150 metre long tunnel was constructed as part of the Millenium Link Project and allowed the Union Canal to pass under a section of the Antonines Wall and also the main railway lines.


As the barges neared the exit from the tunnel, the ramblers were treated to the first views of the aqueduct leading on to the Falkirk Wheel. The dark tunnel walls provided the perfect frame  for photos of the aqueduct along with its circular arches

The barges exited from the tunnel.and in to the sunlight shining on the waters of the north basin, where they selected moorings at the "waiting berths", prior to getting the necessary clearance to enter the upper gondola of the wheel.

It wasn't long before both of the barges had been skilfully manoeuvred side by side into position on the wheel. The ramblers took this opportunity to admire the views of the surrounding countryside from this elevated position eighty feet above the main basin and visitor centre below.


The wheel then began its smoothly controlled slow rotation and the barges were gently lowered into the basin below. As the barges sailed out into the basin filled with a variety of different craft, the ramblers had a spectacular view of the wheel`s enormous structure towering above them.


The Falkirk Wheel  is the only rotating boat lift of its kind in the world.  It can lift or lower up to four  barges in each of its two  "gondolas" suspended at each end in rotating bearings at the ends of its 26metre long arms. The arms are fabricated to resemble the shape of a  Celtic Axe Head.

It was officially opened by The Queen in 2002  providing the final link which would allow the passage of canal traffic between the Forth & Clyde and Union Canals for the first time since the 1930`s.

The final "icing on the cake" was that we were all still to enjoy the  return trip!!

Devilla Forest - 17 August 2015

These are photos of our recent ramble to Devilla Forest near Kincardine. Unfortunately there is no report because our reporter was unable to attend. For information, he should be at the next one so normal service will resume then.




Dunkeld - Saturday 8 August 2015


It was a very mild and calm summers morning as the coach carrying members and volunteers from the Forth and Tay Disabled Ramblers club headed north in to Perthshire and the "Big Tree Country" around Dunkeld.

There was a lot of hilarity and a general party feeling among the group who couldn`t  wait until meeting up with the vans which carried the electric mobility scooters that were going to take them on the day`s ramble.


A short time later, the ramblers  headed out of the Atholl St. car park at the northern end of Dunkeld and along a gravel surfaced pathway,through woodland, leading to a gateway giving access to the grounds and gardens surrounding the historic Dunkeld Cathedral. The cathedral which stands in a prominent position on the north bank of the River Tay opposite the confluence with the River Braan, is sheltered by  trees and the surrounding hills.


The ramblers spent a while discovering more of the cathedral`s history and exploring its magnificent grounds before continuing along the "Bishops Pathway" leading through the woods and passing a variety of the "Big Trees" on the Duke of Atholl`s estate. The group were amazed by the wide variety of superb tree specimens along the route including giant redwoods and firs, oak, weeping ash, pine and beech just to name a few.


The gravel surfaced pathway led the ramblers along the river bank, giving them good views downstream of the stone road bridge built by Thomas Telford in 1809.

The fast flowing river with its various stretches of "white water" and deep pools presented the ramblers with the occasional view of wild salmon leaping from the waters as they made their way upstream against the currents before finally reaching the breeding pools.


A passing boat carrying fishermen accompanied by their black labradors , exchanged brief conservation with the ramblers as they made their way to the boathouse further up river. Their friendly dogs jumped from the boat , swam to the shore and ran along the river bank to join up with the ramblers for a short distance.


The ramblers continued along the pathway, enjoying the summer sun in their faces and taking in every aspect of the views across the river to the surrounding forest covered hillsides. A short distance further on, the group passed the anglers clubhouse

and continued on until reaching a bend in the river with an open grassy area where they decided to stop for lunch. During the lunch-break the group were "entertained" by watching two canoeists, as they negotiated their canoes through a challenging section of "white water", while making their way downstream.


After lunch, the group headed out along one of the other pathways which led them through the forest at a higher level from that of the outgoing route. Remains of pine cones dropped by members of the resident squirrel population, were spotted in the undergrowth at the sides of the track, as were the occasional clumps of various forms of fungi.


The ramblers shortly diverted from this pathway and took an alternative route leading into the grounds of Dunkeld House and Country Club . The house itself was originally built by the 6th Dukel of Atholl as a summer residence in the early 19th century and it is said that Beatrix Potter drafted her first book "The Tales of Peter Rabbit" while staying here in 1893. Luxury "Time Share " villas that sit in the grounds of the hotel were greatly admired by the ramblers, as were the landscaped gardens , outdoor chess board on the terrace and tennis courts on the lawn.


The ramblers then rejoined the original route leading back through the woodland towards the river when they heard the distinctive sound of the cathedral bells ringing out in the distance. The cause for celebration was soon realised as the group approached the cathedral and witnessed a bride with her new husband and their wedding guests , dressed in all their splendour, gathered on the lawns outside.

This unexpected spectacle provided a perfect ending to a very interesting and enjoyable day`s ramble.

Glen Ogle - Monday 27th July 2015


The morning was dull and overcast ,with intermittent rain showers , as the coach carrying members and volunteers from the Forth & Tay Disabled Ramblers made its way along the A85 on the northern shore of Loch Earn. The view over the loch with the majestic summit of Ben Vorlich in the distance obscured by low clouds, along with the neighbouring peaks , presents the visitor with a perfect introduction to the Central Highland Region. This region forms part of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park which is one of the most scenic areas of Scotland.

The ramblers coach stopped briefly in Lochearnhead to pick up the rest of the party before continuing up to the head of Glen Ogle, the starting point of the planned ramble. After disembarking from the coach and meeting up with the transport carrying their mobility scooters, they donned the "wet weather" capes to protect them from natures elements and headed down a pathway through the woods. This winding path soon met up with the No7 National Cycleway, this particular section following the route of the old Callander to Oban railway. The group made steady progress as they travelled downhill through the trees and between the cuttings excavated in the rock faces , some of which had been reinforced to prevent potential landslides. The ramblers were overawed by the views of the surrounding mountains and of the road far below which forms one of the main routes north and west for all travellers.

The group continued along the trail as it passed under the original stone built bridges that had straddled the railway . The bridges carried the access roads leading to the crofts and homesteads for the shepherds and railwáy maintenance workers etc.who resided in the glen. The railway was opened in 1880 and the route travelled over some of the most challenging terrain in Scotland. Over the years there were various occasions when the line was blocked at different locations by rock falls from the mountainsides . The line was eventually closed in 1976 as part of the "Beeching Cuts"

As the ramblers reached the part of the pathway that led on to the famous Glen Ogle twelve-arched stone viaduct spanning one of the valleys , they experienced the dramatic view down the glen towards Loch Earn. After another mile or so , the group decided to pull over for a lunch break, have a chat and discuss the challenges ahead on other stages of the ramble.

After lunch they continued through more woodland stretches and passed waterfalls tumbling from the cliffs above and then being diverted through culverts under the cycleway before racing down the hillside to enter the Ogle Burn winding its way through the glen. The ramblers continued along the undulating route until reaching a sign-posted fork in the road. The left hand pathway took a route leading down to Lochearnhead, whereas the main route chosen by the ramblers carried on to Balquhidder

.

From the next elevated section of the well maintained cycleway, the ramblers were presented with spectacular views down the length of Loch Earn with the added splendour of the surrounding mountains. This was further complemented by having an aerial view of the Lochearnhead township located in the woodland below.

The ramble continued along this constantly changing scenic route through the central highlands until coming to a point where it diverted from the main route of the old railway and took the signed pathway leading down to Balquhidder.

This pathway fully tested the handling skills of the scooter mounted ramblers as it presented them with a steeply descending route with tight zig-zag bends, reminiscent of the original " Devils Elbow" on the road to Braemar. Having successfully negotiated this challenging section, the pathway levelled out and led the ramblers onwards through another section of mixed woodland before eventually joining up with the main road into Balquhidder.

Prior arrangements had been made with the club`s transport ( coach and vans ) to meet the ramblers at this location, so it was a great relief to see everything turning out as planned. This particular ramble had been a bit longer than normal but had been well worth the extra effort put in by everyone involved.

Ravenscraig Park Kirkcaldy - Friday 10th July 2015


The morning was slightly damp with a cool westerly breeze as the group of ramblers and volunteers from Forth & Tay Disabled Ramblers gathered in the car park adjacent to Dysart Harbour from where the ramble to Ravenscraig Park was to begin.


After having being briefed by the ramble leader , the members mounted on electric mobility scooters accompanied by the volunteers, made their way out of the car park and headed down towárds the Harbourmaster`s House. This 18th century house was restored in 2006 and is now occupied by the Fife Coastal and Countryside Trust as well as housing a souvenir shop and bistro.

The group continued along the cobbled surface road, which was proving to be a bit uncomfortable for the scooter mounted ramblers, as they made their way around the inner harbour basin which was filled with different types of cruisers and sailing boats. Recently this harbour scene, complete with two masted sailing cutter, had been transformed back into the 18th century to form the location for filming part of the "Outlander" TV series.


Leaving the harbour behind, the ramble continued through a tunnel hewn out of the rock promontory which led the group out on to a gravel pathway running parallel to the beach, giving panoramic views across the river Forth to Edinburgh with the Pentland Hills in the background.. A short distance further on the ramblers turned right through the entrance in to Ravenscraig Park. On entering the park,the scooter mounted ramblers were immediately faced with the challenge of negotiating (with the help of volunteers) up a steeply inclined tarmac surfaced pathway through densely populated natural wooded areas of the park. Having reached the higher level of the park, the ramblers found the pathway was still lined at either side with a large variety of mature trees and shrubs, including chestnut, oak, elm and monkey puzzle. One peculiar looking specimen turned out to be a sculpture ,formed from an old tree root system, which created the impression of a giant spider waiting to pounce!!


The pathway soon led the group out of the woods and in to the more open grassed areas of the park used for different recreational activities e.g. football , bowling and putting. The group continued along the pathway, passing an adventure play area for younger children , before reaching the western boundary of the park where they selected a quieter area, beside a landscaped flower garden, to stop for lunch and a leisurely chat.


After lunch, the group proceeded down the main driveway admiring the colourful flowerbeds and shrubs until they turned off to the right to join another pathway leading downwards towards the shore . From this viewpoint , the ramblers had great views of Ravenscraig Castle , which was originally commissioned by King James 2nd of Scotland, and also of Kirkcaldy Bay with its long promenade.

As the gravel pathway wound its way around the southern boundary of the park,following the shoreline with its sandy coves and rock promontories , it narrowed in places and a watchful eye had to look out for protruding tree roots and areas where the surface had eroded away. The ramblers continued to enjoy the ever changing views around each bend until eventually the path came to the point where they had entered the park. The group then headed back along the shore path to Dysart Harbour where a few of the ramblers continued further along the road from the car park to admire. the old houses at “Pan Ha” , some of which date back to the 16th century and named after the salt pans in this area which were used for extracting the salt from sea water. This salt was used by the fishermen for preserving the freshly caught fish. The group also took this opportunity to take photos of the architecture and also of St.Serf`s Tower, which was originally part of the 16th century church located on the site.. This tower was used as a bell tower and also as a lookout tower for spotting invaders trying to land along this part of the coast.

Once more many thanks must go to all the volunteers for their care and assistance during the ramble and to all the club members who participated therefore making it a day to remember.

Summer Scoot - Woodside to Stenton Ponds - Thursday 11 June 2015


Thursday 11th June promised to be one of those perfect warm summer`s days as the group of ramblers on electric mobility scooters accompanied by their volunteer helpers made their way from the garage premises in Woodside and down the short inclined path which joined up with Boblingen Way Cycle path . The group turned to the left and followed the cycle path as it wound its way through Warout Wood. This busy  path  /cycleway runs mainly east to west passing through the various different precincts of Glenrothes and giving the users many changing vistas as they proceed along the route.

 

After following this route for about half a mile, they took another pathway leading off to the left signposted  "Thornton" This took them uphill, through the edge of the woodland and continued onwards through different more open grassland until they reached Beaufort Drive where the volunteers controlled the traffic to allow the group to cross safely. The pathway then led them down through the housing of Pitteuchar Precinct before reaching the underpass at Glamis Ave. , leading the group to arrive at the Glamis Centre with its shops, Library and Community Centre.

 

It was here that the group took the opportunity to have a comfort stop before continuing along the tree lined pathway leading  on to the metal bridge spanning the dual carriageways of the Kinglassie Rd.

The ramblers were glad to be wearing their lighter summer clothing and hats  to give them protection from the sun ,allowing them to enjoy the warm summer`s day ramble even more.

After crossing the metal bridge, they continued to wind their way along the path through some more woodland before reaching  more open grassed areas and houses in the Stenton precinct. The front gardens of the houses displayed many varieties of colourful flowers and shrubs.  Slightly further on as they passed Fyvie Green, the ramblers spotted the concrete sculptures depicting the alien shapes of UFO`s.

 

The route shortly led the group to Mar Drive where the volunteers were once again called on to control the traffic as the ramblers crossed over and joined another pathway which led them passed a scaled down feature representing The Great Wall of China.  This attractive multi-contoured wall was constructed entirely of concrete "sets"

The ramblers followed the pathway until reaching the final road crossing at Foxton Drive which then allowed the group to enter Stenton Park.. The pathway into the park led the group through woodland before reaching the more open areas and on to the wooden bridge from where the ramblers were rewarded with clear views over the Stenton Ponds. The group noticed that the eastern end of the pond consisted mainly of reed beds which provided an ideal habitat for all the wildlife , while the western end is more open water complete with its resident swan family.

After crossing the bridge, the group followed the pathway along the waters edge until reaching the west end of the pond where they parked up on a grassed area  , sheltered by surrounding woodland , to relax for a while in the summer sun and enjoy their picnic lunch.

 

 

This form of a local ramble "scoot" provides an opportunity for new members to get a good introduction to the rambling experience and all the pleasure that it brings.

Forfar Loch Country Park - Wed 27th May 2015


After the very interesting and enjoyable ramble to Glen Doll last season , the Forth & Tay Disabled Ramblers decided to return to Angus this season to visit Forfar Loch and its country park.The park is located on the outskirts of Forfar and is well known for its loch, sailing club, leisure centre and very popular caravan park. A country ranger centre is also based in the park and it was from this point that the ramblers on electric mobility scooters along with their accompanying volunteers, headed out along the lochside trail.The trail which circumnavigates the loch is approximately 2.5mls. long, a car`s width and has a fairly level compacted gravel surface.

 

The group stopped frequently to admire views over the loch and also to take photos of the varieties of colourful flaura growing in clumps at the sides of the grassland and woodland areas.

The loch itself originally covered a much larger area before a drainage project carried out in the 19th century caused the water level to fall. This created the wetlands, a natural environment

 for the wildlife such as beavers and otters. Two canoes, dating back to the 11th century were also recovered from the mud.


The ramblers continued along the trail as it wound its way through different areas of woodland and grassland with constant glimpses of the loch through the trees. The weather kept dry although there was a fairly strong cool breeze blowing. After a short while , the group decided it was time to have a comfort stop and some lunch along with a welcome warm cup of tea, so they pulled in to a sheltered spot among the trees. It was here one of the park rangers met up with the group to say hello! and give them a very interesting talk about the park`s history and also its wildlife. He said there had been recent sightings of sea eagles which he thought may have been the same pair that had been resident in Tentsmuir Forest across in Fife.

There are regular sightings of peregrine falcon, swallows, roe deer, red squirrels and also the native Scottish red squirrel which has a much darker coat. The talk was rounded up with a question and answer session before the ranger bid us farewell!

The ramblers then rejoined the trail as it led its way round the western end of the loch where the park`s boundary fence runs for a short distance parallel to the main Dundee to Aberdeen trunk road. It didn`t take long before the group were back into the tranquility of the country park as the trail made its way past the reed beds at the water`s edge with views of swans, and boats with fishermen , testing their skills on the loch`s stock of brown trout.


The group continued along the trail, exchanging greetings with other members of the public out enjoying an afternoon`s walk or exercising their pets. The trail was now passing through another woodland area with pine trees laden with cones before eventually emerging at the edge of the popular caravan park. The caravan park attracts many tourists because of its location in the country park with its leisure centre. sailing & fishing activities and also being only minutes from the centre of the busy market town.

The ramblers all agreed that this had been another most enjoyable day, as they left their mobility scooters in the capable hands of the volunteers who loaded them back into the vans and boarded the coach with the intention of taking back some of Forfar`s famous "bridies" for tea..

Blairadam Forest Trails - Mon 13th April 2015


Blairadam Forest covers a large area of the Blairadam Estate which lies to the north west of Kelty in Fife. This venue was chosen for the first ramble of the 2015 season.


The ramblers met up with the vans used for transporting the club`s electric mobility scooters at the Forestry Commission`s car park. It was a bright spring morning with a slight westerly breeze as the scooters were unloaded and allocated to the waiting club members. The ramble leader welcomed the new members before briefing the group about the day`s rambling, the accompanying volunteers and first-aiders etc.


The group then made their way out of the car park, passing the barrier gate and along the main track leading into the forest. The track was about three metres wide with a compacted gravel surface which provided a fairly comfortable ride for the scooter mounted ramblers. They made their way between stacks of recently felled tree trunks and a bit further along the track entered Woodend Wood where they passed a few mature trees that had been completely uprooted by the winter storms. The ramblers continued along the route until it crossed a bridge over the Kelty Burn and then shortly afterwards reaching a junction where they followed the left hand fork into the Kiery Craigs area of the estate.


The trail was narrrower along this part of the route and the surface rougher with concentration required to avoid the larger stones and occasional protruding tree roots


The forest on each side of the track was a lot denser here with a high concentration of tall pines, mature spruce and beech trees. The sound of running water from the nearby burn was always present as the winding trail followed it`s course and crossed the burn by means of stone bridges at three different locations along the route.


All the wooded forest areas on the estate were established by the notable scottish architect William Adam and his son John. The family resided in Blairadam House ,designed and built by William in the 18th century. The house stands in an elevated position on the estate with views over to Loch Leven.


The ramblers were now negotiating a much steeper section of the track as it made it`s way upwards leading to more open woodland and a viewpoint giving fine views over the surrounding countryside. It was at this viewpoint the group parked up to enjoy a spot of lunch and also give the scooter batteries time to recover.


After an enjoyable lunch and chat the ramblers re-grouped and made their way back downhill until coming to a fork in the trail where the leader led the group along a more northerly route to the one that had originally been traversed on the outgoing journey. The woods here provided a natural habitat for the resident red squirrels and roe deer. The group stopped at intervals to take photographs of different species of spring flaura starting to bud due to the milder weather and also of the various streams that formed mini-waterfalls as they careered downhill over pebble beds and finally joining up with the Kelty Burn.


The group followed the trail as it wound its way through this part of the forest famed for the reported mysterious sightings of a species of large black cat !! A short distance further on, the ramblers came upon the remains of brick piers that formerly supported a bridge which once carried the railway that served the old coal mines A large carving in this brickwork depicted the image of a wild cat with an accompanying warning ""Don`t touch the cat"!!


It was maybe coincidence that the group appeared to cover the final section of the trail leading back to the car park, a bit quicker than usual.

Blairadam Estate and its associated woodlands provided an excellent location for rambling, due to it`s variety of accessible trails. The Forth and Tay Disabled Ramblers will certainly return here to explore more of its hidden secrets!

 Scottish charity No. SC033022.  
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