With this damp summer continuing we decided to stay low-level with lots of options to shelter from the showers that seem to pass through every twenty minutes. A plan was therefore hatched to do a circuit around Woodhall Loch and the banks of Loch Ken. We come to this part of the world most winters looking for the geese so this would be an interesting contrast with summer in full bloom.
We parked at the RSPB car park tucked away at NX699684 and headed down the track towards the hides. With a bit of lottery largesse the hides have had a make-over and we sat in comfort to look at the family of Great Tits that constituted the entire offering of wildlife. With the latest shower safely passed we head on towards Hensol estate. The parkland around the very attractive main house has lots of lovely big trees which should be ideal for Nuthatches but they were keeping their heads down today. We turn off the main track to head passed Home Farm and over the hill to Little Duchrae 1. From the top is a nice view towards the Rhinns of Kells with Galloway looking very wooded.
We crossed the A762 along a lane heading for Nether Crae and the woodland on the west side of Woodhall Loch. There are beautiful houses here with great views – so why is my first thought: “I wonder how good the broadband is?”. The woodland here is commercial conifer that obscures the view of the loch and so didn’t detain us for long. It’s now time to bash some tarmac as we join the road to Laurieston. This part of the world is on the Red Kite Trail and at Bellymack just outside Laurieston is a feeding station. As we passed I counted 45 Kites in the air together – a superb sight. As we’ve mentioned before, Kites are a very nosey bunch and we had several birds float low over the top of us: I had to reassure Her Jazzness that they weren’t checking her out as a food source but just being friendly.
Fortunately we soon branch off the main road to take the old Kirk Road passed Dornell Loch heading for the old church at Balmaghie. This is a great looking church on the banks of Loch Ken and I’ve never popped in as I’ve always literally been on a wild goose chase and my birding companions’ interests don’t extend to grave browsing. As I’ve mentioned previously, I intend to be left as Raven-food on some distant hill when I finally go off-line, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a good graveyard – and this one is wonderful, full of lovely stones. Sadly they are mostly made from red sandstone which has worn away in a lot of places meaning I can’t read the stories. Obviously I won’t be making that mistake: my epitaph will be Scottish slate with the words carved by diamond drills. Alternatively, I’m toying with the idea of just having a QR code cut into the slate so my many visitors can scan the monument and be directed to this blog. And I really want one where the missus is referred to as my “Relict” as one stone did here. From here it’s more tarmac bashing back to the car park along a lovely quiet lane (no passing traffic in 45 minutes walking) with views over Loch Ken.
On the way home we stopped off at the church in Parton on the east side of Loch Ken and another grave, a very special one: James Clerk Maxwell. Among other little projects this man formulated the laws of electro-magnetism and so became a pillar of modern life. He should be beside Newton and Co in Westminster Abbey but instead has a very modest grave in the old kirk. If it wasn’t for a recent memorial it would probably go unseen. It was when I was reading the inscription on the memorial that I got a shock: to paraphrase the great Tom Lehrer 2 – “It is sobering to consider that when James Clerk Maxwell was my age he’d been dead for two years”. Imagine what the world would be like if he had lived to age 88 instead 48.
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