The forecast for Saturday was sunny intervals and it did start brightly. Eleven walkers assembled at Salsburgh Community Centre, with local walkers supplemented by others from as far away as Livingston and Busby!
Norbert Grant assembled the group and introduced everyone before we headed off. We were joined by Keith Nelson of Salsburgh Heritage Group, whose knowledge of the area is outstanding, and his input was very interesting indeed.
Heading north out of Salsburgh Keith pointed out an area which was at one time Duntilland Loch, but is now marshland, due to its drainage when the railway was built. He told us of the tragedy of 1845, when eight youngsters from Salsburgh were killed there, falling through the ice on the loch.From the signpost we went up towards Mountcow. The right of way starts on the other side of what remains of Mountcow Farm, which burned down on November 5th 2005. However this involves climbing down a ditch, then over 200m of boggy ground. The simpler option is through a gate and uphill, around the perimeter fence of the Blackhill Transmitter, Scotlands second tallest structure, (which is due to be replaced in 2011), and on to the trig point. By this time the cloud had descended and we had a brief view of Tinto before it disappeared from view.
Norbert produced a map of a proposed windfarm development which would, if approved, see the erection of five turbines. One of these would be virtually at the trig point, others would see the destruction of the remains of an ancient farm and rigs, the other would be almost on the south shore of the Lilly Loch. Speaking for myself I wouldn’t like this to go ahead, it would see the spoiling of a great area for walking, for bird and animal life, not to mention historical remains which cannot be replaced.
The next section was over rough ground, and it was good to see that as we all walked from the trig point towards Alice Hill, a distinctive trail was broken behind us. The nature of the ground here is such that individuals walking this route are unlikely to use the exact same path, and one is unlikely to develop. With this walk taking place a clear route was left for others to follow.
Lunch was at the Lilly Loch, and the shelter of the trees was welcome as the rain began to come down. I could hear the rumble of the trains on the new railway, and we watched with interest as two swans noisily made their way down the loch to where we were resting.
With the weather worsening we decided to cut the walk short, and headed on the right of way to Wester Bracco Farm. Keith had some photographs of the old mine which was here, it’s location now marked only by a three peaked bing, and of a cottage which occupied the top of the hill, next to the brick building which was possibly part of an aerial ropeway which transported coal to Stepends.
On then to the spring at Tipperdavie, where water bubbles out from the hill.
The last leg saw us having to climb a few fences. Up until recently it was easy to get on to the right of way from the old railway which goes round the north side of Roughrigg Reservoir. Sadly it has been fenced off, causing difficulties for walkers and cyclists, and virtually ending access for horse riders. This has led to people clambering over fences and the fence at the signpost has almost collapsed. Had the landowner put in a gate this wouldn’t happen, but the ‘Get Off My Land’ instinct seems strong here, hence locked gates on rights of way and electric fences too.
Thanks to all who took part, without whom this would not have taken place. On a wet day their support was very welcome. Thanks particularly to Keith for his marvellous contribution, which brought life to the ruins we passed along the route. More thanks to the Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser, Morrissons Airdrie and Airdrie Library for helping promote our walk, and to Karen Whitefield MSP, Alex Neil MSP, Provost Tom Curley and Councillor Malcolm McMillan for their interest and support.
We are hoping to do another Rights of Way Walk sometime in the New Year.