No, it’s not the latest long distance walk, but both are landmarks on the horizon from the recently denuded slopes of Side Hill. After gazing longingly on the summit, noting the hard core track that means tramping through the heather and bog is a thing of the past, we finally managed to find a window in the weather and the chores to take a wander in the crisp air on the cusp of spring.
Before the road was out of sight a trio of roe deer bounced across the moor, below the tree line. They stopped, motionless, only their heads rising above the grasses and the shrubs, unseen if you had missed their movement moments earlier. Perhaps they had been driven to lower levels with the higher slopes now being shorn of trees, and of shelter.
Pockets of snow remained, and in the drainage ditches the water trickled slowly under and around the remaining ice, as the road meandered through the remaining stand of seriously tall mature timber. Slowly the undergrowth was recovering from the brutal slashing for the access route. Reeds evidenced the need for ditches; new shoots were slowly taking the form of the spruce, already layered with a few years of growth.
But the upper slopes were bare, forested only with stumps, and the residue of deforestation. In the past there have been occasional sightings of adders on these slopes. Aside from those deer we saw nothing, and heard little. The return through the trees was accompanied by some birdsong, settling as the sun lowered.
On reaching the higher levels the absence of trees opens new horizons. We rise far above the granite plug of Loudoun, and its impact on the landscape fades from the familiar, and dominating, views down below, so it is the snow-pocked ridge of Goat Fell that draws the eye. Then Cairn Table down Muirkirk way catches the sun; and swinging to the south we find Tinto, basking, snowless, despite being the highest by some distance.
To view those horizons though you have are hard pushed to find a line of sight devoid of turbines. The access to Side Hill, and on to Dungavel, was dictated by the need to site a baker’s dozen; the view to Cairn Table is through and above the Banked turbines. There are pockets in every direction, near and far. And along the whole horizon to the north lies Whitelee, where they seem to breed.
Our wander on the hill gave us one distant view of another walker. As yet the cyclists are absent, probably at Whitelee where they are positively encouraged and have 80km of hard core routes to play on. From the higher levels I spotted a track up to Mill Rigg, and there is another access route there for the Bankend turbines. In my 20 years here I have yet to take that path, to wander along to the wreckage of the Spitfire that rots and rusts. I am minded that I haven’t opened a flask of soup in Dungavel’s cairn since the dawning of the millennium. But those slopes of Dungavel and of Mill Rigg are still encased in spruce; and I’m beginning to think that returning our hills to the natural is making for a better horizon, even if it is peppered with windmills.
I reckon that Side Hill might just be a regular path for us, chores and weather permitting of course.