Back on the Old Drove Road


‘I know, I said I was going to write a new story.’ 

‘What, you want to hear it now?  But I’ve still to write it’

‘Ah I see, you want a story before bedtime.’

‘If I tell you a story then you’ll go to sleep and stop pestering me so I can get on with writing this blog post?’

‘Ok. Once upon a time…’

’When your legs don’t work like they used to before’…Ed Sheeran

Once upon a time I could jump in the car, drive to whatever mountain I so chose and then trundle my way upward without giving it a great deal of thought.  These days I would prefer to jump in the car and then drive it all the way to the top of said mountain and miss out completely the hard bit in between.  Age is creeping up and I am having to reassess my capabilities (or lack thereof).  I suppose it would be no exaggeration to say that my current capabilities lie so far towards the bottom end of the scale that I am pondering whether I will in fact manage to complete my intended walk of around 7km or whether I will have to suffer the indignity of having J pick me up in the car at some point yet to be agreed.  Given I am still having “odd moments” courtesy of some strange goings on in my neck, J is in favour of her following me around in the car – just to be sure!

There are not too many places of interest within walking reach of my house.  The closest is a short hike up to an old drove road that was the final leg of the big livestock drive from the west of Scotland to the market at the Tryst (Larbert) from about 1785 all through the 1800s.

There is approximately 60m of ascent to get through today.  It is some indication of how unsure I am of my condition that I am treating this 60m with as much respect as a long haul up say, Ben Nevis.  I reckon it will be a two hour walk so I had better take something to munch…just in case I have to sit and wait for the car.

Ah, yes…my snack.  You see I go shopping on Tuesdays and this is Monday so there are no snacks left.  What is left is my 2 year old granddaughter’s nibbles.  Oh well, needs must. 

The troops are not happy at my departure.  Two black wet noses are pressed against the glass of the living room window as I leave.  Given I’m not even sure if I can make this trip on my own there is no way on earth I’m going to involve either of those two hairy reprobates. 

About 20 minutes later I’m about midway along the first, more modern, section of the old drove road…and it is heaving.  I’ve been up this way a few times over the years and it has always been a haven of solitude.  However with the building of the new hospital some years back and the subsequent development of the surrounding woodlands with improved paths and trails it has become somewhat busier.  Lockdown has not improved the situation with incredible numbers of people having discovered that they can actually do things with their legs as opposed to only using them to move from sofa to fridge and back again. 

(please remember to click on the individual photos to see them full screen)

This is merely a temporary setback.  One thing I have noticed about the new breed of urban based lockdown walkers – they do not like weather – and they especially don’t like mud!  I know that once this tarmacked section of road takes a very sharp left, the much narrower, original cobbled, section of track which leads straight ahead will probably be deserted.  And so it comes to pass.  One tiny patch of mud at the start of the old road and they are gone…like midges in the breeze.  I increase my speed to take a run at the slight rise in the track and the increasingly lumpier surface.  In my mind I am seeing this…

…in reality I am feeling the drag on the leg muscles so I opt for a slightly more pedestrian pace until the track plateaus out some 70m further on, where the old drove road is briefly interrupted by a bridge over the M876 motorway.  There is a completely forgettable view from the bridge – I include a photo – to give you the opportunity to completely forget about it.

At last!  I am on the section of the old drove road that I really enjoy.  The road is shown on the 1819 Grasson map and has probably changed little in the 200 years since it was surveyed. 

Ah, yes…maybe apart from the large, gleamingly white, wind turbines.

I’ve poured over quite a number of OS maps of various dates in the past day or so and there has been almost no change to the road since the earliest map was surveyed.

[Click on photos to bring up gallery]

And now…my pride and joy for the whole day!

I know, it’s only a gate, but I manage to squeeze myself through that hole where there is a horizontal spar missing!  I am most impressed.  I am even more impressed that, having squeezed through, I am able to straighten back up again without any serious mishap in the lower back department.  I am on a roll!

Over the fields to the north lies the ruin of Torwood castle, former home of the Forrester family. It has been around since about 1566 which is, strangely enough, the year I believe my legs were built.  Or so it feels.  Actually I’m feeling pretty good.  I’ve by now covered 3km very easily which is much better than I anticipated.  The new boots are performing well and given I had only worn them for about 40 minutes before today’s walk I am pretty chuffed that there are no odd little aches in the foot department. As I amble along it’s nice to see a bit of colour beginning to appear in the hedgerows – the gorse is coming into flower. Spring is on its way.

[Click on photos to bring up the gallery]

The drove road sits on a low ridge above the River Carron. It’s difficult to photograph the views from up here, everything is so distant.  Fortunately I come across old wall which gives me a decent viewpoint. In the distance you can see the famous Falkirk Wheel; a huge boatlift connecting the Forth and Clyde Canal with the Union Canal. I have reached the track’s high point and am calling it a day. I have completed my 60m of ascent so it is time to turn around and head back home.

THE END


‘Right you two…that’s the story all told.’

‘Are you going to go off for a sleep now so I can finish up here?’

‘Ah, it was THAT interesting was it’


Addendum

Now, I was going to drivel on about my return journey through Larbert Wood and how I spent the last 20 minutes of my 7km walk with ever tightening leg muscles as I wound my way back through the various housing estates on my way back to the house. But I won’t bore you with the detail. Larbert Wood is pretty small and uninteresting as woods go but we are so short of that type of amenity that it has become the walk of choice for just about everybody in the area. It has however one redeeming feature…it’s pond. I took these two photos some years ago which I think show it off at its best.

Today’s occupants seemed relatively pleased to see me…

I realise this would not be a “tail” without some form of canine input and as you have all been very good and not made any nasty comments about my ascending limitations I will finish with a couple of shots from eight years ago. Both the photo and the video clip are of Mabel as a puppy and were taken at the same spot as I took the photos of the coot and the swans yesterday.

…and finally, of course, the inevitable music segment today brought to you by the JSD Band one of the first Scottish folk rock bands I ever came across.

That’s all folks