Setting Off From Sandwell valley

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Airds Moss RSPB Reserve, Lawrence, Thelma, Phoebe and Morag.

Monday 12th July 2010

The cycle ride to Airds Moss RSPB reserve was hindered by only one thing. I couldn't find an open library. Scottish TV had asked for some photos and I couldn't get them to them. Still in the end that didn't matter because today I received a thank you but we don't have space for you voicemail today but that's another story of unrequited tv fame.

Searched for the unsigned RSPB reserve and luckily looked out for birds along the A70 from Cumnock to Muirkirk. Still searching I asked a lovely man with a gentle US accent. Invited in for coffee and to meet Lawrence, for that was his name, 's wife Thelma and daughter Phoebe [you must look up Phoebe Snetzinger Phoebe!]. Was given the local gamekeeper's telephone number and he conformed that I had indeed cycled along the edge of the RSPB reserve and had had lunch at a layby overlooking a large stretch of it. So what birds did I see here - oystercatcher, kestrel, meadow pipit, crow, skylark, curlew, pied wagtail, buzzard, siskin and redpolls.

Lawrence and Thelma were so friendly and lovely to meet. They allowed me to send the desired photos to STV and told of their life with their 10 [!] children; 5 boys and 5 girls. Phoebe, the youngest wants to be a farmer and had raised 6 lambs. All the children had been home taught and my hats off to the pair for their success and attitude. Great people.

Into Muirkirk and with the local library open a chance to do a bit of blogging. Morag, the librarian told of some local historical sites and so during their closing time I explored two of them; namely Macadam's Stone celebrating one John Loudon Macadam, the 'inventor'maybe of tarmac.

Having seen the stone cairn I wandered down to a near bridge where the famous Isabel 'Tibbie' Pagan lived. A poor girl with a squint, a deformed foot and a large growth on her side, she opened a house where the locals could enjoy strong drink and her poetry - a deadly combination. She is credited with the poem "Ca' the Yowes tae the Knowes" and as she is credited with Robbie Burns being a close friend that may be why he took her poem, alledgedly.

Back to the library, for it was open for the evening in a strange twist on the lack of opening times found in nearby towns and more chat with Morag and a 'Banking headhunter' from London. Eventually time to leave but not before Morag had told of the birthplace of Bill Shankly. Now the coincidence of having one of such sporting dignity after having written about my feelings on the World Cup Final was not lost on me and having said goodbye, I cycled to Glenbuck and found a large plaque dedicated to the man. Disappointed there wasn't a statue.

Midges, lots of them. Now I feel I'm in Scotland!

Tuesday 13th July 2010

A quick ride of maybe 25 miles to the RSPB reserve at Baron's Haugh, near Motherwell and a few birds to be seen. 2 black-tailed godwits, a snipe which seemed an unusual sighting, 73 lapwing, 4 grey heron, a large number of eclipse mallard and a few teal and pochard together with good numbers of sand martins. Very solidly built hides of unburnable construction overlook the lake and marshes and have survived the test. An excellent reserve.

Another lovely cycle ride from here into Glasgow where, tired out, I've ensconced myself in the Glasgow Youth Hostel. What a brilliant hostel! Friendly staff at the reception and lovely people staying; Yenthe and Sewuaes both from Belgium, young travellers with something to learn about money, and two lovely ladies from the States. Tired so relaxed instead of exploring Glasgow itself. Will do that tomorrow before heading to the Inner Clyde and Lochwinnoch RSPB reserves on Thursday. Looking forward to those as the people at the latter seem to have set up some shared cycling experience.

Getting closer to the time when I'll be exploring the Scottish West Coast islands!

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