The Eskapade

23rd December 2012

photomap (click on popup photos for larger image)

The forecast wasn’t good, but as is often the way it could have been worse. The gale force headwinds disappeared in the shelter of the river valley, and the driving rain was a mere and occasional inconvenience. The sun even made an appearance at one point.
After the aperitif of Inveresk the first main challenge was the wall rather dispiritingly painted "Private Estate Trespassers will be Prosecuted" in angry wobbly letters.
Welcome to the Dalkeith Country Park!
With a great deal of shoving we got Cody up onto the wall. After taking a bit of a stroll along the top he decided to obey the injunction and rejoined us. Cries of Noooo! and we repeated the process. Some of us needed a shove too, as the wall seems to have grown. The woods were wonderful with the rich colours of fallen leaves, dead bracken, holly, lichen, moss and undergrowth.
The exit was easier as the recently walled up gate has mysteriously sprouted a hole (I hope the estate doesn’t routinely google itself, though I suppose they’ll notice soon enough).
A short section of railway walkway follows which will become part of the new Borders railway; so future runs may have to find another way through.
More appeals to privacy as we cut through between Melville Castle Hotel, the Nurseries and the golf range to the folly, so we tiptoed through the scrub, just leaf muffled squelching to mark our progress. Not many golfers on the rain lashed fairways; one or two took the traditional route down the field with a perilous climb over the wall and down the road sign but the rest took a safer road.
Then the beginnings of the theme for the rest of the day – mud. Lashings of it. Great glorious glutinous lagoons of it. The river was rising too, but still below the level of the path. We stopped for a nibble in Polton; Nick found out why his tea was cold. A thumping muddy slip earlier and his thermos was full of broken glass. Didn’t stop him drinking it though, he’s that hard.
The route over Hewan Bank is a delight, high above the woods on a narrow arête, lined with beech trees and the gateway to Roslin Glen. The path used to go down into The Maiden Castle, but the river is cutting through nothing more than a huge sand dune at this point and erosion has forced a re-routing.
The cottage which stood here was lost in the Polton landslide of December 1979 which could have made us a little more nervous about the fresh landslip and mudslide in the gorge opposite Hawthornden Castle, making the route quite ‘technical’ according to Bob Johnson who was sweeping the field on his mountain bike. Safely through we carried onwards to Roslin Castle, the occasional pallet laid over the mud; stepping stones in the slippery morass.
Shoving Cody part 2 took place at the traditional bridge refusal, then, passing the historic mill workings and roaring weirs of Roslin Glen Country Park we came to the railway walkway and the final trudge to Penicuik and ooh! bliss, bacon rolls.
Resuming, with lots of fresh faces, we were into territory that is unknown to a lot of people.
Penicuik House estate is worth another visit to see the ruined mansion and explore the woods and paths. See a photo map on the Carnethy local routes page here. Actually the day’s theme should include landslides – there’s an extensive one near where we entered the estate that occurred in 2007 (you can download a report here 1mb)
Leaving the estate via a rather wobbly bridge the route winds along the valley at the edge of farmland and onto the fringes of Auchencorth Moss, feeling increasingly exposed and remote (with a 3rd shoving of Cody at the pipe bridge). A brief pause at the pillar http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/750088 and then a final descent into the delightful valley of Habbie’s Howe before Carlops, a last bit of mud for old times sake in the fields and finally the lovely pub, good beer and food, and a struggle out of soaking footwear.
Another great day. Thanks to Wilie for the organisation. Photoalbum on Picasa here, and also on the photomap.

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