Ah Benbeoch… it’s one of those hills that has a bad reputation. I was concerned at one time it might vanish before I did it. That’s because it was sited in the middle of a large open-cast coal mine. Mines (open or deep) are dangerous places and there are plenty of rules to keep the general public away. Reports of earlier ascents have people being caught by security, or hiding in ditches from vehicles or climbing on days like Christmas when nobody was about. Jack GM4COX actually attended a Health & Safety course for visitors so that he could safely and legally wander up.
Then the mine company went bust in 2013. Suddenly it was open season with no security on site. The other problem is the mine company kept eating the ground so the maps are missing lots of detail because it kept changing. Anyway, the route up is fairly well documented now online.
I’ve been putting this one off because it’s low rubbish drive and only a single point. But it is on my hit list and with a surprisingly good day’s WX predicted I was ready. The day before we had bad anti-cyclonic gloom and drizzle. The day in question the skies had cleared and everywhere was a winter-wonderland of frost covered trees, bushes and ground. Blue sky and bright sun… result!
I was away by 900z for the 1hr30 drive across rubbish roads. I took my pickup as it hasn’t had a long run for a while. Finally after a lifetime of driving (1hr40) I pulled up in the parking spot NS498068, Pennyvenie Bridge. I knew I was in the right place…there was a sign saying dangerous quarry works no entry and a very well worn path by it where people had stood and read the sign then walked into the grounds! Plus lots of dumped microwave oven cases and tin cans
Boots on, over the fence by the sign up and down, over the style and you are in the once forbidden grounds. The undergrowth is deep chest high bracken in the summer, but it was easy now in December. You come out by 3 sediment settling lagoons. There lots of water inspection points here to check the mine outflow was with safety limits. The track is made from crushed mine taillings and looks like coal. Follow this left then up the hill to the end of the track. You can take a longer detour on tracks if the grasses are high but I went essentially straight up as the chest height grass was laying down as it was winter. Up, up and up, avoiding the various unmarked, very deep, man-mad lakes/ponds till you hit the old drystane wall. Over the wall, over the barbed wire fence, follow the wall to the high point, turn right across the long grass and then up the steep slopes to the summit and the big cairn. Simples! Took 1hr instead 44mins… too much turkey and stuffing and long grass.
Glorious WX, hardly any wind and good views. Up went the 5m pole with a full sized 80m dipole. I made this last summer ready for the challenges and had only used it briefly when up on the North coast of GM this August. Would it work? Well 15 QSOs later where most callers were 58-59 and my reports were 55-59 would suggest yes. A full sized inverted-V 80m dipole on a 5m pole works OK for SOTA. Big bugger of thing though, a long walk from one end to to the other. Anyway ODX was DG1NPM on 80m SSB at about 1050km, not bad for midday on 80m. I tried 60m but it was very quiet then 40m SSB and CW. I finally pulled the plug a little over 1hr20m after starting as it was actually cold and it gets dark quickly up here. Walk out was the reverse route in which took 45mins due to being too fat and lazy recently.
About 1/2 way up. You can see the summit and it’s basalt column craggy face. The drystane wall is clear too. There has been lots of earth removal here in the past but the ground is recovering with grass and self seeded pines.
An artistic shot from the operating position! Well no, my camera decided to focus on the grasses not on wonderful Arran in the distance!
Looking towards the Rhinns of Kells, some of the hardest walking ground in Scotland. This photo was taken at 1209Z and you can the Sun barely gets above the horizon at this time of year. It will be starting to drop in the sky soon. Also my Lumix TZ100 has some cool dynamic range being able to take a photo looking into the sun. This is 25mm wide-angle (35mm equiv). The summit beneath the sun is Corserinne GM/SS-033. Going right in the far distance is Craignaw GM/SS-096, Mullwharchar GM/SS-073 just peeks out, Merick GM/SS-028, Kirriereoch then Shalloch on Minnock GM/SS-042. In front of them are Craiglee GM/SS-152 and Craigenreoch GM/SS-135. Glorious summits but hard work.
Summit cairn of Benbeoch GM/SS-186. The big hill, right far distance, is Cairnsmore of Carsphairn GM/SS-038.
If you look the right way you’d never know you were in a huge mine site. Look the wrong way and you see stuff like this. That’s one BIG hole. Eventually it will fill completely with water, Scotland has the climate where accumulation exceeds evaporation.
The site is closed and abandoned. But it isn’t! The company was meant to have saved money to pay to restore the ground when the coal was exhausted. They didn’t though. Remedial work is occurring though, 3 large dozers were working on former extraction areas, possibly paid for by the local councils.
A better view to Arran. A bit more murky than earlier though. Really quite good views when no mine site in view.
Ailsa Craig GM/SS-246 in the distant right. The wind farm is on Troweir Hill GM/SS-257
Approximately 1000 wind turbines have been built in the West of Southern Scotland. There are loads of wind farms round here. This new major switching station is to handle all those turbines. The grid has been upgraded from the original 70year old wires and pylons to something with much more capacity.
Looking Northwest to North towards Glasgow. Remarkably flat part of Scotland. Some big hills (Arrochar Alps?) just visible in the murk.
A fine view of both the cairn and the crags of Benbeoch GM/SS-186
A major runoff into the settlement lagoons. The water looks remarkably clean but all the red colour says there lots of iron about. The open cast mines came after all the deep coal mines closed, there were over 20 here. There were lots of ironworks too 70+ years ago.
The settlement lagoons, now home to lots of birds.
Canada Geese living on lagoon no. 2. I tried to get some more photos but they all took off at once and I missed the shot.
Finally shot from just inside the site. It’s a nice dichotomy between the undisturbed summit in the distance and the mine tailings in the foreground. Slowly nature is recovering the land. Given 100years you’ll only know there was a mine here by the odd shapes in the land and the plastic waste still decomposing.
On a good day, this is a fine hill and good walk. Just make sure you look at the nice things. A nice end to 2019 SOTA activities for me.
HNY for 2020