Walking with Caroline Beven, Margaret Stevenson and Wilf on 14 May 2011



I am walking with Caroline, Margaret and Wilf. This is my first dog walk, led by the graciously aging, still spritely Wilf. We park up at Drumclog Car Park, beside Mugdock Country Park, opposite the Reservoir. Though only about 10 miles from Glasgow, I have visited Mugdock only a few times, and never begun at this point. This walk is a familiar favourite for Wilf though, chosen for me by the promise and lure of abundant bluebells. We planned to do it last year, but missed the bluebell window. Caroline, Margaret and Wilf visited a little over a week ago, and the bluebells were not yet out. Let’s hope we’ve chosen the right day…

A few paces into the walk and I am reassured by the sight of one or two flowers in bloom, their scent already enticing us. As we walk onwards, fields of bluebells open up, iridescent, mesmerising. Wilf ambles ahead of us, seeming to enjoy the deep scents as much as we do. Though 11 years old, Wilf has only been with Caroline and Margaret for four. He chose them carefully as guardians. Margaret shares the story as we stroll over open grassland. She had been walking a neighbour’s dog in the Botanic Gardens when she spotted this sorry looking creature, skin and bones, with hardly any hair. He seemed totally alone, scared, nervous. She took the dog home first, then to the vet. A chip revealed an address, but when the vet visited it, she was told that the people she was looking for had not lived there for more than two years. No forwarding address. Caroline and Margaret registered the dog with the police and after a period of six weeks, when no-one had claimed him, he rightfully entered the home of Caroline and Margaret, not as a visitor, but as a permanent family member. Four years later, with a special diet matched by healthy portions of love, care and attention, Wilf’s coat is thick and glossy, his eyes inquisitive and intelligent, his silky soft ears ever alert. Wilf seems to be having the time of his life.

We cross a stream; on the other side, Margaret spots a small Orange Tipped butterfly. Then it’s a muddy, slurpy but short trudge through peaty bog, and up a steep oak wooded hill. The trees that have fallen remain untouched, rich deadwood providing a succulent home for other flora and insects. Quite a few upright trees carry cracked branches, seemingly placed carefully and symmetrically across their trunk, a horizontal plane against a vertical. It’s like natural tree architecture – or arbotecture. The swathes of deep blue continue, as far as the eye can see. Amidst them, the occasional pink stem, Ragged Robin, or a different shade of purple – the Bugle.

A couple of riders trot by. Wilf behaves impeccably, and is rewarded with a calorie-free dog treat – a thumb’s up signal from Caroline (dog sign language for ‘good boy’). We are now at the top of the hill, walking along a bridle pathway, in the more manicured section of Mugdock Park itself. We pass by Mugdock Castle, its solar panels somewhat incongruous but, when read beside the Scottish Saltire that flies alongside, perhaps positively or aspirationally signalling an eco-conscious country. The path leads us over stone plaques laid into the ground, with text inscribed: tended, nurtured, worked, drained. We enjoy the double signification of ‘drained’, imagining how draining the draining of this land must have been on those who did it. The branches of still bare trees create a canopy, throwing mottled shadows onto the sun drenched ground and Wilf’s black back.

A beautiful curved ‘S’ dry stone wall feeds us through single file, onto a constructed wooden board walk that seems to float above the marshy land. Some of those who have made (or repaired) this walk (Margaret reckons it is the Territorial Army) have left their mark on it, using U-Nails to spell out their names; a textured form of graffiti: Dan, Adam (2000). Soon, we turn off the main track and are back onto a lesser used dirt track. (Though, in fact, wherever we have walked today there has been hardly another soul. It is a sunny, spring day but we have encountered less than five people.) The path leads us down to the Allander River where, in spite of much coaxing, Wilf agrees only to go knee deep. (He’s not a great one for water.) The small white waters further down testify to the rain of the week before. As we rise up the bank again, I look behind and spot a perfect crossing made of two mud paths. Talk of tea and cake shops makes me wish I had packed a flask. As we head to the end of the walk, we encounter another dog – the first of the afternoon. It’s a large Collie and it seems more anxious even than Wilf. (The only breed of dog that Wilf really does not like is the Labrador– whether brown, black or golden Wilf’s hackles rise when he encounters one.) Wilf lets the Collie go by without much of a fuss and kindly obliges me at the end of the walk with a photo moment, the pair of us standing in a field of bluebells. The sun is still shining, Wilf’s tail is wagging and so is mine. Clearly, we chose the right day.

2 Responses to “Walking with Caroline Beven, Margaret Stevenson and Wilf on 14 May 2011”

  1. elspeth owen Says:

    thank you for bringing the bluebells into my day. Iwas walking yesterday with Max, Kirsten’s son see daily rounds for brief message on http://www.imaginedcorners.net.
    It all came out of the time in yr flat at the Winter School!
    Thanks for ALL the walk blogs

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: