To get to the loch I walked through my local park taking the quickest route up the hill. It was very cold this morning when I headed out and there were only a couple of dog walkers in the park, wearing many more layers than me. I met a woman whose small grey terrier, in a red jacket, had decided that lying on the grass with a ball in its mouth was much more fun than walking, and the owner was starting to get slightly frustrated at this turn of events.
I left the park and crossed the main road into the next suburb, where either it was shadier, colder, or more neglected by the council as the pavements and roads were still covered in packed snow and ice. Some of the snow was melting in fractal patterns, a combination of footfalls and nature taking its course.
My eye was drawn by a little copse, all spindly bare branches, hosting a magpie conference. Or “conventicle” (or tidings) of magpies as I have just found out. As I reached the motorway bridge at the top of the hill, I passed a young man standing almost in the bushes, using his mobile, texting, most likely, and on passing him two more men of about his age crossed the road in colourful tracksuits. I expect they were going to watch the Old Firm match together, but I could be wrong.
On the other side of the motorway the icy pavements were almost impassable, so when I reached a bus stop I put my trusty yaktrax ice grips on for the rest of the walk. Invincible and sure of foot! I passed a vacant plot that I remember housing a beautiful yet derelict cottage in my childhood days. The kind of place I imagined I’d like to live when I was a grown up.
The golf course adjacent to the loch was covered in untouched snow. I half wanted to go tramp about in it, but I enjoyed looking at the unbroken expanse of white. Surprised noone had been sledging on it!
The car park for the loch was full, as usual. It’s a popular place to walk a dog or go for a run, and families take their children to feed the birds there too. I was surprised how icy it still was underfoot. I approached the viewing platform that projects into the loch and looked out over the still blue water. Too big to be frozen like the smaller park ponds, and full of birds. My favourites this time of year are the glorious whooper swans with their yellow beaks and constant honking. Goosanders, mallards, greylag geese, mute swans, tufted ducks, and at the back, the shy goldeneye, never venturing too close to the shore. A young girl was feeding the birds with white bread and shouting “here wee ducky” to the geese while the swans barged in in front. I was wondering if she’d even noticed the goldeneye at the back.
I decided to walk round the loch clockwise for a change, and the ice was certainly less problematic on the northerly side. Immediately I was passed by a couple with two miniature yorkshire terriers. The woman was carrying one of them wrapped up in her jacket and scarf, and I couldn’t even see it as she overtook me. The other was wearing a red jacket and chasing a ball which was clearly as big as the wee thing could get in its mouth. It kept dropping the ball and readjusting it to return it to its master. Looking out towards the tree lined loch again, I saw several robins, a wagtail or two at the water’s edge and noticed the sphagnum building up on the tree trunks.
As I progressed round the loch the sound of traffic faded and it began to feel like I was in the countryside instead of at the edge of the biggest city in Scotland. More dogs intersected on the path, a terrier in an orange harness and a big happy black and tan staffie, grinning, with a tennis ball in its mouth. They clearly knew each other and ran around together with no purpose while their owners chatted briefly. Too cold to stop for long though.
The sky was bright blue and almost cloudless for my entire walk, and even now as I write, I can only see a few wispy clouds in the distance. The water tower on the far side of the loch glowed white in the bright sunshine, and the loch sparkled.
When I was about half way round the loch, the deserted icy path to the next nature reserve looked very enticing, but it is rather remote and I resisted. I was lapped by a couple of joggers I had seen earlier. A middle aged couple, going at a fair pace. The woman was wearing a bright pink jacket and matching turban. A turban! Such glamour on a Sunday morning!
The furthest edge of the loch from the main road is a strangely deserted place. There’s a marsh opposite the lochside, with long rushes, which was frozen over, and a beach and picnic area by the water, which tend to be uninhabited even on the finest of summer days. I saw a young man attempting to feed his toddler son, who was having much more fun pottering about the ice. The wee boy was dressed in an orange jacket with a tiger printed hat and a Minions backpack. I always wonder what goes in such a small child’s backpack. Change of clothes in case of accidents? Full of toys for the journey? Out on the water beyond, I spotted an adult male mute swan in busking posture with neck bowed and wings half up speeding along like a motorboat. Defending his territory I expect. Looked like he meant business whatever he was up to.
On the home strait I passed an elderly couple both on foot but one of them pushing a wheelchair. I couldn’t make up my mind which of them was the wheelchair user as they were both walking on the ice without difficulty. Maybe the man, who was pushing the wheelchair, was using it as a zimmer and it was his. Not entirely convinced though. Opposite the loch there was evidence of serious sledging, with tracks coming down a steep hill. I hope no-one ended up in the loch. It was certainly still sledgeable, but again, nobody there. Maybe the kids are all fed up with sledging now that we’ve had a few snowy days. A woman encouraging her spaniel to find the ball was getting impatient with the dog’s endless running around. Another matching spaniel appeared, but apparently unrelated as the owners didn’t know each other. Maybe the dogs were cousins.
Heading out towards the main entrance I stopped to look at the swans still honk honk honking and was glad that I took the trouble to climb the big hill to the loch on such a chilly day.