You can see a map of the final route at http://www.getamap.ordnancesurveyleisure.co.uk/?key=72aPhuBX7Nzdf9f_EIIf7w2
Blog with bigger versions of the images is at http://niksbikingblog.blogspot.com/2011/12/pentlands-pathfinder-ride-december.html
I had been meaning to check out an unknown, possibly unused route in the Pentlands for some time now. This route is shown on old maps, bit not new ones, and connects Listonsheils with Thieves Road. This connection would make new loops possible, especially with access to Theives Road from the Cauldstane Slap down to West Linton. This route had been explored part way by druidh - his write up is at http://singletrackworld.com/forum/topic/more-pentlands-wanderings
My plan was to do a big route, starting from Red Moss car park, then on the road round to the dirt road opposite Temple house, going up to Listonshiels, then across to catch Theives Road, down to West Linton, along to Carlops, then on to 8 Mile Burn and up past Eastside Farm, up the hill top Red Road, then back down to the carpark at Red Moss. Quite a long route, too long for today as it turned out.
Everything started out fine. It wasn't too windy, and the day was nice and bright.
The road from Red Moss is always a nice cruse.
I followed the road round, up to Listonsheils, and across following Druidh's map. The going on this part was fine. Although I lost the track several times, the ground was short grass and short moorland heather. It was firm and flat enough to cycle most of the way up till the point in the next photo, looking toward the scraggly trees of Thrashiedean Plantation, with East Cairn Hill on the left, and West Cairn Hill in the distance on the right.
I totally lost the path going down to the plantation, and the ground was getting a bit more lumpy. Anyway, it wasn't far. I found the old wooden stile Druidh found on his wanderings.
Over the stile, across a small burn, and I had a look round the old building in the woods. Seemed there was a more recent addition of a red brick chimney, and inside connected to it was a large metal bowl set into the brick. I have not a clue what that would have been used for, way out here.
There was also what looked like an other newer addition to the ruins, a concrete corridor. At first I thought it would be for some kind of water power, but there was nothing connecting to it. My best guess it it was for sheep dipping, and maybe the big bowl was also for that (making sheep dip?):
My curiosity satisfied, I set off over the moor to Thieves Road. This part of the journey is where the plan started to fall apart. First of all, it started raining and got generally colder and wintry, and I couldn't see any obvious path over the moor. Thoughts of turning back crossed my mind, but I couldn't do that, I had to keep going.
I decided to head for the higher ground, up toward East Cairn Hill. The ground underfoot immediately got worse, very soft, thicker vegetation, heavy going. I followed a deeply cut burn up towards the hill, then crossed it and headed along south-west. The moor was featureless, and I spent a lot of the time with the bike over my shoulder because pushing was impossible. The ground seemed to get worse and heavier, it was hard going, and the weather was really closing in.
The wind was about 15mph or so, and the rain had turned to a selection box of sleet, snow, and tiny hail stones that stung! Humor was fading, and as I trudged on I started to consider that trying to do the whole Carlops loop may be a bit silly. I formulated a bail-out plan that when I hit Thieves Road, I could take a right back to Harperrig instead.
After some more walking, carrying, head-down trudge, without warning, Thieves Road appeared only a few meters away. The crossing from Thrashiedean had only taken about 1/2 an hour, but it felt like longer.
I looked at the time; 2.30. The decision was made for me, it was way too late to do the big route. Now cold, and getting wet, I wolfed down some oatcakes and cheese, and headed toward Harperrig:
This section of Thieves Road is known for being wet and boggy, and I joked to myself that I should have taken my Packraft. The joke soon turned on me when I saw some of the wooden planks that have been laid on this path submerged in water. However, the going was surprisingly good - overall, the route was no more waterlogged than the last time I has seen it, in the middle of Summer. Perhaps the moorland trudge had made me appreciate the worthiness of a man-made path which O could cycle at least 50% of the time.
Once I got to Harperrig, I scooted round the buildings and jumped onto the road near the dam. I was not in the mood to brave the walking section over the bridge to Little Vantage. I took the main road, then off to Leithhead and up the usual way back round to Red Moss.
I got back just when light was falling. I had set out too late for the big loop, and the weather had turned for the worse, but was satisfied to have tried the mystery path, which I had been meaning to do for a while. However, I'm really not convinced it is going to offer a useful shortcut to Cauldstand Slap. Even if a reasonable path was found for the second leg from Thrashiedean Plantation, it would still leave us 100 to 150 vertical meters below the Slap, and 1 to 2k away from it. Taking the road to Harperrig would probably take about the same time. I may attempt it again in better weather, perhaps trying a higher route off of the landrover track up the hill, then following the base contour of the hill round. One for summer I think...