While the isolation of the Greenock Cut visitor center contributed, in no small measure, to the charm that was wont to leave its imprint on the Human mind, it might be easily imagined that its remote location, along with the intemperance of the elements in this part of the country, would inevitably dampen the enthusiasm of anyone who would like to visit it, and especially so for someone who lacked a mean of transportation.
Although, many times in the preceding year, I had travelled the distance through the moor that lay between Greenock and the center, a journey pleasant enough in summer time along a gravel path which snaked through hills and hollows where grass and heath grew, imperatives due to my commitment to volunteering there on a regular basis and owning to some erratic want of energy or a whimsical inclination of mine to languor, it had soon become a matter of convenience, if not mere necessity, to secure a ride that would enable me to attend the volunteer session on any given Saturday.
The small group of volunteers who gather ed at this isolated outpost of the Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park was an exuberant community of aficionados of which I have become intertwined with. Everyone evinced kindness and a welcoming which warmed my gallic heart, and I felt gratitude for this propitious fellowship.
John had arranged to give me a ride, on Saturday mornings, to the visitor centre; and in the afternoons, as I had taken the habit to linger a while longer, I would, more often than not, come back to Greenock with Alan and Eddie.
The drive back to Greenock was often punctuated with stops along the way; Alan and Eddie, I had realized, were fervent bird watchers, and their enthusiasm was contagious. But more than that, they seemed to thrive in the midst of the landscape which, dependent on the whims of the weather and the quality of light, was ever changing. They became ever more loquacious and a constant source of knowledge. The parts around Loch Thom were, as such, full of possibilities for congenial walks of exploration, an excuse to extend the magic of the day before returning to town.
Hence, what had started as an incidental occurrence soon became a part of the day I was, increasingly, looking forward to.
The location of the Dowries road, along the Gryffe reservoir, which is situated near the Old Largs road, on the way back to Greenock, made it a favorite place for us, none the least for its beauty and serenity; and it was no surprise that we would find ourselves frequently there, on many Saturday evenings, for a stroll, sometimes accompanied by Kathleen, John, or other members of our little group of volunteers.
The vegetation was rich and varied, flowers grew by the side of the path and adorned the fields, Devil’s scabious, thistles, bog cotton grass, heather, daisies, sneezeworts or creeping buttercup. Sitka spruces rose side by side with larches and scot pines. ponds appeared here and there, teeming with life. one could observe pond skaters, water bugs, newt or even frogs.
We would follow the dirt path that skirted the reservoir and, by turning left at a junction, we would proceed along the way, reaching clumps of woodland composed of frail silver birch, old and new scot pines, some of them having been uprooted by Bullish storm winds and lying on the ground like abandon corpses, amidst soft carpets of fallen leaves, broken twigs and patches of green grass intertwined with heath, upon which the sun shed its late afternoon golden light.
There was finally a unkempt place, in the midst of ancient copper beeches, Maples and rowan trees; a place where the Garvock lodge once stood in all its glory and which was now but a disowned ruin, stacks of moss-covered stones, remnants of sturdy walls, were scattered on the ground as if they were spit by a giant, under the emerald shade of the foliage that seemed to be alive in the light breeze. Bunches of daffodils shared the soil with bramble trees and invading nettles. The distinct chirps of birds could be heard, blue tits, wren or robins roaming from branch to branch, sometimes interrupted by the staccato of a woodpecker drilling into the tall trunk of a scot pine. You could lie down there, let loose of your worries and anxiety, and allow yourself to be rocked to sleep by those innocuous sounds of nature.