On this section of our Director Kat’s Green belt walk, she encounters the first sustained downpour of her outings so far, but a Golf Course closed for access means it’s cut mercifully short.
I suppose there was a yellow weather warning for rain in place. But the weather forecast said that it would ease off and stop for two hours between 2 and 4pm, just enough time to fit in another stretch of my walk. Somehow I’d managed to persuade my 18 year-old daughter that a walk in the rain was just the ticket to lift the spirits on a very wet weekend and that, anyway, a break in the rain was on the way. So this time (and for the first time – and probably for the last time) we’d be walking the green belt as a family, with the addition of my regular walking buddy Robert.
The weather window, however, had other ideas, and seemed to move forward two hours so by the time we were setting off from the aptly named ‘Waterfoot’ with the White Cart Water in full spate, it was tipping down again.
There was only one place to park in Waterfoot, as we discovered after driving back and forth a bit. Street parking doesn’t seem to exist in a village where everyone has their own drives. Everywhere were ‘private drive’ and ‘private road’ signs so we were very grateful of a large area of hard standing belonging to Scottish Water, which was presumably used to service some infrastructure.
In fact the end-point of our walk – planned as the Eastwood Golf Course car park, was also causing parking problems. The course was shut. Giant signs declared that the golf course has closed to mediate the damage caused by local people walking on it during lockdown. No public access would be permitted for a whole year.
This seemed to me to be rather over the top – and slightly disingenuous. Unless the entire population of Glasgow was talking access daily over their course in stiletto heels and riding mini diggers, how would significant works be needed – let alone any that would take a year? We diverted to Calders Garden Centre to park – cutting our walk distance nearly in half.
Back at Waterfoot, to my great surprise and joy, the route I had thought we could take along the Earn Water, which was gushing under the road bridge into the White Cart, turned out to be a well-worn path. It started out through a little home made gate constructed out of a piece of roofing sheet, and wound its way picturesquely along the burn, which was definitely now a river.
The beeches were at their full autumn glory and even through my misted up glasses they looked beautiful. At a fence there was the most beautifully constructed stile – varnished and sanded – with a piece of carrimat over the barbed wire. Someone obviously regularly took this route and had invested in the infrastructure to improve their walk.
Further on, after a short scramble up the river bank, we came across a very simple, low bench – under a hawthorn and looking across the rushing burn. It had been repurposed out of scrap wood that must, at one point, been painted. though not much of the original paint remained. A very shiny sliver plaque was attached to it engraved with a phrase in Gaelic.
‘Aig dia s’ro priseal bas an naoimh’
On a twig of the hawthorn hung the remains of a balloon and a plastic flower.
The path continued along the river to a track that would take the walker back in a loop – that must be the regular walk that the person who’d installed the stile was taking. We turned in the opposite direction and headed along field margins towards a new school we could see in the distance. I knew that from there, a path would take us on farm tracks all the way to the Caulders Garden Centre, just outside Newton Mearns, where we had parked, and, most importantly give us a crossing over the dual carriageway – one of the big barriers I have found on my walks thus far.
By this time we were wet through to our underwear. No waterproofs could hold back the quantities of water that were falling from the sky – fortunately I had chosen to wear wellies so my feet were still dry, however my daughter’s walking boots had started letting in water at the very first boggy bit back at the start. She pointed out that, contrary to my promise, a couple of hours in the pouring rain had done nothing for her mood.
We passed a hand-written sign on a farm track telling us it was private, no public access, and that there should be absolutely NO dogs. AND that dogs should be kept on a lead. It was, of course, not compliant with the land reform act. I took a photo to report to the local authority access officer (if there was one). In my walk up to now – across North Lanarkshire, mainly, I had only met with helpful farmers – offering me directions when I asked. But here, in a much more affluent area, I was seeing so many signs suggesting that people keep out. It wasn’t as if I saw walkers everywhere – I’d come across hardly any, just as in the rest of my walk. It seemed that the Land Reform Act and the Access Code had yet to touch East Renfrewshire.
The track we were on took us past some more enormous houses until we cut across a last field to get to the garden centre entrance and breathed a sigh of relief to be back in the dry. Our daughter proclaimed that it was a good job we had cut the walk short or we would have all been in deep do doo. Depsite that particular threat not holding much dread for those who have literally just waded through fields of deep do doo, we took the point and headed home for hot chocolate and a take away.
When I was back in the dry after the walk, I decided to find out what the Gaelic phrase ‘Aig dia s’ro priseal bas an naoimh’ meant. I presumed that it was a memorial bench and I wondered whether it was for a person called Naoimh (a girl’s name from the Gaelic speaking parts of Scotland, pronounced Neeve). I also wondered if it was a quotation that would be on the internet somewhere, but there were no hits at all when I typed the words in. Second stop was Google Translate, which told me the phrase meant “God bless the Saint’s death”. This was evidently no simple task, so I turned to my professor-friend who specializes in languages and is on a 600 day run with Gaelic Duo Lingo. She confirmed that it definitely wasn’t for a specific person called Naoimh, rather referring to a Saint or something Holy – and was more likely a blessing. It was at this point that I decided that I needed a real Gaelic speaker to help me.
It was a couple of weeks later that I remembered that a colleague, Morag, from Scottish Environment LINK is from Lewis, and a Gaelic speaker. I galloped excitedly over to her with my conundrum, delighted that the mystery would be solved at last. Morag, however, looked at it rather puzzled and said that she’d rather check with her dad. His text came back straight away “Seems a bit misspelt but perhaps “with God in whom the death of the saint was precious”.
So now I had a translation – but I wasn’t any closer to what it actually meant. A google search of the translated phrase brought up Psalm 116 v 15. The English translations offered it variously as: “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants.” and “The LORD cares deeply when his loved ones die.”
There are 10 different translations of the bible into Gaelic on Bible.com and I started working my way through. In the third one I tried, Psalm 116 v15 read: “Aig Dia ‘s ro‑phrìseil bàs a naomh.”
So the mystery of the phrase was solved, but not the story behind this enigmatic home-made bench by the Earn Water. The search for the meaning of those words had taken on a special significance to me, as this walk took place in a week I had taken off work to mark the anniversary of the death of someone very close to me. In the walks I took that week, I came across so many different ways people remember their loved ones in the countryside and in places special to them. But this one, especially, stood out. I think I will take on Morag’s suggestion of leaving a note on the bench and hope someone contacts me.
If you’d like to read about the other green belt walks you can do so here