Iâ€™m as confused as everyone else by the different Covid directives on outdoor activities from different governments, so for the moment Iâ€™m still staying pretty local with any adventures. That can be a bit limiting, or you can take it as challenge …
On the other side of the road from my house is Jennyâ€™s Burn, which flows down off the Campsies from a few different sources including Jennyâ€™s Lum, currently just a wet streak on the rock but filmed during the last big storms as a proper smoking lum, with the wind blasting the water upwards in a cloud of spray. Went a bit viral, I think.
Anyway, Iâ€™ve been down into the burn bed to pinch a few stones for the garden, and looked down into it from the bridge on the Pipe Track on the hill above here, and wondered for a while what a small expedition, from source to sea (or at least the Blane Water, which it joins at the bottom of the road) would be like.
On a hot day I pack: a short rope, a sling, a harness, a helmet (all useless in the end), a head-torch (quite handy for the last bit) and head off up the Pipe Track. Turning right through a gate after the last house takesÂ me up onto the high apron of ground in front of the steep crags of the Strathblane Campsies.
From high up this track, I head across around 600 metres of the cattle-poached ground for a large solitary ash in one of the upper gullies of the burn.
As soon as I drop down into the dip I feel Iâ€™ve found something a bit magical. A ewe and her two lambs are asleep in the shadowÂ of the tree, so I skirt well round them and begin to follow the trickle.
There is shade from the odd tree and bush, tiny flowers, the slight sound of the burn, and a feeling that I am in a hidden landscape, richer, quieter, and more complex than the swathe of moorland above.
At first thereâ€™s no need to get my feet wet, then I lower myself down a couple of short steps in an effort to stay in the stream-bed proper. At the point where another trickle flows in from the right, itâ€™s clear neither of these is a trickle in winter: a 5m cliff of rubble stands above the junction, source no doubt of some of the rocks across the road from home.
A bit more water in the bed now, the igneous rock changing to sedimentary, splashing through pools and across slippery slabs, and then the burn and I head into the woods. I worry I might end up visible at the bottom of someoneâ€™s expensive garden, but I only glimpse one big property in the distance on those upper sections.
There are trees and branches across the watercourse, all needing hopping, a few small water slides, but it never gets so steep I canâ€™t walk down it with care. Itâ€™s a sunny day but there are deep pools of shade here and sometimes itâ€™s a struggle to adjust my eyes to the changes in light.
Quite soon Iâ€™m below the Pipe Track bridge. Water gushes out of an outlet pipe, I think from the water-works, more than doubling the volume in the burn, and below here I get a fair bit wetter, with water on occasion up to my shorts.
I come to the first properties that sit right on the burn, and think someone has spotted me. Nothing happens but I scuttle quickly down a bit further, stinging my hand on something that afterwards makes me feels like Iâ€™m getting a small electric shock to the skin.
Next itâ€™s down, around a bend and into the first tunnel â€“ under the main A81â€“ and through a tangle of vegetation to the channel opposite our house. Below here everything is a lot more disciplined, with a built bed and a couple more short tunnels. The deep channel runs right in front of some houses, past a mass of ivy, then I get to the last bit, where the burn disappears under the road for about 60 metres, before it emerges into the Blane.
I told myself before I started that I wouldnâ€™t do this: the locals might think I was mad or dangerous, maybe it is mad or dangerous …
But then I think: itâ€™s source-to-outlet, not source to 60m from the outlet. At least I can have a look…
I get the bag off, and Iâ€™m getting my head-torch out when a couple of small children trot over from the garden next to me and look down curiously. The smaller says: â€œMan in stream. Oooh.â€
Fortunately their mum, drawn to see what theyâ€™re looking at, is a tolerant lady: she just asks kindly if I am all right, and smiles the smile normally reserved for your childrenâ€™s harmless, innocent idiocy when I admit I am going through the tunnel. I dump the rucksack on the side to retrieve on my way back, and set off.
The first bit, under the entrance to Blane Crescent, is pretty cramped, requiring a crab-crawl style, but then it falls away a bit, before the next bit of tunnel, older brickwork, again cramped at first but then easier.
Then out I pop out into the Blane, allow myself a smile of satisfaction and scramble up the gabions opposite onto the bank. Expedition complete, and a success, I think.
Walking back the few yards to the road I affect the air of a man just out for a saunter for the benefit of some passing locals, forgetting I am muddy and dirty and wet, and am wearing a lit head-torch on a brilliant sunny afternoon. They probably assume Iâ€™m a crazed dentist whoâ€™s got badly got lost.
Then itâ€™s back up the road, grab my bag and home.
Itâ€™s hard to explain the satisfaction from something as small and daft as this: itâ€™s a tiny adventure with no huge challenges, but itâ€™s right there, and I wonder who else has ever done this? OK, who would want to!? But … it was as much fun as I have had outdoors in a while.