8.05 miles 3h 20m ascent 279m
When I woke the air was chilled, the sky dry. The car frozen, and as I loaded it hail was falling. As we arrived at Ae the snow was falling and the snow lying on the road suggested we had driven into the snow rather than the white stuff having arrived with us.
Century old OS maps show a collection of tumuli on the east flank of Knockespen along the upper reaches of the Tuppark Linn. We stood looking up the slope, or more accurately towards the slope, the actual hill being hidden in dense forest. Someone had to speak first words of the incantation. We looked at each other, at the dog, and then back to the forest. A shaky voice rose from within my body, “Perhaps another day? When it’s not so icy”. I waited. The response would categorise me as either a lilly-livered coward or a practical health and safety conscious realist. I waited. “Yes. In the summer perhaps?”. No lillies in my liver.
This was a simple route. Along the Roman’s and Reivers way, around Wood Hill and past the track to Lamphitt, around Brownmore Hill and then along to Knockspen itself. The track became increasingly snowy, about 3-4 cm at its deepest but mostly a centimetre or so. Unfortunately some mountain bikers were using “uplift”, a van taking their bikes to the top for them to ride the downhill sections. This van converted the snow into a packed slippery surface. Even Christy was skidding about on four legs.
The ice on puddles was more than an inch thick on the higher tracks.
The summit offered grade zero views with the mist.
We decided against descending along the downhill mountain bike track, which would have been the shortest way back, because it was obviously quite busy with the downhill only cyclists and we preferred to avoid the steeper track because of the snow and ice. So we turned about and went back the way we had come.
Knockespen is one of the those heights called hill twice, cnoc and pen. It doesn’t feature much in literature but Nigel Tranter placed Wallace there in The Wallace. “With a company of about fifty he was hidden in a cleft of the open hillside of Knockespen Hill, above the valley of the Water of Ae.” And he has added yet another “hill” to the two Knockespen already has.