SPRING is coming, honest. It might still feel like the depths of winter but flowers are starting to emerge from the cold and damp ground. S
Snowdrops and primroses are already here in some places and in the coming weeks will explode in a profusion of much-needed colour, to be followed by daffodils.
On a visit to the wonderfully laid out Polkemmet Country Park, I was not lucky. The work of 19th-century plant hunter David Douglas was there to be seen in the grand fir trees which line the burbling River Almond but my ability to spot the flowers of early spring, or late winter, was hampered by the fact they were still underground.
I am assured they will appear, especially daffodils, so don’t be put off. After all, this is a place where flowers are only part of the enjoyment.
As well as the woodland, river and birdsong, man-made enjoyment can be had, especially for children. Once you have dragged them away from a particularly good playground the route leads to the edge of the country park and the Polkemmet Horn – used by many parents driving along the adjacent M8 to indicate to their offspring where Teletubbies live. It is actually an art installation which was erected in 1997.
DISTANCE 4 miles.
HEIGHT CLIMBED Negligible.
TIME 1 to 1∫ hours.
MAP OS Landranger 65.
PARK Leave the M8 by the new junction 4A west of Whitburn and follow the B7066 towards Harthill. Polkemmet Country Park is on the right, after the series of roundabouts next to the junction.
IN SUMMARY Go to the left side of the country park’s reception (just beyond the car park) and follow a track going to the right – not straight on to a golf driving range. The track drops down by the side of a golf course then swings right. At a junction go left then go right at the next junction to enter woodland.
Ignore a path going right and keep straight ahead to reach a pond. Keep going right, around the pond, to reach a surfaced track, where you go left.
Walk past a bridge over the River Almond and continue on the track to see the Polkemmet Horn close up. Return to the bridge and cross it, following an obvious path on the other side to a junction, where you go right. At the next junction go left to walk up the side of the river and past a mausoleum for the Baillie family who once owned the estate.
After going up steps you can turn right to shorten the walk and return to the car park. To keep striding out go left to follow a track which skirts the golf course. The track swings right (keep right at a junction) and continues as you cross a burn. After swinging right again the track makes a loop to recross the burn before reaching the park’s main drive. Go right to return to the car park.
REFRESH There is a good tea room at the country park, in a courtyard opposite the reception.
WHILE YOU ARE IN THE AREA There are a range of activities at the park from a playground to a nine-hole golf course, driving range and a bowling green. It is also home to the Scottish Owl Centre (www.scottishowlcentre.com) with daily flying demonstrations.