I should first apologise for my tardiness in producing this post, but I’ve been busy.
Since Laura had gained a place on this year’s Challenge from the stand by list, we had intended a little back pack of some kind, especially since as things turned out, sadly neither of us were able to join The Pieman’s Pre-Challenge walk in the Borders. The main aims were to test one or two bits of kit and make sure the tents were both watertight and although we had intended something a little longer, due to lack of free time we ended up with a simple overnight trip planned.
Thursday morning I went for my daily brisk stroll before performing a little gear magic.
I packed only once as I now have a routine and place for everything that I am happy with. In the end I didn’t take the gaiters or Tilley that I’d intended to wear and I carried my poles the whole way (why, why do I do that?!!)
After an early lunch, I walked into town to meet Laura who had jumped onto the bus in Aberdeen. Less than a mile from home, it began to rain. Obviously my waterproof trousers were packed. In the rucksack sitting in my lounge. Hmmph. At least it was just a bit showery.
After running a couple of errands whilst in town, I met Laura at the bus stop and led her across the road and back up to the other bus stop to catch the bus back to my house to collect my pack and wait for a lift to Dava from where we would start our overnighter. Our chauffeur soon arrived (although we did have time for tea and toast) and whisked us away to our planned start point.
Town centre (it stopped raining)
David neatly set us down on the track to the Dava Way at Dava and we set off north to find a place to pitch somewhere behind the Knock of Braemoray.
Laura heads north, with The Knock appearing over her left shoulder
Although I quite often do parts of The Dava Way and I have walked it’s entire length (all 24 miles of it from Grantown on Spey to Forres) in one go twice, I don’t do the most southerly half very often. I don’t like it much. It’s a real shame, it goes through some wonderful scenery with a variety of environments and habitats, but it runs along the bed of a disused railway line. As such, it is a really stony track for the majority of the way, although it does improve from Dunphail north. These stones are of a very particular type. They are hard and sharp and pointy (we’ll come back to this later) and this is what puts me off the route as a whole. It can be miserable.
Anyway, we strolled along quite happily with the intention of finding a little sheltered spot somewhere along the way. The route is maintained by the voluntary organisation The Dava Way Association and they do a grand job. The path is maintained (sort of…) and not allowed to become overgrown, the gates are all regularly repaired or renewed and various features have been added since I’d last been along this section, including the Half Way Hut. This has a solar-powered, movement sensitive light, a few benches and some interesting information boards and leaflets available inside, plus another couple of benches outside. I forgot to take a photograph but it was a better hut than this one which we passed shortly after.
We found this little froggy chap on the path
The gate was a little recalcitrant until Laura found the obvious instructions…
We never found the spot I’d intended to use as we missed the turn off I think we should have taken, but we were hardly tired (!!) and were happy to just keep walking, marking possible spots out of ten, although finding few scoring more than three. Eventually we came to a track leading to the ruins at Bogeney and thought the little wood would give a nice bit of shelter. It was worth leaving the Way to stroll along the farm track to investigate. Sure enough, after a thorough inspection and discussion, a pitch was settled upon and tents retrieved from our packs.
We soon fell into evening routine, with Laura scoffing her home prepared meal and me not feeling hungry. This is always my issue. Instead of hydrating the meal I had brought and didn’t fancy, I had the soup, Babybels and wholemeal roll I’d brought for lunch and a chocolate pancake I’d intended for breakfast. Oh well.
As we were chatting and settling down for the night I mentioned the first time I’d wild camped with David and we had been haunted by the oddest sound that turned out to be snipe drumming. Within a few minutes of snuggling into my sleeping bag, the local snipe decided to start their night time displays. I was thrilled, it made my day. I spent most of the night (that I didn’t sleep) listening to and identifying the local bird life and various other creatures nearby. Very nearby at times…
3.56 miles 203 feet total ascent (although I had obviously done a bit more in total over the whole day)
Friday morning dawned as Laura visited the powder room. Apparently the sunrise was stunning and the tents were covered in a hard frost. I had been aware that it had been a cold night, but I had cracked a couple of hand warmers the previous evening and kept them in my sleeping bag overnight. I had been lovely and cosy. Later, when we were both awake again, the snipe were still drumming, a woodpecker had joined in on the act, a couple of wrens were trilling, curlew bubbling, lapwing making their peewit calls but the local tawny owls had long since stopped calling. It must be time to get up and strike camp. Flashes were struck up and tea made whilst chocolate and ginger flapjack and chocolate pancakes snaffled.
Soon we were taking down our damp tents. As well as the hard frost, there had been some rain earlier in the night and the tents were both quite wet but neither had leaked. I also had a small amount of condensation as we had been very successful in picking a sheltered spot out of the gusty wind that had been forecast. It was quite a fresh morning, showery with hail and due to this, and the dampness of my tent, I found my self suffering an attack of Raynaud's. Damn! My hand warmers last about ten hours but by now were no longer functioning, however, Laura of the Warm Hands came to my rescue. As I crouched on the ground (so I didn’t fall) Laura held my frozen, useless hands between her warm little pandies and performed a miracle. I need to back pack with Laura, my Mobile Hand Warmer more often!
We went on our way, back to the Way and headed north with the intention of stopping at Logie Steading for lunch and may be loiter there waiting for our chauffeur to return and collect us. Along the way we kept a look out for possible pitches, just in case there were any better than the one we’d picked. As it turned out, we’d definitely picked the right one!
There’s plenty of interest a long the route, from wildlife to views. The Dava group have put plenty of information boards up but the one at the top of an impossibly steep bank seemed a bit daft and was left unread.
Our pitch was just left of centre
Lots of learning
We were soon crossing the Divie viaduct, a masterpiece of Victorian engineering. Not far from here is the small collection of houses of Dunphail where once there was a station, now a private dwelling, which meant the Way is slightly re-routed to avoid walkers and cyclists being able to look in through the windows and watch television. Here there is a National Lotto funded Breathing Space, including picnic benches and a bird hide. Not surprisingly we took advantage of the benches for a break, involving fruity chewy things and Lindt dark chocolate with a touch of sea salt. Num num!
As we set off again, I was aware that a slightly sore patch on the ball of my left foot was not easing off. I was concerned it may have been a hot spot forming, right on the point I’d suffered so badly on last year’s Challenge. This was not good news. I made quite a point of saying I was unlikely to want to walk further than Logie, despite it not being at all far from town. As luck would have it, as we headed off the Way along the farm track at Peathillock (which we initially missed, I usually join the Way here not leave it, I was disorientated!) we had another terrific hail storm. Coupled with the steep track down to the steading, which we would have to climb back up if we continued after lunch, I managed to persuade Laura that my plan was good.
We stopped for a lush lunch of brie and cranberry sandwiches, made with walnut bread with crisps and a salad on the side and a rather good coffee. I failed in my training here by not having cake. I led Laura astray as she failed too, but it was my fault. After mooching around the steading shops and making use of the facilities we had eventually killed enough time for David to have finished work and driven straight across to collect us. Fabulous.
6.4 miles 288 feet total ascent
I later concluded that the sore patch on the ball of my foot was probably not a hot spot, but actually an impact injury from those dastardly stones, curse them!