Sunday, 9 February 2014

Darnaway Forest

Firstly, I apologize for the short and succinct post of yesterday’s walk. There was definitely no competition going on to see who could post first, which I won by default because Gayle’s first attempt to publish failed. No. We wouldn’t do that…

I planned today’s route on impulse. I have never walked through the Darnaway Forest and after a little poking around on the internet, I thought it looked quite nice. It would also mean we were walking the opposite bank of the River Findhorn that we walked last year with Mick and Gayle. I gave myself a get out clause, in case the walk was a disaster, and promised mud, missing tracks, precipitous cliffs and adventure. So, that’s what we did.

It had obviously been raining overnight and it was very damp and grey looking. After a certain amount of dithering on my part, we set off towards the blue skies over Darnaway Forest looking for a car park on the Moray Estates at Dunearn Burn. “Ooo, we should have turned left there!” resulted in a Four Weddings and Funeral moment, but we found the car park safely in the end and after a boot change and gadget faff (I wasn’t the only one at this point), we set off along a short stretch of the road before plunging into woodland.


Trotting along

I had decided on a little experiment with Viewranger on my moblie, using a feature I thought might be useful on the Challenge with Laura in May, should we be crossing trackless bog in poor visibility. So at this point I had David Tennant telling me I had email at too regular an interval and it was rather irritating. I managed to make it slightly less annoying by putting him on silent, but he vibrated in my pocket all the way along our route. Odd sensation.

We soon found ourselves out in the open where Mick struck a pose.


The Flamingo

We continued and realised when we re-entered the woodland that it was of a different nature. This was not to be the last time we made this observation. After following pleasant tracks for a while, with Gayle and I discussing preserving fruit and our more unsuccessful attempts at cooking, we came to a farm. We snuck between the cow sheds and the main farm and along the tarmacked track to cross the road and take the private road opposite, for residents use only.


Sweet bus stop


I may have been bringing up the rear. Again

We passed by a few estate houses and a fancy play park before taking a track between a pretty beech hedge and what was probably at some point a spectacular walled garden. The walls are still solid, but the garden is long gone. After a short while Gayle and I suggested the boys start to look for a nice bench, in the sun, out of the wind, with a nice view in order to stop for lunch. They soon passed by a spot that we thought suitable, so we stopped and brought our decision to their attention.


Estate track


Moss covered wall


Pretty beech wood


The lunch stop


Our lunch view

It was at this point the nature began to come up trumps. First, we caught sight of three roe deer bounding away in the distance. As we sat nibbling daintily on our sandwiches (I think we all had cheese fillings of some variety) we could hear three varieties of tits calling amongst the branches. A buzzard soared above the treetops and a Greater Spotted Woodpecker hopped from tree to tree a short distance away. As Gayle went to explore a nearby glade, she startled a (Tawny) Owl from its roost, although she didn’t see it. We finished our lunch and set off again before we chilled today, this time towards the tricky part of the path, following the River Findhorn upstream. As we rounded the corner at the top of the cliffs above the river, the boys declared, “This is where we were planning to stop for lunch…”


Looks a pleasant enough stone bench


Which was actually a moss covered wooden bench

The view would have been good had it not been obscured by the trees.

The path was as varied as the woodland, there was ascent, descent, cliffs, soft ground, deep leaf litter, mud, wet and views, lots and lots of views. There was varied nature too, an as yet unidentified bird (always tricky when I have David’s description to go on) more tits, canoeists and three Tree Creepers on one tree! Despite the precipitous edge, I thoroughly enjoyed this part of the walk, it was full of surprises and dotted all the way along with some delightful fishermen’s huts which we investigated carefully, looking through the windows as they were all (unsurprisingly) locked.


The first and probably most impressive of the huts


Through the window


Interesting rock formations on the opposite bank

There was an amount of slipperyness along the rest of the path along the cliff with stretches of board walk interspersed with yet more mud and deep leaf litter. And then there was the missing bridge (almost a missing path?) and we had to perform a few careful manoeuvres to reach the path we wanted on the opposite bank of the little stream. All a little unnerving at times. Not as unnerving as the aggressive looking border collies we met a short time later at a narrow point on the path. As Mick remonstrated vigorously with the owner, the surprised fellow calmly replied, “Yes Mick, give me a minute, haven’t seen you for a while, how’s it going?”

It is not the first time we have been walking with Mick and he’s met an old friend. Funnily enough, David knew this chap too. Dogs were hastily brought under control, pleasantries exchanged and we were once more on our way.


The boys lead the way


Gayle taking tentative steps


Big steps


Well balanced


Safely across

We were not so very far from the end of our walk now. There was much steepness for a while, but the path broadened and lead away from the river and once more onto woodland tracks. We passed by a few more junctions before the car park eventually hove into view and with it, our car. Ta da! The end to a thoroughly enjoyable walk that I wouldn’t have planned and adventured out for if it hadn’t been for our wonderful and most welcome visitors, please come again soon!!

Roughly 8.59 miles with a total of 1,104 feet of ascent with mud, missing tracks (bridges!), precipitous cliffs and adventure, just like I promised. Result!


Phreerunner said...

Very good, Louise, and I've just enjoyed catching up with your last few months of postings, having got drastically behind with my reading. Good to see you enjoying outings with Mick and Gayle, who passed cheerfully through here last night.
Good luck with the Challenge 'training'.

Louise said...

I noticed you'd been on your travels. I do follow, but quietly as ever.
Glad Mick and Gayle made it to your talk, I know they were keen to, but I couldn't remember when it was.
My training isn't going so well. I've had to give cake up in a bid not too outgrow my new trousers, I fear Laura may have to help me along. Ho hum, I'm sure we'll find a way...

Phreerunner said...

I'm sure you'll be fine. You can always get rid of the cake effect during the Challenge!

Louise said...

Oh so true Martin!