As soon as Laura returned home after her most recent travels, we arranged a meet at Ls Belles HQ for a stroll and a chat and a coffee.
And so it was I found myself dropping David off at work so that I could pinch the car, again. As I drove in a vaguely south westerly direction, the slight dampness of the weather became more of a persistent wetness, which was not overly inspiring. I soon found myself parking the car behind the Old Firestation Tea Rooms in Tomintoul but in a break with tradition, I was early and Laura was late. As I waited patiently, however, the persistent dampness eased and the skies began to lift, things were looking up. Laura arrived and we immediately went into the tea rooms to order cups of tea and take our usual seats in the window by the toy fire engine, ahhhh.
After our second cups, the weather had improved dramatically. We’d decided that any of the hills in the surrounding area were likely to be a bit damp underfoot, given their nature of being so and the recent persistent wetness, so we opted for a walk from Brig’ o’ Brown which I’ve done on a couple of occasions. We didn’t have the relevant map, but aided by two devices loaded with Viewranger and my reasonable memory of the route, we were quite happy to trundle without one.
I decided against my usual parking spot this time and instead we opted for the first car park with the information board, that neither of us photographed…
From the car park, towards the Cromdale Hills
The walk began with a quick trot along the slightly busy road before taking a track that leads steeply away from the road and becomes a bit, er, damp, underfoot. I’ve seen it worse. The track follows Glen Brown for roughly a mile until reaching the ruins at Tombrek, then it heads away from the Glen slightly uphill and joins the Dorback Lodge to Tomintoul track as it enters the trees.
Looking south west along the glen
Looking the other way
There’s a lot of history in this area and in this area alone, you can see the ruins of many abandoned steadings, a shame in such an idyllic setting, even with the sometimes harsh winters.
We were already looking for a lunch stop, but I thought the bench I remembered was too far ahead. We looked at every grassy bank, every fallen tree trunk, every rock, but to no avail. After wandering along this quiet track through the trees for a while, we headed out in to the open where there has been clear-felling since I was last here. The views are opened up brilliantly, but further along the track the remaining huge trees had suffered great losses during the recent storms. The devastation was astounding.
I found and we took the little soft, mossy path that leads up into the trees, still looking for a place to perch, nothing was forthcoming. Up through the tall, ancient pine trees which eventually give way to silver birch and a more open woodland, eventually leading to a couple of stiles. There was also quite a bit of barbed wire fencing running closely along the path, which is disappointing on what is generally and well run and welcoming estate.
After climbing the second stile and heading uphill towards more open moorland, it occurred to me that we were close to the bench and sure enough, it hove into view just in time to save us from starvation. Bums were swiftly parked and sandwiches made short work of and today, we had a view!
Looking along Strath Avon (A’an) towards the Cromdale Hills
Not taking a photograph of Laura…
Shortly after leaving our lunch bench, there was a second. It must be The Spot for lunch. We also met the only two other walkers we saw here. They weren’t overly chatty. We walked on. I wouldn’t let Laura take ‘the shortcut’, in case it wasn’t one, so instead, I made her follow the path along and down the moorland and into the trench, which is really an ancient and therefore very worn track. It runs along the edge of yet more woodland before suddenly dumping us at the car park where we left our vehicles. The weather was so lovely, we utilised the sun chairs Laura has in the van and enjoyed a few rays before we once again set off in our own vehicles and Laura followed me to Grantown-on-Spey in order to re-fuel and I headed home.
A remarkably pleasant day despite it’s rather inauspicious start, roughly 4.62 miles, 884 ft of upness, two cups of tea each but no cake…
So then, about a week later, we thought we should have one more training session and arranged to meet at the alternative Ls Belles HQ. I set off in reasonably cloudy weather but at Brig’ o’ Brown I could see that I couldn’t see the hills beyond Tomintoul. Sure enough, it was a bit cloudier and a bit more damp over The Lecht and decidedly more damp in Ballater than it had been in Tomintoul. I parked the car in my usual spot and headed off to find Laura, already ensconced with a cappuccino in The Bothy. So I purchased myself a latte with an extra shot and joined her at the table in the window.
A table in the window
We chatted a while whilst it dampened a bit more outside and then decided we should have a second coffee, this time I only had a single shot. We chatted quite a bit more and took it in turns to queue for the toilet without leaving our seats. Eventually we decided we should make a move and went to the van to collect Laura’s day pack. We then went to my car and as I rummaged in the boot of the car, Laura decided it was too wet to walk and that we should have our sandwiches seated in the car, so we did.
We ate our sandwiches and chatted quite a lot more before we decided that the day was a dead loss, we both needed the powder room and that we should retire once more to The Bothy for a cup of tea and some cake.
We have now completed our training, quite fully.
0 miles, 0 feet upness, 2 Cappuccinos, 2 Lattes, a cherry and almond scone and a millionaires slice, yum!!