Wednesday, 26 November 2014

A walk through the woods

David had some business to conclude, so I grabbed a lift to the College of Roseisle to do a little investigation of the woods.

I’d noticed quite some time ago a new sign post pointing into the forestry at the edge of the village so this was where David dropped me. I had a momentary faff before heading off and shortly afterwards came across a couple of way markers. I had a choice. I chose the footpath as opposed to the bridle path, not because I have any problem with the possibility of meeting horses, but because I thought the path might be less muddy. Wrong. Apparently, horses can use the footpaths as well and it was nicely churned up and muddy. Great.


I think I’ll go…this way


I have to say, not particularly inspiring


Handy bench…


…with such a nice view?!!

I wasn’t exactly sure which paths the route would take, but I intended to make my way to pick up the Moray Coast Trail in Roseisle Forest, just south of Burghead. The first junction I met was a way mark away to my right, but it was just marking the bridle path to return to the start. I followed my personal rule, if there are no other indicators on a marked path, keep straight on. So I did, and for the next couple of junctions until I met a T junction. My choice here was east or west. Well, as I was intending to walk to Findhorn, the sensible thing was to head west. This would take me to the road, quite a busy road and I would then have to quickly trot about 250 m south to pick up the track leading into Roseisle Forest where I would meet the Moray Coast Trail.

As I stood contemplating crossing the road, several lorries passed by and I wasn’t particularly happy. I wondered if I could just trot straight across the road and in to the edge of the forestry which was quite open at this point and whilst it was likely to be rough ground, it would at least be off the road. I trotted across at the next available opportunity and was delighted to find that others had indeed found themselves in a similar position and there was a lovely track worn, winding it’s way through the trees with ease, popping me onto the track into the forest. Bonus.

Off I went. A lorry turned off the road and made its way along my track. Followed by a heating and electrical engineer van. I think he was in the wrong place, because he turned around and went away. I continued on until I happened across a couple of signs, ‘Diversion’ and a map. As I was peering more closely at the map, a small van pulled up along side me, I turned on my best smile as I heard the window wind down, turned and said “Good morning!” in my cheeriest voice.

After a little chat about forestry works and diversions and heavy machinery, he decided I could continue on my route (I wouldn’t have minded taking the diversion, it was obviously close by although the sign I’d seen was heading the wrong direction, there must have been one heading the right way, if he’d pointed me to it) as long as I was aware of the machinery and waited for it to stop to pass safely if necessary. I didn’t see much evidence of it as I hurried on my way, although I could hear it working near by.


Useful map

I know these woods and most of the routes in it and it wasn’t too long before I was in the picnic area where the toilets are shut for the winter. I sent David a text to let him know my whereabouts whilst I nibbled on a granola bar, just in case he was on his way back, but hearing nothing from him I texted again to say I was leaving the car park and continued on my way. There would be no opportunity for escape now until I got to Findhorn.

It was a glorious day, crisp and cold with a touch of frost, but clear blue skies and that low golden sunshine. A great day for a walk. I sauntered along quite the thing, I met no one after leaving the car park and didn’t expect to until I made it to Findhorn. The track continues through the trees for a while, following the line of the shore until eventually it turns north and takes you towards the sea. The path then turns west again and wonders along through the edge of the woodland and close to the eroding cliff edge. The original path that I first walked about 8 years ago has slowly been eaten away by the sea and very little of it still exists. New bits of path have been cut through the trees.

Eventually I left the trees behind and made the surprising decision to scramble down a sandy bank to walk along the shoreline. An unusual decision as I hate walking on sand or shingle beaches, I don’t know what possessed me. Especially as, knowing the route like I do, I knew there would be no way back up the bank for quite some time. Ho hum.


Where the path used to be


I don’t know what I was thinking…


Nice layers

I tried to walk along the wet sand for easier going, but the sea can’t count and what should have been every seventh wave (usually the Big One) was more random and I had to take an occasional sudden sideways skip to avoid soggy boots. I made my way slowly along the beach, just pausing to take a phone call from David checking on my progress. I eventually made it to a lower bit of banking where I was able to clamber back up and onto the path. It had been nice to walk on the beach for a change, but I was glad to be back on the path and was soon speeding my way towards Findhorn. Along the front is a view point with one of those map thingies showing the mountains on the horizon where I stopped to take the last few photographs of my walk before making my way to the pub for well earned fish and chips and a pint. And a lift home.


Name the gadget Gayle please!


Seaside selfie!!

Approximately 8.14 miles and 306 ft total ascent.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

We like an adventure, honest

Now that my Bestest Walking Buddy lives a little closer, we’ve realised we can walk a little more often together, which is a good thing.
We have put this plan into action almost immediately (koff) and yesterday I set off to meet Laura at a layby just south of Fogwatt in order to bag a trig that I’d spotted nearby in a new walking area for both of us. An adventure was afoot!!
Off we set and shortly after leaving the car we found this exceptionally friendly chap (or chapess, I didn’t actually check for a change) who whinnied at us as we passed by and I had to stop to chat and take a photograph.
Photogenic pony
It was a bit of a dull damp day, with varying levels of damp from above and below, sometimes more than either of us liked, but I’ll come back to that.
There was another purpose to this walk and after a short while, having passed the quarry, we reached a junction. I had expected a junction, but there was a slightly bigger choice than anticipated. My second purpose was put into action and I whipped my compass out and took a bearing on the path to find the one I wanted. In the end (the bearing didn’t help much…) I chose the path that went uphill into the forest as per the map, rather than along the edge of it or the one running alongside a pond with a picnic bench and a big house at the end of it. (I’m making myself practice, okay?!)
Track was a fairly typical forestry track to start with. Well made, not too horrid underfoot, a bit dark and dingy as is the average plantation, but sheltered from any wind and possibly a bit of the rain too.
Fairly trypical, at this point
We reached another junction and I automatically took the right hand fork, but it didn’t feel right and Laura correctly questioned my decision. After bit of discussion, map examination and thought, we decided to take the other track and headed uphill.  Shortly after, there was another questionably junction. The reason it was questionable was because the track going in the right direction was obviously no longer in regular use, whereas the one we were on was well used and maintained. Not surprisingly, this was our preferred option, but I thought we should be taking the rather over-grown, gloomy, wet, uninviting looking one. Sadly, I was right. So we did.
Cute fungus
Slightly less than inviting
It’ll get better, we said, hopefully. It didn’t, for quite some time…
The theme of a few of our walks of late have been trees and quite often fallen trees blocking our progress. This walk was to be no different, except we were at least able to find our way over and around these few, a vast improvement on the last lot which entailed a couple of miles detour. Ugh.
But we can’t be bothered to turn back
More fungi
Eventually we dropped down to the Gedloch Burn which we had to cross, but it was only a tiny little thing. Shouldn’t be a problem. Which is why I dangled my left foot in it mid-flight. Luckily, the way the tongue is attached in the boot, there was no water ingress and my foot stayed dry. However, the track became more tricky to follow. A little bit of fumbling about and we decided on a course of action.
The remnants of the track eventually petered out, but it’s still marked on the map. It was maybe a fire break adopted as a track at some point that has since gone out of regular use, but the deer still use it and we followed their trod as closely as we could. It became more tussocky and wet underfoot and continued to rain from time to time, sometimes quite persistently, but we decided at this point we ladies were not for turning and we plunged on. Me headfirst. Ho hum.
It seemed to take forever, with regular pauses and exclamations of “Not far now, nearly there!”
We did eventually burst out of the trees and were met with an extraordinary view over open moorland to distant, misty hills, all rather lovely! This bit was easy, we just had to follow the fence line and once we spotted the vague track and broke free of the damp heathery tangle we were in, we were back to making good time. At the corner of the forestry we had a trig point to find. That took quite some ferreting around and Laura was the heroine who eventually found the Pikey Hill trig, hidden away in a dark dingy corner of the forest.
Bursting out
Found it!
Lunch became a more insistent need, although I held out little hope of finding some shelter any time soon. At least the track was clear and easy to follow from now on. Well, for a little while anyway.
Wind farm on Cairn Uish
Around about this point, my whinging may have increased. My little leggies were a bit tired and sore and protesting quite a bit and I realised I had no paracetamol in my first aid kit. A sit down would be nice.
We plodded on.
The track I had picked out for us on Memory Map wasn’t marked on Viewranger, but after a little discussion we decided if it was on the ground, we’d take a punt.
Best punt ever!
At the end of the track there was a pond. With a picnic bench! Not only did I recognise it, we decided that we’d sit at it and have our lunch, despite being close to the car park. It was too good an opportunity to miss. (The people at the big house wouldn’t have been able to see us, and the lady with the spaniel we saw as we set off again did say hello…)I also snaffled some paracetamol from Laura, to try to ease the little leggies a little for the drive home.
PB190583Lunch stop!!
A rough total of 8.47 miles and 1,026 ft total ascent and actually quite good fun!!
Thanks for the company Laura, must do it again soon. Love an adventure!

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Spectacular buts

So, I’m a little behind with my write ups as I’ve been having a few technical difficulties, but I’m back now and bringing up the rear.

We had some visitors recently, Mick and Gayle came to stay for the weekend at the start of November and I planned a couple of walks for them and some fabulous weather, ‘cos I’m good at that, apparently.

I usually get myself in a terrible tiz, planning a walk with other walkers, I’m always concerned that, if it’s a walk I know, then they won’t enjoy it as much as I do, or if it’s an adventure, it’ll be a miserable disaster. I don’t know why I take the responsibility so seriously, especially as neither situation has ever become reality. Especially not with Mick and Gayle, as they enjoy walking in all sorts of environments and are always up for an adventure! So I was quite chuffed with myself when the morning of The Adventure dawned and I didn’t feel sick.

It was indeed a beautiful day that dawned, despite the weather forecast suggesting a wet afternoon was in prospect, and we set forth for the Dava Moor with cake in our daypacks and smiles on our faces.

David neatly abandoned the car about a mile north east of Huntly’s Cave by the side of A939 and The Executive decided it was time for second breakfast. I handed out the homemade date and walnut granola bars (homemade granola, made into granola bars…) and there was much munching as we stood in the chill breeze before finally setting off. Having cleverly lightened my load before leaving the car, we tackled the first obstacle, just feet from the car. A locked gate, but it was quite a new one and quite sturdy, so with just a bit of whinging (me) we heaved ourselves over (me again) and took the track that runs roughly perpendicular to the Dava Way at this point. (Exhausted now, big word).

This track had upulation from the start, which was not very welcome right at the beginning of the walk, but did get the blood pumping to most parts (apart from Gayle, who may have been suffering from a lack of fingers by now) still, we puffed and panted our way up (…me) and then negotiated some mud and sheep and a few buildings. It’s always the buildings. And then the woodland. Trees, always a bit tricky. Gayle and I didn’t think this part of the track looked particularly well used, but we were sort of pleased to see the stile in the deer fence, even if it was of the rather tall variety. It was at least in good repair. Shortly after, the track seemed to become better used, but for no particular reason. Then there was the next huge stile, which was again successfully negotiated. Even when the conversation turned to the subject of spectacular buts and those in view ahead of us were less so, no one fell off the stile.


Before they made their get away


Discussing spectacular buts

The terrain around here was rather lovely. Rolling yet craggy hills, nice views of the Cromdale Hills and the Cairngorms beyond, good track under foot, I was quite pleased! Could have done without Mick deciding he needed a comfort stop just as I turned to get the camera out for a shot of the views… We didn’t go for a poke around the crags to find the Other Huntly’s Cave (the first one is a popular spot with climbers and easily accessed from the road) but kept going until The Executive decided it was time to stop and we found The Perfectly Placed Lunch Hut, at almost exactly the half way point.

I’m good at this.

Even better, it was an unlocked hut, so in we went to sit on benches around a large table with lovely views through the open door as it swung gently in the breeze. Most of us ate all of our sandwiches before forcing down some absolutely disgusting chocolate fruit brownie (yuk, horrible, all chocolatey and gooey and eugh!) and then some yummy fruit loaf. Flasks were emptied, noses powdered and then we were ready for The Next Bit.




Ruins at Badahad


Lunch hut with a view


The backside of the Knock of Braemory

This was probably the only bit that had given me any real cause for concern, a ford. There was no knowing, as ever, quite what to expect and there had been an amount of rain of late, but I needn’t have worried, it was perfectly doable, so long as nobody helps you by lengthening your poles first (I like them short and stumpy, leave them alone!) We all managed safely across and I didn’t even skewer David as I hurled my poles across for him to borrow, a bonus.

There was more upulation, not too sharp, but a bit persistent, although we didn’t notice it too much. At least, David and Mick obviously didn’t as they sped into the distance whilst Gayle kindly ambled alongside me as I hauled my sorry carcase along the track. A mild moment of interest as we happened across a chap with his dog and a hawk and probably a couple of ferrets in the boxes by the side of his truck. He waved hello and we waved back and walked on. He very kindly approached us slowly from behind as he drove along the track later, giving us time to find a hole to stand in and let him by.

It didn’t take too long to reach Dava, where we left our little adventurous route and joined the Dava Way. It felt very strange to be heading south on the Dava, as I’m used to doing most of it heading north, apart from one tiny section I sometimes join on the Altyre Estate and follow to Clashdhu. However, I got over my discomfort by chatting away continuously (as we had all the way round) with Gayle as Mick and David disappeared in to the distance until they could not be seen at all. Still, they weren’t going to get lost…


This creepy guy was back at the car (looking back to Gayle in the distance, she’d been inspecting a gateway…)

Thoroughly enjoyed this little adventure, totally different landscape from the bleak and barren looking west side of the Dava Moor and in excellent company as ever.

Approximately 12.4 miles and 1,173 ft total ascent (said there was upulation!!) in just over 5 hours including lunch, fording, climbing and photo opportunities, so not bad.

During the previous little sojourn, The Executive had decided the walk for Sunday need only be a little stroll and I had a Plan.

Sunday dawned a little less nice looking and The Plan was put in to action. The car was again neatly abandoned by David, this time in the car park at Cloddymoss in Culbin Forest. I had done this route (or maybe just parts of it, and maybe in a different direction) but a while ago when I was in charge and would definitely would not have been paying attention. After a pleasant enough path through the forest that spit us out onto the road, I decided to avoid too much of it and headed off along a wooded track to a farm. For some reason, I then decided we shouldn’t take the obvious track to the right to avoid the buildings and that we should instead take a muddy (?!) path to the left and through a dodgy gate. However, we did get to the track we definitely did want into the woods at the back of Brodie Castle. It was plain sailing from here.


The way through the woods


Looking back to where we should have come from, on the left there…


Heading to where we want to be!


The backside of Brodie Castle


Popular pond

We took a right and headed to the big pond where there were droves of people (that arrived in cars and walked a few yards) admiring the swans and ducks. We hung a left straight to the level crossing, which we crossed, then as we met the A96, we turned right and paid a visit to Brodie Countryfayre, where I happened to know they’d just opened a new extension to the restaurant.

We had a very civilised lunch on proper seats at a proper table indoors and then got to visit a proper powder room too. After briefly making like tourists, we went back to our preferred environment and continued our stroll. Back over the level and into the castle grounds to take a wiggly path, visiting Rodney’s Stone before popping back onto the road again, briefly.


Rodney’s Stone


…like I said


Educating themselves (apparently, they can read)

At Dyke we popped onto a Moray Core Path to Loanhead, but en route spotted a trig I’d mentioned to David might be an easy nab. “There’s a bit of fence here without barbed wire!” said Mick as he hopped over it and held the top wire down, “I’ll come with you!” he said, inviting me to hop over to join him. So I did. Quickly followed by Gayle and David. We made our way across a slightly muddy ploughed field to find the trig (that does not appear to be on the highest point) Photographic evidence of the bag was taken, then we headed straight down hill to the road, intending to find the easiest bit of fence to hop back over. We found a very easy bit, that other people appear to have hopped over before us, but mid hop something caught David’s eye. Something was attached to the wire of the fence, looked a bit like a modern dog collar tag, the sort that screws…a Geocache! We found a pen, signed the Geocache and put it back, quite chuffed with an Unintentional Trig and Accidental Geocache.


A trig-pointing we will go


The evidence that we found it


And looking back to the trig on the horizon from the Accidental Geocache.

A surprisingly pleasing little stroll on a grey but dry day.

Approximately 5.74 miles and 369 ft of total upulation.

Thanks for the company and do call again!!