Sunday 29 November 2009

Soggy skip skippers

Monthly girly walk yesterday and I became the designated driver for six girlies to walk the Six Harbours walk, a coastal walk along the cliffs and beaches from Portsoy to Buckie. Except we did it back to front because we’re awkward.

I was to drop the main group of walkers at Buckie, drive Jo to Portsoy to her in-laws, who’d kindly agreed to allow us to leave a car at their house and drive us back to  the caravan site at Findochty, (pronounced Finechty!?!) to meet up with the walkers.

Sounded like a plan. I’d always been a little concerned that we were going to be a little short of daylight hours at this time of year for this 14 mile yomp, but was assured we’d be fine. Alarm bells started to tinkle when we arrived in Buckie and Angela and Jo ducked into the sports shop for waterproof trousers whilst Alison went off to find a map…

Jo and I eventually arrived at the campsite and walked back about quarter of a mile towards Buckie to meet up. There were varying opinions as to the weather forecast, some thought windy, dry but cold, others windy, cold, showery, heavy at times and possibly wintry. As it turned out, it wasn’t windy or cold. Started out showery though and by lunch, becoming increasingly heavy and persistent.

By the time we reached Cullen, after about 7.5 miles, it was time for lunch and we needed shelter. We hoped for an overhanging roof,  a bus stop, phone box and were getting pretty desperate when we happened upon a recycling centre behind some disused buildings. There were a couple of open ended skips, one for paper, one cardboard. We chose paper and I immediately whipped off my lined trousers and popped on my leggings and waterproofs. I wasn’t feeling cold, but thought I would eventually now the rain was just varying in intensity rather than stopping at all.

We had obviously stumbled across a regular haunt for the local yooves, as a couple of skaterboys came round the corner and were obviously quite put out that half a dozen bag ladies had taken up residence. Thank goodness I’d got my trousers on in time!

After a good break, we continued. There was not much excitement for most of the walk, except for Angela sliding gracefully to the ground on a number of occasions. I was becoming a little concerned by the amount of water accumulating on the path. It seemed to be joining up with the burn running alongside. At Crathie Point we realised we were going to run out of daylight and rather than continue on an unlit, slippery, boggy cliff edge, we decided to head inland from Sandend and bypass the last headland by road, preferably the B road in the hope it would be quieter. Trouble was, getting to it.

I was bringing up the rear of the walking party and when I caught up with them a decision had been made to backtrack slightly to cross the burn as it emptied onto the beach. It was in spate with all the rain run off, so we had to paddle, the water slopping over the top of my boots. Cold water. We carried on and needed to cross the burn a little further up as it had looped around in our path. This time, there was to be no paddling, it was way too deep and fast. The only option was to return to where the path had disappeared.

We paddled back across the burn and up the path. I was bringing up the rear again and watched with just a hint of panic as they began to clamber along the bank of the burn below a fence. One slip and I would have been in the burn. So Angela and I went to the top where the path disappeared, climbed the barbed wire fence, (why is it always barbed wire?)  and snagged my waterproofs. However, we were aware of the curious bullocks fifty yards to our right as we moved briskly along the fence thirty yards to our left towards a gate. We made the gate and climbed it with the curious bullocks a shade closer than they had been, but not too close.

I wish I’d been in on the decision making in the first place, then we wouldn’t have had wet feet…

We soon met the road, but it was the main road with no apparent path, getting dark, raining heavily and some very big puddles. We crossed and as we walked down the track to investigate a disused rail line (in hope) a small white van approached us. Jo leapt in front and and when it stopped, asked if there was access.


“Oh. Are you going to Portsoy?”


“Louise, would you be able to get back to my in-laws and collect your car?”

“Er, with directions.”

And I found myself being driven away by a complete stranger in the direction of Portsoy!

I found the in-laws and got my car, then realised I hadn’t noted any landmarks, I managed to find my friends by guesswork, huddled in a bus shelter.

We covered 11.5 miles with 1637 feet of ascent in 6 hours including breaks in miserable weather, but we had an absolute ball! I wouldn’t have missed it for the world, to laugh so much one day a month is a huge tonic. The others were wet and getting cold in the end, but the combination of my bamboo tops and merino wool socks, mitts and hat kept me cosy despite my waterproof jacket letting in copious amounts of water. I love my magic socks, no cold feet or blisters for my, no matter how wet. My Achilles was ok, although the ankle around the inside bone a little sore at times. My left knee was giving me grief and driving home was agony, but painkillers and a bath made a huge difference and this morning I felt pretty good.

Next month, I’m hoping for something drier.

Thursday 26 November 2009

Good spot

Well, would you believe it.

When David and I went on our little jaunt around Dunphail the other day, we spotted an unusual bird. I’m normally pretty good at identifying wildlife, if I don’t know what it is immediately, I will have a book somewhere to help me.

This is the bird.

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Yes, I know, a distant shot and, trust me, zooming in is not helpful, but I guessed this might be a great white egret. I had no idea they travelled this far north, so I was a shade sceptical, but I’ve just read in the local paper that we do indeed have just such an egret in the locality. And we saw it!

Well, I’ll be.

I should have more faith in myself.

Wednesday 18 November 2009


It’s a conspiracy, I’m sure of it.

David took a few days leave to cover the inset days the children had off school and a couple extra so that we could do a couple of walks. We don’t get to walk much just the two of us, so it’s nice to take the opportunity to do something the little legs and grumpy teenager might not want to.

We managed the sixteen miler last Thursday, which was fun, and were planning to do a shorter walk in the Cairngorms today. There’s a low ridge that runs between Meall a Bhuachaille (810m), Creagan Gorm (732m) and Craiggowrie (687m), so it’s certainly nothing major, but you do get some nice views.

The plan was to start the route from Glenmore where we usually finish coming off Meall a Bhuachaille and turn left at the top, walk along to Craiggowrie and down, wandering through the woods at the Badaguish Outdoor Centre back to Glenmore, around seven and half miles. We should hopefully have time to get there, do the walk, grab lunch in Aviemore, (our favourite tends to be the Cairngorm Hotel, it’s busy but quite reliable) and motor back in time for little treasures getting back from school.

I was not impressed with my Achilles over the weekend, it has been a little sore, but I was prepared to put on a tubi-grip and ignore it. Not wise perhaps, but I’m getting a little reckless in my old age. I was even less impressed when I started coughing on Monday and this morning it showed no sign of  easing.  A nuisance because I know I would huff and puff my way up the uppy bits, which would make me cough and aggravate my asthma, making me wheeze and onward with a viscous circle. Add to that another minor inconvenience, (especially on a hill) and the sensible decision was made.

I’m dosed with paracetamol, hot honey and lemon, David is decorating the bathroom. Pah! What a waste of a day’s leave. Not a happy bunny. Sensible, but grumpy. Very, very grumpy. If I hadn’t have hidden it for Christmas, there’d be a dram in that there honey and lemon!

Pencilled it in for a day in December, but then it becomes more weather reliant.

Friday 13 November 2009

A little adventure!

Well, that was a giggle. David and I went for a walk yesterday. A little stroll, sixteen odd miles through forest and across the moors around Dunphail. Lovely.

It was actually a little project I’ve had for a while, to submit a walk to a walking website I’m a member of. A little ambitious perhaps, but it kind of makes me practice my map reading and grid references in a more exciting way than actually getting lost and trying to find my way home. Although, I’m sure that would be considered fun by some. Especially  if I didn’t  find my way home!

We had time constraints, as usual, and managed to set off a little late, as usual, so it was a bit of a route march, but it was perfect walking weather and we trotted off happily. We were trying out food at the same time, so had something hot to look forward to at lunch time.

We walked, I took pictures, we paused and read the map, got back on track, (bodes well…) we walked, waded through bog, climbed over fallen trees, walked some more,  and at the half way mark stopped off for a hot lunch in a handy hut. Couldn’t be classed as a bothy, there is grouse food stored in there, but there was a large table and benches. Would’ve been more attractive without the guano from roosting birds at regular intervals , but we found clean bits and ate lunch. It was yum!

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We set off at a good pace, mostly downhill now and with wonderful views over the Moray Firth towards the Black Isle. At around the three quarter mark, disaster. There’d been a landslide and about five metres of the path had been swept away towards the river below. Ahhh! It must have happened during the floods in July, or maybe a couple of weeks ago when we had torrential rain again.

We had no time to turn around, the ‘shortcut’ we’d passed was about nine miles behind us, we only had four to go and were running late as it was, we had to scramble. I’m not good at scrambling, but this wasn’t actually too bad and I didn’t complain, slip, slide, swear or whinge once. I was a good girl. And we made it!

We trotted on and made it back to the car just  at dusk, a tad later than intended, but safe and sound. Today, I don’t hurt. This has got to be good. (Achilles was sore  and inflamed last night though, which has got to be pants!)

Now of course, I’ve got to see if the walking website want my now truncated route.

I did say it was a little adventure. It was good fun though.

Tuesday 10 November 2009


Backpackinglight, living up to their excellent reputation, have delivered my new gear and I’ve got a packet of sweeties (Rowntree’s Randoms. New to me!) to hide from the children so I can snaffle them up a hill somewhere in peace!

I now have no excuse for my kit being wet as it will all be double waterproof wrapped for protection in liners and a rain cover for good measure. We have a new Primus Eta Power Pot to boil enough water, quickly and efficiently, for both meals in one go. We have waterproof glasses carriers, although I have yet to ascertain if my glasses will fit. We have a Travel Tap water filter for my peace of mind, a trowel which is obviously essential and midge head nets because, at times, they_are_hideous.

Now we have our stand-by numbers, I’m a bit dubious if we’ll use them next spring, but they’ll still be serviceable in 2011…

Hey ho.

Saturday 7 November 2009


To avoid becoming absorbed in my disappointment, I’m employing two means of distraction.

a) Making like an ostrich.

b) Retail therapy.

So I’ve been walking, just very short local walks. I’ve still got nearly a stone to lose regardless, so I might as well get on with it. Six miles to Tesco and back for one of those odd assortments in the basket. Two and a half hours including 20 minutes shopping and 10 minutes to chat to two old friends (There were two friends, I’ve known both for a while, individually.)

I don’t mind this route, it has a lot of the same views as the one earlier in the week, plus a lot of rural farm land, but it’s a cycle path by a busy road that I’ve had previous bad experience of here and it still makes me a little anxious when the traffic’s heavy. And it rained on the way back, but I don’t mind getting wet on the way home, it’s on the way to somewhere it’s a nuisance. Views were a bit obscured though.

As to the retail therapy, well, that was Shirley’s fault. She mentioned over at her place and I remembered the gear I wanted to order, so off I went and had a splurge! Forgot something important that wasn’t on the list, so important I didn’t think I’d forget it, so I’ll have to go back another day and order some more. Shame…

So, as you can see, I’m feeling much better.

PS. Would appear the retail therapy isn't limited to kit. Just ordered the Christmas wine and Champagne from Tesco using my vouchers. An extra little Christmas pressie to myself. I deserve it! (And Tattinger is my fave...)

Wednesday 4 November 2009

Searching for Sero

That would be serotonin.

Darren mentioned over on his blog that we should  take more notice of our local environment. I actually do most of my walking locally. And alone, but that’s ok.

I needed a lift today, mental, not physical, so I went for a local walk so that I could at least see the hills and here are some photographs of the hills I could see.


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The hills, anti-clockwise from the North Easterly view down to the Southerly view. On a good day.

Tuesday 3 November 2009

Nothing to say

I suspect this blog may go quiet for an extended period until I have something relevant or interesting to say.

I may change my mind, it is my prerogative.

Just now, I really couldn’t say.

Sunday 1 November 2009

A little learning

I was watching BBC Breakfast yesterday and there was a very nice lady telling me that my fear of spiders is a learned behaviour, the only true fears that babies are born with are fear of loud noises, (I seem to have got over that one, in a household with four children) and fear of falling. So, I know now that it’s perfectly rational for me to be convinced that I’m going to fall off a steep slope when I’m wearing a huge pack, but not to be absolutely terrified of spiders.

Feels the same to me though, the palpitations, the sweating palms, the shear and utter terror… Still, it’s good to know that it’s all in my mind and that I can unlearn the spider thing. Stuck with the fear of falling though…


The four little treasures and me, convinced I’m about to slide off the slope near Leathad Buide

The natural history expert sitting next to the nice lady went on to say that the season for spiders in the house was nearly over now (he wants to get himself to my place, I’ll show him a spider or two!) and that most of them were males anyway, on a kind of spider rut, their only interest being in the opposite sex, not me. Rationally, I’m sure he’s right. But if anyone were to buy me one of those spider catchers, a lidded box on a long pole, I know, in my heart of hearts, that any spider I tried to catch would vault the box, sprint up the pole and disappear up my sleeve whilst I have an apoplectic fit.

Funny thing though. I have, on occasion, woken in a tent, to find a spider peering in at me from the other side of the mesh, but I can cope. I know the big-enuff-to-see-um spider is too big to get through the no-see-um.

I still prefer them to tootle off though.

As to the whole falling off the hillside thing, David’s going to have a ball laughing at me. I might need to carry more than one spare pair of pants…