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.

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