Wednesday 28 November 2012

Mad litter lady on the loose

I have noticed on my daily walk the gradual increase in litter. There is always a slight increase during the wildfowling season, but there seems to have been an increase in general over the past few months.

It drives my to distraction.

What annoys me even more is the fact that I go out everyday and as soon as I start to see the odd bit of litter I remember that I have forgotten the bin bag and tough gardening gloves that I intend to carry everyday to collect the litter.

It’s an age thing. Sadly.

Today went a little differently.

I still got to the cycle path before I remembered I’d forgotten. Again. But this time, I found a carrier bag near my turning point, so I was able to use that to collect litter on my return trip.

I did get a few odd looks, but it’s okay, no one will recognise me, I was wearing sunglasses…

SDC14254Litter collected over roughly 1.5 miles

I even separated out the recyclable bits. I feel virtuous today.

I deserve a treat. More cake!! Or chocolate…

Sunday 25 November 2012

Ls Belles attack Tom Trumper

Another last minute flourish of emails resulted in another drive out to Chapeltown of Glenlivet on yet another glorious day to meet the Other L for an attack on Tom Trumper. Who could resist a hill with such a fabulous name?

I was a little late, again, held up by slow traffic (not that I was speeding along in the icy conditions) and the low sun. The views of first Ben Wyvis and later the Cairngorms with their fresh dusting of snow was spectacular, especially the Cairngorms, whose tops were poking through a cloak of white, fluffy, cotton wool clouds. I was soon parking up beside The Van at East Auchavaich. We set off with a wonderful view of the hills this time, the frost sparkling in the blazing sunshine.

SDC14238 Braeval Distillery

As we passed the distillery we were overwhelmed by the fumes emitting from the chimneys, we were engulfed by a very potent whisky fragrance . As we staggered on we had difficulty continuing a coherent conversation. As we turned off to take the Lecht Mine path, we found a small field of rather impressive rams. As I took photographs of them, they rather unnervingly started moving towards us, possibly looking to be fed. Not wanting to become lunch, we moved on.

SDC14239 Well signed

SDC14244Impressive but worryingly peckish

The next place of interest was the College of Scalan, a once forbidden Catholic Seminary. Laura knows more of the history of this secretive place. From there, we entered the Clash of Scalan, an area of ruins and juniper. Lots and lots of juniper. and it was spikey.

SDC14247 The College

SDC14248 Disused waterwheel

SDC14250 Area of ruins

SDC14253 Views and juniper


At the ruins there was, as is the norm on the Glenlivet estate, a waymark directing us, but it wasn’t going in the expected direction, so we chose to ignore it and continue along the stream where the path was shown on our maps. All four of them. Two of which are quite up to date. (At least one of the others was probably not…)

We continued up the Clash until we met a fence with gate. However, the gate was not going to be easily opened and there was no stile. This is again unusual for this particular estate and we were briefly puzzled but also determined to follow our route. Laura is understandably still a little careful of doing anything with too much risk, so after a little assessment (we tried the gate, discussed climbing up the steep hill to find a better crossing) I tried the wire fence for height. I could just about straddle it without too much indignity or discomfort so we decided Laura could too. And she did.

Trouble was, once over, we were faced with quite a vast area of overgrown heather and juniper. Where had the path disappeared to? No matter, we knew it followed the course of the stream, so long as we didn’t stray too far from that, we couldn’t go far wrong. After some tripping and prickling and stream hopping, we found a bit of a path through the heather higher up the slope. Probably a sheep or deer trod, but clear enough and going the right way.  A short while later, we were faced with another fence*, but this time, it seemed to follow the route of the path uphill that we were looking for. Ahead, up the hill a way, we could see what looked like another, well constructed track heading to the top of Tom Trumper, so we followed the fence up hill to meet it and soon found ourselves surveying the hills around us where the cairn should be.

2012-11-24 12.02.11 (2) The Cairngorms

There was a slight, but chilly breeze at the top, so we wanted to drop down the eastern side to find a bit of shelter and eat lunch. We were chatting, of course, discussing our best route of descent and the next time we looked up, out of nowhere had appeared a Ronhill clad chap. Where had he come from? We deduced he had been hiding in a grouse butt, ready to pop out and take a pair of unsuspecting hill walkers by surprise. It worked, but we didn’t let on and waved cheerily as he passed us on his way to the cairn which isn’t at the top. We surveyed five butts before we found one with enough shelter, a nice seat for us both, no remains of dead animals nearby that we were both happy with. We’re both a bit fussy. Ron Hill made his way down. Then up again at a pace. Then down. Then back up. Then down. It got a bit repetitive and we got bored after a while.

2012-11-24 12.52.13 (2) Acceptable lunch neighbours

Having lunched, we made our way gingerly downhill to a corner of two fences and found two stiles, one leading ahead, the other to a path leading down to the ruins. Ah, that’s where that waymark was pointing to! Still, we’d had a lovely adventure sticking to the path on the map. There was also some livestock in that field, which isn’t our strong point, so we continued on downhill.

There was livestock in this field too, mostly sheep which trotted away from us. There were cattle too, but  mainly further away. As I’d decided we could take a diagonal route across the field, I didn’t point out the cattle closer to us too soon, so I could persuade Laura they were happily lying down, chewing the cud and not interested in the slightest in a pair of lady hill walkers. It amuses me that I can be so brave with someone who needs the extra encouragement, bearing in mind my own fear of cattle. At the corner, we had another fence to negotiate. This time a slightly wobbly gate affair that again, could not easily be untied (as it wasn’t strictly speaking the right of way) so I supported the gate whilst Laura carefully climbed it and then she returned the complement as I niftily negotiated the obstacle.

There was some slight concern as we passed the distillery again that we might fail a breath test should we be stopped, but decided to run the risk and venture into Tomintoul for a return visit to the Fire Station Tea Rooms for coffee and cake. Cake!!

Roughly 5.3 miles, 801 ft total ascent and rather sedate 1.5 average mph.

Another brilliant day out with gorgeous weather and exceptional company. Having enjoyed more than our average amount of walks together this year, I wonder if this might be the last before winter really sets in? A good one to end with and there are plenty more in the planning.

* At this point, my camera batteries ran out, so I had to take some photographs on my mobile. I have yet to retrieve all of them as that battery went flat after I’d transferred the icicle photograph. Bear with…

Thursday 15 November 2012

Another excellent day

When Laura and I walked on Tuesday, the idea had been mooted that we walk again today, but nothing more was said or planned. Until last night when, sitting at archery I thought that actually, I really ought to take advantage of having the car to myself while David is away, and promptly sent Laura a text asking if she was still free. Obviously, she was, or this would be a pointless post! Arrangements were made and this morning, on another spectacular day, I found myself heading over the Lecht once again.

SDC14219 Glorious day

I arrived around about the time I’d said (I think, or maybe slightly later) and was offered coffee which I gratefully accepted. It had been a long time since breakfast. After a little bit of faffing and a quick map discussion, we decided to ask John for a lift to a suitable point to save a bit of a road walk. This turned out to be an excellent move and we were soon on our way on good tracks over moorland with wonderful views on a fabulous day in the best company.

SDC14225 Tree routes entwined around a rock

SDC14227Lochnagar is in those clouds, but we weren’t going there today. Luckily!

SDC14228 Glen Girnock

We had our lunch in the shelter of an old steading before continuing on our way, towards Lochnagar distillery.

SDC14230 The road behind

SDC14229 Straight road ahead

SDC14231 Distant trees

SDC14233 Distillery

SDC14235 Impressive chap

8.28 miles, 2.2 mph average, 1105 ft total ascent 3 hrs 48 mins including pauses and lunch.

Days like this are simply the best.

Berghaus full zip hoody review

I was recently invited to write a product review for Berghaus (thanks to Alan for suggesting me) and a week later, received a Full Zip Hoody (wrapped in a black bin liner?!) It’s a brushed cotton hoody, with a full zip, deep welt at waist and cuffs and in a nice blue colour. It fits well and is comfortable to wear. I washed it in a normal coloured load with a non-biological gel tab and it has washed and dried well, maintaining its shape and appearance. This top is currently unavailable but I believe it retailed previously for £55.
SDC14224 Hoody
I had a little difficulty doing this review. I suppose I had hoped to receive a slightly more technical item which would have fitted more easily into my wardrobe, but brushed cotton does not tend to wear well on the hill. The other weekly activities that I engage in tend to involve either a uniform (Guide Leader), sitting around for hours in cold places, or going to Tesco, (yes, I regularly have a Raynauds attack in the vegetable aisle) so merino tops and down jackets are the order of the day. It didn’t seem a fair review if I just wore the top around the house as part of my ‘Sloppy Joes’, so I had to make a few changes to my usual wardrobe habits.
SDC14221 Deep welt at waist and cuff
SDC14222 Hood
The day we went to Glen Affric, I threw the hoody in the car to pop on over my Icebreaker Zephyr hoody after the walk. It proved to be comfy and cosy in this combination. I did this again when I walked with Laura at Balmoral. On the odd short Tesco shopping trip that I do, I popped it on over a thin top under my Paramo and again, was comfy and cosy, but I’m not keen on a welted waist and it did feel a bit bulky in this combination. It was just warm enough, worn with the Zephyr again and under my big down coat, for shooting (exceptionally cold, no proper heating WWII type building) but not comfortable. That was the welted waist feeling bulky. As part of my Sloppy Joes, perfect. The only other downside would be the full zip. I don’t like them, they always bulge in an unsightly fashion and I feel I’m constantly pulling the front down to make it lie better.
On the whole, I quite like it, but I would never normally consider it because it doesn’t suit my needs and I wouldn’t pay £55 for a top to wear over my pyjamas. However, for someone wanting casual wear with ‘a label’, this is a well made garment in a hardwearing fabric.
For more information and another review, visit Martin’s blog.

Wednesday 14 November 2012

Birthday cake!

You can never have too much cake.
Our little girl is 17 today. Hoppy Birdy!!

Tuesday 13 November 2012

More cake

I decided my Challenge training should commence straight away so Laura and I arranged to meet at East Auchavaich at 9.30 am. I set off, a little later than intended, with blue skies and sun blazing. Not far from home the car suffered a wind screen wiper mal-function, but this was easily put right and I was able to continue my journey, although now, I knew I was going to be late. The road works I encountered didn’t help and I eventually parked up next to The Van at around 9.50 am. Ooops.
I climbed out of my car, nipped round to the passenger side of The Van and clambered up into the passenger seat. Together we surveyed our surroundings. We should have been enjoying a lovely view of  The Ladder Hills. Instead, we saw heavy, grey clouds shrouding what had been our intended hills. Oh. Time for Plan B.
For Plan B, I had to drop out of The Van, nip back to my own car and climb back into the driver’s seat. I then followed The Van as Laura drove back to Tomintoul and we found parking. The vehicles neatly abandoned and purses rescued from the depths of day sacks, we pottered across the road to the Fire Station Tearooms and ordered two milky coffees. We then took a window seat so we could watch the clouds and make a well considered decision.
The decision was, initially, to make use of the porcelain and then, have another milky coffee.
So we did.
After a little more chat, a map discussion and a second visit to the porcelain, we thought it was probably about time we girded our loins and set forth. So we went back to the vehicles, changed our boots and jackets, put on our rucksacks and mitts and set off.
SDC14205 Tomintoul
SDC14206 Time check
SDC14207 We like
Towards Carn Meadhonach and Tom na Bat
Towards the Ladder Hills
We were heading for the north end of the village so that we could pick up a footpath to take us to Bridge of Avon and then pick up a circular route that would take us to Bridge of Brown and back. The path started well.  We walked and chatted, occasionally stopping to enjoy the view and take photographs. The turn to the bridge arrived very quickly and we went down steps made for giants to the road. The road but no bridge.
Steps for giants
So, we went back up the steps not made for hobbits and continued on the path that soon degenerated to a mudfest. We were in a field obviously regularly frequented by cattle, so I don’t want to think too hard about the mudfest. It was muddy and quite deep and slippery so we took our time. Quite a lot of time as it happens. By the time we did eventually make it to the very pretty Bridge of Avon, it was definitely lunch time. There was a handy bench, so that was where we parked ourselves in a nice sheltered spot. We ate our sandwiches and then we ate cake.
 Now you see it...
Now you don't!
Laura needed a rest after that.
We re-consulted the map and thought that as it had taken us so long to plough through the mud, it might be wise not to continue on to the Bridge of Brown circuit. I’ve been there before and it’s very muddy in places. We didn’t want to be making our way back in the dark. Instead of returning the way we’d come (the mudfest just didn’t appeal!) we decided to walk up the road instead, nipping onto the wrong side of the traffic cones along the road works and then just hugging the kerb until we reached the steps not made for hobbits again and could take a detour on a lower path back to Tomintoul. It was a pleasant little path with a handy bench with a view, which we sat on for a while.
Nice view

4.20 miles, 1.4 mph moving average, not sure about the ascent (my GPS is saying something different now?…) and a simply lovely day! (Apart from the sad bits.)
I stopped on the way home to enjoy this view towards the Cairngorms

Monday 12 November 2012

The envelope has landed

Better get planning then...

Wednesday 7 November 2012

Planning ahead

One of the problems I’ve had on both my Challenges has been eating. Unusually for me, I can’t do enough of it and starting the day with something appealing and satisfying has proved difficult. Well, I may have happened across a solution.
I bake. And recently I tried a new recipe for Apple and Date Slice. It has apples and dates in it, along with oats, light brown Muscavado sugar, flour, bicarbonate of soda and a ton of butter. It went down a storm. After I’d tried it a couple of times, I decided I could experiment with the recipe. I thought the apples were probably necessary for the slightly soft texture and the dates make it slightly chewy, so my first experiment I just added a bit of mincemeat I happened to have stashed in the cupboard. Yep, that worked.
SDC14198 Apple, raisin and chocolate
So next, I replaced the dates with raisins and added chopped dark chocolate. Oh yes, that worked! Today, I’ve replaced the apple with pear, kept the dates, added some stem ginger and chopped chocolate. Lush.
SDC14204 Looks better in real life, pear, date, ginger and chocolate
Now obviously, I can cut this to any size or shape required and during testing I’m being quite restrained and making 16 squares, but for the Challenge I’ll probably make nine, at around 118 g each and roughly 437.83 kCals. Now that should give me a better start to the day!

Saturday 3 November 2012

Photograph test
Fly Agaric

Friday 2 November 2012

Blue skies, a walk, lunch, maps, but no cake

The day was looking promising when I dropped David at work, earlier than is natural to be up and about. I then made my way across country to drive over The Lecht towards Laura’s house, enjoying spectacular views and clear blue skies on this crisp, fresh morning. On arrival, I was offered coffee before we went for a bit of a stroll around the Balmoral Estate, admiring cairns, statues and views along the way.

SDC14171The frosty bridge

SDC14173  Princess Louise’s cairn, with Laura for scale

SDC14175 Views from my cairn

SDC14180 Cairn commemorating the purchase of the Balmoral Estate, with Laura for scale, again

SDC14181 Views

SDC14185 Pretty church

SDC14187 Prince Leopold’s cairn, with Laura etc., etc., (my shadow makes her look legless…

SDC14188 Looking down on Balmoral

SDC14192 The Queen’s most loyal servant, the rather handsome Mr Brown

It was a delightful little stroll, roughly 3.7 miles, average 2 mph (we chat a bit) and 679 ft total ascent.

When we got back to the house, we had a cup of tea and got the maps out to discuss routes. This actually went a lot more easily than I’d anticipated, we do think alike.

Then it was time for lunch, which was delicious. Especially if I closed my eyes… There was, however, a distinct lack of the cake I had been promised and lured with. Hmmph. More coffee, however fresh, is not a suitable replacement. Still, if I’m ever invited back, I’ll make the effort.

A spectacular autumn day in wonderful company, hopefully won’t be too long before we have another day out.