Friday 28 February 2014

Aurora Borealis

It’s been a busy week and after an unusual amount of rushing around last night, we final settled down in front of the television around 8.30pm and I was indulging in a little Facebooking. My Mynott promptly started nagging me about some special phenomenon and Ciara was chatting with friends wittering about the same phenomenon. We looked at each other and that was it, I rushed upstairs to change out of my pjs, Ciara put a cosy coat on over the top of hers, we grabbed a couple of cameras and jumped into the car. I realised as soon as we reached the beach, it would have been a good idea to have grabbed a head torch too, but hey ho, we managed to stumble our way towards the beach virtually unscathed and scramble up the bank to admire the most beautiful light display.

We stood and admired the display for quite some time. It was a magical experience. There were so many people wandering along the sea front enjoying the show, the waves lapped the beach, the sky was full of stars and the colony of seals calling on the sand bank all added to the extraordinary atmosphere. It was fabulous

There were a couple of fellas on the beach in front of us doing a bit of photography and as they collected their gear and left they stopped for a quick chat and to show us their photographs. They were very pleased with themselves and had obviously had a fabulous. One of them promised to post his photographs on his Facebook page and I asked to share them. Here are two of them.



Photographs by Stephen Bruce Photography

A truly wonderful and memorable experience. Thanks for the push Carl!

Sunday 9 February 2014

Darnaway Forest

Firstly, I apologize for the short and succinct post of yesterday’s walk. There was definitely no competition going on to see who could post first, which I won by default because Gayle’s first attempt to publish failed. No. We wouldn’t do that…

I planned today’s route on impulse. I have never walked through the Darnaway Forest and after a little poking around on the internet, I thought it looked quite nice. It would also mean we were walking the opposite bank of the River Findhorn that we walked last year with Mick and Gayle. I gave myself a get out clause, in case the walk was a disaster, and promised mud, missing tracks, precipitous cliffs and adventure. So, that’s what we did.

It had obviously been raining overnight and it was very damp and grey looking. After a certain amount of dithering on my part, we set off towards the blue skies over Darnaway Forest looking for a car park on the Moray Estates at Dunearn Burn. “Ooo, we should have turned left there!” resulted in a Four Weddings and Funeral moment, but we found the car park safely in the end and after a boot change and gadget faff (I wasn’t the only one at this point), we set off along a short stretch of the road before plunging into woodland.


Trotting along

I had decided on a little experiment with Viewranger on my moblie, using a feature I thought might be useful on the Challenge with Laura in May, should we be crossing trackless bog in poor visibility. So at this point I had David Tennant telling me I had email at too regular an interval and it was rather irritating. I managed to make it slightly less annoying by putting him on silent, but he vibrated in my pocket all the way along our route. Odd sensation.

We soon found ourselves out in the open where Mick struck a pose.


The Flamingo

We continued and realised when we re-entered the woodland that it was of a different nature. This was not to be the last time we made this observation. After following pleasant tracks for a while, with Gayle and I discussing preserving fruit and our more unsuccessful attempts at cooking, we came to a farm. We snuck between the cow sheds and the main farm and along the tarmacked track to cross the road and take the private road opposite, for residents use only.


Sweet bus stop


I may have been bringing up the rear. Again

We passed by a few estate houses and a fancy play park before taking a track between a pretty beech hedge and what was probably at some point a spectacular walled garden. The walls are still solid, but the garden is long gone. After a short while Gayle and I suggested the boys start to look for a nice bench, in the sun, out of the wind, with a nice view in order to stop for lunch. They soon passed by a spot that we thought suitable, so we stopped and brought our decision to their attention.


Estate track


Moss covered wall


Pretty beech wood


The lunch stop


Our lunch view

It was at this point the nature began to come up trumps. First, we caught sight of three roe deer bounding away in the distance. As we sat nibbling daintily on our sandwiches (I think we all had cheese fillings of some variety) we could hear three varieties of tits calling amongst the branches. A buzzard soared above the treetops and a Greater Spotted Woodpecker hopped from tree to tree a short distance away. As Gayle went to explore a nearby glade, she startled a (Tawny) Owl from its roost, although she didn’t see it. We finished our lunch and set off again before we chilled today, this time towards the tricky part of the path, following the River Findhorn upstream. As we rounded the corner at the top of the cliffs above the river, the boys declared, “This is where we were planning to stop for lunch…”


Looks a pleasant enough stone bench


Which was actually a moss covered wooden bench

The view would have been good had it not been obscured by the trees.

The path was as varied as the woodland, there was ascent, descent, cliffs, soft ground, deep leaf litter, mud, wet and views, lots and lots of views. There was varied nature too, an as yet unidentified bird (always tricky when I have David’s description to go on) more tits, canoeists and three Tree Creepers on one tree! Despite the precipitous edge, I thoroughly enjoyed this part of the walk, it was full of surprises and dotted all the way along with some delightful fishermen’s huts which we investigated carefully, looking through the windows as they were all (unsurprisingly) locked.


The first and probably most impressive of the huts


Through the window


Interesting rock formations on the opposite bank

There was an amount of slipperyness along the rest of the path along the cliff with stretches of board walk interspersed with yet more mud and deep leaf litter. And then there was the missing bridge (almost a missing path?) and we had to perform a few careful manoeuvres to reach the path we wanted on the opposite bank of the little stream. All a little unnerving at times. Not as unnerving as the aggressive looking border collies we met a short time later at a narrow point on the path. As Mick remonstrated vigorously with the owner, the surprised fellow calmly replied, “Yes Mick, give me a minute, haven’t seen you for a while, how’s it going?”

It is not the first time we have been walking with Mick and he’s met an old friend. Funnily enough, David knew this chap too. Dogs were hastily brought under control, pleasantries exchanged and we were once more on our way.


The boys lead the way


Gayle taking tentative steps


Big steps


Well balanced


Safely across

We were not so very far from the end of our walk now. There was much steepness for a while, but the path broadened and lead away from the river and once more onto woodland tracks. We passed by a few more junctions before the car park eventually hove into view and with it, our car. Ta da! The end to a thoroughly enjoyable walk that I wouldn’t have planned and adventured out for if it hadn’t been for our wonderful and most welcome visitors, please come again soon!!

Roughly 8.59 miles with a total of 1,104 feet of ascent with mud, missing tracks (bridges!), precipitous cliffs and adventure, just like I promised. Result!

Saturday 8 February 2014

Romach Loch

We have visitors!

Mick and Gayle have once again pitched Colin on our drive for a couple of days and I have been put in charge of route planning. If it hurts, it is therefore self-inflicted pain and I deserve no sympathy.

I chose to do a circuit I’ve done a few times from Clashdhu and around Loch Romach before picking up the Dava Way to return to the car.

As we set off it was quite a lovely day, bright with some signs of blue skies but a little chilly, so I was well layered as we left the car and set off up the minor road from Clashdhu, having decided that the woodland track through Annie Pauls Wood would be too muddy. At Craigroy we turned towards Burntack to then take the forestry tracks through Newtyle Forest along the edge of Romach Hill. These are very pleasant woodland tracks lined by larch with occasional glimpses of what are probably lovely views over the Moray Firth and the hills.


Mick, Gayle and David forging ahead

After slogging up endless pimples, we slowly descended to the loch where we decided to have lunch. Or rather, I pointed it out this is where I usually stop to have lunch and we did. The water level was noticeably low, the lowest I’ve seen it and the only conclusion is that we had a relatively dry summer and so far, a relatively dry winter.

We chilled quickly during our lunch break, so we soon set off again at speed to generate some heat as we made our way to the top of the last real pimple of the day.


Mick and David strolling on

Strolling along yet more woodland tracks we soon met the Dava Way on the Altyre Estate near Scurrypool Bridge, where we turn south and made our way back to the car.

Roughly (due to a dodgy GPS connection) 9.06 miles, 1365 ft ascent and average 2.5 mph

Tuesday 4 February 2014

Little stroll

My hairdresser, the Lovely Louise (there are a lot of Louises up here…) and I have fallen in to a convenient little routine. I rarely have the car during the week, because if I don’t really need it, I am far too lazy to get out of bed early to take David to work and nick it. When I have an appointment at the hairdressers, Louise picks me up first thing on her way to work, she cuts my hair and then I walk home. (If I’m feeling exceptionally lazy, I catch the bus…) As I was a lazy toad yesterday, I thought a good punishment would be to take a detour and extend my walk by a couple of miles and a couple hundred feet. It was a mish mash of various paths I’ve taken before once or twice with The Other Louise and her bolshie beagle, Ailsa. turns out, I probably haven’t used some of these paths for about three years and I had to rely on my dodgy memory.

Turned out to be a rather nice little. I set off in the opposite direction from usual, heading past the school and through the posh housing to drop onto the Dava Way at its beginning. After a short way, there is a short flight of steps up to another track whilst the Way continues straight on, under a bridge. I took the steps.


Up or straight on

From the track you get views of the surrounding farmland and hills and a peak of the Dallas Dhu Distillery, which often features in my walks, but not today.


The distillery, in a dip in the centre of the photograph


The sun, struggling through the clouds over the farmland

Along this stretch of the track, I was given a little fright when a cyclist came up behind me and spoke. I managed not to squeak in my surprise and answered his question, yes, if carry straight on, you’ll eventually meet the road and turn left…this is true, so long as he realised that to go straight on, I meant for him to go through (or round) the four gates he’d meet on the way. I didn’t see him again, so he either got it right, or didn’t go through (round) the first gate and took the track round and back into the woodland and away from his destination. Oh well.

Having gone round the first gate, you come to part of the Flood Alleviation Scheme along the Mosset Burn, which has in the past had a nasty habit of flooding.


Looking northP2040068

Looking south


Looks like a convergence, but I think it’s the burn threading around some mini islands



Having left the woodland, I continued on the access road which runs along the edge of farm land. I know that the hump and little wooded area in the centre of one of these fields is the site of a badger set, but I’ve never been here at the right time to see them. Neither have I been at the burn at the right time to see the otters, but a friend has and I’m only slightly jealous. The track eventually pops out onto the road and I had to remember which way Louise had taken me, baring in mind, we are friends, we chat, we were walking a naughty dog and I may not have been giving my whereabouts my full attention. I plumped to turn right and walk a little way up the road before crossing and taking another path into woodland. The fence along the right of the path rang a bell, as did the evidence of it being a popular path with dog walkers.


There is a fence on the right…

The woodland became a little more dense, then changed briefly to what could be a pretty little path with a little dappled sunlight.


Imagine dappled sun and bluebells…

Another decision had to be made when I reached a junction, left would take me to a path by the cemetery, but too far back to town, straight on would take me onto farm land that may, or may not be ploughed or even in crop, so I turned right onto the track that would take me up to a minor road that I planned to follow for a short distance before turning onto a single track road that would drop me on to the cycle path along the A96. I was a little alarmed to see to heavy lorries on the minor road ahead of me. It can be busy, but they were a little larger than I was expecting. The track goes through a small section of neglected woodland, with a lot of dead and fallen trees and the odd bit of abandoned machinery. I met the road and turned left, ahead of me I could see, well, actually, I wasn’t quite sure, it looked, wrong…


Abandoned and unloved, but appropriately named…


Never seen this junction before, the road I know goes away to the distance on the right


This used to be a single track road!

I took the track that used to be a single track road and it was an utter delight in comparison to what it used to be like, playing Russian Roulette with the odd rather speedy car! It seemed awfully narrow, no wonder I hated it when it was a through road. However, it had another bonus. There are blackthorn bushes that grow along here. The fruit of the blackthorn is? Sloes. I hadn’t harvested them here before because of their proximity to the traffic, but now, there is none. Oh yes, I will be back! And to top it off, I saw bullfinches. Delightful!




Signage and a new path leading to the business park, all related to the new road and junction

There are nice views over Findhorn Bay, Findhorn and the Moray Firth to the hills beyond, but I didn’t fancy clambering up the bank to the barbed wire fence at the top to take a good photograph.


Over the Firth

I soon dropped onto the cycle path and beetled along it east for a very short distance, before taking advantage of the slower than usual traffic to nip across the road. The slow traffic was caused by temporary lights, road and surveying works. Wonder what they’ve got planned?

Anyway, off down another little lane, through more woodland, Crows Wood, to pop out onto another cycle path, my usual route home.


Across farmland to Cluny Hill


Three quarters of a mile from home, by Crows Wood, the sun finally came out!

Roughly 5.84 miles, 307 feet ascent and 3 mph average speed.

I really enjoyed that!

Monday 3 February 2014

What is going on? And yes!

Out for my regular stroll today (as I was too lazy, yet again, to grab that early lift and walk home in the dark to extend my routine walk) I found this:


Now I don’t know much, but on close inspection, this appears to be a mx of household waste and what I would term, business waste.

I was very cross.

Having taken my photographic evidence (obsessive behaviour, me?) I continued my walk.

My mood was lifted when I reached the site of my complaint to the council last Friday. The area has been completely cleared, even litter that I don’t think was connected with the workmen has been removed, the plastic wrapping dug into the earth has been dug out and I am delighted. (The work itself I would still describe as shoddy, but this is a different issue…)

I felt far less incandescent today as I am confident if I use my new found contact at the council waste department, the issue will be dealt with quickly and efficiently.


Today’s email:

Dear xxxx,

Thank you for your prompt reply and response to the littering issue I brought to attention by email on Friday. I found today that the problem has been dealt with quickly and thoroughly and I am very grateful.

Unfortunately, today I've found that another issue has arisen since Friday morning, this time with regards fly tipping. A pile of refuse bags containing what looks to be perhaps household waste and with it some business waste has been dumped in the small parking area on the left of the Findhorn Road, just before Seapark View (the old Stables Inn) grid ref. roughly NJ 060 622.

I should probably use the online form to report this, but I prefer to document photographic evidence which the online form isn't enabled to do, so I hope you don't me contacting you directly, especially as the response is so quick and effective.

Thank you again for your help, it is much appreciated.

I’ll keep you posted (‘scuse the pun…)

Edited Monday

On closer inspection, I wouldn’t mind betting (I don’t gamble, and when I do it’s in pants and I win…) that there is a second crime that has been committed here. The blue/purple cable covering is for a specific use, less likely to be used by your average builder. I would also say that the cabling had been stripped and the copper stripped out, so maybe it was stolen. Just wondering…

The reply:

Thank you for your email.

I have reported the fly tipping back to our depot.With regards to the online form, it also comes directly to our waste email here so there is no problem at all with the method you choose to alert us.