TGO Challenge 2014 Shiel Bridge to Kinnaber Links

Ls Belles Tea Shop Tour of Scotland

I had hoped to have been walking with David on this year's Challenge, but that plan fell through early on. Walking across Scotland with Laura had always been on the cards at some point, so this seemed to be the ideal opportunity. Laura was keen too, so in October 2013 we applied to take part in TGO Challenge 2014 as a team. There was a little discussion about start points and routes, we tried a list of places we wanted to go, then places we didn't but, being a bit of a control freak (sorry Laura) I took on the role of route planner and soon had route sheets prepared for a Shiel Bridge start.

Why Shiel Bridge? We contemplated the list of start points and up until now, we have started at different points from each other. There were some starts I wanted to keep for when David and I Challenge together. There were some that were hard from the beginning and we both felt we needed something manageable. I started here for my first Challenge in 2011 and it's a nice start, but Laura hadn't started from here before. Luckily there is a second easy start from this point, a route that neither of us know, so Shiel Bridge it was!

And onwards with our little adventure...
Thursday 8th May 
To the start
I met Laura from the bus in town and we waited a little while until David finished work and could come and collect us. We spent a pleasant evening watching Cameron in The Pilgrim's Trail while I packed my rucksack and everyone else was out footballing or archerying.

In the morning, David drove us into Inverness where we bought lunch and tried to do some other shopping before taking us to the bus station to wait for the bus to Shiel Bridge.

I have no idea...

Waiting to wave us off

At the bus station, fellow Challengers began to arrive. Andy Dawkins, Hugh and Barbara Emsley, who I met on my first Challenge at this very bus station! Colin Reid, on the Hero List from the same Challenge. In fact, it was the bus to Fort William and we had to leap off at Invergarry to meet a connecting bus.

Waiting for our last transport for two weeks with lots of sacks

As we got onto the bus, I was rather surprised to be greeted by name by a complete stranger, only for it to turn out to be David Williams of Fellbound. We all got onto the next bus, including Jim Davidson and one or two others whose names I didn't get. We eventually arrived at Shiel Bridge, some Challengers got of to stay at the campsite, some of us got off a little further along at the Kintail Lodge Hotel and a few stayed on to get off at the second campsite.

Having been given the keys and instructions for our room in the Trekkers Lodge, a kit explosion ensued and Laura washed her smalls in the sink in the bedroom before we retired to the bar. Laura had a lovely cappuccino, David joined us and had a pot of tea, I had a pint. We had been directed to eat as a group of seven at around 7 pm (can't remember, actually) so eight of us had all gathered (me, Laura, David, Andy, Hugh, Barbara and Fran and Allen Mellors) in time to enjoy a lovely meal, some having veggie burgers, some seafood pasta, fish and chips, steak pie and chips and one had two starters. A jolly pleasant evening was had by all, I had a second pint, a few more Challengers arrived including Nicole Morschett, Keith Leonard, Ngumo Charles Karugu, Stormin' Norman, Fred Campbell and the Great Humph and then we all decided it was time for bed. The Challenge had begun!

David's sensible tea and my pint

My fish and chips with random pea

Demolished! Good start

Friday 9th May
Day One
Shiel Bridge to just east of Alltbeithe YH
12.7 miles 2191 feet ascent
Weather mostly fine
Cakes eaten: I had two Chorley Cakes for breakfast

After showering, dressing, breakfasting and re-packing the rucksacks, we were eventually ready to make our way to reception and sign out at 9.20 am at the same time as Jeff and Joke Cracknell and a few others. We left the hotel, went through the little gate and Laura hugged her first tree of the Challenge before we strolled down the edge of Loch Duich to struggle across the shingle and dip our toes in the water. Here we also met Jaya John and his friend David.
Tree #1

 Stunning Loch Duich

Toe dipping

We met Fred during operations and he decided he'd like to stroll with us for the day as we were all going in the same direction, so off we went. Having designed the route and having been here before, I was immediately voted Chief Navigator and I led my followers along the beach path before taking the road to the Activity Centre, where we met Paul Richards and Barry Turton, the Chuckle Brothers. Then we took the track heading south east into Gleann Lichd. We bowled along merrily, chatting and looking at the wild flowers, ladies smock, bluebells and wood anemone a plenty, and listening to the obligatory cuckoo.

The weather was looking really promising at this stage, a complete contrast to the last time I started here and we soon found ourselves looking for a sheltered spot in which to enjoy a break. We watched the clouds rolling over the tops of the ridge in front of us, Beinn Fhada, and wondered how Nicole was getting on with her high start up there. After a while, the packs were once more hefted and we wandered further down the glen to reach Glenlicht House in time for a late lunch. I was surprised to find it open, just as Keith and Ngumu were leaving, so we went inside and made ourselves comfortable whilst enjoying wraps with hummus and soup. Another Challenger arrived by the name of Steve Crofts. He couldn't resist the guitar mounted on the wall and took it down, tuned it and promptly played and sang some beautiful music. It made for a magical and very memorable start to this Challenge.

Music man Steve Crofts

Glenlicht House

After lunch we walked (or rather, toiled in my case) together up the excellent path that leads over the bealach into  Fionngleann. It was a really good path with views over the surrounding hills, a golden eagle and some stunning waterfalls, although I didn't like all the path as some parts had a bit of a drop on one side. It was quite hard work for a person not quite as fit as she would have liked and should have been, but Fred insisted I set a perfect pace and we all clambered on together until Camban Bothy. Here, we were joined by several other Challengers, including Henry and James, Floris, Gary and Nicole. Steve wisely decided to call it a day and stay the night at the bothy.

After another break, we were off again, taking the path down to a new bridge and a good view of a rainbow. We popped into the youth hostel on the off chance that the current warden was as wonderful as we'd been promised and sure enough, she happily made us tea which she brought to us on a tray, but she had no spare beds (I didn't expect any, but it was worth asking) so we made use of the facilities and collected water before stumbling just a few hundred metres and declaring there to be an acceptable pitch. There was some roaming around at this point to find the least damp and lumpy spot, but we all plumped and tents were soon erected, stoves lit and meals prepared. I lost and found all sorts of stuff in my tent during the evening, had some fun pumping up my Synmat with my hand pump before getting into my favourite PHD sleeping bag and listening to Sir Ian McKellan reading to me. A very pleasing first day.

 A rainbow over Glen Affric

Our pitch for the night
Saturday 10th May
Day Two
Just east of Alltbeithe YH to Cannich Campsite
20.3 miles (whoops, unplanned detour) 2170 feet ascent
Wet and cold to start, brightening till we pitched much later
Raynaud's attack: 1
Cake eaten: none

After a reasonable night when it wasn't too cold and I slept a bit, it started to rain at 5 am and continued, with a chilly wind, until after we'd started walking. We procrastinated over packing before we really had to strike camp and make a start at around 9 am, at which time, with soaking hands in the chilly wind and despite having cracked a couple of hand-warmers, I suffered a Raynaud's attack. I was miserable and felt so ill, but Laura (quite rightly) bullied me into starting to walk and after a short while, I did start to feel a bit better. Two Challengers pushed passed us, "She's on a mission," was the excuse given for their rudeness. Another couple of Challengers caught us up, Geoff Tipler and John ?, who chatted briefly for a while before continuing and Andy Williams also passed us. It took a while to reach Athnamulloch where the wood shed was disappointingly locked this year, but shortly after a rest stop was called at handy bridge. I think around this time the rain began to ease. We were soon on our way again and Laura hugged her second tree of the Challenge with a stunning background. Fred left us as we caught up with Hugh, Barbara, Evan and Floris, to take the track to Cougie and we carried on to the car park to make use of the facilities and sit at the picnic bench for lunch.
 A damp start
Tree #2

Picnic bench

Enjoying the views
Bridge at Dog Falls car park

We had ourselves a good break before returning to the track along the south shore of Loch Beinn a' Mheadhoin. After we had spotted the place I think Mick and Gayle may have pitched when they were here, Steve caught us up again. He had already decided he was going to plunge down the damp incline to find a pitch on the shoreline when we came to the turning we had planned to take to Tomich. Disaster! Forestry works had closed the track and the alternative route given was a large detour. We decided to continue to the car park at Dog Falls and rest before carrying on to Cannich. This was a huge annoyance as it meant pounding along the road late in the evening to get a pitch at the camp site. We paused briefly at the cemetery, as everyone knows, they often have a seat on which to park a weary body. At this point, I knew a blister had popped up at the top of the ball of my foot, just in front of my big toe and the next. Inevitably we arrived after the reception had shut, but pitched anyway with the intention of paying in the morning. We pitched near Lindy Griffiths, Andy Williams was also a neighbour. Much to my chagrin, after re-hydating my dinner, I spent a frustrating  fifteen minutes trying, but failing, to pump my Synmat in a satisfactory manner, only too aware that I was rustling and squeaking in an otherwise quiet campsite. Eventually I had to resort to taking the darn mat into the ladies to pump up with more elbow room, which still proved difficult. I did the best I could before returning to my tent and wrestling said mat back into my tent. Then I ate my cold apple and custard before listening to a little more Sir Ian.
Our pitch
Sunday 11th May
Day Three
Cannich Campsite to Bearnock Hostel
5.57 miles 711 feet ascent
Weather started with a heavy downpour, followed by mainly settled
Cake: 1 slice each of coffee and walnut cake, free at the hostel. Bonus!!

Another Challenge couple had arrived whilst we were in our tents, David and Andrea Carrington. We'd had another not too cold night but I still hadn't slept brilliantly. I enjoyed my shower and was surprised and pleased to find my blister was only small and not painful so I dressed it and put some preventative tape on a couple of areas of 'wear', then took my time packing. We did have all day after all, to wander up the road to Bearnock. We paid the nice man for our pitch and as luck would have it, the café opened in time for us to have a good breakfast before we set off, beans on toast and a pot of tea. As soon as we set off, the heavens opened and there was a torrential downpour. We plodded on and I was very happy to arrive at the hostel in time for a late lunch.
Cleaning the bus shelter for our snack stop

Whilst waiting for the cleaner to finish we were able to help ourselves to tea and coffee from the kitchen and sit in the communal area enjoying a slice of free cake, always the best kind. We got into our room and the emptying of rucksacks and washing of clothes began and Laura solved the inflation problem of my Synmat (a loose valve!). We returned to the kitchen and communal area to have our dinners along with the other hostel occupants, who were muggles and a little loud and ignorant for middle aged and older people. We survived. After returning to our room we spied another Challenger, in the room next to ours, but didn't get to speak until morning. I was a good girl and rang in to Control, just as planned, then rang David for a quick chat. We watched a bit of television, as it was available, although it was very amusing as we couldn't seem to switch off the audio description during Vera. We also had a little celebration, I produced a couple of miniatures of Talisker to celebrate our meeting at Tomdoun during the Challenge of 2010 when David and I hadn't made the draw.
A neat and a not so neat kit explosion

We settle down to a quiet night after a very restful day, with a bit of Sir Ian.
Monday 12th May
Day Four
Bearnock to Loch Ness Shores Campsite, Foyers
11.65 miles 1713 feet ascent
Weather lovely all day
Cake: fail

We made another good start and as we left, the Challenger from the previous night burst out of the French doors of the communal area, "Are you Challengers?" He turned out to be Ian Sommerville and we had a little chat before heading off for the bridge to Shewglie. We had to stop for a vehicle, the driver of which asked Laura "Are you lost?" No was the response, but the reason for the question became clear as the track we wanted became increasingly vague, especially after climbing the broken down gate exiting the last field before entering the woodland. There was still a vague path, which we followed until bursting out onto a beautiful wide track with new signposts for the Kintyre Affric Way. This made for easy walking to Lochletter for our break, shortly before which we met Steve again. We walked together off and on most of the morning until we found a signpost for Drumnadrochit and Steve headed for the fort.

We burst forth out of this under/overgrowth

Onto this beautifully manicured track
Enjoying the views
Tree #3
Tree #4

The track we took was, interesting. It became damp, and narrow, and downhill quite steeply. The next signpost had no sign of Drumnadrochit, but we took an educated guess and ended up on another nice woodland path with a tree for Laura to hug. Ian caught us up around here and continued with us as we reached the car park (another huggable tree) and walked on to the town centre where we found Andy Howell and Kate Foley at The Fiddlers. We joined them with Ian and Andy Williams and enjoyed a lovely meal and a pint whilst various other Challengers arrived. We took it in turns to nip across the road to the little shop to buy one or two supplies before heading down to catch Gordon's boat at 5 pm.
Playing hide and seek

After alighting at Inverfarigaig, we bid our fellow Challengers farewell (they steamed off) and we went our own way, visiting the toilets first before heading along the new South Loch Ness Trail. My advice would be, don't. Or at least don't try to follow it in a southerly direction. It might be easier to follow heading north, but going south, we somehow fell off the path somewhere in the middle and had an interesting scramble and wrestle with the undergrowth and trees before heading up to a rocky outcrop to pick up a GPS signal, where upon I fell onto the path again. Phew!

This had delayed us sufficiently (as well as being a little tiring, frustrating and demoralising) to make it unlikely we would be able to reach our planned stop and it also seemed unlikely we'd find a suitable pitch and water in the interim, so we resorted to Plan B and headed to a new campsite at Foyers. We wended our merry way through the woods, then down the steep, steep lanes and eventually across the Bailey bridge into the site to be met by a locked reception, but after hailing the attendant, a very jolly chap came to help us book in and when he failed with the technology, he called his wife. They allowed us to take one pitch between us with a picnic table, two handy water taps and right next to the shower block, for the princely sum of £7.10 each (with the help of Laura's membership) and we made reasonable use of the facilities, eating our rehydrated meals in the comfort of the reception area and I took a relaxing hot shower (to remove any beasties and grime picked up in the jungle) before bed. We would now face two slightly longer days to catch up, but at least we'd start off well rested and clean. Sir Ian did his job well.
Nice new site with great views
Nice new reception where we were allowed to eat our dinners

Our pitch
Tuesday 13th May
Day Five
Foyers to Dalbeg
14.2 miles 2800 feet ascent
Weather fine bar one shower (I think?)
Cake: 1 Apricot Danish Pastry (my list, it counts!)

So after an early start, we left at 9.10 am to find our way onto the waterfalls path, which wound its way through beautiful woodlands with huggable trees and spectacular views of the waterfalls. We soon found ourselves at the Waterfall Café and felt obliged to stop for a drink and something to eat. Laura had a cappuccino and I had a pot of tea and a freshly baked Danish pastry. We then continued to wander along country lanes with some maniacal drivers and fabulous views to the western hills. We did spot a few potential pitches along the way, but I was glad not to have risked being unable to find water or a suitable spot. Plus the maniacal drivers were a little off putting, would they have been around at night too?

Cracking start to the day

Tree #5
There was lots...

...and lots of information to read
Indulgence at the Waterfall Café
Views to the west

It soon became clear we were heading into an area of works, interestingly titled 'road improvements', which looked suspiciously like road strengthening to allow access for heavy vehicles into the hills hereabouts. Oh goody. A rather charming young man, one of the contractors, stopped for a chat about our safety, I found him to be earnest and well meaning. We were able to continue on our route. The many warning signs, aimed presumably at the contractors, caused some hilarity. The track was 'improved' but the views behind us were still stunning. We were aware of a group of four walkers ahead of us and eventually caught them up as they lunched by the burn, the Simpsons and Mitchells. After a brief chat, we carried on up as we intended to lunch in a hut I knew to be open. Thankfully, it was, and the two couples joined us. There was some discussion as to our routes and we decided to shun the new track and bog trot they intended to continue as planned, bouncing up the side of the burn on the soft, green expanse of its banks.
Making fun...
...of silly signs
Large expanse of skies and bouncy soft green behind us to the west
The Mitchells, the Simpsons and Laura, bouncing along the soft green stuff
Expansive views to the east too

This all went rather well, with the group quickly realising that our plan was indeed the better option and then desperately trying to get ahead of us because obviously, two inexperienced and pathetic English women couldn't possibly be right and capable... We bounced onwards and upwards, each taking turns in the lead and offers of help were given, occasionally. We soon bounced over the watershed, which was surprisingly less wet (as in not entirely dry) than expected and we had our last views of the western hills and the first views of the Cairngorms. I started to feel comfortable, nearly back in my own neck of the woods. Soon after the watershed, the group took a prolonged rest, but we were on the downhill march so continued at a good pace, happening across a herd of red deer close by as we rounded a corner. We strolled on, spying suitable pitches as we went but very aware we really did need to reach Dalbeg to make the next day not far too long. Happily, although the track did seem interminable, we did eventually round the final corner and the locked lodge hove into view.

We were soon scouting the grassy banks of the Findhorn for something flattish and not too hummocky, the best pitches having been nabbed by a dutch group of three and a brummy. We found a nice spot just passed the lodge and threw up the tents in double quick time. The other group eventually arrived before we finally settled down for the night. It had been a good day, after leaving the 'road improvements' behind, the bog had been far less of a bog fest than I had feared. Sir Ian lulled me to sleep, again.

Our pitch beyond the Lodge
Looks set to be a chilly one...
Wednesday 14th May
Day Six
Dalbeg to Newtonmore
16.7 miles 2169 feet ascent
Weather warm and dry until we reached the shoulder of Carn an Fhreiceadain, where it became cold and wet, but it didn't rain for long
Cake: Fail!

It was possibly the coldest night of the trip, with Laura finding a little bit of ice in her water in the morning, but we'd both slept well and made a reasonable start at around 9 am on what was going to be a long day. I'd warned Laura that this estate can be a little 'tricky' and sure enough, we were soon aware of an estate worker, in his truck, with binoculars, watching all the Challengers making their way through the glen. He left us alone as we headed along the Elrick Burn to follow the others who had all evidently taken the other, more obvious route along the glen. The track along the burn is quite lovely, gently taking us up to the point where three burns meet and we stopped for lunch. Laura used the egg powder she'd been carrying to make a very successful omelette for lunch. Can't remember what I had.
Looking back to the Lodge
Just look at that blue sky!
View from the bridge
Still glorious as we walked along the Elrick Burn
Focussed on the omelette. Honest

We struck off uphill again, intending to follow a track a short way to avoid the steep sides of the burn then take to the grassy banks of the burn further up. Turned out, to our delight, the track had been slightly extended going our way and we were able to make easy (if still slow) progress before finally leaving it and taking to our bouncing technique once more. We soon found ourselves crossing yet another surprisingly not very wet watershed where we were able to walk across quite large expanses of the peat itself without disappearing up to our necks in gloop. A complete joy! We then had to pick the correct burn (which we did) to follow down to meet the Dulnain and find a nice bothy for a break. It was the correct burn, but I obviously hadn't studied it too closely as Laura was far more concerned than I was about the apparent narrowness of the gorge ahead of us. I took the lead and as I rounded a corner and gazed over the edge, I knew I was not going to be popular...
Looking west over the watershed
And looking east

Initially Laura took the lead to try to negotiate the steep sides as the burn tumbled down a series of short waterfalls, but then suggested I might want to lead instead. So I did. I gave a running commentary, as much to reassure myself as Laura, as I performed a controlled and very graceful bum-slide down a flat, steep slab on the left of the burn before carefully picking my way across to perform a similar bum-slide on the opposite bank. Followed by a bit of scramble. All whilst thinking what am I doing, with a massive pack on, facing what felt instinctively like the wrong way! It suddenly occurred to me that I could get myself to the bottom and find myself still alone if Laura couldn't make it. I wouldn't be climbing back up!!
From the bottom of that waterfall

Laura did a terrific job however and we did feel jolly proud of ourselves, if not a little foolhardy, but we survived to tell the tale. Just round the corner was the little bothy where we sat a while to enjoy a snack and a rest before tackling the rather long and steep track ahead of us, first up, then down. Slow progress was made during which time it became quite chilly and it started to rain, but it didn't last for long. It did however take a long time to reach Pitmain Lodge as the track is very steep and rough. As we descended, we decided it would be quicker not to route find the paths directly to Newtonmore, but to take the track straight down to Kingussie and take the cycle path. They are probably a similar distance and we just couldn't be bothered to think! When we finally made it to Kingussie and Laura got a signal, we rang the Mrs Os to let them know we would be late and to enquire when the pub stopped serving food. We had just over an hour to get there...I soon decided that my legs wanted to stretch after all the mincing and hopping so I picked up the speed and in no time found myself at the hostel, quickly greeting some old friends, including  Sue Oxley, Lindy Griffiths and Emma Warbrick before making a quick change and trotting (yes, I did!) across the road to the pub with ten minutes to spare and in time to stop the kitchen shutting so we could have a lush and much needed real meal.
Looking over the shoulder of the unpronounceable Corbett towards the Cairngorms

After a little socialising, catching up with David Albon's miraculous tale, Alistair Pooler and Martin Banfield, we went back to the hostel where I had a brief chat with Jayme Morgan and Peter Molenaar before diving into the shower then doing a bit of washing which I hung in the drying room. I then retired to my top bunk, trying not to wake my room mates and Sir Ian kindly read to me again.
Not exactly our pitch for the night, Laura, Emma, Jayme, Rod, Peter and Martin inside the hostel
Thursday 15th May
Day Seven
Newtonmore to Cairngorm Club Footbridge
19 miles 1431 feet ascent
Weather mainly warm and dry
Cake: 1 free piece each of banana and chocolate chip loaf at the hostel and I had a piece of ginger cake

The day started early, as Lindy likes an early start, but although we were up, we didn't get off to a flying start. There was much socialising as there was Mike Gillespie (Alan Macdonald and Pat Deane must also have been around) Rod ?, Fred, Marcus and one or two others and we gave our damp washing as long as possible to dry. While we lingered, we ate delicious free cake and decided what we were going to need at the shop. There was then some dressing of feet, by now my blister was deflated and drying nicely, but I'd resolved to dress the worn areas on the inside of my heels regardless as they do have a tendency  to be vulnerable to soreness and blisters. When we eventually set off, we stopped at the new Co-op which provided some entertainment.
Delicious and free, the best kind of cake, especially at breakfast!
Could we? Should we?!

Shopping complete and packed away, we walked back along the cycle path to Kingussie where Laura tried to buy a new gas canister, but they didn't have any small ones. We went to a tea shop, run by a Spanish couple, where we had pots of tea, Laura had an egg roll and I had my second slice of cake of the day, ginger cake. We didn't tarry long before we hefted our packs and wended our merry way through town to pick up the road to Ruthven Barracks. As we were entering the memorial garden, we met Alistair again who decided to walk with us a while. He proved to be very useful as he was carrying the 1:25,000 map on his gadget which showed the Badenoch Way not shown on the 1:50,000 map I was carrying. After the usual tourist photographs at the Barracks, we carried on to pick up the Way at a car park and followed this varied and pleasant path (with a snack break on a handy bench) to Tromie Bridge. We initially headed along the same track here until Alistair left us to head into Glen Feshie and we continued along the Way to beyond Insh. We had been on nice paths and tracks until we hit the road, but hadn't to be on it for long as we were going to pick up another forest track just east of Insh Ho at Balnespick. Imagine our consternation when, having passed the farmer as we started along the forestry track, we found it to be completely impassable, blocked by a whole bank of fallen trees, obviously brought down in the recent storms. Why oh why he hadn't told us I shall never know and it was infuriating to have to pass him by again to return to the road and carry on along the road all the way to Feshiebridge. The small section we'd intended to cover would have been around 1.13 miles, but covering that bit of track unnecessarily and having to return to the road and follow it round added 1.87 miles. We were so cross and grumpy!
Ginger cake and a cup of tea
I definitely prefer the other side of the camera
Alistair and Laura being informed on the Badenoch Way
Beetling beetles doing what beetles do
Our way, blocked

Thankfully, on entering the forestry at Feshiebridge and following the easy tracks through Moor of Feshiebridge to Inshriach and Rothiemurchus we made good progress, just pausing to speak to Paul Myerscough at the little bothy and pass on a message from control that his wife had been worried by the lack of messages pinged from his SPOT device. Wandering through these very familiar forests was comforting to me. We happened upon a small herd of deer and close by, another pair, just enjoying their evening stroll through the forest.
Brave deer

We sped along and soon found a Laser pitched at the Cairngorm Club Footbridge, which we guessed to be the Great Humph as we knew he'd passed by this way slightly ahead of us. We paused briefly to collect water, then continued the short distance to our planned pitch. When we arrived, there were two tents pitched together with room for two more and another pitched slightly separately from us, but no sign of The Pieman and Café Akto. All that effort! The first tents belonged to Emma and Fred, the third Norma and John Keohane, already tucked up in bed and in the land of nod. We left them in peace as we enjoyed a good social and laugh with Emma and Fred while we pitched, ate and eventually settled for the night, with a little Sir Ian in the background.
Fred and Emma at our pitch
The Keohanes' tent (admittedly taken from my tent in the morning)
Friday 16th May
Day Eight
Cairngorm Club Footbridge Fords of Avon Refuge
12.7 miles 2216 feet ascent
Weather sunny and warm but increasingly windy. Very!!
Cake: Shared Apple Strudel and Ice cream

John and Norma popped over first thing to say hello and have a natter. It was lovely to have a catch up while I had breakfast, then we all got packed up and left the strange little non-Challenger camper, who'd pitched nearby, in peace. The Keohanes had already nipped off to the Lairig Ghru, shortly to be followed by Emma and Fred. Laura and I had already phoned Challenge Control to modify our route slightly (to an already discussed alternative FWA) to the Lairig an Laoigh, as we had heard the forecast was suggesting high winds and we didn't fancy the Ghru in those conditions. The path over the shoulder of Bynack More is exposed, so we were still expecting an exciting time, but possibly easier to manage than the Ghru for us.

Emma and Fred depart

Tree #6

We made good time down to the Squirrel Café at Glenmore, where we joined Humphrey for a good natter and breakfast. Baked beans on toast again for me as it had proved so effective before, followed by a share of strudel, just because. Part way through our meal, The Pieman dropped in to see us and explained he had been at the footbridge, but had left at around 4 pm as no one else was there! If he'd only waited a short while longer, he would have been joined by Emma. Ah well.
Apple Strudel

After another pot of tea, we set off to the Ryvoan Pass. We had of course wandered off our intended route, and I had inadvertently forgotten to print the map off for this section, despite having previously discussed the possibility of doing it. However, one of us was carrying the Real Map, which was duly folded into my Ortlieb map case, although I know the route off by heart. No one should ever venture out into the hills not properly equipped, even on a familiar route. You just never know.

After meeting Mike ? (or Andy ?) by Lochan Uaine, the Green Lochan, we continued until we paused for a snack and a decent break at the site of Bynack Stables to re-energise ourselves for the struggles ahead. Humphrey eventually joined us again here, and tarried a while to watch us toil on up the hill. He may even have stayed there for the night in preference otoflogging up that hill. A large D of E group passed us, I think having walked through Strath Nethy, a wet, boggy place. We set off up towards the shoulder. It's a good path, but continuously uphill for quite some time. We met quite a few people coming off the hill, most of whom warned us 'girls' against continuing with our large packs, however, we were quite comfortable with our route as there are no major cliff edges and having survived Stormy Monday in 2011, we know our own capabilities.

It was windy though. Very windy. There were many moments of "Brace!" as we struggled up and over the shoulder, it seemed to take an age, but it was a glorious day with fabulous views. It was the second time out of four that I've been up there in grim conditions, last time was far worse. After several brief breaks and a more substantial one below Coire Odhar, we eventually made our way to the Refuge at around 6 pm. Not too shoddy we thought.
South along the bog hell that is Strath Nethy
Looking south over the shoulder of Bynack More

The next problem, to pitch. North of the Refuge there may have been one or two places to pitch, but I did not feel like back tracking. I knew that if we continued there wouldn't be shelter or suitable pitch until Derry Lodge and I was too tired to continue. Laura therefore immediately plumped to stay in the Refuge. My tired brain decided I could pitch my tent, make dinner and get to bed. Madness. The lovely man, Sandy Millar, already pitched by the Refuge in the only spot possible, tried to help this mad woman until I realised it was a ridiculous plan and I abandoned to join Laura in the Refuge. We made ourselves very comfortable in the confined space, relaxed, ate, chatted and eventually settled for the night with the door ajar, hoping that no other Challengers or walkers in distress joined us in the night. A good day, hard but enjoyable. I had been tired and glad to stop when we did and also to have an early night. Sir Ian read to me once more.
Hut with a view

Saturday 17th May
Day Nine
Fords of Avon Refuge to Braemar
14.9 miles 969 feet ascent
Weather not so sunny, bit breezy, some spots of rain
Cake: Shared chocolate fudge cake

Another slightly longer than anticipated day, so it was good to get an early start. 8am of early start! Still, it meant we had a good long time to discuss our crossing of the Fords. After much discussion, Sandy came to watch us as we plunged in one at a time and carefully made our way to the half way point. Having gone first, I paused on the mid way island to check Laura safely negotiated the first part before I plunged into the second. I nearly found myself in some faster moving water but slightly changed course without difficulty and finally made it to the opposite bank. There was much silent screaming in my head as the water was absolutely freezing cold, but we were both happily successful in our crossings.
Laura plunging into the Fords
 *the Fords...
 *of Avon
*Courtesy of Sandy Millar

Our audience, Sandy Millar
Looking east along the Avon

After dressing and booting my feet, we continued on to the second river which I crossed dry-shod and then we plodded our way along Glen Derry. It does seem to take an age to make it all the way down to the Lodge, where we paused for a lunch stop. We had no problem at all crossing the Glas allt Mor, which I had been dreading as last time it had taken over half an hour to cross. Having said he was taking his time, Sandy rolled up shortly after us and joined us for lunch and a natter. Sue Oxley strode passed on her way to Marr Lodge, briefly pausing to say hello. We left Sandy to enjoy his night stop with the intention of calling into Marr for a cup of tea. We bumped into Andy Dawkins on the road to Marr and strolled in together to be disappointed by the absence of scones or even a biscuit. Sue was already relaxing (looking shattered) and we were soon joined by other Challengers, Robert and Fiona Ridgewell, Bill Rettie and Sue Foss, Kate Kowalska and David ?. After drinking as much tea as required, we set off for Braemar with Andy and David. An easy stroll along the road was taken and before long, we found ourselves in Braemar, heading for Rucksacks and the brilliant Kate, who made us very welcome and took away our dirty clothes to wash and dry for us. Here we met Frederic and Elise Maillard, Dave Pickles and bumped in to Jayme and Peter again.
Along Glen Derry
Tree #7

When we were washed and brushed, the boys decided to be sociable and joined us in the kitchen. Peter had some Glenmorangie that wouldn't fit in his hip flask and he needed help to finish it. I was happy to oblige, but then he made me share it three ways. Then off we went to The Old Bakery for tea, Laura having fetched Andy from the Fife first where he was waiting for us as we hadn't expected the café to still be open. Here we met Alan Sloman, Phil Lambert, Andy Walker and numerous other Challengers. I somehow managed to consume three sausages (beef, usually I don't like them at all) two fried eggs and chips, a record Challenge meal for me. Then Peter and I shared an enormous slice of chocolate fudge cake which I let him finish so as to not look a real glutton.
Row of packs outside Marr Lodge
Helping Peter with his whisky glut

Then we retired to the Fife, which was also full of Challengers. Now, at this point, I will start to forget who we met and peoples' names in general, but I'll mention a few as I remember them. One of the first, someone I'd been looking forward to seeing again was Andy Wright, looking all tanned and healthy with his big smile and huge hugs, a joy to have a catch up with. There was also Margaret and David Brocklehurst and Ian Cotterill to name but a few. There were also first timers Toby Mullins and Vicky Sore. Vicky confessed that it was after reading my Challenge account she'd finally decided to have a shot at the Challenge herself. I hope it was everything they wished for.

Far too many people and names, everyone was there but eventually we decided it was time to retire and wended our merry way back to Kate's place, refreshed and contented. We were perhaps a little later than was good for us, but having decided we would not now be heading for Callater Lodge and the hills beyond, we knew we would only have three relatively short days to contend with.

Sir Ian did his job well.

Nice pitch!
Sunday 18th May
Day Ten
Braemar to Glelder Shiel
8.81 miles 984 feet ascent
Weather mainly fine and dry, but a bit breezy towards the end of the day
Cake: Fruit Scone (my list...)

Today wasn't going to be a difficult day and certainly wasn't going to be a long one, but we had a few chores before we could make a start. I needed a watch, as mine had been reading 12.22 now for a few days, so we strolled to Braemar Mountain Sports where I treated myself to a smart but basic Timex watch. Next, Co-op, where I posted home a parcel containing my camera charger and bought provisions for the last few days. Then on to the café again, where we had breakfast.
Tree #8
Looking back

Looking back from Gelder Shiel

We finally left around midday to stroll along to the Invercauld Bridge and on into the Ballochbuie Forest where we spied a large herd of red deer before straying from our path slightly to rest on a bench for lunch by a locked suspension bridge. After a good break, we strolled on the Feith an Laoigh before entering Glen Gelder and making our way to Gelder Shiel. Here there were twenty tents pitched by the end of the evening, sheltering from the gusty wind that had risen as we'd made our way here, but it was a nice early finish and we were able to relax and socialise as we did our chores and ate our dinner. Again, too many people and names, but amongst them were Tina Davis and Graham Lewis with Graham's son Peter, Willem Fox and team, Hugh and Barbara, Liz Robertson and Susan Pow, Russ Manion and team, Brian and Ralph Aspinall and Conrad Ayling, Alistair, the Brocklehursts and more. What really made my evening was the discovery of the toilet at the back of the bothy, and a not half bad one at that! Certainly an improvement on other bothy toilets I've had the pleasure to visit. We soon all settled down and Sir Ian did his best again as the rain softly started to fall.
A small selection of the tents on show
Monday 19th May
Day Eleven
Gelder Shiel to Shielin of Mark
8.7 miles 1882 feet ascent
Weather warm and fine
Cake: Two Eccles Cakes

After a reasonable night we set off around 9 am to struggle through heather and bog before deciding enough was enough and to make a beeline for the track. We'd still cut off a large corner of our route. We continued along the track which became increasingly rough and difficult until we forded the river and Alistair joined us after his hill yomp. As we crossed the wide, easy track to the Spittal of Glenmuick, we were passed by a couple of muggles and without reason or warning, I unexpectedly threw myself at the floor. Ouch. "Are you alright?" Yes, just embarrassed...

At the visitor centre, we plopped ourselves on the benches outside and enjoyed a long lunch alongside the Dutch and soon to be joined once more but only briefly by Steve. All too soon it was time to lay our demons to rest and take a stroll up the Allt Darrarie and across the bog fest to the Shielin.

We were in for a pleasant surprise.

The other side

The last time the Allt Darrarie was a raging torrent, crossing the bridge with no sides was no fun and we couldn't enjoy any of the views as we had a job to do in serious conditions.
Think we yomped over this
Most of Lochnagar
And not much of Lochnagar
Making our way carefully down a horrid track
Lovely hairy caterpillar
Lunch at the Spittal of Glenmuick

This time we were walking beside a pretty, babbling burn in a delightful glen as we climbed the path and gently rose further up to meet the bog fest at the top. Even this was a vast improvement. Liz and Susan joined us for the last section and we chose to follow the burn around the hill rather than over the peat hag, bog fest, which dropped us quickly and neatly on a steep bit above the Water of Mark, just south west of the bothy. A little bit of careful descent (during which we saw an osprey, what a treat!) saw us on the river side and we pottered along to find a group of three tents, one of the occupants of which appeared to have taken an untimely swim.
'That' bridge
Pretty and babbling
Looking back
Bouncy green stuff
Challenge evening chat, just as I'd always imagined
Able to sit with the tent door open
Our pitch

We continued passed the bothy and its Dutch occupants, as I'd read of a flattish pitch further along the river. It wasn't far till we'd found a place we were all happy with, far enough away to have some peace and privacy. We had another fine relaxed evening, enjoying our dinners and settling down quite early as a few more Challengers arrived.

Sir Ian is wonderful.

Tuesday 20th May
Day Twelve
Shielin of Mark to Tarfside
11 miles 1005 feet ascent
Weather fair and warm
Cake: Two Eccles Cakes

We had not a bad night, still relatively warm and comfortable. We woke to some early bird Challengers, racing to Tarfside for the delights of St Drostans and the Masons, but first we had to tackle the Water of Mark and climb Muckle Cairn.

Drifting low cloud over the hill with a benign Water of Mark

We woke to low cloud, but it was passing quite quickly and we had frequent long views of the route we wanted to take. Luckily this time we could cross the river dry shod, rather than the thigh deep of last time. Then we would employ the previously successful plan of bouncing up the soft green banks of a burn before taking an easy route across to a broader green tract and making the final short climb over the lowest point. This brilliant plan dropped us neatly directly on to the path on the other side which would take us steeply down onto the track that would eventually lead us into Glen Lee. It was a positive joy.
This little chap hopped under Laura's tent
Looking back
Our lunchtime view
Double Trouble
The road to Glen Lee

After crossing the Water of Lee, we plodded on to the Stables of Lee, where we broke for lunch. After a while, we were joined by Alan and Phil, minus Andy. We allowed our break to extend a little and set off all together, but we knew it wouldn't last as they have legs up to their armpits and ours only reach our knees. Sue and Liz became part of this strung out group, along with Brian, Ralph and Conrad from time to time. The track along the Glen actually becomes really rough and unpleasant, a great shame for a path that could otherwise be so easy and enjoyable.
Tree #9
Further along the glen

We took another long break at the cemetery after surviving this track misery, although sadly this one could only offer a soft grassy swathe and no nice bench. Soon we were on our way again for the short route to Tarfside, although it always seems to last forever. We eventually arrived at St Drostans and elected to drop in on the way to the campsite rather than have to return later. Again, lots of people, too many names, but a nice cup of tea was had and Laura booked herself an evening meal. We eventually plodded the last little walk down to the camp field and chose our pitch at the very back of the field to avoid hoards of Challengers passing in the night to and from the toilet block. I ate my evening meal alongside Jayme and Peter before we made our way to the Masons for a little socialising. Lots of people and names. It was the first time I'd been able to sit outside the Masons comfortably of an evening.
The skies over Glen Lee behind us
I enjoyed dinner with the boys at our quiet pitch
And the rest

We had another late evening, which wasn't bright as we had a longish day tomorrow. Sir Ian soothed me to sleep.
Wednesday 21st May
Day Thirteen
Tarfside to North Water Bridge
16.6 miles 758 feet ascent
Weather really quite warm
Cake: Fail

Not a brilliant night, unsurprisingly, but managed to leave before 9 am for a quick stroll with the boys to The Retreat for breakfast, where I had most of a Full Scottish, fresh orange juice and a pot of tea. We set off together again but the boys soon left us behind and headed off into the hills. We did the usual route along the River Esk until the section of woodland just north of Haughend. This has been obliterated and the track is out of bounds, in itself not an issue as although the track does contour the very edge of what was the woodland, I have simply crossed the field below before and was happy to do the same again. Except that, yet again, despite knowing a hoard of Challengers would be heading this way, the farmer has chosen to put a herd of cows in that field. This was indeed going to make it tricky.

 River North Esk
 Tree #10
Looking back towards Tarfside

I don't like cows, but I'm braver in the company of Laura, who really doesn't like cows, but is braver in company. So we stayed as close to the edge of the field as possible, as far away form the main herd as possible, until we reached the river and found standing therein, a cow. We debated briefly and decided the cow was happy in the water cooling her feet and was (probably) not going to be an issue. So, we calmly, quietly but very quickly nipped (and there's not been a lot of that going on!) through the river and continued. The next adventure was to find and cross the new bridge and see if we could find our way on to the Blue Door Walk.


But we did eventually stumble our way onto it and enjoyed a gentle walk in dappled shade instead of the hot, dusty track and road we would have endured. We soon found ourselves at Edzell and in The Tuck Inn in time for tea where I had chicken and chips with salad, a glass of coke and a glass of water.

We girded our loins for the grim walk to North Water Bridge, but in actual fact, I don't think this is ever as bad as I imagine or expect and just a short hour and a half later, we walked on to the campsite in good time to pitch, have a cold wash, wash quite a bit of my wardrobe, spin most of it and do a bit of socialising. Apparently, you can fit eight in a Trailstar. A pleasant, if late, evening was had before I tootled next door back to my tent, took my Synmat to the bathroom to inflate with elbow room, only to be caught trying to wrestle it back into my tent. Sir Ian did his penultimate reading.
Over the bouncy bridge

Peeking out
Our pitch and a few others
Thursday 22nd May
Day Fourteen
Northwater Bridge to Kinnaber Links
Then on to Montrose
10.2 miles 385 feet ascent
Weather dull and cool and then very wet
Cake: Chocolate Chip Brownie with chocolate sauce, cream and fresh fruit

Not a brilliant night, but off to a good start for the road walk to Kinnaber Links to finish, after first visiting Charleton Fresh Fruit Farm for lunch and cake. We made good progress with no excitements, reaching the fruit farm in time for an early lunch. I had Fresh Cream of Asparagus Soup with a roll followed by the most enormous cake which I failed to finish and was given in a doggy bag for later. I found room in my pack for it.
Vicky and Toby on their way to finish at St Cyrus
Last look at the hills, that are getting wet now
Tree #11
First glimpse of the sea
...and people asked why we finished at Kinnaber Links

By the time we left, the heavens had opened and we got wet, windswept and interesting as we stumbled as fast as we could across the A92, down a lane to a track, through the dunes and down on to the beach where we very quickly left drawn evidence of our finish, a quick toe dipping photograph and then we were off to Montrose for rest, recuperation and relaxation.
Laura and Louise, Ls Belles Tea Shop Tour of Scotland TGOC 2014
Toe dipping on the east coast, ta da!!

Of course, as ever, the hardest bit is finding the way through the built up bits. We fumbled a bit, but eventually booked into the campsite and our cute home for the night.
The rest, pitching in the rain

Our pod

A quick wash and brush up and off we went again, a quick fumble to find our way to The Park, where we finally caught up with Mick and Gayle, signed back in, received our certificates, badges, t-shirts and buffs, and then the socialising began. Hundreds of friends, old and new, a fabulous curry with the boys, Colin Crawford and old friends John and Sue Plume and Jane Asell. There were many, many Challengers doing similar. On returning to The Park more socialising ensued, as well as absorbing the news that John Manning has resigned as Challenge Co-ordinator after doing an excellent job for the last three years and has been replaced by Ali Ogden and Sue Oxley. Girl Power! They'll do a grand job too, I'm absolutely sure.

All the Challengers I spoke to had an excellent crossing, mostly due to the vastly improved weather this year. All bar one first-timer, "Well, it's not exactly difficult, is it?"... Well, no, I guess not, the best conditions for years, no, no challenge at all. Shame.

All too soon we realised it was late and we should make our way back to our cute Pod, where Sir Ian finished reading his book to me and I fell asleep.
Friday 23rd
The return
We were up nice and early, so we were packed and ready to go in plenty of time. I had a long wait for my train, so Laura had to go before me to find breakfast and catch a bus home.

After an hour or so, the boys, Emma and I strolled down to Tesco for a bacon butty and a pot of tea before I said goodbye to everyone (again!) and briskly made my way to the station to buy my ticket and board my train, heading north and home once more.

This was the end of another great adventure. I was incredibly pleased with my route, it went even better than I could have hoped, especially the bog fests, although the unexpected diversions due to the forestry works and fallen trees was very annoying. We had cake as often as we could, although not always where we planned, but we rested regularly and indulged in boot breaks, just as we promised ourselves. I'm sure this helped with the condition of our feet. Although there was some blistering (my one, small blister, re-inflated a couple of times but was never a problem as it was neither painful nor did it grow. Our feet were also very tired and sore from time to time, mostly after the long days or the road walking, but was only to be expected. Even the puffiness experienced from time to time was not long lasting.

We had fun. There was laughing. The Tree Diary was good fun. The bog fests were really enjoyable, considering both of us hate them! The dry-ish winter may have had something to do with that admittedly. The waterfall bum-slide was tremendous, after we survived it. There was singing, (still don't know where Land of Hope and Glory came from...) and the company was excellent.

I should apologise to all those we met, friends old and new, who I've promptly forgotten to mention. It's not deliberate, it's old age.

So, now, I can get the maps back out and start planning...happy days!


Gayle said...

A cracking write-up! Enjoyed that.

There are a few names in there of people I wanted to meet, but didn't. I did exclaim "I know your names!" when Barbara and Hugh came for their certificates and when they asked why I knew them I couldn't remember. Now I realise it was because of your first Challenge.

Laura said...

Very good write-up! I enjoyed reading it even though I was there!

Louise said...

Ah yes, Barbara and Hugh! They are fab and now they are famous!!

Thanks Laura! I tried to miss out the naughty words, you know, 'nip', 'pop', 'trot' etc., there was none of that going on, not on our walk!

Alan Sloman said...

Faster than a speeding bullet in getting your Challenge up!
Well done to you Ls Belles - it was lovely bumping into you both.

Cracking write up too.

Andrew W said...

Good grief.
How on earth did you get that written up so quickly?
I have only just sorted out photos on mine and worked out the route we actually did as a GPX.

I shall now go and read it all in detail and then get back to you to discuss therapy for extensive tree hugging.

Louise said...

Thank you Alan, it was lovely to see you too, especially looking so well!

Andy, I have nothing better to do with my time I'm afraid, I tend to be waited on hand and foot when I get home, not least because it's my birthday weekend. So I can while away the hours in front of the computer, reliving all the happy trudging.

Vicky Sore said...

Great write-up! And that brownie extravaganza looks amazing!!

I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge so thanks for the (subconscious) encouragement :)

Louise said...

Hi Vicky! Thank you for popping by and your kind comment. The brownie was HUGE and delicious, you should go there yourself sometime!

I'm really glad you enjoyed yourselves and hope to see you again sometime.

Nick Bramhall said...

Congratulations on the Crossing Louise! A very enjoyable write-up and a pleasant route. Funnily enough I was at Foyers last Friday looking down at the loch and wondering when that campsite had sprung up!

I was just wondering how you got on with the Mountain Trails food you mentioned a few posts back. My backpacking food cupboard (actually, a bag stuffed into the back of the wardrobe) is empty after my last trip and I was pondering trying one of their variety packs - was it tasty and texturefull? Any recommended meals?

Louise said...

Hi Nic! And thank you, I was very pleased with our route, it was nice and gentle, just what we needed, but still very beautiful.

Just before we set off for the Challenge, Mr Manning had reviewed the Mountain Trails meals and didn't seem to find them inspiring, so I was a little worried.

However...I found them actually quite nice. They're not the high end gourmet of Dry Turmat, but they are dreadfully expensive. I had previously got on quite well with Fuizion Foods, but they tend to be really spicey, even the none curry varieties and whilst I enjoy a spicey meal usually, when backpacking I tend to find it makes for an uncomfortable night's sleep!

I had:
Creamy Mushroom and Tomato Pasta, which was not as I expected it to be (it had tiny pieces of sundried tomatoes) but the mushrooms rehydrated well and it was very pleasant.
Vegetarian Rainbow couscous, tasty if a bit spicy for me and a bit...well, couscous. I left the second one at Newtonmore Hostel.
Four Cheese Pasta and Mushrooms, again the mushrooms rehydrated well, the first time I had this I didn't like it, the second time I accidentally made a thick soup of it (like ya do!!) and really enjoyed it, so perhaps it needs to be really well hydrated?
Chicken in Cream and Mushroom Sauce, both chicken and mushrooms in small pieces or shredded and rehydrated well, I enjoyed this one both times.
Minced Beef Dinner, looks exactly as it should, if you mix well to the bottom you get a good gravy, enjoyed this one too.

These last too were very clever, the rice and mashed potatoes are in a separate foil from the main meal which makes it a. easer to rehydrate and b. more like the meal you'd have on your plate!

Two puds were had, Apple and Custard and Hot Chocolate Pud. I liked them both.

Our son has just ordered some meals for his Gold DofE exped, including spag bol, chicken korma and hot lemon pud, I'll let you know how they go if you like? He's ordered the larger sizes. He likes his food...

Overall, I liked them, but it is all down to individual taste. For the price? I'd say they were good value and if you're involved in any organisations or a member of BMC or the like, take a look at their special discounts, there's 15% off to be had!

Nick Bramhall said...

Thanks Louise - really appreciate the quick and detailed answer! I've used Fuizion and Expedition Foods up until now and really like the former but I think, based on your thoughts, I will give Mountain Trails a go. I like the convenience of being able to order a variety pack and will see how I get on from there.

Ian Sommerville. said...

Great write up - you've really had a fun Challenge. And you've worked incredibly hard to get everything written up so quickly - well done.

Louise said...

Thanks Ian! I've found I have to do these things quickly before I forget where I've been and what I've done. Not least because my notes become increasingly illegible as the Challenge goes on and I get more tired!

Beryl the Peril said...

Excellent write up Louise, have been following your blog ever since JJ told me about the Challenge where you met him. He has been trying to persuade me to do it ever since! Maybe one day! It sounds as though you had a really fantastic time. Going to see if I can find your route and your kit list for more info.

Louise said...

Thanks Beryl. You should give it a go. It's brilliant.

Phreerunner said...

Well done Louise, a good report on an enjoyable crossing, and it was good to see you both in Braemar.
There seem to be loads of reports coming out this year and it's quite confusing trying to remember whose is whose, as the updates pop up! All good fun though.
Martin (still editing Day 1 piccies!)

Louise said...

Thanks Martin! It was good to catch up with you too, although I didn't feel as af I really had a good chat with many folk, just fleeting greetings!
There are a lot, it's becoming quite the fashion to do a write up or slideshow. A bit like the fashionable shoes.
So, next year. You'll have been too busy editing photos to plan yours, mine is complete. Feeling smug.

Louise said...

Thanks Martin! It was good to catch up with you too, although I didn't feel as af I really had a good chat with many folk, just fleeting greetings!
There are a lot, it's becoming quite the fashion to do a write up or slideshow. A bit like the fashionable shoes.
So, next year. You'll have been too busy editing photos to plan yours, mine is complete. Feeling smug.