View from Oban Bothy

View from Oban Bothy

Monday, 30 June 2014

Sunday 30th June 2013, Midlands Magic

Anyone who enjoys the great outdoors doesn’t need telling of it’s spirit-enhancing powers. Having had a particularly crappy couple of weeks I felt the need to ‘get out there’.
Ideas for a long trip are now being put together, but in the meantime a shorter, single day walk was needed as a matter of urgency.
Today’s little jaunt was c/o Outdoors Magic, a fine bunch of folks who inhabit t’interweb, hilly bits of countryside….and the odd pub. Or two.
Simon was the main instigator, and being as wot he lives in Leek a wander around The Roaches was deemed appropriate. Since the idea was first mooted, the list of those wishing to attend just growed and growed. Eventually eleven bodies (well it was eleven if you include the three doggies) assembled in the car park of the Three Horseshoes pub at Blackshaw Moor. The sun was shining a bit and my choice of shorts had proved to be a good ‘un – although my white and pimply legs stood out against the muscly, tanned legs of the other OMers.
It was good to catch up with Skip, The Teesdale Viking, and Ella – her doggy. The rest of the group were strangers to me – but there did seem to be a lot of Mikes in attendance.
P1020494First up of the day
The Roaches, Hen Cloud and Ramshaw Rocks are a rocky escarpment formed from gritstone and their appearance is quite spectacular. The area is very popular with rock-climbers, indeed we saw a goodly number out today.
P1020496 First stop of the day, Simon (our glorious leader on the Left)
Up and down we went. Then up and down again. To be honest I’m not at all sure where were went. I spent a good half-hour looking at my map this evening, and apart from picking out a few features that I knew we visited I just can’t be sure of the route. What I can say about the route with absolute certainty is that is was a bit good – not the usual trade-route along the Roaches to Lud’s Church and back.
So, anyway, I’ll just write less about the route – and put up some nice photos.
P1020500Posing on top of the escarpment
There are plenty of wonderfully-shaped tors and other rock formations in the area, imagination can run riot when looking at some of them:
P1020511 A face?
P1020521 Reptile Head
He’s got more bottle than me!
Crag rats
Even more Crag Rats
The Queen’s Chair
Although why the Queen’s Chair is so named is a bit of a mystery – especially as the spot was visited by the Prince and Princess of Teck a bit back:
P1020532I tink Teck is German or perhaps has some German connection. I dunno. I shall have to ask 'er indoors – she knows everything.
More views over the surrounding (and some quite distant) countryside:
P1020553 Alderley Edge
The pimple on the skyline is The Matterhorn Shutlingsloe
After not a lot of time we dropped into Lud’s Church, which isn’t a church – but a cave. and not really a cave because it’s not go a lid on it. It’s really just a deep and rocky gully. Because it’s so deep there are lots of ferns and probably a few rare plants down there, the conditions are moist and quite stable.
P1020568 The remains of a very rare money tree
Here’s a map with Lud’s Church on – highlighted with a little red flag:
image It’ll give you some idea of the terrain but it won’t show the mud in Lud’s church.
Lud’s Church behind we sort-of turned back, south-eastish through Forest Wood (isn’t that a bit like saying Wood Wood….or Tree Forest?) that followed the valley of Black Brook. A bit of a tug up to Roach End – and an ice-cream van. Well it would have been rude not to. So I wasn’t, and after parting with £2 I was presented with an enormous and delicious ice-cream. And it was none of yer Mr Whipee crap. Oh no, this was REAL ice-cream. Yum!
Some of our party chose to walk along the top of The Roaches, whilst others (me included)followed the very pleasant road back. There was very little difference, timewise – we were all back at the car-park within a few minutes of each other.
‘Twas a good day out, just what the doctor ordered. Thanks to the entire party for letting me come along, for sharing, for putting up with me – especially Meravingian for making it happen.
I think we ended up doing around 13.5 miles and we seemed to visit Hen Cloud, Ramshaw Rocks, Roaches Ridge and Lud’s Church – although we missed out the spectacular Hanging Rock. I’ve been to Hanging Rock loads of times, but it still takes my breath away from the top!  Hopefully some kind soul will tell be where we actually went today so I can put up a route map.
More pics, including some really interesting shots of the rock formations.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Friday 16th May, TGOC2014 Day 8

Derry Lodge to Braemar

This was planned as an easy-peasy day, and so it was.

P1010700Derry Lodge. And some trees. 

The weather was good – our tents were dry so there minimal faffing before setting off to our first destination of the day – Mar Lodge.

With leaving Glen Derry behind came the realisation that we were also bidding farewell to the real rufty-tufty wilderness. Apart from the Fife of course!


No biscuits!

Image c/o McVitie’s

In recent years Mar Lodge has been a very welcome port of call for passing Challengers, offering refreshments and even accommodation to those in the know. I’d told Alan all about the legendary welcome offered here and he was looking forward to his visit as much as I was. Imagine our horror, sadness, disappointment even, to find that this year Mar Lodge wasn’t providing biscuits.

Other Challengers were clearly equally shocked by this revelation. The usual banter was noticeably absent – we were dumbstruck. It can only have been down to the recession. It’s the cutbacks y’see.

We had a quick explore before heading off to Braemar:

P1010705Spectacularly horrific. There must be 700-800 trophies hanging here.

Alan hadn’t yet experienced the excruciatingly boring road walk into Braemar, and well, I didn’t want him to miss out on what has become a Challenge rite-of-passage. So that’s the way we went.

P1010709  Alan on Victoria Bridge


Looking back over the River Dee

P1010716 Braemar wildlife

We stayed at Kate’s very excellent Rucksacks Braemar bunkhouse. We were beginning to feel almost human after cleansing showers, washing our kit through and excellent grub at The Old Bakery (purveyors of very fine meals to Challengers). This eatery has become something of a focal point for Challengers in recent years, deservedly so.

Braemar has become popular with motorcyclists and there were some fine examples of British stuff:

P1010717 Two Norton Commandos


Triumph Bonneville 750

Both the Triumph and the Nortons represent the death-throes of the British motorcycle industry. Both engines are OLD and developed well beyond their capabilities. The Triumph’s 55bhp engine, for example, is a development of a 27bhp engine designed by Edward Turner in 1937.

The rest of the day was spent wandering around in a decadent and rather lazy manner (nice!): eating, drinking, socialising…..the things a couple of chaps need to do. It was great to catch up with other Challengers. It was quite busy in the Fife even though we were a day ahead of the main wave of Challengers.

We had an early night. It hadn’t been a long day but relaxing is a tiring business.

Wot we did: 14km with 200m ascent…but 290m DESCENT!

imageIf you study the map you may notice that this wasn’t actually the route we took – Alan needed to do that tarmac into Braemar. Just so he’d know how boring it is.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Thursday 15th May, TGOC2014 Day 7

Aviemore to Derry Lodge via Cafe Akto (Cairngorm Club Footbridge branch). Not.

We did a bit of shopping in down-town Aviemore: lunch for Viv’s long train journey home, odds and sods for Alan and I. Leaving Viv to find her way to the railway station, Alan and I set off in an Easterly direction (East is good…..etc) to meet up with Cafe Akto (Cairngorm Club Footbridge branch) for bacon butties and coffee.

We missed the turn-off from the road and ended up taking the Loch Morlich / Rothiemurchus Lodge footpath to the Lairig Ghru instead. This meant we missed Cafe Akto. A bit of a faff but I suppose our waistlines were safer for the lack of bacon butties.

P1010682 The start of the climb up through the Lairig Ghru – and Alan in the distance

The Lairig Ghru isn’t a hard climb in decent weather, it’s just a slog. It got quite breezy on the top and there was a goodly amount of hard, frozen snow around – much of it covering the horrible rock-fall bits on the top. As long a care was taken, it made for a much easier traverse than without the snow.

P1010683Dedicated to the memory of Col. Angus Sinclair, died 1954 on the slopes of Cairn Gorm. And that’s Alan disappearing into the distance.

P1010684 Un-snow covered rocks. Horrible to cross

P1010687Looking back at Aviemore. Honest. 

P1010693 Snow sculpture


The wonderfully crystal-clear Pools of Dee

Soon after the Pools of Dee we began to descend. Up until this point the streamlets were shrinking in size the higher we got. Less water flowing y’see.

Over the watershed and water flowing t’other way, the watercourses gradually grew in size. It was still a long way to our destination – and I was quite knackered.

P1010696 Walking south, descending the Lairig Ghru 

I caught Alan up close to Corrour, he was chatting to Ian (can’t remember his surname I’m afraid) who had a really nice pitch close to the path whilst far enough away from the bothy. We really didn’t want to stop at Corrour Bothy, it’s not the nicest place to spend the night and we were quite determined to push on to Derry Lodge.

At around 8 – 8.15pm we rolled up at Derry Lodge, more than a bit tired. A few tents were pitched around 100 yards away, not Challengers though.


Breezy pitch at Derry Lodge

P1010699The clear waters of the Dee 

Once our tents were up and we’d eaten, other than using the en-suite, I don’t think either of us left our tents that night.

I slept well.

This is where we went: 19 miles / 2600’ of ascent



25th June 2014, Does size matter?

Time for a changNow that the nights are closing in I’ve been spending time doing other stuff in the long and dark evenings. Like thinking about things.

One of the things that has been bouncing around my little brain is size. Well not particularly size per se, but the units of measurement used to specify size – length and height in particular.
I’m thinking more of the units of measurement I use when describing a route that I’ve walked or cycled.
Should I use good old imperial feet and inches, or the new-fangled SI, metric system?
‘Imperial’ does sound rather superior though. On the other hand it’s much easier to calculate in units of 10 rather that 12, 25.4, 36, 1760 etc.
Kilometres fly by so much more quickly than miles – but there’s always more of them to cover. Ascent in metres is a whole different ball game when measured in feet. It’s a perception thing.
It’s a tough one.
These things are important. In 1999 NASA lost the $125 million Mars Climate Orbiter because an outsourced engineering team used imperial units of measurement whilst the NASA team used the metric system for a particular spacecraft operation.
From the ever informative

Metric Math(s) Mistake Muffed Mars Meteorology Mission

Thoughts anybody?

Wednesday 14th May, TGOC2014 Day 6

Cafe Akto to Aviemore

A clear (=cold) night had the Saunders Spacepacker Plus tent a little bit icy in the morning – it took a bit for the sun to make it’s presence felt so I thought it would be rude not to take advantage of Cafe Akto.

P1010658 Cafe Akto Proprietor, Chef, Barman and all round good egg….Mr Pie, preparing brekky

A splendid bacon butty and a mug of rather nice coffee later and the tent was defrosted – and so was I.

Orf we jolly-well went, trying very hard to follow the recommended route past Glenmazeran Lodge but before we knew it we were on exactly the wrong path. Oh well, I don’t think anyone was at home.


Glenmazeran Lodge’s wood store

P1010660 Glenmazeran Lodge


Crossing the River Findhorn

Our route took us across the River Findhorn at Dalmigavie Lodge and then a steep LRT climb up the side of An Socach. I’ve followed this route a couple of times before and I’ve really enjoyed it. Today’s walk was equally enjoyable: great company, a great route – and the sun was shining. What’s not to like?

The route passes a couple of lunch huts used by the (wealthy) hunting fraternity and (probably) not quite as wealthy TGO Challengers. Our first hut was the venue for our first lunch stop of the day.

P1010665L-R, Croydon & Alan

P1010663 Fed and watered, Viv, Alan and Croydon ready to leave the Wendy hut

P1010668Looking back at the Wendy Hut 

As you can see from the photographs, the weather was dry and bright – warm even. Sometimes. When the wind wasn’t blowing anyway.

P1010672 Croydon, Viv & Alan

A couple of minor navigational faffs delayed our arrival at Red Bothy, venue of our second lunch of the day. On my Challenge two years ago, the last time I was here, the weather was somewhat different – sleet and snow, which made progress difficult and unpleasant.

Appetites satisfied we followed the Burma Road to our end point of the day, Aviemore. It’s a boring but very simple route to follow, even in bad weather – but it’s a bit of a slog.


Burma Road towards Aviemore

I’m curious to know the history behind the name of the Burma Road – can anybody out there in the blogosphere enlighten me? The most common story I’ve heard is that the road was built by WW2 prisoners of war but I’m not at all convinced.

Tired and hungry, we arrived at the bunkhouse which was our accommodation for the night. We’ve stayed here before and it’s good. And it’s next door to a pub, the Old Bridge Inn. The pub provided superb but expensive food, it appears to be morphing into more of a restaurant these days. The beer was okay but should have been better, it wasn’t particularly well-kept.

We’d had a long day and were ready for our beds. It was Viv’s last day of walking with us, she had far more important things to do. Like going home to sleep in a proper bed.

Anyway, this is where we went: around 17 miles with 3000’ of up.


Monday, 23 June 2014

Saturday 21st June 2014, Bletchley Park

The longest day, a visit to the home of the WW2 'Code Breakers'

First the bad news: the nights are closing in.
It gets better:
When the opportunity to visit Bletchley Park arose it took me around 2nS to decide to take up the offer. One of Mr Branson’s Pendolino trains provided the means of getting to Milton Keynes whilst friends John and Martin provided transport for the last few miles.
20140621_131933The Mansion 
The Code Breakers who were based here were a select group of men and women who had the incredible mental agility to break what seemed to be an impossibly complex system of encoding and ciphering. The codes were generated using Enigma machines – fiendish bits of kit that were capable of generating millions of different codes.
The Code Breakers weren't able to carry out this vital work alone, they were assisted by an army of ancillary staff: wireless operators, those who variously fetched & carried, maintained the decoding machines, and many other roles that we can only guess.
The work was generally carried out in huts, which until recently had been allowed to fall into a state of disrepair. Fortunately 'someone' had the foresight to realise that we were in great danger of losing this important link with our recent past and so money was thrown at the problem.
20140621_131731Hut 1 
The most well known role of the Code Breakers was their involvement in the Battle of the Atlantic, fighting the menace of the German U-Boats.
It is less well known that efforts of the Bletchley Park Code Breakers also played a huge part in other theatres of WW2: the wars in the air and on land.
It's impossible to say with any certainty by what period of time WW2 was shortened by due the work carried out here,  but it was very considerable.
Secrecy was vital, if word ever got out about the work that was carried out here the consequences would have been unthinkable. Even husbands and wives working here never let on to one another about the work they carried out. In fact it’s highly likely that a majority of those working here had no idea what they were doing – just that the work was of national importance. In reality ‘national importance’ was an understatement, ‘national survival’ was nearer the mark.
As the systems used by the Germans became more complex it was Bletchley Park’s code breakers that faced the challenge and succeeded in breaking the codes, eventually designing and building electro-mechanical computers such as the Bombe:
P1020936The Bombe 
P1020935 The inside gubbins of the Bombe
Key to much of this work was the genius that was mathematician Alan Turing:
P1020933Statue of Alan Turning with an Enigma Machine 
As more and more processing power was needed to crack the German codes the world’s first electronic computer was built and designed here. Jack Copeland’s book on Colossus is brimming with information.
My brain is still buzzing from this visit, there’s so much history crammed into Bletchley Park that it’s beyond me to effectively put it into words. You should go yourself to check it out. entry is £15 but that gets you admission for a whole year. I need to go back again, I missed so much.
Rather than any more of my drivel, here are some pics:
P1020916  A BSA M20 (or M21?) side-valve
A National HRO receiver
Reconstruction of a monitoring station
P1020928 An Enigma Machine
More photos are here. This album will be added to in the next few days.

Fireworks Avoidance, Bonfire Night 2019

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