View from Oban Bothy

View from Oban Bothy

Friday, 29 June 2018

A Summer Solstice Backpack, 21st June 2018

For whatever reason I couldn’t embed this YouTube video, hence the hyperlink. Well worth a listen:

Pete Coe’s ‘The Wizard of Alderley Edge’ sung by Steve Mills. 

After last year’s total Summer Solstice Failure the 2018 Solstice caused me a little apprehension: Would the weather be better? Would the Metrolink tram system thwart my travel plans? Would Brexit continue to cause me a load of grief and worry?

As it happened I needed to keep my daily mileage figures up – July 2018 should see me taking part in Afoot in Two Dales’, a 50 miles in 24 hours walking challenge in the Yorkshire Dales, and the Nijmegen Marches, 160km of ‘marching’ over 4 days in, er, Nijmegen.

An appropriate Plan was planned: I would walk from JJ towers to Alderley Edge, home to footballers, the odd coven, King Arthur and his knights, plus loads of other stuff – including the very fine Derbyshire Caving Club.

A nice little 10 mile route to Alderley Edge was plotted and so off I went, leaving home at 7pm and arriving on the Edge at a little before 10pm.

Alderley Edge is a magical, mystical spot – this YouTube video gives a flavour of the place.

I took lightweight kit: LaserComp tent, a short Thermarest, Caldera Cone meths stove and stuff like that. I thought I’d persevere with my SatMap GPS and take it along – just to give it another chance to redeem itself. It didn’t, obviously.

I’d arranged to meet my mate Anup on the Edge, he was intending to bivvy so he could stare at the stars all night….all night - less than 3 hours of actual darkness.

So, some photos:


Styal Country Park, en-route to Alderley Edge

Folk were wandering around the Edge, some were there to catch the sunset whilst others were just up there for a late evening wander around. Anup had arrived before me, he hunted round and found a nice little flat spot to lay his head.


Sunset from Alderley Edge

Around 10.45pm a group of curiously clad folk rolled up out of the gathering gloom. Some carried djembes, others carried staffs. It was all rather atmospheric.


I didn’t have time to grab my ‘proper’ camera so had to make-do with the phone camera – it didn’t take a very decent photograph. The druid-folk eventually wandered off to sit up the rest of the night around a fire in the man-made stone circle in the woods.


Home for the night


Brew time: my Caldera Cone

I spent a comfortable although not completely restful night in my tent. I was aware of some nocturnal wanderings about and the distant sound of occasional drumming.

Next morning:

Sunrise was forecast to be 4.38am. My alarm announced 4am although it wasn’t needed, the light on my tent and the sound of drumming was more than enough to wake me.


What witchery is this then?


8 minutes to sunrise



By 4.30am the Edge became rather busier, more spectators arrived to witness the sunrise. There were probably 20+ wandering around.


4.38am: Sunrise


The sunrise itself was quite something – although with the low cloud it could quite easily have been a non-event


As it became lighter the congregation began to disperse. Anup packed his bivvy and headed for home – he was off to do another overnighter somewhere else. Dog walkers and a couple of early morning runners wandered by as the sun rose higher in the sky. The Edge was returning to some level of normality.

At around 6.40am I was packed up and ready to retrace my steps to get back home. I rather foolishly gave my SatMap10 GPS yet ANOTHER chance to redeem itself – to no avail:


The maps were either missing or just wouldn’t load.


Route-finding wasn’t too much of a problem, I either followed the many signs off the top or just followed my nose.

My route home was straightforward, just a matter of retracing my steps: bits of the North Cheshire Way and the Bollin Valley Way plus some inventiveness to avoid as much tarmac as possible. I probably ended up keeping to footpaths for 75% of the time.





Manchester in the distance


St Bartholomew’s Church, Wilmslow


Henry Boddington: famous for beer and playing fields 

I stopped for breafast at a picnic table in Styal Woods, lots of dog walkers around plus some runners training up for the Wilmslow Half Marathon.

I arrived back home at 10am, feeling quite pleased with myself – I’d managed a nice little backpack but was only away from home for around 15 hours.


I returned to the Edge in the evening, just for the hell of it. The light was completely different…obv.

You should read ‘The Weirdstone of Brisingamen’ by Alan Garner if you’re remotely interested in Alderley Edge. It’s suitable for children of all ages – and it may even be based on fact. Maybe.

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

SatMap problems…again

You may recall my experiences with SatMap: Poor RF performance (poor sensitivity and very slow in recognising satellites), very slow in computing position,  missing sections of mapping – in spite of buying full UK OS mapping (10k, 25k & 50k), the list goes on. And on.

Have a read of my review.


I decided to fire the SatMap up today, I’m doing a 50 miles in 24 hrs challenge walk in a few weeks which will involve a night section so being able to refer to the GPX on  1:25k mapping will be more than a bit useful.

I selected ‘Check for Updates’ on SatMap’s website but, well, read the email I’ve sent them:

Hi, I've tried to report the following on your contact page:

Not used my Satmap10 for some time, when I try to check for updates I get: SatSYNC failed to download some files from the Internet. Please check your Internet connection and try again. No problems with my internet connection. Please advise.

It appears that you've banned me from your contact pages, this is the response I've received:


Due to repeated forbidden requests, you have been temporarily banned from accessing this server.
If you believe you have received this message in error please contact the site administrator.
We apologise for the inconvenience.

I've had huge problems with SatMap in the past (check your records) and these are still ongoing (missing map tiles, poor RF performance) - which is why I ended up buying a Garmin, but this is getting beyond an expensive joke.

Please get back to me and let me know what on earth is going on.


I’m awaiting a reply but from past experience I’m not hopeful for a satisfactory outcome. I reckon  my trusty Garmin Etrex20 with be the weapon of choice on the day of the 50 – even though it’s only got OS 1:50k mapping I know it will work.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

TGOC 2018, Day 13. To Brechin’s Co-op

In which we saw the sea for the first time

The previous day’s walk had really been the beginning of the end: we’d started the day in pleasantly hilly country but by the time the day was done we were walking through the sterile flatlands of Angus.

It was all a bit sad. My Challenge was by no means over but I knew that now I’d left the wild country my walk to Montrose would be virtually all on tarmac – and flat tarmac at that.

I woke at 7am to the sounds of cussing, swearing and the packing of rucksacks.


Keith, wondering what day it was

Keith & Co were away fairly early, they had an appointment at a pub in Brechin, we had an appointment in Brechin too – at the Co-op.

I packed slowly, really not looking forward to the tarmac trudge ahead. There were millions of ladybirds everywhere….well at least five anyway. They’d decided my flysheet looked like a cosy place to chill:


The day’s walk was to be virtually all on tarmac so we knew we’d make fast progress. We did move along – but such a featureless route would make time pass very slowly.

As it happened it wasn’t THAT boring. Mike had spotted some features that he wanted to tick off. They were easily accessible from the road: a Standing Stone, Noranside Prison, a Cairn, Killievair Stone, the Brechin underpass, and probably a few others too.

So here went the day, not many words and not many photos either, such was the day’s route.20180523_084554





In need of some remedial work?

Our ‘lunch-stop’ (more of an elevenses stop really) was enjoyed just off the road, a little way down a farm track. My food supply was running low so I made-do with some muesli, a choccy bar and a mouthful of finest corporation pop.

It was from this vantage point that we spotted the East coast for the first time: Montrose Basin: 


11.47am, Wednesday 23rd May 2018: Montrose Basin

After Brechin’s Co-op we magically and mysteriously appeared at House of Dun – a wonderful oasis of peace and tranquility that was first introduced to me by the loverly Brocklehursts on TGOC2012 – where Margaret expertly carried out complex and quite daring foot surgery on the hoof (so to speak)….

A little later another blessed miracle, we appeared in Johnhaven (wot?) in time to spot a couple Challengers wandering about the harbour area: Willem and Leendart from Amsterdam. After we filled them up with huge quantities of tea and pumped them for information on any scandalous activities they may have come across on their Challenge they wandered off, taking their fox with them.

I sneaked a soak in the bath and then we all feasted on a very splendid roast chicken dinner provided by the Knipes of Crook. What nice folks they are.


This was all very lovely, so lovely in fact that we had to wander down to Johnhaven’s pub, The Anchor, for beers to calm our nerves.

A fine end to the day.


Johnhaven Harbour on the way to the pub


Johnshaven Harbour on the way back from the pub.

Not one cuckoo.

Only two* (tame) Challengers….plus a funny-looking fox

*Not counting Keith & Co. They weren’t tame anyway.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

TGOC2018, Day 12: Steak night

In which we change our route. Again.

The road had been fairly busy overnight, mostly overnight fishermen (fisherpeople?) and the odd Scottish Water waggon – no scroats though. Well none that I’d been aware of.

We were up and away by 8.30am. It was quite cold and windy, certainly compared to most of the weather we’d been enjoying so far on this Challenge, we needed to be wrapped up.


Loads of primroses by the reservoir

Mike had A Good Idea, a change of route to avoid some of the day’s tarmac. It worked out well: north alongside the eastern shore of Backwater Reservoir > east and north by Glen Quharity > east through Glen Uig and then to Glen Prosen.

The day slowly warmed up, soon it was warm enough to remove my trusty Velez.

At sitting down / elevenses time, when I was tucking into a tasty and nutritious Snickers bar, that two figures appeared in the far distance. At first we thought the two little dots might be Fran and Allen but as they got closer I recognised familiar figures of fellow Kilchoan starters, the Tattershalls of Salisbury. It was good to catch up with them again, having not seen them since the ferry to Polloch on Day 2.



We walked together for a while, through some rocky terrain very reminiscent of the White Peak – in particular the area around Peveril Castle.


John & Sue went their own way after a while, they were headed to Kirriemuir whilst our destination was still a little uncertain at that point…although we had A Cunning Plan.




Airlie Tower


The road to Clova…and other places


A man in a kilt at Cortachy Castle

Walking by Cortachy and it’s rather lovely castle we spotted Keith Leonard, Stormin’ and John Woolston. Keith had retired from the Challenge due to a very painful back problem but Stormin’ and Jhn were able to continue. Keith had rejoined his team-mates and was just carrying on to the coast in their good company.

Much banter ensued. none of it aimed at my knees…or Mike’s knees. Or our kilts. If anything they were impressed. Although Keith lives fairly locally to me, we rarely see each other outside of the Challenge fortnight.


The Timothy Taylor Landlord QC Team on tour

Anyway, it appeared that we all had the same Cunning Plan and a couple of hours later we were shifting large quantities of quite nice TT Landlord and chomping our way through steak (& chips) and all the trimmings.

We drank the pub dry of Landlord. As there was no point in staying up any longer, at rather very late o’clock, we retired to our tents.

I slept well. I even slept through the snorings….although that may have been because I was camping a good distance from it’s source. Or maybe because of the TT Landlord.

Cuckoo count: 1

Other wildlife: Keith, Stormin’ & John


TGOC2018, Day 11, Smelling Sweetly

In which we camp on a newly-mown lawn. Nice..

Up and about at 7.30am. The sun shone and our tents were soon dry. Mike went for a dip before we set out – I’d opted to have my usual top-to-toe wash down in warm water the previous evening. Whatever, were once again fragrant….well, we didn’t smell quite so bad.



One of the morning’s deer

A couple of deer came down to the stream. They’d almost certainly spotted us and they kept their distance, but other than that they didn’t appear to be perturbed by our presence.

P1050477Not-so-wild life

Packed and away by 9.30am and we successfully missed our intended path – and that was WITH a map. Not much chance of getting to the East coast at this rate.

Spotted two lizards just ahead of us on our (wrong) path – they soon scooted off into the undergrowth.


We were now walking through much lower ground, lots of farmland, cows, sheep and colourful flowers. Cattle that had only recently been ‘put out’ were quite frisky, mummy cows were being very protective towards their little ‘uns.


Belted Bulls too

There were no shops or pubs on the day’s route – although we were hoping the pub at Kirkton of Glen Isla may be open for refreshments. It was shut – maybe closed forever. Builders were doing their builder-type stuff, there was some serious work being carried out on the building. Depending on who you believe the building is being tarted-up and will be re-opening as a pub, hotel or whatever, OR it was undergoing conversion to a private house. I suspect the latter.


View from our lunch spot (NO164608)

Stopped for lunch by a small reservoir where we were ‘found’ by the first and only Challengers of the day: the Mellors of Coggeshall, Fran and Allen.

Allen Mellor's photo of me. Mike and Fran.

Allen’s photo of Mike’s knees

They were necessarily taking a less taxing route, B&Bing their way across. We spent a pleasant 20 minutes or so updating each other with the latest Challenge scandals and other news. And then drank more tea. We were in danger of sliding into slackpacking mode.


The route so far that day had seen us walking on too much tarmac – all very quick and all that, but not the nicest way to walk across Scotland. Mike, who had a very fancy GPS with him, and according to my diary, came up with an alternative route involving less tarmac and more paths and LRTs. It was good. According to my diary.

Looking at my maps now I just can’t imagine where we went. Perhaps I need a fancy GPS.


Whichever route we ended up taking, we DID end up at Backwater Reservoir, arriving on tarmac. The map suggested loos and picnic tables. There was also a patch of beautifully manicured lawn that was screaming out to be camped on. This was Scottish Water land and we decided it would be prudent to sit at the picnic tables to prepare and eat our meals before putting our tents up – just in case any Scottish Water officials came by and turfed us off our luxurious pitch.


Home for the night at NO251590

The loos were, er, convenient: wash basins provided the means of washing my smellies as well as my own smelly bits. The Gents were pretty awful, but the Ladies were nice and clean. We were in kilts after all…

Local anglers were doing what anglers do best, quite a few were overnighting in the hope of catching fish. The local (or maybe not-so-local) gobby riff-raff were in evidence which was a little concerning. I shortened my PacerPoles, just in case, they wouldn’t have been as effective as my Rattan sticks but they’d have certainly sufficed if needed.  As it happened we spent an undisturbed night.

Cuckoo Count: 1 (Poor)

Other wildlife: 2 deer, 2 lizards, 2 (Very) Wild Challengers (Fran & Allen). And sheep, but they weren’t very wild…just annoyed.

Fireworks Avoidance, Bonfire Night 2019

…or Five go Adventuring Again Lucky The Dog really doesn’t like fireworks, not one little bit. It didn’t take a huge amount of badgering t...