Saturday, 23 February 2019
Thursday, 26 July 2018
In which I eat strawberries. Again.
This was all terribly amazing and confusing….but at about 10.30am (after once again being fed royally by the
Crooks of Knipe Knipes of Crook) we set off walking from Brechin’s Co-op in the general direction of The End Of My TGOC2018, aka: Kinnebar Links….via the very wonderful Charleton Fruit Farm. Obv.
Until this year I’d never visited Brechin, I gather there’s a pizzeria in town. And probably a couple of pubs, perhaps more. Whatever, Our Plan was to head east and get to the coast as quickly as possible. The route wasn’t going to be much fun, a few off-road bits but mostly tarmac…but at least it was dry & bright.
Caledonian Railway Station, Brechin
We were soon out of town and heading to the coast in the most direct way possible.
It should be Garden’s ….shouldn’t it?
After much tarmac, a few interesting ancient features and a closed pub we arrived, hungrily, at Charleton Fruit Farm.
It would have been rude not to…..
Chasing after Fast Knipe, who seemed to be on a mission, we arrived at the coast where the traditional wetting of the boots and chucking of the pebble from the west coast ceremony took place.
A ship in the North Sea
Then it was a brisk march along the beach to Montrose where loads of biscuits were snaffled from Challenge Control. And I received a pair of Darn Tough Socks by way of reward for my efforts. The socks were good, very good. In fact I’m going to buy some more.
So that was that, all over and done with until next year. I was good fun (nowt new there), the weather was unusually excellent, the company was good…and the socks were brill.
Next year just MAY see me doing a very lightweight and very fast crossing. Not sure yet.
In the meantime….
The very excellent Ali
The equally very excellent Su…chatting to Tim (who is also pretty damned excellent too!)
Saturday, 16 June 2018
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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’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.
Monday, 11 June 2018
In which we meet Rowan
Firstly, missed from yesterday’s entry:
Cuckoo count: 1 (yes, just one) – VERY poor
Other wildlife: Not much at all really. No wild Challengers - although we met two very civilised Challenge virgins.
So, on with Day 10….
I surfaced around 7am with a mouth like a well-used flip-flop.
My tongue felt like a breeding ground for cactii. Copious quantities of coffee helped disguise the ghastly taste in my mouth. Heaven knows what that was all about – it’s not as if I’d been drinking alcohol.*
Oliver & Jo (you don’t mind me calling you ‘Jo’ do you Joanna?) had been up for a while and were well on with packing. They needed an early start because they were due to hit the East coast on Wednesday….plus they probably didn’t relish another day walking with a couple of strange blokes in kilts. Understandable really.
Off they went, via Kirkmichael, which just happened to be where we were initially aiming for.
A man in a kilt – in deep thought. The man, not the kilt.
It was only few miles to Kirkmichael, but what a pleasant little walk it was. We only got lost a little bit – probably because we were just enjoying the pleasing scenery. Or maybe it was because we were gabbing too much and forgot to look at the map.
Kirkmichael’s Kirk…closed and up for sale
The Village Pump
Whatever, we arrived at Kirkmichael’s Village Shop, purveyors of fine bridies, pots of tea and nice chocolate cake. Oh, and cheap whisky for Mike. So rather unsurprisingly we ate bridies, drank tea, ate chocolate cake (not Mike ‘cos he’s not allowed, so I had his) whilst I explored the contents of the food parcel the shop was holding for me. I was more than a bit relieved to find that I’d packed my maps – at least I’d know where we were going for the next few days.
Anyroadup, if you ever go through Kirkmichael you can do much worse than calling into the shop. The staff are lovely, they sell cheap whisky, chocolate cake…and they’ll hold a food parcel for you. Norralot not to like really.
Heaving our rather heavier packs onto our backs we nearly jumped out of our skins when a campervan, piloted by none other than our Toby, blasted it’s horn, left about 6” of rubber on the road and swerved onto the shop’s forecourt – scattering young children who’d been playing innocent young children-type games – like pulling legs off spiders, teasing dogs and taking the mickey out of kilt-clad Challengers.
Toby was ably assisted by co-pilot and chief navigator Vicky (who I suspect is responsible for ensuring everything goes to plan) and flight engineer and lovely smile-generator Rowan.
What a lovely surprise that was! This was the first time I’d met Rowan, a delightful little boy, a trainee Challenger in fact, and I’d not seen Toby & Vicky since the TGOC a couple or three years ago. They’re lovely people and the Challenge is the poorer for their absence.
Bidding our farewells, they headed north whilst we continued in a sort of easterly direction. Mostly.
After some interesting navigational decisions we passed by Ashintully Castle’s ‘Keep Out’, ‘Private – we don’t want your sort here’, ‘Go Away’ and ‘Welcome to Scotland’ signs.
It’s nice to feel wanted.
We walked through some very pleasant countryside to camp at Coire a ‘Bhaile (NO115627), a nice spot that was almost flat and had a nice stream running close-by.
Tea was an experiment: I’d found a nice recipe for Lentil Soup on an American cookery website I subscribe to. The soup was delicious, but being American, the recipe made LOADS. I ate loads of the soup, froze loads and dehydrated the rest. Tea tonight was that soup. The good news was that the experimental meal was successful. It was tasty, nutritious and very easy to dehydrate & rehydrate. The recipe now resides in my little red ‘Backpacking Meals’ recipe book.
It mizzled a bit during the evening so I stayed put in my tent to write up this diary, listen to Mike slurp his Kirkmichael Single Malt blend (Bells) and subsequently drift off into an alcohol-induced snory sleep.
I drank camomile tea.
The day’s sunshine (and there wasn’t THAT much) had charged my solar charger, the charge level had gone up from 3 LEDs to it’s maximum of 5 LEDs – it must be doing SOMETHING right.
Cuckoos Count: 2 (better)
Wildlife: Nothing of any note today. No wild Challengers either – although we did meet the very civilised Jo & Oliver who we’d camped with the previous night.
*I’d eaten a Mars Bar (=loads of sugar) before bed the previous night – maybe that contributed to having a mouth like a lavatory pan.
Testing 1 – 2 - 3
It was all a bit last minute. I needed to get out for some serious brain-straightening peace and quiet, plus I had some new(ish) kit to test...
Well Dear Readers, spring has officially commenced as we assembled at the Lantern Pike at Little Hayfield. Spring was definitely so...