Wednesday 30 September 2009

A gentle stroll.

Wednesday Sept. 23rd.
It is 2100hrs, 9pm and the long wait begins. All around me is hustle and bustle; voices, excited, sad, resigned and in many tongues. We are all fellow travellers congregating in that great temple of travel, Victoria coach station; a hub that reaches out to the far corners of the UK and Europe. It always the same, I arrive early, my journey does not begin for another two hours and there are seats for everyone on the coach. Like many who travel on a regular basis, there is that regular seat one always aims for. A strange foible maybe but for me I prefer travelling towards the front of the coach; not the very front seats, there is often little leg room in them, the next seat back on the left hand side is good. The back seats are anathema to me, more bumpy and the swaying motion of the coach is more accentuated. It is over two months since I was away and the pack feels heavy although I know that I will once more become accustomed to carrying it. Being Autumn means carrying more weight, my winter sleeping bag, an extra layer of clothing, gloves, woolly hat and so forth. A sudden burst of activity as a group of people make a frantic dash for a coach that is about to pull out. The driver just gives a wry grin and a shake of his head as he ushers them on board; he has seen it all before. A young couple hug and kiss in an amorous embrace, oblivious to folk around them. It is time for her to board though and she enters the coach brushing away tears; the sadness of parting shows on the young lads face as he turns away. Tonight we are lucky, the coach pulls in at 22 30hrs and the drivers promptly let us on board. Occasionally passengers have to wait until ten minutes or so before departure time. One of the drivers, a regular on this particular route, recognises me and friendly banter is exchanged. Early, 02 35am and we have stopped at one of the motorway service stations for our designated break and we stumble bleary eyed off the coach to shamble off to the loos or visit the restaurant or shop. Amazingly the coach is not full and somehow I have managed a seat to myself. Usually I manage to doze a little on the night runs but even that has proved illusive so far. Much of the journey up has been watching the endless succession of lorries that travel the motorway at night. A recent craze that seems to have swept the haulage companies are the many and varied lights that decorate the trucks. it is quite amazing and some resemble gaudy Christmas trees trundling through the night. Attempting to doze I reverted to counting Eddie Stobart lorries, after twenty or so the mind just shuts down.
Thursday 24th Sept. Camped GR OS Explorer map 386, 946628.Loch a' Choice.
Not having been away for a while and knowing that my levels of fitness where minimal my preference was for an easy trip. My first choice had been Wales but it was cheaper to travel direct to Scotland. Pitlochry was a designated National Express coach stop and there was a wide range of easy walking in the area. Hence this morning I arrived at 0945am. My first priority was breakfast; overnight travel usually leaves me a wee bit dehydrated and in the need of substance. Finding the public loo allowed me to change in to my hill going gear. Sadly though breakfast was not to be. Oh there where establishments serving breakfast; scary places though. I tentatively wandered in to one, set menu, luxurious padded chairs, pristine white linen tablecloths and matching serviettes. Equally scary where the elderly couple partaking of coffee; dressed in matching tweeds, she with carefully blue rinse coiffured hair do, make up laid on somewhat heavily; he wearing brogues to match his tweeds. Honestly I swear his military, toothbrush white moustache bristled as the pair paused, mid sip of daintily help cups and two pairs of glazed eyes at the apparition at the door. Sorry folks I am not keen on doing battle with dragons and I may be an inverted snob but I do not do posh either. Taking to the hills after picking up a few bits. Breakfast was taken just outside of Pitlochry, bread and cheese and water, sustaining enough but poor fair when one fancies bacon and eggs and mugs of tea. It was leisurely stroll up to where I am now camped. Although still early this is just a trip to get out of doors and do nothing in particular.
Friday 25th. Camped same location a yesterday.
A blustery night but dry; time was spent busy doing little over a mug of tea and a bite of breakfast sat in the doorway of the tent. Finally stirring myself, I took the path up to Ben Vackrie. A steady plod up a well manicured path, pausing every so often, just to admire the view of course! The hill is obviously a popular walk, two groups of people in front of me touched the top and fled because of the strong wind that was blowing. Lingered for a short time but noticing more people heading up and not feeling that sociable, headed back down. A brew and spot of lunch back at the tent and I set off for a wander. Keeping fairly high I picked my way over toward Creag Oisinnidh. My meandering led me up and down and around little rocky outcrops, hidden hollows and little secret places. There was no goal or specific purpose and that is what made it fun, an enjoyable explore. The wind is buffeting the tent a tad but it is no problem. Evening early this evening people are still heading up the ben; tomorrow I am out of here.Sat.26th. Camped, same map GR 937634
Was woken early by the bark of a deer feeding close by. Dozed off again for a while and then put a brew on while I dithered over the map. Something I had been contemplating was to drop down to Killieckrankie and then make my way over towards Loch Tummel. Route finding though looked problematical and getting back to Pitlochry for early next week might be awkward. Instead in a bout of laziness I packed up and wandered over to the track that leads down toward Killieckrankie and then turned off. On the map there is a track that leads up and around by Meall na Moine. Fantastic, the track is very indistinct and has fallen out of use which suited me just fine. Following a spur of this old track it led me around the back of Meall na Moine and to the most lovely camp spot. It was early but that was of little consequence. Have spent the afternoon just wandering willy nilly around the area, exploring around the rocky outcrops and doing little. Having managed to pick up the local hill forecast the weather does not look too bad at all, wind speeds of thirty to forty miles an hour, stronger on the tops, overcast but remaining dry. Well the tent is tucked is out of the way and well snugged down and I am comfy.
Sunday 27th. Same spot as last night.
An easy day once more. When I nipped out in the grey light of early morning, the sky appeared dark and ominous with the cloud down low and scudding across the tops. However, by the time I had a brew and some breakfast things had brightened up.Yesterday, in my meanderings I had noticed a faint path that went over the bealach close to where I am camped.Today I went back across, skirting around two tiny lochans and decided to follow the path. It soon became apparent though that it angled across the hill below the ridge line and headed up toward Ben Vackrie. Instead I turned off and picked my way up the hill heading more directly for the ridge. Deer and sheep have a habit of contouring diagonally across hill sides as they graze. Over time they leave tiny trails which can make life easier when picking ones way up steep ground. Surprisingly up on the ridge I noticed substantial mole hills; hardy, hill going moles, interesting! Made my way over to Meall an' Daimh and hunkered down out of the wind. Further north the Cairngorms where shrouded in dark storm clouds, but here it was not too bad at all. Originally my intention had been to do the whole ridge line. Ben Vackrie had fairly large crowds milling around its top which I wanted to avoid. Instead I dropped off the northern side of of the hill aiming for the line of the old track. It was a steep descent but once more I made use of sheep and deer trails. Close up the old trail is now nothing more than a well worn sheep trod but makes for good walking and it had obviously been finely engineered following the lie of the land. Once more I was back quite early, the sun had made a brief appearance but the weather soon turned overcast once more. It was not cold though and I was content to spend to spend and hour with a mug of tea and a book reclining on a soft mossy couch outside the tent.Have quite a selection of beasties wandering through the tent. Various types of spiders; it is amazing to watch a spider nonchalantly picking its way across the midge netting totally unfazed as the tent shifts and billows in the rising wind. Have managed to pick up the hill forecast for tomorrow and it is not so good. Further north it going to be stormy with high winds and heavy rain; in this area wind speeds are set to rise to around forty to fifty miles an hour. The tent is well snugged down and I am heading out tomorrow.
Monday 28th. Pitlochry
The end of a few lazy days in the hills, mainly just to shake the cobwebs away. Niggling health problems have continued as have a few bad migraines. This morning saw me heading for the heady delights of Pitlochry? Woke to a blustery with lowering dark skies and low cloud scudding across the tops. Looking at the weather prospects was the clincher; I had been contemplating the idea of stopping just outside of Pitlochry and heading down early to catch the morning bus. However, the prospects of a bath in the tent and an early morning start in the dark with the possibility of rain was daunting. What I craved was a hot shower and clean clothes. B&b would have been darned pricey but there was a backpackers hostel which would be much cheaper. Thus packed up this morning and headed over towards the track leading up to Bealach na Searmoin. Swung off to pick my way up to Meall na h-Aodainn Moire and Stac an Fheidh . Thin wisps of cloud drifted around me and the ben opposite looked dark and brooding. Skeins of geese flying overhead, heading north; their cries haunting, evocative, goose talk. Picked my way down off the hill to pick up the bealach path again and then meandered on down to Pitlochry. Managed to book in to the backpackers hostel; an old hotel that has seen better times, it is cheap and cheerful though. Am lucky in having a small dorm to myself by the looks of it. The sheer bliss of a hot shower and a fresh change of clothes, wonderful. Tomorrow morning I am catching the eight twenty am bus south. Not a bad trip, even if it was a lazy one.

Tuesday 22 September 2009


workshop corner

Ok, just a brief write up. Recently, due to a variety of reasons I have not managed to get away. More minor surgery, the sheer cost of travelling and a few other things have seen me somewhat hampered. With cabin fever setting in I began perusing the maps; with my fitness levels low I wanted to just get away and potter. Wales was my first choice but in fact it turned out more expensive and meant more hassle than a straight forward run up to Scotland. It was the same with the lake district. Now though I am travelling tomorrow night, heading north once more; so, watch this space.

On a totally different theme, someone that I know down in South Wales is putting up a craft stall and I am contributing wooden spoons, pendants and bowls. Hand carving bowls was a new venture for me but it has turned out to be an interesting idea. A couple of bowls are shown above, the latest one, which is special; a goldfield burl, I will post up after I return from Scotland.