Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Saturday 25 May 2019 - Montrose parkrun number 98

Sue and I took part in the Montrose parkrun a year ago after spending a week on TGO Challenge Control. This year we were joined by Gayle, Mick having sensibly to spectate due to a damaged ankle.

There were 157 participants - about double compared with last year. (Meanwhile there was a record turnout of 439 for our 'home' run at Wythenshawe.)

The run director provided the TGO Challenge with a little publicity by introducing us and the event in which we had taken part. We thank him for that and for the friendliness of everyone we met.

With tired legs from walking nearly 200 miles across Scotland carrying backpacks, we all expected to be slower than usual. We were, but not by as much as we thought we would be. In fact, Sue and I were quickest in our respective age groups, and Gayle was well up in hers. 

Parkruns are, as many readers may be aware, 'an excuse to eat cake'. Today was no exception. We enjoyed cake supplied by a few 'landmark' runners taking part in their 50th or 100th events, at the end of the run. Then we revisited Charleton Strawberry Farm for more coffee and superb 'cake'.

Thanks go to Mick and Gayle for the treat that fuelled us for the 320 mile drive home, where we are now relaxing after our energetic holiday.

Today's pictures:
Sue speeds home just behind Gayle in about 27 minutes
The running TGO trio
Coffee and cake
Gayle's choice was the envy of all of us

Hopefully we will meet again next Saturday, but I doubt the cake will match today's standards.

I'll insert a link to the full results tomorrow  - I can't work out how to do this using the phone.

Friday, 24 May 2019

TGO Challenge 2019 - Ice Creams and a Foot Massage

We had a lazy day in Montrose before attending the Friday meal for about 80 people, which brought the 40th TGO Challenge to a conclusion.

The staff at the Park Hotel, from where the event has always been coordinated for the duration of the Challenge, even provided a birthday cake. That was after elder statesmen Hamish Brown and Roger Smith had given short speeches in appreciation of the Challenge and some of its legendary participants. 

We had a most sociable day, including a massage for Sue, ice creams all round, and a foot massage for John, who I collected from his St Cyrus finishing point in order to get him to the Park Hotel by the 5 pm deadline.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

TGO Challenge 2019 - Day 14

Date: Thursday 23 May 2019

Route: North Water Bridge to Montrose via Kinnaber Links.

Distance: 16 km (Cum: 303)

Ascent: 150 metres (Cum: 9550)

Time taken: 5 hrs including 1.5 hrs breaks

Weather: sunny periods, cool breeze

A lazy departure from the campsite saw us leaving nearly last at 9 am, together with the large (7 or 8 of them) self contained Danish contingent.

We were joined by Steph and John, the latter a former event coordinator, having walked only half the way with Steph.

After leaving the Danes to take a direct road route, we soon caught up with Carl, Sally and Laura. We were joined at Marymill by Andrew, who had spent the night with his team members Alan and Phil and had now rushed off to join his 'other' team.

A pleasant footpath near the river, with verges of comfrey and avens, led to Logie, from where the four of us continued on country lanes to Hillside. Andrew's quartet found a different way.

The path to Kinnaber led past Charleton, where the strawberry farm has become a favourite with Challengers. Well over an hour was spent in there, with many others who were heading towards their finishing point.

Onwards along easy paths to reach the beach at Kinnaber Links. Another Challenge completed. Joy and tired legs all round.

A group of twelve of us made our way along the sands and across the golf course to sign in at 'Control' in the Kinnaird Room at the Park Hotel.
Sue and I were with Steph, John, Andrew, Carl, Sally, Laura, Nicole, 'Croydon', Matthew and Melanie for this final sunny stroll.

Still no sign of the dynamic trio - Roger and his cohorts, but I expect we will see them tonight after the celebratory dinner. Sue and I are giving that a miss - we will go to the Friday dinner - and are revisiting the excellent El Tajin Authentic Mexican Restaurant before adjourning to the Park Hotel. It could be a late return to Alison's nearby flat, which she has kindly let us borrow for a couple more nights.

Today's pictures:
The leafy lane to Logie
Finishers by the sea
A stroll along the sands
Signing in at the Park Hotel (after collecting this year's t-shirt)

TGO Challenge 2019 - Day 13

Date: Wednesday 22 May 2019

Route: Tarfside to North Water Bridge campsite (NO 649 662)

Distance: 28 km (Cum: 287)

Ascent: 300 metres (Cum: 9400)

Time taken: 8.7 hrs including 2.1 hrs breaks

Weather: showery until mid morning, then sunny periods and warm

After a cool night that left frost on the tent, we enjoyed breakfast at St Drostans after queuing for a while. The Rt Hon Sir Mick of Croydon excelling himself as usual by attempting to jump the queue (and just about getting away with it! - "Don't you know I'm Royalty" he bleats on...)

Everyone gradually packs up and leaves, with North Water Bridge being the destination for most of us. The Retreat was closed for 'restructuring'. Hopefully it will have reopened by the time of the next Challenge. Two kilometres down the road from Tarfside, it's a good breakfast destination.

Vicky followed us up past cuckoos and woodpeckers to the Masonic tower that allows up to three people to sit out a storm. Vicky works as a deck hand on luxury sailing boats. She went off towards the Fetteresso Forest.

We then joined the disjointed trail of people wending their way to Edzell. We were disappointed to miss the riverside 'Blue Door' trail due to a landslip. Later we were even more disappointed when Sabine told us the route wasn't really blocked at all. Health and Safety gone mad. She had been tipped off that the broadcast blockage didn't really exist to any extent.

Lunch was at the Tuck Inn café in the company of Nicole and others. We had walked with Nicole earlier when she needed help to get through a cow zone. That was after we had found her mysteriously scrabbling around a tree trunk. It turned out that she was looking for a geocache.

We spent nearly two hours at the café - much needed as we had walked for over 20 km in the five hours before lunch, without much of a break. Our longest single stretch without a brew stop on the entire walk. The Tuck Inn has changed hands since our last visit and although some of us were well satisfied with our meals, others perceived a fall in standards.

Another two hours saw us arrive by a mistaken route, due to my lack of concentration on the map, at this friendly campsite. En route we were distracted by a muck spreader that started up in a field right next to us. Yeuch! I blame that for my mistake. Anyway, we enjoyed more of the beautiful long green tunnel of foliage leading to our destination. Albeit the drivers seem to regard it as a race track. A speed camera here could make a fortune.

A refurbishment of the toilet block ensured that we all got a hot shower. In previous years the hot water has run out, but they have made a big effort this year to meet our needs.

Socialising at the campsite, dinner courtesy of Sue, and resting have taken up the rest of the day. We heard that the terrible trio - Roger, Viv and Steve - have finished today, and that my old school mate, John, who we called in to see on our journey to Montrose two weeks ago, has bumped into veteran Challenger, Russ Manion. As John says - it's a small world!

Later we learnt of Alan's exploits as a seaman in the Falklands when he was a young man. He proudly showed us a gallery of photos from the 1980s that he has on his phone.

Today's pictures:
Camping at Tarfside
The Masonic Tower in Glen Esk
The suspension bridge at Edzell
First brew at North Water Bridge, with Alan and Brian, and our tent in the background

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

TGO Challenge 2019 - Day 12

Date: Tuesday 21 May 2019

Route: Clova Hotel to camping ground at Tarfside (NO 493 796)

Distance: 22 km (Cum: 259)

Ascent: 1000 metres (Cum: 9100)

Time taken: 7.25 hrs including 50 mins breaks

Weather: mainly sunny and warm, apart from a light shower at lunchtime. Rain after we pitched the tent

Last night we were treated to stories of the success of an evening at Lochcallater Lodge, where Richard had helped by repairing the toilet, and many others had contributed to the party.

We learned that nearly thirty people have dropped out, one of them having had to be airlifted to hospital with pneumonia.

Captain Jayme and his team, denied accommodation at Clova as the hotel was full, joined the residents for a while before heading down the road to their discreet camping spot that involved climbing three fences.

After a good sleep whilst it poured with rain outside, as evidenced by the increasing sound from the nearby torrent, we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast that included scrambled eggs and smoked salmon. There were at least twenty Challengers at breakfast.

We dribbled off in small groups, some walking alone, mostly heading for Loch Brandy and Green Hill above the loch. After a brief encounter with Vicky, Sue and I chose to deviate from the 'normal' route chosen by others. We headed up the steep but well constructed path to The Snub, before contouring around to Green Hill, where we met Richard and Rosie.

We walked with them over Muckle Cairn, above which an eagle circled menacingly, and on to Wester Skulley, from where they took the descent path to Inchgrundle. The views throughout were excellent; we could look back to yesterday's route and could also see Lochnagar and its neighbours to the north west. At our feet, the cloudberry was just coming into flower.

Our own route took us over Burat Hill and Cairn Caidloch, after a pleasantly warm lunch spot out of what little wind there was today. A very light shower interrupted what will probably be our last al fresco lunch of the trip. Never mind, we've been very lucky with the weather. As we were today, needing sun tan cream and stripping to t-shirts for the afternoon's walk in the sunshine. Who ever would imagine that we could nearly run out of sun tan cream on the TGO Challenge!

Andrew Walker joined us briefly just before we reached a track on Burat Hill. He turned his nose up at actually visiting the summit and shot off to rejoin his long lost and much missed companions, Alan and Phil.

Meanwhile, we ambled down, pausing every now and then to admire the views and listen to the birdsong. The lapwings and skylarks were particularly melodic.

At Gleneffock we passed a farmer sorting his sheep, some of which had just given birth. Then it was over a bridge that dates from 1874, and onto a track that leads from near Haugh to join the descent route from Mount Keen behind the Hill of Rowan.

A trail of Challengers was making its way down this path to Tarfside, where the TGO Challenge team of volunteers at St Drostans was overwhelmed by visitors for a period. I've never seen so many rucksacks outside St Drostans. We arrived at 4.30 pm. Tea and cake was duly consumed and we were booked in to the fourth sitting for dinner at 8.15. I don't know how many sittings there will be, but it'll be unrelenting hard work for the team of volunteers that includes Ann and Alvar, Roger and Patricia, and Graeme and Marion. The latter had sped across Scotland to complete the Challenge before coming here to help.

That's it for now, it's nearly 7 pm and the Masons bar should be open. If anything else of note happens today I'll report on it tomorrow.

Today's pictures:
An encounter with Vicky
An encounter with Richard and Rosie
An encounter with Andrew
Tea and cake at St Drostans

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

TGO Challenge 2019 - Day 11

Date: Monday 20 May 2019

Route: wild camp in Glen Damff at NO 247 643 (300 metres) to Glen Clova Hotel (NO 327 731)

Distance: 19 km (Cum: 237)

Ascent: 800 metres (Cum: 8100)

Time taken: 6.25 hrs including 1.25 hrs breaks

Weather: cloudy, warm, occasional sunshine, one heavy rain shower

We woke at 7.30 to a bright but cloudy morning after a few rain showers overnight. Away by 8.40 am on the last few kilometres of yesterday's planned route, we noted the presence of bog asphodel for the first time. Sue reminded me about yesterday's bright yellow large pansies near Glenmarkie Lodge, and today she was mobbed by May flies.

The heavy shower of rain came as we were passing through Drumshade Plantation. We passed between two featureless hills, Eskielawn and Cowharn, which we had planned to climb but didn't bother.

The gap between these two hills had been yesterday's target, and there was adequate camping opportunity in this vicinity, though we had no regrets about stopping at our better spot nearly two hours back along the route.

We now put into place an idea sown by Graeme and Marion on the train from Montrose. Why hadn't I thought of it myself? A direct route to Clova avoiding 5 km of road walking.

So we marched off to the 512 metre Hill of Strome, pausing only for a brew stop, the rain shower having expired. Sheep and grouse shooting tracks led down to Glen Prosen and the walker friendly 'Cramie' establishment.

A slog in barely needed waterproofs up a forest track followed. A right turn up a track not marked on the 1:50000 map saw us on contouring paths to the east of Mount Bouie until we reached a good water source and stopped for lunch amongst asphodel and thistles. The usual: tea, tinned mackerel with oatcakes, dunking biscuits, and a biscuit bar.

Continuing to a broad col at about 550 metres, tormentil and milkwort were the dominant flora. From here it was an easy yomp past a rabbit warren down to the Clova Hotel, reached shortly before 3 pm. We knew we'd find more Challengers here. Graham Gledhill and two others were already installed in the bar - taking a day off and staying for two nights in this fine establishment.

There are between ten and twenty Challengers either here or camping nearby, but not the trio we had expected to see - Roger, Viv and Steve. We spent a sociable evening with various folk, in particular Richard and Rosie - last seen at Bridge of Orchy.

Today's pictures:
Glen Prosen
Looking down to Glen Clova
The South Esk River in Glen Clova
Happy to be in the Clova Hotel, Sue, Carl and Andrew

This posting should be sent using the hotel wifi, which doesn't extend to our room, but we know there is no phone or wifi at tomorrow's destination, so that posting may be both late and short.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

TGO Challenge 2019 - Day 10

Date: Sunday 19 May 2019

Route: wild camp at NO 097 609 near Ashintully Castle to wild camp at NO 247 643 in Glen Damff

Distance: 19 km (Cum: 223)

Ascent: 500 metres (Cum: 7300)

Time taken: 7.5 hrs including 1.7 hrs breaks

Weather: occasional rain showers punctuated the day, but not to any great inconvenience; warm and calm

After a very comfortable night in the tent, we enjoyed a leisurely departure from the wet grass on a misty morning. The tent was soaking but soon dried out when we put it up again this afternoon.

The 'Mini Cateran Trail' path led us over lots of ladder stiles to Lair, and the B951 road. Shortly before Lair we stopped for a brew and Sue enjoyed a chat with Dot (94), who is avidly following our progress across Scotland.

The Cateran Trail proper joins the road for about 4 km to Forter, where we admired the castle and stopped for lunch in a sunny field. Pleasing countryside views.

Common comfrey graced today's hedgerows, bright yellow gorse or broom illuminated some of the hillsides, and sheep, lapwings and curlew all seemed to be vying for our attention. (The oyster catchers won.)

We briefly joined a couple from Glasgow who are walking the Cateran Trail in sections. Then, after diverging to the north east we came across a 4x4 vehicle with three people who I thought may be setting traps. They turned out to be habitat surveyors looking into the state of the heather.

After chatting with this trio, we took a direct line through the heather, just to the south of a red roof, to a gate, where a footpath sign rather surprised us.

A little further on, beyond an obvious fire break, we eschewed the signed paths to Freuchies and headed through a small quarry and along the track to Glenmarkie. Keeping left to go past the farm - quite a little community here, including Poppy and Pickles, two affectionate goats - we soon found a good path beside the forest.

A gate at the end of the forest allowed us to escape and peruse the way ahead. Uphill after Glendamff Burn. The flat grass beside the burn was just too tempting. We kidded ourselves that another shower was imminent. It was 4 pm. The tent went up.

Such evenings are delightful. There's plenty of time for a bit of reading, a snooze, and a leisurely meal. All especially savoured as this is our last wild camp of the trip.

We have seen just one Challenger in four days. By tomorrow evening we will have made up for that, and given that from then on we will be celebrating the social aspect of this walk across Scotland, these entries may be fairly brief.

Today's pictures:
Last night's campsite (spot the tent!)
Chatting with Dot (elevenses)
A view up Glen Isla
Tonight's camp in Glen Damff