Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019

Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019
On the Archduke's Path in Mallorca

Saturday 20 March 2021

TGO Challenge - Wild Camps (No 56: 19 May 2014)

Here I am at Tarfside, communing with JJ, on a warm, sunny afternoon after a walk over Mount Keen. It's arguably not a real 'Wild Camp', as we are in the village field, near a public toilet, but I've deemed it appropriate for inclusion here. Unusually, I have no photo of my tent!

The previous two nights were spent at Thornbank Cottage in Braemar, and on Ballater's excellent campsite, both good spots.

Friday 19 March 2021

Around Wilmslow

On the second of three weekly strolls with Graeme around Wilmslow, the two of us started off across Wilmslow Golf Course, which during Lockdown has proven to be an excellent amenity for local people. (Empty today.)

Graeme's 'local' is was The Oakwood, with good food and beer. Covid has put paid to that, and this place may be a permanent casualty of the virus.

There's a good tinge of green in the hawthorn hedges, and the daffodils are in flower all over Cheshire just now.

We continue to have a bit of rain, and with the water table very high, some fields remain flooded. We managed by some miracle to negotiate this field by hanging onto the fence. Perhaps the power was off, as neither of us got electrocuted!

Elsewhere, alpacas and rams in the same field made for some fine antics.

The Plough & Flail at Paddockhill looks rather less dilapidated than The Oakwood, and it will hopefully re-open when allowed. Who knows when - whilst the virus situation in the UK is mostly improving, it's mayhem in the rest of Europe - and that could affect us.

At least the two of us are now allowed to sit on a bench and enjoy a socially distanced picnic, as we did today, and hopefully in a couple of weeks we'll be allowed to meet a little further away in a group not exceeding six people. We look forward to that, if it happens. Details of provisional plans will soon be on if I can find a bout of optimism.

Here's today's route - a flat 12.7 km, taking us a little over three hours.

Thanks again for your company, Graeme. The fields around Wilmslow make a pleasant change from the paths around West Sale and Timperley. And you'll be interested to know that I've downloaded 'Mortmain Hall' by your former colleague, Martin Edwards. It should offer me some easier reading once I've battled my way through 'Wolf Hall'!

Thursday 18 March 2021

Ullapool 2007 - 30 March - Ben More Assynt

This is the final 'Ullapool 2007 posting. If you wish to read from the start, click on 'Next Day' at the foot of each posting, starting here.

Setting off from Inchnadamph

Friday 30 March

Julie left for home on a day when the weather forecast wasn't really matched by the actual weather.

The rest of us, me, Andrew, Dave, Barry, Pam and Paul elected to climb Conival and Ben More Assynt. We enjoyed a good day despite cloud above around 600 metres. No rain, and not too windy.

My Munro book tells me it's the fifth time I've been up here. We met a Bulgarian couple who followed us until they got fed up with our slow pace, but then they mistook Conival for being Ben More Assynt's summit and without realising failed to bag that.

Otherwise just a couple of people seen today. In the claggy conditions Andrew proved that he has mastered using his GPS; I must get more practice.

Paul has learnt some bird sounds and identified greenfinches in the woods. A stonechat chatted nearby. Barry just about kept up - he is amazing at 75.

Start - 9:10; Conival - 12:25; lunch break 20 mins; Ben More Assynt - 13:45 - 14:00; Conival - 14:55; Finish - 17:40.

Our route - 18 km with 1600 metres ascent, taking 8½ hours

Then a fish and chip supper, followed by queasy feelings overnight. 

Saturday 31 March

Dave, Barry, Andrew and I had a good journey back home in bright sunshine all the way - 8:40 to 17:30 ~ 9 hours.

Loch Broom on 31 March

Wednesday 17 March 2021

Ullapool 2007 - 29 March - Beinn a'Chaisteil

Thursday 29 March

Cooler and clearer today after rain.

Julie and I took bikes from Black Bridge to Lubachlaggan then walked up Beinn a' Chaisteil, a Corbett, whilst Pam and Paul enjoyed Cul Beag, and Andrew, Dave and Barry had a good day on a Graham - Beinn an Eoin. The latter found that hill a real challenge.

We spent the day under the cloud level - ideal for Corbetteering as all Munros were in clag.

Julie was quicker today, both cycling and walking, so I didn't have any long waits. The cycle in to Lubachlaggan was against the wind along a mainly tarmac track with a significant hill before the descent to Loch Vaich. We passed a busy but jolly farmer, and lots of very clean sheep and highland cattle.

Half an hour from Ullapool to Black Bridge - plenty of space to park, but also plenty of gooey black sludge. The bike ride from 9:45 to 10:45 got five miles under our belts with ease.

After a 15 minute break, we started up a faint stalkers path - fairly easy going even when we left that at 500 metres or so to head directly towards the summit, reached at 12:15. Very barren and dry up here.

Good views until the cloud came in.

We then allowed ourselves to be blown in 45 minutes from Beinn a' Chaisteil to the southern peak, Meall a' Ghrianain. Quite windy here - my Rab vapour rise jacket proved excellent.

A mountain hare passed just in front of us.

A steep and sometimes boggy/tussocky descent got us quickly back down to the old farm at Lubachlaggan, and a lovely cycle ride out with the wind behind us, though a stone did rip the wall of my new rear tyre!

Black Bridge 9:45; Lubachlaggan 10:45 to 11:00; summit 12:15 - 30; second summit 13.15; Lubachlaggan 14:05 - 20; Black Bridge 15:00.

Our route - 25 km with 950 metres ascent, taking 5¼ hours (including 16 km on bikes, taking 1¾ hours)

Back to finish off our veg, with some rather old salmon steaks from the butcher, who wasn't really interested. Very disappointing - all the good stuff goes to Europe, leaving the locals with rubbish. Pam and Paul joined us for another jolly evening.

Meanwhile Martin Scoular, who had been going to join us, texted to offer his apologies for absence due to a cold.

Tuesday 16 March 2021

Ullapool 2007 - 28 March - Scoraig

Wednesday 28 March

With a poor weather forecast, and Sue and Phil leaving today, we had more sausages (Olde English - the Black Pudding ones had a bad effect on Dave yesterday) before all seven of us (in two cars - sadly the two extra seats for the Espace are at home) went on quite a long drive to Badrallach via Dundonnell on another lovely sunny day, if hazy.

Lots of sheep on the road.

We enjoyed a there and back walk to the jetty at Scoraig - a place with no services but with 70 inhabitants. It was a very good path to this crofting community that is about 5 miles from the nearest road (or a quick boat ride).

We chatted with a crofter with a long white beard. He was going to plant some early potatoes. Met a couple returning from visiting their mother.

Nice long tea stop on a warm rock. The crofter was pleased about the muddy path now having turned dusty. Green spotted beetles crawled along the path.

The Old Lighthouse had been moved to Scoraig, displays placed inside, and a new bench made of bricks with input from each member of the community. Excellent.

The jetty at Scoraig

Dave and Barry experience a rare bout of obedience!

9:30 - left Ullapool; 10:20 - start walk; ~11:30 - 20 minute break; 12:40 to 13:20 - lunch at Lighthouse; 13:40 - pier; 15:30 - back at the cars.

Light rain on the return walk, later than forecast, was the first of the week.

I boosted the local economy by buying 'Hostile Habitats' (a newish book but already scarce to obtain) [there's a 2018 edition of this classic tome - Ed], and 'The Everest Boys' (Bonington's era of Everesteers), before being banned from the kitchen whilst Dave made tea (heated soup, pasta carbonara, fruit salad) which was excellent.

But then football.on.TV took over, so Andrew and I escaped to Pam and Paul's abode and watched the first 'Apprentice' programme of the current series.

Our route - 17 km with 400 metres ascent, taking 5 hours

Next Day

Monday 15 March 2021

Ullapool 2007 - 27 March - Carn Ban

Tuesday 27 March

It dawned bright and clear, and not as windy as yesterday, so whilst Pam and Paul went up Quinag, the three old timers (Barry, Dave and Andrew) went for an amble on Cul Mor, and Julie, Phil, Sue and I drove to Oykel Bridge for a bike ride to Seana Bhraigh (Sue and Phil), and Carn Ban (Julie and me).

Julie proved to be a rather slow cyclist (I had reservations about many aspects of her bike that I won't go into here). Anyway we all cycled from a 10 am start (9 am from Ullapool), up Strath Mulzie. After a while some low cloud (high pressure cloud) that had blocked some views evaporated away to leave us in warm hazy sunshine for the rest of the day.

Running repairs needed a qualified mechanic

Waiting for Julie

Click on any image for a better version or slideshow

Only two thin layers of clothing were needed, even on the summit.

Sue and Phil abandoned their bikes at a big inflow to the Corriemulzie River, after about 12:20, and headed on up Seana Bhraigh. Julie and I crossed the river - I used the bike to avoid wet feet - Julie just sploshed across.

On the way up we had seen a group of six, who appeared to be walking out, perhaps from the bothy.

We continued on to a bothy by Loch a' Choire Mhoir, where the bikes had to be abandoned, but it had taken less than 3 hours for the 12 miles to this point. 

We lunched, then headed on up past frogs and a lazy lizard.

Viviparous Lizard

The view back to Seana Bhraigh

Purple Saxifrage

Panorama, with Seana Bhraigh (and Julie)

Around crags etc, a 450 metre steep ascent that took 1¼ hours. At the top of our main climb we got a call from Sue - they were on Seana Bhraigh summit. We still had 2 km to go.

Make that 3 km - we went past strange peat haggy things - to the wrong summit. After retracing to the correct place (checked by GPS) we lazed for a while, then at 15:30 we started down the hill.

Julie summits Carn Ban

Back at the bothy by 16:45, then a further 2 hours back to the car on the bikes. (A bit longer for Julie, who went the wrong way!)

It was a beautiful evening and had I been driving back there would have been frequent photo stops. But the old timers had the Espace, and by the time I stopped Julie it was almost too late.

Oykel Bridge

Sunset at Ardmair

Wildlife up high included a number of unidentified birds and geese, and a pair of wagtails. Lack of cycling shorts made for a sore bum.

Mishaps on the ride were minimal, just a few chain incidents.

A quick shower then a slow seafood platter at the Argyll finished a good day.

Our route - 46 km with 1500 metres ascent, taking 8.8 hours (including 38 km on bikes, taking 4½ hours)

Meanwhile, Paul and Pam enjoyed the views from Quinag