My get-yourself-fit-for-the-TGO-Challenge plan (see how it takes over your life?) calls for a walk of a minimum distance of 12 miles in January (14 in February) and so - me and superdingo found ourselves in the enormous and free car park at Blanchland for this little toddle on to the Northumberland Moors.
Blanchland Moor is a pretty flat and heathery sort of place and has bridleways suitable for a good old blast along at high speed - or in my case, fairly moderate speed.
In brightening and windy weather, me and Bruno fair blasted along over the moor to Slaley Forest where, in a small and sheltered copse of Scots Pine and Gorse, I almost fell asleep in the cosyness of it all....
Down to the Devil's Water - no idea why its called this - its a fairly small beck in a beautiful wooded and almost wild setting - just the place to camp out, in fact.
And then it was back over the moor again via the Carriers Way. The Carriers Way is an old packhorse route blazed for the purpose of carrying bings of lead from London lead Company's mines in Allendale to the coast - before there were things like trains. So its an old route, and it shows it in places as it cuts a deep groove through the landscape and contours easily along the scarp of the moor. Fab bit of fell walking, that.
The odd thing about this moor, though, is the unusual use of scarecrows. These are very realistic from a distance, mainly due to the shredded polythene arms which sway purposefully in the wind. The giveaway is that they never actually go anywhere. there's dozens of the things, though, placed on scarp edges and hilltops and in lines like grouse beaters. It seems like a good idea if it works - keeping the raptors and corbies away from the grouse eggs and chicks in a non-lethal sort of way.
We did just about 12 miles, finished almost in daylight and were in time for the two meals for £8 happy hour at the pub at Billy Row.
And - I finished my TGO Challenge food plan. The most I'll have to carry is five breakfasts from the start (probably quite a lot of porridge) - and two evening meals (its complicated, but thats how it works out). After that, its pretty easy. I'll need to shop in Ft Augustus, Newtonmore and Braemar. I'm only staying overnight in atown in Newtonmore - probably camp - and there's a transport cafe there for dinner and brekkies...
I'm not staying in Ft Augustus or Braemar - but just scoffing, shopping and passing through to wild camps or bothies further on. I will be overnighting at Tomdoun, but not in a bed - far too overpriced for me. I'll stick me tent up somewhere after the night's celebrations of whatever it is we might consider worth celebrating.