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Friday, 31 July 2015

Fight Club Hikers Do Speyside Way (Most of it)


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Last Friday, I think it was, that The Third Cohort of Clava Pedestres Pugnare (Fight Club Hikers) took to the hills a bit South of Aviemore for the fighting advance from the salubrious seaside port of Buckie back to Aviemore, a distance of Quite A Lot of Miles, entirely on foot and carrying only enough supplies for four days. In other words, a wee hikie.
I arrived at teatime and undertook the walk from Aviemore train station to a campsite somewhere near Kincraig. I was a little dumfounded by the “Speyside Way” signs pointing South since the Speyside Way website says that it stops at Aviemore. But it doesn’t – it carries on, unofficially at the moment, but soon, it’ll go all the way to Newtonmore, the plans having been passed by the relevant authorities.
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The road to Kincraig gets dangerous for Pedestres, so when Masey stopped and picked me up, it came as a relief, even though I’d only got another 300 metres to go. Wibble was already there – tent erected doing his naughty impressions wot he heard through a keyhole once in 1987.
Paddy and Gill arrived shortly afterwards and, camp established we repaired back to Aviemore for fish suppers and beers.
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The walk went well enough. A taxi took us all to Buckie and we walked and walked and walked and called in at one or two pubs on the way – notably in Fochabers, Aberlour and Cromdale , the Haugh Inn, being technically closed whilst still managing to serve 15 pints of beer…  more of which later.
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The walk itself starts interestingly with a coastal ramble with seals and, if you’re lucky, dolphins too, and , at the Dolphin Centre the cafe does really bijoux bacon butties. And then the way starts to follow the Spey, developing into a forest ramble and then a disused railway line. This goes on and on interminably. I mean it really does go on and on and on. It would be much better on a bike. Don’t try this walk alone, readers, you’ll go mad. It’ll be like being in solitary confinement. If it hadn’t been for Wibble’s naughty impressions and Gill’s dancing about I may have gone mad. Aaaaaargh….
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After Aberlour, there is relief and, with a couple of pints sloshing in the belly, morale is lifted as the first contours are encountered and the way starts to follow a long, straight road. On and on it goes… on and on and on.
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We camped in a stubbly field. Somebody had a ride around said field  in a van at dusk but gave a cheery thumbs up or wave and peaceful night followed. In the morning it was raining and I set off early to find water, which I did a mile and a bit further on. I filtered a couple of litres into a water bag and waited under a bridge for the rest of Coh III CPP to arrive.
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We progressed through more interesting countryside including some tightly arranged contours in the forest followed by an Aberlour Interlude before joining that feckin railway line again. This went on and on and on and on. After this it continued ever onwards in an onwards direction. Then Masey declared a  camping spot and we camped in a nice place beside the river. There was a small campfire on the stony beach, apparently. Unfortunately I missed it due to an attack of post dinner lassitude, an attack which lasted all night and during which I failed to grapple with Kylie’s bra strap.
The morning was misty then warm and, out of synch with Coh III’s relaxed approach to getting out of bed, and having become the subject of some midgie attention I plodded off to find the water tap at  Ballindalloch. Coh III dribbled in later.
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More of the railway path followed. And followed and followed and followed….  then the route takes to the hills …  It goes up and down and in and out and there’s views and all kinds of delights and then it gets to Cromdale where it all started to go right wrong. 
We entered the closed Haugh Hotel and we were served in a most friendly manner by a lass from Wakefield. We stayed a while and then, in a happy mood, we left for Grantown. On the way, I shared my whisky (I must have been happy… this is unusual…) and we entered Grantown in High Spirits, having lost the Speyside Way somewhere on the way. We set up camp on the crowded campsite and set off for The Craig Bar, as recommended by the lass at the Haugh Hotel. The Craig Bar does pies – no, I mean lots of different pies. All kinds of pies. And chips. Its just the place for a Pieman, in fact. My pie was a lamb pie and it was really nice.
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Then we took to drinking, in an effort to catch up with the landlord who appeared not only to be out of his tree, but to be unaware, in fact, that any trees were available. He did, in fact, seem to be completely kaylied. As a newt, in fact. So, the quest was a futile but enjoyable one and we Supped Some Stuff. This may have been a Bad Idea.
The next morning on the campsite was a slow one. I’d already announced my intention to end my walk at Grantown, being on a three-line whip to return to Crook by Monday night for family duties. But during the night Gill had developed a lurgy, which took out her and Paddy and Wibble too decided to join the retreat to Aviemore. Masey battled on and, in fact, arrived at Aviemore in time to join the retreaters in the pub. I couldn’t have managed that type of speed anyway, and I was, in fact, also brewing a lurgy similar to Gill’s although this took two more days to emerge properly – probably my older and more experienced immune system and my super-developed body mass index, which, of course, Gill doesn’t have (she’s not fat like me..)
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And so, it ended. And we all went home and didn’t do trip reports on internet forums…
I think I did fifty miles. My bum muscles hurt still, and I found a dead tick on my back. Probably killed by beta blockers, aspirin, ace inhibiters, calcium inhibiters, statins, aspirin, Bellhaven Best and bad blood. But apart fromn the nausea, hurty bum, plantar faciitis, destroyed kidneys and smelly socks, it was a fun-filled walk. Hopefully, everybody else will have recovered by now.
 

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Fremington Edge

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Here’s some pictures from the Wednesday Walkers Walk on Wednesday AND the Fremington Edge reccy wot me and Lucky did several days before. Seven people and an extra dog (Bailey) attended the walk on Wednesday and it all went swimmingly, including a repetition of the same navigation error – the second time caused by a phone conversation with Fight Club Hiker Masey and the first time caused by a bit of a reverie on the part of yours truly and the only specially remarkable happenings being the cheekiness of the local waskally wabbits and the fact that Lucky seems to have remembered the route.

Hennyway – here’s the pics and there’s a map at the end too at no extra charge.

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Calver Hill from the road up to Fremington Edge

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Lush summer stuff

Lucky spots a cheeky waskally wabbit

Cheeky wabbit trying to kweep up on Lucky. The waskally wabbit…

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Reeth’s “Swing Bridge” doesn’t swing. Lucky doesn’t care, though, he just wants to get off.

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Wednesday walkers just finishing the hard bit

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Well-built cairn overlooking Arkengarthdale

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Wednesday walkers overlooking Arkengarthdale

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Lunch in a flowery bit. Lucky is hoping for a cake donation from Eric

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In the meadows (about to be cut, apparently)

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Friday, 17 July 2015

Cloudy With No Chance of Meatballs

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Once again, Lucky driving this time since he’s not done the A69/A1 yet, we picked Dawn up from her dockside den and trundled off up some obscure roads to the diminutive but busy Northumberland town of Alnwick.

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Here, we parked badly, just like everybody else and trundled through the town to find Ratten Row – a place where ne’er-do-wells may well have been done away with in olden times, so we had to be careful, what with there being an Irish dog with us an’ all.

This leads to the Duke of Northumberland’s lovely Hulne Park which we could not enter, having been in the company of Lucky O’Pooch.

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So, instead, we got lost and skirted a housing estate which appeared at first glance to be absent from my map. This, though, readers, is the kind of thing that happens when you’re not exactly where you think you are.

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But we soon sorted out the navigational indiscretion and quite quickly found ourselves on the sylvan path to Alnwick Moor. The path on Alnwick Moor is straight as a dye and handrails (navigation talk for following something) a huge park wall, a dozen or so feet in height. This plods on relentlessly, accompanied by several dozens of black fly to a gate next to a huge golf-ball radar-station thingy. Looking through the gate reveals a superb view of the Cheviot Hills, Coquetdale and heathery ridges to the South.

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The wall provides shelter, a warm place to soak up the blazing Northumberland sun, and where a cheese and pickle butty can be enjoyed whilst watching the dog rolling about on his back. In the meantime, workers on the Big White Dome over the wall were making all kinds of odd beeping noises..(?)

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Later, we followed the wall over the rough and heathery stuff to Cloudy Crags. Now Cloudy Crags is an ever-so-slightly strange place. It’s made of sandstone and the rock has odd swirly formations (apologies for the use of technical geological jargon here) and a most peculiar arch. It’s also full of nooks and crannies and anybody with an hour or so to spare and, probably, a pair of rockboots could have a nice play on all those lovely friction holds.

We progressed along the radar station service road to join the public road at the point where the “sorry no dogs” sign is. Further road walking and some footpaths brough us back to Alnwick where the car was just as badly parked as it had be3en before.

My mapping says 7 miles. Dawn’s says 8, apparently. These things hardly ever come up with the same answer.

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Monday, 13 July 2015

Four Walks Later - Catch-Up

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There was a short hiatus or space in the blogging there. There’s no reason for this, apart from the fact that I didn’t have much of interest to say.

I did four walks since the last blogging:

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A reccy of a guided walk around the Efelent Trees and Bollihope, including Cowboy Pass amounting to some 11 (some would say 12) miles without the dog due to the sheer number of suckler cattle to be encountered on the route. This was remarkable mainly for the absolutely superb Northern Haymeadows encountered on Carrs Farm. These meadows may well be just about ready to be cut and are, therefore in full flower and absolutely buzzing with life. I meantersay, they’re just wonderful and alone would justify a long trip from somewhere else to Weardale just to have a look. It’d be useful to be armed with a guide to British wild flowers.

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Then there was the actual guided walk. This was attended by 13 people and stewarded by Diane and Derek and, once again, Lucky was absent – mainly due to the fact that I’m not allowed a pooch when leading a walk, but also because of the cattle. Bailey, a terrier of extremely diminutive stature, did attend, though but her size and shape was not recognised as canine by any of the cows. Either that or they weren’t interested.

It rained. The meadows were wet. We got very damp up the legs.

Its a nice route, though and there’s a map below for anybody who fancies a little trundle around Weardale.

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Next up was a walk in the Cheviots – at extremely short notice – I noticed extremely shortly that it had stopped raining, Lucky was chewing the cat in boredom and so we set off, topping up supplies of pasties, bananas and dark Ghanaian chocolate at Tow Law Co-Op

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We started near Barrowburn and bagged Shillhope Law (I’d been up there before) , Kyloe Shin – although I’m not convinced that this is the name of this hill – it’s more likely to be Kyloe and the shin is the slight ridge on it’s South side. Mid Hill came next, complete with nettles, thistles, deep wet grass, blackfly, horseflies and a startled fox. Then Ward Law and finishing on Shorthope Hill where the cattle failed to notice us.

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Apart from the fox, the walk was remarkable for the huge explosions going on over in the Otterburn training area, the gunfire, the lovely, green hills and the tea and cake at the Barrowburn tea-room afterwards. It was 9 miles.

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And finally, me and Lucky attended Wolsingham Wayfarers 9 mile walk on Wolsingham North Moor. Fourteen peeps and three dogs on a gentle ramble over the grassy and heathery bits of the North Moor. I’ve  mentioned Wolsingham Wayfarers before – but for new readers and established pieblog readers who can’t remember these things, they’re a voluntary group who help to keep rights of way around Wolsingham and Frosterley open. They also do free guided walks on the second Saturday and last Thursday of every month – AND they have guided walks leaflets AND their website which provides lots more faxaninfo than is available on this Pieblog can be found by clicking here 

And that was it, really. More walkies quite soon…..

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Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Buffs And Stuff–Lucky’s Dog Buff from Kitshack


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I really ought to apologise for the left-handed post title here… but I won’t
A while ago, partly via a third party (known to many people as JJ, veteran folk musician, hillwalker and writer of adventures with jj blog, I was contacted by Anth of Kitshack to see if I would be interested in reviewing a dog buff. I wouldn’t, obviously, but Lucky jumped at the chance, then rolled over and then asked for a chewstick.
So, we agreed and a couple of days later a small package arrived with Lucky’s new dog buff in it. Yes folks, it’s a buff for dogs.
This one is bright yellow and matches his bright yellow liver Dog’s Trust yellow liveried dog collar and lead, although his Ruffwear harness is red and his Ruffwear panniers are blue.
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There’s two sizes available – small and, presumably “standard” or “ordinary” and they come in and a quick shufty at the Kitshack website will reveal the range of colours and patterns available too.
What’s it like? It’s a Buff. Buff’s are simple loops of material and this one is just like a Buff for peeps, only smaller and it has a couple of reflective strips and other than this, it seems to me to be the same as other Buffs.  In fact, Lucky first wore it on our recent trip to Loch Tay and Glen Lyon and one day was so sweaty that I had to pinch Lucky’s Buff to wear as a personal headband to stop the sweat dripping in my eyes off my forehead, (I was daft enough not to attend this trip fully equipped with my own Buff – I have four available as it happens)
What does Lucky make of it? He hated it for the first few minutes then forgot all about it. He hates anything new, though and always thinks the worst until an alternative view is proven. He’s a bit of a git like that, really.
He’s now had it on for three weeks and it does look a bit grubby and so, it’s probably time to give it a wash. According to the blurb on the website, it can just, simply, be washed. No faffing with special washing machine settings. I could probably squeeze it through in a beck on a wild camp, along with a pair of socks and some shreddies.
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What’s the point of a doggy Buff?  I’m not sure. It looks quite pretty and makes it appear that I’m quite fond of him (I am quite fond of him as it happens cos he’s such a star) It may be that in a bit of wild weather on a hill, that the pooch will appreciate the Buff being pulled over his ears. He won’t stand for it now, being suspicious that you’re “up to something” but, when the hail is pelting down, maybe…
I got a “standard” one because Lucky is 15kg and really isn’t “small” – but it’s slightly too big. I can fix this by putting folding half an inch over and sewing it up – if I could sew, that is, but I’m a bit ham-fisted with yer cotton and needle. I might ask Mrs Pieman to do it. If I feed her some chocolate, she might well agree.  Sizing may be the only negative thing I can think of – there’s just two sizes and, according to Crook Dog Club, dogs are all different sizes, so at least another size would be helpful – maybe a “medium”?  And they’re all £8.50
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Have a look at the Kitshack website cos it’s full of all kinds of Buffs. The doggy ones are £8.50. They sent me a spare – its a blue one with little doggy toys on it and I have it to use to raise money for the Mind money-raising campaign. I haven’t worked out how to do this yet, though.
Kitshack’s website with the doggy Buffs is Here  - but if you just want to look at a cornucopia of Buffs of all kinds - and other gear then look here
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