Chris Bowness Landscape: Blog https://chrisbowness.com/blog en-us (C) Chris Bowness chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) Thu, 12 Nov 2020 20:15:00 GMT Thu, 12 Nov 2020 20:15:00 GMT https://chrisbowness.com/img/s/v-12/u308003250-o366297922-50.jpg Chris Bowness Landscape: Blog https://chrisbowness.com/blog 90 120 Climbing Stob Binnein https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2020/11/climbing-stob-binnein I keep climbing Stob Binnein for some reason - I must enjoy it!

My encounters with Stob Binnein started a few years ago. I remember a friend telling me that Ben More was "a slog", so I thought I'd try and climb them both from the South, following the route to Stob Binnein and then onto Ben More and back again...

When I parked my car, I looked up and nearly cricked my neck! It's a steep start from the car park with an almost immediate climb of 600m to tackle. It looks hard but it is actually an entertaining climb, you are that busy looking at where you're stepping then suddenly you are 600 metres higher, at a fence!

A Steep ClimbA Steep ClimbThe start of the climb to Stob Binnein is very steep and is marked by these stiles at the top. This is only the beginning of the ascending walk along the ridge to the top

This first time I had my dog, Digger with me and we negotiated the fence-stiles at the 600-metre mark and by the time we got to about 900 metres, Digger went on strike. He sat down and wouldn't go any further, he would only go back... So that was was the end of that trip!

The trouble with dogs is that you can't tell them they're going on a big trip! You just bundle them in the car and hope they're ready for what you've got in store for them. They don't get to tell you they're feeling dodgy so once you've dragged them up 900 metres, all they can do is refuse to move and stare at you defiantly.

Digger's had enoughHe's sitting down until we go down

So anyway I returned a few weeks later without my grumpy dog and I reached the summit of Stob Binnein. I took one look over to Ben More and it's 600 metres of return ascent and descent and I thought....no... I took loads of pictures that day but, these three images sum it up for me.

The Summit of Stob BinneinThe Summit of Stob BinneinStanding on the Summit of Stob Binnein looking south to my route up.

Going South from Stob Binnein   The summit of Stob Binnein from the SouthBen More is the hill shrouded in cloud behind and it swiftly dropped of my to-do list for that day!

So my friend June contacted me wishing to climb a hill not too far from us in October, so I suggested this hill due it being slightly spicier than the ones that I'd known her to climb before. She agreed! so in a wet October day, we parked up at the car park and started the hike upwards.

I had great weather the last time I climbed here and when I say great, I mean I could see stuff...This time above 600m we were in the cloud the whole time so the views weren't of much at all... With the rain the path up to 600m was practically a waterfall as water, like walkers, likes to take an easy route so it quickly becomes a stream. June bought her two dogs, Tig and Fidget, the labrador and the Jack Russell. 

Fidget looks down on mea steep but enjoyable climbe.   Tig and Fidget at the fenceYou can see the water flowing on the path. You can also see the steepness of the slope and this is the less steep part.

After we passed the fence and passed a stream. I dropped a pin on my GPS as I knew that the route to the next peak cairn can be a bit featureless and I was concerned we might miss the path on the way back down, but luckily we were able to see the path in the cloud.

As we got higher we passed some of the impressive drops where the ridge narrows, the ridge is comfortably wide at its narrowest and the cloud hid the impact of the drops.

June stands at the narrowest part of the ridgeThe south of Stob Binnein

The walk goes on for a good bit and June was growing keen to reach the summit. Eventually, we could see it looming above us. We climbed up, took a picture and then went back down. It was cold here and raining. Lower down it had been quite warm and pleasant. We would have lunch there.

June at the summit of Stob Binneinheight 1,165 metres

So we headed back and for some reason, the return journey seemed to go very fast and we were suddenly at the fence. We had a quick bite to eat and started down the last 600 metres for a steep knee popping descent with boots soaked by the paths that had become waterfalls. 

Once we reached the car we changed and as we got into the car, it was getting noticeably darker - we had timed it well.

June really enjoyed this route and I'm thinking that she would love the circular on Bidean Nam Bian, which I have done once in heavy cloud. That's one for the long summer days, I can't wait.

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) Binnein climb munro pictures Scotland Stob https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2020/11/climbing-stob-binnein Thu, 12 Nov 2020 20:07:12 GMT
Ochil Hills clip compilation https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2020/10/ochil-hills-clip-compilation I'm very lucky to live at the foot of the Ochils Hills. As a result, I've been doing an awful lot of walking about them carrying just my phone and snatching the odd photo or video clip as I go. This short video compilation was inspired by the music Limitless and hearing that made me decide to put a few of those Ochil clips together.

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) compilation hills Ochil video https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2020/10/ochil-hills-clip-compilation Sun, 11 Oct 2020 02:36:54 GMT
Barra Beach Landing https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2020/5/barra-beach-landing I don't have a bucket list, but flying to Barra and landing on the beach is something that I've always fancied.

In early March 2020, just as the spectre of the global pandemic was looming for the UK, I got to fly to and land on the beach at Barra. The weather was awful and we (my friend Sarah and I) both agreed that it certainly added to and enhanced the experience.

We also went to explore the Western dunes during our short stay and the weather certainly added to the adventure of our short trip outside. I'd love to see this beautiful place in good weather as well, but at least I'd made it.

I produced this YouTube video that I hope suitably illustrates the experience.

This is the only scheduled beach landing in the world and on seeing the beach, I can see why it is perfect for aviation. Whilst it was a fun trip for us, that flight is a lifeline for the people who live on the island. So in paying a visit, daytrippers help to keep it viable.



 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) airport bad Barra beach dunes flight flying landing sands weather https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2020/5/barra-beach-landing Wed, 20 May 2020 19:57:51 GMT
Mount Keen https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2020/1/mount-keen Mount Keen is one of the easiest Munros that I've climbed, you can basically cycle to the top. It might be easy, but it was no less enjoyable on a bright sunny day.

My friend June had selected this hill and it hadn't been on my radar, but walking it in early September was a treat as the heather was still in flower.

We parked at Auchronie after a nice drive at Glen Esk and we headed off with June's two dogs, as well as a spaniel that June was looking after for the weekend.

We headed at Glen Mark and passed the Queens well as well as the beautiful Glen Mark Cottage before following an easy Jeep track up a steep hill before spying Mount Keen and an easy walk to the summit. On a clear day, it is certainly worth a walk as the vista of a large part of Aberdeenshire was second to none. We could also spy Lochnagar to the west, the closest I've seen it so far.

View north east from Mount Keen Looking north from Mount Keen

At the top, it was time to shelter from the wind and have lunch, inevitably sharing some of it with the dogs.

It was then time to head back down, stopping at Queens well on the way, before heading home - An easy but enjoyable day and another Munro ticked off the list.

Queens Well at Glen EskQueens Well at Glen EskMy friend tends to her dogs whilst I take pictures.
 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) Esk Glen Keen Mount Queens Scotland Well https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2020/1/mount-keen Sun, 05 Jan 2020 04:18:26 GMT
The Fisherfield Munros https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2019/10/the-fisherfield-munros The three of us had set out to climb the Fisherfield six, as it turned out, two of us climbed the Fisherfield three.

Bob, Andy and I had set off one fine Friday morning in August for the 4-hour drive to park just north of Kinlochewe. The outward trip always goes quickly and by 1 pm, we'd parked up in the carpark to walk the nine or so kilometres to reach Lochan Fada, which was to be our camping spot for the night.

Bob had passed this way before when walking the Cape Wrath trail and had spotted some good ground at the banks of this large lochan. Andy, in particular, found the walk-in tough, he was suffering from knee and hip pains and as his regular walking buddy I could see that he wasn't right, as his head was down and his posture was awkward, where usually he walks with his head up and shoulders back, like a boss...

He suffered all the way to our camping spot, beside a small feeder stream. Once the tents were pitched, Andy decided he would hand in his sick note for the next day. Bob and I decided then to climb the three southerly Munros on that route and leave the other two Munros to the west for another day.

Wild Camping beside Lochan FadaWild Camping beside Lochan Fada

In the morning, after a midge infused porridge, Bob and I set off Northward following a subtle path to climb the first Munro of the day, Mullach Coire Mhic Fearchair (from hereon in this story called double trouble), a grand named Munro topping out at 1019 metres.

It was an eventful path to reach this Munro along the base of the smaller Mheall Garbh, where the path clings to the steep side of this rocky hill. The ascent of double trouble was no less eventful and I enjoyed it with steep slopes and mini-scrambles that took you to the top quickly due to it being entertaining. At the rocky top, we clambered over boulders to reach the summit and we took in the vista of the surrounding landscape, which in the dull grey light of this day looked like Mordor.

As we stood at the top, we looked down Gleann Na Muice and could see the banks of Loch Na Sealga in the distance and 900 metres below and we couldn't see anything man-made anywhere for the whole 360-degree panorama - This truly was wild country.

It was then time to descend off Double trouble down its steep rock-strewn north slope so that we could climb our second peak of the day, Sgurr Ban. At the top of this Munro, we looked towards our third peak of the day, Beinn Tarsuinn, which was to the South, where we'd just came from!

Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchdair & Beinn TarsuinnMullach Coire Mhic Fhearchdair & Beinn Tarsuinn

Bob didn't fancy going back over the last peak (hence why I call it double trouble), but when I saw the route Bob was going use, to try to skirt around the Munro, I decided I just wanted to climb back over the top! Bob's head for heights and adventure outclasses mine!

So Bob set off following a vague deer track to the west of double trouble, to hopefully contour round it, whilst I ate a flapjack to summon up the energy to climb the same Munro top that I'd just came from.

Bob's diversion on Mullach Coire Mhic FhearchdairBob's diversion on Mullach Coire Mhic Fhearchdair
It's a steep old climb but the path zigzags on loose stony ground and you gain height rapidly. As I left the summit to descend, I could just make out Bob sheltering behind a rock 300 metres below me. Eventually, I reached him and I must have delayed him a good half-hour. Bob told me that the detour probably took a half-hour, but it only seemed like 10 minutes due to the adrenalin rush of the steep slopes. I shuddered at the thought of the steep plunging sides and was glad that I'd taken the 'hard' route...

It was then time to retrace our steps on the slopes of Mheall Garbh to start the climb of Beinn Tarsuinn. Then we started our final ascent.

The Fisherfield MunrosThe Fisherfield Munros

I got the chance to grab a snap of where we'd came from before we climbed this peak and before we knew it we'd reached the top and could survey the well known flat spot on the ridge that resembles a tennis court. I've seen this in books before and was glad to finally see it for myself. I was however tired and the wind was getting up, so I'd lost interest in descending and clambering the short ridge walk to explore it.

Beinn Tarsuinn and it's 'billiard table'Beinn Tarsuinn and its 'billiard table'
The Beinn Tarsuinn Billiard TableThe Beinn Tarsuinn Billiard Table I need to scale this top again and walk that ridge on my way to the other two Munros that make the "six" as the ridge looks entertaining, we could then find our way back along Lochan Fada.

It was then time to head back to our tents and by this time, I was glad we weren't doing the full circle and that we didn't have to carry all our camping equipment as it would have been a hard second day to complete the circle - we would have done it, but we may have stopped enjoying it at some point...

Eventually, we reached our tents at about 5 pm and as we were approaching, we could spy Andy in the distance standing by them. When I got in my tent, I nursed my blisters that had surprisingly appeared on my toes due to hard terrain and my gators preventing my Goretex boots from breathing properly and causing my skin to go soft. I then went to sleep and never bothered making a hot dinner due to those infernal midges spoiling the fun.

In the morning it was quite a contrast. It was a beautiful, still sunny morning with only the midges to ruin things. The mountain Slioch was perfectly reflected in Lochan Fada and it made me think of a medieval warrior wearing a helmet!

Lochan FadaLochan Fada   Lochan FadaLochan Fada
Slioch refelcted in Lochan FadaSlioch refelcted in Lochan Fada
We then walked back to Kinlochewe, feeling all the richer for our adventures.

I've made this video below of our trip and I think that it illustrates well the tough terrain and morose landscape that we encountered in the low dull light.

 

 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) climbing Fisherfield hill Scenery Scottish Six walking https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2019/10/the-fisherfield-munros Sun, 06 Oct 2019 18:28:47 GMT
A visit to Highgate Cemetery https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2019/7/a-visit-to-highgate-cemetery I'm not usually one to visit cities, but sometimes needs must. The weather in London was so warm I went for a walk and I'm glad that I did.

Working in London for a few days, I had time to kill at night so decided to go for a walk around the Highgate area. This is a nice characterful part of London and in the beautiful summer evening, it was a pleasure to explore. On my first evenings' jaunt, I found myself in Waterlow Park and this park is particularly pleasing and natural feeling even with the locals sitting on the grass enjoying the weather (like me).

Waterlow ParkA park in London

I then walked through the park and found Highgate Cemetery - The east part was open for visitors despite the advertised opening hours. So £4 lighter I spent some time walking around the graveyard with my phone as my camera. This place (understandably) was particularly peaceful and calming, especially being in such a big city, I found myself lingering in the warm summer heat looking at the sunbeams streaming through the trees and illuminating the memorials.

The entrance to the west part of Highgate Cemetery   The grave of Karl MarxI've not read his books admittedly, but I have read animal farm by George Orwell...

Highgate Cemetary in LondonHighgate Cemetary in London

Highgate Cemetary in LondonHighgate Cemetary in London Highgate Cemetary in LondonHighgate Cemetary in London

Highgate Cemetary in LondonHighgate Cemetary in London   Highgate Cemetary in LondonHighgate Cemetary in London

Highgate Cemetary in LondonHighgate Cemetary in London Highgate Cemetary in LondonHighgate Cemetary in London   Highgate Cemetary in LondonHighgate Cemetary in London

Highgate Cemetary in LondonHighgate Cemetary in London   Sisyphus in Highgate CemeterySisyphus in Highgate CemeteryOr it could be a worker ;)  

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) cemetery highgate london https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2019/7/a-visit-to-highgate-cemetery Wed, 17 Jul 2019 13:09:01 GMT
Climbing Ben Lawers https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2019/6/climbing-ben-lawers I arrived at the Ben Lawers Car Park and started walking at 2 pm. At this time of year, there's plenty of time to walk as it is light until after 10 pm and even later if there's no cloud, so I wasn't rushing.  

Everyone else, however, had different ideas and as I walked the approach path, I passed dozens of people going in the opposite direction. They obviously had seen the mountain weather forecast where I'd relied on the local forecast for Killin. As I'd find out, the weather at over a 1,000 meters would be much worse than it was in the nearby village with people walking about in T-Shirts as I drove through it.

The start of the approach path takes the walker through a little experiment. It is a fenced off area of land that has spring loaded gates that snap shut behind you and this area is full of trees and plants and it is beautiful despite not being that old. This is the way this land should look, but the barren moorlands that surround this little oasis of nature are overgrazed by sheep and deer and nothing but grass and heather seem to succeed as a result. As I walked through here I wondered what the surrounded view would have been if us civilised humans hadn't rendered this landscape into a virtual wasteland.

Natural ScotlandA fenced of area of moorland near Ben Lawers that has been allowed to regenerate.

I headed up the path to Bheinn Ghlas, which is a hill worth climbing as it is on the way to Ben Lawers! As I reached the summit ridge I was engulfed by fast moving cloud and luckily navigation was easy due to the well-trodden path that heads to Ben Lawers. I passed the tiny summit cairn, made of a pile of small stones that are almost falling off the steep sides of the summit. I then headed along the ridge in heavy wind-driven rain towards my next summit, passing a couple of guys on the way - After I'd passed them, I had the landscape to myself for the rest of the day.

It was a pull up to the top of Ben Lawers, especially with there being no view to entertain on the way, just rain and the ghostly white of the cloud that allowed visibility of only a few metres. I eventually reached the top marked by a summit cairn and a rather poorly looking trig point. As I reached the top I noted the direction from which I arrived as I would return the same way. I've done that in the past, where I'm elated at arriving at a summit in poor conditions and then forget which way I approached from. Then you are forced to check your coordinates and maps to ensure that you don't end up on an unexpected journey, which is never enjoyed in poor conditions. If it hadn't been for the excellent path on this busy mountain, then careful navigation would have been required the whole route.

The summit Cairn of Ben LawersRather dreary conditions After taking a picture and video snippet, I headed back down the path in the direction that I came from and then I took a right turn down the bypass path that avoids having to climb back over Bhein Ghlas, which I think may be quicker, but I was wanting to lose height and hopefully get below the cloud. 

I ambled down the path whistling loudly whilst revelling in the enjoyment that I was the only fool enjoying the conditions in which I found myself. Suddenly, the cloud parted and I was confronted with a view of the glen as the last of the rain stopped falling. It was a lovely moment, even the sun started to peek through and I started to take some video only for the cloud to close back in. So I walked on and suddenly realised that the sun was out again lighting up parts of the landscape below the thick breaking cloud. 

It is really hard to describe how things were changing so quickly, from thick cloud to sunny blue sky back to thick cloud, it kept changing so I kept stopping and taking more video and pictures. I've seen these conditions before but have never been able to capture them; I need to venture in the glens more often when rain and sunny intervals are predicted. For me, this was the bleak Scottish landscape at its best.

Into the GlenInto the GlenDescendng out of the cloud coming off Ben Lawers Changeable WeatherChangeable WeatherCentral Highlands of Scotland in summer   Below the CloudBelow the CloudIn a Scottish Glen in summer

After wasting a lot of time standing and staring I finally reached the bealach (gap) between Meall Corranaich and Bhein Ghlas and managed to grab a picture of An Stuc which was clear of cloud for a short time.

Towards An StucTowards An StucCentral Highlands of Scotland The walk had taken me five hours, which is good by my standards considering I spent a lot of time taking pictures and video whilst standing around staring at the landscape - I would have been longer if the tops hadn't been clagged (clouded) up. I never managed to get any shots with my main camera as the lens got wet and it's a major hassle to clean the lens when it gets wet, especially when it's still raining. My camera bag has a rain cover, but there was a little puddle at the bottom so conditions were certainly not camera friendly. In fact, they weren't phone friendly either as my reluctance to bag my phone for video has knackered the fingerprint sensor (I also carry a spare bagged phone). If ever I get a new phone, it will be waterproof. 

Despite that, I still grabbed enough video to make a wee youtube clip that hopefully communicates the conditions. This was taken on 15th June....in the summertime...but it's nothing new on the Scottish mountains - at least there's always plenty to drink...

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) Ben Bheinn climbing Ghlas Lawers mountains munro scenery scottish https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2019/6/climbing-ben-lawers Tue, 18 Jun 2019 21:39:13 GMT
Humdrum but fun https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2019/5/humdrum-but-fun I've been kind of busy in May so haven't been out on any big adventures in the landscape. I've been on one adventure for a few days to Prague, which was lovely and amazing, but I didn't take that many pictures, although I should have.

The square in Prague   Prague

I've also been camping with Andy which is always enjoyable, but only to our usual spot in Devilla forest where Andy made a tasty curry over a fire in his dutch oven.

I've mostly been working though, there's a lot going on in my perpetually busy day job and some weeks I've been away from home. The one thing that all the weeks have in common though, no matter where I am is walking. When I'm at home I try and walk for an hour at lunchtime and then walk the dog an hour or two at night as well - I'm slowly losing weight!

When I worked away from home, I improvised routes at night beside the river Don in Aberdeen and along an old railway line where I could've walked for 40 miles - I only walked an hour out and an hour back though.

The River Don running beside Dyce Forget the weight loss and the fitness benefits of walking, which are a pleasant side effect; the main thing for me is that when I'm walking it makes me happy. My dog is also very happy when he walks and so I'm grateful to him for teaching me that. 

When you walk and empty your mind of the day that was, then you also see things, the same things on the same routes I walk in Falkirk are always there, but every time something is different. Something is new and has been unseen until that moment due to changes in seasons weather and light and nearly every time I pull my phone out of my pocket and take a picture.

I take so many pictures - the ones below are just a few I took with my phone in May on my evening dog walk around the River Carron in Falkirk.

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2019/5/humdrum-but-fun Fri, 31 May 2019 20:54:10 GMT
Exploring Wood Hill https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2019/5/exploring-wood-hill Until the age of seven, I lived in a wee cottage in the Highlands of Scotland. The house bordered woodlands, hills and a big pond and these surrounding features were there for me to explore at my leisure. It was fantastic, I climbed cliffs and trees and generally had a ball. I received an “Action Man” adventure kit for my Christmas around the age of 6, which I wore on my belt. That made me even braver as I then considered myself properly equipped to adventure as the kit contained a mirror that I could use to send emergency signals!

Then our family moved to the central belt of Scotland. It’s a nice place St Andrews, but compared to ‘my’ hills and forests in the highlands, it was rubbish. I never got over that and it means that I have unfinished business when it comes to adventuring!

So there I was touching 50 and standing on a steep slope in the rain.

Climbing Wood Hill head-onClimbing Wood Hill head-onThat took away some of my energy!

Further down the hill, as I’d zigzagged upward, the going had got dodgy on loose earth that had become slippery when wet. When standing on it, my feet would just slide which is not great on steep slopes, but my walking poles saved the day - as usual. On the whole, the predominantly tufty grass made for a good grip, even in the rain, luckily.

 

It was a fantastic view westward along the steep escarpment of the Ochils and this is why this hill, Wood Hill, was my favourite. This day was Saturday and I found myself with an excess of energy, I think it is springtime that causes this as I’m particularly hyper in the spring, particularly March and early April. Anyway, I had that spring in my step and a favourite hill that I had climbed dozens of times. I’d always climbed it the same way as it is a steep hill and it seemed madness not to follow the path due to the effort involved in tackling it head-on. I was bored with the same old route though, so this time I'd decided to give it a go.

Fence lineFence lineOn the right of the fence is where the sheep graze the hills. As can be seen, they make for efficient lawnmowers and the area that they graze is massive.   Sunset on Wood HillSunset on Wood HillShooting a sunset from wood hill of the old trees that stand on its slope. (Taken Jan-19)

I didn’t bother going to the top of the hill, the wind-tortured trees at the fence border (between the woodland and the sheep grazed and naked hillside) enthral me too much for that. So I walked eastward along the fence border to the woodland that drops steeply into a wee glen. I’d been near here before but had never explored it - today was that day.  After hopping the fence at the boundary of the wood, I spied what looked like a great camping spot below me and I descended down to check it out. This woodland, despite overlooking towns and villages, is protected by 1,000-foot steep slopes so it’s not often visited.

In the old woodsWood Hill, Ochil Hills

The leafy flat area I descended to would make a nice spot to camp, but carrying a heavy pack here is less than desirable. The trees here were all odd-shaped by time and circumstance. Trees do that visibly, whilst for us humans, it’s generally hidden inside our heads.

Old odd treeOld odd treeWood Hill, Ochil Hills   Old odd treeOld odd treeWood Hill, Ochil Hills

I started heading southward following a hint of a path, I knew that I’d soon start descending rapidly, but I was intoxicated by this fantastic old woodland.

 

Before I reached the main slope, I came across some grand old beech (?) trees. One tree had split in half, a mass of wood lay rotting and undisturbed beside the other half that was still standing. Despite the tree being split in two, it was still a massive tree and it was magnificent.

Half a treeJust lies there undisturbed   HalvedThe tree on the right had split in two. This picture does not do it justice as it was big. My head was level with the big branch on the right of that tree.

I then reached the steep slope that plunges to the Forth Valley. I could see an outcrop sticking out from the trees below me, so I decided to carry carefully on - I could always retrace my steps. I reached this outcrop and could see another outcrop below, oh well, why not. As I picked my way towards it, I realised that a couple of deer had been sitting on it as they jumped up and grudgingly walked eastwards down a tricky slope.

Wood Hill, Ochil HillsGoing downThe hard, but exciting way

At this outcrop I had no intention of following the deer, I was going to the west side as it looked less difficult and I could spy the hint of another flat area through the trees below. As I picked my way down, the slope turned out to be grass and moss covered scree. I spotted a scree shoot that was not moss-covered and I headed to it. The shoot was only 10 metres or so but it was the easiest part of the descent as I stepped and slid down it using my walking poles as ski-sticks.

Wood Hill, Ochil HillsScree shootingA scree shoot makes for an easy 10 metres of descent I eventually reached the next outcrop and realised that I could now see the woodland path below, I’d made it and I’d also discovered a great wee camping spot above the path.

Reaching the pathMy quick descent had finished at the high level woodland path I then joined the woodland path back to my car taking pictures of the springtime woodland and bluebells as I went. I realised that I had much more exploring to do here and my childhood adventure kit, that had once fitted on my belt, had now morphed into the rucksack that I wore on my back.

BluebellsWood Hill The woodland pathWood Hill, Ochil Hills

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) hill hills nature Ochil scotland trees wood https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2019/5/exploring-wood-hill Sat, 11 May 2019 23:02:00 GMT
A Cairngorm Adventure https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2019/4/cairngorm-adventure I set off for an Easter weekend with my mates Andy and Bob from the Linn of Dee car park with the loose objective of hanging around in the Cairngorms (I like vague missions). We’d arrived early on Saturday afternoon and a couple of hours later had found ourselves camping beside the river in Glen Derry.

Camping in Glen DerryCamping in Glen DerryCairngorms wild camp   Camping in Glen DerryCamping in Glen Derry

It was boiling hot by Cairngorms standards and it was great! We’d all packed to save weight so I had an out of date dried ready meal that turned out to be a nice shepherds pie after adding 500ml of water and waiting ten minutes.

The ten-minute wait gave me time to reflect on the 180 grammes of ingredients and I realised that this was never cooked as a shepherds pie and then dried, no this is easier than that. They have put the dried ingredients together so when you add water the mix of ingredients rehydrates to taste like shepherds pie.

Now this may be obvious to the reader, but to me I thought the dried food folks would make a massive shepherds pie, then they would dry it and powder it and stick it in a bag to sell on to mugs like me for £5.99 meal, which is dearer than Wetherspoons - and you’d at least you’d get a pint with that!

But no, they just bulk buy dried potato, dried mince, gravy powder and various dried herbs and then chuck it in a packet to recreate a mushy shepherds pie. This is my next project and I’ll be buying many dried ingredients from various sources and will be cook testing to figure out what I can produce and then vacuum pack. Anyway moving on from my latest camping trip revelation - oh, I had two revelations actually as Andy's long-handled spoon was the bee knees for eating from the mush bag.

So we packed up camp in the morning and carried on up the glen until we reached the Hutchison memorial hut (or ‘Hutchy’). Someone had left a bike outside and it was a bit unexpected to see a bike here as it was rough terrain to get here - this hut is at around 2,000 feet.

The Hutchison Memorial HutThe Hutchison Memorial HutA very useful and well insulated shelter for the wintry cairngorms.

We went inside and met the owner of the bike who turned out to be someone we had already met in Cadderlie bothy during our visit there in January. He’s a decent guy and with this hit rate, we’ll likely meet him again in another bothy in the future. So after pleasantries were exchanged with the soon to be gone occupants of the bothy, we loosely agreed to climb higher and get to the top of Bheinn Mheadhoin which is 3,877 feet (1,182 metres) - well I don’t know if Andy explicitly agreed to this, but he doesn’t know Bob that well, who would have tried for at least two more peaks if he thought he could get us to agree...

So we left our heavy packs at the hut and headed up the hill like a bunch of successful weight watchers with just spare jackets and gloves and various other bits that we think we would need for a Cairngorm summit. Bob, at least had remembered the map and compass, whilst a peanut Starbar had been my necessity and I’m not a sharer...

The Crimson SlabsThe Crimson SlabsClimbing to Loch Etchachan from the Hutchison memorial hut At 3,040 feet we reached the impressive Loch Etchachan which was still icebound but it was melting in the spring heat. This reminded me that at the Hutchison hut, a few hundred feet further down from where we now stood, there is a pond and we had noticed the frogs jumping about in it out of the ‘Hutchy’ window. I’d checked out this pond and found many frogs in it that were spawning, this pond seemed by the number of corpses, to have an alarming mortality rate for so-called ‘reproduction’. This activity in mid-April also surprised me because at near sea level, where I live, the frogs spawn in February a good couple of months ago and you realise then how short the growing season is at this subarctic location.

Loch EtchachanLoch EtchachanAt 3,000 feet Loch Etchachan is the highest large body of water in the UK. The picture was taken in late April 2019

Standing now at loch Etchachan with its icy covering, I wondered if the frogs actually bother turning up here at all? Whilst we were taking pictures, videos and I was wondering about the frogs of Loch Etchachan, a young lady appeared from the direction of Derry Cairngorm and started speaking to us. We spoke to her for a while and I was very impressed with this young woman in her twenties who was crossing the Cairngorms like a boss. At her age (many moons ago) I was too much of a feartie to do things like that, even though I wanted to and I’m always glad to see the young folks like her who are out there and just doing it.

After our chat, she took off up the hill to conquer Bheinn Mheadhoin whilst we remained at the loch trying to conjure the will for the next 800 feet of our steep climb to the top of the same mountain. We eventually set off and as I climbed, I decided that I liked this particular mountain as the stone was very gritty, so you could step with confidence on the rocks knowing that your feet would grip. This helps progress for me as I go ultra cautious on hills with slippery rocks as I am always mindful of my dodgy ankle which is easily twisted and this fear slows me down.

Loch EtchachanLoch EtchachanLooking down during our climb to Bheinn Mheadhoin   Climmbing Bheinn MheadhoinClimbing Bheinn MheadhoinCairngorms

Loch EtchachanLoch EtchachanLooking down during our climb to Bheinn Mheadhoin Loch Etchachan

Heading to the summit of Bheinn MheadhonHeading to the summit of Bheinn MheadhoinCainrgorm mountains

As we reached the top if got windier and windier. we made our way across the summit plateau and we blew towards and past a couple of barns (Tors) that were interesting to merit a stop and take some pictures and videos. The wind whistled through them and made interesting sounds.

A barn on Bheinn Mheidhoin (Tor)A barn on Bheinn Mheidhoin (Tor) The force of the wind and elements in the Cairngorms can be seen by the amount of toppled stonework from the barn, but I wondered when this fell, was it last year, a decade, a century? I’d read once (or it may have been the film “the Cairngorms in Winter”) that the original Cairngorm mountains were very high, but they have eroded over time until they don’t exist anymore - the 3000-4000 ft cairngorm mountains that you see now is actually just the hard volcanic rock  that lay below the original mountain range.

The summit of Bheinn MheadhoinThe summit of Bheinn MheadhoinTo claim the summit you have to scramble 20 or so feet to the top of the Barn (Tor).

We eventually reached the summit and its 20-foot barn that needs to be climbed to make a proper claim as having conquered the mountain. It looked very difficult as we approached from the south but once we reached the north side we found an easier scramble and there was the young lady we’d met earlier brandishing a climbing helmet hoping that we could assist her to reach the top. It turns out that she is scared of heights so she was relying on a random passerby on the top of a Cairngorm mountain to help her scramble to the top so she could claim this peak.

Fortune was on her side despite the odds in the shape of us three! She donned the helmet and scrambled up with Andy and Bob and her face was a picture of happiness on the top knowing that she’d achieved her uncertain aim and made another dent on her fear of heights. My gentlemen friends also helped her descend, which is always the hardest part of the scramble for someone who’s nervous of heights and we all headed off the mountain together back to the Hutchison hut. Once there she carried off downhill towards her car at Linn of Dee whilst we remained at the hut for a night in the warmest bothy that I’ve ever visited.

After we’d settled in we were joined by another young lady who took one look at us three old geezers in the ‘hutchy’ sweat box (it’s massively insulated for Cairngorm winters) and promptly put up her tent - She joined us for tea later and she told us about herself. She was a trainee GP and was very down to earth and we had a good laugh. She asked us about whether the water was safe to drink and Andy told her that he always drank the water out of streams and never had a problem. She replied that “Well you are likely protected by all the alcohol in your stomach and I think I will be safer to filter mine”. Oh, how I laughed!

As it got dark we were joined by a young couple who also camped outside, but until bedtime, it was a great night of bothy chat where groups of strangers share a common space and common hobbies and most importantly have a laugh.

In the morning it was time to tidy up and head home. We marched all the way home through a beautiful hot morning and as we walked through the old Caledonian pines I was at my happiest.

It was a great weekend with good friends, friendly strangers and beautiful surroundings. I’m so glad we went.
Glen DerryGlen DerryThe old Caledonian pines of Glen Derry

Glen DerryGlen DerryThe old caledonian pines of Glen Derry

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) Bheinn cairngorm Etchachan loch Mheadhoin mountains scotland scottish https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2019/4/cairngorm-adventure Sun, 28 Apr 2019 19:06:44 GMT
Overnight camp on Ben Shee https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2019/4/overnight-camp-on-ben-shee I have looked upon Ben Shee in the Ochil Hills many a time from other hills, but I've never made it there. I've always wondered what the view down Glen Eagles would be like - it might be good!

So Saturday afternoon I set off from Dollar, past Castle Campbell and up the Glen of Sorrow, which despite the name is a joy to visit with its rough paths and solitude. The one problem I had was the 15kg pack on my back so the glen of Sorrow was a good route to avoid the 2,000ft (600m) high hills that otherwise stand in the way to my destination.

In the Glen of SorrowThe Glen of Sorrow in winterOchil Hills, Scotland

Eventually, I reached the top of the glen and after faffing about to get past deer fencing, I eventually spied my destination, Ben Shee, a little known 1700 ft hill in the boring (but deserted) middle of the Ochil Hills.

Approaching Ben SheeApproaching Ben SheeA lump in the middle of the Ochil Hills that stands at the end of Glen Eagles I eventually reached the top of Ben Shee with an hour of daylight to spare and the easterly wind was fierce at the top and it was cold too. I decided that tarping on the summit, although the most logical thing with its short grass, was a bad idea, so I headed to the sheltered side of the hill to see if I could find a place to pitch my tarp. I did find a small shelf of flat ground underneath a crag and decided to set up camp there.

A good spotA good spotI decided to set up my tarp against this crag as it had a flat spot for me to lie.   My camp siteMy camp siteAll set up to capture pictures of the sunset. I missed the golden hour building my camp!

Wild Camping on Ben SheeWild Camping on Ben SheeMy tarp set up in the Ochil Hills hoping for a good sunset to photograph

I started off trying to wedge pegs into the rock cracks but realised that I would be loosening the rock and I could end up with a bit landing on my head overnight. So I put in pegs around the crag and used paracord to fix it over the rock - I was quite pleased with how it turned out. I'd used half the tarp and draped the unused half down over the rock face and pegged it under my groundsheet. There was only just enough room for me, but it was great for taking pictures from. The sunset was OK, but I think I missed the best of it from my faffing about getting comfortable. I also had a problem with the soft spongy ground and my tripod staying still so I could stack shots - there was too much movement, even with image alignment to get a good result. At least I tried.

Sunset from Ben SheeSunset from Ben SheeLooking west to Ben Vorlich and Stuc a' Chroin from the Ochil Hills I'd woken up around 1 am and the half moon was bright - you could have walked in it. I sat for a while watching the occasional car going down the Glen and the bright lights of Crieff twinkled in the distance in the cold night air.

Looking down Glen Eagles at nightLooking down Glen Eagles at nightThe street lights of Crieff can be seen in the distance, taken with a phone. In the morning I'd set my alarm for 5 am, but was on the wrong side for the sunrise and it wasn't really happening anyway due to clouds on the horizon. There was frost on the tarp and I was glad I'd bought extra gear as I had managed to stay warm wearing it all.

Early morning from my bedEarly morning from my bed   Frost on my tarpFrost on my tarp

I packed up my camp, leaving no trace and had left by 8 am. I decided to return over the 2,000ft peaks of Tarmangie and Whitewhisp hills this time because it was quicker. The weight on my back slowed me down and reminded me of my lack of fitness - I need to do this more! The steep descent from Whitewisp and Saddle hill also reminded me how old my knees were as the additional weight reminded me of my kneecaps, which I usually don't think about much.

I was glad to reach my car in Dollar and enjoyed the floaty feeling once I removed the rucksack, it was a relief to finally sit down.

 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) ben eagles glen hills ochil scotland shee sunset https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2019/4/overnight-camp-on-ben-shee Sun, 14 Apr 2019 22:21:25 GMT
Middlethird Wood https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2019/3/middlethird-wood There's nothing worse than going somewhere to find that it no longer exists, well that was nearly the case when I revisited Middlethird Wood.

I'd told Andy that Middlethird wood was great and I'd described the unusual trees and atmosphere to him. We made the effort of walking there heavily laden to camp for the night. You can imagine my horror when we discovered that the bulk of the forest had been removed... It is a plantation after all and its tall trees were ripe for harvest.

The saving grace for our planned forest camp is that a corner of the wood still exists and that is where we camped - I made this video of the experience.

When I got home and reflected on the map of this area, I realised that the bit that survived with its picturesque mossy scenes is the bit that's marked on the map as Middlethird Wood. The surrounding forest that has been harvested is not named on the map. My hope then is that Middlethird Wood will remain since it's mapped, as not all of it looks productive to the timber industry. For the wildlife that lives there, the wild campers and woodland scene photographer (me), this place is however highly productive and I do hope that it stays intact. 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) Middlethird wood https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2019/3/middlethird-wood Fri, 29 Mar 2019 18:56:31 GMT
Cairngorms Wild Camp https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2019/3/cairngorms-wild-camp As I’d previously posted, I had solo camped beside Loch an Eileen a couple of weeks before and had decided to return with Andy to explore further.

We parked at the lochan Eileen car park (they charge here for parking) and after walking to the south of the Loch I took Andy to the lochside spot I had the spent the night a couple of weeks earlier.

We decided since it was early, to head southward to Loch Gamhna as it is further away from the popular path around Loch an Eilein, so we headed south to circle round Loch Gamnha anti-clockwise.

Loch GamnhaLoch GamnhaStanding by the banks of Loch Gamhna in the sunny morning.

There were a few camping spots right beside the path, but we had time and would prefer to find a more secluded spot. The terrain here is difficult and needs a bit of effort to find a place big enough to pitch a tent or tarp.

Difficult camping terrainDifficult camping terrainLoch Gamnha   Finding a spot in rough terrainFinding a spot in rough terrainWe eventually found a spot that was flat enough to pitch a tarp
Eventually, we headed off the path towards a rise to the east of the loch and stumbled across a suitable place that could accommodate our tarp. We took off our rucksacks here and wandered around to see if there was anything more suitable. There was not so it was time to pitch a single tarp which left enough room to fit two bivvy bags comfortably.

Bed for the nightBed for the nightThis was the only spot that we found that wasn't right beside the path, it was over a rise above the path, that very few people use.   The tarp setupThe tarp setupAndy rigged the tarp using walking poles, as there were no trees close by to tie the tarp to. This served us well during the night as it rained, it wasn't windy....luckily.

I disappeared to the feeder stream of the loch to get some water and there I marvelled at the old native trees and the wild terrain. Places like this make me happy, especially when there are no midges or ticks to spoil the party. I spent a bit of time collecting the water as I could smell something dead initially so I wondered upstream until the smell subsided before collecting water. I’d disturbed a herd of red deer earlier when searching for a camp spot so I assumed from the strength of the smell a winter casualty was lying in the scrub nearby and luckily not in the water. I've uploaded a video I took whilst collecting the water. I hope it helps to illustrate the tranquillity of this beautiful place.

Collecting WaterCollecting WaterFinding a spot to collect dome water for our meal.   Collecting waterCollecting water in the wild tranquility of Cairngorms national park

With the water collected it was time to enjoy a few cheeky drinks and Andy's bolognese cooked on his spirit burners.

Cooking with a meths burnerBurning off the last of the meths after dinner was cooked. It was dark and the stars were coming out.

It got really cold as the stars came out and we saw frost forming on the tarp. I’d stupidly left my Buffalo shirt and jacket in the car and had decided on layers, but was a bit light on them so Andy helped me out with a spare layer of his - that did the trick. After a few more drinks I (unfortunately) tried to take some pictures of the stars, but silly me had forgotten (due to the lager) that I needed to use the remote for longer exposures so this out of focus offering lit by Andy’s headtorch was the best I got. Next time I will try to remember to use manual focus and also use the remote shutter button.

Lager-Fueled Night PhotographyLager-Fueled Night PhotographyNever a good idea to operate any kind of machinery after drinking lager..... even a camera!

It rained a bit overnight and in the morning, the mist and cloud cleared quickly and the sun eventually rose above the hills as we ate our fry up. We packed up and left just a dry patch and some squashed grass.

The dry patch gives away where we sleptThe dry patch gives away where we slept

As we walked along the forest tracks back to the car, it was a glorious warm morning, there were only a few small patches of snow apparent on the Cairngorms and it seemed like winter was over. It was time to head to a remote glen of ancient pines, which luckily had a bothy in it, which was our backstop if the negative weather forecast was to turn out, which seemed unlikely this fine morning.

We headed to the next car park for our 7k walk to our destination. This was somewhere I’d been back in 1991 and it was my first bothy visit. My memories are vague, but I remember an old coarse bare stone bothy and a cold night sleeping on a floor by the door. It had recently been renovated and I’d read good things about it.

The walk to the bothy was interesting. I remember back nearly 30 years ago having to navigate paths from Braemar that had been washed away by the fast flowing river and nothing had changed as the river was still very busy washing away the paths, ancient trees and even the old bridge that I’d crossed at my last visit.

This picture and (unedited) video below illustrates the problem and I’d hate to be on the wrong side of this recently formed gorge when the river was in spate.
Washed awayWashed awayThe river(s) here washes away hills, roads, bridges and 300 year old trees and it has been doing that since the ice age, probably.

The River FeshieThe gorge was formed by a feeder stream in winter spate The sky was greying and the wind was picking up it was a dramatic change in such a short time since we’d left Loch an Eilein. We met a few hill walkers on the way who were coming off the Cairngorms early, one couple of lads told us they’d abandoned their route after the first peak and retreated to safety as they could hardly stand, they had spoken to other walkers who told them that gusts of 85 mph were being reported at the Cairngorm weather station.

As we reached the bothy it had started to rain hard and the wind was gusting. We’d abandoned all hope of a tarp amongst the ancient trees and were glad to walk into the most luxurious bothy we’ve ever visited. It had changed so much since my last visit and it was hard to believe that anyone could just turn up and stay here for free - even the firewood for the stoves was provided!

The bothyThe bothyOur most excellent home for a night. The view from the bothyThe view from the bothy

The room that we sleptThe room that we slept The excellent bothy stoveThe excellent bothy stoveEven firewood is provided!

Upstiars in the bothyUpstairs in the bothy   The bothy toiletThe bothy toiletThis bothy actually has a toilet! You flush it with the bucket and there is a pool just outside where you can fetch the water from!  

We had the place to ourselves the whole time. It was a warm cosy night in this luxurious and remote place that even had an outside toilet. The weather worsened outside and the rain was rattling on the windows, we could hear the gusts of wind draw on the chimney and see it affecting the flames in the stove. We were toasty, the stove was glowing as was Andy’s spirit stoves cooking up a tasty dinner that I savoured as I washed it down with some cold beer.

Inside the bothyThe wind outside can be heard drawing on the stove. This was the room in which we spent a very comfortable night.

I retired quite early and was awoken a few times by the wild cairngorm weather outside. At about 2:30 am I ventured outside to the toilet and returned feeling like I’d been jet-washed by the high wind and horizontal rain. I removed my wet fleece and climbed back into my bag knowing it would be dry in the morning due to the heat and glow coming from the stove.

After a hearty fry up in the morning, we headed back and met a couple of groups of folk on the way who were planning to stay at the bothy. We were lucky to have had it to ourselves.

We walked with rain showers on our back but it was brightening. I caught glimpses of the Cairngorms tops in between showers and they had a fresh covering of snow, winter was not over yet.

The CairngormsThe CairngormsA covering of snow can be seen through the clouds A little before we reached the car, the sun came out and a rainbow formed in the receding shower. It marked a colourful end to a great trip.

Cairngorm RainbowCairngorm Rainbow

 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) bothy Cairngorms camping Gamhna Loch national nature park wild https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2019/3/cairngorms-wild-camp Tue, 12 Mar 2019 22:04:11 GMT
New videos https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2019/3/new-videos I've been busy making new videos. I'm on a big learning curve with video, what with the planning, taking a decent bit of video that's in focus, is straight, is not shaky and pans at a useful speed. I then have to edit it and stick it together so it's watchable. This is not something that is easy and I'll stick with using my phone until I feel that it's the problem and not me.

The fun for me is in the making though and below is a nine-minute video of a wild camp in our local forest of me and my mate Andy around a campfire on a frosty night. He had bought his heavy cast iron dutch oven and over the space of a couple of hours managed to cook up a delicious stew which even had dumplings! I enjoyed that!

Wild camp with Dutch oven on open campfireYou can't beat cooking a nice stew on an open fire on a cold frosty night.

I have also made a video of my recent to trip to Loch an Eilein. I share the embedded Youtube version here as the music that I've used is only licensed for use on that platform.

I'm away camping again for two nights this weekend in the Cairngorms area with Andy. I'm looking forward to returning here! Hopefully, it will be the subject of a future, less rushed blog post...

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) an camp campfire devilla dutch eilien forest loch oven video wild https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2019/3/new-videos Fri, 01 Mar 2019 09:45:07 GMT
Loch an Eilein https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2019/2/loch-an-eilein I'd been working in the far north of Scotland and on the way home for the weekend I fancied a wild camp to see if I could bag any photos. It was pointless whizzing past all the great scenery!

I had fancied returning to Glen Feshie after a 20-year absence but eventually settled on Loch an Eilein near Aviemore as my time of arrival may only give me a couple of hours to find a suitable spot before dark.

I indeed arrived with only a couple of hours to spare before nightfall, so after parking up, I walked down the west side to the south of the loch to find a good spot to pitch my tarp. I took a picture of the ancient castle that is on an island in the loch on the way.

The Castle on Loch an EileinThe Castle on Loch an EileinThe Castle on Loch an Eilein
I had originally planned just to bivvy, but the latest forecast I’d checked whilst lunching on my way down had predicted rain at midnight, so I elected for the belts and braces of a tarp and bivvy bag. On the south shore of the loch, I left the main track and followed a small track through the knee-deep heather. In this terrain relying on a tent can be a nervy experience in fading light as opportunities to pitch can be limited - A bivvy bag, however, is a more flexible companion.

I did find a camping spot that a tent could be pitched, there was a stream here for water too, but as I arrived so did a family who had also been following the path and that put me off camping here... It was also further from the loch that I hoped too. After faffing about further afield and finding nothing, I returned to near this spot and decided to set camp on a tiny clearing on a hillock overlooking the loch, about 50 metres from the path.

After picking up and moving a lot of fallen twigs and sticks, I managed to shoehorn my tarp in between trees to provide a shelter from the strong wind and the predicted rain, but only had room to squeeze in 1.5 metres of the 3 metre tarp at an angle between the trees, so I rolled up the other half of the tarp and tucked it underneath. I then pegged out my ground sheet and filled my bivvy bag with my airbed and sleeping bag. It was very mild for February at 10°C so I was wearing overly warm clothing, having been forced to pack a week earlier during much colder weather due to my work trip away.

wild camping bivvy tarpMy home for the nightSetting up camp beside the loch By nightfall, I was settled down. I’d had a good lunch on the way down so didn’t bother cooking anything. I’d bought four-pint cans of strong lager as a nightcap to get me in the mood for an early slumber through a long night. I finally bedded down about 8 pm and as I tried to nod off I could see the moon through the branches above, the branches were swaying in the strong wind and the motion and gentle moonlit flickering soon sent me off to sleep.

Beneath the moonlightAs I sat under my tarp I watched the moon framed through the tree branches swaying in the breeze.

About 11 pm the patter of rain started tapping on the tarp and I was glad that I’d put it up so that I didn’t need to rearrange my bivvy which was wide open due to my overly warm setup. The lager was now wanting back out which is always the problem with this nightcap. I find that lightweight whisky is the solution for a long winters night sleep inducement as that seems to dehydrate me and never needs out during the long cold winters night, but I do enjoy a lager on my wee vacations, despite the slumber interrupting penalty…

By 1 am, the rain woke me again as it was now hammering down, I could hear and feel some drips hitting my bivvy bag, but it was doing its thing and keeping me dry so that I could try and continue sleeping. I was still awake at 2 am, however. The rain had stopped by this time, but the water droplets still hit the tarp whenever a passing gust of wind blew the trees and shook down the moisture from above.

The wind was also subsiding and as I lay with my eyes open I could see the shadows of the branches above dancing in the faint light of the moon that had again come out, but couldn’t be seen behind my tarp. The dancing shadows of the moon are so subtle, but when you have nothing else to look at it is mesmerising. I could also see stars now that the cloud had cleared. Not that many stars could be seen due to the brightness of the moon, but enough to fix my eyes on. As I lay awake watching them, the stars would suddenly be obscured by a swaying of a branch as the earth turned and the tree branches would then get in the way of these points of light shining from history through the void.

I fell back asleep and was awaken by my phone alarm clock that I’d set for 06:30. This was very early as the sunrise was not due for well over an hour, but I wanted to see the morning in its entirety despite the forecast predicting a cloud covering for the whole night. The subtle light show from the moon and stars overnight had proven that wrong, so maybe I had some hope?

As I awoke there was a faint light on the eastern horizon lighting up the cloud. A part of me said, “forget it, put your stove on and have a coffee, you have plenty of time”. Another part of my growing experience realised that when taking pictures of landscapes, never take any opportunity for granted, never mind how low lit! I set up my camera and had to set it to a higher ISO and to the widest aperture so that I could take a 30-second exposure on my tripod. I took several, adjusting things to try and optimise the shot, this one was a 25-second exposure - the light was really low.

The crack of DawnThe crack of DawnFirst light on Loch an Eilein. After this picture was taken the cloud drifted east and smothered the sunrise.

The above picture was taken with me kneeling in my shelter, I was still warm inside my bivvy bag so the spot was excellent as the picture was literally taken from my bed! The exposures had slowly become shorter, but then I noticed that the shots were taking longer again. The cloud was moving east and it was smothering the light from the forthcoming sunrise. I’m glad that I’d grabbed that small window of a photo opportunity, which I’ve missed many times previously due to inexperience. Nature offers surprises all the time, it is never what you expect, I try to be alert and open-minded, but even then I usually miss the opportunities presented. I was pleased though that I’d followed through this time and now was the time to have a celebratory coffee in the slowly increasing silvery grey light. My stove burner was fired up with full-on gas blasting out and I boiled my water quickly in my new pot (that finally had a lid).

I sat for a while with my hot coffee and enjoyed the gentle ripples on the loch.

Ripples on Loch an EileinSitting early morning with a coffee enjoying watching the ripples on the loch after the clouds moved in and halted the sunrise light show. By 8 am I’d packed up leaving a dry patch where my shelter had been and a few squashed unseasonable green shoots that made me feel guilty, I hope that they recover and I realised that wild camping here would quickly be a big problem to the beauty of this place if a lot of people did it. In future, I will seek out and stick to the well-used or barren spots to preserve the surroundings.

Where I shelteredI try to leave no trace of my camp, but the dry patch and a few squashed shoots is evidence of where I stayed - I'm increasingly aware of my impact and trying my best to reduce it by sticking to paths etc. I wandered around from the south to the east banks of the loch to complete the circuit, taking pictures as I went. By 10 am I was in my car ready to complete the 3-hour drive home. I had passed a sign pointing to the Larig Ghru on my way around the loch and I knew then that I would be trying my best to visit here again to explore the forests with its 300-year-old trees and the beautiful Cairngorm mountains higher up...

loch an eilienLoch an EileinFrom the northwest shore looking to the south shore where I had stayed the night.

 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) an bivvy cainrgorms camp Eilein Loch picture scotland sunrise tarp wild https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2019/2/loch-an-eilein Sun, 17 Feb 2019 13:21:34 GMT
Windy day on Wood Hill https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2019/1/windy-day-on-wood-hill I've produced a second video of a walk I took up Wood Hill in the Ochil Hills. This is one of my favourite walks and I decided to share the experience.

I've still got a lot to learn, but the learnings in the making and this video, in particular, has taught me quite a lot. Some of the shots are out of focus too so I need to pay more attention but in my defence, I wasn't intending to make a video when I walked, I was just taking snippets and realised when I got home that I had enough clips to try it.

So here it is: Windy day on Wood Hill. The music track is called "Adventure" and it is available from https://www.bensound.com as Royalty Free Music.

Windy day on Wood HillRecords a walk in the Ochil Hills to catch a picture of a sunset

I didn't manage to get the best picture of these wind tortured trees as I was a bit late for the best of golden hour and I was forced by the wind to seek the most sheltered location. I do like how I've been able to share the story of how that picture was captured as people maybe don't realise that sunrises and sunsets can usually involve walking some distance in the dark! In my case I walked back through the woods with my headtorch on and was serenaded by Owls as I went - If you listen carefully at the end of the video you can hear them...Just after you hear my walking pole falling over :)

 

 

 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) Hill Hills Ochil Photography Scotland sunset video winter Wood https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2019/1/windy-day-on-wood-hill Thu, 31 Jan 2019 21:45:38 GMT
A visit to Cadderlie Bothy https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2019/1/cadderlie-bothy Having visited the same bothies over and over, it was time to visit a new one. My 18-year-old son, Craig, decided he would come along with Andy and me - this was hopefully going to be fun!

After some research I eventually decided that Cadderlie Bothy would be worth a visit, Andy agreed and Craig was none the wiser. It was on the banks of beautiful Loch Etive and it was an easy walk from where you could park the car. A 1.5-hour walk without big hills would be a good way to introduce the boy to my pastime as he isn't a walker, even a pavement is a chore when he can't afford a taxi. When he was younger I used to take him walking and he hated every minute of it. I soon learned not to take him as he would moan constantly. This time, now that he was 18, the prospect of having a wee drink in front of the fire in some mystical place that I always talked about had piqued his interest so I was determined to find a fairly easy bothy that would give him the experience of having escaped civilisation for a night. Cadderlie, I hoped would have this.

We parked at the quarry gates at Bonawe and there was a car parked there already - I reckoned that we would not be alone. We set off in poor visibility as it was very damp and very mild for January and the abundance of moisture in the air meant that visibility was poor so we could not see the view around us as we walked past the quarry. We continued onwards into old native woodland and my son soldiered on with his heavy backpack, despite only having come home at 06:30 from a heavy night out. His first disappointment had been losing his mobile signal after the quarry so he couldn't keep his girlfriend up to date on his progress. He then kept asking how far we had to go and eventually he got the answer when we spied the bothy through the trees on the other side of a very swollen and very fast running river. Luckily there was a bridge.

Cadderlie BothyCadderlie BothyCadderlie on a wet and windy but mild January morning.

I ventured first into the bothy and walked into the right-hand room where two young men sat. They were happy for us to join them and I was glad that there were folk of a similar age to Craig. The left-hand room had a party of five who were friendly enough but settled in so we made ourselves at home in the right-hand room, which was the main room with a big fire. Cadderlie has a third small room fitted out with a sleeping platform and we laid out our stuff as the other occupants weren’t going to use it.

It was a good night, Andy was on dinner duty producing a satisfying pasta and after that, we had some drinks. Two cyclists appeared at 10 pm and added to the conversation and the bothy now had eleven people in it. This was Craig's first experience of an impromptu bothy social event and he was having a good laugh around the fire. The room was warm from the glowing fire and so was our bellies with the booze that we had bought - Another great bothy night.

Craig by the fire at Cadderlie BothyCraig by the fire at Cadderlie BothyCraig sitting at the fire enjoying a drink with the other bothy occupants (I've blurred their faces intentionally).

I went to my bed about 01:30 and Craig was having such a great time that he stayed up past 02:30 with his newfound acquaintances.

In the morning it was time to cook breakfast and say goodbye to our companions. I took a walkabout around the bothy for some pictures of the surrounding ruins and landscape. It was mild and windy with intermittent showers, but it was beautiful here whatever the weather.

CadderlieCadderlieTaken from outside Cadderlie Bothy on the banks of Loch Etive   Loch Etive from Cadderlie BothyLoch Etive from Cadderlie BothyTaken from outside Cadderlie Bothy on the banks of Loch Etive

Once we had tidied up, it was time to head home. Craig commented a few times as we walked out about nice the scenery was, I’ve never heard this from him before as he was always just bored on our historic outings. At some of the small hills, he shot off up them which showed his age compared to us couple of oldies trailing behind him at our steady pace.

We reached the car and drove home. Once back, Craig couldn’t wait to tell whoever would listen about his bothy visit. He told me he wanted to go again and he also wanted to try camping and tarping. He’s only starting out, but getting out there and learning new skills, meeting interesting folk in bothies and just generally venturing out into nature is a great way to learn self-reliance and confidence.

Craig later told me that he had ventured outside around 2 am on his own with his headtorch, he hadn't ventured far as he didn’t want to get lost, but he loved just being out there, in the dark and in the wild. “It was like being in an Xbox adventure”, he told me, but I know it was better than that as it was the real thing. The real thing with all the lessons that come with reality, like getting lost in the rain and in the dark - He had thankfully passed the first level.

 

 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) bonawe Bothy Cadderlie etive Loch https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2019/1/cadderlie-bothy Mon, 21 Jan 2019 23:06:11 GMT
Winter Sun https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2019/1/winter-sun In Scotland the sun is very low around the winter solstice, where the sun rises at 08:40 and sets at 15:40. It only gets to 11° above the horizon too which can be hazardous for drivers on a cold day with icy windscreens.

Two days after the solstice, I decided to take my dog (Digger) for a walk in Torwood, where about half of the forest has been cut down. I wasn't happy about this happening, but at least they are replanting the area and the unexpected bonus was the low sun lighting up the remaining forest. At times the sun would hit digger and the reflection off his white coat made him look like he was radioactive!

Digger in a SunbeamDigger in a SunbeamDigger lit up by the low winter sun.

We walked up to Tappoch broch with the sun in our eyes the whole time. On the way we met an energetic Labrador that jumped off a 3 metre bank to greet us. It was young, only a few months (the owner told us). Luckily it didn't hurt itself and maybe it learned not to jump from great heights in the future!

Torwood SunTorwood SunTorwood Sun    In the TreesIn the TreesTorwood

After passing Tapoch Broch, I walked about in the surviving woods taking pictures as I went. I had contemplated bringing my camera, but that meant lugging my tripod and I hadn't thought there was much to photograph. It's a shame, but my phone is a handy substitute and it takes care of everything in difficult light as it goes into HDR mode automatically - Just a pity about the greasy lens.

Beyond, the SunBeyond, the SunTorwood   Hide n SeekHide n SeekTorwood, Scotland

I had a circular walk past the blue pool of Torwood. On my way back I realised that there is still some unexplored wood, that I had never really bothered about previously, Now the trees are cleared it is easier to get to and I will be back with my tripod and camera as there is also a river in that direction which may be worth a visit. Even in a place you know well, there is still so much to see and besides it all seems different every visit, if like me, you're always looking.

The long PathThe long PathTorwood, Scotland

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2019/1/winter-sun Sun, 06 Jan 2019 00:01:00 GMT
Hogmanay https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/12/Hogmanay  The late Harry Keen, who was a dear family friend, recalls his memory of New Year as a child in early 20th Century Edinburgh. 

Auld ReekieAuld ReekieThis ariel picture of Edinburgh was scanned from a family book called Wonderful Britain by JA Hammerton, printed in 1920. Hogmanay,

In the Scots it means, the last day of the year or, a gift given to children on New Year's Eve

Hogmanay,

the very word conjures up a mixed bag of images, from when I was a child growing up in Edinburgh, right up to the present day. I suppose that as we get older, the celebrations of yesteryear grow in grandeur and gaiety, as our memories get dimmer. Strangely enough, my memories of Hogmanay celebrations of the past are very vivid in my mind and I can remember who and what relatives appeared first at the door after the bells. Which Auntie used to get drunk the quickest and who would eat the most Black Bun and who would be the first to get up and sing.

When I was a child, I remember what great excitement there was in the house prior to Hogmanay, My Mother was (it seemed to us kids) always baking and cleaning one thing and another. She would start days before, making and cutting the sausage rolls and shortbread and lots of other goodies, one of which was the Ne'er day Cloutie Dumpling, with the silver threepenny bits in, wrapped in waxed paper, which we couldn't touch on pain of death, they were for the Hogmanay.

Then on the Hogmanay, she would take all the bedclothes and our clothes, in an old pram, up to the washhoose in Simon Square, just above the Deaconess Hospital in St Leonards, Edinburgh. She would then give them a thorough cleaning. I remember these old wash houses with their big wash tubs and the drying racks which used to come trundling out of the wall. The steam and the noise, and of course, the chatter among the women.

On that day, the house was cleaned from top to bottom, the fire was cleaned out, the grate was polished with black lead and then the fire was relaid, ready to be lit after tea time. From the start of the year, after the 1st of January, my mother would put money away in a drink club at a Grocer's shop. All year until the Hogmanay when my Father would go and collect the booze for the festivities.

This was a trip to the other side of town and sometimes we were allowed to go with my father and help him lug the booze back on the bus. We were thrilled to travel on the bus as most times we had to walk everywhere. Father and my brother George and I would collect it in the thick paper bags and struggle to the bus stop with it, being warned constantly "dinnae drop that bag mind". Once on the bus we would go upstairs to the front while my father sat in the back and smoked.

From the front of the bus, we could see other fathers carrying their paper bags with the festive bottle or two peeking out of the top and kids like us helping..

Once the house was clean and ready for visitors, we, the children would be washed, scrubbed and put into clean clothes, dared to get ourselves dirty and told to play in the bedroom while my mother made all the sandwiches, cooked off the sausage rolls, sliced the Black Bun and broke the shortbread. She then got all the glasses ready, set out most of the bottles of Whisky and Beer and then she got herself ready to greet the New Year.

It was the custom in our house, when the clock was about five minutes to midnight for my father to go outside. He carried with him, a piece of Shortbread to make sure we would have food in the house, a bottle of Whisky to make sure we would have something to drink and a lump of coal to ensure we would have warmth in the house all the year.

He would wait for the bells to chime midnight to be the houses first foot. On the last stroke of the Bells, he would ring the doorbell, my mother would answer the door and he would wish all in the house, a Happy New Year. He would pour a Whisky for my mother and any other adult in the house at the time. We would get a glass of Vimto or Iron bru and we would all wish each other a Happy New Year.

It was after Hogmanay that we kids received our presents. We would only have a stocking on Christmas morning. My parents celebrated the New Year rather than Christmas, as a lot of Scottish families did and it was a bit strange to us to see other kids with presents on Christmas morning instead of New Year's Day.

During the early hours many people would come to the house, bringing with them their bottles, usually a half bottle of Whisky and the party would start sometimes lasting for days.
When we kids became teenagers we would go up to the Tron Church down from the Castle and gather there. Here we would often try to hit the clock by throwing an empty bottle at it. We never did of course but it was good fun to try.

We would wait for Midnight when we would kiss all the girls, who would let us, wish each other a Happy New Year and drink from each others bottles. Then we would First Foot everyone we could think of.
No one ever had their doors closed, anyone could walk in and join the party as long as they had a bottle in their hand.

On New Year's Day itself, relatives would join us in a Ne'er Day Dinner which was always my Mothers 'Red Broth'. This was a mixture of Scotch Broth and Tomato Soup, followed by the Roast Pork, Roast Tatties and the Cloutie Dumpling. Oh, what excitement if we found a silver threepenny bit, it was ours to keep and spend.

The Table was read and once again, the drinking and singing would go on to the sma' hours.

I remember when I was in the army, the Scots would volunteer to stay in camp to do the various guard and cookhouse duties over Christmas and let the English go home so that we could be home for the Hogmanay. It was our festive season - Christmas didn't mean very much in the way of celebration except as a remembrance of Christ's birth. We didn't attach to it the same festive spirit as other nationalities did.

Those days have gone now. There is not the same, I would say, reverence, if thats the right word, paid to the New Year's Eve, Hogmanay celebration. There is more of a disco-type atmosphere, more and more people are celebrating in Discos and clubs, especially the young ones. But then, there were fewer clubs as we know them today, and definitely no discos. Dance halls like the Palais in Fountainbridge or Fairlies down the Leith walk were the meeting places for the youngsters. The old style of celebrating at home and in each others homes has gone, except perhaps with the older ones like myself.

I still clean the house on Hogmanay morning, and my American wife marvels at this but never tries to dissuade me. I still have the Shortbread and Black Bun and make the sandwiches, though more often the stuff is bought from the supermarket, except for the shortbread which is still baked by myself

In fact on Nee'r day itself the tradition in our house is that all the family come over to my house and we have Curry, lots of it, in fact about 11 or 12 different ones with the Sambals and various rice dishes. This has been our tradition for many years, ever since I left the Army and settled in Blairgowrie. The husbands and wives of my children have come to love it as much as we do.

There is no longer a fire grate to be cleaned, central heating and gas fires having taken over, but still in the older folks homes, there is that reverence for the Hogmanay that cannot be extinguished. We can sit by the fire and think of Hogmanays past listening to the last stroke of Big Ben echoing out of the radio, instead of the Television. I can still hear my Father's knock as he chaps to come in to first foot us My Mother's soft voice as she says, "There's yer Faither at the door". The singing as the revellers come up the stairs. The shouts in the street of "Happy New Year" and the chorus of "Auld Lang Syne" being sung in every household in the land, from Croft to Big House.

At that special time of year all we had were friends, no enemies. We loved one another, as long as we were all Scots and still sober, although others like the English were welcome at that time of year.

We were a' Jock Tamson's Bairns, whatever else we were at other times of the Year.

Hogmanay

It's seeven oclock, get up an' aboot 
There's lots tae dae, too much a' doot 
Get the weans washed an' oot tae play 
It's the thirty first, it's Hogmanay

Get ben the hoose and strip the bed 
An' see an' get the table read 
Get thon hurley oot o' sight 
Fir later oan, it's Hogmanay night

Thirs soup tae mak', an' Bun tae bake 
Yer Grannies bringin' a Stottie Cake 
Thirs Shortbreid done an' packed away 
Fir it's end o' year, it's Hogmanay

Rake the fire, tak the ashes oot 
An' dinnae scatter them a' aboot 
Keep them off o' the landin' flair 
Fir it's yer Mithers turn tae dae the stair

Ging doon tae Dilworths' 'am gonnae need 
Twa plain loaves an' a pan o' breid 
A' dinnae want nane fae yesterday 
It's gotta be fresh, it's Hogmanay

Get the sausage meat oot o' the press 
An' mak sure yez dinnae mak a mess 
There's the booze tae get, "is yer Faither away"? 
Cos the nichts the nicht it's Hogmanay

Ah've goat nae time tae dae yer tea 
Ging tae the chippy jist doon the street 
Pies an' chips 'ull juist hae tae dae 
Fir it's nearly end o' the Hogmanay

The tables set, the fires a' lit 
Yer Faither ye ken is aye first fit 
Sorry son, whits that ye say? 
Oh help ma boab, it's near end o' day

The hoose is clean, sandwiches made 
You bairns 'ull juist hae lemonade 
Get doon the street fir yer Auntie May 
She'l want tae be here fir the Hogmanay

Noo, a' things ready fir fowk tae come in 
Fir neebours an' wir kith an' kin 
They cam fae a' the airts this day 
Fir abuidy's hame fir the Hogmanay

Yer Faithers here, the bells have rung 
An' auld lang syne has juist been sung 
A Guid New Year tae a' I say 
It's January first, an' New Years Day

Sae lift yer gless, mak sure it's fu' 
An' heres a toast fae me tae you 
Tae young an' auld, fae far an' near
Hae a Happy, Healthy, Guid New Year"

"Hogmanay" by Harry Keen © 1999

Footnote: Harry volunteered to write this article and poem for my then website in 1999, which I published as a newsletter for the millennium.  Harry sadly passed away in 2015 aged 83, so I thought it right to again share his wonderful memories and I will post it every New Year!

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) 20th black bun celebrations century dumpling early edinburgh hogmanay magical memories new poem stootie year https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/12/Hogmanay Sun, 23 Dec 2018 00:01:00 GMT
The Dunes of Maspalomas https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/12/the-dunes-of-maspalomas I’ve never been to the Sahara Desert, but the dunes of Maspalomas, on the Island of Gran Canaria, seem like a mini-replica of the real thing and they are only ~150km off the coast from the Western Sahara. I took the time to pay them a visit so I could at least get a flavour.

As we descended over Gran Canaria, I grabbed this picture out of the window. The 3,718-metre volcano of Mount Teide, which forms the bulk of the neighbouring island, Tenerife, can be seen in the distance.

Above Gran CanariaAbove Gran CanariaAbove Gran Canaria with Mount Teide in the background

As our plane turned to start its approach on the east of the island, I was lucky enough to see my first Brocken Spectre - It was of the aircraft in which I was sitting!

Brocken SpectreBrocken SpectreTaken from an aircraft as it turned during its ascent to Gran Canaria Once on the island, I managed the visit the dunes twice. A part of the dunes is a beautiful nature reserve and worth a walk around (it’s fenced off). The one thing to note is this nature includes the human variety and the inhabitants of some parts of the dunes are what’s best described as “Sex People” - I walked through one busy part with my friends and the nudism and activities are open (it’s obviously accepted here) and there were quite a lot of naked folks standing about in bushes on display for like-minded adults. We thought they looked like Meerkats peeking up and looking about! If you stick to the obvious paths then it’s all (mostly) civilised, especially if you don’t look. Each to their own I think, but it’s useful to know this if you are planning to visit this area for just the obvious natural attractions.

Maspalomas  DunesMaspalomas Dunes I hadn't realised that naturist were in this picture until I got home (honest!). I can only sum it up with one word - sunburn. On my second visit, instead of skirting around the nature reserve, I walked up and over the dunes from Maspalomas to Playa De Ingles. This gave me the Sahara experience that I wanted. I was lucky as the sky was overcast and being December it was only around 25℃. In the summer heat, I think it would be quite uncomfortable and would require a hat and plenty of water to spend time here.

The Dunes of MaspalomasThe Dunes of Maspalomas

Walking on the Dunes of MaspalomasWalking on the Dunes of Maspalomas

Maspalomas DunesMaspalomas Dunes

After walking across the high dunes for about an hour, I headed to the sea and walked along the beach to Playa De Ingles. There I met my friends at a restaurant and we enjoyed a meal and a cold beer - a luxury that would not be replicated in a big desert.

I’ll never visit the vast Sahara desert with its 180-metre high dunes, but at least I’ve met its little brother with its 10-metre dunes instead.

 

 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) Canaria dunes Gran Maspalomas nature pictures sand https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/12/the-dunes-of-maspalomas Sun, 09 Dec 2018 23:39:06 GMT
The Old Oak at Torwood Castle https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/11/the-old-oak-at-torwood-castle Beside Torwood Castle, in a field, stands this old Oak. It is still alive, but its trunk is split at the base and it leans heavily. I call this picture "The Weight of Experience". 

The Weight of ExperienceThe Weight of ExperienceAn old Oak Tree at Torwood Castle in Scotland.

I've been trying to find online if this tree is notable as there are records kept of old trees around the country. Alas, I've not been able to find anything on it, so as far as I know, this photo is the only record of the tree that exists. I always wonder how long this tree has stood beside the castle and what history it shares.

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) castle falkirk oak old scotland torwood https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/11/the-old-oak-at-torwood-castle Sun, 18 Nov 2018 19:52:04 GMT
Compilation video of Scotland https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/11/scotvideo I've got a habit of taking videos when I'm taking pictures so that I can remember the moment.  The video is also a useful guide when processing the picture to prevent me from getting carried away with colour etc.

I was watching something on Youtube and I came across the song Serenity by Audile. When listening to the track, it inspired me to make a video of some of my images and video clips that I have taken. It's a bit rough, but here is my first attempt at a video.

Audile - SerenityA compilation of pictures and video clips taken around Scotland, accompanied by the music track Serenity by Audile.

I've got loads more images and clips and I fancy trying this again as I've learnt a lot in making this. The problem will be finding another suitable track that like this one, is a great track that is freely downloadable and is used by various Youtubers for different reasons.

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) compilation landscape Scenery scotland Scottish video https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/11/scotvideo Sun, 04 Nov 2018 20:32:00 GMT
The Weekend Hideaway https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/10/the-weekend-hideout “Do you fancy going for two nights?” asked Andy. “Of course” I answered. I would be away most of the weekend, it would be fun and that would also be my best chance to escape having to watch the X Factor.

HideawayOur tarp pitched amongst the trees, it made for a cosy spot away from the worst of the breeze and the rain There’s is nothing better than being out and about, even in bad weather. The weather forecast all last week was for high wind and heavy rain at the weekend. I had arranged with Andy to go Tarping and we see these negative forecasts as a challenge… It’s always good to test yourself in bad conditions, especially when you are close enough to civilisation to give up and go home. Testing yourself in this way might mean a night's lost sleep, but it hones the skills for if ever you are far from home and depend on past experience to keep yourself dry, comfortable and safe.

Come Friday it was a wee bit disappointing therefore that the forecast high winds were not going to reach us, only the rain, but it was pretty relentless rain, so that would make our tarping more eventful.
Hidden in the treesDevilla Forest   Out of sightAndy found this spot and it has served as well as we've never seen a soul.

We decided on camping at Andy's secret spot in Devilla forest and we reached that location after dark. We pitched the tarp by securing it to two trees in an A-shape and then it was time for curry and drinks. It was strange on the first night as we were surrounded by so many Owl’s hooting and screeching near and far, it was like the Owl’s annual general meeting. I liked it.

Hanging with the mushrooms'Cause it's better than the telly.   Around about

In the morning we packed up in the rain with the intention of relocating to a spot in the Ochils. After the drive, we got to the spot which was much higher up and exposed than our cosy Devilla forest spot. We decided that it wouldn’t be so much fun there so we jumped back in the car and returned to Devilla Forest to pitch the tarp back at our cosy spot.

In the plantation   Amongst the trees

We pitched in the rain and then set up with the cooking table in the middle. Before dinner, I went back to my car to restock some bevvy, a 40 minute round trip. I saw some geese on the way back and took this video of them and some pictures of the surroundings as the sunset. 

Devilla Sunset   Autumn Colours

That night only a lone Barn Owl could be heard, but it hooted throughout the night. On Sunday it was dry and it was time to pack up and head home mid-morning... On Sunday night my wife told me that she had recorded the X Factor, but hadn't watched it and that she wanted me to put the missed episode on for her! 

Damn.

 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) bivy devilla forest Scotland tarp https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/10/the-weekend-hideout Wed, 17 Oct 2018 22:56:33 GMT
Lunchtime https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/9/lunchtime Instead of sitting at my desk munching a sandwich, I've started to go for walks at lunchtime. The walks are in fact becoming more important than lunch! 

This particular day, I left the office and followed a path across some fields until I joined a small country road. This road took me over the busy M9 motorway and nature was flourishing on the verges and hedgerows as I followed the circular route.

   Verge walking through a fieldNear Stirling Scotland

A country road   The Ochil Hills

The abundance was breathtaking, Rowan tree berries, Rosehips and Brambles with many other berries I can't identify. The richness and variety was a pleasure to see. I stopped and ate the Blackberries from the Brambles, my lunch was free this day. I thought of the riches provided by nature.

Abundance I thought of indigenous peoples who can enjoy this natural bounty outside the rules of our complex society. I thought then of the Native Americans who were starved off their land by the slaughter of millions of buffalo so they had to rely on "the man" to feed them. I thought of the apology finally received from the Clinton administration for the genocide inflicted, including the statement “...the use of the poison alcohol to destroy mind and body…”. I thought of the alcohol that I was going to poison myself with that night, made with the grains grown in some of the fields that surrounded me.

As I continued my walk, I remembered watching a program where the presenter had joined a tribe of people in the jungle to experience their life. It was clear how unprepared this particular western man was for living in their reality. The tribe all laughed at his ineptitude and the chief of the tribe sat him down. “You are like a child”, the chief told him. “You have everything to learn if you want to stay with us. You better do what you're told so that we can show you how to survive”.

I'm a child too. I was only prepared in my education to be a good worker, work hard and fit in. That's what I do. I can't understand the important things like the legal or monetary systems, I know only what I think I know. The deep workings of the system can't concern me as I have to remain a part of it if I want to survive. I don't know how to survive outside of the society in which I live. Everything is owned so there's nowhere to be free anyway.

Solipsistically, I do alright so I mustn’t grumble.

I looked at some Cattle in the field as I walked past them and they looked back at me. They were doing their “thing” there. I thought of the juicy rump steak that was in my fridge which I was going to cook my wife that night.

I picked and ate more Blackberries and I then crossed back over the M9 with the cars all rushing past below me. brambleBlackberriesFrom the bramble bush.

I neared my office to complete my 6km walk with a bellyful of Blackberries. It occurred to me that our labour is also an abundance. I realised how rich this planet is with all its resources, including us, free and happy to do our “thing” for "the man". 

I enjoy my lunchtime walks, it's a pity I only have an hour.

Through pride we are ever deceiving ourselves. But deep down below the surface of the average conscience a still, small voice says to us, something is out of tune. (Carl Jung)
 

 

 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) a lunchtime walk https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/9/lunchtime Fri, 14 Sep 2018 23:15:00 GMT
An Old Friend https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/9/an-old-friend When I was in my early twenties my friend was dating a girl called June. He told me that this young lady and her brother were members of a raft racing team that needed new members and asked me if I fancied trying it. Suddenly, all my summer weekends were taken up with travelling about in a Transit van with a team of ten others racing rafts in the rivers and seas off the Scottish coast. We were all over the place, racing underneath the Forth Bridges, Aberdeen, Kelso (a memorable race there), Kenmore, Aberfeldy, Crieff, Dunkeld and many other places - it was all a blur. When we weren't racing we were training around the village of Ceres (where the team was based) and we were going away at weekends mountain biking, training on rivers and climbing hills, with an occasional group trip to a special place on the west coast near Mull.

We were the Cabin Cruisers raft racing team and it was excellent being a member of that team. The team captain was called Josh and he was a born leader, he had a group of young men as organised as a group of young men ever could be. He organised so many trips away, he enriched us greatly. I was fit back then as well - Some days I would cycle seven miles in the morning to work, cycle home seven miles, then after tea, I would cycle 10 miles to Ceres, run for two hours, then cycle home the 10 miles back to my bed. It never got easier, but I think that I got faster.

In those days raft racing was an organised sport and it wasn't those rubber dinghy craft we were racing, or those homemade concoctions with barrels, no, we were racing custom-built craft that the team built to league dimensions and they were serious. The river rafts were rectangular and hollow with fibreglass tape at the edges to keep the water out. We had seats for 10 men to sit on the top and we would all paddle in time with the two men at the back steering the rafts. At the river rapids we had to paddle like mad to go faster than the water so the rafts could be steered... often we were not successful and the rafts would hit rocks and get holed or we would capsize, which was always stressful in fast moving rapids. We had some close calls, but oh how we laughed afterwards. The picture below is of the Cabin Cruisers shooting the rapids, I've borrowed it from a Facebook post of Junes.

Scottish Raft /racingShooting the RapidsThe Cabin Cruisers Raft Racing Team

Some of the races were hard fought and you would be exhausted racing against the rival teams. Scot-lad were a team from Forfar and they were the ones I remember as being the hardest to beat. It was always great to beat them and I can remember racing neck and neck against them for ages, we were slowly getting in front and then we hit a rock - that was the end of our chance for that race. Some races like the particular Kelso race I remember were an emotional experience. The start was chaos as a lot of rafts took off together to get in front before the narrow rapids. We got in front and paddled like mad - we were in the lead! We then took a left turn at a fork in the river and had to go round an island. We had taken a wrong turn and we could see several other rafts ahead of us as we cleared the island. We paddled like mad and the River Tweed had plenty of traps for those in front to allow us to catch up, we were on fire that day. We were neck and neck with Scot-lad but I think we managed to pull away just before the finish line - I can't remember actually, as I was so emotional at the time due to the effort that we put into it. 

The Kenmore to Aberfeldy raft race was the big one - It was a carnival atmosphere and over a hundred rafts would cram down the River Tay bashing and smashing into each other and the scenery, it was dangerous as a result...but great fun. The first year I raced we got fifth. Some of the other races were long and once I even got sent to hospital by my mother to get all the blisters on my hand treated after playing my part in the 13 mile marathon, which finished at Logierait after the Grandtully rapids that always managed to hole our raft, turn us over and wash us all.

Sea races such as at the Forth Bridges were raced on sea rafts, which were streamlined with a bow and rear taper to cope with the waves. It was great in some sea races cutting through the waves as they crashed over us whilst we paddled like mad. You had to time the turns with the waves or they would capsize you. I remember one race at St.Andrews, as we turned near the pier, two waves came together under the raft and they threw us into the air and disrupted our race quite significantly as we scrambled back on the raft to try and catch up.

Raft racing was a league organised by the raft federation (I think it was called SURF, Scottish Union of Rafting Federation), We even won the league one year and here is a picture of the team after we'd received the prize (I'm on the far right with the tasteful shirt). This picture is also from June.

Cabin Cruisers Raft Racing TeamThe Cabin Cruisers Raft Racing TeamThe team with our trophies at the end of year presentation in Perth, a few of us ended up in Kirriemuir and partied all night afterwards. I had work the next morning in Leuchars and I never got there until 2pm, still wearing that shirt ;)

Through all these times, June would accompany the team with her brother. She raced in one of the ladies teams latterly, but she raced also with the Cabin Cruisers and she was one of the original members. Eventually, June and my friend split up, but we all remained around the team and enjoyed the races, the training and the numerous outings. I then got a job in Peterhead and moved away to confine myself to many years of sitting on the couch. I lost touch with everybody, stupidly, and hadn't really given a thought to the great times that I had. The league eventually broke up and serious (wooden) raft racing in Scotland is alas no more.

With the advent of Facebook, I did eventually make contact again with a few of my old friends and it was recently where June arranged with Karen (my wife) and me for a walk up the Ochil Hills. Karen pulled out at the last minute, due to a knee problem, so just June and I headed up Wood Hill, Ben Cleuch and Andrew Gannell Hill on a sunny Saturday for a circular walk. It had been twenty-three years (since my wedding) when we had last seen each other and it was great to catch up and reminisce about the old glory days when raft racing was our common hobby. It was also a lovely day as an introduction to June of walking in the Ochil Hills.

On Elistoun HillOn Elistoun HillDescending to Tilllicoutry after Andrew Gannel Hill if it hadn't been for June dating my friend, then I would have never have experienced raft racing and the camaraderie (and slaggings) of the team. My life would have been much poorer if it wasn't for them. As I got in my car to drive off from our walk together, June had thanked me for taking her up the hills, but then I realised after I'd driven off that thanks to her, the pleasure had all been mine.

When I raced rafts, there were things in my life that bothered me. I went out rafting anyway as the team expected it and now, those things that bothered me are forgotten - the rafting though has stood out as a beacon in my past, as we were doing extraordinary things, which we didn't give a second thought to at the time. I think of the things that bother me now and it has occurred to me that the typical niggles that I allow to annoy me aren't that important... Just getting out there and doing something I enjoy in my free time is, as that is what I'll remember when "getting out there" is no longer possible; that time is fast approaching. As one of my other friends often tells me, "you're a long time deid".

Raft racingThe end of a sea raft raceWe all get our breath back as Josh reflects on the result. June is on the left.
 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) Cabin Ceres Cruisers federation racing raft Scottish SURF team https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/9/an-old-friend Fri, 31 Aug 2018 23:33:08 GMT
Sandwood Bay https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/8/sandwood-bay Sandwood Bay is a remote beach in the far northwest of Scotland. It is isolated and beautiful with a fine bothy nearby that has an interesting history. 

Sandwood BaySandwood BayLooking north across Sandwood bay towards Cape Wrath - the lighthouse can be seen sticking up in the distance

After having walked four miles under grey skies across dark moorland, I was confronted with this view over Sandwood bay. In the distance, the top of the Cape Wrath lighthouse could be seen and this marked the most northwesterly tip of the Scottish mainland. This is where the Atlantic Ocean batters against the cliffs with no other land between this point and Newfoundland, 2,500 miles to the west, or the closer Faroe Isles, Iceland or Greenland to the northwest.

I was here with my friend Bob and his sister Susan. The reason for the visit was that Bob had once promised to bring Susan here and he had kindly invited me along - I jumped at the chance for a trip away. It was a Saturday afternoon and we had travelled up from Ullapool. The weather was windy and overcast with the odd patter of rain, but the wildness of this area suited the mood of these conditions. we headed to the beach and sat for a while.

Sandwood BayTowards the cliffsSitting on the beach at Sandwood Bay taking in the view.   Sandwood BayLooking North from Sandwood BayThe lighthouse at Cape Wrath, the far northwest corner of Scotland, can be seen peaking over the headland.

It wasn't sunny, but the blue-green colours of the sea, the yellow of the sand and the pastel greens of the dune grasses made for a refreshing sight amongst the dark moors, dark cliffs and grey heavy skies. We could also see the sea stack to the south of the bay,  Am Buachaille, that appears in the many pictures that I have seen of this place.

Am Buachaille Am Buachaille the Sea Stack at Sandwood bay   Sandwood BayThe colours of Sandwood BayI'm told that this beach is a lot busier than it used to be. Before the path was built it was a four mile slog across bogland. For most however, 12 people are easily hidden on a mile long beach.

We sat and enjoyed the views for a while and discussed whether we would camp in the dunes or whether we would continue onto Strathchailleach bothy, a place that I've always wanted to visit due to its intriguing history. Luckily, Bob and Susan agreed to go to the bothy on accounts of the strengthening wind and rain showers. We headed along the beach and waded the river at the end of the beach then headed up over the hill towards our destination.

According to the map, the bothy looks an easy 1.5 miles (2.5km) from the beach, but it isn't easy to get there. There is no path and in the worsening weather it took us longer than expected over boggy ground - we were fortunate too it had been an exceptionally dry summer. We had to check our map on a couple of occasions to ensure we were on track as we headed over the hill and past Lochan nan Sac towards it. Eventually, we reached a fence and then I noticed a little chimney pot sticking up in the distance - this bothy is not the easiest to find so it's advisable to ensure that you can navigate if heading here in bad weather, or in the dark, or you could easily get lost in vast moorland. The fence and the river that go past the bothy are the things to look for in poor conditions. As we reached Strathchailleach, the weather closed in and the rain came down in sheets. It was early August but it certainly did not seem like it. Here's a video that I took of the bothy and its surroundings in between showers.

Strathchailleach BothyTaking in the bothy and its surroundings in weather that does not hint that it was early August. Strathchailleach bothy has an interesting history as a hermit had lived here for thirty years until 1999. He had lived in this building with no electricity, no toilet and with only the running water in the stream outside and the nearby peat bank at the river for fuel to keep warm. Every week this hermit would walk a 21 mile round trip to the nearest shop for supplies paid for by his army pension.

The hermit's name was James McRory Smith, but he was commonly known as Sandy. There are far better accounts of the story of Sandy than I could tell and this article is one of them. I was glad to have made it here so I could see for myself where he had lived and I could look at his paintings.

Strathchailleach bothyA painting by James McRory SmithStrathchailleach bothy   Strathchailleach bothyPaintings by James McRory SmithOn the Strathchailleach bothy bedroom wall.

Strathchailleach bothyPainting by James McRory SmithStrathchailleach bothy   Strathchailleach bothyPainting by James Mcory SmithStrathchailleach bothy

We settled into the bothy and we were not alone. A walker from Switzerland who was completing the Cape Wrath Trail was here, we were soon joined by a couple from Germany and then later on a party of four who worked at a local hotel joined us. They were from New Zealand, Australia, Scotland and Spain. After dinner, the fire was lit using the plentiful supply of peat that the river exposes nearby. It was a cosy night with lots of friendly discussions and a lot of wine - I retired quite early in fact with a good belly full...

In the morning everyone went their separate ways and we set off for the return journey via Sandwood bay. We decided to follow the river to the coast and take a less direct, but more scenic route. We followed the river past the banks of ready-cut peat and we eventually reached a waterfall where the river cascaded downhill to meet the sea. on the way, at the highest point, we could see the stack Am Buachaille in the distance.

Sandwood BayOver the topWe climbed to high ground after leaving the bothy and followed the fence to the coast.

Leaving the waterfall behind, we climbed over rocky terrain at the top of the cliffs heading towards Sandwood bay.

The rocks here are colourful and varied, every rock and cliff face seems to be different with veins of various shades of marble running through them. On outcrops, there are interesting patterns that suggest the rock has been bent and folded.

rocks Sandwood bayThe colourful rocks of Sandwood Bay  

Eventually, we descended down to Sandwood Bay and we immediately noticed that the river from Sandwood Loch that flows across the beach was much higher than it had been the day before, due to the amount of rain that had fallen overnight.

I tackled the crossing with my waterproof socks on and managed to keep in shallow water. Bob and Susan decided to remove their boots and wade across.

Sandwood baySusan wades across the riverSandwood bay river crossing After crossing the river we chose a comfortable spot on the dunes that was sheltered from the wind and again we sat for a while and enjoyed the view.

Sandwood BaySandwood BaySitting on the beach   Sandwood BaySandwood BaySitting on the beach

It was then time for the four-mile return journey across the bleak moors with the rain constantly hitting our waterproofs, at times the cloud cleared for a view further afield.

across the moorAcross The moorsThe return journey from Sandwood Bay I was lucky to have grown up by the sea with plenty of time spent on golden beaches, I had also spent the most idyllic two week holiday at Luskentyre on the Isle of Harris when I was 16 years old - I had that one memory of beach perfection to last me a lifetime.  Sandwood Bay, therefore, was not something that I was particularly bothered about seeing, truth be told.

On the way back we spoke to a lady who has visited here since the 1980's. She told us that there was no path to the bay back then and you had to walk across the difficult terrain of boggy moorland, once you eventually reached the beach there was nobody there. Nobody that is except of course for Sandy, the hermit, whom she had also met on one of her visits to this lonely place and she told us a story of her encounter. The creep of urbanisation since then, with the improved path, means improved access, meaning more visitors, visitors like me, meaning more articles on the internet for more potential visitors to see, meaning more erosion and more litter, eventually leading to loss of character and another wild place tamed. As a photographer, I see this all the time and I don't know the answer as I also contribute to this with every visit I make and every picture shared on Pinterest. 

This beach is still special though, although busier than it used to be, I found it special because of where it is, the bothy with its interesting history, the fantastic rocks and surrounding hills which all come together to feel like you are visiting the edge of the world - it's still on the edge, but it's less wild than when Sandy had it all to himself.

I'm so glad I was invited along - thanks, Bob and Susan.

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) Atlantic Bay bothy Ocean Sandwood Scotland Strathchailleach Sutherland https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/8/sandwood-bay Tue, 07 Aug 2018 23:50:05 GMT
Woodland Camp https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/7/woodland-camp Summer camping can be great in good weather, that is until the insects come out and eat you for dinner.

Our weather has been positively Mediterranean for weeks, dare I say months? To take advantage of this Andy invited me to bivvy at a good spot that he has found in Devilla Forest. He also decided to bring his dog Bam, who is a lot bigger than my dodgy-backed dog Digger (a future post...).

So after a 30-minute walk from the car park, we reached a lovely spot that Andy had discovered during one of his dog walks. I had bought my tarp so Andy suspended it from two trees and we laid out our stuff with Bam sleeping in between us. 

The ForestWe camped beside this thick plantation             TarpPutting up the tarpAndy tied the tarp between two trees

campCamp Set, time for tea!Bam stands guard whilst Andy prepares the dinner. It was a beautiful warm night, the tarp and bivvy bags were a precaution, as you can never be sure. Andy made a lovely paneer cheese curry with dry food for Bam and we finished dinner in the fading light. As we sat about talking and having a few drinks, the local wildlife decided to come out for its dinner. The hungry beasts were in the shape of large mosquitos that approach you like ghosts, suddenly land and simultaneously sink their apparatus into your skin to get a feed. We had countermeasures though and the bottle of 'Smidge that Midge' was deployed and smeared on our skin to resist the attacks and it did prove an effective mosquito deterrent. The Mosquito's countered by concentrating their attacks on the long-haired Bam who sat bravely trying to ignore his situation until he too was applied with 'Smidge that Midge', which helped him as well. 

As we sat and talked, the mosquitos were around us but were suitably deterred by our repellent so that we could enjoy a night of after dinner drinks and conversation. For bedtime, I had put my head net and gloves in my pocket to put on before I slept, as added protection. 

Eventually, it was time to sleep and I pulled my head net over my lager hazed head and quickly fell asleep. During the bright summer night, I awoke a couple of times and I realised then that Bam had the nature of a guard dog as he sat awake, all night it seems, guarding the camp and its sleeping occupants. On both occasions, he was sitting a few metres away, but in different places, vigilant to his surroundings. I went back to a comfortable sleep knowing that Bam was watching our back.

Guard BamBam stands guard whilst we sleepBam is a natural guard dog it seems, he sat like this all night, where Digger would be tucked up expecting me to stand guard   Guard BamBam stands guardEven going for a comfort break, Bam keeps a watchful eye

In the morning I awoke with my arm hanging from the bed and I realised that my gloves were still in my pocket. Around the back of my thumb was covered in a lot of mosquito bites - forgetting to put on my gloves was further let down by me missing this spot with the insect repellent. The mosquitos had eaten well and this part of my hand was like a pin cushion.

We packed up and headed home. Once there I was beset with itchy lumps from the mosquito onslaught, I had an itchy lump on my forehead, one on my nose and a swollen hand where the main feast had been taken. Andy is well organised and carries anti-histamines with him for eventualities such as this, but I was forced to visit my local pharmacy to buy cream, which barely helped to ease the few days of incessant itching bought on by these bites. 

I get the odd mosquito bite at home, but they are smaller and darker - the Devilla ones were large and white and floated about like little white spectres. It made me wonder what type of mosquito they were - In 2003 a colony of tropical mosquitos were discovered in the nearby village of Menstrie...

With my imagination, wild camping is always an experience, no matter what time of year.

Devilla forestHeading home through Devilla ForestThe walk to the car park

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) camping devilla forest scotland wild https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/7/woodland-camp Sat, 21 Jul 2018 23:30:00 GMT
Midsummer https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/7/midsummer In Scotland our weather is usually cloudy with plenty of rain - May and June of 2018 have been very different with clear skies and temperatures up to 30C.

Being so far north, we are actually lucky to be surrounded by sea as the sea warms the land and prevents extremes of temperature. The tradeoff, however, is lots of rain and lots of wind. Some years, the seasons all meld into one, with cold winds and rain in the summer and colder winds and rain in the winter - All the time it is a gloomy, grey and overcast.

Here is a typical video of when I climb my local hill, King's Seat Hill in the Ochil Hills - You can see why I always pack a raincoat and my dog has his ears pinned back...

It can be quite depressing actually, no matter what time of year, I've found myself in a raincoat, wearing gloves and wondering where I can find some shelter to have some lunch. The only bonus from our typical weather is the changeable light... 

2018 though has been exceptional so far, people here will remember this weather that people in more southerly climes take for granted. Today as I write, 28th June, it has been 31C today. Everyone I meet has their heads up, they are smiling, not with their heads down hurrying to their destination, this is a different place when the sun shines, people can stand and talk for starters...

I've always enjoyed our bright summer nights, but until now, I've never realised just how bright we have it in mid-summer. With the clear skies though, I've seen it in the raw and it is magnificent - I've taken many pictures which illustrate our midsummer nights, here are a few.

00:30 19th June00:30 19th JuneI was lying in my bed and when I noticed the light sky, I grabbed my phone and took this picture - it was 00:30 in the morning. Midnight 23rd JuneMidnight 23rd JuneThis is looking North down my street. In summer the sun sets in the West at 22:00 and you can see its transit from west to east on the northern sky before it rises again at 04:30. 23:30 22nd June23:30 26th JuneThis is the view from my sitting room as I write this post.

The last picture was taken as I wrote this. I love the light nights, it is uplifting. The sun sets in the west after 22:00, it stays twilight and this travels northward (the view from my window) and by 04:30 it has travelled round to the east where the sun rises again.

It makes up for the dark winter nights when the sun rises at 08:40 and sets at 15:40 - usually it is cold and cloudy as well so it feels like you are living in permanent twilight. This video below was just 4 months ago and it illustrates things differently - I like the winter too for the challenge and excitement, but the bright warm nights are my favourite...when we get them.

Winter in FalkirkMarch 1st 2018 - the view from my window.

 

 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) bright midsummer nights scotland https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/7/midsummer Sat, 07 Jul 2018 23:45:00 GMT
Glen Affric https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/6/glen-affric Glen Affric is a beautiful glen of ancient Scots Pines and soaring mountains. I'd been there before, but it was time to revisit.

Having a long weekend available, I decided to take a drive up to Glen Affric in November, for a couple of nights wild camping and to take some pictures.

It's a four-hour drive from me to get there with a further two-hour walk to the end of Loch Affric where I knew from my previous visit that there was some good ground for camping.

After leaving the car park and crossing over to the south bank of Loch Affric, I marched along the path seeing evidence of electrical cables being installed into the side of the path. As I reached the burn that runs towards Affric lodge, my heart sank. The raised bank to the east of the burn had been excavated for a hydroelectric scheme. I'm sure that the ground will be reinstated, but it will never be the same as when we camped here in 2015 when we awoke after a cold frosty night to a glorious sunrise.

Glen AffricGlen AffricEarly morning in Glen Affric after a cold night It seems that whatever I find beautiful and take photos of, whenever I return I am always saddened by the relentless march of civilization, no matter how well-intentioned.

Hydro Scheme at Glen affricHydro Scheme at Glen affricThis is the compound for the hydro electric works. I took a picture of a sunrise just at the edge of this location just a few years earlier. Hydro electric works at Glen AffricHydro electric works at Glen AffricThe picture above was taken from the edge of this location just a few years earlier.

After taking a photo of the temporary depot near where I'd taken the photo above, I marched on with a heavy heart towards my destination, hoping that I’d make it before nightfall. It had been raining but as I neared my destination the clouds cleared the hilltop revealing a fresh dusting of snow, the first of the year, so I stopped to take a picture in the fading light.

Glen AffricGlen AffricFirst snow of the year has just landed.

As I cleared a rise to finally see my destination, I could see a tent had already been pitched by the loch. I could also see a new addition to the landscape, a small cabin and the occupant of the tent was sitting on the porch of this building eating his dinner.

I descended from the high-level path down to the lochside and approached the cabin to introduce myself.

I found out that my fellow camper was Stan, a young man in his twenties from Belgium who was walking the Affric Kintail Way. We spoke for a while before I pitched my tent and made my dinner.

We spoke about this new (locked) cabin in which porch we were sitting to cook our dinner and escape the rain showers. This cabin had not been here the last time I had passed and although I didn't like the new addition to the landscape, I was being a bit hypocritical as I was using the bench in the porch to keep dry as I cooked my dinner.

Cabin at Loch AffricCabin at Loch AffricAn owl was making great use of the porch and had made an awful mess!   Cabin at Loch AffricCabin at Loch AffricStan takes down his tent

The porch was also a well-used shelter by a local owl as evidence of the owl’s regurgitated meals was all around my feet. The fact that the owl was getting the best use of this cabin gave me some consolation over its appearance in this wild landscape.

After a while, Stan produced some whisky and offered it to me. Never being one to refuse a malt, I chuckled to myself as I'd intentionally left the house to escape booze and have a dry weekend. It never ceases to amaze me that wherever I go thinking that I can escape booze. It is always there waiting for me, willpower is the only escape ultimately as hiding from it in the landscape doesn't work.

Stan and I sat on the porch well into the night, sipping his whisky and talking as the clouds cleared and the moon rose over the wind stirred Loch Affric. It was a pleasure to spend the evening talking to this good-natured visitor from Belgium.

After a great night's sleep in my tent, I awoke and made my breakfast on the porch of the cabin. I shared some coffee with Stan who enjoyed a hot drink as he had been living off water and whisky travelling lighter than me.

After breakfast, Stan packed up and headed off to his next stop, Camban bothy, whilst I left my tent pitched and headed eastward on the rough terrain at the shores of Loch Affric to get some pictures.

The rough ground was slow going and the time ticked away quickly. I got to a beautiful location to take pictures, but the sun had taken a long time to clear the surrounding hills and the light was harsh. I headed back to my tent.

Walking along the banks of Loch AffricWalking along the banks of Loch Affric   Loch AffricLoch AffricOn the banks of Loch Affric

After lunch I packed my tent and headed up Glen Affric to Strawberry cottage, taking pictures as I went. At the cottage, I decided to head eastward along the North side of Loch Affric to find a suitable location for the next nights camp.

Winter ColoursWinter ColoursGlen Affric Glen AffricGlen Affric

The terrain is rough when you leave the path, the heather is deep and it was difficult to see a suitable spot to pitch a tent. This is tarp and bivvy country where it is probable that a suitable spot beneath the old Scots pines could be found, but with a tent suitable flat ground was difficult to see. It's slow going too off the path, so don't plan to find a wild camp spot in a hurry. It will take me a good few more visits to better know this place and my jaunt around the loch over two days is too fast to get to know anything.

Glen AffricGlen Affric   Glen AffricGlen Affric

I couldn't see an easy spot to camp so I kept walking. Around sundown, I reached my car in the car park with its "no overnight camping" signs. Some people had found a good spot to camp nearby, but there was no room for me, so I jumped in my car and drove home.

I will be back with my tarp next winter and this time I will take my time to explore and enjoy. This is just one glen and there is so much to see and to photograph, you could spend a lifetime here.

Glen AffricGlen Affric

 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) affric camping glen loch photography scenery scotland scottish wild https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/6/glen-affric Sun, 24 Jun 2018 21:17:54 GMT
Skylarks in the Ochils https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/6/skylarks-in-the-ochils My wife is frustrated... It is not for the reason that you (the reader) will have immediately thought, at least I hope not, but the reason for my wife's frustration is due to her having a garden that has never been finished.

My wife married a walker- that's me. This walker loves to be out in the countryside and gardening, where the layout is made to be aesthetically pleasing, rather than just growing some vegetables is something that I despise. I love raw nature where man's hand has not had an influence, this is rare even in empty Scotland, but I can still find places where I can at least pretend that this is the case.

After having been to bothies for the last few weekends, my long-suffering wife has been hoping that I could get out and finish our perpetually unfinished garden. She did not, however, bank on me having harboured ambitions over the winter to get out after work in the summer and walk my local hills enjoying the bright nights and twilight walking.

I have half-heartedly had to do some night time gardening in May but in the beautiful warm weather we have been gifted in early June, the garden can do one... I'm going walking.

Wednesday night on 6th June 2018 was a beautiful day, I got home from work and then had to drop off my wife at work. I was then free to grab the dog and set off for an evening jaunt up King's Seat Hill in the Ochil hills. I had walked halfway up, then I spied a herd of cattle near the Spitfire memorial. This was new to me and with my dog, I thought it safer to turn around as sometimes cattle can take aggressive exception to a dogs presence in their vicinity.

Cutting my walk short, I ambled back down and instead was able to concentrate on the many skylarks on the way. The skylarks burst from the grassland, fly up high in the sky and sing their hearts out, as they sing they sometimes flap their wings rapidly and other times they simply glide before they diving back into the grass from whence they came, abruptly ending their song. Between King's Seat Hill and Bank Hill, they were particularly active and I recorded their song on my phone. Unfortunately, I cannot figure how to embed it onto this blog page, so I post this video of me listening to the Skylarks during another visit.

Listening to the SkylarksKing's Seat Hill, Ochil Hills, Scotland

With the sound of the Skylark in my ears, I descended down into the Glen of Sorrow. Play the above clip and look at the pictures below and you will see the sights and hear the sounds of the Ochil Hills.

Ochil Hills ScotlandWhitewhisp hillThe Ochil Hills Scotland

The Glen of SorrowThe Glen of SorrowSetting sun in the Glen of Sorrow, Ochil Hills, Scotland

SunwashedSunwashedthe Glen of Sorrow, Ochil Hills, Scotland

The Glen of SorrowThe Glen of Sorrowthe Glen of Sorrow, Ochil Hills, Scotland

As I continued my descent into the sunlit Glen of Sorrow, the sound of the skylarks in the grassland behind me faded away to be replaced with the calls of crows and of sheep. As I descended into the gorge of Dollar Glen, these sounds were again replaced with the roar of water cascading over waterfalls.

My abandoned walk had only lasted about an hour and a half, but I got much more out of it than I could than sitting in my garden listening to the noises of a town with its noisy engines and the low rumble of distant traffic.

I love walking. My garden will just have to wait a little longer.

 

 

 

 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) glen hill king's ochil of scenery scotland scottish seat skylarks sorrow https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/6/skylarks-in-the-ochils Sun, 10 Jun 2018 19:50:40 GMT
Behind the Picture: Breezy Buchan https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/5/breezy-buchan Pictures contain so many memories, simply looking at one image can open a door to many things that would otherwise be forgotten

The image below reminds me of a place I lived in the 90's - It's called "Breezy Buchan".

Breezy BuchanBreezy BuchanTaken at Buchan Ness lighthouse Boddam, Peterhead Scotland

The above image is a scan of a film print, taken around 2000 on a return visit. I worked in the village of Boddam between 1993 to 1997, having moved there after completing my engineering apprenticeship. I look back with fond memories of the people I worked with. I remember the engineer's mate, Billy, who was near retirement when I arrived, he had lived in Boddam for the majority of his life, since he was a boy, but he was not born there, so some villagers didn't consider him to be a local. As a fresh faced young man in his twenties, I learnt a lot from the engineers assistant, as he had seen it all in his forty years - he was the best tradesman that never was...

I remember the morning ritual of Billy going to the local papershop in Boddam in the works van, where Billy would take ages catching up with the day's gossip with the shopkeeper, a lady in her late 70's. I remember going to look at the shelves whilst they talked and I came across a stainless steel vacuum flask - it's price was written on a label, 9d...that flask had been there at least 25 years as decimal day, the change from the "old money" of shillings and pence to the much easier decimal money of pounds and pence occurred in 1971.

As an outsider from Fife, a place renowned for the locals having a strong accent, Boddam and the much larger town to the north, Peterhead (where I had moved to) was a major challenge for me to understand people, as the locals have a much stronger accent than anyone else in Scotland; it is unique. They are very hard to understand to a visitor and this youtube clip of a local man reciting his great poem about the lovely Boddam, gives an idea of how challenging this soft and musical accent can be to a visitor.

I quickly learned to understand this accent, known as Doric, but it took careful concentration to pick up. I remember figuring out that a male is called a "loon" and female is called a "quine" and after that I eventually tuned in to what was being said. Understanding Doric is not like riding a bike however, I remember going to Peterhead several years after I had left and again, I didn't understand what people were saying to me.

The village of Boddam and Peterhead is dominated by the sea. Fishing was of great importance to this area for centuries and it still is. It is almost always windy here on the cold North East coast of Scotland, which is closer to Norway than it is to London. Billy always used to laugh at me moaning about the weather and he would tell me "you're in Breezy Buchan now, get used to it!". Whenever nice weather was forecast, the morning would be warm and sunny and then on the horizon the mists would boil up on the sea and move inland, it would turn into heavy fog leaving the area cold and dark, whilst the TV news would report that the rest of the country was enjoying exceptionally warm weather. 

The other thing I remember about the fog is the foghorn, which blew its warning day and night until the fog cleared. The foghorn was located in Buchan Ness light house, which was to the left of where I took the above picture. When I lived in Peterhead the lighthouse had an electronic foghorn, which I could hear 3 miles away lying in my bed in Peterhead - it took a while to get used to that. The electronic foghorn was seemingly quite polite compared to the old compressed air foghorn that it replaced. The previous foghorn had the sound of a surprised cow mooing and the locals had named it the "Boddam Coo".  It was far deeper and penetrating than the electronic tone that replaced it and although I'm sad I never heard it, watching the video below of a fog horn blowing at another lighthouse, Portland Bill in Plymouth, I'm probably glad I didn't have to try and sleep through it...

The above video taken from youtube, was taken during a foghorn requiem, where the foghorns were serenaded to music, to celebrate their retirement. Nowadays the coast is silent on foggy nights and the sailors are much safer due to the convenience of global positioning systems.

I still have contact with one of my old workmates who lives in Boddam with his wife. He took me under his wing when I moved there and they attended my wedding. A long overdue visit to Boddam is required to catch up with them. 

It will be good to visit here again.

 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) boddam breezy buchan coo fog horn lighthouse ness peterhead https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/5/breezy-buchan Fri, 25 May 2018 23:01:00 GMT
Significant Insignificance https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/5/significant-insignificance A short story...

As Chris drove to the dentist his mood was dark, he had £4 in his pocket and £12 in the bank - £16 to last until the end of the week until payday. His credit cards were maxed out and he just had to make do with what he had and hope that nothing unexpected would occur.

His problem was that he needed to go for this dental appointment, but he wasn't sure if he had the money to pay for any work that might be done that day. He had a broken tooth, he had left it long enough because of his fear of the cost. His mood was dark as he parked the car. His fear of being unable to pay for the treatment was clear in his face as he glanced in the rearview mirror.

He got out of the car and Chris, with his face like thunder, through fear of potential embarrassment,  attempted to cross the busy road to the dentist's surgery.

“Hello there, how are you”? A slim man who was well dressed in a red long jacket had stepped in front of Chris. Chris was taken aback. “I'm fine thanks”. The man had a simple face that radiated happiness, he was in his late 50’s and bald. The man reminded Chris of Stan Laurel of Laurel and Hardy fame. The man smiled at Chris and asked: “And your name is”? “Chris” Chris replied, “my name is Chris”. “My name is Gary”, said the man as he removed his mitten, after removing the mitten with great care and attention, he offered his right hand for Chris to shake, Chris paused for a second and then shook Gary’s hand. The reason that Chris had paused to shake Gary’s hand is that Gary had a perfectly shaped hand, but it had no fingers, just a thumb. Gary’s hand was like the mitten Gary had just removed and he offered his ‘flesh mitten’ to Chris to shake. As Chris shook the hand, it felt softer more squeezable than a normal hand as fingers are hard and bony.

Gary looked closely at Chris as he offered his hand with no fingers, he knew what Chris was thinking and the symbolism of removing his mitten and showing his hand to Chris under the pretence of a simple handshake was intentional.

“Nice to meet you Chris”, said Gary as he withdrew his hand and carefully put his mitten back over his mitten shaped hand. “Listen Chris,” said Gary, “you wouldn’t happen to have a couple of pounds to give me for a cup of tea and my bus, would you”? Chris panicked inside, he needed the money for the dentist, he was so scared of not having the money to pay for the treatment and now this!

“No I’m sorry Gary, I just don’t have the money to spare right now”, replied Chris. Gary smiled “no problem my friend, just in case you did have some to spare, no worries at all”. Gary walked off with a smile and a wave leaving Chris to attempt to cross the busy road to reach the dentists.

Sitting in the dentist’s waiting room, Chris reflected on this chance encounter with Gary. It was somehow significant. He thought about his situation with money and how it was affecting his happiness, he was constantly preoccupied with worries about the lack of money. Chris pondered this for a while as the wait to be seen by the dentist was a long one.

Chris thought about the significance of Gary appearing, during an insignificant moment as he tried to cross the road worrying about money. The thought came to Chris that he should have given Gary that two pounds, just do it, stop worrying, everything will be OK. The machinery of the universe is whirling around he thought, galaxies collide with galaxies, planets circle suns, moons circle planets. Giving someone £2 is insignificant in the big scheme of things, they can get a cup of tea and their bus, which is also insignificant to the universe, but significant to them. Not having money to pay the dentist immediately is insignificant, as long as you pay them when you can, Chris reasoned.

Chris resolved that he should have given Gary that money, despite his fears. It would be alright. Chris resolved that if he saw Gary when he left the dentist and he had the money, he would give that £2 to Gary.

Chris sat in the dentist's chair with his mouth open as the dentist prodded about. It was just another insignificant workday to her. “Yes said the dentist, we will have to remove this tooth. We don’t have time to do it today, but we can make an appointment next week?” “Wes” said Chris with his mouth open, “yat ll oo”. It is always hard to speak to a dentist during an examination.

Chris was elated, he was paid at the end of the week and he would be able to pay for the dental work on his next visit. He thought again of Gary and knew that he should have given Gary the money, as everything had worked out fine. Although he had resolved to give Gary the money, Chris knew that he was also unlikely to see him again as it was now an hour since their paths had crossed.

Chris left the dentist and navigated across the busy road towards his car. After crossing the road Chris glanced back and there was Gary, who had just walked around a corner and was walking towards the dentist's surgery. Gary looked over the road at Chris and gave him a smile and a wave. “Hello Chris” shouted Gary cheerily as he walked briskly past the dentists. Chris waved back with a surprised smile. Chris looked at the busy road he had to cross, he looked at Gary walking away briskly, he thought about his car parked just meters away.

As Chris climbed into his car, he felt the pound coins in his pocket jangle. He never gave Gary the money, he was too reserved to cross the busy road and chase after Gary to give him his £2 for a cup of a tea and his bus.

“What the hell just happened there”, said Chris to himself as he started the engine. Chris pulled away in his car to start his journey back to work to continue another insignificant day at the office.

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) insignificance life real short significant story unimportant https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/5/significant-insignificance Sat, 12 May 2018 19:54:59 GMT
A tribute to Tor Wood https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/4/a-tribute-to-tor-wood Torwood is a small village outside Falkirk, it is named after the wood that borders the village, Tor wood.

I drove through the village of Torwood with a heavy heart. I usually drive through here with fondness, thinking of all the walks and explorations I've had in this wooded area. This time I was sad as the trees were being harvested.

From what I could see from the road, it is selective harvesting, but it is dramatic. Where a mature open coniferous forest stood, there is open space littered with wood debris. I thought of the time I saw a red squirrel there, of the photos I took in this area, now all gone. As I sit surrounded by modern mass-produced woodchip furniture, I understood why, the trees are simply money, but I don't ever want to like the consequences. I think of the scene in the Lord of the Rings films when the Orcs are cutting down all the trees to manufacture arms...I wonder if our pursuit of profit has made us collectively like those Orcs.

As a photographer I see lots of plantations, all regular shaped intensely planted so the forest floor is black and lifeless. These plantations are everywhere and ugly too, spoiling many fine landscapes. They are all being cut down it seems on an unprecedented scale, leaving an even uglier ground behind that heals slowly.

Torwood is a plantation too, but it was different as it was loosely planted and the trees were big. I could be there in twenty minutes, from a large population centre and disappear into an environment that made me feel much further away than a mere twenty minutes.

After a time of following the paths, I eventually got bold enough to leave them and explore the forest and its many beautiful scenes created by the old trees that got crowded out by the fast-growing conifers and killed by the lack of light.

Tor wood has a history in the 2,500-year-old Tappoch Broch located at the highest point. It also has the 16th-century Torwood castle nestling at the back, the Seat of Clan Forrester. Torwood is also mentioned in history for the battles of Bannockburn and Falkirk - Seaward the Dane passed through here in the 10th century in pursuit of Macbeth.

This place has mystery too in the blue pool of Torwood and it has a sinkhole that gets slightly bigger at each visit. How much better can a place be to not be cherished and preserved.

Torwood Blue PoolThe mysterious Torwood Blue Pool  

Tor wood is wonderful and I can only post my pictures to try and illustrate the joy my many visits to it has given me. I can only hope that the harvested areas are replanted and that the developers are kept at arm's length from this prime real estate.

"They hang the man and flog the woman that steals the goose from off the Common, but let the greater villain loose who steals the common from the goose".

Torwood SunshineTorwood SunshineIn amongst the trees at Tor wood, near Falkirk. This part of the forest has now been harvested. Beneath the Falling TreeBeneath the Falling TreeBeneath the Falling Tree, Torwood, Scotland The FallenThe FallenFallen Tree in Torwood The Light OasisThe Light OasisThis grove of moss coloured trees draws one out of the dark wood into the light of the clearing. Taken in Torwood Scotland. Treebeard?Treebeard?This tree stands in Torwood in Central Scotland, it was obviously dead when I took this picture, having been crowded out of the light by the surrounding pines. Still it had character and the little face on the side hinted at a smile.

Soft FootstepsSoft Footsteps Falling DownFalling DownFallen Trees in Torwood near Falkirk in Scotland TorwoodTorwood

The Non ConformistThe Non ConformistTorwood Scotland

Lean on MeLean on Me Tweedledum and TweedledeeTweedledum and TweedledeeTweedledum and Tweedledee - Two trees in Torwood, Falkirk Scotland

Here is a video made from one of my dog walks in Torwood:

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) blue broch castle mystery pool tappoch the torwood https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/4/a-tribute-to-tor-wood Wed, 25 Apr 2018 21:29:33 GMT
A trip into Knoydart https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/4/a-trip-into-knoydart I was knackered, my legs were aching, my back was aching too from the heavy rucksack. I was so glad to have finally arrived at Barrisdale.

I took my rucksack off outside the Barrisdale bothy and I had that now familiar feeling of “floating” that you get when removing a heavy burden from your back. I so sympathise with donkeys...

It was May 2014 and we had just walked the eight or so miles from Kinlochhourn to Barrisdale. This was my first camping trip for many years and my friend Bob had lent me his tent, backpack and various other essentials. Being the very recent ex-smoking couch potato that I was, the eight miles were not easy. Apart from boat or helicopter, the coastal path we had walked is the only (easy) way to get here from the east and it is a bit of a roller coaster going up and down small hills. The four hours it took were not enjoyed.

The path to BarrisdaleThe path to Barrisdale

Unpacking the tent that Bob had lent me, I had realised why it was so light. It was like a canvas coffin that needed careful negotiations to enter and exit. Sitting up inside was impossible. We made our evening meal in the bothy and had interesting conversations with the rest of the people who were camping and bothying here. I never said a word, as the interesting tales of various exploits were without comparison with my own experiences. It was great to just sit and listen.

Finally, it was bedtime and I settled into my tiny tent. I am not normally claustrophobic, but for a few seconds, I had that uncomfortable closed-in feeling after zipping up the tent. In my snug accommodation, I was expecting to have sore legs in the morning due to my day's exertions and my lack of fitness.

In the morning I awoke fresh with no aches and pains. I have since learned that you only ache after physical exertion when you afterwards sit in comfortable seats such as a car seat or a couch. Living outside and not being able to slouch prevented me from feeling sore. Maybe a lesson for us all there.

After breakfast, it was time to climb. Bob had already climbed the highest Knoydart mountain Ladhair Bheinn on his own, so he wished to climb Luinne Bheinn and Meall Bhuidhe - I was happy to go anywhere…

We headed off, leaving our tents pitched full of the non-essential items so that our backpacks were less of a drag. It was a long climb up to Mam Barrisdale, the top of the pass to Inverie, we then came off the path and “followed the fence”, a route that Bob had read about that skirts up the west side of Luinne Bheinn. Luinne Bheinn (meaning sea swelling hill) is the Gaelic name of this hill and many people have anglicised it into “Loony bin”- I was going to find out why.

Bob Walking away from the Nam Barrisdale pathBob Walking away from the Nam Barrisdale path

On our way we had met a couple who were going to tackle the Luinne Bheinn ridge head on, they told us they had booked their dinner table at the pub in Inverie for 7:30 pm. They had a lot of ground to cover over the two mountains back to their destination and took off at an impressive pace to meet their deadline - I do wonder if they made their booking as I certainly wouldn't have!

Inverie is the only village on Knoydart, it is notable as not being served by any roads, only paths and we were standing on the main one. This village is dependent on boats for their connection to the outside world and standing on Nam Barrisdale is the closest I have come to visit. The hotel there, the Old Forge, lays claim to being Britain's remotest pub and anyone I have spoken to who has visited it, recommends it - the seafood is always mentioned.

Looking West from Luinne BheinnLooking West from Luinne BheinnTowards Inverie on the coast. We started the steep climb following remains of an old metal fence, of which mostly the small metal poles remained, most poles were bent or missing, claimed by the passage of time.

The steep slopes of Luinne bheinnThe steep slopes of Luinne bheinn

It was hard terrain and I marvelled at the people who had taken the time to build this fence, with all the heavy materials required. The fence was old and I wondered how they would have bought them here - I thought again of my trip to Barrisdale and again I felt sorry for the Donkeys.

We stopped during the climb for some breathers and I took the opportunity to take some pictures looking towards Inverie.

Standing stones on a ledgeStanding stones on a ledgeWe rested on this ledge on the side of Luinne Bheinn before continung onward to the summit. It was a steep climb and it was with some relief that we eventually reached the top of Luinne Bheinn and settled for a spot of lunch. After lunch, we decided to venture to the east of the mountain for some views and I took more pictures from the top.

Looking down on Barrisdale from Luinne BheinnLooking down on Barrisdale from Luinne Bheinn

Back of BeyoindBack of BeyoindLooking over to Sgurr na Ciche from Luinne Bheinn in Knoydart Barrisdale from the top of Luinne BheinnBarrisdale from the top of Luinne Bheinn Luinne BheinnLuinne BheinnLuinne Bheinn is a steep sided mountain in Knoydart and is quite hard to get to! A lot of people call it loony bin instead of it proper name! There is a man standing at the RH side, he is just a little speck. The Rough Bounds of KnoydartThe Rough Bounds of Knoydart

Bob took this video, I'm in it at the start...

Standing on Luinne Bheinn in KnoydartCopyright Robert Brown 2014

We had met about six people up to now on this lovely May weekend and among the people we spoke to was a young woman in her twenties who was tackling the Mountains of Knoydart on her own.

After some exploration and speaking to another walker who suddenly “popped up” on the ridge edge that we were standing on, it was time to decide whether to continue to Meall Bhuidhe or to go back. As we discussed this a tiny figure stood on the summit of Meall Bhuidhe - they were very far away and that settled it, we were going back.

Meall Bhuidhe from Luinne BheinnMeall Bhuidhe from Luinne Bheinn

For the descent, we were going to follow the ridge as we did not fancy the steep route that we had used to climb up. Looking down the ridge, my face was ashen, the ridge was steep and it went on and on. We started downwards with Bob descending nonchalantly, whilst I jerkily shuffled downwards feeling uncomfortable with the situation in which I found myself. Bob got further and further ahead as I picked my way down, trying to keep three points of contact between my legs and walking sticks with the steep slope.

As a child and teenager, I would casually climb cliffs and heights did not bother me. I even climbed Maiden’s Rock in St Andrews as a 13-year-old, I was on my own then and just decided to have a go. I remember there being a tricky bit going up, so I tried hard to remember the moves required so I could reverse them going back down. I succeeded, luckily.

Now as a man in his 40s, whose main experience since his youth was sitting at a desk, my head for heights had long-deserted me so I was now going through a crisis. We finally reached some flat ground which was a huge relief for my knees and my newly realised fear of heights. As I looked ahead, Bob was reversing into place to clamber down something, he said something to me then disappeared from sight. As I reached this new obstacle, I looked down and (as Bob told me later) I turned milky white. My head for heights had a new challenge, this was a simple scramble, it was an earthen cliff with rocks sticking out, a simple case of clambering down a few easy footholds and handholds and then step off to my right to terra firma, no problem. There was a problem though for my Acrophobia, the problem was that the earthen cliff was above a much bigger drop, maybe 20, maybe 100 metres, it did not matter, all I knew was that it was a long way. I had found the loony bit of loony bin.

Bob was standing below looking up at me, he was maybe only 5 metres away. He repeated what he said to me earlier, to “not go down holding my walking sticks”. I obliged by throwing them to him; I didn't want to go down at all! I stood for a moment trying to think of an alternative, like a magic helicopter to appear and rescue me. I realised that there was no alternative, I took a deep breath and backed towards the drop so I could hang my feet over and start the scramble. It was no problem, I told myself, easy footholds, easy handholds, just lower myself down a couple of footholds, keep three points of contact and then step off...

Being a photographer I always insist on carrying my heavy tripod everywhere, even though I seldom use it. Bob had tried to discourage me from taking it on this expedition and he had even offered me a lend of his nifty lightweight and pocketable tripod. I stuck to my guns though, that tripod seemed too light, so if I wanted to bracket shots, it might move and the photo would be more difficult to process. So I strapped the tripod to the side of my backpack and I carried it with me, refusing to acknowledge the extra weight as being a contribution to my pain.

So there I was, clinging to footholds above a big drop and about to turn and step to safety. As I turned, my tripod, strapped to my pack, caught on the cliff and prevented me from turning. Bob looked all of sudden very concerned and stepped forward, but unable to help. By this time luckily, my fear had passed and I was 13 again. I simply clung on with only the one arm and managed to use the freed-up arm to move the tripod around the snag and then step on to safe ground. “I did warn you about that tripod”, Bob said. I agreed by nodding my head vigorously and I took one last look back at the big drop before we continued on our way. After my close encounter, the remaining steep descent was no longer of concern to me.

Around this time the young walker we’d met earlier caught up with us and overtook us, we finished the descent to the top of Nam Barrisdale only to find her there retrieving her backpack which she had hidden to ease the weight on the climb up Luinne Bheinn. We started to talk to her and she explained that she had spent the night in a tent on Ladhair Bheinn. She also explained that she had dropped her rucksack down a very steep slope of Ladhair Bheinn when she had taken it off to retrieve her map to navigate. In this remote country losing a rucksack with all the essentials in it is pretty serious, luckily she had managed to negotiate the steep slope to retrieve her rucksack, but her stove and some other items had come out of the rucksack and had continued their fall into an irretrievable place.

This walker (I never got her name) accompanied us back to Barrisdale where she too was going to camp and we offered her our stoves to allow her to cook her food. This confident young woman impressed me with the gumption and self-assurance she had to make this trip on her own. I was twenty years older than her and I was scared to come here on my own... Seeing the enjoyment she was having in roaming free in the hills, I was kicking myself for wasting 20 years of my life and not doing this, what I loved, earlier. This was the moment when I decided that I would go walking more regularly and I would stop being scared of being out alone.

Walking up Nam BarrisdaleWalking down to Barrisdale

We reached the campsite and bothy at Barrisdale and it was pretty busy, being the bank holiday weekend. As we sat in the bothy making our lunch many other walkers joined us. After dinner, we once more crowded in the bothy and listened to more tales of their exploits in many places like the Skye Ridge and other long distance walks. I was again impressed by the richness of the stories and the good humour and camaraderie of these people, who love the outdoors. Eventually, however, it was time to sleep.

In the morning we started to pack up after breakfast. Our temporary companion was first to pack up and say her goodbyes, I watched her leave Barrisdale with admiration for her and a bit of sadness for myself, having wasted my fittest years, my 20's and 30's, sitting on a couch with a fag in my mouth. We eventually started the long walk back to Kinlochhourn and as we left it started to rain. The rain got heavier and it hammered it down for the entire walk back. We reached the car soaking, but elated, the walk back had been much easier for me physically than the walk there and I’ve since found that after 3 days walking, it starts to get easier.

This was the first time I had been on a multi-day trip since my early twenties. I was in my mid-forties now and had suddenly remembered what I’d been missing. I’ve not looked back since and as I age, I hope that there are a few years of fitness left for me to enjoy more of these adventures. Knoydart was the kick-start that I had needed.




 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) barrisdale bheinn bothy camping climbing inverie kinlochhourn knoydart luinne munro nam scotland https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/4/a-trip-into-knoydart Sat, 07 Apr 2018 13:50:32 GMT
Wild camp on Saline Hill https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/3/wild-camp-on-saline-hill Saline Hill is a small hill in Fife and it doesn't look much, but it is worth a visit as it commands excellent views of the surrounding countryside.

Having been a number of weeks since our last outing, I had decided that I wanted pictures of the Ochil Hills and my initial thoughts were finding a spot to camp near Powmill, where the views of the Ochil's are excellent. Looking at a map though, this plan was scuppered as the choice of camping spots seemed sparse, as this area is working farmland.

Looking further south to the hills surrounding Powmill, I eventually decided on a visit to Saline Hill, as this hill looked the most viable for the considerations of easy parking in the village of Saline and open space with woodland in which an undisturbed wild camping spot should be found.

It was an easy trip and we set off mid-afternoon for the short journey to Saline. We parked up and walked through the village before heading up a farm track towards the hill. We didn't go straight up but skirted around Saline Hill, following a path marked on the map that took us through a field of newborn lambs. As we negotiated the muddy terrain and gates and fences, I started to see the Ochil's clearly in the distance.

The Ochil HillsThe Ochil HillsThe Ochil Hills from Saline Hill I realised that the viewpoint here diminished the Ochil's as they were a bit too far away for a dramatic picture, but we carried on regardless as it was a nice day and the wild camping is always something I enjoy, view or not. Eventually, after having to negotiate an electric fence (we jumped!), we reached the forest near the top of Saline hill and Andy eventually identified a good camping spot. The ground was very uneven and wet so I was glad that we found somewhere suitable.

It was time to pitch our tarpaulins, I had recently bought one for myself and I relied on instruction from Andy on how to pitch it to suit the current location.

Pitched TarpaulinsPitched Tarpaulins We pitched the tarpaulins like a tent, using our walking poles to hold them up. I am now a fan of a tarp (tarpaulin) as the options they give you means that you shelter in lots of different ways to suit the terrain and conditions, whilst with a tent, you only have the option that suits the design of the tent. The drawback of a tarp though is insects, where the highland midge will have free open access to feast on you, whilst tents at least have insect mesh. Insects were not to be a worry here though as it was still early spring with an overnight frost forecast.

After we had taken care of arrangements, it was time to eat a nice paneer cheese curry, which Andy cooked, then it was time for the obligatory drinks, that help make the adventure more fun. We sat on fallen tree trunks and stayed up quite late under the cold moonlit sky with streetlights of the surrounding towns glowing brightly below us.

Camping in the woodsCamping in the woods Andy woke me early morning pointing to the red sky and I'm glad that he did, as I had set my alarm for sunrise forgetting that the clocks had changed and my alarm would have been an hour late! I gathered my gear and headed to the top for some pictures of the golden sunlit landscape.

Knockhill from Saline HillKnockhill from Saline HillFife, Scotland

Early MorningEarly MorningEarly morning on Saline Hill Morning GloryMorning Glory After the sunrise, it was my turn to cook - a good Sunday morning fry-up. We then packed our stuff, leaving only flattened grass behind and we headed down the south of the hill, to walk back to Saline via a different route.

Saline Hill is a place I have driven past countless times with barely a glance. Now after a night of wild camping in a wood of remnant Scots pines, whilst taking in views of the Ochil Hills and Forth bridges, it is a hill worth visiting and the other hills in the area now have my attention.


Remnants,saline, hill, scots, pines, scotlandRemnants of Scots pines blasted by the wind on Saline Hill.Saline hill Scotland    The view from my tentThe view from my tentWild camping on Saline Hill

The Forth Bridges from Saline hillThe Forth Bridges from Saline hill

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) camping fife hill ochil saline scotland sunrise wild https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/3/wild-camp-on-saline-hill Sun, 25 Mar 2018 22:09:41 GMT
Go for a Walk https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/3/go-for-a-walk Die with memories, not dreams. Go for a walk.

KintailKintailAfter leaving Camban mountain bothy, we walked the final few miles of the Affric Kintail Way. We were confronted with this wonderful scenery on our way to Morvich. I heard someone once say that "Life happens whilst you're planning something else" and this is very true. You are sitting hoping for something to come about so that your life will be better and whilst you wait for your 'chance', the clock ticks. Time is life's currency and it makes paper money look irrelevant. Waiting for the lottery win or the big break to make things change might one day happen, but regular walking is where the stories can begin now and they are the stories that you never bothered to imagine. 

Back of BeyoindBack of BeyoindLooking over to Sgurr na Ciche from Luinne Bheinn in Knoydart Sitting at home you are entertained by the various media sources and you are fed countless stories and nightmares, you consume them and they fill your head with other peoples adventures. Simply by walking, I now have my own stories of adventure, the overwhelming majority of them are good, some not so, but they are mine. 

I have spoken to many people who when they found out that I was a regular walker have asked me to take them to our local hills. They are scared to go on their own, I was once too. We are like birds in a cage, scared to leave the cage with endless good reasons why we should stay inside it. The most dangerous thing about walking is the journey in the car to the starting point, just like the car journey to work every day that no one ever gives a second thought. Better to have lived a little... Start off with simple walks and work up from there, that's what I did.

Lonesome TreeLonesome Tree I have walked in nature now for many years and being in nature is therapeutic. The exercise is therapeutic, during the course of a long walk your mind clears of all the faff of everyday life and for a while at least, you feel free. There is another effect from regular carefree walks in nature that I never expected - nature reaches out and touches you. You may laugh at this statement, but I don't care. The Japanese word Yugen best describes this experience, explained simply, Yugen is "an awareness of the universe that triggers an emotional response too deep for words". Forget teachers, wise men and fancy ideologies, nature is where the action is.

Tweedledum and TweedledeeTweedledum and TweedledeeTweedledum and Tweedledee - Two trees in Torwood, Falkirk Scotland My blog is a testament to my enjoyment of the outdoors. I enjoyed some of my stories so much that I have wanted to write them down. I have experienced being buzzed by bats in a forest at dusk, I have been in a surreal total whiteout in the clouds, I have walked through swirling mini-tornados of ice crystals in the winter and I have peered out of my frosty tent on a cold clear night and been awestruck at the depth and distances of the universe above. It is a privilege to see these things and if you’re not getting out, you’re missing out.

The Isle of SkyeThe Isle of SkyeThe Isle of Skye from the The Storr

 

 

 

 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) benefits confidence happiness nature stories therapeutic walking yugen https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/3/go-for-a-walk Fri, 09 Mar 2018 04:36:38 GMT
The Lairig Leacach in Winter https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/2/the-lairig-leacach-in-winter I had arranged with my friend Andy to spend the night at the Lairig Leacach Bothy on Friday night, go to Staoineag Bothy on Saturday and then head for home on Sunday. No problem I thought, a bit of snow will be a bonus too! There was much more than a "bit" of snow... 

As we reached Spean Bridge early afternoon, I was starting to worry. The weather all week had implied snow at high-level. I could see the tops and they were full of snow, I was worried I could make the usual place I park my car at around the 200m contour, up the rough track from Coire Choille Farm. Reaching this spot, I needn't have worried as the snow line started just up from where we parked.

Looking up at the snowy hills it was proper dressing up time, gaiters on, gloves, just a pity I also had a 10kg bag of coal to strap onto my rucksack. The bag of coal reminded me of my first ever visit here, which I also visited with Andy, back in June 2016. It was a beautiful day then, today it was full on winter. I have however visited the bothy around 8 times since then, so I was confident of the route to take over the Lairig Leacach to the bothy.

We headed up the forest track and it quickly became an issue that my fitness was lacking, I had no reserves and with the 25kg on my back, it was hard going. By the time we reached the gate at the end of the forest track, it was knee deep snow and the Lairig Leacach pass ahead looked glorious. We passed a group of people at this point, a family, who had decided to visit the bothy and were on their way back - We had footprints to follow at least.

The Lairig Leacach in WinterThe Lairig Leacach in Winter As we headed up the pass, I kept stopping for a breather, I was in a bad way with no stamina. As we neared the small gorge below Cruach Innse, the sky was grey and the rain had started. I struggled on through the rain and wind hoping to reach the ford, knowing that it is always further from the gorge than you think. Eventually we reached it, but it was hidden beneath the deep snow so we walked right over it, with only my memory of the surroundings to realise this. Shortly after we stopped for a breather, the land and the sky were the same colour and if we weren't in a narrow mountain pass and instead on a plateau, then navigation would have been an issue... I took this video of our situation.

The Lairig Leacach in Winter

This break allowed me to reflect on my situation. I had set off in bright sunlight, but on the way up the pass, it had turned into rain and strong wind. The wind was much warmer than expected, so I kept on my "soft" gloves that are not waterproof. I realised that the gloves were soaking and I also realised that my fingers were numb with the tips feeling swollen due to my tight grip on my walking sticks. The effort of moving with a heavy pack through difficult terrain, with the complacency of knowing that you weren't too far from the destination was making me careless. As I moved my fingers to help to restore the blood flow, it was painful. I noted this for future use - Make sure the winter gloves are easily accessible.

Lairig Leacach in winterNear the Watershed of the Lairig Leacach Lairig Leacach in WinterLairig Leacach in Winter

I asked Andy to take a turn with my pack as I was knackered. I put on his pack (it made no difference) and we soldiered on through drifts past the watershed, some so deep that we doubled back to find a different route. I had checked my GPS at our recent stop and knew that we had just 1.5km to go, but we were at the highest and snowiest part of our journey. It was starting to get dark. The usual journey of 1.5 hours had now taken 3 hours and we still had to get to find the bothy. Following the footprints, I also saw the base of Stob Ban, where the trees beside the burn that flows past the bothy were visible, they are higher up and in the deep snow, their black branches could be seen. I knew that you have to walk past the bothy to reach these trees. The light was fading fast.

Lairig Leacach in winterReaching the Lairig Leacach Mountain BothyThe light was fading, but we had found it.

We had just avoided a snow drift and walked over a rise. And there it was, the Lairig Leacach Mountain Bothy in the fading light. I was mighty relieved to see it. We opened the door and I took off the rucksack and enjoyed that floating feeling of getting rid of a heavy pack. I went outside and took a photo of this welcome refuge. As I took the picture, Andy stood at the door. 

The Lairig Leacach Mountain Bothy in winter snow driftsAndy at the door The Lairig Leacach Mountain Bothy

Now that we had made it, Our first challenge was water, it was time to melt snow as the nearby river was missing underneath. Once the snow was melted in sufficient quantity and the water problem has been solved, it was time to party - not the kind of party that folks do in the cities, that involves music, dancing and electricity, this party involves gas stoves, food, drink and a nice warm fire. The music is provided by the wind, the fire is the TV and light show. Conversation is the order of the day in the bothy, no electricity, just two friends who have known each other since they were boys talking about life in general. We were 8km from the nearest house with no phone signal, but we had coal, we had booze, we had food and all was good with the world. I wonder what I would have thought as a rebellious 15-year-old if I had known that I would be sitting in a snowbound bothy in the Central Highlands with my friend Andy, 33 years in the future? I would like to think that my 15-year-old self would have been pleased.

The Lairig Leacach Mountain BothyMelting Snow by the fireThe Lairig Leacach Mountain Bothy    Lairig LeacachThe Bothy TVAt the Lairig Leacach

I had a fantastic sleep and slept right through to 8 am. During the course of the previous day, we had agreed that carrying on to Staioneag would not be wise. The main reasons were distance and lack of knowledge of the terrain under the deep snow, where a 5-meter gorge is not on the map and the snow was managing to hide them. It was quite mild and the snow bridges formed were becoming less trustworthy. We knew that if we stayed another night at this bothy also, we would get cabin fever as we would quickly run out of coal and booze and wandering about in the deep snow was not an option that we fancied.

So it was time to do my joint MO duties for this bothy and write a list for all the things that require attention in the coming year, there is quite a list, but apart from a couple of more urgent things, most are cosmetic. I also spent some time taking some photos of the situation in which we found ourselves.

Lairig Leacach Bothy in winterLairig Leacach Bothy in winter

Lairig Leacach bothyWhere the footsteps endWithout snowshoes and good knowledge of the terrain ahead, we decided it was not wise to continue on past the Lairig Leacach bothy. Inside the Lairig Leacach   The sleeping quartersThe Lairig Leacach Bothy

We left the bothy a little before mid-day. It was feeling warmer and the snow was less firm so we were breaking through it sometimes up to our waists. It was tough going. On the plus side, it was a lot brighter so the scenery could be seen.

Lairig LeacachHeading for HomeNear the Watershed of the Lairig Leacach

The Lairig LeacachThe Lairig Leacach

Finally, after three hours we had made it back the car. It had taken 3 hours without the coal and I had again struggled - my lack of fitness needs some attention! Disappointed to have cut the trip short, I was reassured that it was the most sensible thing to do. My long weekend of adventure had been reduced to just one night, but in that deep snow I had experienced enough adventure for one weekend.

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) adventure bothy central conditions deep highlands lairig leacach mountain scotland snow winter https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/2/the-lairig-leacach-in-winter Sat, 24 Feb 2018 09:33:51 GMT
Crawford Priory https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/2/crawford-priory Crawford Priory, despite its name, is a ruin of a stately home located in Springfield, near Cupar in Fife, Scotland.

Built in the 18th century this building was never a priory and a great account of the history of this building, together with historical pictures can be viewed at the blog of Alex Cochrane.

I first shared pictures of this place when I was a member of Flickr. One photographer had commented on my photo as to how he remembered visiting this building as a child in the 1970's with his grandmother. He described that the building was being closed at the time of his visit and that the furniture was being sold. He remembered visiting the top floor and he described how the ceiling was painted navy blue with gold leaf stars to resemble a night sky.

Now, 40 years later, all that remains of the interior rotting wooden rubble on the ground, with only the walls remaining. It is amazing as to how quickly a beautiful building like this can disintegrate. I have visited Crawford Priory on several occasions and I share my pictures below.

Crawford PrioryCrawford PrioryThis fast disintegrating ruin of a stately home is located in Springfield, near Cupar in Fife, Scotland.

Crawford Priory DoorwayCrawford Priory DoorwayAbandoned Crawford Priory near Springfield, Cupar. This buildng was abandoned in 1970 and is now a total ruin.

Crawford PrioryCrawford PrioryCrawford Priory near Cupar in Fife

Crawford PrioryCrawford Priory

The House of Forgotten DreamsThe House of Forgotten DreamsCrawford Priory, Springfield near Cupar in Scotland

Using a couple of open source images and the day to night technique, I was able to have some fun with the images I have captured of this spooky image. The picture below is called "The Witches Mischief".

The Witches MischiefThe Witches MischiefA shot of Crawford Priory combined with some open source images to get the best of this spooky ruin.

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) abandoned castle crawford crumbling cupar gem hidden priory ruin scotland spooky springfield https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/2/crawford-priory Thu, 08 Feb 2018 21:15:50 GMT
The Woodland Shelter https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/1/woodland-shelter "Sleeping in the woods on a Saturday night!" - There are no rock songs that I know of containing these lyrics...

I have known my friend Andy since our early teens. I remember even back then, Andy was into his outdoor pursuits and it has taken me about 30 years to catch up with his hobby. We had recently decided to spend a night in a local forest, where we would erect a tarpaulin for shelter then sleep below it. Any teenager looking at us would see a couple of old men who should know better (our partners think that also!), but for us, apart from it being simply fun, it's also useful practice for when we do go on long walks. There is no point on walking 15 miles into the countryside only to discover that you are unable to set up camp for the night. That would be stupid.

So, for the purposes of research and practice, we packed our things and headed off to Devilla Forest where we could hopefully find a secluded corner where nobody could see us. We had important things to test out, The tarpaulin and bivvy bags that Andy had brought and the wood-burning stoves that we had both brought.

After a 30 minute walk into the forest, we decided on a spot that we thought was relatively secluded and it was time to set up. Andy unpacked the gear whilst I unpacked a can of lager! Andy set up the tarpaulin whilst I provided the support of taking pictures and drinking from the aforementioned can...

Andy sorts out the tarpAndy sorts out the tarpWhilst I take pictures!

After a short time the tarpaulin was strung from two trees and pegged down, It was then time to put the ground sheets down, blow up the airbeds and put the sleeping bags within the waterproof bivvy bags. It was raining, light drizzle and the weather forecast that morning had forecast light rain at 3 pm and then only 10% of rain after 4 pm.

Bed for the nightBed for the nightIt was not forecast for wind or rain...

Settling into my corner of the shelter, I was able to see my view for the night, it was a fine view. The rain continued past four o'clock and continued as it got dark. It was not windy at least so the rain was falling vertically and our shelter was keeping us dry. I have consistently found that if there is a small percentage chance of rain in a Scottish forecast, it is going to rain! 

The view from our shelterThe view from our shelter

In the twilight, it was time to test our wood burning gasification stoves. The idea is that you put a few twigs in them and they will produce enough heat to cook your food. As they are self-contained metal stoves, they do not blacken or heat the ground where a campfire leaves an ugly scar. We selectively searched for fallen twigs that had not been in direct contact with the ground, but they were still wet from the rain. Andy gave me one of his magic home-made firelighters and the twigs caught fire easily.

It quickly became apparent that the stoves were like smoke machines. The smoke they gave off was incredible for the few twigs that were being burnt. There was only a slight breeze and the forest downwind was filled with an amazing volume of smoke. This concerned me as if a resident on the outskirts of the forest were to see this, they might call the fire brigade and our stealth forest-camp would end in farce!

Luckily though, once I stopped adding twigs (these stoves are greedy) then the smoke abated and the remaining twigs quickly became charcoal. At this stage, the gasification and cooking could begin. I managed to cook my super noodles and chilli using this remaining wood and I realised that like the full-size stoves I've used in the past, these stoves need to be used a few times so that you can understand how they work. More practice is needed before I can deliver a verdict, but the stove has potential as it is light and would be a useful back-up to a gas stove on multi-day trips.

Once the food was eaten, it was time for a few drinks and to chat about life in general. Mid-evening we did see a few head torches going through the woods and a couple of people actually passed quite close by, we were sitting without lights on as our eyes had adjusted to the low-level light. The people passing by were twenty metres away so we probably blended in quite well as they carried on their way.

Eventually, it was time to sleep and I had a warm night in my bag. The intermittent patter of rain on the tarpaulin made it feel even cosier as I looked out into the forest from my bed. Around 7 am we got up, made breakfast and packed up, leaving no trace of our stay except for some flattened ground. It was an enjoyable night, a bit different certainly from a usual Saturday night...

The one thing that I have learnt is that forest ponds stain your skin. I had used the water from a nearby pond to wash out my cooking pot and had dipped my hand in it when scooping out the water. The pond was brown coloured from the dead pine needles and leaves in it. When I got home, no matter how much I scrubbed, my fingers on my left hand remained a funny shade of yellow, I had to go to work like that and I may have inadvertently discovered a free way to get a fake suntan - just go into a forest and roll in a pond...  

New Fake Tan discoveryNew Fake Tan discoveryIf you dip your hand in a forest pond, it comes out a different colour!

 

 

 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) bivouac camp devilla forest tarpaulin wood https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/1/woodland-shelter Mon, 22 Jan 2018 21:46:27 GMT
A Walk in the White Stuff https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/1/the-white-stuff "I fancy a walk tomorrow", Bob shouted over his garden to me. "Me too," I said, "have you seen the snow up the Ochils?" I asked, "yes," Bob said, "let's go".

Heading For Ben CleuchHeading For Ben Cleuch

I am lucky to live near to the Ochil Hills. They are only a 30-minute drive for me and I can then be standing 700 metres in the crisp snow 90 minutes after leaving my car. In the winter, this means that I get to walk in snow, where around my house, a little above sea level, snow seldom settles.

Bob had suggested that we climb up Wood Hill. We could then do a circular route over the highest Ochil Hill, Ben Cleuch, that stands at 730 metres. I agreed and suggested that we come back down The Law on the other side - the shortest circular.

We set off late, 10:30 am, a luxury when the hills are so close. Even with a sunset at 3:30 pm, we had plenty of time. We started the ascent of Wood Hill. As we climbed on the steep slopes beneath the Caledonian pines, I stopped to take some pictures.

Wood HillWood Hill   The Ochil HillsThe Ochil HillsLooking North from Wood Hill

At this point we could see the snow at the top of Wood Hill. The snow didn't look much and it still seemed far away, but we struggled towards it regardless. At the 475 metre mark the snow was well in control and looking around, we realised how much of it there actually was. We could see for miles and the Ochil hills looked like they went on forever in a winter wonderland.

Beyond Ben GengieBeyond Ben GengieStanding on Wood Hill looking Northwest.

Walking on the snow, I was quick to forget the brown and green land that we had left behind. We were now in a sterile land of bright white with a blue sky. All was good with the world and it was fresh and clean, with only old fences to remind us of man's impact on this land.

There was a well trodden snow path on the final slope up to Ben Cleuch. It was as busy as I’ve ever seen it here. Everyone passing by was smiling and commenting on the beautiful day that we were sharing. We stepped off the well-trodden snow path as we ascended to let people by. we walked a few steps on the solid snow before breaking through up to our knees. The path formed by the many walkers had made the going easier, but my lazy legs were feeling it regardless.

Ben CleuchBen Cleuch At the summit, there was a slight breeze that made it quite chilly on the exposed skin. We decided to keep moving and I pulled over my face mask as we headed off the summit. This earned a comment by a man passing the other way… “Feeling cold are we?” Well, the fact was that I was as warm as I would have been sitting in my house and I wanted to keep it that way! Some people can walk about in thin layers and be a hero if they wished! I like to enjoy the hills whilst remaining warm, why make it an ordeal?

After the top of Ben Cleuch, we decided to head down at the Law and below us, we could see the Central belt of Scotland. It was brown and green and dirty, an affront to the bright sterile white in which we stood. I could see the steam billowing from the refinery at Grangemouth. The power station at Longannet looked small and the Kincardine Bridge was but a toy. A fire in a woodland billowed smoke to further add to the grunge below us.

Beyond The LawBeyond The LawLooking over Grangemouth oil refinery, Longannet Power Station and Kincardine Bridge, from Ben Cleuch

It was now time to leave our pristine world of white and blue. We had to descend down the kneecap popping 600m of the Law into the dirty world below. As we left the snow line, I looked back up the and could barely conceive the perfect world above me that I had left.

Heading Down to BrownHeading Down to Brown I was now back in the imperfect world of brown and green which, like it or not, is the world in which I live.

 

 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) ben bridge cleuch from grangemouth hill hills kincardine law longannet ochil power refinery station the view wood https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2018/1/the-white-stuff Wed, 10 Jan 2018 23:54:23 GMT
Hogmanay https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/12/new-year  The late Harry Keen, who was a dear family friend, recalls his memory of New Year as a child in early 20th Century Edinburgh.

Auld ReekieAuld ReekieThis ariel picture of Edinburgh was scanned from a family book called Wonderful Britain by JA Hammerton, printed in 1920. Hogmanay,

In the Scots it means, the last day of the year or, a gift given to children on New Year's Eve

Hogmanay,

the very word conjures up a mixed bag of images, from when I was a child growing up in Edinburgh, right up to the present day. I suppose that as we get older, the celebrations of yesteryear grow in grandeur and gaiety, as our memories get dimmer. Strangely enough, my memories of Hogmanay celebrations of the past are very vivid in my mind and I can remember who and what relatives appeared first at the door after the bells. Which Auntie used to get drunk the quickest and who would eat the most Black Bun and who would be the first to get up and sing.

When I was a child, I remember what great excitement there was in the house prior to Hogmanay, My Mother was (it seemed to us kids) always baking and cleaning one thing and another. She would start days before, making and cutting the sausage rolls and shortbread and lots of other goodies, one of which was the Ne'er day Cloutie Dumpling, with the silver threepenny bits in, wrapped in waxed paper, which we couldn't touch on pain of death, they were for the Hogmanay.

Then on the Hogmanay, she would take all the bedclothes and our clothes, in an old pram, up to the washhoose in Simon Square, just above the Deaconess Hospital in St Leonards, Edinburgh. She would then give them a thorough cleaning. I remember these old wash houses with their big wash tubs and the drying racks which used to come trundling out of the wall. The steam and the noise, and of course, the chatter among the women.

On that day, the house was cleaned from top to bottom, the fire was cleaned out, the grate was polished with black lead and then the fire was relaid, ready to be lit after tea time. From the start of the year, after the 1st of January, my mother would put money away in a drink club at a Grocer's shop. All year until the Hogmanay when my Father would go and collect the booze for the festivities.

This was a trip to the other side of town and sometimes we were allowed to go with my father and help him lug the booze back on the bus. We were thrilled to travel on the bus as most times we had to walk everywhere. Father and my brother George and I would collect it in the thick paper bags and struggle to the bus stop with it, being warned constantly "dinnae drop that bag mind". Once on the bus we would go upstairs to the front while my father sat in the back and smoked.

From the front of the bus, we could see other fathers carrying their paper bags with the festive bottle or two peeking out of the top and kids like us helping..

Once the house was clean and ready for visitors, we, the children would be washed, scrubbed and put into clean clothes, dared to get ourselves dirty and told to play in the bedroom while my mother made all the sandwiches, cooked off the sausage rolls, sliced the Black Bun and broke the shortbread. She then got all the glasses ready, set out most of the bottles of Whisky and Beer and then she got herself ready to greet the New Year.

It was the custom in our house, when the clock was about five minutes to midnight for my father to go outside. He carried with him, a piece of Shortbread to make sure we would have food in the house, a bottle of Whisky to make sure we would have something to drink and a lump of coal to ensure we would have warmth in the house all the year.

He would wait for the bells to chime midnight to be the houses first foot. On the last stroke of the Bells, he would ring the doorbell, my mother would answer the door and he would wish all in the house, a Happy New Year. He would pour a Whisky for my mother and any other adult in the house at the time. We would get a glass of Vimto or Iron bru and we would all wish each other a Happy New Year.

It was after Hogmanay that we kids received our presents. We would only have a stocking on Christmas morning. My parents celebrated the New Year rather than Christmas, as a lot of Scottish families did and it was a bit strange to us to see other kids with presents on Christmas morning instead of New Year's Day.

During the early hours many people would come to the house, bringing with them their bottles, usually a half bottle of Whisky and the party would start sometimes lasting for days.
When we kids became teenagers we would go up to the Tron Church down from the Castle and gather there. Here we would often try to hit the clock by throwing an empty bottle at it. We never did of course but it was good fun to try.

We would wait for Midnight when we would kiss all the girls, who would let us, wish each other a Happy New Year and drink from each others bottles. Then we would First Foot everyone we could think of.
No one ever had their doors closed, anyone could walk in and join the party as long as they had a bottle in their hand.

On New Year's Day itself, relatives would join us in a Ne'er Day Dinner which was always my Mothers 'Red Broth'. This was a mixture of Scotch Broth and Tomato Soup, followed by the Roast Pork, Roast Tatties and the Cloutie Dumpling. Oh, what excitement if we found a silver threepenny bit, it was ours to keep and spend.

The Table was read and once again, the drinking and singing would go on to the sma' hours.

I remember when I was in the army, the Scots would volunteer to stay in camp to do the various guard and cookhouse duties over Christmas and let the English go home so that we could be home for the Hogmanay. It was our festive season - Christmas didn't mean very much in the way of celebration except as a remembrance of Christ's birth. We didn't attach to it the same festive spirit as other nationalities did.

Those days have gone now. There is not the same, I would say, reverence, if thats the right word, paid to the New Year's Eve, Hogmanay celebration. There is more of a disco-type atmosphere, more and more people are celebrating in Discos and clubs, especially the young ones. But then, there were fewer clubs as we know them today, and definitely no discos. Dance halls like the Palais in Fountainbridge or Fairlies down the Leith walk were the meeting places for the youngsters. The old style of celebrating at home and in each others homes has gone, except perhaps with the older ones like myself.

I still clean the house on Hogmanay morning, and my American wife marvels at this but never tries to dissuade me. I still have the Shortbread and Black Bun and make the sandwiches, though more often the stuff is bought from the supermarket, except for the shortbread which is still baked by myself

In fact on Nee'r day itself the tradition in our house is that all the family come over to my house and we have Curry, lots of it, in fact about 11 or 12 different ones with the Sambals and various rice dishes. This has been our tradition for many years, ever since I left the Army and settled in Blairgowrie. The husbands and wives of my children have come to love it as much as we do.

There is no longer a fire grate to be cleaned, central heating and gas fires having taken over, but still in the older folks homes, there is that reverence for the Hogmanay that cannot be extinguished. We can sit by the fire and think of Hogmanays past listening to the last stroke of Big Ben echoing out of the radio, instead of the Television. I can still hear my Father's knock as he chaps to come in to first foot us My Mother's soft voice as she says, "There's yer Faither at the door". The singing as the revellers come up the stairs. The shouts in the street of "Happy New Year" and the chorus of "Auld Lang Syne" being sung in every household in the land, from Croft to Big House.

At that special time of year all we had were friends, no enemies. We loved one another, as long as we were all Scots and still sober, although others like the English were welcome at that time of year.

We were a' Jock Tamson's Bairns, whatever else we were at other times of the Year.

Hogmanay

It's seeven oclock, get up an' aboot 
There's lots tae dae, too much a' doot 
Get the weans washed an' oot tae play 
It's the thirty first, it's Hogmanay

Get ben the hoose and strip the bed 
An' see an' get the table read 
Get thon hurley oot o' sight 
Fir later oan, it's Hogmanay night

Thirs soup tae mak', an' Bun tae bake 
Yer Grannies bringin' a Stottie Cake 
Thirs Shortbreid done an' packed away 
Fir it's end o' year, it's Hogmanay

Rake the fire, tak the ashes oot 
An' dinnae scatter them a' aboot 
Keep them off o' the landin' flair 
Fir it's yer Mithers turn tae dae the stair

Ging doon tae Dilworths' 'am gonnae need 
Twa plain loaves an' a pan o' breid 
A' dinnae want nane fae yesterday 
It's gotta be fresh, it's Hogmanay

Get the sausage meat oot o' the press 
An' mak sure yez dinnae mak a mess 
There's the booze tae get, "is yer Faither away"? 
Cos the nichts the nicht it's Hogmanay

Ah've goat nae time tae dae yer tea 
Ging tae the chippy jist doon the street 
Pies an' chips 'ull juist hae tae dae 
Fir it's nearly end o' the Hogmanay

The tables set, the fires a' lit 
Yer Faither ye ken is aye first fit 
Sorry son, whits that ye say? 
Oh help ma boab, it's near end o' day

The hoose is clean, sandwiches made 
You bairns 'ull juist hae lemonade 
Get doon the street fir yer Auntie May 
She'l want tae be here fir the Hogmanay

Noo, a' things ready fir fowk tae come in 
Fir neebours an' wir kith an' kin 
They cam fae a' the airts this day 
Fir abuidy's hame fir the Hogmanay

Yer Faithers here, the bells have rung 
An' auld lang syne has juist been sung 
A Guid New Year tae a' I say 
It's January first, an' New Years Day

Sae lift yer gless, mak sure it's fu' 
An' heres a toast fae me tae you 
Tae young an' auld, fae far an' near
Hae a Happy, Healthy, Guid New Year"

"Hogmanay" by Harry Keen © 1999

Footnote: Harry volunteered to write this article and poem for my then website in 1999, which I published as a newsletter for the millennium.  Harry sadly passed away in 2015 aged 83, so I thought it right to again share his wonderful memories.

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) 20th black bun celebrations century dumpling early edinburgh hogmanay magical memories new poem stootie year https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/12/new-year Wed, 27 Dec 2017 14:59:00 GMT
Winter Camping https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/12/winter-camping "Whatever the question, the answer is always more booze".

This was the reply from my friend Andy to my text about the -4°C weather forecast for Saturday night. We were going camping then and it was December with the coldest weekend of the winter so far now predicted; our families and friends were all laughing at us. We parked in the picturesque town of Dollar and headed up the narrow gorges of Dollar Glen. Passing Castle Campbell on the way, the path eventually opened out into the Glen of Sorrow and we followed the burn upstream, looking for a nice camping spot.

The path that runs alongside the burn was icy in places and care was needed to bypass the worst of the icy slopes, as there are some quite unhealthy drops into the water below.

We decided to camp around the 325-meter mark before the glen narrowed and steepens. We found a good spot with plenty of room for our tents. Andy had bought a hammer which really useful for driving the tent pegs into the hard soil. I had a drink of water out of the Burn of Sorrow and as soon as it was in my bottle, ice started to form - very refreshing. Camping in the Glen of SorrowCamping in the Glen of SorrowA nice spot at 325 metres

After dinner was finished it was time for a few cheeky drinks. We stood beside our tents in the cold starlit night blethering about things in general. When the booze was finished, it was time to sleep. I put on a full face balaclava and slept in my clothes, all of them, including gloves. If it had been wet, I had a down jacket packed away as a backup. My camping mat is an Alpkit Numo and although it is sold as a 2-3 season mat I felt that it protected me well that night from the frosty ground. My sleeping bag is a 2°c bag and I supplemented it with a down quilt. This combination kept me cosy and in the morning my watch was showing a temperature of -3.8c inside the tent with the air outside being -4.9c. The tent was coated with frost, both inside and out.
  winter campingA frosty tentCovered with ice both outside and inside -3.8C inside the tent.It was -4.9C outside, according to my watch.  

My stove had let me down even though I had slept with the gas cylinder in my sleeping bag, it was lukewarm coffee in the morning until Andy fired up his stove. I should have bought my hex burner as back-up.

I went and took some pictures in the shaded glen whilst Andy had breakfast. The Glen of SorrowThe Glen of SorrowFirst light hits the Ochil hills whilst a lonely tree in the Glen of Sorrow remains in the shade We packed up and headed down the Glen of Sorrow. Walking down into Dollar revealed all the trees to be white with frost, it was quite beautiful. Reaching my car at 11 am, the car's thermometer revealed that it was still -4°C in the bright sunlight. I wondered then on the accuracy of my watch thermometer.

 

 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) camping frost glen hills ochil of scotland sorrow tent winter https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/12/winter-camping Tue, 12 Dec 2017 22:07:18 GMT
Buffalo Systems Special 6 https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/11/the-buffalo-special-6 The Buffalo Special 6 is a “smock” and not a jacket. Whatever it is, it is the best piece of outdoor clothing that I have bought.

For three years now, I have headed to the winter hills wearing a Buffalo Systems Special 6. This is a picture of me wearing it on Beinn Fhionnlaidh in 2016.

Christian ClimbingChris ClimbingMe walking on the slopes of Beinn Fhionnlaidh. This photo was taken by Robert Brown © 2016.

So what is special about a 3-year-old smock? In that picture above, there is only one thing between my bare skin and sub-zero conditions. It is the Buffalo Special 6 and it works.

I am no gear reviewer, but I have just spent a weekend camping at Loch Affric when it was approx. 1 or 2°C (not far below the snowline) and it was raining. I was wearing the Special 6, which is not waterproof. The smock gets heavy when wet and it was all that I was wearing, but I was still warm - it is quite remarkable.

The Special 6 consists of a pile inner (like the fur on a teddy bear!) with a Pertex outer. The pile absorbs moisture (sweat) and your body heat pushes it away to create a warm microclimate at the skin, so even though the pile is wet, you are warm. The Pertex outer is breathable and disperses the moisture to the atmosphere. There is a video on Youtube of a man jumping in a cold lake wearing a Buffalo Systems smock and trousers. After 15 minutes of walking, he is again dry and comfortable. My own experiences in the rain, although not as radical, corroborates this.

Buffalo Special 6My Buffalo Special 6This picture shows the dark pile which goes against the skin. The Pertex keeps the wind off whilst allowing the smock to breathe and disperse moisture. Buffalo Special 6A Winter Selfie on the Ochil HillsWhilst I may not look particularly stylish, I have been standing up a Scottish Hill for half an hour in winter taking pictures of a sunset. Being comfortable in these conditions means that I can concentrate on taking pictures

I bought my Special 6 from Sports Warehouse in Edinburgh and I had gone to their shop to try it on. I am glad I did this as I left the store with a size smaller than I would have otherwise ordered online. For gear like this, it is important to get the right fit.

Since then I have worn my Special 6 on many winter trips up my local Ochil Hills. I have also worn it further afield to stay at bothies and on Munro's in winter. I have stood on a windy summit with a frozen water bottle and yet I have felt as warm as sitting in my house.

It is not perfect, there are draughts that have made me feel vulnerable in high winds on Munro summits. The wind can whistle up the gap between trousers and shirt, but it has never been a problem to affect comfort and there are straps to adjust the tightness around the waist. I do not wear the Special 6 trousers, so I am unsure if this is also a feature of the full system.

The Special 6 actually relies on draughts to keep you cool, it has side zips that open to let excess heat out. I have used these zips in sub-zero temperatures with a high wind-chill factor and you adjust them to stay warm. I find that the smock is too hot for prolonged climbing above 5°C.

The Special 6 does not come with a hood, but you can buy one. I have seen this hood criticised in some reviews and I can understand why. I use the hood with a beanie and snood(or scarf) around the neck. The hood also comes with a face shield and this protects my face from the winter excesses of wind and spindrift. The picture below shows me checking my watch with my face shield and ski goggles on. You can see why a beanie is necessary, but this combination works well for me.

Buffalo Special SixMe in my Special 6Checking the time on the climb up (Picture by Robert Brown © 2016).

My Special 6 also has its scars, I burnt it on a stove in a bothy and I have covered that with a bit of duct tape - it doesn't like fire! It also has paint on it from a bothy work party where I was too comfortable on a snowy April morning to care about the odd splash of masonry paint.

These scars give my smock history and mean that the Special 6 has served its purpose - It has kept me warm and allowed me to do things and avoid faff. After 3 years of usage in a variety of conditions, I am confident in its ability to keep me warm on multi-day winter trips.

 

 

 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) buffalo experience review six special systems thoughts user https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/11/the-buffalo-special-6 Sun, 12 Nov 2017 17:21:06 GMT
Whiteout https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/10/whiteout This picture is of my friend Bob, taking a video of the whiteout conditions in which we found ourselves.

The WhiteroomThe WhiteroomBob in a whiteout on Beinn Udlamain. The cloud closed in and suddenly everything went white. We stopped, I took a picture of Bob videoing the surreal scene. Luckily we knew where we were...

The whiteout in this picture was due to heavy cloud covering a snow-covered mountaintop. 

We were heading from the rounded summit of Beinn Uldamain when the cloud closed in. I realised that there was no distinguishing the ground from the sky. It is uncanny when everything is white, the snow and sky become the same. As you walk, you have no idea where your next footstep is going to land, you could step off a cliff.

Beinn UldamainBeinn UldamainNearing the summit. At the summit of Beinn UldamainAt the summit of Beinn UldamainThe cloud was starting to close in.

View from the topView from the top

This is where navigation is paramount. the compass and map become your best friends so that you can avoid the cliffs and get home. The whiteout can surprise you, so if you are not sure where you are, it is too late to find out once the cloud arrives. This whiteout lasted about 20 minutes before the cloud cleared. We got off easy as there are old metal poles on this mountain, the remains of an old boundary fence. We knew from the map that this fence line led to where we wanted to go. Each pole could be spotted in the distance through the cloud. It was easy to follow them and we got back to the car before the light faded.

Whiteout navigationWhiteout navigationThese little poles became an important navigational aid meaning that we could keep our bearing easily.   Cornice on A' MharconaichCornice on A' MharconaichA Cornice on A' Mharconaich, one of the A9 Munros

If we had got lost, we would have been returning in the dark. 

Fire and IceFire and Ice

Last lightLast light

 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) bagging hill mountain munro navigation scenery scotland scottish walking whiteout https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/10/whiteout Sat, 28 Oct 2017 20:18:18 GMT
Behind the Picture: Doggy Dreams https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/10/doggy-dreams The reason I like taking pictures is for the memories that they contain. When I look at a photo that I've taken, all recollection of that moment comes flooding back.

Below is another of these images that bring particular memories - This picture is called "Doggy Dreams".

Doggy DreamsDoggy DreamsDigger twitches and yelps in his sleep and it makes me wonder what he is dreaming about. This picture is composed of three images stitched together. It includes a picture of my dog, Digger, sleeping on the back of our couch. It also contains a picture that I took of our friend's Husky, Oscar, as well as a forest background.

Digger was fast asleep and he had been twitching and yelping whilst dreaming of doing doggy things. I wondered whether he was dreaming of being a wolf (his ancestor) running free in the forest; or does he dream of being a short legged Jack Russell tugging on his lead whilst walking on a pavement?

I know Digger, he will be running free.

Digger Sleeping on the Couch

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) art dog doggy dreams jack photograph picture russell sleeping twitching yelping https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/10/doggy-dreams Sat, 07 Oct 2017 12:04:14 GMT
Devilla Forest https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/9/devilla-forest Devilla Forest is located near the small town of Kincardine, in Central Scotland. The forest, although managed, is composed of mainly Scots Pines and is quite natural compared to some densely packed plantations. The forest is also quite large for these parts and I have spent many hours exploring it with my dog and camera.  Some of these pictures can be viewed below. 

Amongst the trees

The PortalThe PortalThe Portal, Devilla Forest, Scotland

I enjoy wandering off tracks into the forest, you'll never know what you may find and I enjoy that adventure.

Abandoned graves

18th Century Gravestone18th Century GravestoneThe abandoned church yard of the Keith family mausoleum with its skeletal gravestones is quite an experience. It is hidden on a hill and takes effort to get to. It was worth it! This is where I first saw the writing on the stones "Memento Mori" which is latin for "remember that you have to die"...

There is an abandoned graveyard around Devilla Forest.  I won't use its proper name, as it's best left hidden amongst the undergrowth so that it can't be disturbed. The gravestones go back to the 17th century and the inscription "Memento Mori" (remember that you'll die) together with the carved skulls certainly makes for an interesting visit. 

Deep in Devilla Forest 

Deep In Devilla ForestDeep In Devilla ForestDevilla Forest Scotland

There are few areas of tightly packed plantations in Devilla Forest and this fire break made for a good photo opportunity. 

Rhododendron 

RhododendronRhododendronDevilla Forest in Scotland

This is one of my favourite pictures. It was only once I got home that I saw the face at the end of this tunnel, an accident of twigs and branches. This tunnel of Rhododendron leads to the 'Danish Camp', an earth mound that goes back to Roman times that was a place of encampment for an army of Danes that fought a battle near here, a few centuries ago. 

 

Digger in Moor Loch

Devilla ForestDevilla ForestDigger with wet feet

Digger does not like water, so this excursion was worth a picture.

Plague Grave 1645

In Devilla forest, you may eventually come across this grave and beside it, there is a sign nearby that explains why it is here. The grave sadly contains the remains of 3 young children, Robert, Agnes & Jeanne Balds, who all died of the Bubonic plague on the same day - 14th September 1645. The sign also explains that the grave is maintained by the "B&M kin" of the unfortunate victims.

The Keir dam

The first time I came across the Keir dam, it was a full open expanse of water. 

Rhododendron Flowers

At the end of May, the Rhododendrons at the edge of Moor Loch carpet the ground with their flowers. 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) dam devilla forest gravestones keir kincardine loch moor photographs rhododendron scotland https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/9/devilla-forest Sat, 16 Sep 2017 07:00:00 GMT
The Grey Cairns of Camster https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/9/camster-cairns Working in Caithness for the week and having some time on my hands in the evenings, I decided to visit the Grey Cairns of Camster which were originally built around 5,000 years ago and are some of the oldest stone monuments in Scotland.

The Cairns have largely been reconstructed, but they are still a great place to visit. The bonus is that you can crawl inside them, which was too great a temptation for me to pass by. I started by visiting the biggest Cairn, the Long Cairn, which consists of two chambers.

The Long Cairns of CamsterThe Long Cairns of CamsterThe Grey Cairns of Camster, Lybster, Caithness

The doorways, if they can be called that, are only big enough to crawl inside. I started by squeezing in the crawlway to the right hand side chamber, but quickly retreated when I realised there was a big puddle halfway along, due to recent heavy rain. I then crawled into the left hand side chamber, which was much easier than the first. Once inside I took this video of the chamber and the crawl back out.

Inside the Long Cairn (LH)Camster Cairns I then followed the wooden walkway over the bog to the round cairn and I prepared to crawl inside, this corridor was lower and darker than the last.

The Round CairnThe Round CairnThe Grey Cairns of Camster, Lybster, Caithness In the video below, you can see that it goes dark for a minute once I am inside and all you can hear is me dragging myself along. Stick with the video though, as I turn the light on once inside. When this chamber was first discovered they found skeletons and bones inside of it. It was awesome looking at the large stones in the central chamber, knowing that they could have been placed there 5 millenia ago.

Entering the Round Cairn of CamsterA tight and dark squeeze into the central chamber, where I switched my light on to see. With Dirty knees I emerged from the tunnel and walked back to my car, I had videos, pictures and a satisfaction of having been lucky enough to visit these neolithic landmarks. 

 

 

 

 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) cairns caithness camster lybster scotland wick https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/9/camster-cairns Fri, 01 Sep 2017 07:00:00 GMT
Return to Braemore https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/8/return-to-braemore As I drove down the hill, Maiden’s Pap with Morvern nestling behind it came into view. It was beautiful to see these pointy hills with crepuscular rays shooting through the gaps in the clouds - It had been fourteen months since I was last here and it looked more wonderful than the first time I had visited.

Braemore Light ShowBraemore Light ShowBraemore, Caithness, Scotland

I reached the parking spot at Braemore where the public road ends. It was evening, so I planned to walk on the track that heads westward over the Flow Country. On my previous visit, I had visited Corrichoich and Morvern and had camped overnight. This time, however, it was just a short walk until dusk, as I had to get back to the guest house for work in the morning.

Leaving my car, I could see the rain approaching, I took a picture of a rain shrouded Morven with Maiden’s Pap in the foreground as the rain started to fall.

Maiden's Pap and MorvenMaiden's Pap and MorvenFrom Braemore, Caithness

The rain got quite heavy, but I could see it clearing ahead. I stopped and looked back as the rain eased and saw the end of a rainbow pointed to Braemore, which was a little oasis of trees surrounded by empty moorland.

I followed the track up the hill and marched onward over the Flow Country, cursing myself for forgetting my walking boots — I was only wearing flimsy trainers, and they made walking a chore. I had hoped to make the closed bothy at Gobernuisgeach, so I stopped briefly to look at my Viewranger App. The app showed me that the bothy was several kilometres from where I was standing and it would be dark in a couple of hours, I was not that desperate to see it!

The Way AheadThe Way AheadFlow Country, Caithness I could now see the silvery trail of Berriedale Water leading the eye to the other closed bothy at Corrichoich, besides which I had previously camped. The small cottage was just distinguishable below the artificial patch of trees in the distance.

Smean and MorvenSmean and MorvenWalking on the Flow Country I headed onward with the sun in my eyes. The top of the hill, and my expected view of the flow country was still a good distance away. Small herds of Red Deer were all around me as I walked.

The Flow CountryThe Flow CountryWalking onward A drainage ditch was running beside this track, likely required to protect the road from the multitude of moisture that surrounded it. The ditch was about a meter deep and the walls of the ditch were black peat with water oozing out like a squeezed sponge.

PeatPeatA ditch in the flow country, water dripping from the peat.

I had read about the Flow Country after my last visit and had discovered that the peat is formed from the mosses and bog plants that grow here. I had also discovered that each millimetre of peat represented one year's plant growth. In that metre deep ditch, there was 1,000 years of growth and in some parts, the peat can be up to 10 metres deep; 10,000 years a bog, since the last ice age.

The Flow Country is big; it even has a website. The site explains that this place is the largest area of blanket bog in the world at around 4,000 km2 (1500 square miles). The bog is important too, as the active growth of the mosses and specialist plants absorb lots of carbon dioxide. It is estimated that there are 400 million tonnes of carbon locked in the peat of the Flow Country. Significant parts of this land have been damaged by the plantation of forestry since the 1970's. With growing environmental awareness, however, the damage is being undone by blocking the drainage ditches and removing the trees.

I had now reached the top of the hill and had stopped at a T-junction. If I turned left, it would be approx 5km to Gobernuisgeach. If I went straight on, it would be another 5km to the lodge at The Glutt, and then another 5km to the next (empty) building. If I continued onward, it would be approximately 15km to Altnabeath train station. I attempted to capture the scale of my surroundings with my camera, which was difficult, as the view ahead was empty.

The Flow CountryThe Flow CountryA big empty space in Caithness, Scotland The Flow CountryThe Flow CountryCaithness Scotland After taking pictures, I decided to turn back. The wind was becoming colder and despite the July sunshine, I had put on my pocket gloves. The light was changing often, with the fast moving clouds seeming to form a conveyor belt over Morven and getting in the way of the sun.  The setting sun eventually started to peek below this covering, and lit up Morven as it sat with a bonnet of cloud at its summit; this was caused by the warmer air being pushed up over the top and condensing.

MorvenMorvenA cloud capped Morven, in Caithness Scotland I took some more pictures, before heading back.

Maiden's Pap and MorvernMaiden's Pap and MorvernCaithness, Scotland Nearing the end of my walk, I looked back one last time and saw the clouds lit up by the last of the sun.

The End of the RoadThe End of the RoadBraemore, Caithness, Scotland

As I reached my car, I realised that I was being watched by some curious deer on the hill above me — When they noticed me looking back, they disappeared over the hill. I wondered then if they too had seen the rainbow. DeerWatching Deer

 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) blanket bog braemore caithness country flow scotland the https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/8/return-to-braemore Thu, 17 Aug 2017 07:00:00 GMT
Torwood Castle https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/8/torwood-castle Torwood CastleTorwood CastleTorwood Castle is a Scottish Baronial style castle near Falkirk in Central Scotland. It is estimated to be built in 1566 and once the seat of the Clan Forrester. Nearby is the ancient Tappoch Broch and the mysterious blue pool of Torwood.

According to the Clan Forrester web page, Torwood castle was built in 1566 by Sir Alexander Forrester. The lands of the "Royal Forest of Tor Wood" were bestowed upon the Forrester family in 1450 and as such, the castle would have formed the seat of Clan Forrester. 

I walk here often and the history of this secluded spot is fascinating, where there is the 2,500-year-old Tappoch Broch nearby in the forest. As the Clan Forrester web page alludes, the castle grounds are also situated on where a Roman Road used to run and it was on this road that Siward the Dane passed in pursuit of Macbeth in the 11th century. 

Torwood CastleTorwood CastleFalkirk Scotland There is an old tree that stands a few metres from the castle, it is an old oak with a split trunk that appears to be collapsing under its own weight. The tree is still alive as it still has leaves on it in the summer and I have taken many pictures of it. The picture I took below of this tree is my favourite, it's called "The weight of experience" as that tree has experienced a great many years at that spot since it first emerged as a seedling. Time is bearing down on it with such weight that it struggles to keep standing, but it still hangs on.

The weight of experienceThe weight of experienceThis old oak stands beside the 16th century Torwood Castle and I wonder how long they have stood together. Although the tree's trunk is split at the bottom it still puts out leaves ever year and I always check on it when nearby. I wonder about how long the tree has stood there beside this old castle and I wonder what variety of people have passed by this tree. Was the tree there when people lived in the castle before it became a ruin? I will never know.

 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) ancient castle forest historiy macbeth mcbeth oak scenery scotland scottish tor torwood tree wood https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/8/torwood-castle Wed, 02 Aug 2017 07:00:00 GMT
Final Vacation https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/7/final-vacation The Red ShedThe Red ShedA shed standing beside the Beauly Firth, near Inverness in Scotland

My mother-in-law, Ericka, passed away around 8 am on the 19th July 2016, she was 68.

It has always been a firm tradition of my wife's family to go away for an annual holiday together. On those holidays, we have visited many destinations in the UK and Ericka always looked forward to her week's vacation with a passion that was unmatched by the rest of us - She would count down the days for when the trip would start and she would relish every moment of it.

In October 2015 Ericka was diagnosed with terminal cancer and she was told that she had six months to maybe a year left; we watched as, despite treatment, she continued to deteriorate. When we visited her she sat with a steely acceptance of her condition, she was so brave. She reached her 50th wedding anniversary in June of that year and we took her up to Fort William for a day out and a meal. David, my brother-in-law booked a cottage on the Beauly Firth in July, as she so wanted her annual trip away. By this time Ericka was unable to walk due to her badly swollen legs but, despite the doctor's advice, she was determined to go on her holiday and she was positively animated at the thought of going.

Her doctor was so concerned about her that arrangements were made with local doctors in Inverness in case an emergency arose. We then made the trip up to Inverness and the nice cottage by the water of the Beauly Firth. Despite her condition where she needed regular doses of morphine, Ericka enjoyed her holiday like she always had. She had her nightly trip to the Bingo in Inverness, except this time she had to use a wheelchair. I cooked her breakfast in the morning, except she ate only small amounts. We went for bar lunches and she would order a big plate of food, but only a token was actually eaten.

When we left the cottage at the end of the week, Ericka was too ill to stop for food and wanted to go straight home. She was home for just a few hours and then an ambulance had to be called to take her to the hospital.

The holiday was finished and she'd made it.

Ericka, I took the above picture of a red shed on the Beauly Firth, near the cottage that we stayed and I never got to show it to you. This picture always now reminds me of you and your love of family holidays; whatever the weather. It is now one year exactly since you've passed and today the rest of us are together in the Lake District, on holiday, having a walk in Keswick beside Derwentwater, a place you so enjoyed.

We will be thinking of you.

Derwent WaterDerwent WaterThe beautiful Lake Derwentwater in the Lake District

 

 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) beauly brave firth inverness mortality red shed https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/7/final-vacation Wed, 19 Jul 2017 07:00:00 GMT
The Falkirk Canal Tunnel https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/7/the-falkirk-canal-tunnel Falkirk Canal TunnelFalkirk Canal TunnelBuilt in the 1820's, this tunnel is 630m long and the Union Canal runs through it from Edinburgh to Falkirk Completed in 1822, the 630 metre (690 yards) Falkirk Canal Tunnel was a marvel of its time. The tunnel forms part of the Union Canal that was built to link Edinburgh and Glasgow via the Forth and Clyde Canal at Falkirk. The tunnel was not originally intended but it is a consequence of the local landowners, the Forbes family, who lived in the stately Callander House objecting to the canal spoiling their view.

This tunnel is then a consequence of Nimbyism. These particular Nimby (Not In My Back Yard) complainants were very well connected and forced the canal builders into building this expensive tunnel before that now popular acronym was even conceived.

Before the canal millennium projects, where many millions of pounds were spent in restoring the canals of Central Scotland, this tunnel had no lighting or railings. The railings are for safety as there is no need nowadays for horses to pull the barge through the tunnel. Lights have been installed too, but it is still a very dark tunnel to walk through, with a lot of people using their phones for additional illumination as they hurry through it.

I have spent time in this tunnel taking photos and after a half hour of long exposures using a tripod I realised that the tunnel has bats, as only once my eyes adjusted to the low light did I notice them skimming silently past me.

Falkirk Canal TunnelFalkirk Canal TunnelThis is the Falkirk end of the Falkirk Canal tunnel in scotland

Falkirk Canal TunnelFalkirk Canal Tunnel Falkirk Canal TunnelFalkirk Canal Tunnel The thing that strikes me about inside the tunnel is the colour of the living rock that is visible at the entrance. These colours are amazing where there are greens, blues, turquoises and yellows visible where I expect the rock to be brown or black. There is also a lot of water coming into the tunnel through holes and cracks, where you have drips hitting your head and a pretty intense (and noisy) spout of water near the entrance. Halfway through the 200 odd years of water ingress has coated the walls with minerals and stalactites are forming. This coating on the walls is porcelain/yellow and looks wet and slimy but when you touch it is as hard as rock. 

The Dripping WallsThe Dripping WallsFalkirk Canal Tunnel

The oozing WallsThe oozing WallsMineral formations inside the Falkirk Canal Tunnel I spent so much time on my two (photography) visits, I even managed to catch a boat coming out of the concealed entrance. The noise of the engine as it heads through the tunnel is amplified and is thunderous and disorienting. It drove Digger crazy and I had to comfort him and get him out of the tunnel. If I ever go back to take more pictures, I will leave him at home, as I've realised that dogs and tunnels are not compatible.

Falkirk Canal TunnelFalkirk Canal TunnelA boat emerging from the Falkirk Canal Tunnel

 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) 630 and barge canal clyde edinburgh falkirk forth glasgow metres miley scotland spooky tunnel union https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/7/the-falkirk-canal-tunnel Fri, 07 Jul 2017 20:17:35 GMT
Behind the Picture: The Empty Field https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/6/the-empty-field The reason I like taking pictures is for the memories they contain. When I look at a photo that I've taken, all recollection of that moment comes flooding back.

Below is another of these images that bring particular memories - This photo is called "The Empty Field". The Empty FieldThe Empty Field This image was taken beside a field near Torwood in 2014. I had walked past here earlier in the summer and it was full of bullocks (young male cattle). Whilst most of these large animals ignored us, a few came up to the gate and eyed both myself and my dog Digger walk past with great curiosity. Staring back at them and looking at their faces, I could see some character in the eyes which was mostly curiosity and bewilderment, which is a lot like me! I realised then that the cattle, held in the field by a simple gate, had a lot in common with me, on very many different levels.

Later in October of that year, I had just returned from a holiday in the Mediterranean and was disappointed to find that all the autumn leaves at Torwood had been blown off the trees by a storm whilst I was away. Walking on with my camera, I came to this field and it was empty, the bright-eyed bullocks were gone. I realised that the destination for these curious and bewildered young males would have been the slaughterhouse and the field would remain empty, until next year.

I took this picture then.

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) behind picture story the https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/6/the-empty-field Sun, 25 Jun 2017 13:11:49 GMT
Post-Industrial Chicken (a short story) https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/6/post-industrial-chicken My Grandfather told me a lot about the way things used to be when there was plenty. I remember him telling me about planes trains and automobiles, those marvellous machines of which just remnants still remain. He told me that they had drinking water whenever they wanted and light was available simply by pressing a button.

What I most remember about my Grandfather’s stories, however, was the amount of food he said that was available. They had fruits and tastes from all around this great world and they could have it whenever they wanted, as the world was very small then.

They had a lot of meat which was plentiful in those days. My grandfather told me about a bird called Chicken - it was his favourite. He told me that it was a large tasty bird that you could get freshly cooked and still hot from a "Supermarket". He said that the bird was so large that you could feed a family for days from the flesh of just one chicken. He gave me this picture that his own Father, my great grandfather had taken and he told me it was the closest representation he had of what a chicken looked like. Looking at the picture I cannot to this day understand where the meat came from...

Post Industrial Chicken I miss my Grandfather so very much as he knew about everything and I really never fully understood what he told me. He told me that things went wrong when he was young because we grew so large and we always wanted more, but the world is only the world and there is nothing else. It is a paradox, he told me, that where something is useful, we use it more and more and become reliant on it, using more and more and more... This occurs until there is nothing left and by then you have forgotten how to live without it.

This is what happened when the oil ran out, everything that relied on it collapsed, the society he was born into collapsed, billions starved and the chickens among many other animals never made it; all eaten. Grandfather said that despite this great calamity that decimated the planet, nobody had actually learnt from these events, but this was the way of this world, he told me - it always will be.

 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) bowness chicken industrial post short story https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/6/post-industrial-chicken Sun, 11 Jun 2017 20:44:43 GMT
Racing the Night https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/6/racing-the-night We have had a great spring but I have not been out and about much due to work and social commitments, with my backlog of writing and pictures also having to take a back seat. My only escape has been evening trips up the Ochil Hills with my long suffering wife Karen and her friend, Sarah. 

With me as their guide, the ladies have covered a few of the higher Ochil hills so far this year and the next on the list was Ben Cleuch, the highest Ochil at 730 meters. We set off late and parked up the car at about 7:15pm. I was worried we were going to run out of daylight as that only allowed us 2.5 hours before sunset. It was however a bright and warm night so I expected at least another half hour of daylight after sunset - the head torches were in my rucksack though, just in case.

Up until recently both Karen and Sarah didn't really hill walk, but their recent jaunts up the Ochils has slowly acclimatised them to climbing steep slopes; they still moan though! As we left the car the first complaint I received was that they were bored with walking here as our previous two trips up Wood Hill and Craighorn have started from the same place, the Wood Hill woodland park car park. In anticipation of this I had thought of tackling Ben Cleuch from nearby Tillicoutry but the pull up The Law is a pretty intense climb and I did not fancy the additional moaning that this route would generate... I decided to take the safe route up the dirt track from the village of Alva that runs beside the Nebit as this is an 'express' route for fast access to Ben Cleuch, which lies further back from the steep slopes veering out of the Forth Valley.

We headed off through the woods and after passing the old silver mine we reached the dirt track and followed it as it zigs-zaps upwards above Alva. After passing the Nebit (which I never get round to climbing) and with the ladies already glowing from the climb so far, it was time to turn off the track and follow the grassy path up towards Ben Ever. This is quite a steep climb and as we walked past many sheep and lambs, I kept in front to avoid the moaning and complaining stares, with Digger kept on his lead to avoid any confrontations with the local livestock.

Halfway upHalfway upThe easy bit on the climb up Ben Ever

As we topped the broad ridge of Ben Ever, Ben Cleuch was now in sight and its summit cairn did not look too far away...  I was outvoted with my suggestion to go over the top of Ben Ever and it was decided that we would use the bypass path to go round the top to avoid unnecessary climbing. My watch was consulted and I pointed out that we would probably reach the top about 9pm. This would give us no more than 90 minutes of fading light to get back down. Karen and Sarah eyed the top and looked back at the route we had taken, "we have come this far" they said, so we headed onward.

The initial climb from the col between Ben Ever and Ben Cleuch is a short but sharp slope and I took off up it to leave the ladies to moan amongst themselves. I waited near the summit for them to catch up and as they arrived they both glared at me as if blaming me as being the cause of their exertions. At the summit cairn the trig point was touched and the usual picture was taken so that they could post their latest conquered hill onto facebook. 

At the summitAt the summitKaren and Sarah at the top of Ben Cleuch  The picture below is from the summit of Ben Cleuch which was taken on a different visit a few years back.

Ben CleuchBen CleuchThe view from the Summit of Ben Cleuch, Ochil Hills, Scotland I took the picture below at the top of Ben Cleuch with my phone, looking northeast with the lowering sun was giving good light.

Northeast on Ben CleuchNortheast on Ben CleuchOchil Hills Scotland

Evening on Ben CleuchEvening on Ben CleuchOchil Hills Scotland We left the summit at 9:15pm, the sun was getting lower and only the top peaks and ridges of the Ochils were still lit, with everything else in shadow. I had considered whether it would be quicker coming down The Law into Tillicoutry Glen, but decided against it as the route we had came up would be a safer bet if we run out of light. We took off at a good pace knowing that we were now racing the night and at the col I decided to take the path to the top of Ben Ever and told the ladies I would meet them on the other side, where the bypass and summit paths meet. I had not bought my camera as I didn't think it worthwhile (!) but here was I on the top of a hill with the sun setting. At least I had my phone and I took a few shots missing  the zoom lens that having my camera with me would have provided.

Sunset on Ben EverSunset on Ben EverOchil Hills Scotland

NorthwardsNorthwardsEvening on Ben Ever, Ochil Hills, Scotland When I finished taking my snaps, I looked down the hill and saw that Karen and Sarah were already at the bit where I was to meant to meet them, they had stopped and very nearly took the wrong path along the long ridge towards the steep wood hill. Luckily though they realised, waved up to me, then raced off down the Ben Ever slopes leaving me to hot foot it after them. I finally caught up with them halfway down and we finally reached the track about 9:50pm - good going. As we walked down the track towards the zig-zag over Alva, I pointed out to my companions that the car is parked at about 50 metres elevation so they had climbed 680 metres... This kind of information is best held back until after the climbing is over!

We finally reached the Wood Hill woods and there was just enough light to see the path back to the car. We walked this last stretch through the still and humid woodland with bats whizzing silently about us, their speed and agility is amazing. We reached the car at 10:15pm, not having seen a single person the whole time. The light was now fading fast, but we had done it. We jumped in the car and headed home with that sense of achievement that only fellow walkers understand.

As it stands Karen and Sarah have still to climb the following (larger) Ochils - The Law, Andrew Gannel Hill, Blairdenon Hill, Colsnaur Hill, Innerdownie and Ben Gengie / Craig leith - I will leave that one till last... 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) ben cleuch climbing ever hills night ochil scotland sunset walking https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/6/racing-the-night Sat, 03 Jun 2017 16:06:19 GMT
All Alone on Rannoch Moor https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/5/rannoch-moor Rannoch MoorRannoch MoorFrom Meall a' Ghortain Rannoch Moor is 50 square miles of peat bog and it was a great feeling to be standing on it surveying the expanse. I took the above picture in April 2016 from Meall a' Ghortain which is the hill behind Gorton Mountain Bothy. I stood for quite some time here in the chilly spring breeze and marveled at the fact that despite there being a road and a railway crossing this moor, evidence of anything man-made could not be seen. I felt very small and isolated but also elated at the feeling of isolation, I was truly alone in the landscape. In the Robert Louis Stevenson novel Kidnapped, Rannoch Moor was described as "that country lying as waste as the sea".

All Alone on Rannoch MoorAll Alone on Rannoch MoorStanding on Meall a Ghortain looking over Rannoch Moor

Black Mount from a distanceBlack Mount from a distanceOn Rannoch Moor   Rannoch Moor from Meall BuidheRannoch Moor from Meall Buidhe

Due to the bleak emptiness of this place it has been used as a backdrop for various films and TV shows and when driving on the main road back from Fort William a few months back, I drove past a a music video production where there appeared to be lots of smoke with people dressed in period costumes dancing about like numpties near the ski centre. They were much better dancers than me admittedly!

This moor is a haven for photographers and when driving on the main road to Glencoe, there is always at least one person standing with a tripod trying to catch that perfect shot of the loch with the mountains of Black Mount in the background. I have seen some spectacular shots taken of what I have found to be quite a hard shot to capture. My better shot of this area (for what it's worth) is below, except I was pointing the camera in the opposite direction to the "famous" shots of this place. I had got there as the very heavy rain and cloud was clearing and the sun broke through.  

Rannoch MoorRannoch MoorThe rain was clearing to the West

The above shot was taken near to the main road and my car was only a five minute walk away, as it was in the shot below of Black Rock Cottage where you are actually standing on the road to the ski centre when you take the picture.

Black Rock CottageBlack Rock CottageThis famous cottage sits near the main road at the West end of Rannoch Moor

The Shepherd of EtiveThe Shepherd of EtiveBuachaille Etive Mòr on the NW edge of Rannoch Moor. This is a very photographed view. This is a stitched panoramic and pretty poor compared to some marvellous shots I have seen.

The above shot of Buachaille Etive Mor is also taken a short walk from a car park and this is the "standard" place that photographers come to compose a shot with the river and falls in the foreground. Most shots you see off Rannoch Moor do not involve any great amount of walking from the comfort of a car, which is a shame.

Standing on Meall a' Ghortain however was a different matter, I was a good six miles from my car and in the picture below you can see the distant Loch Tulla, near where my car was parked. The light was bad and the photo's therefore "difficult", but I am glad to have visited here and I hope to explore more of this area.

At the top of Meall a' GhortainAt the top of Meall a' GhortainMy car was parked near the distant loch.

I was standing here late on a Sunday afternoon, after a work party at the bothy had finished. Everybody else has headed home and I was going to head back down to stay for a further night at Gorton. The fire was burning away when I had left to climb up here and after taking these picture I headed back down from this lonely vantage point to spend the night in front of the warm fire. I have heard people call the fire the "bothy TV" and it was certainly enjoyable just sitting on your own staring into the flames, with no electrical gadgets or phone signals to distract you. 

Gorton BothyGorton BothyMy home for the night

Gorton Mountain BothyGorton Mountain BothyA cold April morning   The Bothy TVThe Bothy TVThe fire at Gorton Bothy

Seemingly the Gorton area was once inhabited and it even had a school to cater for the local children. I had found out that this bothy had been a family home right up until the 1950's, but now the building stands on its own in splendid isolation; a simple shelter for weary walkers to enjoy solitude or bothy companionship and to experience living in simpler times. 

Walking to Gorton BothyWalking to Gorton BothyWalking on a Dreich Day, hoping for a warm fire.   Rannoch RuinRannoch RuinOn the path to Gorton Bothy

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) a' all alone bothy empty ghortain gorton landscape meall moor photography pictures rannoch scenery scottish solitary vast https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/5/rannoch-moor Tue, 16 May 2017 21:41:06 GMT
Two Nights in the Cairngorms https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/4/two-nights-in-the-cairngorms In September 2015, Bob and I set out for a long weekend in the Cairngorms. We parked at Linn of Dee and headed off towards White Bridge and then headed up to Carn Cloich Mhullin.

Looking North from White BridgeLooking North from White BridgeWe were heading up to climb the hills on the left, in the evening we were to camp beneath Devil's Point on the right.   Bheinn Bhrotain Carn Cloich Mhullin cairngormsCarn Cloich MhullinLooking north(ish) towards the edge of Bheinn Bhrotain

 

It was a good walk and climb to Carn Cloch Mhullin after which we quickly made the higher top of Bheinn Bhrotain. This top is marked by a decent boulder field, over which we had to step carefully - I lost concentration a couple of times which is not good as you could easily hurt an ankle, or worse, through lack of attention. After clearing the boulder field, we eventually topped Bheinn Bhrotain and then carried on Northward to drop down to Loch Nan Stuirteag at the head of Glen Geusachan.

At this spot, a conversation was had; Bob, who likes to push on, suggested a climb to Devil’s point and then descend down the steep slopes to Corrour Bothy. It would be dark but he has descended there before at night. I on the other hand, the lazy office worker who had smoked for 30 years previous, was perturbed at the offer of extra exercise that the additional climbing offered. I instead eyed the safe glen below entertaining the thought of sitting beside my pitched tent and brewing a cuppa.

It was decided to head down, I felt sorry for holding Bob back but, I would have felt more sorry for myself descending steep slopes at night on tired legs.

Dropping down and walking into Glenn Geusachan, the going was not easy, as the paths were occasional and patchy with the heather in between them deep. We were looking out for a spot to camp as the shadows were lengthening, it was a beautiful evening with a nice breeze and I was looking forward to getting the tent up and, finally, a sit down. As we neared the base of Devil’s Peak we eventually found a flat grassy spot and decided to pitch our tents. I was so looking forward to this.

As I put down my rucksack and extracted my tent from it, the first of the midges arrived…. The breeze had disappeared with the sun behind the mountains, it was a dry clear night and the millions of midges in the glen could fly in the still air… Dinner had arrived.

 

Midges are pretty rubbish, they are slow fliers (about walking pace) so can't fly if it's windy, they can't fly when it's raining either (thank goodness). When conditions are right though, they make up for their shortcomings in immense numbers. It is the female midge that bites, she needs the blood for her eggs and there were now two mammals in her vicinity, in perfect weather conditions, breathing out CO2 and giving off distinctive smells. 

The two mammals, Bob and I, were now miserable. Swarmed whilst putting up our tents, we had headnets on but the midges were everywhere, exploring every nook and cranny they could find of us to get a bite, to get some blood, then splat! I was slapping every part of me, I was a mass midge murderer - I generally like to leave insects alone so they can get on with their short lives, but midges, swarming and biting, they are deal breakers... Bob had given up cooking outside and retreated into his tent. He took this video, which can be viewed below, of the experience on his phone.

I soldiered on cooking my evening meal wearing a headnet and gloves. As soon as it was cooked I paced furiously backwards and forward. Midges are slow flyers, so if I walked fast enough they could not get me. Walking fast, back and forward on a short section of rough path, allowed me to pull my head net up and eat my midge laden meal…

The CO2 from the stove burner had also attracted the midges and they continuously flew into the hot flames and perished with a wee crackle and a visible spark whilst I was cooking. There were a lot of midges, there were a lot of sparkles, my stove had become a midge sparkler.. So many midges, burnt and unburnt, ended up in my chilli it was actually amusing - and great to get some blood back.

After clearing up I ran around to clear the swarm and then dived into my tent to avoid too many midges joining me. Of course many did but, something happens to a midge when it gets inside a building or tent - they suddenly just want out! I think the CO2 and pheromones in a confined space builds up so they go “blind”, they cannot home in, so instead they meekly dash themselves against the inside of the tent. With me safe inside and the swarms outside trying to get in, it was time to sleep with the total silence only broken by the occasional grouse call.

It was already daylight when I opened my eyes. It was quite chilly, this was promising - maybe it was too cold for the midges? I unzipped my tent,  it was clear and there had been a hint of frost. I climbed out as the sun peeked above the hills, thinking of making breakfast and suddenly they were there, again.  After my midge infused porridge,  I packed away my midge infested tent and we set off, heading East through rough pathless terrain to the river Dee. As we forded the river, it was a beautiful morning with a slight breeze, the midges were gone and the world was good again.

Glenn GeusachanGlenn GeusachanThe scene of our first nights encounter with the local midges.   The River DeeThe River DeeLooking North along the Lairig Ghru, from below Devil's Point. Corrour Bothy can be seen in the distance

 

As we stepped onto the Lairig Ghru path, we were overtaken by a group of teenage walkers. They told us they were with an outward bounds group and that they had slept outside Corrour bothy as it was full. “The midges were terrible”, they told us, Bob and I nodded simultaneously.

Glenn Geusachan & Devil's PointGlenn Geusachan & Devil's PointTaken from Carn a' Mhaim

We climbed up the path towards Derry lodge, with the intention of peeling off and climbing Càrn a' Mhàim. It was a steep start and as we climbed, we caught up with the group of teenagers who were all sitting about on the path, we plodded past them and after a period of time they passed us again, only for them to be sitting down at the again at the next corner. This continued and I commented to Bob about youth being of no advantage to a steady plodding pace!

We continued up to the summit cairn of Càrn a' Mhàim where a runner appeared. She told us, as she ate sausage rolls ravenously, that she had done several summits already and was going to run several more in the afternoon! The runner was travelling light and I marvelled at her speed as she run away into the distance, skipping over rocks.

The summit of Càrn a' MhàimThe summit of Càrn a' MhàimThe much larger Ben Macdhui is in the background. In comparison I was trudging over rocks like a lumbering tortoise with my heavy home on my back.  From the summit, we followed the broad ridge until we reached the base of the much higher Ben Macdui. After a brief discussion it was decided to drop down into the Glen, Allt cairn a’ Mhaim and head at low level to Derry Lodge, where we would camp for the night. The youth group had the same plans and it was a Hare and tortoise race to our destination with us pretty much arriving at the same time.

It was a beautiful evening as we arrived,  the sun was setting and there was a nice breeze.  I chose my camping spot across the river from a couple of tents and took off my backpack.  The sun disappeared below the horizon and the wind, obviously driven by the sun, instantly stopped. At this opportunity, the midges came out in large numbers and as I finished pitching my tent,  I simply dived in it and ate a few snacks before going to sleep,  my plans of a nice hot meal were again defeated. The midges had ruined the weekend and the extended stay, originally planned for another couple of nights, was not being considered anymore.  

In my tent I could hear the teenagers setting up camp a short distance away and they were having a miserable time of it. I quickly went to sleep.

In the morning I emerged from the tent to a cloud of midges, I took a walk through the trees with my headnet on, munching on a breakfast of beef jerky, past the abandoned lodge only to discover Bob Scotts bothy. If only I had found this the previous night a midge free hot meal could have been had!

I went back to where we had camped and we discussed whether to just head home or whether to climb Derry Cairngorm before then heading home. It was decided to make use of the day and tackle Derry Cairngorm.  

I started to take my tent down and suddenly heard a man scream loudly. He was screaming “F*****g Midges!!!” repeatedly in a strong Germanic accent in between shouts of “Arrghhh”. The man camping on the other side of the river had obviously retired into his tent before sunset and therefore had not encountered the Midges in the sun driven breeze. He must have woken up and unzipped his tent, unwittingly allowing the midges full ventilated access to his accommodation. On realising his error, he had jumped out of his tent and randomly run about furiously waving his arms and cursing loudly. He had no headnet; that would be a deal breaker for me. We continued with packing up our stuff across the river from him, trying not to laugh. After much cursing and arm flailing he finally run back into his tent and zipped it up quickly whilst muttering to himself.  

By this time we had finished packing our midge infested tents into our midge infested rucksacks and we walked off quickly towards Derry Cairngorm and quickly gained enough height to find a breeze and lose the midges.

Derry Cairngorm is a good climb and by the time we reached the summit the cold wind at this height smelled of winter, it was only September but it was piercing cold on the Rock strewn summit.  

Derry CairngormHalfway up Derry Cairngorm

Derry CairngormDerry CairngormAt the summit of Derry Cairngorm on a windy September day

After a short stop, we headed back down and passed the now tentless Derry Lodge and empty Bob Scotts bothy on our way back to Linn of Dee. The midges had shortened our trip and we were fed up, I was now looking forward to home and its comforts. The joy of camping, to me, is being able to eat a hot meal after a good days walking and not be under constant attack from biting insects. Apart from what I have subsequently learned to reduce the amount of bites, the lesson here is to be flexible and maybe have the hot meal earlier in the day when it is windier and midge free. Flexibility is key here, where I need to learn to adapt to nature and don't expect it the other way round.

Heading HomeHeading HomeDescending from derry Cairngorm and seeing the path home to Linn of Dee

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) a' bheinn bhrotain biting blood cairngorm carn càrn cloich derry insects landscape mhàim mhullin midges mountains scenery scotland suckers swarms https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/4/two-nights-in-the-cairngorms Sun, 23 Apr 2017 12:34:03 GMT
Schiehallion https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/4/schiehallion I went for a quick walk up Schiehallion on Saturday afternoon, as it was a lovely day. I parked up around 3pm, having left it late, so that I was able to park despite the car park overflowing onto the road. On the way up Schiehallion I was met with a procession of people coming back down - it is a very popular hill!

Schiehallion is notable for being the mountain where contour lines were first used to map out the slopes - they were invented here! It was here that an expedition by Charles Mason in 1774 came to weigh the earth, using the bulk of this isolated hill to deflect a pendulum so the mass of the world could be determined. His assistant, the mathematician, Charles Hutton, came up with the idea of using lines to map out the slopes and contour lines are still used to this day, where a map would be much less useful without them.

After struggling up the side of the lower slopes, I reached the wide ridge and the summit was in site.

Schiehallion Rocky RidgeSchiehallion Rocky Ridge

Once on the ridge the terrain gets progressively rockier and you have to concentrate for pretty much the second half of the climb over the boulders. The rocks were not too much problem for me but Digger with his short legs was finding it hard to pick his way over them and he struggled on behind me. I was glad I had bought spare water and a bowl for him to drink from, as this is a dry mountain with no water available at all. 

Once we reached the top I took this video, you can see Digger struggling over the rocks to reach me!

Schiehallion, at the topI took this quick video at the top of Schiehallion as Digger scrambled over the rocks to reach me :)

The light was not that great but I managed to grab a few shots, one of them I was quite pleased of with its many layers of rolling hills.

View from the topView from the topSchiehallion Looking SouthLooking SouthFrom the top of Schiehallion

Many Shades of GreyMany Shades of GreySchiehallion, Scotland

We quickly headed back down and made it back in 4 hours - with the drive there and back it was 8 hours all in. Digger slept in the back of the car all the way home and he then snored in his bed when we got home. Digger always snores heavily after a good days walking, as do I.

 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) climb contour lines munro scale scenery schiehallion scotland scottish summit video https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/4/schiehallion Tue, 11 Apr 2017 19:23:33 GMT
Dunmore House https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/3/dunmore-house Dunmore HouseDunmore HouseA large ruin in Central Scotland

Dunmore House is a partially collapsed ruin located on the Dunmore estate near Airth, Falkirk. We have many striking and significant ruins such as this in Scotland and this particular building could be considered a remnant of empire, where the landed gentry of the time could afford to build and maintain these large expensive houses, funded from the fat of the colonies over which they had influence.

The Dunmore Estate was the seat of the Murray family, the Earl’s of Dunmore, from 1754 who had purchased the land from the Elphinstone family, the occupiers since 1338. The most notable Earl was the 4th Earl of Dunmore, John Murray or Lord Dunmore. This particular Lord is remembered as an American villain. He was the first governor of New York and he was the last royal governor of Virginia, during the time of the American revolution - Lord Dunmore played his part on the losing side.

The American connection is actually still visible on the Dunmore Estate, where a now little-used road is lined with large Sequoia trees which, given time will become giants. The tree connection is, however, a coincidence, as they were only first discovered in 1833 and Lord Dunmore was sent packing from North America much earlier, dying in 1809 in Ramsgate. The trees are therefore more likely to have been planted as a result of fashion, rather than as a connection to the 4th Earl of Dunmore’s checkered American history.

Dunmore Sequoia'sDunmore Sequoia'sEven though the Earl's of Dunmore's association with America ended with the 4th Earl. A piece of America remains on the Dunmore estate in the form of these giant Sequoia trees which can live many centuries.  

The current ruin of Dunmore House was designed by the architect William Wilkins around 1825 and the Murray family lived there until 1911. The house remained a private dwelling until 1961 and it then had a short spell until 1964 as a girls school, after which it was abandoned. A large part of the rear of the building has since been demolished, but much remains to demonstrate its crumbling grandeur. My most recent visit in autumn 2016 was surprising, as a lot of saplings have grown quickly and obscured the front of the building. My pictures from 2012 and 2014 that you see on this page would likely not be possible now, at least not in the summer. Dunmore House PanoramicDunmore House PanoramicThis is a stitched panoramic of very many 50mm shots taken at close range. I was amazed the software could handle it, although it did need a bit of help and the distortion is obvious from where I took the shots. The 4th Earl of Dunmore has however left a lasting legacy - the Dunmore Pineapple that is dated 1761 above its doorway. The Dunmore Pineapple is, in fact, a large stone pineapple that has been carefully crafted to prevent water gathering, it has survived to this day without any frost damage to its delicate stone form and it still looks impressive. This folly was built to crown the hothouse building where actual pineapples were grown for the privileged few. This very unusual building is now looked after by the landmark trust and is available to rent as a holiday home.

Dunmore PineappleDunmore Pineapple   Elphinstone TowerElphinstone TowerThe partially collapsed 16th Century Elphinstone Tower, on the Dunmore Estate near Falkirk, onced served as a crypt for the remains of the Murray family. The remains were moved after it was vandalised and the remains of the coffin racks were visible through the partially open door. Since this photo was taken in 2013, the door has been removed entirely.

There remains a legacy to the Elphinstone family, hidden in a wood near the Sequoia lined road on the Dunmore estate. Elphinstone tower is a partially collapsed tower built in 1510, two hundred years before the union of Scotland and England. A picture of the tower and the neighbouring but now demolished church can be seen on the website of the Falkirk local history society. My 2013 pictures, however, present a much sadder scenario where the tower is partially collapsed and even the cross, marking a grave in the foreground, went missing sometime after in 2014. My other picture shows the door of the tower being ajar and the coffin racks of the Murray family crypt exposed for me to photograph. The remains of this family, more well known on another continent than to their own countrymen, had long been moved to another location due to simple vandalism a few decades earlier.

My last visit in 2016 found the door totally removed and the tower struggling to retain its shape; a tired and forgotten witness of 500 years. Elphinstone TowerElphinstone TowerThe partially collapsed Elphinstone Tower on the Dunmore Estate, near Falkirk in Scotland

Dunmore HouseDunmore HouseThe entrance of Dunmore House - A stitched vertical panorama picture.

 

 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) 4th america american dunmore earl elphinstone estate history house lord of pineapple scotland sequoia tower trees https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/3/dunmore-house Thu, 30 Mar 2017 21:13:19 GMT
Whistle-stop Skye https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/3/whistlestop-skye I have recently returned from a weekend on the Isle of Skye where we (my wife Karen and my Brother-in-law David) only had one full day to explore. We arrived at the Dunollie hotel in Broadford on the Friday afternoon and then hit the hotel bar for a few drinks, before retiring to bed for an early start to get around the sights.

After breakfast we headed off early for Glen Brittle where we decanted from the car to get a picture of the Fairy Pools. I have seen pictures taken in the summer and they do look magical with the bluey green tinged but crystal clear water.

The morning of our visit was angry weather and we arrived in thick fog. As we walked up the glen, the fog suddenly lifted so we hurried up and took some pictures. The glen was Tolkeinesque in these conditions so it certainly made for some different pictures of this place; more the Orc pools than the fairy pools.

The Fairy PoolsThe Fairy PoolsGlen Brittle, Isle of Skye, Scotland

I took this video too of the fast moving clouds, the shaky hand is not my fault - it was the wind and the hotel bar!

Glen BrittleFast moving clouds above the fairy pools, Isle of Skye As we headed back down the short path, there were many people heading up towards us - By the busloads! You would not get a picture with that amount of people so we were glad that we got there early! As I reached the car I turned to look and saw that the fog had descended again - all those people and their potential pictures obscured by fog. The Orcs must like me…

The car park was full and people were waiting to park so we took off and headed for the largest town in Skye, Portree. This gave Karen a chance to browse the shops in this small town which is something that makes her happy but the rest of us miserable!

PortreePortreeThe main town on the Isle of Skye After having a nice lunch in Portree, like proper tourists, we headed past the old man of Storr, which you can see from far away on the Trotternish Ridge. Without Karen,  David and I would have revisited it (I was last up there in 2008) but Karen had a sore knee so we drove past another busy car park. I took this picture on the Storr back in 2008, it is one of my favourites and I hope to revisit.

The Isle of SkyeThe Isle of SkyeThe Isle of Skye from the The Storr. This picture was taken March 2008. The Old Man of StorrThe Old Man of StorrThe weird rocks on the Isle of Skyeye. The name old man seemingly comes from the face on the formation on the left, rather than the needle shaped rock. This picture was taken March 2008. We headed to Staffin bay and I tried to photograph the Quiraing from there but the light was not on my side, even though the weather had now turned for the better.

The Quiraing from Staffin BayThe Quiraing from Staffin Bay Staffin Bay from the QuiraingStaffin Bay from the QuiraingIsle of Skye Scotland, March 2008

We then drove up to the Quiraing car park which is on the edge of the Trotternish ridge. I have walked along the Quiraing and around the rock formation called the prison, but I have still to visit it properly - today was not that day, alas.

Instead I took pictures of the Trotternish Ridge and I marvelled at all the formations on this slow motion landslide that has been slowly breaking away over many thousands of years.

The Trotternish RidgeThe Trotternish RidgeIsle of Skye, Scotland The Trotternish RidgeThe Trotternish RidgeIsle of Skye Scotland Enjoying the viewEnjoying the viewTrotternish Ridge, Isle of Skye Scotland

Trotternish Ridge from the QuiraingTrotternish Ridge from the QuiraingStanding under the prison. This picture was taken March 2008.

The PrisonThe PrisonThis rock formation is a slow motion landslide from the Qiraing, the rock is heavily eroded and loose making it a challenging scramble. This picture was taken March 2008. Beneath the QuiraingBeneath the QuiraingThe Isle of Skye Scotland. This picture was taken March 2008.

We then headed westward with the intention of visiting the Fairy Glen. After a good drive we went straight past the turn off as we left Uig, so we carried on as we could not be bothered turning back! I have been there before and didn't quite “get” it. We had a debate on visiting Dunvegan Castle, but instead we headed for Elgol (via our hotel) to catch the sunset.

We enjoyed a calm sunset on Elgol beach looking towards the cloud shrouded Black Cuilins and quite a  few pictures were taken.

Elgol BeachElgol BeachA view towards the Black Cuillins The Black CuillinsThe Black CuillinsTaken from Elgol on Skye Elgol BeachElgol BeachA golden sunset on Elgol Beach, Isle of Skye,Scotland

Elgol SunsetWatching the sunset at Elgol After the sunset we drove back to Broadford on the single track road to the hotel, viewing the beautiful countryside in the dusk, lit by a bright full moon. In the morning it was a four and a half hour drive back where, nearing home, I saw my beloved Ochils. After having visited the Isle of Skye, they suddenly looked to me as being very small and very tame.

 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) beautiful day elgol fairy fairy pools formation isle of skye old man of storr pools portree quiraing rock scenery scotland scottish skye storr the tour uk weird whistlestop https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/3/whistlestop-skye Thu, 16 Mar 2017 19:54:08 GMT
A walk past the Kelpies https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/3/a-walk-past-the-kelpies Living in Falkirk, I take my dog Digger for his “usual” walk through Langlees and Abbotshaugh Community woodland, to the Kelpies and back along the canal to Bankside. 

The circular walk I take with Digger is about 6km and it follows the River Carron, which is pretty much tidal; it is pretty eventful for me (I'm easily pleased). After passing through Langlees park, the walk passes the tree that has railings running through the middle of it! 

The Railing TreeThe Railing TreeThese railings must be pretty old given that this dirty big tree has grown around them! The path continues alongside the river and beside a wood.  You have a choice to walk through the wood and see the odd sculpture - the Abbotshaugh Sentinel called “love and kisses”. The intended purpose of this large iron sculpture was to look like a scar, a healed wound, but from above it looks like a big pair of lips blowing a kiss. It is a sculpture designed for Google Earth! At the time of writing, however, both Google and Bing have yet to be updated to show the sculpture. 

Love and KissesLove and KissesDigger explores the Abbotshaugh Sentinel The woodland here is pretty special as it was planted by the local community in the 1990s and it is always a pleasure to walk through.

Abbotshaugh Community WoodlandAbbotshaugh Community Woodland DiggerDigger

River CarronRiver CarronThe river Carron in Falkirk, Scotland The River CarronThe River CarronThe river Carron in Falkirk. This was taken near the Kelpies. My usual route goes past a reed bed from where you can see the river before heading into the woods.  Both routes converge at the Human Sundial!  Abbotshaugh Community WoodlandAbbotshaugh Community Woodland The Human SundialThe Human Sundial The human sundial consists of metal bits stuck in the ground with great accuracy. To use it you stand on the correct month and your shadow will fall on the correct time! It is Scotland however so the sundial is not often available for use by a watchless passerby…

We then turn left at the Sundial and head towards the Kelpies along the tidal River Carron.

River Carron, FalkirkRiver Carron, Falkirk

The path is an artificial bank but to the right lies wetlands which have a mixture of trees, ponds and bulrushes. I always like this bit, apart from at low tide when it is less river and more muddy banks and also apart from the bit where you reach the sewage works at the end! I don't hang around here and cross the footbridge to reach the Forth and Clyde canal and the Kelpies.

Ducks CrossingDucks Crossing Wet Day WalkingWet Day Walking The River CarronThe River Carron

WetlandsWetlands The Kelpies are the world's largest horse statues, I took this picture of them on the evening of the opening day. I have not really bothered taking any more pictures as they are so very well photographed; just not by me... The KelpiesThe KelpiesThe Kelpies in Falkirk. The statues are by the Artist Andy Scott. They were built to remember the horses that used to pull the barges along the network of canals My walk with Digger generally avoids the Kelpies and we continue along the towpath on the opposite side of the canal, or if it's dry we follow a grass path that is a shortcut away from the Kelpies and being wasteland it is more natural to me. It is a pleasure to go this way, even despite the electricity pylons looming overhead. The iron horses may be to most tastes, but to me, this is where the action is - wherever there is nature, there is beauty. The golden reeds swaying in the breeze lit by the sun - it is wonderful and a walk through nature, however small, lifts my spirits much more than any man-made object can. 

Digger SniffidogDigger SniffidogI seldom take macros, generally a wee dog wants to look at what I am looking at and his nose always ends up in the shot!

After the shortcut we rejoin the towpath on the less crowded side of the canal - the other side is very busy with Kelpie visitors! It is then a good walk to bankside industrial estate where we cut back over towards Langlees to complete the circle.

Canal Bank ButtercupsCanal Bank Buttercups Canal at BanksideCanal at BanksideBankside Industrial estate. This canal is higher than the industrial estate! All in, it a good hour's walk that gives me pleasure and it clears the head.

Night WalkingNight WalkingWalking at night in the Abbotshaugh Community Woodland

Edit April 2019: 

I've recently made a wee video that encompasses the new Abottshaugh footbridge across the river that was completed in 2018. This video is just a small selection of video and image snippets that I've taken over time.

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) abbotshaugh and carron community falkirk horses human kelpies kisses langlees love railings river scotland sentinel sundial the tree woodlands https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/3/a-walk-past-the-kelpies Sun, 05 Mar 2017 20:04:45 GMT
The Frogs are Awake! https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/2/the-frogs-are-awake I'm on my way...I'm on my way...To the annual meeting of Frogs. I happened to come across two frogs on the footpath at Plean Country Park, when out walking with Digger. I had noticed, when I was younger and paid attention, that the frogs head to their breeding pond mid-February and it always makes me wonder how they manage it in the cold! But manage they do and thankfully the common frog is still common in these parts, despite their obvious disregard for their own safety in crossing busy roads and not caring about heavy footed humans blustering along the path.

I moved one small frog (probably a male) off the path and a few steps further I stopped to take a couple of pictures of this big frog (probably a female), who did not seem overly concerned at having a phone stuck in it's face as I took a picture. It did seem more concerned about Digger however, who suddenly rushed up to it and made it hop off the path, reducing my photo opportunities to two shots as I dragged the dog away.

I left it to find it's way the further 20 odd metres downhill to the pond, where it will join all of the other local frogs for their ancient annual general meeting.  

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) common country frog park plean scotland https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/2/the-frogs-are-awake Sun, 19 Feb 2017 19:41:30 GMT
The Beauty of Trees https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/2/the-beauty-of-trees I really like trees. The older a tree gets the more individual it becomes, like us, shaped by their environment. The picture selection below is where I have tried to capture that character. I have a lot to reworking to do and some of my favourites are still to even be uploaded, but I start with these.

There are some trees too with angles on their branches that really make me stop and look - I don't know why. This first picture of a tree at Loch Etive shows that angular dance in its upper trunk branches that always catches my eye.

Loch EtiveLoch EtiveAs I walked along the banks of Loch Etive I was drawn to this wonderful tree. Here it comesHere it comesHeading down, back into the cold grey fog. The North ThirdThe North ThirdMature Forest at the North Third Reservoir near Stirling, Scotland The Non ConformistThe Non ConformistTorwood Scotland YearningYearningWood Hill, Ochil Hills, Scotland

The weight of experienceThe weight of experienceThis old oak stands beside the 16th century Torwood Castle and I wonder how long they have stood together. Although the tree's trunk is split at the bottom it still puts out leaves ever year and I always check on it when nearby. Plean Country ParkPlean Country ParkI took this on a foggy walk through Plean Country park. I have a fondness for silver birch trees which stems from my childhood. Sunrise in Glen AffricSunrise in Glen AffricThe sun peaks over the hill illuminating the ancient Caledonian Pines Torwood GroveTorwood GroveThis grove of trees in Torwood always has amazing light Palamós PinePalamós PineI sheltered from the sun beneath this tree in Palamós in Spain Rainy Day in TorwoodRainy Day in TorwoodRainy day in torwood The AudienceThe AudienceNative pines stand above the fog covering the Forth Valley on Wood Hill, Ochil Hills Treebeard?Treebeard?This tree stands in Torwood in Central Scotland, it was obviously dead when I took this picture, having been crowded out of the light by the surrounding pines. Still it had character and the little face on the side hinted at a smile.
Tweedledum and TweedledeeTweedledum and TweedledeeTweedledum and Tweedledee - Two trees in Torwood, Falkirk Scotland

Wood Hill SunsetWood Hill SunsetI took this on my first attempt at taking sunsets on Wood Hill in the Ochil Hills. I love the backdrop of this hill and I also like the fact that I can catch a sunset in the winter and be home by 6pm :)

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) affric glen hill ochil photos pictures scotland torwood tree wood https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/2/the-beauty-of-trees Sun, 19 Feb 2017 19:17:11 GMT
Beinn Fhionnlaidh https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/2/beinn-fhionnlaidh Finally having a chance to climb on snow capped mountains after what has been a surprisingly warm winter, Bob parked his car up and we headed down the estate road in the bonny Glen Creran to commence our climb, from near sea level, of Beinn Fhionnlaidh which summits at 959 metres. 

At the head of Glen Ure we started the climb up the steep slopes in melancholy light, with our backs to the bulk of Beinn Sgulaird that loomed below threatening cloud. As we climbed the 500 metres or so towards the snow line, the views opened up with the Isle of Mull in the distance to the west and the bulk of Ben Starav, looming above Loch Etive to our south. 

Heading upHeading upLooking behind to the looming Beinn Sgulaird in melancholy light

Reaching the SnowReaching the Snowclimbing Beinn Fhionnlaidh and reaching the snow line, looking over towards Ben Starave The trip to the topThe trip to the topLooking up Beinn Fhionnlaidh at the snow line - still a good way to go till the top!

By the the time we reached the frozen Lochan Cairn Deirg at 630 metres, we had crossed the transition and the snow was well and truly in control. The cloud had broken and it was sunny and dazzlingly bright. Ski goggles were found to be necessary as was full face protection from the wind driven spindrift that occurred at exposed sections. I put on my goggles and the world turned orange with an amazing clarity, where suddenly you noticed the clouds racing across the sky. The snow was crispy but was powdery underneath. It was often almost knee deep in places on the wind scoured rocky landscape. 

Beinn Sgulaird & Lochan Cairn DeirgBeinn Sgulaird & Lochan Cairn DeirgBeinn Sgulaird & Lochan Cairn Deirg on Beinn Fhionnlaidh

Our crampons would have been pointless in the snow conditions in which we found ourselves, as was our ice axes - I would have to have tried really hard to fall off this broad ridged mountain, although the random gusts of wind did try their best at times to catch you off balance and dash you onto your side. It was difficult going in the soft snow with icy rocks. As we climbed there were times I felt that I was taking one step forward and two steps back, as I would sink into the snow and then slide backwards. I was not used to this level of exercise and was getting leg cramps as I pulled my heavy boots out of the snow drifts and fought forward. I took many little steps and just cursed through the cramps at my lack of attention to my hill fitness. The goggles and face protection also seriously hampered my peripheral vision, so I was travelling head bent looking for my next step - it is a literal pain in the neck!

I stopped once or twice to take pictures and it was a shock to remove the goggles and see how blindingly bright it was in the sunlight. I had also forgotten my inner touch screen gloves (and phone!) and the cold was quickly painful on the fingers to operate the camera and I found it a great relief to put my mittens back on and keep my fingers out of the freezing wind. The first picture below was taken by Bob of me struggling to keep up :

Chris ClimbingChris ClimbingMe walking on the slopes of Beinn Fhionnlaidh. This photo was taken by Robert Brown Copyright 2017.

Beinn Sgulaird from Beinn FhionnlaidhBeinn Sgulaird from Beinn FhionnlaidhBeinn Sgulaird from Beinn Fhionnlaidh

Ben Starav from Beinn FhionnlaidhBen Starav from Beinn FhionnlaidhBen Starav from Beinn Fhionnlaidh As we neared the final climb towards the summit the wind gusts picked up and threw spindrift violently at us. The gusts would visibly race over the top, picking up ice crystals and then turn into whirling dust devils of spindrift spinning at surprising speed, rapidly growing many metres wide and tall, like mini tornadoes, before suddenly collapsing away to nothing. Trust me to forget my phone! My camera does not take video so this happening remains just a memory.

As we had climbed up we had seen a couple of walkers in the distance ahead of us, we had tried to follow their footsteps in the snow as trail breakers although, in truth, it did not make travel any easier. 

They had disappeared over the top for a while but now appeared over the crest and descended towards us. This couple had only sunglasses and hoods on and their raw red faces made me glad for my goggles and face protection. I could only hear the impact of the icy cold spindrift but did not have to feel it...

They told us that the top we saw ahead was a false summit with the true summit being a few hundred metres beyond. It was “wild up there” they told us and they then took off downhill towards milder climes.

As we reached the top, we could see the summit cairn ahead, crossing rocky icy ground in strong gusty winds was entertaining and I was glad for my walking poles to aid balance.

We reached the summit and sheltered behind the cairn from the icy wind and fast moving spindrift. We took some pictures but were quickly discouraged by conditions and headed back down to find a sheltered spot and have lunch.

The summit ofBeinn FhionnlaidhThe summit ofBeinn FhionnlaidhThe Ice covered and windswept summit of Beinn Fhionnlaidh Spindrift FlyBySpindrift FlyByThe wind driven spindrift races past as we shelter behind the summit cairn, camera lenses were quickly covered in ice crystals and exposed fingers frozen. It was also hard to keep the camera still in the wind.

Off the summit, it did not take long to find a sheltered spot and we had lunch in the sun, avoiding the worst of the wind. Without the wind it was almost pleasant and you could unwrap your skin and feel the sun. 

After lunch we continued the descent. By the time we reached Lochan Cairn Deirg, it felt a lot warmer and we were starting to unwrap our face shields and remove our hats. As we left the snowline I removed my orange ski goggles and it took a surprising amount of time for my eyes to adjust back to normal colours with a psychedelic transition period - I pointed out to Bob that the snow patches around us were “antifreeze blue”, he gave me one of those looks and after my eyes adjusted I realised that they were in fact white, as they always are!

We continued down the steep grassy slopes towards the car, taking in the views one last time as we dipped below the surrounding landscape. Once in the car we headed home, stopping quickly at the head of Glen Creran, to capture the last of the sunset light up the sky as the sun sunk below the Atlantic.
Atlantic SunsetAtlantic SunsetThe sun sets at the head of Glen Creran

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) Beinn Ben Climbing Beinn Fhionnlaidh Isle Mull Sgulaird Starav bowness chris christian climbing conditions creran glen hill landscape of photgraphs scenery scotland spectacular ure views walking winter https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/2/beinn-fhionnlaidh Tue, 14 Feb 2017 09:58:19 GMT
Special Delivery https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/2/special-delivery The door of the bothy is wearing out and it needs to be fixed this year, so I asked my friend Billy, who is an excellent Joiner, to come with me to have a look and measure up. We also had some chairs to deliver so special arrangements were made for us to access the track, so that we could drive up to or at least some of the way to the bothy. This would not normally be a sensible thing to do in January, but the month in general and especially that week had been especially mild.

When we got to Fort William I could see that on the hills, the snow line was quite high up, so it looked like we could make it up the pass to the bothy that sits at around 1,500 feet. As got closer to our destination and as we drove up the road towards the pass, it was hard to assess conditions at the top due to the low cloud, so up we went! Billy took this short video on the way up just as we were starting to see some snow on the track.

Jeep Special DeliveryDriving a 4x4 up a mountain pass to deliver some chairs. As we reached the ford, I was shocked to discover a couple of inches of fresh snow, this made me nervous as if you slipped off the track up there you were on your own! The Jeep Renegade coped with the snow however, despite the road tyres (!), it was not deep, luckily,  so we could easily see where the track was. As we arrived at the bothy, it had started snowing gently. We jumped out of the car, delivered the chairs, measured the door and then jumped back in the car and high tailed it out of there as the snow was getting heavier! 

It was a brief but efficient visit, eight hours in a car and 8 miles offroad, for a fifteen minute visit. The main thing is we got back OK!

 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) 4x4 Jeep mountain offroad pass renegade scenery scotland scottish https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/2/special-delivery Sun, 05 Feb 2017 14:14:17 GMT
One Foggy Morning https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/1/one-foggy-morning It was lunchtime on Friday. I was on my lunch break at work and was contemplating what I could do on Saturday. I looked at the weather forecast for Stirling; "mist in the morning", it said. “Yes!” I said, as that meant that there was a chance I could climb the Ochils above the fog and take some photos.

I was planning for an early start to catch the good light but I awoke at 9am, so scuppered my chances of that! It was however still foggy outside... After the necessary coffee and faffing about, I took a foggy drive and arrived at the Ochil Hills Woodland Park car park just before 11am. I headed up Wood HIll as I had not been above the cloud on this hill before. I started the climb up through the woods and near the top of the woodland area I started to see the sun breaking through - luck was with me!

The Sun AppearsThe Sun AppearsSeeing the sun meant that I was reaching the end of my woodland climb in the cold fog.

The fog started to thin about the 250 metre mark, views started to appear and I emerged from the oppressive dank mist into the sunny landscape with a braw blue sky. The transition was beautiful and other worldly.

EscapeEscapeLeaving the fog and emerging into a beautiful sunny day.

Climbing up through the trees, I took ages to gain height due to the amount of pictures that were being taken. Digger was frequently sighing as he always does when I stop to take pictures - That dog hates standing about!

Wood Hill HappinessWood Hill HappinessWood Hill, Ochil Hills

As I moved up the hill, a man caught up with me, it is rare to see another walker here and we talked about the charms of Wood hill and the Ochils in general. He told me he has been walking the Ochils since 1972 - He also told me he was originally from Ireland where he lived beside the Mountains of Mourne; that is a place I would love to see. The man explained that the Mountains of Mourne, although higher, had a similar character to the Ochils. He also told me that when he comes this way, he always checks on a fallen tree that has laid on its side since he first came here 45 years ago - every year he checks it and every year leaves still appear.

The man seemed taken aback at my lack of ambition to walk further afield than just Wood Hill, he seemed to be planning a jaunt over Ben Cleuch and back down the Law into Tillicoutry (near Stirling!). I however just love to stand about and take scenery pictures when on my own in such grand conditions. The man then took off up the hill at an impressive pace for someone at least 10 years my senior - He would have left me behind in a race!

Here Comes a Man!Here Comes a Man!

Above the CloudsAbove the CloudsWood Hill, Ochil Hills

I slowly headed up to the top of Wood Hill (in my opinion), Rough Knowles, which has a pond on the summit plateau that Digger always drinks from and is 525 metres above the Forth Estuary in the valley below. This means I had climbed 475 metres from where my car was parked and I was looking down on the fog about ~300 metres below me. It was a glorious sunny day up here, not the frosty foggy day everyone below in the gloom was getting. I understood now, standing in the warm sunshine, why the foggy occurrence is called a temperature inversion.

Rough KnowlesRough KnowlesThe top of Wood Hill

From this vantage point I dropped down towards the treeline on the East side of Wood Hill that is fenced off from the sheep.  I then followed the fence westwards snapping away merrily from the steep slopes above the fog.

Wood Hill EastWood Hill EastLooking east from Wood Hill towards Knockhill

YearningYearningWood Hill, Ochil Hills, Scotland

The WatcherThe WatcherA lone tree stands on Wood Hill, Ochil Hills, Scotland

Looking DownLooking Down

Lonesome TreeLonesome Tree Steep EdgeSteep EdgeThe steep slopes of Wood Hill

Eventually I dropped back down to where I had started and took some final snaps before walking back into the fog.

Wood Hill VistaWood Hill VistaDescending Wood Hill to rejoin the grey world below in the fog.

Here it comesHere it comesHeading down, back into the cold grey fog.

Last look backLast look backWood Hill Ochil Hills As the fog enveloped me, the change in temperature was dramatic, as was the outlook from a beautiful sunny day to the oppressive cold and dark of heavy fog. Frost still lay on the ground here and I wanted to turn back around and stay in the sun!

fog ochil hills woodland park wood hillBack in the worldAfter spending a couple of hours in the bright sunlight, I was forced to descend into the grey cold fog to head home

I carried on down the slope however and headed back to my car. I drove home through the foggy landscape with a smile in my heart and a tired dog fast asleep in the boot. 

 

Clarity

Strive out of the darkness,
climb harder, climb fast.
see the sun growing brighter,
emerging through gloom.

Escaping the cold murk,
visibility clearing,
the blue sky appears,
the fog fades away.

Rise up in the warm sun,
and head for the top,
a pinnacle moment,
the summit is small.

Stand still looking over,
a lonesome tree yearning,
above the many, invisible,
beneath the cold veil below.

Time it is counting,
won't stay for long,
must again join the world,
where we can't see the sun.

Heading back downhill,
the fog it looms larger,
I'm back in the darkness,
alone with the rest.

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) above alva clouds down fog forth hill hills inversion looking mysterious ochil of park photographs poem scenery scotland scottish temperature valley winter wood woodland https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/1/one-foggy-morning Sun, 22 Jan 2017 13:34:46 GMT
The Ochil Hills https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/1/the-ochil-hills The Ochil Hills are my local hills and I have developed a love of them for the exercise and solitude that they provide. It is a 30 minute drive from my house to park at the base of these hills, so I can be at the top in about 2 hours. I have still got so much to explore there, but needless to say that I have taken a lot of photographs of them, some of which I present below.

Wood Hill Sunset

Sunset in the Ochil HillsWood Hill Sunset, Ochil HillsTaken on Wood Hill Feb-16, Ochil Hills Scotland

I took this picture of this magnificent tree on Wood Hill on a cold February afternoon as the sun set.  I was lucky that the wind blew the spindrift off the hills and the setting sun lit it up red. Wood hill is a steep climb from the Ochil Hills Woodland Park car park. The climb offers some fantastic views which I would say are amongst my very favourites. I took this video in between shots.

The Hillfoots

The Ochil Hills wood hill, Craigleith, Dumyat, MenstrieThe HillfootsTaken from Wood Hill, Ochil Hills 2015. This is another picture taken from Wood Hill which offers great views off the steep Ochil Hills rearing up from the Forth Valley - The bottom of the hills are unsurprisingly called the Hillfoots and the village of Menstrie can be seen in this picture. I found it amusing when I first heard people who live in Stirling (the local city) refer to people who live in the Hillfoots villages and towns as the "Clampits"; in honour of the Beverley Hillbillies...

Sunset Serenity
Wood Hill SunsetSunset SerenityI took this on my first attempt at taking sunsets on Wood Hill in the Ochil Hills. I love the backdrop of this hill and I also like the fact that I can catch a sunset in the winter and be home by 6pm :) This was the first sunset picture that I took on Wood Hill, I enjoyed the torchlit walk back down the steep slopes to the woods where I heard an owl calling along with the chime of an ice cream van in the nearby village! I did not see a soul.

The King of Wood Hill

The King of Wood HillThe King of Wood HillWood Hill Ochil Hills This shot is a stitched 3-shot landscape vertirama of this magnificent tree on woodhill. There is a stone wall around the base and many names of courting couples through the years have been carved into the bark. It is a fine specimen and always one I stop to admire when I am passing by.

Stop & Stare

Wood Hill WalkWood Hill WalkWood Hill, Ochil Hills I took this on the circular footpath on Wood Hill, near the start of the walk. When taking pictures of trees I like to stop and stare to try and see a composition in the pattern of trees. I need to get back to practicing that as I always enjoy idle wanderings in the woods looking for an image.

Boundary The fence on CraighornThe fence on CraighornThis fence cuts right over Craighorn in the Ochil Hills in Scotland I tackled Craighorn head on from behind the Nebit, one frosty and foggy morning. As I climbed I disturbed a lot of sheep who were still laying on the slope, not expecting some stupid human to climb up and surprise them. The climb was worth it as the fog started to clear as I reached the top. I also got this shot further on of this fence and this video gives you a feel of conditions when I took this picture. 

Craiginnan

The Sheep Pen on Saddle HillThe Sheep Pen on Saddle HillThe Sheep Pen on Saddle Hill in winter. Ochil Hills Scotland I have passed this sheep pen many times as it is on my well trodden path to and from the steep sided Saddle Hill. If you aim for this sheep pen, and head north, there is a wee gulley that makes the ascent or descent a bit easier. This time I had been only to the top of Saddle Hill but turned back due to my dog shivering. The wind was blowing the snow around so I decided it was a good time to take a shot. 

Moment
Resting on Wood HillResting on Wood HillThe climb up Wood Hill is steep and this spot offers a chance to admire the scenery before heading up through the old pine trees. After a steep clamber up from the silver glen, this is the scene on wood hill that makes it all worth the effort. I took this the first week of November in 2015, it was a beautiful day and a very enjoyable walk.

Winter on Whitewisp Hill

Sunset on Whitewisp HillSunset on Whitewisp HillWatching the sunset before heading down to the car park at Castle Campbell in the dark I took this picture in Dec-15 and after climbing up I was worried that the cloud would cover the sun before it set. Luckily it didn't! I took this video of the scene with my Dog (Digger) sheltering behind my rucksack with his wee jacket that I put on him - earlier he did not want to wear it but by this time he did not mind wearing it; that dog really feels the cold, especially when I stop to take pictures and he is forced to sit about.

Starburst

StarburstStarburstI never quite made it in time for the sunrise. instead I was confronted with this explosion of light as I stood on a windy and chilly Castle Law on Dumyat in the Ochil Hills I never quite made it in time for the sunrise. instead I was confronted with this explosion of light as I reached the edge of a windy and chilly Castle Law on Dumyat in the Ochil Hills. I have an edited version of this picture where I have taken out the big flare from the sun but I prefer this version due to the sheer blast!

Stop and Stare
Ochil HillsOchil HillsThe Ochil Hills from Wood Hill The way up Wood Hill is not obvious, it takes a wee bit of investigation to find the path and reach this point. I have sat here a few times and basked in this immense view, yet it is a secret to most. The thing is I am sitting here watching everyone rush up and down the track on the edge of the Nebit as they head to the top of the Ochils, on Ben Cleuch; when all the time they are passing a place of real beauty that is in plain sight. 

Tarmangie Hill

Stiles on Tarmangie Hill, Ochil HillsStiles on Tarmangie Hill, Ochil HillsThese stiles allow you to climb over the fence to reach the low key summit of Tarmangie Hill in the Ochil Hills, Scotland These stiles are more or less at the summit of Tarmangie Hill and they add some civility to climbing the fence.

Staring down to Sorrow 

Descending into the Glen of SorrowDescending into the Glen of SorrowThe Glen of Sorrow, Ochil Hills in Scotland I took this descending off King's Seat Hill into the Glen of Sorrow.  I love the name and ironically being around the glen gives me joy!

Lumps and Bumps 

Lumps and BumpsLumps and BumpsThe side of King's Seat hill is lit up by the lowering sun highlighting the lumps and bumps of the hillside Whilst descending back to the Glen of Sorrow, after coming of King's Seat Hill, I looked over to the Banks of Dollar to see the lowering sun highlighting their shapes.

The Glen of Sorrow

The Glen of SorrowThe Glen of SorrowThe Glen of Sorrow lit up by the sun in the Ochil Hills Another picture of the lowering sun painting the Glen of Sorrow. There are a lot of opportunities when the light is like this!

Ochil Hills Woodland Park

Ochil Hills Woodland ParkOchil Hills Woodland ParkOchil Hills Woodland Park It was one of those days in autumn, I jumped out my car after parking and rushed to the fence of the Woodland car park and took this picture.

Clearing Cloud on Craighorn

Clearing Cloud on CraighornClearing Cloud on CraighornView from Craighorn, Ochil Hills After climbing up the front of Craighorn, I reached the top just in time for the cloud to start moving. I have learnt now to go for a walk whatever the conditions as you never know what it is going to be like until you get there!

The Glen of Sorrow

The Glen of SorrowThe Glen of SorrowThe Glen of Sorrow in Winter, Ochil Hills Scotland I took a picture of this scene with the Glen of Sorrow Rowan tree many years previously with a film camera. I had walked near here many times until this day when I decided it was time to try the shot again, this time with a digital camera. It was coming down sleet at this level and I used a special camera cover I had bought to take this picture and protect the lens from getting wet. I have never used it again as I am too disorganised!

Whitewisp Hill

The Glen of SorrowThe Glen of SorrowA view of the Glen of Sorrow from the Ochil Hills This shot looks down on the Glen of Sorrow from Whitewisp Hill. My next objective is to explore the glen itself, which should be fun to navigate to the top.

Old and New

Wind Turbines and Fence PostsWind Turbines and Fence PostsI took this shot from Whitewisp Hill in the Ochil Hill, Scotland There is quite a lot of wind turbines on the Ochil Hills. I took this somewhere on Whitewisp or Tarmangie Hill, of the old crooked fence posts and the new gleaming turbines harvesting the wind.

The Glen of Sorrow in August

King's Seat HillKing's Seat HillKing's Seat Hill from the Glen of Sorrow This was a passing snap of the glen as I headed back off King's Seat Hill, which I have climbed countless times just for the exercise and for fun.

The White Stane of Tam Baird

The White Stane of Tam BairdThe White Stane of Tam BairdThis curious stone sits on the slope of King's Seat Hill in the Ochil Hills. It was first described in the 18th century and is thought to be of Druidic origin. The White Stane of Tam Baird is on King's Seat Hill and is marked on the map on the south side at 425 metres. This day I decided to find out what it was and took this picture of this odd white quartz rock. I also realised as a photographer that there is a wealth of fantastic views on the sides of the hills, rather than just the top. 

At the Edge

At the EdgeAt the EdgeStanding at the edge of Castle Law on Dumyat, near Stirling This shot of the Forth Valley was taken from the edge of Castle Law on Dumyat, as the sun rose one chilly October morning. I took this picture with the long shadows at the same time that I took the Starburst picture above. 

Ben Cleuch

Ben CleuchBen CleuchThis is the highest hill of the Ochil Hills. It is 730 metres Ben Cleuch is the highest of the Ochil Hill's at 730 metres and I took this shot at the summit. I have only climbed it three times as this is the hill that most people go for, due to it being the highest - I like to go where it is quieter. 

Wind and Things

Turbines on Burnfoot Hill Windfarm, Ochil hillsTurbines on Burnfoot Hill Windfarm, Ochil hillsWind Turbines on Burnfoot Hill, Ochil Hills Scotland These wind turbines are on Burnfoot Hill. This is a zoomed shot from a tripod taken from the top of King's Seat Hill. It feels to me standing on these hills that to the south is the Forth Valley and the populous Central belt of Scotland; but looking north from the Ochils, the landscape changes dramatically. The Ochil Hills to me mark the boundary between the more rugged highlands and the smoother lowlands. Maybe one day a geologist will confirm this to me!

Digger on Innerdownie

Digger on InnerdownieDigger on InnerdownieDigger wondering about near the summit of Innerdownie in the Ochil Hills, Scotland Digger is my Ochil Hills walking companion and this picture of him enjoying the moment was taken near the summit of Innerdownie. We were just about to follow the wall back over to Whitewisp Hill on the left, before descending back into Dollar Glen. It was a beautiful September afternoon and the colour scheme of the grass and sky was like peaches and cream. I have a colour shot of that scene which Digger had not wondered into, but I will always like this picture the most as it reminds me of the sheer pleasure a dog obtains from being given a good walk.

The Passing Shower

Steal My SunshineSteal My SunshineStanding on King's Seat Hill watching the rain roll in. The rain showers passed quickly and made for an awesome experience as they went over. The light would change quickly, the sun would flash on and off through the clouds and it was great to be there! I always enjoy a jaunt up King's Seat Hill.

In the Fog

Foggy MorningFoggy MorningFoggy Morning The running water sounds different in the fog I decided to take this picture of Glenwinnel Burn just before I headed up Craighorn to an uncertain viewing outcome at the top.

Wood Hill Secrets

Ochil Hills and Wallace MonumentOchil Hills and Wallace MonumentOchil Hills and Wallace Monument, from Wood hill, Scotland This view of the Wallace monument and the hillfoots is one of the secret views that are given up when you climb Wood Hill. I never tire of it and how it transforms as you climb higher. I recently took my friend Bob here to show him but the cloud closed in and we spent the rest of the walk without any view whatsoever!

The Braw Hoose

Wood HillWood HillWood Hill, Ochil Hills, Scotland Whoever lives here is very lucky. Not only is the building a looker, the surroundings are too. I took a quick sneaky shot of it as I walked past.

Follow the Fence

Whitewisp Hill, Ochils HillsIn the CloudTaken on Whitewisp Hill, Ochils Hills I was lucky to walk the hills during a cloud inversion. Somewhere between Tarmangie and Whitewisp hills, the cloud reared and enveloped me, before receding back like a splashing wave, shortly after.

The Spitfire Crash Memorial

The Spitfire Memorial on King's Seat HillThe Spitfire Memorial on King's Seat HillThe Spitfire Memorial on King's Seat Hill, Ochil Hills, Scotland This memorial is near the top of King's Seat Hill. It commemorates the two pilots who died when their planes smashed into the hill on a cloudy training flight. A third pilot survived the crash and managed to further survive a freezing night on the hill before being found by a shepherd.

Above the cloud

Forth ValleyForth Valley I took this shot from King's Seat Hill during a cloud inversion. I had nearly not bothered going for this walk as where I lived was dark with the low cloud. I am glad that I decided to go anyway, despite my misgivings.

Velvet

When standing on King's Seat Hill in the afternoon light, the hills to the west appear to have a velvet texture. I have taken many pictures of it but this picture was featured in the Readers picture section of the Great Outdoors magazine, sometime in 2016.

The Creeping Cloud

During the cloud inversion, the cloud would slowly build up at the back of the hills and then pour over the top. It would then recede like a slow motion wave. I took this picture of Whitewisp Hill from King's Seat Hill. I knew then where the name came from...

Cloud Turbines

It was great to watch the turbines peak above the clouds as they turned lazily. A hill somewhere north sticks out like an island.

Here comes the Cloud

The cloud slowly built up and covered Innerdownie as I watched from Whitewisp Hill. Four figures on the summit of Innerdownie paused for a minute before heading downward into the cloud and the grey world below. I stood for a while watching with the sun on my back, knowing that I too was also going to start my descent onto Saddle Hill.

Surreal

Wind Turbines in the distance, peaking above the cloud. I took this zoom shot somewhere on Tarmangie Hill. 

The Golden Grass

It was the end to a fantastic walk. After I had left Saddle hill I noticed the golden grasses swaying in the light breeze as the sun lit them up. It was a moment to stop and stare.

This is only a selection of my Ochil Hills pictures. I will eventually post another batch!

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) ben cleuch cloud craighorn dumyat hill Hills innerdownie inversion king's Ochil photography rain scenery Scotland scottish seat showers tarmangie turbines whitewisp wind wood https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/1/the-ochil-hills Wed, 18 Jan 2017 21:14:37 GMT
A Bothy By The Sea https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/1/Peanmeanach Please note as of October 2020, Peanmeanach bothy is now locked and is no longer accessible to the public.

The sweet smell of wood smoke greeted me as I opened the door and stepped inside Peanmeanach bothy on the Ardnish Peninsula. The residual smell of the many fires that have been burnt in the building’s two fireplaces, made me think of all the visitors who have stayed in this fine place. Peanmeanach bothy, which is maintained by the Mountain Bothies Association, is the only habitable building in a village of ruins. These ruins betray the now empty Peninsula to when around 50 residents lived in Peanmeanach village in the 19th century. I have read somewhere that Ardnish was cleared of people around the second world war, so that the peninsula could be used for training special forces. Other sources describe how the population had declined over time, as the residents had a hard life with the landowners of those times showing little interest in their self-sufficient and therefore unprofitable tenants.

Arriving at Peanmeanach BothyArriving at Peanmeanach BothyPeanmeanach Bothy Peanmeanach BothyPeanmeanach BothyPeanmeanach Bothy, Ardnish Peninsula Peanmeanach RuinPeanmeanach RuinPeanmeanach Ruin

I had arrived here with my friends Bob and Andy, we had completed a 3 ½ hour drive and a further two hour walk over rough ground to cover the three miles from where we had parked to reach Peanmeanach. The walk took in some beautiful views of the Islands Rum and Eigg as well as some snow tipped mountains. Andy had the misfortune to step in a muddy puddle on the way that turned out to be a waist deep swamp. After he had managed to pull himself out, he had to walk for a rather uncomfortable hour until we reached the bothy.

Loch DubhLoch DubhWe passed by this loch on the way to Penmeanach. This was taken by the rail bridge. The Isles of Eigg and RumThe Isles of Eigg and RumThe unusual island of Eigg can be seen in the distance, behind it the snow covered mountains on the island of Rum. Loch Doire a GherrainLoch Doire a Gherrain We had the bothy to ourselves, we set up our bedding on the sleeping platform in the small ground floor room and then went out to gather fallen wood from the old forests so there would be plenty of fuel. We had also carried in 10 kg of coal, but it is an unspoken bothy custom to gather wood (if possible) so you can leave it for the next visitor who may be in dire need of shelter and warmth. After gathering fuel I went down to the beach to catch the sunset where I realised that there is a multitude of mussels on the rocks - If there is a next time and I ever return, I will be having mussels for my evening meal!

SunbeamsSunbeamsPeanmeanach, Ardnish Peninsula, Scotland Peanmeanach SunsetPeanmeanach SunsetThe clouds start to cover the setting sun, in the foreground the rocks are covered in Mussels Fading LightFading LightPeanmeanach, Ardnish Peninsula, Scotland Last lookLast lookThe sun quickly peeks out from between the clouds, before disappearing for the night

After sunset we lit the fire and had our dinner, the bothy quickly warmed up and the drink flowed freely. I had bought whisky, which is perfect beside an open fire as it tastes like the fire smells. The abundance of whisky however forced me to retire to my sleeping bag early with Bob and Andy shaking their heads at the state of me! Next time I will bring less...

Peanmeanach BothyPeanmeanach BothyPeanmeanach Bothy

I awoke at 6am to the pitter patter of rain on the tin roof of the bothy. The weather had changed for the worse, wet and foggy, but it was also warmer, causing the hill snow to rapidly thaw and swell the water courses. After breakfast we packed our things and tidied up. We then headed for home through the dark misty landscape, wading the swollen burn and squelching in the sodden earth. On reaching the car, we were soaked, but, we were also richer for having made the journey.

Heading HomeHeading home in the rainWalking on the Ardnish Peninsula Footnote: I apologise for the pictures. I found out when I got home that my camera was on a very high ISO, hence the grainy nature!

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) Ardnish beach bothy coastline fog january loch mist mountains Peanmeanach Peninsula rugged scenery scotland scottish sunset https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/1/Peanmeanach Mon, 16 Jan 2017 22:03:40 GMT
Flying Over Manchester https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/1/flying-over-manchester It's Grim Oop NorthIt's Grim Up NorthLongannet Power Station from King's Seat Hill, Ochil Hills Scotland

 

I’m looking down on Manchester 
from 30,000 feet,
I’m flying north, to Edinburgh 
I'm sitting in my seat.

Looking out the window,
I think of all the souls.
Some are young and more are old.
They all each have their goals.

I think of all the misery,
the indifference and the love.
That I am passing over,
at 30,000 feet above.

I look around this metal tube,
Most folks their heads are down.
Some are reading, some are sleeping
But most faces have a frown.

Manchester then it disappears,
we are moving further north.
I see now towns and villages 
below us on our course.

Soon I will be on the ground 
and driving my car home.
Indifferent to the lives of those
behind their doors alone.

Back to earth and back to life,
My overview has gone.
We all live our separate lives,
forgetting we are one.

 

Leaving Stornoway...Leaving Stornoway...As the flight took off from Stornoway airport, I noticed the beautiful sky over the island so I whipped out my phone and managed to grab this picture just before the plane turned towards the mainland.

 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) bowness chris flying indifference lonely love manchester misery over people poem poetry https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2017/1/flying-over-manchester Sat, 07 Jan 2017 13:24:10 GMT
Hogmanay https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2016/12/new-year  The late Harry Keen, who was a dear family friend, recalls his memory of New Year as a child in early 20th Century Edinburgh.

Auld ReekieAuld ReekieThis ariel picture of Edinburgh was scanned from a family book called Wonderful Britain by JA Hammerton, printed in 1920. Hogmanay,

In the Scots it means, the last day of the year or, a gift given to children on New Year's Eve

Hogmanay,

the very word conjures up a mixed bag of images, from when I was a child growing up in Edinburgh, right up to the present day. I suppose that as we get older, the celebrations of yesteryear grow in grandeur and gaiety, as our memories get dimmer. Strangely enough, my memories of Hogmanay celebrations of the past are very vivid in my mind and I can remember who and what relatives appeared first at the door after the bells. Which Auntie used to get drunk the quickest and who would eat the most Black Bun and who would be the first to get up and sing.

When I was a child, I remember what great excitement there was in the house prior to Hogmanay, My Mother was (it seemed to us kids) always baking and cleaning one thing and another. She would start days before, making and cutting the sausage rolls and shortbread and lots of other goodies, one of which was the Ne'er day Cloutie Dumpling, with the silver threepenny bits in, wrapped in waxed paper, which we couldn't touch on pain of death, they were for the Hogmanay.

Then on the Hogmanay, she would take all the bedclothes and our clothes, in an old pram, up to the washhoose in Simon Square, just above the Deaconess Hospital in St Leonards, Edinburgh. She would then give them a thorough cleaning. I remember these old wash houses with their big wash tubs and the drying racks which used to come trundling out of the wall. The steam and the noise, and of course, the chatter among the women.

On that day, the house was cleaned from top to bottom, the fire was cleaned out, the grate was polished with black lead and then the fire was relaid, ready to be lit after tea time. From the start of the year, after the 1st of January, my mother would put money away in a drink club at a Grocer's shop. All year until the Hogmanay when my Father would go and collect the booze for the festivities.

This was a trip to the other side of town and sometimes we were allowed to go with my father and help him lug the booze back on the bus. We were thrilled to travel on the bus as most times we had to walk everywhere. Father and my brother George and I would collect it in the thick paper bags and struggle to the bus stop with it, being warned constantly "dinnae drop that bag mind". Once on the bus we would go upstairs to the front while my father sat in the back and smoked.

From the front of the bus, we could see other fathers carrying their paper bags with the festive bottle or two peeking out of the top and kids like us helping..

Once the house was clean and ready for visitors, we, the children would be washed, scrubbed and put into clean clothes, dared to get ourselves dirty and told to play in the bedroom while my mother made all the sandwiches, cooked off the sausage rolls, sliced the Black Bun and broke the shortbread. She then got all the glasses ready, set out most of the bottles of Whisky and Beer and then she got herself ready to greet the New Year.

It was the custom in our house, when the clock was about five minutes to midnight for my father to go outside. He carried with him, a piece of Shortbread to make sure we would have food in the house, a bottle of Whisky to make sure we would have something to drink and a lump of coal to ensure we would have warmth in the house all the year.

He would wait for the bells to chime midnight to be the houses first foot. On the last stroke of the Bells, he would ring the doorbell, my mother would answer the door and he would wish all in the house, a Happy New Year. He would pour a Whisky for my mother and any other adult in the house at the time. We would get a glass of Vimto or Iron bru and we would all wish each other a Happy New Year.

It was after Hogmanay that we kids received our presents. We would only have a stocking on Christmas morning. My parents celebrated the New Year rather than Christmas, as a lot of Scottish families did and it was a bit strange to us to see other kids with presents on Christmas morning instead of New Year's Day.

During the early hours many people would come to the house, bringing with them their bottles, usually a half bottle of Whisky and the party would start sometimes lasting for days.
When we kids became teenagers we would go up to the Tron Church down from the Castle and gather there. Here we would often try to hit the clock by throwing an empty bottle at it. We never did of course but it was good fun to try.

We would wait for Midnight when we would kiss all the girls, who would let us, wish each other a Happy New Year and drink from each others bottles. Then we would First Foot everyone we could think of.
No one ever had their doors closed, anyone could walk in and join the party as long as they had a bottle in their hand.

On New Year's Day itself, relatives would join us in a Ne'er Day Dinner which was always my Mothers 'Red Broth'. This was a mixture of Scotch Broth and Tomato Soup, followed by the Roast Pork, Roast Tatties and the Cloutie Dumpling. Oh, what excitement if we found a silver threepenny bit, it was ours to keep and spend.

The Table was read and once again, the drinking and singing would go on to the sma' hours.

I remember when I was in the army, the Scots would volunteer to stay in camp to do the various guard and cookhouse duties over Christmas and let the English go home so that we could be home for the Hogmanay. It was our festive season - Christmas didn't mean very much in the way of celebration except as a remembrance of Christ's birth. We didn't attach to it the same festive spirit as other nationalities did.

Those days have gone now. There is not the same, I would say, reverence, if thats the right word, paid to the New Year's Eve, Hogmanay celebration. There is more of a disco-type atmosphere, more and more people are celebrating in Discos and clubs, especially the young ones. But then, there were fewer clubs as we know them today, and definitely no discos. Dance halls like the Palais in Fountainbridge or Fairlies down the Leith walk were the meeting places for the youngsters. The old style of celebrating at home and in each others homes has gone, except perhaps with the older ones like myself.

I still clean the house on Hogmanay morning, and my American wife marvels at this but never tries to dissuade me. I still have the Shortbread and Black Bun and make the sandwiches, though more often the stuff is bought from the supermarket, except for the shortbread which is still baked by myself

In fact on Nee'r day itself the tradition in our house is that all the family come over to my house and we have Curry, lots of it, in fact about 11 or 12 different ones with the Sambals and various rice dishes. This has been our tradition for many years, ever since I left the Army and settled in Blairgowrie. The husbands and wives of my children have come to love it as much as we do.

There is no longer a fire grate to be cleaned, central heating and gas fires having taken over, but still in the older folks homes, there is that reverence for the Hogmanay that cannot be extinguished. We can sit by the fire and think of Hogmanays past listening to the last stroke of Big Ben echoing out of the radio, instead of the Television. I can still hear my Father's knock as he chaps to come in to first foot us My Mother's soft voice as she says, "There's yer Faither at the door". The singing as the revellers come up the stairs. The shouts in the street of "Happy New Year" and the chorus of "Auld Lang Syne" being sung in every household in the land, from Croft to Big House.

At that special time of year all we had were friends, no enemies. We loved one another, as long as we were all Scots and still sober, although others like the English were welcome at that time of year.

We were a' Jock Tamson's Bairns, whatever else we were at other times of the Year.

Hogmanay

It's seeven oclock, get up an' aboot 
There's lots tae dae, too much a' doot 
Get the weans washed an' oot tae play 
It's the thirty first, it's Hogmanay

Get ben the hoose and strip the bed 
An' see an' get the table read 
Get thon hurley oot o' sight 
Fir later oan, it's Hogmanay night

Thirs soup tae mak', an' Bun tae bake 
Yer Grannies bringin' a Stottie Cake 
Thirs Shortbreid done an' packed away 
Fir it's end o' year, it's Hogmanay

Rake the fire, tak the ashes oot 
An' dinnae scatter them a' aboot 
Keep them off o' the landin' flair 
Fir it's yer Mithers turn tae dae the stair

Ging doon tae Dilworths' 'am gonnae need 
Twa plain loaves an' a pan o' breid 
A' dinnae want nane fae yesterday 
It's gotta be fresh, it's Hogmanay

Get the sausage meat oot o' the press 
An' mak sure yez dinnae mak a mess 
There's the booze tae get, "is yer Faither away"? 
Cos the nichts the nicht it's Hogmanay

Ah've goat nae time tae dae yer tea 
Ging tae the chippy jist doon the street 
Pies an' chips 'ull juist hae tae dae 
Fir it's nearly end o' the Hogmanay

The tables set, the fires a' lit 
Yer Faither ye ken is aye first fit 
Sorry son, whits that ye say? 
Oh help ma boab, it's near end o' day

The hoose is clean, sandwiches made 
You bairns 'ull juist hae lemonade 
Get doon the street fir yer Auntie May 
She'l want tae be here fir the Hogmanay

Noo, a' things ready fir fowk tae come in 
Fir neebours an' wir kith an' kin 
They cam fae a' the airts this day 
Fir abuidy's hame fir the Hogmanay

Yer Faithers here, the bells have rung 
An' auld lang syne has juist been sung 
A Guid New Year tae a' I say 
It's January first, an' New Years Day

Sae lift yer gless, mak sure it's fu' 
An' heres a toast fae me tae you 
Tae young an' auld, fae far an' near
Hae a Happy, Healthy, Guid New Year"

"Hogmanay" by Harry Keen © 1999

Footnote: Harry volunteered to write this article and poem for my then website in 1999, which I published as a newsletter for the millennium.  Harry sadly passed away in 2015 aged 83, so I thought it right to again share his wonderful memories.

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) 20th black bun celebrations century dumpling early edinburgh hogmanay magical memories new poem stootie year https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2016/12/new-year Wed, 28 Dec 2016 13:30:00 GMT
It's Black Bun Time! https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2016/11/black-bun-time This recipe for Black Bun, which is a Scottish New Year treat, was shared with me by the late Harry Keen who is a much missed family friend. Back in December 1999, I ran a website and Harry wrote an article for me to post on the site for the millennium, about his memories of New Year in Edinburgh, when he was a boy. I will post his great article in a couple of weeks, but if you want Black Bun, it needs to be prepared now!

Black BunBlack BunThis is not my image. It was sourced from Wikipedia as it was shared under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

Black Bun image By IMBJR (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0, license via Wikimedia Commons

Ingredients:

200gms plain flour
100 gms sugar
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 teaspoons Jamaica pepper,
or allspice. 2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cream of tartar,
400 gms currants
400 gms large blue raisins
50 gms chopped mixed peel
50 gms blanched almonds
aprox. 150 ml milk.

The Pastry for Black Bun

200 gms plain flour
100 gms butter
1 teaspoon baking pdr
cold water.

Method:

Rub butter into flour and baking pdr.
Mix to a stiff consistency with cold water.
Grease well a 20 x 15 cm cake tin.
Roll out 2/3rds of the pastry to line the cake tin.
Make the black bun mixture by :- seiving the dry ingredients together, adding fruit, nuts and mixing thoroughly with the milk. 
Pack carefully into pastry casing. 
Turn over top edges of pastry. 
Roll out pastry lid, damp the edges of pastry and cover with the lid, pressing edges together. 
Brush over with beaten egg. Prick all over the lid with a fork, bake at reg 6, 200 degrees 'C', 400 degrees 'F' for 1 hour. 
Reduce heat to reg 3, 170 degrees 'C', 325 degrees 'F', for a further 2 hours. 
Protect top with double greaseproof paper or aluminium foil during cooking. 
Should be stored for one month before using.

 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) black bun cake edinburgh fruit hogmanay new original recipe year https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2016/11/black-bun-time Fri, 25 Nov 2016 21:06:22 GMT
A Sunday Coddiwomple https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2016/11/coddiwomple I have mentioned my friend Bob in some of my previous blogs and we have known each other over ten years, as Bob lives next door to me. Not only is he a great neighbour with a fantastic barbecue, he is a munroist too, and his hobby is to climb munros and enjoy the views. When it comes to hill walking he is hugely experienced compared to me, where I see a cliff, Bob sees a path, and so on. He is very tolerant too of my ambling pace and my ashen faced moments when we have to scramble down some exposed mountain edge. He has climbed many hills and mountains in comparison to myself, I am more of a general walker, a rambler, or a stravaiger (to use a Scottish word) than I am a munroist; so it is great to go with someone who has the experience to just go for it and get to the top, where I would turn back.

The word stravaig means “to wander aimlessly” or to “saunter or stroll” - This is the word to best describe my solitary wanderings. Another word that I wished I could use to describe my wanderings is the english word coddiwomple, that word sounds great to me but it means to “To travel in a purposeful manner towards a vague destination”. That is not generally me, but that is what munroists like Bob do, they coddiwomple. This is because any place you haven’t been before, like the top of a munro, is in my book, vague. Munroists travel with purpose as well, to get to the munro they have yet to climb, so the outward journey of a munroist fits the description perfectly. The return journey to where they started however, won’t be a coddiwomple as having already been there, it is not a vague destination...  If it is a circular route however the route that gets you back may certainly be vague!

Going back to Bob, he gives me a shout from time to time to go and bag a Munro with him and we had subsequently arranged to go for a coddiwomple in late October, as the Sunday weather forecast was good in the east and Bob was trying to keep on track to bag another munro. He asked if I fancied tackling Beinn Dearg with him, which is a munro best approached from Blair Atholl. This hill is further flung than many and tackling it involves an 18 mile (29km) walk. Although I hadn't been out much in the last few weeks preceding this, I readily agreed to come along as that was a good way to blow away the cobwebs.

We arrived at the Glen Tilt car park and headed off up an autumnal lane at the back of Blair Castle. It was an overcast misty morning and despite the low light, I tried to get a picture.

Early morning mistEarly morning mistWalking in an autumnal lane behnd Blair Castle in Blair Atholl

Not long after I took this picture, we reached the end of the beautiful lane with its mature autumnal trees. At the gate that marked the paved roads end, the expanse of the moorland opened up abruptly before us. We went through the gate marching on at a good pace and I took a few pictures looking over to a dusky Schiehallion, as the sun started to break through.

Across The MoorAcross The MoorLooking Southwest down Glen Bruar towards Schiehallion

We marched on in the now sunny landscape, as the sun had cleared the low misty clouds. After a couple of hours we descended slightly off the moor and suddenly there was Allt Scheicheachan Bothy below us in a small glen. We could see that two people were standing outside and they were cuddling each other, really cuddling each other. They were also kissing each other passionately, like they do sometimes on films, except, in this case, it was less glamorous. It was an unexpected sight and I started kicking my feet on the track as we approached to make more noise, I also tried to cough but to no avail, I was struggling to make myself heard as we approached - It was starting to get a bit awkward! Luckily they stopped before we got too close and they went inside the bothy. I took this picture quickly and then we walked on, forsaking a comfortable bothy lunch wishing to not disturb the amorous occupants any more than we needed to.

Allt Scheicheachan BothyAllt Scheicheachan BothyWe passed this bothy on the way to Beinn Dearg

We stopped a bit further up the track from the bothy and had a quick lunch to refuel in anticipation of the climb up Beinn Dearg that we were rapidly approaching.  After we refuelled,  we headed off to tackle the ascent. The ascent of this hill is probably one of the easiest I have done, as you start the main climb quite high up already. As we climbed, the views opened up and I snapped away.

Misty ClimbMisty ClimbAs we climbed Beinn Dearg, we started to see the views over the moors in the misty midday light Long Road HomeLong Road HomeClimbing Beinn Dearg, I could see the distant track that we would have to follow for our 9 mile walk back to the car.

Schiehallion from Beinn DeargSchiehallion from Beinn DeargTaken on a misty late October morning

Midday MistMidday MistTaken from the top of Beinn Dearg (Blair Atholl)

Eventually we reached the top and I took more pictures in between a second lunch in the shelter of the wall surrounding the summit cairn. There was an interesting cloud hanging around too!

Top of Beinn DeargTop of Beinn DeargLooking west from the top, over the boulder strewn summit.

Summit of Beinn DeargSummit of Beinn DeargThe cairn at the very top of Beinn Dearg. You get some great views from here.

Beinn Dearg SummitBeinn Dearg SummitAt the top of Beinn Dearg View from the topView from the topLooking west from the summit of Beinn Dearg South of Beinn DeargSouth of Beinn Dearg Unusual CloudUnusual CloudThis cloud seemed to suddenly appear and it hovered in the same place for quite a while before disappearing. After we had finished eating and taking pictures,  it was time to head back down and take the alternative track back so we could walk a circular route. I took this picture of the road ahead.

The way backThe way backThe track back from Beinn Dearg to Blair Atholl (circular route). It was a long walk and, my feet were getting sore near the end. As we left the moorland,  the trees were being lit up by the last of the day's sunlight.

The setting sunThe setting sunAs we reach the end of the moorland, the low sun lights up selective areas Golden timeGolden timeNearing the end of walk, the setting sun selectively lights up the trees and leaves the farm in the shade. The last 30 minutes of the walk was sore on my feet, the walk out had felt quick and effortless.  The walk back felt like it was twice as long, even though it wasn't, sore feet have that effect! Just before it started to get dark we finally reached the car, it was a relief to finally sit down.

Coddiwomple completed, we drove home.

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) allt atholl bag beinn blair blog bothy coddiwomple dearg mountain munro photography scenery scheicheachan scotland scottish stravaig https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2016/11/coddiwomple Fri, 04 Nov 2016 22:53:14 GMT
Friday night on Ben Ledi https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2016/10/ben-ledi In 2014 Bob and I decided to climb Ben Ledi after work so we could watch the sunrise on midsummer morning. We are by no means druids, but the plan was to get to the top as it was getting dark, bivouac on the summit and then rise early to photograph the early morning sunrise. After work we packed our gear and drove to Ben Ledi, stopping at the chippy in Callander - I had a haggis supper with brown sauce! Just in case you were interested...

After eating our fill of greasy food at Callander, we drove to the Ben Ledi car park and headed up the Stank Glen route as the main path was closed for forestry work. It was a good climb up and we reached the top as it was getting dark, just before 11pm.

I wondered about in the fading light and took some pictures. It was quite windy with a chill in the air but I enjoyed taking pictures from the high top looking over the town of Callander and the distant streetlights of the central belt of Scotland beyond.

The Central belt from Ben LediThe Central belt from Ben LediThe streetlights close by are from Callander. The ones in the distance are Stirling & Falkirk (maybe)... The cross in the picture (from Wikipedia) “...commemorates Sergeant Harry Laurie of the Killin Scottish Mountain Rescue team, who died on 1 February 1987 during a rescue operation on Ben More near Crianlarich when the helicopter crashed”. It is a great but sad tribute.

As we were contemplating unpacking our stuff, we were joined at the top by a man with his two teenage sons, it was one of the sons birthday so they had climbed to the top and were going to release a firework at midnight to mark the end of the day. They spoke to us for quite a while and one of their dogs huddled into me as I sat on the grass talking to them, to keep warm. After they departed and had set their rocket off, it was time for us to unpack and get about 4 hours sleep before the sunrise.

The bivouac we had planned involved using our orange plastic emergency sacks to sleep in with a sleeping bag. I had packed fairly light so did not have a mat or much in the way of warm clothing, except for a hat, gloves, fleece and waterproofs. It was midsummer (I had reasoned) no need to pack too much... So we picked the best wind sheltered spot near the summit cairn and climbed into our respective sacks , Bob was better equipped than me and quickly fell asleep, while I lay trying to figure out which bit of me was the coldest. I took this picture of my predicament - the orange sack is Bob nearby in his sleeping bag snoring away in his warm down bag. I was having intermittent snoozes due to the cold - this is when I realised how far north I live! Bivouac on Ben LediBivouac on Ben LediI get very little sleep! Around 2am about six young men turned up, I had sat up with a fright on hearing them approaching and we nodded nervously to each other... They then proceeded to pitch a tent about ten metres away, about four of them squeezing into the small two man tent with two others condemned to the cold sleeping bag experience outside of the tent. I never expected the top of a hill to be quite so busy!

It never really got truly dark. After the sun set in the west, you could see a brighter patch of sky head northward over time and once it got to the east the sky started to lighten up again. By this time I had abandoned my bivvy and was running about doing star jumps, so I took this picture looking south as the sky brightened from the east.

Dawn on Ben LediDawn on Ben LediThe sun will be rising soon. The clouds were sitting low over the hills like they usually do at night. As the sun started to get close, I was worried that the cloud would spoil the sunrise.I did not need to worry, the cloud started to move just in time and it made the light more interesting with the bright and dark patches. I had my Olympus EP-1 camera, which is a bit noisy, but lightweight so I started to take some pictures of the sun rising.

Looking EastLooking EastThe sun was still behind the hills but it was starting to peek through in various places, as I stood on Ben Ledi waiting for it.

The Cross on Ben LediThis cross commemorates Sgt Harry Laurie of the Killin Mountain Rescue team who sadly died during a rescue operation on Ben More.

Ben Ledi NorthBen Ledi NorthEarly morning on Ben Ledi. Looking North as the first sun hits the hills

ben ledi sunriseSolstice SunriseMidsummer sunrise on Ben Ledi Ben Ledi SunriseBen Ledi SunriseMidsummer sunrise on Ben Ledi

The six guys were also here for the same reason and there was plenty of room for us both to snap away. After the golden hour was over, Bob and I packed up and headed down the hill. Eventually we reached the car and drove to Callander to catch the bakers opening so we could eat some more greasy food - It was good though!

After we had eaten it was time to head home, Bob was driving which was just as well as I was struggling to stay awake having only managed a couple of hours of uncomfortable snoozing. We got home about 9am and I managed to spend the rest of that Saturday in my bed, to recapture my lost sleep. 

 
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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) baker ben bivouac callander chippy ledi midsummer morning mountains night scenery scotland scottish solstice stirling sunrise https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2016/10/ben-ledi Fri, 21 Oct 2016 22:40:02 GMT
The Flutterby https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2016/10/the-flutterby I was walking on King's Seat Hill in the Ochil Hills a few weeks ago. I was heading up the hill, on the short grassy slopes, with nothing else to see and there were no skylarks to serenade me as they had earlier in the year. The grass was starting to lose its summer colour and a thought occurred as to what these hills could have looked like, if there had been no sheep eating everything green. I continued to wonder if there would have been trees and whether the barren grassy slopes would have looked vastly different... Suddenly I came across a surprise, like a jewel, that forced me to stop and look closer.

It was a peacock butterfly. I took a picture of it.

This beautiful creature was sitting in this bare grassland, I had not seen one here before. I wanted to get a better picture of it so I carefully tried to move the blade of grass in front of it. The butterfly took off and flew around me in an improbable dance, like a bit of paper on the end of a string being pulled rapidly up and down. After a few seconds of this it headed off down the hill and it soon disappeared from sight, leaving me to continue my walk, lost in thought and surrounded by grass.

I have written my thoughts below.  

Butterfly in a barren land
You don't know that you are awesome,
but that's what makes you so.
You waft in and out of peoples lives,
Your presence helps them grow

I found a butterfly in a barren land,
Showing colours nature brings.
The butterfly does not comprehend
the beauty on its wings.

You too are searching barren lands
you just can't see the view.
Like the butterfly that does not see its wings,
that butterfly is you.

 

The Flutterby
The busy mind is looking out
not looking in or round about.
Whilst looking out those close about
are there but disregarded.
Be with them now, our lives are short
don't fill their void with sorrow.
Engage, embrace and enjoy this time, 
as there may not be tomorrow.

King's Seat Hill StarburstKing's Seat Hill King's Seat Hill Starburst

The Glen of SorrowThe Glen of SorrowThe Glen of Sorrow lit up by the sun in the Ochil Hills

Digger on InnerdownieDigger on InnerdownieDigger wondering about near the summit of Innerdownie in the Ochil Hills, Scotland

 

 
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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) butterfly glen hill hills king's ochil of peacock poem scotland seat sorrow https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2016/10/the-flutterby Sat, 08 Oct 2016 10:42:48 GMT
Waiting for the Paint to dry https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2016/9/waiting-for-the-paint-to-dry Returning to the bothy on a very windy and wet Saturday, I walked up the Lairig Leacach in the afternoon. I was bombarded with sheets of water and my waterproof jacket was useless against the wind-driven rain, at least it was mild. The burn with the stepping stones was flooded so I had to find a safe place to cross, by the time I reached the bothy I was wet through and very glad to reach shelter. I had the place to myself and I quickly finished off the window trim, which being on the north side was surprisingly sheltered from the wind and the rain, with not a midge to be seen...

I left the painting to the Sunday morning, in the hope of better weather that had been forecast. I spent a quiet night in front of the stove, trying to dry everything and then retired to sleep about 9 pm. I was woken during the night by the bothy mouse which took a fancy to a plastic bag I had been using to keep my socks dry in my wet boots. I sleep with my headtorch on so I switched it on when I heard the plastic rustle and I caught the bag running across the floor! With the light on it, the mouse jumped about inside the bag as if it was initially stuck and startled by the light, then it scurried out from under the bag and sprinted over to the edge of the fireplace - it then stood still and stared back at me in the cold white LED light, with a rather bemused look - I blinked and it was gone.

I switched off my head torch with a smile, the mouse was just like Mr Jingles in the film the Green Mile. I tried to get back to sleep, glad that I had hung up my food in a safe place out of reach of the mice.

I awoke early and had a quick breakfast before heading out to put the first coat of paint on. The instructions stated to allow four hours between coats, it was cold outside, although it was not windy the showers were blowing through at regular intervals. I painted the window and then settled down at 9 am with a freshly brewed coffee waiting for the paint to dry. 

Inside the Lairig Leacach BothyInside the Lairig Leacach BothySitting waiting for the paint to dry Looking out the doorLooking out the doorWaiting for the paint to dry

Graffiti from 1937Graffiti from 1937This was written 79 years ago by the shepherds or gamekeepers who used to use this bothy.

Passing ShowersPassing ShowersWaiting for the paint to dry The sun briefly appearsThe sun briefly appearsMaybe time to take some pictures!  I decided to venture outside in between showers and take some pictures.

Looking to Stob BanLooking to Stob BanThe burn that runs beside the bothy was back to its regular height. The night before it had been a fierce torrent. Looking back to the Lairig Leacach BothyLooking back to the Lairig Leacach BothyThe ground was sodden and my feet were getting very wet again through my already soaking boots. So I headed back inside to wait for the paint to dry...

About 2 pm, the paint was dry enough for me to gloss over the base coat, it had started to rain but luckily it was still coming from the south so the north side was sheltered enough to continue. I painted the window realising that I could not apply another coat that day. 

Once I had finished, I packed all my stuff away and gave the bothy a good sweep out. I closed the door with a click and headed home, leaving the bothy and its mice to their own devices.

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) bothy lairig leacach mice mountain mouse paint rain scenery scotland scottish torrents wind https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2016/9/waiting-for-the-paint-to-dry Tue, 27 Sep 2016 21:32:28 GMT
When Midges Attack! https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2016/8/when-midges-attack If you have actually read any of my blog posts, I mention midges a few times, they are small biting insects that attack in vast numbers. I thought I would post the video and pictures below to explain the Scottish curse that is the Highland midge.

I travelled up to the bothy on Saturday to do some work. When I arrived the midges were not too bad and we got stuck into the various jobs - I was working on a window. As it got later the midges were getting worse and they were attacking in numbers,  so I went into the bothy, applied midge repellent and also put on my head net. I went back out and was working away happily as I only felt the occasional bite on my leg and waist. Feeling the bites, I tightened my trousers around these areas. and I kept on with the work. From time to time the midges would suddenly start to swarm, then they would mysteriously and quite quickly drop back to reasonable levels, probably due to a breeze as midges are badly affected by wind.

Carrying on with finishing my task before dark, I looked down after a while and was shocked to see that my legs were coated with a living mass of insects - I grabbed my phone out my pocket, took off my work glove and filmed this quick clip of the mass of midges on my legs and flying all around me:

In the company of MidgesTrying to fix a window on a Saturday night at the bothy...

Concentrating on my task, I had not noticed the sheer amount of them. After I stopped filming they quickly dispersed again, leaving me to finish the job.

When I got back inside the bothy, I realised that the occasional bites that I had felt were actually quite a lot of bites! I was bitten quite intensely around my waist and ankles. The midges mainly strike as soon as they find skin and I ended up with obvious clusters of bites at places where the midges found gaps in my clothing.

I took these photos of my waist and legs on Tuesday, 3 days after I had been bitten.

Midge bites on my waistMidge bites on my waistThey have left me with a belt around my waist where they bit. The crack of my bum was the worst affected but I am not taking pictures of that! Tuck in your clothes to avoid this! Midge bites on my legMidge bites on my legThe midges attacked mostly just on the sock line, so I have a swelling there of multiple bites.. - Next time I will tuck my socks in to my trousers!

I had itchy bites all over but luckily not on my face due to the repellent and net; my hands and arms were pretty good too, again due to the repellent and work gloves. I am pretty pleased that I withstood a decent midge attack - although I was not unscathed, I managed to carry on with what I was doing. The headnet is essential as without the headnet the midges attack nostrils, ears and eyes, as those areas cannot be covered by insect repellent, that is unbearable and I would simply give up. I find that the repellent called Smidge is effective for me, as they do still land on skin that is coated with it, but they bite much less than they would otherwise. 

The lessons learned for me is to put Smidge on my legs and waist next time, tuck my trousers into my socks and t-shirt into my trousers and I will hopefully return next time with much fewer bites. Midges also seem to prefer to land on dark fabrics than they do on bright coloured fabrics, you can see that in the above video. Incidentally, the bothy was full of midges but once they get into a building, for some reason they do not bite, they just gather on the window and try to get back out!

As I went to sleep that night I closed my eyes and all I could visualise was swarms of midges flying around my head - it was better than counting sheep as I fell asleep very quickly! 

Here's another video of the midge swarm that I posted on Youtube that shows the swarm:

 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) attack bite bites bum crack damage dots iScottish legs marks mdges midge number of picture pictures red reduce scotland survive swarm swelling tips video waist https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2016/8/when-midges-attack Tue, 30 Aug 2016 20:19:41 GMT
Digger goes Bothying https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2016/8/digger-goes-bothying A few weeks ago I had obtained a new spade to drop off at the Lairig Leacach bothy - If you are not aware of bothies, they are a basic shelter in the wilder locations in Scotland. They are so basic that the bothy spade is what you use to dig a hole when you need to go to the toilet! The downside of this open air arrangement is the risk of being stumbled upon by someone walking past and if the Midges are out (small biting insects that attack in swarms) then it can be a challenging experience. The rules of the bothy spade is that if you need to go, walk far away from the bothy and water sources, at least 200 metres from the bothy and 60 metres from water, then walk further again. The trade off for the 19th century amenities and biting insect hazard is the fantastic views that can be had and no modern convenience can compete.

With the excuse of having a spade delivery, I decided to drop it off and carry on from the Lairig Leacach bothy and walk to Meanach Bothy and make a weekend of it. My pal Bob who had visited the Lairig in June with me, had climbed the Grey Corries that weekend but had one more of them to do, the outlying Munro Sgurr Choinich Mor. This would be his 100th Munro and being in the locality, it would be a fine opportunity to climb it.

I also decide to take my dog Digger, who is a Jack Russell cross. We got Digger second-hand from a charity when he was a year old so we do not really know what different breeds he is composed off - he is mostly Jack Russell. I take him on day walks in the hills often and there has been many occasions when I have had to turn back due to him shivering and looking miserable. Digger has very little hair on his underside and he feels the cold, he is also spoiled rotten and has become used to his home comforts. He will not lie down in his bed at night unless I put his blanket over him - he is a creature of habit is Digger and this was going to be testing for him...

We headed off early and stopped for the compulsory hot dog at the local shop at Spean Bridge, whilst Digger watched longingly from the car boot. We then parked at the usual spot past Corriechoile and headed off for the Lairig Bothy. Reaching the bothy I stopped in to drop off the spade and speak to the residents, who were MBA members. We then headed off over the hill the towards Meanach bothy, a walk of around 12 km from where we parked the car. It was grey and overcast, bad for pictures but pleasant for walking.

Walking to Meanach Bothy Great views from the path Looking back to the Lairig Leacach

Glen NevisLooking down Glen NevisTaken as we descended down to Meanach Botyh

Digger enjoying all the smellsDigger enjoying all the smells

I really enjoyed the walk, there were some fine views and the path was small,  winding and rough in an entertaining way. The path rises up to nearly 600 metres before it drops down into the Glen. Meanach bothy is located past the watershed of Glen Nevis. I am not really sure if this bit of glen is called a different name but looking down from our vantage point we saw our destination.

Meanach BothyLooking down to Meanach BothyThe bothy is on the left, the ruin by the trees is called Luibeilt on the map.

There is a ruin (marked as Luibelt on the map) of what looks like a decent sized Victorian era house across the river from Meanach. The bothy itself sits in the middle of what looks like a field, but the reality is that it is a bog - You can expect wet feet around here.

The ruin at LuibeiltThe ruin at LuibeiltThis old Victorian ruin sits at the end of a landrover track that runs approximately 12km to Kinlochleven.

Meanach is a fine bothy with two rooms, when we got there it was empty so we unpacked our bedding in the room with the wooden sleeping platform and claimed our space on the comfiest bit.

Meanach Mountain BothyMeanach Mountain BothyMeanach Mountain Botyh at the head of Glen Nevis

Whilst we got organised and started cooking. Digger wandered about outside and kept running back in after 5 minutes all shaking and itchy from the Midges. He was having difficulty understanding why it was so uncomfortable outside...Digger then kept looking at me wondering when we were going home. His usual routine had been majorly disrupted and he simply did not understand!

So, when are we going homeSo, when are we going home?Digger stares at me wondering when we are going home and not realising that he will be sleeping here tonight!

Little did this little dog know that he was staying the night here in this old house with a strenuous walk back to Corriechoile in the morning via the top of the Munro, Sgurr Choinich Mor, approximately 14 km of challenging terrain.

Whilst we were settling in two walkers approached from the East. They were looking a bit nervous as they approached the bothy, as if to walk past, so Bob went out and waved to them. They approached the bothy with trepidation as they had thought that maybe the bothy was our house! We explained it was a bothy and anyone can stay so these two young lads from Antwerp in Belgium gratefully setup for the night in the other room. They explained to us that Belguim has a population of 10 million people and it is a small place with little in the way of wild places left, so they were taking the opportunity to wander in the wilds of Scotland for a few days. Speaking to them I felt lucky and privileged that even though I live in a town of 100,000 people, I can drive for just half an hour, park up and lose myself in my local Ochil Hills, where I can often wander for hours without meeting anyone.

About 8pm we were joined by a couple of volunteers who were part of a support team who were using the bothy to feed a runner who was trying to complete the Ramsay Round which, is a gruelling 56 mile route featuring 28,500 feet of climbing that has to be completed in less than 24 hours! The runner was due to pass at 2am so they were going to get a couple of hours sleep then set up and feed the runner then they too would run away into the night to provide support further on - I was impressed at their dedication and organisation. As for the challenge, getting about these steep hills in the dark and in hill fog is a superb navigational feat made all the more impressive as they are running!

This is what I like about staying in bothies, you share a space with a mixed bag of interesting people and you generally come away feeling that you have learned something and that you are richer for having met them. 

When it got dark we retired into our respective sleeping bags. Digger had a plastic mat beside me on the wooden platform and I kept my sleeping bag open and lay it across him. At 1am the support team awoke and very considerately prepared the meal in the porch making very little noise. When the runner appeared we heard them discussing the challenge and then they were all gone into the night. I felt Digger and he was cold… I dozed off again only to be woken up by Digger’s vigorous shivering! I pulled him onto my air bed and moved onto the wooden platform, wrapping him in my sleeping bag. I woke up in the morning and Digger was now warm and comfortable on my air bed and under my sleeping bag whilst I was laying on a hard wooden platform! If it had been winter it would have been much worse so it is safe to say that Digger is not a bothy dog.

We made breakfast and then bid farewell to the guys from Belgium, wishing them an enjoyable journey and we set off towards the looming bulk of Sgurr Choinich Mor, the summit of which was cloaked in cloud. We followed the river and we were quickly soaked in the boggy ground, we had to ford rivers as well so by the time we reached the bogwood strewn foot of the mountain my boots were full of water.

Grey but warmThe grass is deceiving - this was boggy ground. bogwoodBogwood everywhereThe remains of the ancient forests are apparent where the peat has been washed away. These trees were everywhere once but no only this remains.

Luckily it was muggy and fairly warm with no wind, despite the heavy cloud laden skies and we set off up the steep slope. As we climbed we could see the Belgian guys in the distance heading down Glen Nevis - I wonder what there thoughts were seeing us heading up a steep mountainside disappearing into the cloud.

Glen NevisLooking down Glen Nevis as we gain height Digger in the cloudsDigger perched on a rockDigger waits for me to catch up as the ground gets steeper, just below the cloud line.

This was a relentless climb, quite steep in places and my fitness was very quickly shown up as being wanting as Bob and Digger had to wait for me frequently! I took my last picture, looking back as we were being enveloped by cloud.

In the CloudsLast look back towards Meanach Looking back as the cloud envelopes us as we continue upeward

After the cloud closed in, we soldiered on and eventually reached the summit. We then headed off along the ridge scrambling down from the top. My head for heights was challenged at some bits as there was some quite healthy drops which stifled my urge to take any more pictures as I was simply concentrating on where I was going. At one point I decided to scramble over a boulder field instead of following the usual route that scrambled down above a heady drop. This caused Digger difficulties getting across the boulders and Bob stepped and rescued him by carrying the wee dog over the tricky bit.

By the time we reached the Bealach between Sgurr Coinnich Mor and Stob Coire Easain the cloud was thinning but it made the climb up to Stob Coire Easain look a pretty challenging scramble. I was concerned for just for my selfish self, but as we stood discussing it, Bob was also concerned for Digger who lay down immediately when we stopped - he was very tired and obviously not a dog who enjoyed scrambling, a bit like his owner... Bob’s instinct was to carry on up the ridge but after some discussion it was decided that it may be better (but not easier) to bypass the top. There was a visible route which gave certainty, but we would have to clamber over the boulder fields below the western cliffs to bypass the summit. Being a visible alternative it seemed safer with Digger in tow, in case following the ridge involved any dog deterring scrambles

We set off over some pretty loose and steep boulder fields, the boulders were mainly slippery quartz and there was some big boulders too, some of these boulders were perfect cubes which looked almost manufactured. At times, as you committed your weight to them, the boulders would move and there would be a nervous moment when you hoped they did not move too much on the steep slope as there was a lot of big rocks above us... This boulder field of deep piles of interlocked rocks has been here for a very very long time under the crumbling cliffs above - Bob was skipping over them but I was struggling and Digger was needing help most of the way too, courtesy of me poking him forward with my walking stick! Bob headed up towards a grassy slope that he managed to follow pretty well, I headed for one further down and I struggled to get a grip on it - my fitness levels were tested here on this steep loose slope with a 15kg pack on my back and I basically crawled up it. As I dithered up this slope, Bob by this time had reached good ground. He took his pack off and came back to rescue Digger who was hating every minute of jumping from boulder to boulder at the top. In truth, I was too, as it was steep with loose large rocks, it needed concentration and strong legs. From this location, looking back to the ridge we had bypassed, it became apparent that the slope of the ridge that looked daunting when we were beneath it was actually much less steep than I had thought - Bob’s initial instincts were right. By avoiding the ridge and coming this way we had definitely chosen the harder route. It was a fantastic work out though!

After reaching the gentle grassy slopes after the boulder field, we made our way along the long descending ridge that would lead us ever closer towards my car. Digger alternated between being very tired and then suddenly running about with a sudden reserve of energy.  The descent was relentless but fairly placid until it ended at a very steep drop above a small reservoir. This slope took me a while to negotiate, with the Midges capitalising on my vulnerability, whilst Bob and Digger waited patiently at the bottom.

We eventually reached the car for the 4 hour drive down the road, we had walked 14 kilometers that day over some pretty steep and difficult terrain, but we had made it. Digger jumped with huge relief into the car boot and immediately lay down to sleep.

At some of the bits I had really hated that walk as I had been outside my comfort zone. Now that I had finished it I was elated - it was fantastic. I was sore the next few day with the workout I had put myself through carrying my heavy pack - I had even packed my tent and not used it! One thing I have learnt from my adventures to date though is that the hard difficult things, although maybe not enjoyable at the time, are the things you get the most out of and will remember with fondness... You can keep your luxuries and your fancy things, for me, this is living.

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) Coinnich Meanach Mor Sgurr bogwood bothy boulder central fields glen highlands lairig leacach mountain nevis scenery scotland scottish scrambling https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2016/8/digger-goes-bothying Tue, 23 Aug 2016 21:35:08 GMT
Catching Owls at Dunrobin Castle https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2016/7/catching-owls-at-dunrobin-castle Recently the family visited Dunrobin Castle in Sutherland, which is about an hours drive north of Inverness. We got there about lunchtime so I wandered around and took some pictures before the falconry display, which was due to start at 2pm. It is a great castle with lovely well maintained grounds.

Dunrobin CastleDunrobin CastleDunrobin Castle is a stately home in Sutherland, in the Highland area of Scotland, and the family seat of the Earl of Sutherland and the Clan Sutherland.

At 2pm we sat down on the lawn to watch the falconry display - it is the best that I have seen. The presenter had a Hawk that he had flying about and it flew around at speed, swooping in and skimming the heads of the audience; it was very impressive. This being Scotland though, it started to rain but the presenter carried on. He introduced an Owl and he explained that he had raised it from when it hatched. The rain was getting heavier so my brother-in-law David went to shelter underneath a tree. The presenter was running about and the Owl was flying after him. He saw David with his phone filming the display so he run behind David. The Owl flew straight towards David...

David caught this video - he had his phone on slow motion, so the Owl just seems to appear out of the audience flying straight towards him. The Owl's feet even clipped the phone as it went past... This is the closest I will ever get to seeing what a Mouse's last moments look like. I am glad that I am not a mouse!

Owl in FlightThis was taken by my brother in law on his iphone in slow motion at Dunrobin Castle Shortly after this video was taken the rain got very heavy and most people ran away - including the falconry display presenter! It was a great pity as it was an excellent display. We then ran away as well and sought shelter in the castle to see how the Lords and Ladies used to live. 

I dedicate this blog post to the memory of my Mother-in-law, Ericka, who was with us on this trip. You are sorely missed.

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) castle dunrobin fairytale falconry flying motion owl scotland slow sutherland video https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2016/7/catching-owls-at-dunrobin-castle Sun, 31 Jul 2016 20:03:29 GMT
A New Recruit https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2016/7/a-new-recruit In Scotland our scenery is quite vertically challenged, compared to a great many places in the world. The highest mountain in Scotland is Ben Nevis, which is a paltry 1,345 metres (4,412 feet) - you do have to climb it from practically sea level though…

Any Scottish hill above 3,000 feet (914 metres) is classed as a Munro (named after Sir Hugh Munro - this Wiki link explains it better than I can).

“Bagging” (climbing) Munro mountains is a popular pastime and many people are out there in all weathers at weekends attempting to “bag” another Munro and tick it off their list.  Despite their size Munros are still tricky and challenging - falling 200 metres is pretty much as damaging as falling 2000 metres, except the conclusion is quicker.

In winter, despite their height, I consider them as proper scary mountains as the Scottish weather multiplies the danger immensely, especially with the relentless winds and subsequent chilling.

This lighthearted video clip give an idea of what it can be like. Here is another clip from the Cairngorms in Winter for another taster of winter conditions. 

I have been up a Munro in a white-out when the cloud and the snow create a whiteroom effect. This is a very weird experience and disorienting too, as you do not know if your next step will be on snow, or a cloud, as you inadvertently walk off a cliff.

I took this picture of Bob (100 Munros!) who was videoing the predicament of being in a white-out. Luckily we knew where we were - that little post hidden by my walking poles was a fence line marked on the map.

The WhiteroomThe WhiteroomBob in a whiteout on Beinn Udlamain. The cloud closed in and suddenly everything went white. We stopped, I took a picture of Bob videoing the surreal scene. Luckily we knew where we were...

Hypothermia is a real threat on these hills in the winter. But even in the summer it is a possibility if you are not equipped - At 900 metres conditions can be fierce when below in the glens people are wearing t-shirts, eating ice cream and running away from midges.

I took this video on a Munro called Stob Binnein (1,165m) in August 15, I was wrapped up and was wearing gloves!

August on Stob BinneinIt is pretty cold up here, and hats and gloves were worn. Scottish summer at a 100om metres is short on heat.

Now onto the new recruit - Mrs B has been paying more attention to my comings and goings lately and she realised I was having all the fun! She has started joining me on walks and recently got to the top of King’s Seat hill in the Ochil Hills which is 600 metres.

King's Seat HillKing's Seat HillKing's Seat Hill from the Glen of Sorrow

Whilst on holiday near Inverness I finally convinced her to try and climb a Munro in the form of Ben Wyvis, which is 1,046 metres and classed as relatively straightforward. I lived in its shadow as a youngster, so I have always wanted to get to the top.

With Mrs B joining me on trips she has started using all my equipment, for instance I had recently treated myself to a pair of Mountain King walking poles, which after she had walked with them, she told me she had to have them from now on as she was “used to them” - Cue new poles for me!

So after visiting a hill walking shop in Inverness and buying more gear we looked at the Mountain Weather Information Service website and decided that the Wednesday of that week looked best with a 50% chance of a cloud free summit and no rain forecast until mid-afternoon.

Parking the car at 8am we got our rucksacks on (whilst the midgie’s attacked us) and we then marched off at a good pace so the wee nips couldn’t keep up, after a while our objective, the steep slope of the shoulder of Ben Wyvis, An Cabar, came into view.

Approaching An CabarApproaching An CabarThe walk up to Ben Wyvis is a pleasant one. The route up to the summit is via this subsidiary top, An Cabar.

The climb up has a really good path that has been built to protect the mountain from walkers eroding the delicate vegetation - I can accept these kind of paths and I take my hat off to the volunteers that build them. The path even has steps for about a quarter of the way up!

Climbing Ben WyvisClimbing Ben WyvisThis is the view from halfway up, as we clambered up to An Cabar

There was one or two scary drops that unnerved Mrs B as the path runs close to the edge at times but she persevered and after a short sit-down protest, we eventually got to the top of An Cabar.

Mrs B was very happy when she got there, but her jubilation quickly turned to anger when I told her that this was not the top as that was a further 2 km to walk across the broad mountain! After coaxing her on to continue, we eventually reached the summit trig point and she had a big smile when she touched it. We ate some lunch and I took some photos.

At the top of Ben WyvisAt the top of Ben WyvisMrs B takes a drink while I muck about with my camera.. Northwest from Ben WyvisNorthwest from Ben WyvisThere is a dirty big windfarm in this view Looking North from Ben WyvisLooking North from Ben WyvisI wonder if that distant hill is Ben Hope, the most Northerly of Scotland's Munro's? Oil Rigs in Nigg BayOil Rigs in Nigg BayLooking Southeast from the summit of Ben Wyvis.

On the way back it was a pleasant descent, I am glad we started early as there was a procession of people coming up the hill, it was really busy for a Wednesday!

Eventually we were nearing the car and Mrs B asked which hill we will be doing next, I told her that we had a choice of several easy ones and she decided she wanted to do Ben Nevis (the busiest of the lot!), she then said “I am really tired, but I wish this walk wasn’t ending”.

Well done Mrs B, you have done your first Munro and now (I think that) you have been bitten by that bug. The bug that makes you want to roam and discover and see what is over that hill or along that Glen. I have a new walking partner and she will be doing Schiehallion or Ben Lomond next. Busy Ben Nevis can wait for now ;-)

 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) Ben Munro Scotland Wyvis climb first scenery scotland scottish time https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2016/7/a-new-recruit Sun, 31 Jul 2016 19:22:18 GMT
Moments in the moment at the Beauly Firth https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2016/7/the-beauly-firth Last week I stayed near North Kessock on the Beauly Firth, just a short hop over the Kessock Bridge to Inverness. I took the opportunity to wander about the area on a grey windy day and took some pictures and videos. Scottish summer indeed!

Summer in ScotlandAlthough this does not look like July. It is in not an unexpected July day Scotland. It was not raining much though... It was also a balmy 15C! The place we stayed had a wee conservatory and I took the opportunity to sit in it on my own on a couple of evenings, with a beer and a book.

Sitting in a conservatory with a beer and a bookSitting in a conservatory with a beer and a book After a few chapters and beers, the sky started to distract me and I put the book down.

Book Down Eyes upBook Down Eyes up Room with a viewRoom with a viewSitting overlooking the Beauly Firth, the sky kept attracitng my attention Distracting SkiesDistracting Skies Beauly FirthBeauly Firth Beauly Firth SkyBeauly Firth Sky Sun PatchSun Patch After some capricious attempts to watch the sky, get another beer, take pictures of the sky, or go back to my book, I instead wrote this on my phone…

Oft painted skies ever changing,
Clouds hang suspended in air and light.
If only I could settle my mind & focus, I could see the world as it is meant to be seen.
An infinity of moments that have never been seen nor will ever be repeated.

Sky and beer - a heady combination...

 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) beauly beautiful bridge clouds cobalt day firth grey inverness july kessock north scenery scotland scottish skies stelly summer typical windy https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2016/7/the-beauly-firth Wed, 13 Jul 2016 21:40:12 GMT
Forty Years Later https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2016/7/forty-years-later From the age of three until the age of eight, I lived in a village in the Scottish Highlands called Strathpeffer. In my school years we lived outside the village in a cottage which was surrounded by woodland on one side and a pond on the other. I loved this, as my playground was ponds, trees and hills and my friends were frogs. I did not want human friends then, apart from at school, how could humans compete with frogs that have such amazing eyes and are so awfully polite!

I remember the family trips and walks we used to go on in the surrounding countryside; in particular, I fondly recall a trip from Loch Kinellan to Rogie Falls through the forest. Being in the vicinity of this place recently, I decided to relive this memory of 40 years past and do the same walk.

Parking my car at a fairly new purpose built car park at Loch Kinellan, the scene was strangely familiar, but it was different. The nearby working farm buildings of the ‘70s were now gone and grand residential buildings stood in their place and there are more houses dotted around this area than there used to be, they are modern and have mostly replaced the cottages and ruins that I remember. There is an island in Loch Kinellan which is overgrown with trees as grazing animals cannot reach it. This island is a Crannog, which is an artificial island which was built for defensive purposes in prehistoric times. The Crannog at Loch Kinellan has a very long history.

Loch Kinellan CrannogLoch Kinellan CrannogA Crannog is typically a house built on an artificial or existing island. Kinellan Crannog is understood to be wholly artificial, with signs of building from the floor of the Loch. It was used in the 15th and 16th centuries by the Earls of Ross as a hunting seat, but is likely to have been built long before that (from Strathpeffer.org).

Walking past Loch Kinellan, I headed towards the forest. As a boy I remember a good forest path where you clambered over tree roots and stones and the walk was entertaining as you felt that you were in the forest, albeit a man-made one - it still felt wild. Not so now. The path is now paved with hardcore which has been rolled flat, so it is like walking on a hard pavement. Instead of being in the forest you are now on a pavement that is surrounded on either side by trees. The paved path in my humble opinion removes you from the forest. Our roads need all the patching they can get, so it surprises me how the money is found to lay all these expensive tracks to remove future walkers from the connection with the woods and forests.

The Forest PavementMuch more civilised and totally uninspiring. Walking on I came across a manhole in the middle of the forest and this maybe explains the need for a track as a compromise, so the hydro electric or water pipework is more accessible… A planning trade off maybe?

A Dirty Big ManholeA Dirty Big ManholeThis makes the forest easier to fix ;-)

I took a diversion up to a view point above Contin, before I doubled back to visit Loch Na Craan.

Contin ViewpointContin ViewpointThis is accessible from the paved path...

The path to this loch was a proper but short forest path, it was an entertaining walk dodging tree roots and walking on the forest floor. The forest floor is soft and gentle on the feet and a heavy step makes a deep but gentle thud. As I walked past a fallen tree, a couple of Chaffinches sat there cheaping, impervious to my passing and with the wind in the trees I finally felt that connection with the forest that the wide pavement had stolen from me.

A Proper Forest PathA Proper Forest PathIt is much more enjoyable to walk on a path like this, how I remember it :)

I reached Loch Na Craan and was confronted with an old boat house and a highland loch that was unusually covered in white water lilies. It was quite a sight and a pleasure to discover. Walking around the loch I discovered that it was dammed so man’s hand has played a part here too...

Loch Na CraanLoch Na CraanThis Loch is covered in Water Lillies Water LiliesWater LiliesWater Lilies on Loch Na Crann Loch Na CraanLoch Na Craan Loch Na CraanLoch Na Craan I headed onwards towards Rogie falls, taking a couple of km diversion down a proper forest path that was signposted as a river walk.This route took me downhill to the river, called Black Water, near Contin. I took some pictures from viewpoints from this path and on the way to Rogie Falls.

The March of the TreesThe March of the TreesTaken on the way to Rogie Falls A Cloud Covered Ben WyvisA Cloud Covered Ben WyvisTaken from the Forest Path between Loch Kinellan and Rogie Falls The Forest WalkThe Forest Walk Just before reaching my destination, I passed this magnificent tree that needed to be captured!

Big Tree at Rogie FallsBig Tree at Rogie FallsI have a thing for unusual trees and had to capture this one.

At the suspension bridge (there was a bridge here 40 years ago!) above Black Water, I joined the crowd watching the salmon trying to jump Rogie Falls

Rogie FallsRogie FallsRogie falls on the river Black Water. The water is black as it comes from the peaty moorland on Ben Wyvis

I missed a few good chances but eventually managed to photograph a couple of salmon jumping.

Salmon Jumping at Rogie FallsSalmon Jumping at Rogie FallsThis salmon was captured as it fell back in the water. Salmon Jumping at Rogie FallsSalmon Leaping Rogie FallsThis salmon leapt very high but failed to clear the falls (it was short). I managed to capture it as it came back down.

It is hard to capture them jumping and would take organisation and patience to get a good picture of this annual migration. It is a pleasure and privilege to watch these fish jump such amazing heights, as I remember doing 40 years ago. If anything there seemed to be more fish now than what I remember back then. The salmon were leaping every few minutes, sometimes one of their attempts would encourage others to try to jump the falls too, so you would see a few of them in quick succession. There is a fish ladder nearby, but they seem to miss it and tackle the big obstacle head on!

I could have spent much more time with this spectator sport but had to head back. As I climbed the hill heading away from the falls, I could hear the audience on the bridge cheer and I knew had probably missed a photo opportunity - I wondered whether a salmon had succeeded in beating the falls.

I walked back to loch Kinellan and finally reached my car. I consoled myself that I had experienced this area in slightly wilder times. It was still nice here, but the creep of urbanisation was apparent in places and my memories of 40 years past were now more precious.

From Within the ForestFrom Within the ForestA great view through the trees

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) black boat crann falls forest house jumping lillies loch na photo picture rogie salmon scenery scotland uk walk water woodland https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2016/7/forty-years-later Tue, 12 Jul 2016 22:33:50 GMT
The Lairig Leacach Mountain Bothy https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2016/6/the-lairig-leacach-mountain-bothy I have recently caught up with an old friend, Andy, whom I have known over 30 years! If that period of time wasn't bad enough, I had not seen him for several years so the chance to visit the Lairig Leacach Mountain bothy with him, to check it out, was certainly something to look forward to. At the last minute, my other friend and regular walking buddy Bob managed to free up his weekend and he came along to bag the Grey Corries which are the mountains above the Lairig Leacach. The plan for me and Andy was to go straight to the bothy and have a relaxing afternoon, whilst Bob disappeared, uphill to bag some tops. Being prepared for the bothy, I packed some whisky and 10kg of coal whilst Andy packed wine and some ingredients for a fine curry. A healthy weekend...with the walking.

As we left the car, I was having trouble getting my rucksack to keep the coal, it kept falling out of the straps. Andy saved the day with some bungees and he strapped them to his rucksack and proceeded to carry it up the hill. Now, this was not intentional but it made the first part of my walk very easy whilst Andy had to struggle onwards. After some time though I took my turn with the coal and I struggled the rest of the way to the bothy, stopping frequently to “look at the view”...

Walking up to Lairig LeacachWalking up to Lairig LeacachWalking on a glorious day past crystal clear streams

Finally reaching our destination, I got rid of my burden and after getting used to that floating feeling you get when you take off a heavy pack, we laid out the sleeping bags so we could “bagsy” a spot on the large sleeping platform in case a load of folks turned up later.

The Lairig Leacach Mountain BothyThe Lairig Leacach Mountain BothyThe Lairig Leacach Mountain Bothy with the Munro Stob Ban in the background.

I took on water at the nearby stream and we sat in the warm sun outside the bothy catching up on things old and new. It was a beautiful day and we sat there the whole afternoon having a few cheeky drinks and talking to walkers who were passing by on their way back off the hills. We had many visitors, first of all, a herd of friendly cows came by to investigate and one, in particular, was very curious and got uncomfortably close to me and my bag full of trail mix that I was snacking on. It very slowly sidled up to me and as the cow’s nose was almost touching my face, simply moving my hand sent the large beast into retreat, which was a relief for this much smaller and feebler beast!

The Bothy Water SupplyThe Bothy Water SupplyThis went in my dram!

A party of twenty or so walkers later came past after descending off Stob Ban, the nearest Munro to the Bothy. Two of them had just completed climbing all the Munro’s of Scotland (if you achieve that you are known as a Compleatist) and this Compleatist celebration party sat beside us for a while talking about hills and bothies. It was a nice place to sit with the passers-by, most sat and talked with us for a while with that friendly unreserved camaraderie you get when you meet people in the hills.  It was an enjoyable afternoon of friendly chat, a few drams and sunburn.

As the hills around are quite high here the sun disappeared quite early so by teatime it was getting cold in the shade.  Andy went in to make a Paneer cheese curry whilst I went to gather some dry dead heather for kindling, taking my camera of course.

Mountain shadowMountain ShadowThe Lairig Leacach bothy in the shadow of Stob Coire na Ceannain. The door was open as Andy was inside making curry whilst I dodged around the bog cotton gathering some old dry heather for kindling.

It is a fantastic location, the light was not ideal for photos this time but I was in awe of the views and potential. I found some bogwood when wondering about, the remains of ancient trees and at this, I saw a walker approaching about 6 pm from Stob Ban - it was Bob.

Grey Corrie ShadowsGrey Corrie ShadowsBog cotton and the shadow of Stob Coire na Ceannain with Sgurr Innse and Cruach Innse as the backdrop.

Going back to the bothy I had selfishly left Andy to make the dinner and Bob had timed his arrival perfectly as it was now ready. Good food in remote locations is certainly something to be savoured and I certainly did like that curry.

After clearing up, the fire was lit and we sat there talking, Andy had some wine, I had some whisky with burn water and Bob, the driver had just burn water after a hot dehydrating day on the hills. 

Eventually, it was time to retire and a snoring competition ensued, I might even have won as I only remember waking up once. I fear though that Bob may have been the loser of this particular competition if the loss is measured in interrupted sleep…

In the morning, after breakfast, we tidied up the bothy, bagged the rubbish and swept it out. I have recently volunteered to be the joint Maintenance Organiser (MO) for the Lairig Leacach and am on a temporary appointment by the Mountain Bothy Association for now, so I wanted to visit and get to know it.

Normal Scottish WeatherNormal Scottish WeatherIn the morning our normal weather was back and I took comfort in the fact that we will probably never go thirsty.

The weather in the morning was low cloud and it threatened to rain, so I took pictures of all elevations for future reference and then signed the bothy book before we left. I wrote “Stayed on Saturday night with friends” and signed my name. Andy then wrote underneath “We are not his friends, he rented us.” - Thanks, Andy! 

Looking backLooking backLooking back to the Lairig Leacach as I headed home under grey skies. We (my rented friends and I) headed back to civilisation with me nursing a sore head due to the multitude of drams I ended up having - but at least minus a bag of coal. It was an enjoyable first visit, it was like a wee informal party to celebrate my first meeting with what may in time become a familiar place.

 

Lairig Leacach Mountain BothyLairig Leacach Mountain BothyA Scottish Mountain Bothy

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) ban bothy compleatists corries grey lairig landscape leacach mountain munros scenery scotland scottish stob https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2016/6/the-lairig-leacach-mountain-bothy Tue, 28 Jun 2016 20:43:36 GMT
Morven, Maidens Pap and the Flow Country https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2016/6/the-flow-country Having had to travel to Wick, in the far northeast of Scotland for work. I had decided to take my walking and camping gear with me so I could visit the hills Morven and Maidens Pap, which are just a 40 minute drive south of Wick, near the border of Caithness and Sutherland. Luckily I was travelling up on a Thursday and was finishing up on a Friday afternoon, so that I could overnight in my tent near the abandoned cottage at Corrichoich and spend the day exploring. 

Setting off from a sunny Wick on Friday afternoon I finally parked at Braemore, where I changed from my typical work garb and into my walking gear. Starting my walk it dawned on me that the hills were obscured with low cloud off the sea - A typical occurrence for anyone located in the East Coast of Scotland.

Heading onward past the gamekeepers cottages, I hit the track that goes to Corrichoich and sauntered along in a bracing sea breeze that does its best to ruin a warm day - the mist was swirling around Maidens Pap and it periodically cleared to reveal the peak, only to quickly cover it again.

Maidens Pap in the mistMaidens Pap in the mistFor most of the time I was here, Maidens Pap was constantly being covered by mist from the cold east coast, it hit the hill but never advanced.

Morven Shrouded in MistMorven Shrouded in MistOn the day I arrived the sea mist from the coast was enveloping Morven and it had me worried that the visibility the next day would make the climb pointless. After only about four kilometers, the path abruptly ends at the abandoned Corrichoich cottage. I walked around it and found the door locked but the missing window meant that anyone could step inside. 

Approaching Road EndApproaching Road EndGetting near to the abandoned cottage at Corrichoich, the Glen of Mist, where the road ends. Not wanting to be an intruder however, I explored the vicinity of the cottage. I crossed a marvellously swinging suspension bridge to the other side of the river, Berriedale Water,  taking pictures, whilst figuring out the best place to pitch my tent. I was looking for a spot that would be away from the noise of the nearby river, out of the wind and also out of site of any photos that I may take at sunset or sunrise.

The Suspension Bridge at CorricoichThe Suspension Bridge at CorricoichThis wonderful moving bridge takes you across Berriedale Water at Corrichoichh and onto the expanse of The Flow Country Looking back to CorricoichLooking back to Corrichoich Looking back to CorricoichLooking back to Corrichoich and Maidens PapA view looking back after crossing the suspension bridge Finally settling on a flat spot quite near to the cottage, behind a broken wall, I pitched my tent and fetched water from a peaty stream and got cooking my tea. I was savouring my solitude on this sunny evening, I was warm in my tent and I was listening to the Chaffinches, Curlews, Skylarks and many other cheeps and chirps that I was less familiar with. 

After eating, I set my alarm for 4am the next morning and was dozing by 8pm - I woke many times with all the unfamiliar sounds of nature. As a town dweller, cars and emergency services sirens do not disturb me but a grumpy but comical call of a grouse or the bray of a deer do cause me to wake. The most distinctive night noise is the passing snipe that woke me three times, I am glad I know what this is as the sound is pretty mysterious - 

This link is a pretty good reproduction (except there were no frogs where I was). 

My phone alarm activated at 4am and that probably traumatised the local wildlife more than me as everything was now silent by the time I finally awoke. After snoozing for a while I unzipped the tent and peered out.

Moon on Corrichoich4:15 am with the sun soon to riseI peered out my tent to make a coffee at Corrichoich before heading out to capture the sunrise

The sun was yet to rise and the moon was hanging around. I realised there was a heavy dew on the tent and on the grass. I fired up my stove for a quick coffee so I could get motivated to leave the warmth of my tent. 

I emerged from the tent with near perfect timing, the sun was moments away from peeking over a distant rise, giving me time to choose a spot near my tent and set up my tripod.

Corrichoich First LightCorrichoich First LightThe sun rises over the hill and illuminates the dew.

The dew was thick and lit up in the sun. I considered trying to capture the golden dew macro-style, but instead persisted with my landscapes as I am not that good...

Golden DewGolden DewEarly morning sunrise lights up the wet grass Berriedale Water and The Flow CountryBerriedale Water and The Flow CountryEarly morning light on Berriedale Water Golden GrassGolden Grass

Maidens Pap was surrounded by swirling mist, I cannot stress how fast it moved revealing the form of the peak regularly but then covering it up just as quickly...

Fast Moving MistFast Moving MistThe haar (sea mist) was crashing against Maidens Pap and it was moving surprisingly fast. At one point it overwhelmed the hill and started to spill over towards me. I thought that my photo opportunities were finished then, but it faded out before it reached me and after that it slowly retreated. I  turned my attention to Morven, which the mist bothered much less than it did Maidens Pap.

Morven Wide AngleMorven Wide AngleMorven taken wide Morven and Corrichoich BothyMorven and Corrichoich BothyEarly Morning in the Flow Country

I then crossed the rickety suspension bridge for some wider shots.

The Glen of MistCorrichoich - The Glen of MistCorrichoich Cottage and Maidens Pap in Sutherland

Corrichoich and the summit Tors of SmeanCorrichoich and the summit Tors of SmeanThe summit Tors of Smean lie in the distance Mist Shrouding Maidens PapMist Shrouding Maidens PapMaidens Pap and Berriedale Water in the early morning light

After a flurry of picture taking, the shadows and contrasts started to fade as the sun rose higher and the golden hour of sunrise was over. I retreated to my tent and considered going back to sleep, but common sense made me realise I was somewhere good and I needed to make the best of it, lazy mornings would be saved for places more ordinary.

I faffed around making a double helping of porridge with lots of coffee before setting off just before 8am to climb Morven. I am not a peak bagger (although I do keep a record…), as a keen shutterbug, climbing can get in the way of good picture opportunities but I enjoy the trips anyway and I certainly benefit from the much needed exercise that climbing provides. Besides, I had dozed through my evening objective of catching sunset pictures, which would have better caught the cottage and Maidens Pap, so I thought I better try and make the best of my trip by exploring the area..

I decided to leave my tent pitched so that it could dry, due to it still being very wet from the intense morning dew, but being a distrustful townie, I packed everything else into my large rucksack and set off towards Morven almost fully laden.

My Tent - with a great view of MorvenMy Tent - with a great view of Morven As you no doubt know, Scotland is a pretty wet place, but we have had it unusually dry and I realised that this was certainly in my favour as nearly every step was a squelch into wet moist ground. After leaving the easy path that ends at Corrichoich, I was now walking on The Flow Country, the largest area of blanket bog in Europe being over 4,000 square km (1,500 square miles) and I was certainly benefitting from the recent dry weather. My muddy boots and constant squelching in difficult, pathless terrain reminded me of how different it would be after our usual levels of rainfall - I counted myself quite fortunate.

The Flow CoubtryThe Flow CountryTaken near the foot of Morven

I took a diversion to a stony mound that stood out, This is marked on the map as “Dail-a-Chairn”and “Aisled House”, it is described on the Historic Scotland website as a Prehistoric domestic and defensive homestead. As I approached an angry looking Wheatear stood on one of the stones staring me down before reluctantly flying off once I got too close.

I stood amongst these ancient stones of what used to be a dwelling and took a picture. They stand on the flow country that has been here since the ice age over 10,000 years past and contemplating the scene, this crossed my mind:

“Men come and go, cities rise and fall, whole civilizations appear and disappear - the earth remains, slightly modified. The earth remains, and the heartbreaking beauty where there are no hearts to break…”
― Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

Dail-a-Chairn Aisled HouseDail-a-Chairn Aisled HouseThe remains of a prehistoric homestead, there are a few Aisled house remains marked on the map around here. Looking Back to Maidens PapLooking Back to Maidens PapNo explanation needed... I squelched on towards Morven and cut uphill towards the south of the hill - I was heading towards the south slope because it looked less steep… I then remembered I had downloaded the GPS route from walkhighlands and on checking this I realised I was quite a bit further south than the “typical route”, so I cut back to pick this route up the steeper east hillside, in time I picked up a good path that was entertaining but I hit a load of boulders and lost the path, I eventually picked up a slight path which immediately split, so I chose left and came across a couple of Cloudberries! I kept on upwards and took a few pictures looking back on the way, you can see the easy angle of the slope - I was enjoying the climb at this point.

Morven ViewApproaching 500m on MorvenSomewhere not far on from here, I managed to find a much steeper slope, which defeated me with my heavy rucksack and chicken heart :)

I carried on and then the faint path ended somewhere above 500m leaving me with a steep slope to clamber up. Basically I was grabbing onto heather due to the steepness of the slope at this point. I suddenly decided that I was at a point of no return; where, lumbered with my heavy rucksack (my suspicious nature made me carry everything) and two now useless walking poles, I would have to rely on the heather taking my weight for balance and I could not see how far to go before it became less steep. It was probably only a few metres but I suddenly decided that I did not feel comfortable clinging on, so I turned south and contoured downward to the slopes that made me less nervous, cursing myself for not taking the route I had originally decided upon. I headed round to the south of Morven and then discovered an easy (but longer) route. There was also evidence that it is used regularly, as this picture illustrates almost a path.

Morven Southern slopesThe Easy route from the SouthIf you want a much longer but less steep stroll, then head round to the south of Morven. I will be back!

I checked the map and this route was a climb of approximately 200m of relative steepness to the left of a large Tor from where I stood, then another 200m of relatively easy terrain to the peak, obviously over a bit of distance as the summit is at the north, but only 400m of ascent - it was easy but, at this point I decided I could not be bothered! My ankle, which I sprained a month earlier was starting to ache and I had at least 2 hour return walk and a 4 hour drive to get home - All this way to end in apathy!

My lesson for the day is that if you see an easy route then take it, rather than try and follow some route that is best left for the more experienced hill walker. On more visited hills then the paths are usually the best route, on these smaller less visited hills however, it does take a bit more thought in finding a way up that suits your comfort zone. No harm done though, I climb hills for fun and reaching the summit, although nice, is not my main priority. Exploring and looking for a special place to take pictures was my main objective.

As I squelched back towards Corrichoich to reclaim my tent,  I kept turning to look at Morven to figure out where I got stuck.  The sun was now beating down, it was a beautiful day and the mist had retreated from Maidens Pap, I contemplated staying another night… At Corrichoich however, I took down my tent and after disconnecting a newly resident tick from my arm, I headed for my car.

Corrichoich BothyCorrichoich BothyTaken near where my tent was pitched

Until I reached my car, I had not seen a single person, it was a fantastic feeling of solitude.  I realised though that there are too many deer here! Everywhere I went, I could see deer in the distance - their footprints were everywhere, even where there was no path. Their droppings were too. They have no natural predators and their presence on this vast land was more obvious than the presence of sheep is obvious in the Ochil Hills…

I finally reached my car and changed into fresher clothes.  As I drove up the hill, I looked back and realised there were many photo opportunities looking over Braemore.  I will be back here in a couple of months as I will be relatively nearby with some free time - I have unfinished business with Morven.  As a photographer though this area has very many visits worth of potential to get that special shot.

Maidens Pap and Morven from the roadLeaving BraemoreI stopped the car near the top of the hill, before I headed home. Maidens Pap was now in front of Morven with Smean rising on the left. The potential scenes round here are immense and I could spend a lot of time here! I have since learnt that Corrichoich means the Glen of Mist and I feel privileged in being there to see and being able capture the mist as it swirled around Maidens Pap. I learned the name from this 19th century book in which the author recalls his visit in very different times.

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) blanket blog bog border bridge caithness camp corrichoich country flow foot glen maidens mist Morven of pap photographs pictures scenery scotland scottish suspension sutherland the uk wild https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2016/6/the-flow-country Tue, 07 Jun 2016 21:45:34 GMT
Frost, Sunburn and a Free Map on the Affric Kintail Way https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2016/5/affric-kintail-way I posted this walk report on the popular Walkhighlands.co.uk website last year under the pseudonym CrampyChris.... I thought I might as well share it here too.

Having walked into Knoydart the previous spring with my pal Bob, we had decided on another spring trip and we eventually settled on the recently opened Affric Kintail Way.  It was decided to walk it over a leisurely four days between Thursday 16th April and Sunday the 19th April 2015. On the Thursday morning we left very early and dropped a car off at the Ranger station at Morvich. After speaking to a very helpful guy who was with a Rangers work party, he gave us the all clear to leave a car there and took a note of the route that we were taking and when we were due back. He told us that it was the official opening ceremony of the Affric Kintail Way on Friday - that did not bother us as Bob and I reckoned that the ceremony would be miles from wherever we would be on the 44 mile route......

We parked at Drumnadrochit about eleven and then headed off out of the town and into the woods. At the first Affric Kintail sign, beside a magnificent redwood tree, we high tailed it up the hill - at this point Bob realised that it was the wrong route, so we had to double back and rejoin the route - lost in the first half hour!  

This was a pleasant walk on good tracks through the forest and I realised that my heavy boots were probably not the best choice for this walk and I would wear lighter ones next time! After passing the wee settlement of Shenval we eventually hit the main road and both of us stomped along accompanied by the sounds of chainsaws in the woods! The verge was good on this road so you could get out of the way of oncoming traffic - I suspect that this verge will become a fairly decent path in time.

By tea time, we had reached the village of Cannich and the low cloud that had hung about all day had broken and it was nice and sunny. Reaching the campsite and after speaking to the friendly owner we got our tents set up and then high tailed it to the Slater's Arms for a bite to eat and beer! The food and drink went down well and after a few more beers and a wee single malt nightcap, it was time to retire to the campsite - as soon as I had zipped myself into my sleeping bag, I was out like a light.

I was woken up very early by a magnificent dawn chorus, it was fabulous, it was very loud and there were so many different participants. It felt like all the songbirds in the world had gathered together and they were all singing above my tent! After listening to it for a while I drifted back off to sleep... I awoke again to find it was about 10am - the night cap was very effective... So after having breakfast and packing up our tents, we left the camp site, sheepishly, at mid-day

It was a lovely afternoon leaving Cannich and the sun was out as we followed the woodland path towards Glen Affric. Eventually emerging out of the woods and heading down the hill towards Dog Falls, I had realised it was getting cloudy again and we decided to stop there for a quick snack. We had noticed a guy with a camera standing there, and he had a proper camera, two in fact and he looked professional... As I took the first bite of my Pepperami a load of vehicles turned up with people in it, Bob and I both realised that this was something to do with the opening ceremony when Cameron McNeish (a well known outdoor writer and broadcaster) jumped out and started walking to the bridge with a crowd of folks - I took this sneaky picture.

Affric Kintail Way opening partyThe Affric Kintail Way opening partyThe inevitable happened :)

Sitting at our bench trying to keep our heads down, a couple of people came over talk to us and ask us if we were walking the route. When we answered yes, they went away and came back with more people who are involved with this route and the opening ceremony. I was handed the excellent Harvey Maps XT40 Affric and Kintail map which, I was told was "hot of the press" - I think it was maybe Mrs Harvey herself who handed it to me! Bob and I then had our picture taken by the man who runs the website and he posted our picture on their facebook page - I need to practice smiling...

After we said our goodbyes and after I managed to straighten my face back up, the opening party took off over the bridge, for another picture opportunity up the hill. After all this excitement, we headed off up the hill and trudged on until we reached the viewpoint of the way ahead.

The view ahead to Glen AffricThe view ahead to Glen AffricA great view but a pity about the low light

Bob Marches aheadMarching onwardBob marches on why I try (and fail) to take a decent picture!

After finishing stage two of the walk, we did not go to the car park but headed further up Glen Affric looking for a place to camp. Passing the lodge, I quickly realised that the loch was fenced off and at the height that we were, there appeared little opportunity for camping spots due to the healthy heather and bumpy ground. Eventually a suitable camping spot was found by a burn (stream) and it was a relief to be able to pitch our tents. I had been hoping for something a bit closer to the loch for some sunrise photo opportunities, but by this time, I was just relieved to have found somewhere to sleep in good time and lochside sunrise photos would just have to wait for another time. We pitched the tents, had our food and I got a couple of shots in of the fairly disappointing sunset before retiring for the night.

Wild Camping in Glen AffricWild Camping in Glen AffricTents pitched + food eaten + sun setting = bedtime!

I awoke around 1am with my big nose and face freezing cold, I stuck my head out of my tent and realising that the tent was covered in frost, I then looked up at the sky and was instantly mesmerised by the stars. It was fantastic, it was crystal clear in the cold air and as my eyes adjusted, I first thought that there were clouds obscuring the stars, until I realised that the clouds were actually clouds of stars and I could even see beyond these star clouds to the stars behind them - it was incredible. I considered for a second setting up my tripod outside and taking pictures with my tent lit up from within, but I decided instead to just enjoy the view before eventually zipping up my tent and going back to sleep.

Waking at first light and unzipping my tent, I could see the thick layer of frost on the tent - this picture gives a good idea of how frosty it was!

A frost covered tentA frost covered tentFrosty morning in Glen Affric I hang out of the tent in my sleeping bag and fired up my stove which, was pretty sluggish in the cold, but I eventually boiled up enough water for some coffee and porridge. Bob was still sleeping in his tent so I decided to venture out with my camera to see what pictures could be taken, just as the sun was starting to break over the hill. I quickly realised that where we had camped was ideal for photos in the morning; if we had camped lower down we would have seen nothing due to the mist hanging over Loch Affric. Last night I had been disappointed but now I was delighted as the setting and timing was now perfect to capture the sunrise.

Glen AffricGlen AffricWe wild camped in Glen Affric and after a frosty starlit night I awoke to a glorious morning Here comes the sunHere comes the sunEarly morning in the beautiful Glen Affric as the sun rises above the hill and illuminates the trees and mist. Sgurr na Lapaich from Glen AffricSgurr na Lapaich from Glen AffricA beautiful frosty morning in Glen Affric Sunrise in Glen AffricSunrise in Glen AffricThe sun peaks over the hill illuminating the ancient Caledonian Pines
By the time I had finished running about like an excited child with my camera, Bob had awakened and was finishing his breakfast. We spent a while defrosting our tents in the sunlight before packing them up (still wet) and heading off.

We set off a bit later than expected but, this stage seemed quite short so the delay was not a problem. As we marched onwards looking over Loch Affric, the sun got warmer and it was quickly realised that the forecast for cloud was not going to happen, it was a beautiful still and sunny day and the loch was like a mirror. As I like to take photos I winced a bit at having to march on and not stop, as I could have spent all day here taking pictures - I will be back, but I will be lucky if it is like this again! We kept walking down Loch Affric - the pictures are below...

Walking in Glen AffricWalking in Glen AffricYou can see the young trees growing here in the foreground. Glen Affric is fenced off so Deer and sheep cannot get in. This is allowing the ancient forests to regenerate and renew.

Marching along  Glen AffricMarching along Glen AffricWalking above the loch on a hot April morning

Loch Affric, like a mirrorLoch Affric, like a mirrorHaving to walk on when I really wanted to go down and take pictures. I hope to return someday.

At the end of Loch Affric, we eventually caught site of Strawberry Cottage.

Strawberry Cottage in Glen AffricStrawberry Cottage in Glen AffricStrawberry Cottage is owned by The An Teallach Mountaineering Club and is a hut at Athnamulloch in Glen Affric Near Strawberry Cottage, we took of our boots and soaked our hot feet in the cold river whilst eating lunch. With fresh socks and booted back up, we crossed the bridge at the cottage to upper Glen Affric. After climbing a rise, the route ahead confronted us.

Halfway to AltbeitheHalfway to AltbeitheAfter crossing the bridge at Strawberry Cottage, we reached upper Glen Affric

The glen was still, there was not a hint of wind, the sun was following us as we walked and the left side of my face and ear was getting very burnt! This was unexpected as the weather forecast when setting off had been for continuous cloud, so the sun cream was not packed! Marching on, good progress was made despite the heat.

The top of the GlenThe top of the GlenThis is the view as you approach Alltbeithe Youth Hostel which stays out of sight until you get quite close.

Eventually we made it to Alltbeithe Youth Hostel. We stopped briefly and spoke to the resident there who was in charge for the next 8 or so weeks in this remote location. Arriving at Alltbeithe Youth HostelArriving at Alltbeithe Youth HostelIt is an 8 mile walk from the nearest road to get here - Bring your own food! We then headed on in the heat towards our stop for the night - Camban Bothy, on the way we stopped to speak to a heavily laden man who was sweating profusely with his burden and he told us that he was heading to Ullapool! Carrying on, I took pictures on the way. The bright sun however, made it very difficult as the light was very harsh.

On the way to Camban Mountain BothyOn the way to Camban Mountain BothyBob stomps ahead whilst I laze about and take pictures.

FionngleannFionngleannA stiched panoramic taken in harsh light. Walking on the path with the sun still out :)

In sight of Camban Mountain BothyIn sight of Camban Mountain BothyWe climbed over the prow of a hill and caught site of Camban bothy in the distance. Our home for the night.

Reaching Camban Bothy, no one else was there, it was still early so we killed some time pitching the tents and allowing them to dry properly. Whilst they were drying I took some more pictures in and around the bothy.

Open to all - Camban Mountain BothyOpen to all - Camban Mountain BothyThe fantastic view from the front door of Camban Bothy

A cyclist joined us in the bothy with his dog just as night fell and he was planning a circular the next day, we just had the final leg to do and our plan was to leave early so we could get back in good time for the drive home.

In the morning, after breakfast, I went outside and washed my porridge pot in the stream and restocked my water. As I was filling my bottle, the sun burst over the mountains and I sat there beside the stream filling my bottle in the middle of nowhere and enjoying the moment. 

We headed off about 8am for the final leg and this bit was my favourite as the rough path was easier on my feet than flat tracks or road, the walking was also entertaining too with some steep drops at the gorge.

KintailKintailAfter leaving Camban mountain bothy, we walked the final few miles of the Affric Kintail Way. We were confronted with this wonderful scenery on our way to Morvich.

Path at Allt GranndaPath at Allt GranndaThis is the narrow that runs above the steep drop at the waterfalls at the head of Gleann Lichd

After we descended past Glenlicht House, there was not far to go. We walked right into the middle of lambing time so careful negotiation of Gleann Lichd was required as we did not want to upset the new born lambs and come between them and their mothers - it was really busy here! Approaching Morvich, suddenly my phone burst into life (I had switched it on at Camban), the phone was beeping with notifications and texts. This was quite symbolic for me, as this meant I was back in my "normal" world. We finally reached the Rangers station - it was time to go back to civilisation and work the next day. We were very lucky with the weather and the scenery was fantastic - I certainly enjoyed myself. The Harvey map we received when we bumped into the opening ceremony was excellent too, I have it as a memento now.

The Rangers Station at MorvichThe Rangers Station at MorvichThe Rangers Station at Morvich is the official end / beginning of the Affric Kintail Way.

 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) Affric Alltbeithe Bothy Camban Glen Kintail camping loch way wild https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2016/5/affric-kintail-way Thu, 12 May 2016 20:00:18 GMT
A Perfect Day In The Ochil Hills https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2016/4/a-perfect-day-in-the-ochil-hills I know I've had a good walk when I catch myself humming the song "Perfect Day" by Lou Reed near the end. This is what I was humming to myself with a smile on my face, as I walked down the track towards Castle Campbell. Even Digger, my dog, looked content although he was getting tired, which is signified by him walking to heel.

It was mid-November 2014 and the sun was starting to set. It was glorious, the grasses and ferns lit up by the warm golden sun...It felt like a summers day but the deep reds told otherwise.

I had just finished walking a circular route in the Ochil Hills in Scotland, starting with the climb up King's Seat Hill, dropping into the Glen of Sorrow to cross the Burn of Sorrow. I then climbed back up towards Tarmangie Hill and Whitewisp Hill before descending down via Saddle Hill.

What made this walk particularly sweet was the cloud inversion which was slightly lower than the 600 metres summits of these hills.

I had looked out of my window earlier that day and had looked at the gloomy sky. The viability of a walk was considered as the poor visibility of the cloud meant a dull walk with nothing to see. I set off anyway and approaching Dollar from the South, the sunlit Ochil Hills confronted me in their full splendor as the cloud was wafting gently from the Northeast. Like a stream, the cloud left a slow-motion wake, like the water flowing past a boulder, so the hills were revealed.

Parking at the lower Castle Campbell car park, I stomped up the road which I refer to myself as the "warm-up" as it is a healthy climb to get me ready for the hills. Reaching the Castle, I followed the scenic path above the gorge of the Burn of Sorrow and headed up King's Seat Hill. It started to dawn on me that the gloomy cloud was shallow and on reaching the spitfire crash memorial this view confronted me.

The Spitfire Memorial on King's Seat HillThe Spitfire Memorial on King's Seat HillThe Spitfire Memorial on King's Seat Hill, Ochil Hills, Scotland

This monument remembers the events of 16th January 1943 when three Spitfires flying in low cloud hit the side of this hill. One of the pilots survived the impact and lay on the wintry hillside for 24 hours in the freezing temperatures before eventually being discovered by a farm worker - brave and hardy men.

Reaching the cairn on King's seat hill (it is not the summit!) I marveled at the low cloud to the south with the towns and village visible below in the cloud's wake.

Ochil South ViewLooking South From King Seat Hill Standing above the clouds on King Seat hill, looking at the Forth Valley and the edge of Tillicoutry.

Reaching the true and indistinct summit of King's Seat Hill and looking North, I saw the sea of cloud with some distant hills poking out the top like islands. A few of the wind turbines at Burnfoot Hill windfarm were sticking up out of the cloud, turning slowly in the slight breeze.

Wind Turbines Ochil HillsWind Turbines on Burnfoot HillThe wind turbines of Burnfoot Hill Windfarm in the Ochil Hills turn lazily in the gentle breeze as they peek above the cloud inversion

This picture looks Southwest towards Wood Hill and it shows the velvet texture of the Ochil Hills that is always striking in the sunlight.

Kings Seat Hill The Ochil HillsThe trees on Wood Hill can be seen in the distance, taken from the true summit of Kings Seat Hill

Before descending to the Glen of Sorrow, I watched the clouds lapping over Whitewisp hill. After pouring over the top, the cloud would subside and slowly build up to again pour over the top and subside, like slow motion ocean waves crashing onto a rock on a beach

Whitewisp HillClouds lapping over Whitewisp HillAs I stood on Kingseat Hill I watched the clouds build up and "pour" over the top of Whitewisp Hill. The clouds then retreated and built up for the next wave.

Descending King's Seat Hill, crossing the Burn of Sorrow and ascending up to Tarmangie Hill, I looked back and captured on my phone, the clouds assault on King's Seat Hill. The cloud had broken over Maddie Moss to the North and was reaching over like an arm with its fingers creeping onto King's Seat Hill, trying to grab a hold...

Passing near the summit of Tarmangie Hill and following the wall towards Whitewisp Hill, I could see the cloud approaching again from the East.The cloud started to rise up and approach me.

It then enveloped me, the temperature dropped and it suddenly felt like November.

On reaching the summit cairn of Whitewisp Hill, the cloud had cleared but was slowly building up again. There were four people standing near the summit of Innerdownie.  They were the only people that I saw for the entire walk.

Innerdownie meetingInnerdownie MeetingFour figures stand on Innerdownie, near the cairn as the cloud builds up to envelope them. They shortly after descended into the cloud and disappeared

Shortly after the above picture had been taken, the four figures disappeared over the top and descended into the cloud...I could imagine them plunging into the cold grey cloud with little visibility and it was satisfying to be standing at my vantage point with the sun on my back. It felt like they were going back to the real world whilst I stood, here with my dog above it all in splendid isolation, in an alternate reality...

Reality it was though and "zooming" about with my camera from my tripod, I managed to capture a shot of some more turbines in the distance, to the North East.

Ochil Hill Turbines from Whitewisp HillDistant Wind TurbinesThese wind turbines were captured from the top of Whitewisp Hill in the Ochil Hills, during a cloud inversion

After a few minutes, the descent began, down to Saddle Hill and the South of the Ochil's was still clear of cloud. On Saddle Hill, I caught the little gully that makes for a carefree route down and on reaching the bottom of the gully, before the sheep pen, the sun shining in the red grasses lit them up as they swayed in the gentle breeze and it caught my attention enough to stop and enjoy the ambience and warm sun. Eventually moving on to reach the path that would take me back to the Castle Campbell road, it was on that path that I caught myself humming "Perfect Day".      

As I walked back down the "warm up", a short stop was also made to look at the lowering sun lighting up the old trees above Dollar Glen - a scene captured with my phone.

Trees in Dollar GlenTrees in Dollar Glen Shortly after taking this last picture, I got to where my car was parked. Digger jumped in the boot,  I jumped in the front and we drove home,  companions together who shared a great day out.

 

 

 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) bowness burn campbell castle chris cloud crash dollar glen hill hills inversion king landscape maddie memorial moss ochil of saddle scenery scotland scottish seat sorrow spitfire tarmangie uk walk whitewisp https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2016/4/a-perfect-day-in-the-ochil-hills Sat, 23 Apr 2016 18:04:09 GMT
The best laid plans.... https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2016/4/the-best-laid-plans I have been looking forward to walking the first week of the Cape Wrath Trail for many months. I was due to start yesterday, walking from Fort William, up past Glenfinnan, through Knoydart and ending up at Glen Shiel. Once I got to Glen Shiel I planned to spend a couple of days taking pictures before catching the bus back to Fort William.

I went to Edinburgh on Thursday afternoon for a work meeting and not paying attention to where I was going, I tripped in Princes Street and twisted my ankle. It was a sore one and I must admit that once I realised what had happened I swore loudly and startled the unfortunate passers-by.  I must look where I am walking but there were so many interesting buildings....

After catching the train and limping home I took a picture of my ankle and sent it to my friend Bob, whom I was due to start the walk with the very next day. On seeing my message, Bob pointed out that a bad ankle in rough isolated country was not the best idea...

Swollen ankleSwollen Left AnkleThis is what happens when you pay too much attention to Edinburgh architecture than you do to looking where you are walking! I was however in denial on Thursday night and determined to press on,  I was thinking that I could maybe manage the walk the next day but, by the morning, common sense kicked in and I realised that my walk was off. In the afternoon, I drove Bob up to Fort William and dropped him off to catch the ferry across Loch Linnhe. With a heavy heart I watched him march off fully laden for 2-3 weeks of walking through 200 miles of rough country up to Cape Wrath. I returned home to my comfortable couch and a week or two of inactivity - at least it is nothing permanent.

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) Ankle Cape Trail Wrath abandon is life plans ruined sprain such https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2016/4/the-best-laid-plans Sat, 23 Apr 2016 12:01:45 GMT
My new site https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2016/4/my-new-site It has been many years since I had a proper website but Zenfolio makes it very easy and it beats coding html and stuff like I used to. I plan to make quite a few blog posts about my adventures and pictures and I am encouraged that I will probably not have an audience!

I stayed at Gorton mountain bothy last weekend as part of a Mountain Bothy Association work party.  It was good fun and with the snow we woke up to on Saturday morning it was fantastically scenic.  I took quite a few pictures but did not use my tripod much - most of them are wasted opportunities as I am easily distracted by walking or indeed fixing bothies!

I did take one 5 shot HDR though that I am fairly pleased with which I share below. 

Gorton Mountain BothyGorton Mountain BothyGorton Mountain Bothy sits on the edge of Rannoch Moor. A bothy is a simple shelter and this building has a fireplace but there is no running water, electricity or even a toilet. Gorton, which is maintained by the Mountain Bothy Assocation, it is open to all.

I woke early on Monday morning and drove four hours up to Suileag bothy in beautiful Sutherland - I received fall arrest training on Tuesday and then drove 5 hours back to my house and a long overdue wash in hot water ;)

Despite being in the Shadow of beautiful Suilven, I had little chance to take many pictures and the half hearted ones I did take were basically rubbish. It is a very beautiful place up there though and I plan to go back with my tent and cover the necessary ground to try again and capture this wonderful place. I live in hope.

 

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chris@chrisbowness.com (Chris Bowness Landscape) Gorton Moor Rannoch Scotland bothy mountain https://chrisbowness.com/blog/2016/4/my-new-site Sun, 17 Apr 2016 22:58:30 GMT