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A happy chap who likes a walk every now and then

Friday, 14 November 2014

The TGO CHALLANGE 2014.....DAY 12 (Glen Dye and the Buried Treasure)

A Gordon for me, a Gordon for me, 
If ye're nae a Gordon ye're nae use to me. 
The Black Watch are braw, the Seaforths an a' 
But the cocky wee Gordon's the pride o' them a'.

Day 12
Tarfside to Spital (Bridge of Dye ish) 11.5 miles (12 1/2 with a secret mission detour)

When planning the route I was determined to go through Glen Esk for old time’s sakes, but I was just as determined that I wasn’t going to do the road walk from Edzel to the coast. So I actually planned this stage of the route first, with Stonehaven being the end point as you can get to the coast with a very short road walk on the final leg, after deciding that I wanted to start in Knoydart I just joined the two points together in some weird convoluted route that seemed to work out just dandy.

 After packing away and a partaking in a relaxed breakfast I headed off up the wee track to the side of the Masons, within minutes I was out onto the open hill behind Tarfside with a lovely view back down into the Glen. After seeing the mess of new tracks on the estate the previous day I was a wee bit apprehensive, as things turned out there were no real worries and the tracks were easy enough to navigate and didn’t really differ to much from my map, I think I was away pretty early and never saw anyone either in front or behind at all, quite amazing considering the amount of folk that had been in Tarfside the night before, I presumed they had decided to follow the River Esk down to Edzell or were having a morning after the night before break.

My first wildlife encounter of the day was a hillside covered in cattle, I could see them a good bit away and down from me so just continued happily bowling along the track, as I came around a wee dip and corner there were dozens of them all over the track in front of me, loads of calfies and their mums. They weren’t for moving and were giving me the evil eye, so keeping as far from the calves as possible I wandered between them while keeping up a pretty one sided conversation. I reckon ive now had more conversations with cattle and sheep in the last two weeks than I have had with people, they seem to understand me, maybe we are on the same level.

Leaving the coos behind I gradually wandered higher up the side of the glen until I was looking down over the Burn of Mangey, what had been a really nice morning turned a bit chilly as a low cloud blew in hiding most of the glen above and below the track. I had been walking in just a base layer so i pulled over and chucked a soft shell on to keep the chill off, (less weight in the bergan too) the low cloud was swirling about on the light breeze and never came to anything navigationally challenging. A mile or two further on it disappeared completely leaving a fine day in its stead

With the day clearing and the piece and quiet of the glen I was fairly enjoying myself, it’s very much a working glen but I still hadn’t seen any sign of life or any fellow challengers for that matter… 

Walking through Broomfauld and Wester Aucheen was easy going, at Blackcraigs I could see a Collie dug sleeping just off the track past the gate, im a “wary of random dogs” guy and approached the gate thinking “can I sneak by” , “no you cant” was the answer, as I slipped through I was met by the oldest dog in town I reckon, It came over for a sniff and we got on quite well after that, the obligatory belly rub (I think he wanted one to) and we were the best of pals, a younger dog appeared from somewhere but he paid me no attention what so ever, guess im becoming a regular Dr Doolittle.

The house I lived in as a young keeper was just down the track a bit and the farm at Blackcraigs still holds fond memories of years gone by. In the spring after the lambs were born we would head up to the pens at Blackcraigs for a couple of days to help the Shepherd square his flocks away for the summer, it seemed to me it was more a social event for the estate with some bloody hard work thrown in, we would turn up, work on the lambs giving inoculations, put rings on their bits (scary thought for most of us males) and tails then catch and coup the ewes for the shearer, lunch involved big sandwiches, big pies and beer, supper involved tattie soup, stovies and gallons of whisky, breakfast was a blur. If your ever passing have a look high above the house door, there’s a couple of obvious spots that have been repaired, I was amazed to see them still there, the Shepherd at the time heard geese flying low over the house one dark winters night, thinking xmas dinner was being delivered he ran out side with the gun, saw the geese silhouetted in the night sky and let rip with goose shot, forgetting that the house was in the way.

On top of Stobie Hillock, looking back towards Tarfside.

After leaving my new best friend to go back to sleep, I continued on along the winding hill farm tracks through Blackhills and down to the wee Hazel burn, the weather had warmed up again and I decided to stop for a 10 minute chill out and a water refill. I then followed the burn down a wee bit before cutting across some fields and back onto a LR track, from there it was a straightforward but bloody cheeky wee climb up Stobie Hillock, when I looked back from the top I finally saw fellow challengers dotted around on various tracks below, all making their way gradually to the same point.

During my route planning phase I had planned on following a line of butts down off the Stobie into glen Dye, there’s always some variation of a path beside grouse butts, so I assumed it would be any easy route down, but when I actually got up on top I discovered it was very easy going, the heather had been burned off at some point leaving fine underfoot conditions, a quick change of plan entailed just following the old fence line up and over the peak until I reached the deer fence, I knew it was there and had thought it might cause a problem, in reality it turned out to be a really easy obstacle to get under, I arrived by pure chance at a corner section and there was a huge gap right on the corner point, bergan off and I just needed to crouch down on hands and knees to get through.

A combination of heather bashing and following the peat hags took me down and out at a small set of butts just at the head of the Glen Dye track, the Gruiggal of Dye was quite a steep wee cutting that required a wee bit of arse slidding (or scrambling in posh walkers parlance) on the 7 foot heather trees, it obviously hasn’t been burnt in there for a few centuries. I think I was just a bit unlucky on where I had aimed for as a crossing point, either higher up or lower down would probably have had a less steep gradient to negotiate, getting out was no problem as the path by the butts started right in front of me. Back on the track I opened the legs right up and fairly rocketed down the glen, rocketing for me only means that those behind catch up a wee bit slower.

 Before long I arrived at Charr bothy, and a busy wee place it was today, an afy fine American couple (please don’t be Canadian) were sitting outside enjoying the now glorious day, they had also come over from Tarfside, I hadn't seen them in front at all so there goes my “I was away early” theory. I think they were planning on pushing on into the Fetteresso before their last day into Stoney tomorrow.

Inside the bothy, there was a rather dedicated couple who were busy painting the place, its absolutely fantastic that folk give up their free time to look after these places in the middle of nowhere, mountain bothies are a walkers god send on shit days, even if its only for a five minute respite, if anyone has ever been to Charr bothy they will know that its always immaculately kept and a joy to visit.

 I sat down and chatted to the American couple for a wee while before they moved off on their next leg, hopefully it wasnt because I took my boots off and got really comfortable, I only had about three miles to go and it was only lunch time so I went into full chill mode having a very decent lunch and a couple of brews for good measure, quite a few other challengers also appeared, had lunch, chatted and departed to all compass points.

Eventually I decided to head down to my pre planned bivi spot, on route I had a good chat with a lad who was up repairing a collapsed bit of track, we talked about the local eagles and the money that had been invested back over the hill on the Glen Esk grouse moors.

The roof of Charr bothy just peeking up after eventually putting my boots on and making a move further down the Glen towards my camp site. The track heading off to the left takes you over to the clatterin brig and Glen Saugh.

The granite tor on top of Clachnaben, I was just wondering past today, but its a wee hill I enjoy utilising in a circuit I often do, from up there you can easily walk along the tops to Mt Battock, add in some boggy walking and peat and you can go all the way along to Mt Keen if desired.

Washing out to dry
On one of my walks I discovered loads of prospective camp sites along side the water of Dye, in hindsight I should probably have pushed on, If I hadn't faffed around at the bothy I would have been here about lunch time and Stoney is only about 20 miles walking, I think in my planning i was a bit to cautious, lesson learned though.

On the plus side there was a perfectly valid reason id chosen this area to stop over in, half a mile away there was a bridge and across that bridge there was a wood, and in that wood there was a cache and in that cache there was a bottle (E I E I O).

 A week previous to the Challenge my final build up wander had been in and around Glen Dye, I decided to stash a bottle of South African Pinochet (£3.99 in Lidl) and some vacuum sealed meals/snacks to get me through the last two days.

After I sorted out the accommodation I wandered down to the bridge to recover the goodies

As I crossed the bridge i noticed flowers under a tree on the far bank, intrigued I went over for a closer look, ive been coming here for ages and crossed the bridge numerous times but I had never noticed the cap badges on the tree before. The Gordon Highlander one is the local (now 4 Scots) Regiment, the very one I joined in the late 80s, being one of the very very few still serving suvivors of the Regiment I found the scene quite moving and had a wee moment remembering friends no longer with us. Its a fantastic place for a subtle memorial, I can visualise it being someones favourite spot, sitting against the tree watching the burn and hills on a fine summers evening.

Eventually I moved on to the wood of gifts, when I worked my way in to the tree I had used as a marker I started digging around for my bag, unfortunately some thieving bugger had been there first.... nae stash, absolutely gutted.

After cursing the world and wishing hell and damnation upon all, I glanced at the next tree over, this one actually had the really secret mark on it that I had made to identify it, what a great idea, if only you remember you had done it, Whoo hoo, spirits rose rapidly and within seconds I had the gear, so happily muching a snickers I wandered back up to the tent.

Because it was such a nice afternoon, I decided a bath was also in order prior to supper and a fine glass of red. I went up to the track and checked there were no easily shocked challengers heading my way, with the coast clear looking it was back down to the burn, strip off and straight in a lovely big pool, i even took the time to give the smalls a good dicht too, The water was pretty warm tbh and so refreshing.

Feeling great I had a huge supper and promptly fell asleep without even opening the wine, I never did drink it, I ended up carrying the bloody full bottle all the way to the finish, another bloomin daft idea that turned out to be then.

Day  12 Thoughts and impressions

a very easy day but to short, dont bury wine, its a waste of time, dont drink from the water of Dye for a while.


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