Highland Adventures

With 9 days booked off it was time for my trusty companion Louise my campervan & I go off exploring….first stop Shiel Bridge. The night I arrived it was a warm still night, the start of a good few days weather.

Day 1 a walk & wild camp up the Affric Kintail Way – was not sure how far I was going to get had no plan I had decided on two nights out. It was a glorious start to the day, the sun was shining beautiful blue skies & not a soul about, my companion was the sounds of the river keeping me company as I walked.

Once I got to the end, I came across an old wooden bridge which used to cross the river, after going on just a little bit, I came to a brand new bridge – phew did not fancy getting my feet wet on what is quite deep water. I started to walk up over the top – by this time the weather was hot, no wind at all, which from what I have heard is a miracle on this route. The views looking down were spectacular, but I was struggling in the heat.

Not long after getting to the top, I spied a spot & the first thing I did was sit myself down on my folding chair – I was tired – so tired in fact there are no pictures! That night & the following night though I had company, a Stag & his herd on the top of the mountains behind me. I find the grunt sound comforting & loved listening to it. During lockdown I kept the image of a wild camp at Barrisdale where the deer come down off the hills to take water & the stag there would grunt all night – that sound & image gave me great comfort at time when lockdown became a very isolated place to be.

Day 2. Will not go into details but suffice to say I was suffering from an upset stomach, I think I had a touch of heat stroke, so was not feeling 100%. I decided to stay where I was but walk out further on the trail with just my hip bag. So off I went to carry on down the trail to nearly the Youth Hostel, I have to say again the weather was hot, but this time there was a little breeze which certainly helped.

It is a lovely walk with gentle undulations, amazing scenery wherever you look. Met a few people on the way & said hello – with suitable social distancing of course!

Day 3 Time to get back to civilisation & to Louise so walk back down the valley on a much cooler but pleasant day. I was a little worried about the descent as in places the path was narrow & rocks were slippy, not a problem on a uphill, but I lack sometimes the confidence on a downhill. However, despite not feeling 100% I managed fine & as normal I was worrying about something, that was no need to worry about! However, I had to pass some Highland Cattle, which I was not too happy about & took a wide berth!

Day 4 – Woke to a wet Scotland morning, after a little bit of thought I was only an hour away from Skye & I love Skye – so decided Louise & I were off on a midi road trip. Did not do much but had a drive around, stopped & had lunch in Louise at Elgol – a place that holds a fond memories of previous visits, where I took a boat out to see the seals & wildlife, also the highland cattle roam & are surprisingly friendly as they mix with people on the beach, even I relaxed – just a bit – yes good memories.

On way back had to stop at Sligachan & take this photo of the water, it was so powerful the rain coming off the hills & onto the river & out onto the loch. Despite the rain, it was so worth a stop – I find the power of water fascinating, we have no control over it whatever we try, it will always find its own way.

Day 5 – well the plan was to go back to Barrisdale & wild camp for two nights, to park at Loch Hourn & walk out. As I have mentioned earlier, it is a place with memories that gave me great comfort on lockdown. However it was not meant to be, soon after leaving Shiel Bridge, I was caught in a road closure, due to car accident which was going to take several hours to clear. So with a look at a map & a text to a friend for advice & a phone call to a campsite – Louise & I were on our way to Cannich! Was not disappointed by the campsite, set in woodlands, very friendly & social distancing in place.

I decided to stretch my legs & took a woodland walk nearby as by this time it was afternoon. On my way back down, I sat at the bench & reflected on the disappointment of not getting to Barrisdale, but it will always be there & I was lucky, I was safe & well & so was Louise.

Day 6 As this was never planned after looking at the map, Louise & I took off up the road to Loch Affric. I decided to get back on the Affric Kintail Trail & approach the Youth Hostel from the opposite direction. I decided I would just keep walking & see how far I got. On reflection what I should have done is gone down one side & come back on the other – but that is the plan for my next visit. Again it was a lovely track I was surprised by how much ascent there is on these walks & as for the distance, well that was my fault, I kept on walking & kind of forgot I had to walk back!!

But I loved it & every now again my Stag would grunt & I knew I was okay.

I came across this fantastic Fisherman Hut – well I presume it was a Fisherman hut as it had a launch onto the loch. I thought what a lovely place to hide away….

By the time I finished my walk the sun was going down…

Day 7 Louise & I were on the road again to our planned stop at Fort Augustus, the weather had turned to be cloudy & rather cool. Before leaving Cannich I went up to Plodda Falls Forest, I had seen the sign the previous day & was intrigued enough to go & have an explore. The road up there was interesting & I don’t think Louise was impressed with the pot holes, nor the fact she had to drive on the wrong side of the road to avoid them! However, I was impressed by the falls & the walk that followed through the forest.

Day 8 okay I found a walk that took me out of Fort Augustus up through Glen Doe to Lochan a Choire Ghais. It was an ascent up in total over 778m but I felt good & was surprised how well I was feeling, despite the fact I had walked out each day. I realise my powerwalking is doing me good with my fitness & stamina. Anyway on my way up I came across an inquisitive Highland Cow…just on the other side of the path, not moving just looking at me. With my heart in my mouth as it was far too close for comfort, I had my escape route at the ready & gingerly walked as far as I could away from it, always knowing it may well be waiting for me on the return!

The views going up were beautiful – felt a world removed to the busy town of Fort Augustus.

After arriving at the Loch it was time for my final walk down back to Louise before travelling back home the following day.

And the Highland Cattle on the way back….bit like me worrying about a descent, when there is no need to. It was back with its herd, which I am glad to say was far removed from the track.

Day 9 – my journey home was a long one due to another road closure! But I managed to see Glencoe again & pay my respects at the Commando Memorial near Fort William.

I loved my trip, Louise worked well, plans changed but that was okay as long as Louise & I were alright & in one piece.

I have great affinity with Scotland, it is part of my ancestry, it is a place that I always feel like I am being drawn to & that it could be my home – maybe it will one day – who knows what the future holds.

In the meantime though, thank you Scotland you let me have a share of you for a wee while, the sounds of your rivers & waterfalls, your wildlife, with the stag & its herd, the birds singing & your mountains & tracks which you let me roam & I left leaving only footprints & very good memories.

Louise & Jenny – Cheviot Hills

After not being able to go the Pyrenees due to lockdown, I thought it gave me an opportunity to go to Northumberland to explore the Cheviot Hills.

I did think about not using a campsite & Louise & I just going where we fancy, but with the current situation, I thought it was safer to be on a campsite. I booked into a campsite at Wooler, Highburn House Holiday Park. Not normally my cup of tea so to speak as it was normally a large campsite with children facilities etc, but as there was no tents allowed & facilities closed down it lent itself to a much quieter site, then I think as normal.

Wooler though is a brilliant place to centrally locate yourself to the Cheviots – easy access to anywhere.

Day 1 eased my hill legs gently into this walking malarky & went up Yeavering Bell, well it would have been eased in if I had not ‘misplaced myself’ on the start of the walk! Easily done I tell myself. So after a little detour, all kilometres for my yearly tracker, off I went out of Wooler, followed part of the St Cuthbert Way & then up through the forest to following the rolling hills up to the top of Yeavering Bell then a circular back to Wooler – a grand day out.

Day 2 now I was all warmed up, Louise & I set off to find the start of the walk up to The Cheviot. We followed a single track road down the Harthrope Valley & started our walk from near Langleeford. The drive in & out was beautiful, both of us were a little nervous of meeting cars on the single track & Louise only had to breathe in once or twice to allow cars to pass!

The walk follows the river to start with before climbing up gently again through the rolling hills. Plenty of time for ‘photo opportunities’ i.e. getting your breath! Again I ‘misplaced myself’ common theme here as you can see & involved a bit of a tricky bum walk down, but hey ho all the joys of walking somewhere new.

It was a steady climb up & when I thought I was nearly there, no there was one more climb to go, always the way. However the views were amazing from the top. For once I was lucky with the weather & did not have to don my normal attire of the wet weather look!

Day 3 – I spoke to soon, the wet weather came in so a road trip for Louise & I off to St Abbs to a smokery to replenish supplies & as the weather dried up, off we went to Bamburgh for a beach walk. After that as the afternoon drew to a close I visited St Cuthberts cave where it was reported the monks of Lindisfarne brought his body after the Vikings raided Lindisfarne, before taking him on to Durham Cathedral.

Day 4 – the wet weather continued but was not going to waste the day, so waterproofs at the ready off Louise & I drove down the Beamish valley, another single track road of passing places. So from Hartside I walked up to Chesters & up another ascent to Salters Track, then onto Little Dodd where the wind came whistling down the valley & then a short diversion to avoid my four legged friends the cows, before coming back to Louise. This was a lovely walk & I have vowed to do this again in good weather, because I believe the views would have been amazing!

Day 5 – This has been on my bucket list for a long time, Windy Gyle & as the sun made another appearance it was boots on & Louise & I drove off down another valley road to Barrowburn. I was given this route by a social media friend, Martin Lawton, who gave me a fantastic route, with scenery that was eye watering at times. Thank you Martin.

So off I went from Barrowburn, up The Street, onto the Pennine Way where I sat & had a boots with a view moment & took time in to look at the Cheviot Hills in front, most of which I had walked over the last few days. It was a time not to rush, but just to savour, fill those memory boxes & just be thankful that you love walking so much, you get to enjoy such wonders. I met some mountain goats – did a bit of a double take as did not expect to see them!

After a final push up the summit of Windy Gyle, I was not disappointed. Sometimes when you want to do something so much, when it comes to it, it can be a bit of a disappointment, this was not. It is not known Windy Gyle for nothing, windswept Jenny came in to action.

I then took the descent through the meadows, again, another diversion of taking a very wide path to avoid the cows was required, where I let out a sigh of relief as I closed the gate behind me. But what a walk, truly stunning, thank you Martin.

Day 6 – Another lovely day of weather, so off I went to walk the Pilgrims Way, with nothing but sand under my feet (& mud at one point) & the local seal colony in full voice with birds also in full chorus. It is a very atmospheric walk & one to be experienced. Holy Island itself was busy & after a quick scoot around the island I walked back to the safety of Louise.

Day 7 – my final day, the sun shone brightly, so again Louise & I set off to Dunstanburgh Castle & walked St Oswald Way to Crasters. I stopped for lunch & watched the dolphins play in the sea, chasing the boats & giving us all a sight to behold. Once I was in Crasters it was time to visit another smoke house to bring back some lovely delicacies – oh & I may have had an ice cream before returning back to Louise.

I had a lovely holiday in Northumberland, I found the people incredibly friendly, Louise got quite a bit of attention as she is not your average VW campervan, being slightly smaller etc. She does of course do a great sunset or two!

If you have not been to Northumberland, I do highly recommend it, the walking is fantastic, so much choice for every ability. Northumberland, thank you for a great time, Louise & I will be back!

Lockdown

Lockdown it brings so many feelings & emotions already that word.

How am I feeling about it as we start week 4. Well I am lonely, it is okay to say that, nothing ashamed in saying that statement, I am lonely. I am used to interacting with people during my working day & meeting up with friends & family at weekends & that has suddenly been taken away. Its okay if I choose to have a weekend by myself, which do not get me wrong, I do enjoy a weekend in Louise my campervan & walking the hills on my own. But there is a subtle difference, it is my choice.

The good news is, I have not had an argument with myself, always a bonus! I do find I am talking to myself more, but that ok, we generally agree on most things!!

So what the positives, there are always positives!!

I have found I have the most amazing neighbours!! We have a wapp group for our street. We have coffee gate every day, we make birthday cakes to help celebrate during this difficult time, I find a chocolate Easter egg on my doorstep to cheer me up, the list is endless.

I have discovered loads of new walks from my doorstep & met a Shetland pony on my travels!

I have had the most amazing sunsets & sunrises from the prom

I have also turned my hand to a bit of painting & gardening, which my wee little house is so pleased about.

I am also very grateful for the bird song I wake to every morning as I lie in bed. I am loving the bird song as I explore new walks. I love the way I feel nature is getting a little louder & flowers appear to be on so bright.

But most important what I have learnt, is no matter what, I have my family, my friends & made new friends through the lockdown & we all have our health.

I am not going to feel guilty when I have a bad day or a bit of a wobble. It is perfectly normal & like loneliness, it is okay to say & feel it & let others know.

What I do know is we will all get through this, I believe it will be a very different world & you know, I am actually looking forward to how it will look.

Moving on

As everyone who knows me, the last 18 months have been tough.

We all have work issues, I am sure a lot of us would rather not work, but rather follow our hobby or leisure interests. But we are in the real world, where bills need to be paid & to indulge in our interests those need to be funded.

Being in a work environment where you are constantly made to feel worthless, is like a bad relationship. It is constant, day after day, chipping away at you, eventually it becomes ingrained & you believe what you hear. You truly start to believe when they say you are useless at your job, you feel you have no voice, no opinion, you become worthless.

How do you break that cycle. Well as the bullies are chipping away, family & good friends are too. They keep reinforcing what a good person you are, your opinion does matter, they want to hear your voice, they ask for your opinion.

Then you start to fight back, a little at a time. In my case I scuttled off in Louise, took the weekends to recharge batteries, talk to strangers who want to hear your adventures, who think what you have done & are doing is incredible & shows a strength of personality.

So little seeds start to grow, you put out feelers, in my case CVs, you get a few knock backs, but with help of family & friends, you dust yourself off & you start again.

Then you get the news, someone thinks you have something to offer & they want you to be part of that team. You feel elated & think perhaps I am not totally worthless.

You close the door on the bullies, you open a new door to new work beginnings. No one knows what the future may be, but like all new relationships, you have to take those tentative first steps.

I got thanked at the end of my first week, for all my hard work & the difference I had already made. I cannot tell you how that made me feel.

So it may take time, but I will move on. I will dust myself down, I will find the Jenny who has been hidden for so long.

My advice… remember it is not you, it is them that has the problem.

You are the better person, you & only you have the power to change your destiny. But remember you are never alone, family & friends will always come & start the new walk with you…

As one chapter finishes..

So as another long & rather painful chapter of my life closes, another one opens.

The last 12 months in particular have not been easy at work. The constant chip, chip, like a mason at work, on my confidence & abilities has taken its toll & I know will take some time to recover. I am resilient but it has even stretched me.

But tomorrow after my last day, a new door opens, no idea where it will take me, but I am holding on & going for the ride!!

What has got me through….well certainly Louise…

She has certainly helped in me escaping most weekends & grabbing the freedom she has given me despite the weather.

But family, friends & my lovely Twitter community, some of whom I have been lucky to meet…have supported me & got me through these particular dark & difficult last few weeks.

My countdown days have sparked fun & banter & I thank them all for that.

So with best foot forward, it is time to brush myself down, sleep a little, love myself a little, find my true smile & inner self & start again.

Jenny will be back…god help us all!!

Ready for a 10 day road trip – better than sitting on a sofa…

Well I am tantalising close to go off in Louise for our longest trip – 10 days in total to one of my favourite places, Scotland. Scotland feels like home, I have Scottish blood in me, my birth father was Scottish, it all makes sense to me.

I know some may think I go off most weekends & how lucky I am, but it helps in keeping the loneliness at bay. I work hard, make sacrifices & have to work with Muppets to keep her.

When I go off in Louise I meet some incredible & interesting people from all walks of life who leave a good foot print on my soul. This photo of a lady is one I walked with, but not in the direction I intended, but she was too interesting not too, I still think about her.

As my favourite expression goes, this walking malarky…. is better than sitting on a sofa!

So with only a day to go, Louise is packed & ready.

But you know the most exciting thing, I know I am going to meet interesting people with stories to tell, I know I am going to experience being out on the hills, I know I am going to fill those memory boxes, but I just don’t know what they are yet…

Louise…

Louise is my campervan.

Nothing strange about that, but I have wanted a campervan for years. Just the thought it would bring freedom, the open road, you can park up wherever you wish. Boundaries are suddenly gone.

I had another ‘lightbulb’ moment in Skye, whilst spreading some of my Mum’s ashes in the Fairy Pools at Glen Brittle.

It was a particular bad spell in weather & I was sitting it out, a string of events then made me think that a campervan was possible.

I came home & started my research. Within a week I had sorted funds & disposed of my nearly new car for a run around!

I gained advice from people who had one. My Twitter friend Gary was a great source after he had bought & converted his own van.

So with encouragement from a very good friend, I went a hunting. After a few dead ends & some dubious offerings(!), we went to Newcastle & I met Louise & knew she had to be mine. It took some negotiations, but I got her.

Why the name Louise. It is very simple, my birth Mum sadly passed away this year, it was the name she gave me when I was born. My sister Denine in her commeration, called her an adventurer & I knew she would be really happy the opportunities Louise would give me.

So 3 weeks later I picked her up.

The following day I took Louise to Eskdale in the Lakes.

We had a lovely weekend. I was wondering how driving a van would feel. But driving on the country roads behind the wheel, I felt so good & knew it would not be a problem.

I went for a walk, followed by a celebratory prosecco & a celebration meal of steak, onions & potatoes.

What I have loved is my friends response to Louise. I am a big Twitter fan, I have met so many people from Twitter. Their response to Louise is amazing & my friends encourage & embrace Louise & our adventures!

Someone recently suggested Louise should have her own Twitter account…maybe…let us see!!

Bank Holiday Base Camp

Base Camp I can hear you say, that is what I call campsite camping…bit like holibobs is holidays…you get the picture?

So off I went to camp at Patterdale YHA campsite, probably the quietest camp site in the Lakes on a Bank Holiday. For an annual membership of £15, you can camp for £11 per night with all the facilities they have for those staying inside, but fraction of the cost. They have a licensed bar too..! They work on numbers, so if YHA is full, they will only allow a few tents & you get the bonus of a quiet campsite. At one point there were more Herdy’s than tents!

I do love a good base camp, it’s time to unwind, put your feet up & chill, for me with my kindle. My one luxury is my duvet, it does not matter how cold it is, my duvet keeps me so snug. I also like to take a blanket & bed socks, I am then happy to sit in my tent, no matter what the weather is doing outside.

So on Saturday I decided a gentle walk was in order. So boots on, backpack packed with quiche, olives, crisps & chocolate, off I went to walk from Patterdale to Howtown.

I have done this walk a few times in both directions & I am always surprised on its length & ascent, it’s nearly 11km & over 300m.

I do love the way the walk winds & bends around the gorgeous Ullswater Lake & you are in constant anticipation of your next view & no matter what the weather as you turn each corner, it never disappoints.

I decided to take the ferry back for £8 it takes you back from Howtown to Glenridding. I think it’s very good value & gives a different perspective over Ullswater Lake. I also learnt it is the second largest lake & is approximately 9 miles long!

On my return to civilisation however, all my peace was shattered as my phone went into melt down, with texts, calls, messages & voicemails. My Facebook had been hacked & my lovely family & friends had requests for money supposedly from me, purporting I was having issues with online banking & needed money to be transferred asap. Sadly someone believed it was me & lost money. I am still coming to terms with this violation of privacy & my friends loss of money. Needless to say I changed my password etc & looking at security on all my accounts. A lesson for us all.

So Sunday was a wash out, it is the Lakes after all! So off to Keswick to get Berghaus waterproof trousers. After much winter bum walking in the icy conditions & coming down a side of a mountain on my bum in the snow, a new pair were required!

Monday I packed tent down in the rain. I called in to Aira Force Waterfalls on way home, never been there before. After all the Facebook troubles there was something soothing listening to the waterfalls & thankfully was not too busy.

It was then time to head home & start to think about my next trip….

Wild Camp with my new Osprey Xena 70L

I have been having problems with my shoulder since a fall outside on the ice in the winter. My once ultra lite rucksack which had been comfy, was no more.

So after a visit to my friend Chrissie, where I received good advice & a try on with her Osprey Xena 70l I took the decision to replace.

It’s first outing was going to be a gentle affair, a flat walk, time to adjust see how it feels. But I never like to do anything easy, so in for a penny in for a pound as they say!

Friday night after work was a quiet peaceful affair at the end of the Langdales, with the sun shining.

So on Saturday morning, me & my new trusty bag packed, off I went for a slog/walk up to Red Tarn. Anyone who walks with me knows I don’t walk fast, I like to call it Alp pace!

When I got to the top the view was breathtaking & so worth the effort. When I stand at the top, I always feel priviledged & grateful that I am able to do this, maybe not as easy as it is for some, but I get there & I thank the mountains for their pure beauty.

So next step was to find out what would be the non existent path after Great Knott down towards Ulpha Fell. It does not exist like many paths in the Lakes, my OS & View Ranger said it did…but it decided to hide…well & truly…I did get this cracking pic though whilst looking for it!

After a knee crunching descent off piste I made it to the bottom on the Roman Road & was grateful for the respite to walk on a fairly flat road.

Then after short while off up Mosadale valley. Now I don’t have a good track record with bovines, they like to chase me…honest…so my heart fell heavy when I saw the cows looming ahead of me. I was tired, my bag had needed quite a bit of adjustment during the day, which I expected, but I did not need this. So off piste again away from the track & rejoined some distance on!

Weather is now turning & I decided to pitch near to the beck & settled for the night.

The next morning weather was wet & the clag down…but me & my new friend now wearing a rather fetching waterproof orange cover, moved on.

My walk up to Three Tarns was a better path than I thought, until near the top, when it became more like an obstacle course with waterfalls everywhere skimming over the boulder rocks. I knew there was a reason I had never taken up climbing!

At the top though I was rewarded with this view of Langdale Valley & all the exertion of getting there was soon forgotten.

After a good walk down The Band, I soon arrived back at my starting place. I turned around for one last look & was rewarded with this.

As for my Osprey, it is like anything, it will take time for my body & the bag to adjust to one another. It is a good solid bag, with lots of compartments, a sturdy hip belt & padded shoulders.

I know soon we will become best of friends.