Monday, April 14, 2008

Walk 174 -- Inverbervie to Stonehaven

Ages: Colin was 65 years and 342 days. Rosemary was 63 years and 119 days.
Weather: Mostly sunny with an occasional hail shower. There was a bitter north wind, but it felt quite warm whenever we could get out of it.
Location: Inverbervie to Stonehaven.
Distance: 14 miles.
Total distance: 1472 miles.
Terrain: Our most challenging yet! There was no proper path, so we followed a fence along the clifftop. It got narrow and steep, so we climbed the fence to walk inside. This was OK in grassy fields but not where they were ploughed. We climbed several fences, went down gullies and up steep grassy hills until we felt we couldn’t cope anymore. So we cut across a cabbage field to the road. We tried again a few miles on after the lighthouse. It was along the edge of a ploughed field, down a deep gulley, up a cliff — same scenario. So we settled for road-walking — ug! After Dunnottar Castle we found a new firm sandstone path along the clifftop which took us all the rest of the way to Stonehaven. There we walked on concrete and duckboards, flat for a change.
Tide: Going out.
Rivers: No.109, Bervie Water at Inverbervie (footbridge). No.110, Glasslin Burn at Fernieflatt (road bridge). No.111, Catterline Burn at Catterline (road bridge). No.112, Carron Water at Stonehaven (footbridge).
Ferries: None.
Piers: None.
Kissing gates: No.147 at Dunnottar Castle. No.148 at the War Memorial on the hill above Stonehaven.
Pubs: The ‘Creel Inn’ at Catterline where I enjoyed Erdinger Weissbier on draught (nectar!) Colin had Houston ‘Texas’ and Atlas ‘Equinox’. We didn’t visit this pub on the Walk as it was shut by the time we passed it — instead we came back on our last day and had a delicious and relaxing pub lunch with our beer. We also passed two pubs on the harbour at Stonehaven which we visited the next day.
‘Historic Scotland’ properties: None.
Ferris wheels: None.
Diversions: No.51 at Stonehaven where part of the sea wall was blocked because it was being refurbished.
How we got there and back: We were staying in a holiday cottage in Montrose. We drove to Stonehaven where we parked in a street because the car park (unusually for Scotland) was ‘Pay & Display’. We caught a bus to Inverbervie where we walked down to the seafront.
At the end, we cut through from the seafront to our car parked in a street. We had our usual tea, and drove back to our cottage in Montrose.

The toilets in Stonehaven where we got on the bus were charging 20p, so we decided to wait until we got to Inverbervie. We couldn’t find a public toilet at all in Inverbervie (shame on you, local council!), so we were quite uncomfortable after we got off the bus. We went into a baker’s shop to buy our pasties, and the pleasant lady who served us was very interested in our trek. She also let us use their café toilet even though we weren’t café customers, so we were extremely grateful to her!
We didn’t cross the road bridge, but went down the south side of the river to the car park — where we finished the last Walk so miserably in the rain — and thence to a footbridge. A path leading from the footbridge on the other side led us to believe there might be a coastal path leading on from Inverbervie, even though there was nothing marked on the map.
We crossed the footbridge, and found a sheltered grass bank to sit down and eat our warm pasties. There were two possibilities with the path there. One was to go round the bottom of the cliff and the other was to climb up. We decided to climb up because, looking at the map, the contours made it very obvious that, if there was a path through to Catterline, it would be at the top. That proved to be a mistake — as we rounded the corner our path looped down again to join the lower path! We met a Scotsman with an accent so broad we could barely understand him. He told us you used to be able to walk to Catterline, but the path is now eroded and the farmers have put fences in the way. He suggested we went back to Inverbervie and caught the bus!
So we carried on, hoping. The path was OK at first, even when a barbed wire fence appeared alongside us. We were up the cliff by then, but a greensward had been left between the fence and the clifftop. This got narrower as time went on, but was still walkable. Then we came to a deep cleft, and had to follow the fence inland along a very narrow strip. At the end we climbed over a broken fence (Yes! It was broken before we got there!) and over a kind of gate, carefully avoiding all the barbed wire that was about. At that point we were right on the edge of an almost vertical slope — it wouldn’t have done to have stepped backwards!
Then we followed what looked like a footpath inside the field on the other side of the cleft, but we strongly suspected it was only an animal track. Back at the sea there was a rock stack just off the cliff which was covered in birds! They were mostly cormorants and gulls, and I suppose they felt safe just that little bit separated from land. Both of us remarked that it reminded us of Iceland, when we took a trip to the far north-west of that fascinating country. As the boat we were travelling on approached a rock stack covered in birds like this, the captain sounded the hooter. The birds rose as one in a cacophony of noise! We decided not to scare these birds — besides, we hadn’t got a hooter with us.
We walked a mile or so across grassy fields which got rockier and more undulating. There was no discernable path. This was OK except that we had to keep climbing gates, for none of them would open. The increasing difficulty of our Walk was tempered by the fact that the rocks down below had eroded into amazing stacks and chimneys, many with birds sitting on top. We would have missed all of that if we hadn’t tried the coastal route today.
We came to a barbed wire fence which we had to negotiate, and were not very happy. After that we were faced with a choice of a ploughed field or a hill. We hate ploughed fields, so we chose the hill — mistake! Very soon we found we were climbing up an almost vertical grassy slope on our hands and knees! One awkward slip, and we would have gone tumbling down to our deaths — this was NOT a ‘safe path’! We had had enough! We opted for the road, and found our way to it alongside a cabbage field. We came out at Kineff.
The walk along the road was exceedingly dull. It was a narrow quiet road, and there were fields full of daffodils to either side. But I don’t like to see daffodils grown as a crop, it looks so unnatural. We passed what looked like an ancient well in the bank by the side of the road. It had an artificial stone surround, and actually looked quite pretty with wild flowers growing around it. After about a mile we turned off on to an even quieter road and walked another mile to Todhead Point where there is a lighthouse. We sheltered behind its wall to eat our sandwiches, for the wind was bitterly cold.
The road to the lighthouse is a dead end, so we decided to try the coast again. After all, Catterline was only a mile away now, as the crow flies, and if we could make it to there it would save a long detour. We should have known better! Don’t we ever learn from our mistakes? We tottered along the edge of a ploughed field, descended a steep gully to cross a stream, then ascended an almost vertical slope again — this one was quite overgrown with thistles and spikey things hidden in the undergrowth — to get out of it. It was the same scenario. We couldn’t take it, we had tried twice. What’s more, it started to hail! We walked along the edge of another ploughed field to a track, then had to go a bit back on ourselves to regain the road. We had wasted a lot of time and not made very much progress. We were both fed up.
We passed more fields of daffs. They had even encroached on the roadside banks making them look quite pretty. We walked straight past the dead-end road down to Catterline when we got there because we were so late. Colin had even given up on the pub! (We returned a few days later, on a non-walking day, and had a long leisurely lunch at the pub followed by a gentle walk round the pretty harbour.) At the bridge we watched with interest a car with a trailer and a school bus negotiating the narrow bridge which is on a corner, and the shunting backwards and forwards in order to miss each other as they passed. It was so nice to be an observer, and let someone else work it out! After that we passed fields covered in plastic — that’s modern farming for you! The countryside is covered in plastic these days. It makes a dull walk even more tedious.
Before we hit the main road, we stopped by a stream to eat our first chocolate. (One compensation about this Walk was that we had brought two lots of chocolate!) Then we had one and a half miles of main road to trudge — ug! At least we could see the sea over fields of daffs from our lofty position. We turned off, and sat on a wall next to Dunnottar Castle car park to eat our second chocolate.
While we were sitting there, Colin noticed that people were walking along the other side of the ploughed field which was between us and the sea. What’s more, they seemed to be walking quite easily, as if they were on a good path. We had quite made up our minds that we would have to continue all the way into Stonehaven on the road because no path was marked on the map. SCOTLAND IS SO FRUSTRATING ABOUT FOOTPATHS!! So we decided to go and investigate.
We took the path to the castle, which passes a deep gully down which a spectacular stream of water falls. The castle is quite dramatic stuck out there on a rock, but we didn’t visit it because it is not ‘Historic Scotland’. At the cliff edge we found a beautiful coast path! It was obviously quite new, and it led us all the way into Stonehaven. We both immediately cheered up enormously — this is more like it! And because we were more cheerful, our pace quickened. It was a pleasant cliff walk with amazing rock formations, interesting bird life and an easy path. We really enjoyed it and didn’t feel nearly so tired, as we had done earlier.

As we approached Stonehaven we came upon their War Memorial high on a hill above the town. Looking a bit like a folly, it certainly gets your notice. Inscribed inside the circle of the ‘temple’ are the words:
1914 1919
Noble words, but they didn’t have much choice. These were ordinary people, you and me, thrown into the hell of a battlefield whether they will or nay. Most of them had no idea what they were fighting for. There were no winners — everyone was a loser. It affected every single family in one way or another. And then, twenty years later they were plunged into another Great War! On my mother’s 34th birthday she had six children under the age of twelve and had lived through two World Wars! What kind of a life was that? I grieve for my parents’ lost childhoods. I feel so lucky being born when I was, at the end of the Second World War. Everything got better from then on.
Stop musing, girl, and get back to the Walk! From the spectacular views from the War Memorial we descended into Stonehaven all the way down to the harbour. It was very pretty in the evening sun. There were mosaics set into the paving slabs. We walked all round, breathing in the evening air and grateful to those soldiers of yesteryear that, through their efforts and sacrifices, our lives are now so liberated!
We came across a toilet block which was clean, open and free! We should have used them this morning, but we didn’t know about them. The ones up by the buses are 20p each — b****y nerve! We walked round the diversion where the sea wall was being refurbished. A notice boasted, “We have worked here 66 days without a reportable incident”. Then we walked along duckboards round the bay, passing the wire sculpture of a dolphin, until we were near the car.

That ended Walk no.174, we shall pick up Walk no.175 next time in Stonehaven on the seafront near the wire dolphin! It was twenty past six, so the Walk had taken us nearly eight and a half hours. We had a cup of tea, then returned to our cottage in Montrose.

Abandoned Walk !
Date: 15th April 2008
We had planned to walk from Stonehaven to Cove Bay today. So we got up early and drove all the way to Cove Bay which is within the City of Aberdeen. We parked on the so-called ‘harbour’, but it seemed a very run-down area. We booted up, then realised that we hadn’t got time to walk the ¾ mile to the bus stop before 09.11, the time of the hourly bus to Stonehaven. So Colin drove us nearer, but further away from the coast, and we parked in an estate road just round the corner from the bus stop.
We waited for over an hour, but no 117 bus came! The number 117 was up on the bus stop and I had a print-out of the ‘Traveline’ timetable in my hand including a map of exactly where the bus stop was, so I knew we were in the right place. We gave up when it started to rain.
We were absolutely FROZEN !
We went back to the car, drove to Stonehaven and parked on the harbour for free. (Should have parked there yesterday.) Then we went to look for a pub to warm up.
We tried the ‘Ship Inn’ first, but they only had one beer on and it wouldn’t come through the pipe. So we moved on to the ‘Marine Hotel’ where we were served Isle of Skye ‘Howie 61 Revitalised’ which the landlord told us was “naturally sour.” It was horrible — tasted like vinegar! We said it had gone off and refused to drink it. In the end he poured it down the sink and gave us a half of another beer for free — but he still continued to serve it up to other customers saying it was supposed to taste like that! We also had Tryst ‘Buckled Wheel’ and Brewdog ‘Peroxide Punk’, both of which were OK.
Next we went to the Tourist Information office to ask why our bus hadn’t turned up. The young lady in there was very pleasant, and extremely concerned when I showed her my ‘Traveline’ printout including map. She rang ‘Traveline’, but they said they can only print the information they are given by the bus companies. So she rang ‘Stagecoach’. They didn’t know why the bus hadn’t turned up because it should have. They took our name and address, and said they would write to us. (When we got home just three days later, the letter was waiting for us! It said, “I feel I must apologise for the obvious inconvenience caused to both of you by the inappropriate actions of the driver who took the wrong route by mistake.”)
We told the young lady in the tourist office what we were doing and why we were waiting for that particular bus. She was very interested in our Trek. We also told her of the difficulty we have had in finding out whether there is a path along the clifftop or not because they are hardly ever marked on the OS maps. She said, “I have just the thing for you!” and she produced a pack of cardboard maps with blobs all along the coast showing where the path actually goes along the beach or clifftop, along a farm track further inland, and where we have to retreat to the road. Just the job! What’s more, the maps were FREE, and they go round the whole coast of Aberdeenshire. There is also a website I can access to find maps of the next county. My planning problems are solved! I was so grateful to her!
Excitedly, we returned to the harbour where we gave the ‘Ship Inn’ another go. They had taken the beer that wouldn’t work off and put on two others. We had ‘Auld Copperhead’ and ‘Tartan Terror’, both Houston brewery, which were OK, and we had a snack pub lunch which was very nice. We decided to change tactics a little. We have survived a 20 mile hike without too much damage, so why not do another? Now we have a definite route and know we won’t go astray down gullies and up cliff faces, we could walk all the way from Stonehaven to Aberdeen in one day. Forget the buses and freezing bus stops, we could do all this by train from Montrose and not use the car at all.
With this thought in mind, we went outside into the rain, hail and bitterly cold wind, and felt very glad that we weren’t actually walking along the coast today! We returned to our cosy cottage in Montrose, turned up the heating and didn’t go out again until the next day.

1 comment:

John Gerrard said...

Very informative,thanks...Have walked from Johnshaven to Inverbervie on a couple of occasions,which is vey enjoyable,non-taxing jaunt.Often wondered about exploring beyond the pill-box and might just have a bash this summer.Cheers