Thursday, May 15, 2008

Walk 183 -- Pennan to Gardenstown

Ages:  Colin was 66 years and 7 days.  Rosemary was 63 years and 150 days.
Weather:  Fair-weather cloud.  No wind.  Cool.
Location:  Pennan to Gardenstown.
Distance:  5½ miles.
Total distance:  1578½ miles.
Terrain:  Field, roads, tracks, and concrete.  Undulating.
Tide:  In.
Rivers:  None.
Ferries:  None.
Piers:  None.
Kissing gates:  None.
Pubs:  None.
‘Historic Scotland’ properties:  None.
Ferris wheels:  None.
Diversions:  None.
How we got there and back:  We were staying in a cottage in Pennan.  This morning Colin drove to Gardenstown, parked the car and walked back the shortest route he could find.  When he returned, we started the Walk from the cottage.
At the end, we returned to the car park along the front at Gardenstown.  After drinking tea from our flask, we drove back to Pennan.
The next day we started our long journey home to Malvern.  We did it over two days because we are too far north now to manage it in one. We stayed overnight in a soulless motorway inn.  The fact that it now takes two days to drive home from where we have been hiking really brought home to us how far we have walked.  And our journey would have been another three hours if we still lived in Bognor!
That  ends  ten  years  of  coastal  walking !
(Next Walk, we shall be entering our second decade of coastal walking!)
We began today’s Walk in Pennan by the famous telephone box.  In 1983 a film was made in the village.  It was called ‘Local Hero’ and starred Burt Lancaster.  Much of the filming was done in Pennan, though the beach scenes were filmed near Arisaig on the west coast — that was because they wanted a sandy beach, and there are only rocks at Pennan.  The red telephone box by the hotel (which was closed when we were staying there) featured in the film, in fact it played a significant role. People have come from all over the world to be photographed making a call from Pennan’s red telephone box, and the village has been basking in glory ever since.  (The film is still repeated at regular intervals on TV.)  So we thought a picture by the box was a good way to start.
  We climbed the steep road out of the village, and turned into a field where a path took us across two fields along the top of the cliffs.  We could see how the cottages are tucked right under the crags leaving nowhere to go if the cliffs were to collapse.  We could see the roof of the cottage which had been our home for two weeks, tucked in behind the others as if it is hiding.  We were really glad we didn’t know the true story about the mudslide until after we got home!
Soon we had to come out on to the road, as there is no footpath along this beautiful coast.  The road was closed to traffic due to repairs being done to its sides, but it was open to pedestrians.  (In actual fact, Colin drove through there this morning to take the car to Gardenstown, and we drove back through there after the Walk. The diversion was miles, so we were prepared to wait while they compressed the new tarmac and moved their machinery out of the way.  It only delayed us about five minutes.  We passed Nethermill where the ‘old road’ looped round over a little bridge so we were able to do a slight detour.
I was very slow going up the hill out of Nethermill, my toes hurt today due to friction against my boots.  I don’t know why as my boots fit perfectly well.  I think I was just tired.  At the top of the hill we bypassed the road to a car park above Castle Point and Cullykhan Bay because it is a dead end.  But we did go out there a couple of times on ‘rest’ days.  Last week, when my blister was so bad that I could hardly walk, we drove down there to recce out the possibility of a footpath through to Troup Head.  We met a local lady in the car park who was walking her dog.  She told us there was no way through — even the footbridge in the woods, which is marked on our map, had been ripped out by the owner last year because some kid had fallen through it and tried to sue him for negligence!  (Don’t they know that part of the ‘Open Access’ code in Scotland says you must take responsibility for your own actions?)  So we gave up that line of enquiry.
In July, when we were staying in a cottage in nearby Gardenstown, we again drove down to the car park.  We walked down broken steps to the beach of Cullykhan Bay.  There we found a HUGE cave that went right through to the other side of the headland.  Colin was in his element, and disappeared into it for about half an hour!  But it was too rough and slippery for me, so I didn’t risk it.  When he eventually emerged, we both climbed up to the headland of Castle Point.  It is the remains of an Iron-Age fort.  From there we had fantastic views of the cliffs, of more caves in the next headland, and back towards Pennan even though it was getting increasingly misty while we were there.

Back to the present Walk.  We marched for about a mile along the road, then turned off at Middleton.  At Protston we ignored the road out towards Troup Head because, again, it was a dead end.
But we did visit the nature reserve at Troup Head later in the year when we were staying in Gardenstown.
For on Troup Head cliffs nest 1500 pairs of gannets — Scotland’s only mainland gannetry.
They have been nesting here since 1988, and they are a magnificent sight!
Some of the nests had fluffy chicks on them, though by early August (when we visited) they were BIG fluffy chicks!
Colin was in his element, using his long lens to get some terrific photographs.
I just sat on the clifftop with my little telescope soaking in the atmosphere.
It was very noisy!
Back to the present Walk — we took a track past a farm, and went downhill through fabulous gorse bushes.
The yellow flowers were so bright they almost hurt our eyes!
We passed other flowers too, including fantastic wild orchids.
We didn’t have to cross the river and climb up to the road (the contours are so close together it was difficult to see on the map) as the track we were on turned down to Crovie Harbour.
We found a bench by the harbour to sit and eat our lunch in this amazing little village.
Crovie is a lovely place, a bit like Pennan only better!
We visited it several times because we loved its peacefulness.
Our first visit was when my blister was bad and I couldn’t walk far — but the sun was shining that day which is why some of the pictures were taken in brilliant sunshine!
That day we walked right along to the end, and a lady came out of the last cottage to sit in the sun.  “I live in Aberdeen, but this is my little bit of heaven!” she told me.  Then she rather spoiled the effect by getting out a cigarette and lighting up!
Unfortunately, like Pennan, most of the fishermen’s cottages in Crovie are holiday homes.
The difference about Crovie is that there is no road in front of the houses so it is impossible to drive a car along there.
Therefore many of the cottagers own a handcart to push their goods to and from their homes, and even to move their furniture in when they first arrive, I suppose.   Also the cliffs don’t tower so menacingly above the houses like they do in Pennan, so presumably the inhabitants are safer from rock falls and mudslides — maybe!
We passed the end of the steep zigzag road up out of the village to follow the coast path to Gardenstown.  A notice warned us that this was a ‘dangerous path’ with pictures of rocks falling down on our heads.  It was a quiet calm day, so we decided to take the risk!
We saw a stonechat on a twig, and eiders on the water.
Then we came to a sculpture which, to us, looked like a hairy stone dustbin!  We couldn’t make out what it was supposed to be.  The stone plaque under the ‘lid’ told us: 
It took them a hundred years to erect this monument, by which time everyone involved must have been dead.  And then we thought ‘what a strange kind of sculpture’!
We passed a dribbly kind of waterfall, but pretty nonetheless, and then rounded the ‘dangerous rocks’, where cliffs rose spectacularly above our heads, into Gardenstown.  This is a town rather than a village — it even has a bus service!  The harbour is bigger, there are more houses, a pub and a shop, and the cliffs slope much more gently away from the shore.
We soon passed our car, so we chucked our rucksacks in as there was no need to carry them anymore this Walk.  We ambled all round the harbour, then along the shore until the houses came to an end.  The beach is very rocky here too.

That ended Walk no.183, we shall pick up Walk no.184 at the western end of Gardenstown.  It was five to three, so the Walk had taken us four hours ten minutes.   We returned to the car which was parked at the eastern end of town.  After drinking tea from our flask, we drove back to Pennan. 
The next day we started our long journey home to Malvern.  We did it over two days because we are now too far north to manage it in one.  That fact really brought home to us how far we have walked, and our journey would have been another three hours if we still lived in Bognor.  The roads were very quiet and we were not involved in any hold-ups.  But just before we left Scotland on the Gretna road, we were stopped by the police!  They wouldn’t say, at first, why they had stopped us (we knew we hadn’t been speeding) but kept looking round the car at the tax disc, tyres, etc.  They asked us lots of questions about where we had been, where we were going and where we lived.  When I answered ‘Malvern, in Worcestershire’, one of them, who was looking at our Malvern Hills parking permit displayed on the windscreen, said, “Yes, she’s telling the truth because it says so here!”   The nerve!
It was only after we had asked them several times why they had stopped us and were delaying our journey that they said they had run our car number through their computer and there was “no record of any insurance”.  (Now, our insurance ran out during our stay in Scotland this time.  Knowing this, we had renewed it three weeks previously — the same policy with the same company — and paid for it in advance.  Then we had forgotten about it as it was dealt with, but had brought the old as well as the new certificate with us.)  So we showed them both our insurance certificates, and they let us go on.  They shrugged and admitted, “Sometimes our computers take a week or two for the information to get through!”  No hint of an apology!  We were furious!  Talk about Big Brother!

Bognor Regis  1998
We have now been walking the coast of mainland Britain for  TEN  YEARS !   We are a little over a third of the way round, having covered in excess of fifteen hundred miles.  We can hardly believe, ourselves, that we have walked all the way to Gardenstown from Bognor Regis!  But if we are to complete this marathon, we shall have to hurry up a bit.  In another twenty years we shall both be in our eighties, and that is a bit too old to be doing this kind of walking.
Gardenstown  2008

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