Sunday, July 27, 2008

Walk 184 -- Gardenstown, via MacDuff, to Banff

Ages:  Colin was 66 years and 80 days.  Rosemary was 63 years and 223 days.
Weather:  Cloudy with a couple of drizzle episodes.  Warm and muggy.
Location:  Gardenstown, via MacDuff,  to Banff.
Distance:  11 miles.
Total distance:  1589½ miles.
Terrain:  Some beach, both sandy and boulders.  Some grassy paths.  Concrete on the harbours.  But MOSTLY road walking with no footpath!  Undulating.
Tide:  Out.
Rivers:  No.132, the Deveron at Banff.
Ferries:  None.
Piers:  None.
Kissing gates:  None.
Pubs:  None.
‘Historic Scotland’ properties:  No.15, Duff House in Banff.
Ferris wheels:  None.
Diversions:  None.
How we got there and back:  We took two days to drive up from Malvern to Gardenstown where we have rented a cottage for two weeks.  This morning Colin drove to Banff with his bike on the back of the car, parked the car near the harbour and cycled back to the cottage.  When he returned, we started the Walk.
At the end, we finished the Walk at the car which was parked just behind the harbour.  After drinking tea from our flask, we drove back to Gardenstown.  We had already visited Duff House when we were staying in Pennan back in May.

There had been a gala in Gardenstown yesterday, but by the time we arrived in the late afternoon it was all but over.  It had taken place round the harbour which is about 50 yards from our cottage, so we popped along to have a look. There was still singing going on and a lot of people about, but the boats had mostly gone and the stalls were packing up.  The weather had been lovely for it, hot and sunny, and it all made a happy jolly scene.  Pity we missed it!
Our cottage is a bit odd.  It was the only one left when I came to book because it is the high season.  I think we now know why no one else had taken it!  When we arrived, there was a lady hanging about in the street outside who turned out to have the key.  She was very keen to hand it over and buzz off, and didn’t ask for any identification — we could have been anybody!  She wasn’t the owner because he lives in Rosehearty.  She wasn’t even the keyholder, who lives just down the road, but a neighbour.  She had some garbled story about baby-sitting and heart attacks which we didn’t get to the bottom of because she was too keen to get away.
Inside, we found the house to be so full of furniture we had difficulty getting round it.  We never did get to the further end of the table to find out what was in the sideboard!  There is no garden attached, the terraced cottage opens out directly to the street front and back.  Luckily Colin’s bike just fitted into the back porch, but we had to take it out the door if we ever wanted to go out that way.  The fridge kept packing up, and just as I was about to despair it would start working again.  Colin had to rewire the TV because it had been done completely wrong — luckily he is a retired electronics engineer and knows about these things.  The oven didn’t always heat up.  I got the knack of bashing it about a bit, and suddenly it would start to work!  And the hot water system had a mind of its own, so we could have had a shower in the middle of the night but not always when it was convenient to us.  It was certainly the most eccentric accommodation we have stayed in to date.  But it was a place to lay our heads, and made a base for our Walks.

Now to the Walk itself.  We started it from our crazy cottage, bypassing the harbour as we had already walked that last time.  The sunshine of yesterday had completely disappeared, and the low cloud made it look almost dark.  But it wasn’t at all cold, quite muggy in fact.  Visibility was very poor all day.
We stopped and chatted to a woman on the beach who asked to look at our OS map.  She, too, was staying in a holiday cottage, and had been hoping to do some coastal walking in the area.  She was as disappointed as we were to find that there are no paths along the cliff tops.  I told her we were walking to Banff, and that most of today’s Walk would be along the road.  I chatted to another woman who had a little girl the same age as our grandchild, Natalie.  This delayed the start of our Walk a little, but in the nicest possible way!
At the end of the houses we walked along the beach.  It was sandy at first, but then turned to stones which increased in size.  Two small tents were pitched on the grass by a stream, but I’d rather have our quirky cottage with this uncertain weather.
At the end of the bay there was a gap in the cliffs for a stream.  A grassy footpath led up there to a ruined church which was partway up.  It was an established path with mown grass, so we felt optimistic.  There were flowers all about, but then our spirits were doused by drizzle.  I donned my green cape, and Colin got out his infamous umbrella.  It was a miserable scene.
We sat on a seat to eat our pasties.  Some people came along with a dog that could stand on its hind legs!  It did look funny, but I didn’t want to ruin my camera by getting it wet.  It stopped raining after they’d gone.

We looked in the churchyard, and found it was full of 18th century graves.  Some had a skull and crossbones carved on the tombstones!  We noted that a lot of children were buried there.  One tragic family lost three of their children, aged nine, three and five, in December 1793 — all over Christmas.  Then in 1808 the mother died, followed by another son aged twenty.  (He would have been five when his brothers and sister died.)  The father continued to live another thirteen years.  How poignant!  The church must have been without it’s roof for sometime, for there were gravestones actually within the walls.
We looked for the path, clearly marked on the map, which we hoped to take, but found it to be so completely overgrown it didn’t actually exist!  That meant we had to take the track to a car park and thence to the road, which meant more road walking than we had planned.  But at least we didn’t have to cross the stream gorge again with its steep sides.  We had a last look back at Gardenstown before we left the ruined church, then made for the road with heavy hearts.
Neither of us like road-walking, especially when there is no footpath and we are out of sight of the sea.  It was a bit of a route-march for three miles before we could turn off.  We always walk in single file, and try to step off the road, if it is at all possible, when vehicles appear.  Some cars slowed and some didn’t.  Some gave us plenty of room, even driving on the ‘wrong’ side to give us a wide berth.  And some went speeding past as if we weren’t there!  We had to be on the alert the whole time.                                                           Eventually we were able to turn off on a ‘yellow’ road (we call them that because they are marked yellow on the map) to go three sides round a rectangle.  It was a longer route, but at least it got us off that wretched busy road for a while.  We passed a farm which looked more like a factory — that seems to be the way of farms these days.  It was all shut up, but that could have been because it was Sunday.
We came to a bridge across a stream where there was a low wall, so we sat on it to eat our lunch.  It was very pretty at that spot, and away from the road.  There was a lovely honeysuckle growing through a nearby hedge — such a sweet smell!  We were discussing the huge variety of wild flowers we had seen today, they are so lovely and took our minds off that horrid road.  The harebells especially.  Scottish harebells are different to the ones we are used to on the South Downs — they are taller and have more bells on each stalk.  One of my favourite wild flowers!
But all too soon we had to move on and return to that dreadful road.  It was the same scenario with the cars, leaping out of the way of a speedster every few minutes.  After a mile we turned on to an A road, there the traffic was even worse.  We’d had no sight of the sea since we left the ruined church — this was a coastal Walk we were not enjoying!
But as we entered MacDuff, a footpath appeared much to our relief.  We walked past a golf course, and then found an alley which led down to the beach.  There we turned eastwards for about a quarter of a mile because we had missed that bit out, not being by the coast.  We passed a sewage works, and walked on until we overlooked a derelict lido complex.
It was such a sad sight!  Some boys were skateboarding round the buildings, so at least someone was making use of it.  We sat on a bench and ate our chocolate.
On one of our ‘rest’ days later in the week, we again visited the derelict lido in MacDuff.  We parked, and walked down past a most extraordinary triangular rock arch to the entrance.  There a notice warned us that the pool is closed and that the area can be dangerous.  Swimming is forbidden, and the water not clean.  The pools were full of algae and the whole place had a forlorn look about it.
Colin insisted on walking along the sea wall, even though the notice told him it was too dangerous to do so — he still has that recalcitrant obstinacy about his character!  I noted that there was green slime everywhere, and haven’t forgotten Brighton Marina on Walk 5 where I slipped on same, badly bruising my arm.  That has been the only real accident on the Trek so far, and I don’t want there to be another.  But Colin still has that boyish conviction that he is invincible!  And the more I try to persuade him to behave sensibly, the stupider he gets — I think it’s a male thing to ‘show who’s in charge’.  I just wish he’d grow up!
However, he didn’t slip this time, and we took the grassy path over a rocky shoulder to the next beach.  This was because there was a cave in the cliffs (we knew it was there because it was marked on the map) which Colin wanted to explore.  But it wasn’t very deep, so he was a bit disappointed.
However there were lots of fascinating rock formations all over the place — I was having a field day!
  We returned over the rocky shoulder where we got a good view of the sad lido complex.  I could just imagine happy family groups picnicking on the grass and splashing in the pools on a hot Summer’s day!  But I suppose that was it’s problem — hot Summer days in northern Scotland are few and far between and the water in the pools wouldn’t have been heated.  I don’t expect it was ever financially viable, so it closed.
Back to the present Walk.  We turned westwards along the seafront (at last!) passing neat houses with distinctive brickwork.  We came to the aquarium, a round building with plastic rocks on its roof.  Haven’t they got enough of the real variety around here?  I suppose they would be too heavy for the roof.  Nearby were some murals painted on the sea wall.
After passing a buoy being used as a traffic bollard (recycling?) we started walking along the eastern harbour wall.  It must have been half a mile, at least that’s what it felt like.  We passed fishing boats being refurbished (having their bottoms scraped?) and then we were passed by a car.  I kept thinking it was going over the edge, the speed the driver was tearing round those narrow harbour walls.  We couldn’t think where he was going, but when we eventually got to the end near the lighthouse, he was out of his car with fishing rod in hand — couldn’t be bothered to walk that far, I suppose.
We saw a seal’s head in the harbour, but it was only a fleeting glimpse as it dived.
We started to walk back because the harbour wall we were on was a dead end.  On the wall opposite, by the town, stood two teenage boys wearing wet suits.
Suddenly they both jumped in the water!
This is the latest teenage craze in northern Scotland, so we were to discover on subsequent Walks.  All the kids were doing it, and no responsible adult ever seemed to be around to tell them how dangerous it is.  In fact, on the few occasions where adults were involved, they seemed to be encouraging the kids!  These two boys climbed out up a ladder immediately, and walked off through the town.
There was no way over to where the teenagers had been, so we had to walk all the way back to where the harbour began.  It started to rain quite hard, and we got out my cape and Colin’s umbrella once again.  It stopped raining once we got to the town.  
When we got back to the concrete wall where the long-departed teenagers had jumped off, we noticed a fisherman accompanied by two little girls on a lower step.  This step was covered in green slime, I was praying they didn’t slip.  I know just how slippery green slime can be!
We didn’t walk on the eastward, and much shorter, arm of the harbour because it looked too gungey.  In fact there was a derelict feel about the whole of MacDuff with many seafront businesses closed down.  I wonder how much the demise of the fishing industry has to do with this.
We walked along the seafront to the river, then up to the bridge.
And so we crossed the River Deveron into Banff.
A neat little town but not in any way remarkable, unlike it’s better-known namesake in Canada.  We continued along the riverside towards its mouth, then further until we reached the harbour.  First we passed a sandy beach, then a rocky beach.
At the harbour we looked at a fisherman’s catch in a bucket — they looked quite big specimens.  We also passed some drawings in the sand.  Banff Harbour has four ‘arms’, though none as long as the one in MacDuff.  We walked all four of these ‘spurs’, and kept coming up against three sub-teenage girls with a much younger boy, all in wetsuits.
The girls were continuously jumping from the high walls into the harbour, then climbing out again.  They were teasing the young boy who was not so sure.  I told him not to do it if he didn’t want to — that’s how tragedies happen.  I felt most uncomfortable for him.  In the end he plucked up courage and did it, just once.  Then he climbed out and went away — home I presume.  
The girls got more and more silly in their behaviour, showing off for our sakes.  So we ignored them and departed as quickly as we could.  I didn’t want to be there when the inevitable tragedy happened.  As a stranger, it’s no good talking to kids like that, you only get a load of abuse and they do it more.
Our car was parked just round the corner, behind the harbour next to a little gravel ‘garden’.

That ended Walk no.184, we shall pick up Walk no.185 in the car park behind Banff Harbour.  It was six o’clock, so the Walk had taken us seven hours.   After drinking tea from our flask, we drove back to Gardenstown.

Duff  House
We visited Duff House back in May when we were staying in Pennan.  
It is an 18th century Georgian manor house, now used as an Art gallery.  A beautiful-looking house from the outside, but not much that interested us — we prefer medieval castles!  And we are not ‘Arty-Farty’ people so we weren’t much interested in the exhibition either.
But we were amused by one of the art exhibits, a headless limbless statue!!  Well, at least it has boobs!  Why didn’t they just chuck it in the bin?

This car, which we saw parked by the river in Banff, caused us some amusement.  I sent a picture of it to our seventeen-year-old grand-daughter, Kelly, who has just started a course of driving lessons.  She disdained to reply!

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