Friday, September 11, 2009

Walk 225 -- Drumbeg to Achmelvich

Ages: Colin was 67 years and 126 days. Rosemary was 64 years and 268 days.
Weather: Dull, turning fractionally brighter later. Cold in the wind, much warmer when sheltered.
Location: Drumbeg to Achmelvich.
Distance: 11 miles.
Total distance: 2061 miles.
Terrain: Mostly a quiet narrow road. Rocky footpath for the last mile. Undulating.
Tide: Coming in.
Rivers: No.204, Oldany River, which we crossed three times because we followed the valley for about a mile. No.205, Abhainn Clais an Eas at Clashnessie.
Ferries: None.
Piers: None.
Kissing gates: No.194 to get into the caravan site at the end of the Walk.
Pubs: None.
‘Historic Scotland’ properties: None.
Ferris wheels: None.
Diversions: None.
How we got there and back: We towed our caravan to Achmelvich, all the way from Malvern taking two full days to do so. We set up last night on this remote caravan site overlooking a small rocky bay. This morning we drove to Drumbeg and left our car at the viewpoint where we finished the last Walk.
At the end, we finished the Walk at the caravan. After tea, biscuits and a short rest, Colin got out his bike and cycled to Drumbeg — he only had to walk up three of the hills! He put the bike in the back of the car and drove back to Achmelvich.

Here we are, eleven weeks later, back in Drumbeg. Despite the same viewpoint as at the end of the last Walk, the scene looked very different. Then it was the end of a hot and sunny day, today the sky was a dull grey and it was quite nippy in the wind. At least the rain held off, and later the weather did brighten up a fraction. The view of the thirty-five islands didn’t look nearly so spectacular because of the flat light.
Today there were only us and the sheep looking at it. As we began our hike along the road, the sheep ran in front as if we were herding them. One by one they panicked, looped behind us and then continued to follow. If we stopped and glanced round, they returned our look with a forlorn stare. At the cattle grid they could go no further, so we waved “Bye-bye!” to them as we left. Attached to the gate of the cattle grid were two notices advertising shops in the village.
Now, a minor miracle occurred during the Summer holidays. We went down to Sussex for a week to visit relatives and old friends. While we were there, I persuaded Colin to enter our favourite ‘outdoors’ shop (Peglers, of Arundel) to buy some decent gear. I am so fed up with him moaning that his boots leak, that he is hot in his waterproof gear (which also leaks), and as for that flaming umbrella….! We spent over £600 in Peglers! But it was worth every penny. Colin now has quality boots which are ultra-comfortable and 100% waterproof, a lightweight kagoule which is guaranteed waterproof under all conditions — even Scottish rain! — and ‘breathes’ so he doesn’t get overheated, and similar overtrousers with zips up the sides so he can pull them on or off without removing his boots.
And doesn’t he look smart? (He says he flippin’ well ought to because he paid more for this outfit than he did for his ‘wedding/funeral’ suit!) I also treated myself to a new kagoule, but my overtrousers and boots are OK for the moment. We bought some hiking socks (which ‘wick’) and a few other odds and ends.
We couldn’t believe the bill at the end. But we need this kind of stuff if we’re going to continue to do the kind of walking that is necessary to finish this Trek round the entire coastline of Britain. Now we have passed Cape Wrath we are determined that we will complete it all the way back to Bognor Regis.
At last, after eleven years, Colin is decently clad for hiking in all weathers!

We followed the road past numerous lochans and rocky hills. Quite beautiful, but the dull grey skies did it no favours. However we were happy because it didn’t rain.
The road was narrow and very undulating, a bit like a roller-coaster. There was not much traffic, but we always seemed to meet it at the narrowest points, never the ‘passing places’.
It was quite cold in the wind, OK when we were moving but we wanted to stop and eat our slices of quiche (gone off pies). We came across an ‘egg machine’, and found that if we huddled behind it we were quite cosy. It reminded us of an ‘egg machine’ which used to be at the beginning of the track to Halnaker Hill in West Sussex.
Many moons ago (about thirty-five years I think) we bought some eggs from it for 10p a half dozen. I remember giving the children the coin to put in the machine and get the eggs out. In later years it was vandalised, but the ruined remains were still there in the brambles until recently. We thought of buying half a dozen eggs from this machine, but didn’t want to carry them in our rucksacks. Anyway there was no price quoted (think it may have gone up a tad from 10p) just an honesty box. We said we’d come back later for them, but we never did because we forgot.
For a while we followed a river valley, in fact we crossed the same river three times. Then the road took us for miles up and over the moors — rocks and lochs again. There were not so many flowers this time of year — we were past the orchid season — but we found a few. The heather was lovely!

We came across a lot of large fungus — huge fly agarics, the spotted red toadstool. One looked as if it had another toadstool growing out of its top!

And some yellow stuff in amongst the blades of grass — we couldn’t make out whether it was some kind of fungus or the eggs of an invertebrate. It was weird, we’ve never seen anything like it before.
There were lots of berries on bushes, food for all sorts of creatures.
We came across a row of saplings which had been planted with guards around them up to a height of about five feet. But deer are generally taller than that, so all the tops had been bitten off! Instead of a row of trees, the landowner will end up with a row of stunted bushes.
The road seemed to go on, up and down forever.
But eventually we descended to the beach at Clashnessie. It is a beautiful sandy beach, ideal for building sandcastles.
And we were amused to see a group of people, dressed in winter coats and woolly hats, doing just that — but they were all adults, not a child in sight!
As we left the hamlet we met a couple walking towards us. They too were on holiday, and they asked us where we were walking from and to. They were suitably impressed when we told them about our project. The woman, in a posh voice, declared that she had been to the waterfall and back, and that was enough for her. We didn’t go to the waterfall, which was about a quarter of a mile up the river, because we could see it from where we stood. Colin used his zoom lens to take a photo of it.
It was about a mile further on to Stoer Village Hall. We wanted to walk round the peninsula to the Point of Stoer and view the rockstack called “The Old Man of Stoer”, but it was too far to do it today. We decided to do it as a circular from and to the hall as our next Walk, so today we bypassed the turning. We noticed that there was a ceileidh on tonight, and there were people going in and out getting the hall ready. A man tried to persuade us to come to it — we would have loved to but we knew we would be too tired, and that by the time we had finished the Walk, collected the car from Drumbeg, cooked and eaten our supper it would be far too late to go out dancing. So I cheekily asked him if I could use the toilet (there had simply been no bushes anywhere that I could hide behind) and with thanks and apologies we walked on.
A bit further down the road we found ourselves a sheltered spot out of the wind but overlooking a lochan, and there we sat to eat our lunch.
Stoer Free Church is housed in an ordinary semi-detached bungalow, so ordinary we wouldn’t have known it was a church if it wasn’t for the lettering on the gate. A bit further down we saw the reason why — we passed a building that was obviously a church, but it had no roof. I wonder when and how it lost it.
A short distance away is the cemetery.
We could see an interesting rock down in the Bay of Stoer, it looked as if it had been split in half vertically. But it was nowhere near the road so we decided not to go over and have a closer look at it.
We continued down towards the beach where there was a wide greensward between the road and the sands. A notice pleaded with us, “HELP US to control erosion. NO VEHICLES PLEASE! NO CAMPING. We could understand the feelings of the local people — to all intents and purposes this is their village green, and they don’t want tourists churning up the grass or pitching tents all over it.
A bit further on we did pass an official campsite. Then we ascended into the hills where it was all rocks and lochans again.

There was a large puffball in the grass by the side of the road, but we didn’t burst it any more than it was broken already.

We turned off the road on to a path labelled, “To the mill”. It was a rocky path that led alongside a stream which it crossed several times on stepping stones, sometimes made out of old millstones, and thence to a ruined stone building with no roof.
We sat inside it out of the wind to eat our chocolate.
I was just considering going to the loo again in this remote place when — a large walking group appeared!! (This reminded me of my friend, Cecilia, who often needs to hide behind a bush on our walks together. There are many tales of her adventures, including one where a helicopter flew overhead when she was crouched behind some gorse bushes!) This afternoon I just felt grateful that I hadn’t put my thoughts into actions.
The group was led by a young woman called Angela, and I think the others had all paid to be taken on a guided walk. Angela started explaining the history of the mill, and since we were there we listened in. But we had already read the board, which was very wordy, and it all got a bit technical — so we moved on. This was a ‘clack’ mill named after the noise it made because it had horizontal grinding stones. It was in use from the 17th to 19th centuries, and every time it was upgraded to larger millstones, the old ones were thrown aside. That is why there were a lot of rocks that looked like millstones scattered about. There are the usual tales of corruption about how the mill was run — all politics! The rich get richer and do less, the poor get poorer and become virtual slaves, etc.
The group followed us on the rocky path up a hill, so we stepped aside and allowed them to pass.
Then Angela led them off at a tangent, and we were tempted to follow because she looked as if she knew what she was doing, and she was taking them nearer the sea. But we were tired and the path we were on was good. It is marked on the map and actually exists, which is unusual for Scotland! We could see the caravan site ahead, so we decided to stick to plan A and continue along the path.
Further on we noticed that Angela was completely off path, was having to help her group down an almost vertical slope, and then they had to pick their way across a bog. Some of them were struggling, perhaps she didn’t know what she was doing after all! When they regained the path they were well behind us, but they soon caught us up because we don’t walk very fast. It was a bit like the hare and the tortoise! So I gave out my blog cards to all and sundry, and this generated enormous interest. (Are any of you still reading my blog? If so, please let me know by leaving a comment on this Walk.)
Angela said she’d like to walk with us on one or two of our subsequent Walks, and bring her dog along too. We said OK, she was welcome, and we exchanged mobile phone numbers. I texted her several times, inviting her to join us, but she always had some reason why she couldn’t. Eventually, when we had walked well out of her region, I stopped contacting her and we never saw nor heard from her again.
We soon reached the beach at Achmelvich next to our caravan park, and went through the gate into the site. Angela’s group finished their walk there too. We asked if any of them were driving back Drumbeg way so Colin could cadge a lift to collect our car. But no, they were all going South.

That ended Walk no.225, we shall pick up Walk no.226 next time at our caravan parked at Achmelvich. It was quarter past three, so the Walk had taken six hours fifteen minutes. We went into the caravan, made ourselves a pot of tea and got out the biscuits. After a short rest, Colin got on his bike and cycled back to Drumbeg to collect the car. He only had to walk up three of the hills, but he did say he really enjoyed the cycle ride.
This evening we were treated to a beautiful sunset.

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