13-Jun-2006 -- And then there were three....
....ok so what does that mean? With the succesful visit to 57N 3W today I have just three points left to visit before I have covered the whole of mainland Britain. This point has proved pretty elusive as it has been on my target list since 2003!
It is time for our first vacation this year and as in previous years we have decided to come up to Scotland - home for me, and have again taken a cottage in the middle of nowhere. This year we are again on the East Coast but only 4 miles inland.
After a fairly; well very uneventful drive up of 471 miles (average speed was erm....never mind officer! oh alright then 73 mph) we settled in on Saturday. I had researched the two closest points to where we were staying; 57N 3W and also 57N 4W. This point was nearer the cottage and only fractionally nearer a road.
My wife Lynn came with me on my repeat visit to 58N 4W last year which she didn't particularly enjoy (putting it midly), we decided that perhaps I should go and attempt one this year on my own!
As it turns out this was a smart move!
I was up at the crack of 8.30 and straight into the shower, before leisurely cooking a Scottish breakfast (fried of course) - Lorne Sausage, Pork Sausages, Black Pudding and Fruit Pudding. Lovely stuff and only about a thousand calories...which I would burn off later in the day.
With the SatNav set to take pretty much the most direct route, a check of the map reveals pretty much no choice anyway, it really is pretty isolated in this part of Scotland. My research had shown that on the Glen Tanar estate it should be possible to drive to about as close as you can get, so that's where I headed.
Driving through the estate right past the front of Glen Tanar house you come to the "end of the public road" though the road clearly goes much further. Hmmm.... fire up the Garmin to find out that I am 5.99 miles from the CP. Now, I am under no illusions as to my (total lack of) fitness and I seriously doubted my ability to make a 12 mile round hike through forest and over peat bog. Mark it as a last resort. At this point I am NE of the CP
A close inspection of the road atlas revealed that looping around to the North past Ballater and on towards the village of Birkhall and then on towards Glen Muick should give a closer approach. I counted off the distance and got down to 2.73 miles from the CP. The only problem is that I am on a single track road (just wide enough for a single car) with occasional passing places - where for obvious reasons you are not allowed to park. I found a cutting up towards a forest and pulled 20 yards off the road. I was at 57N 0m 18.9s by 3W 4m 21.7s carrying further on down this road may have brought a slightly closer approach.
The adventure really begins. I parked the car at 958 feet above sea level. Climbed over the fence and set off up the hill. I should point out at this stage, that in Scotland there is the "right to roam" which to summarise means you can walk pretty much wherever you want to - exceptions being private houses and growing crops.
This was a pretty steep initial climb and then strike out in a straight line directly towards the CP. Now bearing in mind this is supposed to be hilly bog country, it was quite dry under foot. Maybe it would be wetter later on....the next item of interest that I saw was what from a distance looked like a Trig Point, but when I got up close proved to be simply a nail driven into the top of a 6 foot pole! Purpose? who knows but a reasonable guess says some sort of surveying.
Up to this point it has been all uphill, now up to about 1450 feet, looking ahead shows that as far as the horizon it is STILL uphill. Hmmm...this is getting to be quite hard work. However the rewards of the climb can be seen here a fantastic view, clear skies and reasonably warm as well.
The climb continues and I am pausing every 100 yards or so for a rest and to admire the view which with my increasing altitude is only getting better. Eventually the altitude reading tops out at 2300 feet. So thats a climb of 1342 feet in just about 2 miles. Averaging out to about a 1 in 8 slope throughout.
As I crested the rise you can imagine my shock to find a road! Sure it was ungraded, what in Texas would be classified as FR, but a road none the less. Where does it come from and where does it go, more importantly can you get onto it....I do know one thing though, my in-car SatNav (Which I had in my pocket) had this ungraded road in it's database.....the answer is yes you can. As you come to where the road splits by the monument to where Queen Victoria met the army, there is a small track just at the left of it. It is marked as private and no entry - no cars then; but you CAN walk along it.....
Now I am only 0.76 miles from my target, and time to lose nearly 200 feet of that hard won climb...off we go and this area should be very wet underfoot, I see no end of dried up streams and the odd bits that are "boggy" are only green. There is no water underfoot and indeed my boots never even get wet yet alone muddy. We have had two very dry winters, perhaps this is the outcome?
Onwards to the CP, watching the Garmin count off the distance 0.5, 0.4, 0.3, 0.2 miles and then onto feet to go 500, 400, 300, 200 and then I'm there. After taking my customary cardinal shots plus the GPS evidence, I set up my tripod and use my new toy (remote control for the camera) to get a shot of me on the CP, depsite there not being another human for miles. In all the time from car to car I saw noone at all. A point to bear in mind if you attempt this, the mobile phone coverage is patchy, make sure someone knows where you are!
After a celebratory piece of Kendal mint Cake I head back towards the car. As I climbed the hill back to the road I saw a herd of Deer. This is their place not mine so I started to skirt around them, looked up and they were gone! Once back on the "road" I started to wonder where it went and if I could get back to the proper road from it. On the basis that walking along the road is at least twice as quick as tramping through the heather, I turned West and set off.This road split and I kept right as it was the right general direction. It would be driveable, but ONLY in a 4x4 Off-road vehicle, the track at times only became imprints through the heather. As I rounded one part of the track I saw a herd of Deer and had time to get off a few photos before they ran off. Eventually this track brought me to within 0.67 miles of the car.
I could see the main road from here but couldn't see where the track might come out. Decision time. I took the direct route out. On the way I saw a very rare sight indeed in the UK a red squirrel driven almost to extinction by the imported grey.
Once back at the car, the Garmin told me that I had been gone for 3 hours 59 minutes and a round trip of 6.79 miles.