|Stonehaven Beach 23 May 2013|
I have deliberately made the heading for this blog salacious. The last time I used the word ‘virgin’ in the title of one of my posts I got a record number of hits. Smut sells apparently. If you are wondering what I was writing about last time, it was in my post of 24 August 2012. I can’t do the clever linky thing so you’ll just have to look it up in the blog index to the right of this post if you really want to check it out. Another post of mine, incidentally, that also got a large number of hits, was one in which I made a mildly jocular reference to missile testing in North Korea. The statistics thingy on blogger informed me that many of those additional hits were from China. Paranoid? Moi?
From Feughside I could have made the coast in one long day. Instead I split it into two short walks. Having heard that the tracks in the Fetteresso Forest were being pretty much mucked about by large amounts of heavy machinery, building another useless windfarm, I had decided to skirt around the edge and head for Lochton, where there was a B and B called Lochton House. This, to my mind, was an amazing coincidence, what with it being located at a place called Lochton. I had phoned ahead and was told it was fully booked, but when she found out I was on the Challenge, the landlady, Anne, kindly said she would find some space for me to crash on the floor in a spare room or let me camp in the garden.
|Mulloch Stone Circle|
It didn’t matter it was a short day. I would fill it by buying a newspaper at Strachan on the way to Lochton and then read it slowly over coffee and cake in the café there. As it turned out, no I wouldn’t. There isn’t a shop in Strachan to buy a newspaper, or to buy anything else for that matter. Nor is there a café. So I ambled slowly along the lanes, with the weather almost reverting to that of a week earlier, strong blustery squalls and showers of rain, sleet and hail. For the first time on the walk I actually bothered to stop to brew up. This was in Knock Wood, and I then diverted a short way to see an ancient stone circle shown on the OS Map. It wasn't exactly Stonehenge or Avebury, but I am sure that such showy Stoneage vulgarity was over doing it if all you needed to do was to sacrifice a few virgins. And then it was on to Lochton, and a nice cup of tea with Anne, a pitch in the garden, and the keys to the house as Anne was off out for the evening. This was to allow me to make use of the facilities, including a shower and sit inside if I wished. And in the morning I got the full Scottish breakfast and then Anne tried to say I only need pay a fiver for all this - breakfast, camping, shower, sitting room and loo, which was way under the odds. Another of the very kind people I met over the fortnight.
|Not very wild camping at Lochton House|
The following day I set off along what is called the ‘Slug Road’ towards Stonehaven. Why? Not why did I set off to Stonehaven, as that should be obvious to anyone cleverer than a slug. Why is that road so named? The first few miles were horrible as it was very busy and it was tipping it down. It is telling to watch and consider driver behaviour towards pedestrians when there isn’t a pavement. I estimate about half don’t slow down at all, and about a quarter don’t even move out. A simple, polite action which might add at most 10 or 15 seconds to their journey, yet potentially prevent a serious accident and even avoid killing someone, seems to be beyond some of the morons who are allowed behind the wheels of cars, vans and lorries.
I pondered on the name of this busy road and, of course, I was ridiculously pleased when I eventually saw a real slug in the road. Once I could cut off onto minor roads the walk improved tremendously, despite the driving showers of hail and rain. Then the sea came into view, and then Stonehaven, and then Graham, the only other Challenger I had seen since leaving Feughside. Graham and I walked down to Stonehaven together. It was really good to have company for this last stretch of the walk, and we were both a little taken aback by being stopped on the outskirts of the town by an elderly gentleman who simply wanted to know if we were Challengers and then congratulate us on getting across. How nice. It added to the feeling we had done something special.
|The obligatory toe in sea photograph|
|Park Hotel Montrose|
And then it was the train to Montrose and the dinner at the Park Hotel and the pleasure in seeing what felt like long lost friends, none of whom I had ever met just a fortnight earlier, and then it really was sad thinking that I would not often, if at all, see these people again. Unless, of course, my name comes out of the hat next year……
Now, where are those maps? My route is going to be so much better second time around. It will be more challenging. I will be fitter. There will be less apprehension and more anticipation. Less road walking. A bit more bog. A hill or two. Or even three. Callater Lodge and Tarfside. And even the occasional deviation from 180 degrees east. And whatever the weather the sun will shine. As another, far more experienced Challenger is fond of saying, "it's all in the mind".
|With Chas and Dave. Dave was the youngest Challenger and the best catcher of a duck you ever did see :)|