Inver-Inver 2012

The Steeple Church is raising funds for the Church redevelopment project.  Part of the plan is to help raise £10000 by walking and cycling across Scotland from West to East in four days.  You can donate through the following JustGiving account.

  • Friday : Inverie – Roy Bridge : walk 16.5 miles(to west end of Loch Arkaig) and cycle 25 miles
  • Saturday : Roy Bridge – Glen Feshie Hostel : cycle 52 miles
  • Sunday : Glen Feshie Hostel – Braemar : walk 19 miles (to Linn of Dee) and cycle 7 miles
  • Sunday : Braemar – Inverbervie : cycle 58 miles

The actual route taken is more direct than that shown on the map and does a better job of joining the dots (The route shown is approximate).  The support vehicles will probably have to travel the route shown in blue.

River levels

The Scottish Environmental Protection Agency provides an almost real-time feed of river levels through their network of gauging stations and their website.  These are the rivers local to us and the gauges give an initial indication of what the river is doing.  At the time of writing they are all pretty low as there has not been much rain for weeks and the snow has mostly melted.

Tay at Ballathie (56º 31′ 8.0″ N 3º 22′ 57.0″ W)

Isla at Wester Cardean (56º 36′ 23.6″ N 3º 8′ 52.4″ W)

Dean Water at Dean Bridge (56º 35′ 56.9″ N 3º 9′ 43.8″ W) Continue reading River levels

Big Church Day Out

On a weekend when England was beating Bangladesh at Lords, the Bulls were beating the Stormers at the new rugby ground in Soweto, and Andy Murray was progressing through the French Open rounds I was trudging alongside the River Avon and up Glen Builg through the Eastern Cairngorms from Tomintoul to Braemar.

It was the annual church adventure weekend away and Amy, Daniel and I left Dundee at 6:30am to meet the rest of the crowd in Braemar. Continuing on into the bleak wilds of the Cairngorms we arrived in Tomintoul, the highest town in the UK.

I walked (17 miles) and cycled (11 miles) on Saturday and then returned to Dundee in the evening. The rest of the group continued on to Pitlochry and then to Dundee on the Monday. It was good to get out and meet people from the church that I had not yet met. Everyone has an interesting story. Here is a picture of the group at lunch. Can you spot the person with three hands? Two heads? A hand but no arm?

Church Walk Lunchtime

Ben Vorlich – The Wet One

Andrew, Alan, Baxter and Ross went for a walk.  The sun was shining in Dundee in the morning.

Sunrise in Dundee

65 miles further west it was not so sunny.

Ben VorlichBaxter had fun though, chasing stones all the way up and down the mountain.

Souper Baxter

We’ll have to go back again and climb it in good weather to see the views.  Still, two Munros ticked – Ben Vorlich and Stuc a Chroin.  But it was the second wettest I have ever been on a Scottish mountain.

Ploughing for Scotland

Saturday last saw us (Ross, Amy, Daniel, Kevin and Sony) heading north up the A90 to Brechin, Angus for the Scottish Ploughing Championships.  Not something you can do in London easily and so we took the chance and the gap in the bad weather to get out and see what makes a world champion ploughman.

Two men, two horses
Leading them on
Done before tea

You could do things old school: two men, two horses and one plough share and a large field.

Or you could do something a little more 20th century and drive a “sit-on-top” tractor with two shares on the back and an engine to pull you along.  These guys were not much faster than the horses and some of the tractors were smaller than the large animals.

The aim of the competition is to plough your bit of field as evenly as possible.  The furrows have to be straight – farmers take it seriously getting off the tractor every few metres with a tape measure to measure the width and depth – as straight as humanly possible.  Also they need to be evenly spaced and the ploughed soil has to be turned over in exactly the same way in each furrow.  Each furrow has to be the same depth along the length – any variation is penalised.

A winning furrow
Serious business
Not just for men

The General Purpose Class, or 21st Century Ploughing Class, uses the most modern, up-to-date tractors farming can buy.  Computers, hydraulics, auto-levellers, heated and suspended seats enclosed in a large glass cab all make for a cleaner ploughing session.  Some of the machines could do ten furrows at a time.  What would have taken two men with some horses a couple of weeks to plough, one of these machines can do in a day.

You can check the results here.  and for an enthralling bedtime read you can peruse the Rules of Ploughing.

In the hills again

As you may have read recently I sprained my ankle pretty badly trying to play 5-a-side football at work.  I rested, iced, compressed and elevated it for two weeks and then decided to climb Curved Ridge on Bauchaille Etive Mor to test it out.  It wasn’t quite ready but the walk was fantastic.  Clive, Wilma and Chris came to stay with us in Dundee as part of their “introducing Chris to his Scottish roots” tour.  Clive and Chris were eager to get up a hill while they were here and so we organised to meet Clive’s brother, Des, at the top of Glen Coe to climb this superb ridge up to the summit.

First sightings
Threatening weather
Nice panorama
Bauchaille Etive Mor

We got there in the pouring rain and couldn’t even see the trees on the side of the road let alone the mountain.  Perfect weather in the Highlands!  It got better when the rain cleared and the clouds lifted and we could see our whole route from bottom to top to bottom.  Boots and waterproofs on and off we went.  The two old boys set a cracking pace and I stumbled along as best I could behind them.  I was trying not to bend my ankle and foot more than a couple of degrees as everything was still a bit tender.  It improved once I had warmed up but sent sharp warnings when I forgot.

We stuck our head into the SMC hut and had a look at the lodgings.  The UCT MSC could do worse than to take notes on how to build a proper mountain hut that doesn’t lose its roof every other winter.  From the hut the path curves up around the base of the mountain.  It climbs steadily and the conservation teams have done wonders in shoring up the path with large stones.  As the path rounds the corner you get a super view over Rannoch Moor before it heads steeply upwards through the rock bands to the base of the ridge proper.  This is where it gets fun.  The rock is brilliant – there are hand and foot grips just where you need them.  The exposure increases and there are places where the ridge narrows to just a couple of metres wide and the only way up is on the crest.  As it meets the base of the Rannoch Wall it eases off and allows you to take in the expanse of pinkish rick stretching overhead.  The routes are easier than the wall suggests and I will certainly have to visit again to try some of them out.

There is a short scramble up the ridge and then up and around the base of Crowberry Tower.  It’s a nice moderate scramble to the summit of the little pinnacle with a chance to eyeball the last scramble up to the summit cairn.  The last time I was on the summit – 19th July 2004 – I proposed marriage to Amy after bringing her up the same Curved Ridge.

Walking down the ridge I let the others head along to the next summit while I rested up my ankle ready for the descent.  After much hobbling I managed to soaked my foot in the stream at the bottom to ease the pain and reduce the swelling.  It was still cold two hours later as we neared Dundee.  I am having second thoughts about taking up kayaking again in these frigid highland waters.  But after being in London for so long without real hills it is a joy to be back.

How to choose a utilities supplier

Energy suppliersMoving home involves so many interconnected processes.  Mail subscriptions need to be cancelled or rerouted.  General mail needs to be rerouted by Royal Mail (for a small fee). Telephone and Internet need to be synchronised and migrated to the new address.  Utilities need to be stopped and final bills calculated. Council tax needs to be stopped and the mortgage needs to be tallied up and finalised.  Banking details need to be updated.  Car insurance and travel assistance need to be recalculated based on the new address and changes to driving patterns.  The list is endless…

Once all the existing connections between you, the house and large corporations have been severed new connections need to be established to allow life to go on.  It is a chance to have a think about costs and budgets and available options and try to find the best deal.  So how do you go about this?  well, I have done it a number of ways over the last six or seven years, with varying degrees of complexity: the simplest – get your friends to sort it out; go with the existing supplier; get suckered by a cold caller at the door or on the phone; or do all your own research on the web using the comprehensive tools available.

Comparison sites

These are some of the sites I have used to get an idea of how life works outside of London

Reviews, ratings, opinions and advice

These are some of the results the search engines returned that have proved to be quite useful.

Survey results
Huh? What’s this?
Where are we going to live?