Sunday, 31 October 2010

A beautiful autumn day

The extra hour in bed today was very welcome but it marks the beginning of much shorter days and the onset of winter. I hope that this winter is nothing like the last two when we were practically housebound for days on end because of the sheer volume of snow.
Snowy seat on the deck Jan 2010
Don't get me wrong, I love winter and snowy scenes as much as the next person but months on end of thigh deep snow is just too much to put up with especially when you absolutely have to do your best to get to work. Luckily, the day that the snow started last year I took ownership of my 4x4. I put it straight into 4x4 mode and it stayed that way until mid March. Even after that there were still days when I had to switch it back to 4x4 as the snow returned with a vengeance.

Today was a lovely crisp sunny autumn day though - one of my favourite times of year. The midges have all died until the spring, the views are spectacular because the leaves are mostly gone from the trees and the skies seem to be a very unique colour of blue. Because we slept late, we decided to do a short walk along the Tomintoul spur of the Speyside Way. The whole spur is 15 miles from Cragganmore to Tomintoul, but by driving a short way up and parking at Auldich, you can cut out a couple of miles of very tedious road walking. The route follows a track at the beginning and climbs steadily around the side of Cairnacay before dropping down into Glenlivet. We walked to Glenlivet and then turned and came back again the same way. It was a bit dubby at times and there was a chilly breeze but all in all it was a glorious day. For the first time since I bought them I wore my Craghoppers fleecy lined trousers. They were a bit warm for the walk up the hill but I was glad of them when we stopped for lunch so I can see that they will get more use as I'm going to try to keep up my walking for as long as I can weather permitting. The Tomintoul spur isn't a bit of the Speyside Way that I've done before and it gave a completely different view of Ben Rinnes - a hill which I've climbed many times.
Ben Rinnes from Cairnacay

On the way back to the car we wandered along the route of the old road and crossed the old bridge which definitely isn't long for this world!
Put politely - the bridge is bu**ered....
Glenlivet is one of my favourite places and I look forward to walking the whole Tomintoul spur soon.

Friday, 22 October 2010

In training

A dull and dismal day here in Elgin today. I was going to go for a walk but decided to go to the gym instead. I've been going on and off all year but now I need to step it up a bit and make it a regular thing especially when the good old Scottish weather puts paid to walks in the hills.

Fitness will obviously be an issue for the walk but I don't think that you have to be some kind of super athlete to finish it. When I started to research it I read a story about a walker who was blind and completed it with his guide dog and also about a 10 year old girl who completed it with hyer parents. I thought to myself 'if they can do it I'm darned sure that I can!'. 

Along with physical fitness I think it's important to think about mental fitness as well. It's all very well being as fit and as strong can be if your head isn't in the right place. You've got to believe that you will finish it and realise that there will be moments or even whole days where you think 'what the heck am I doing here....? If you are on your own, this becomes much more of an issue - there is nobody to spur you on, nobody to have a good whinge at when the rain is leaking down the back of your neck and you've taken a wrong turn adding a couple of miles to your day. The only motivation is what's in your head and it's down to you to have a wee word with yourself and plod ever onwards. Although I don't plan to have any rest days, there are a couple of short days to look forward to and knowing that a hot shower and a night at a bed and breakfast or a youth hostel is in prospect won't half spur me on. A friend who I used to walk with many years ago used to navigate the Yorkshire Dales by the pubs en route and he used to swear that he could 'smell the barmaids apron'. The prospect of a pint had a marvellous effect on the energy levels at the end of a long day.

Suie in the Ladder Hills, Glenlivet

Proposed schedule

The average number of days to complete the Pennine Way is apparently 16. I propose doing it in 18 and I have absolutely no flexibility in this schedule because I have committed to doing a wedding on 2nd July and another on 23rd July. I relish a challenge and there is nothing like a deadline to concentrate the mind and spur me on.

At the moment, the plan is to do the walk mostly on my own but to be joined for some stretches by family members for some company and moral support. My partner Roy hopes to be able to join me for the last few days and to help me celebrate my arrival at Kirk Yetholm.

I will have all of my camping gear with me and some nights I'll camp and some nights I'll stay at youth hostels or bed and breakfasts. Having the camping gear means that I can be flexible and if I get on particularly well one day, I'm not tied to staying in a town or village. I can just plod on and wild camp somewhere.

I chose to walk in July for several reasons. Firstly, there is the possibility of some good weather then, secondly, the hours of daylight mean that I have the longest possible walking days and thirdly, I looked at my 2011 wedding schedule and found that it was the only time that I could fit a three week break in in between weddings!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Why walk the Pennine Way I hear you ask...

Me on top of Stac Pollaidh in Assynt
The idea of walking the Pennine Way formed in response to my nephew Peter's fabulous fundraising cycle ride from London to Paris to raise money for The Christie in Manchester. My sister Jane was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2008. She was treated at The Christie during 2008, 2009 and 2010 but she lost her brave fight against this terrible disease on October 16th 2010.

Jane lived in Stockport, Cheshire and I live near Elgin, Moray in the Northeast of Scotland and so the distance between us meant that I couldn't support her as much as I would have liked. My family were a tower of strength to her but I wanted to do something to help. Peter raised nearly £3000 and that inspired me to decide to walk the Pennine Way next year and raise money which will be divided between St Ann's Hospice in Manchester and The Friends of the Oaks in Elgin.

Peter in Paris after his marathon bike ride


For anyone who isn't familiar with The Pennine Way, it was Britains first long distance footpath and it runs for 268 miles. The Pennine Way appealed to me for many reasons.
  • It is as old as I am, having been opened just a month after I was born in 1965.
  • It runs from Edale which is just a few miles from where my sister lived to the Scottish border - symbolically linking us both.
  • It is in England and so is not plagued with the dreaded Scottish Midgies (or at least not to the same extent as the Highlands where they can make being outdoors for even a short while an absolute misery between May and September)
I had originally hoped that Jane would be able to wave me off in Edale on her birthday which was 5th July. Sadly that isn't to be and so my walk will now start at around 2pm on Sunday 3rd July and finish on 21st July - 18 days later.

I'm already in training, but I hope to blog about my progress in the months leading up to the walk, what kind of kit I'll be taking with me and anything else that takes my fancy.

Watch this space for links to my Just Giving sites and news about how I get on building up my fitness.