Ault na Goire to Coignafern Lodge (Findhorn)
Distance 26.6 Km Ascent 847 m - (The Wake for the Wild Protest Day)
Funeral For a Friend by Dream Theatre
Today was a bit of a lie in (luxury), because the Wake was not due to start at the Loch until 10.00, so having taken down tents and packed kit ready, a leisurely breakfast was had before heading up to Loch Mhor. This was a bit of road but fine. Al went up with the coffin in Alex's car, before coming back to collect his kit, and walk up to past Errogie to the shore of the loch.
I walked round to the other side near Farraline ready to meet them and take some pictures. I will not go into all the details here regarding the Wake for the Wild, because that is done much much better, and with greater detail in Alan's blog, so I will just concentrate on my take.
I am also including a photo of the Loch taken at night in 2007, because it shows the Loch in it's beauty as the sun sets. To be honest, the weather was similar to this year, and coincidentally, we had camped almost where the boat was to arrive on the shore.
So, Alex and Alan and the Times photographer and a local lady, went across in the boat. I waited on the far shore along with the German film crew and a few others who were gradually arriving,
as the boat was rowed across the loch, with Alex playing the fiddle.
Apart from needing to row an interesting line to stop being blown way off course, all went well, and amazingly, the boat arrived with music at the exact spot (more or less). Disembarking with the Coffin was also an interesting manoeuvre, but all made it ashore in one piece, and the procession began (with a few pauses for photo's) up to Farraline, where local folk were assembled. An activity that 30 min ago looked like there were hardly any takers, suddenly had a huge support group.
At Farraline with only a few takers to haul the coffin, I started my stint up and over to Dunmaglass. With the additional handles (courtesy Alex) it was actually quite easy with 4 people, and we made great time. In fact it was almost easier with the coffin than without.
Unfortunately I have no photos of my stint with the coffin from Farraline up and over to Dunmaglass, so if anyone can send me a photo or two of this, that would be brilliant.
|On the way over|
|Over the hill to Dunmaglass|
|Greeted By Police|
|You cannot see them hiding behind the windows|
At Dunmaglass, we were rerouted round the Lodge, and on arriving on the road at the bottom, were met by 2 very nice Police Women (although they are apparently Police Officers not women, but not wanting to be sexist in any way, they looked like women to me)
There were also some heads hiding behind the windows in the Lodge. I guess they did not want to come out, because when we pointed our cameras at them to take photo's, they rapidly disappeared. The police were fine, and after a bit of a chat and a welcome rest we were all off again to take the coffin up high. Well, just across the river really for the lunch stop and first reading. It was here that the nice chap from The Times, who had also rowed across the loch (well a lot of it anyway) decided it would be nice to take some photo's of us going under the bridge. This he did, again, and again, and again, and again .... I lost count. It was a lot. In fact some people had finished their lunch by the time we finished. So it is thus doubly annoying that none of these pictures made themselves into any papers at all, and definitely not The Times. I was only there for the FAME, not the cause! I told Al.
And that is why I am writing this you see.
At the end of lunch, words were spoken about the Wake, and the reason for it, and David Albon said some words and read a fantastic little poem. If you want to read it then you can find it on Al's Blog HERE. Very moving, and I have to say it brought a lump to my throat, and a tear to my eye.
Well done Dave, and not bad for an invisible bloke!
Eventually it was time to go, and to go high.
We had been told (Al had been told), that the coffin must NOT be left on the estate, because it might harm the delicate ecology. Nor could it be burnt on the Estate.
Bloody priceless that, from an Estate that are going to Bulldoze bloody great tracks over the hills. Destroy enormous tracts of wild land. Pour in thousands of Tons of concrete, and make a lot of money from erecting 30+ 300' plus Wind Turbines, that will of course be in complete harmony and balance with nature. If you also go up to the top hut at the end of the LRT, and look at the amount of bags of half used and discarded builders crap, it makes it even more ironic. I don't think that they will actually see the irony. Too blinkered by the ££££££ signs.
Where was I?
Oh yes we headed off up the track ( a long, long, long track ) towards Carn Odhar.
It was a long way, and I have no Photo's of this bit, but I can say, that everyone did their bit, and it was a fantastic group effort. Near the top a few left because they were heading in a different direction, and as AL says in his blog, the final stop and Wake Reading was made a little way from the top, before we carried on (with a long long way to go still), and the Coffin was taken back down again by those not on the Challenge to be used again.
I have to admit, confess that I did not walk off the track to the final reading place of the coffin. I did stay nearby, but assuming it was a short few words, and then off, had a chat with Norma, and adjusted shoes (as you do). John did go to have a look, but after about 10 minutes, with no sign of folk re-appearing, and a long way still to go, we decided to walk on slowly up to the hut at the end of the track, and stop for a rest. So John and Norma walked on, whilst I did something that probably entailed removing stones from my shoes, because I hadn't done this when I tightened them. I then set off, and caught them up, and we walked to the hut. It was actually surprisingly windy on the way over the top.
At the hut we stopped and had a snack of something or other, that I can no longer remember, probably peanuts, a drink and a rest on chairs out of the wind. It is a nice hut, and has had wood burning stove put in it since I was last up that way. It provided good shelter for a while. A pity that they have left so much rubbish lying around outside. I expect it is special ecological rubbish though. Just as we were thinking about heading off again, Al arrived, along with other windswept folk. Rod Ross, Bernard Forrester, and Steve Miller. They should have been walking with Alan Hardy, but Alan was unfortunately injured and had to withdraw, and when a man with 23 crossings to his name has to withdraw, you know he was in trouble.
Al was going to have a brief rest, so I headed off slowly with John and Norma. I knew Al would soon catch us up, once he got up to heather bashing speed. There is no distinct path from the hut, other than vaguely East, but the terrain is fine. There is a track of sorts that meanders all over the place, but roughly in the right direction, made by a bulldozer. Not sure what this is for, but probably early preparation for pending wanton destruction and Wind Turbines.
It may be a wilderness, but it is a stunning (was) wilderness of assorted wildlife, and wonderful little valleys. It does not have the magnificence of the Western Hills, nor the vastness of the Cairngorms, but in its way, it is a special place. Such a pity, then that it is valued so little by Scottish parliament, and some (not all I might add - See Al's Blog) of the estates.
At the bottom I encountered this chap in a green Paramo, who I had last seen having a rest. He had not taken the scenic route, he had taken the direct route, and he had taken it at pace! He's a man who loves his heather!
It's a long way down to the bottom. There are a lot of new Land Rover tracks as you try and drop down to Coignafern New Lodge, from the top. It is also very easy to follow them and get dragged off to God knows where. Much better to stick with the stream, that definitely goes where you want to go, and also is much much prettier.
Grouse Nest by the edge of the track, discovered by John K. He has an uncanny nose for stuff like this. I would probably have walked straight past and not noticed.
Towards the bottom, Al and eye could feel the lure of the campsite, and with aching feet, we upped the pace. However, as we approached the Findhorn, from the track, we decided, it being a rather grand day, and also because we were knackered, to have a sit down and a rest and just admire the fantastic views in the valley.
It was about 6.30 by now, and after a rest and rubbing aching feet (our own, I mean why would you!), John and Norma caught us up, and together we descended the last bit down to the track, and followed the Findhorn up to the bridge at Coignascallen. You can camp here and I have done in the past, but this time our final destination was going to be the small patch of ground by the ruins the other side of the river.
As we approached the bridge, there were deer waiting to cross the river. There was also a small camper van just by the bridge. We wandered down to the bridge, and as the people were looking out of the window, a walked over to say hello. I assumed they were having a cup of tea. Indeed, that they might even be Challengers or related and offer us a cup, so being a hospitable chap that is what I did.
"Hello, lovely evening"
"SSSSHHHHHH!", says they looking at Al and I as if we are the spawn of the Devil.
"Hello, says I", in a whisper, "Lovely evening"
"SSSSHHHHHH!" says they even louder, and MUCH louder than my whisper
"The Deer are trying to Cross the River!", they said in an accusing way.
Anyone would have thought that we had turned up with bagpipes playing, and a Kalashnikov on our shoulder ready to shoot them. I have NO idea what they expected us to do. Maybe sit down and wait for 2 hours whilst the deer crossed, so that they could watch. Who knows? Anyway ......................................
"I know!" says I with a smile, "They're Deer, they cross it every night about this time, they do it every day"
And Al and I walked across the bridge, as they stared at us, went off to brew tea, and probably make effigies to stick pins in, because we had ruined their lives. They were still there the next morning. And do you know, the Deer crossed the river! Amazing.
So, off we headed to the ruins, arriving just after 7.20, where several others including Maria, and Bernie were already set up. Despite asking, no one made us a brew though. Mean lot.
The forecast for the night, and the next day was WINDY, so we pitched our tent in as sheltered a position as possible. John and Norma handed out some Red Wine, and we also shared Sloe Gin, and Whiskey, cooked up out meals, and relaxed. As the sun went down, the rain closed in, and the wind increased in its severity. Sadly no pictures of this, but if anyone has one or two, and would like to email them to me, then that would be great. Rod and Co had decided to camp a bit earlier up near the Lodge (in the windy corridor), and I would meet up with them tomorrow.
And, so at last after a rather long day, it was time to plug in the ears and drift off to a well earnt sleep. Apart from the blustery night. It was going to be another long, but hopefully magnificent day tomorrow, and I was rather looking forward to it.I didn't even hear myself snoring!