mental health, Walking, wellbeing, Writing

Roy’s Ramble – Week 16

2021 arrived and I decided to take on a huge challenge. Walk from Lands End to John O’Groats (LEJOG). This is Week 16.

DAYS 106-112

DAY 106
(16th April 2021)
Moncreiffe Hill (c) Wikipedia
River Tay (c) pixabay

Good morning Week 16. When did you arrive? 106 days in.

I decided loosely last night that I wanted to get up this morning and have more of a walk than the previous few days. It’s OK walking the local parks but I fancied seeing something different. Having realised I’m out of laminating pouches I decide to brave the shops and head to town. I go early so as to avoid the rush of people and was pleased to be able to leave as it’s starting to get busy. I was a little disappointed that my friend’s pop up shop wasn’t open. Turns out the person that’s meant to be opening the shop for her hasn’t turned up – I feel quite sad for her as her work is lovely and deserves to be seen.

I went into Waterstones. I didn’t have any particular book or product in mind but I knew I had a few pound left on a voucher so thought I would treat myself. I know we’re trying to have a spring clean but if I can get through a book and gift it forward then it’s not staying with me for too long, so I figure I can justify the spend. For me, this was one of the most enjoyable parts of my little trip out. I was able to explore the shelves of new authors, and in the end I picked up three books which I can delve into during this year. Not right away. I’m still on an exciting new one.

As I head out of town, I realise that I’ve only had one drink today and it’s nearly lunchtime. It’s so important to keep hydrated, and I know that if I don’t I can get dizzy and sluggish, so I head for an old favourite – the Horsebox Coffee Company. I grab a hot chocolate and a pan au chocolat, then head next door to the University Parks where I partake in some cricket watching. Life feels like it’s gaining some sense of normality. I sit for a few minutes on a bench observing the quintessential scene before heading around the pond, over Rainbow Bridge, and wind my way home.

Boosting the energy with some proper lunch, I notice that whilst my overall step tracker is still going, my one that tracks my outdoor walks versus general steps stopped after half a mile so I can only give an update on the virtual route at the end of today’s entry.

I didn’t plan for too much in the diary today and in the end wrapped myself in a bit of fun TV and soon it was 3pm. I think some days it’s good to take those slower paced days. I was soon up on the emails and finishing some paperwork for the weekend. Being self-employed, I’ll no doubt work tomorrow. Tomorrow is Prince Philip’s funeral so I’d like to watch that. As we’re in a pandemic still, what would normally be a larger affair still falls within strict guidelines and a maximum of 30 are allowed to be present.

Dinner consumed, I head once more to the youth club. We’re in those final few stages before opening and I want to have a bit of time to check over the finer points such as whether first aid kits need updating, what posters need changing, and so on.

And so here we are. The end of another day, which has felt chilled, bits have still been done, and I’ve managed to get my miles in. Now I’ve got a total mileage, I can give you today’s update, which starts in a tent at the edge of Binn Wood, heading north-westerly.

I pass Dron and under the M90, Moncreiffe Hill looming on the horizon. I reach Bridge of Earn which is a small town in Perthshire. It used to have two train lines which have since closed, and salmon fishing was important for the economy although of late it has become more of a a sport and less of a money spinner. It has however become something of a commuter town with the development of extra housing for those wishing to live in the cheaper country housing and travel into Perth for work.

I cross the River Earn and wind my way to Craigend, before getting caught in the maze of M90 J10. I’m going to continue on this more minor road and go into Perth though. I’m starting by following the River Tay, the longest river in Scotland, running to an impressive 119 miles in length. Perth is a city, its name deriving from ‘wood’, and despite being quite heavily built up, there does still seem to be a surrounding of wood and copse from where I’m stood at the moment.

On my right, Perth Harbour accepts cargo ships up to 100 metres in length and due to the way the water ebbs and flows here, a ship can arrive with its cargo on one high tide, unload, and be away again on the next high tide. Perth train station which is on its doorstep is quite large with seven platforms, and the place has even won an award for its design.

Near Perth is Scone Abbey. This is where, according to tradition, the King of Scots would be crowned (Wiki). Perth is not only full of the modern but brimming with history too and on my left now is the vastness of the Polish War Graves, a dedication to those Polish soldiers who lost their lives in the Second World War.

As I head behind the terrace of houses now, a large patch of what appears to be wasteland emerges on the right. It turns out this is where one of the train stations used to be and from above it’s possible to see clearly where the train tracks were heading into the station.

I’m then into the big boy’s toys, with outlets for some of major car manufactures which live in partnership with the industrial states that swamp this area. It feels like something big is about to happen and the fact that the city is often referred to as the Gateway to the Highlands, I have a sense of this is the last time I may see civilisation.

I cross the River Almond once more and pitch up next to the River Tay. It’s 3 degress and a clear sky but feels more like sub-zero tonight.

DAY 107
(17th April 2021)

The weekend has arrived with sun and clear blue skies. You could be forgiven for thinking that it was summer. At times there’s a chill in the air, but on the whole it’s a really warm day. I’d thought of making a Victoria sponge cake today anyway, but now the weather is at it is, and the fact it’s HRH Prince Phillip’s funeral today, it all seems rather fitting. Baking is one of my refuges, as it were. It’s amazing what a simple act of baking can do for the mind, body, and soul. Had a great time baking it, in between I set about finalising the last parts of returning to the youth club sessions in the hall with emails to the committee and adult volunteers, as well as parents. It does start to feel as though life is getting back to normal, although, as mentioned before, what is normal these days?

The admin tasks, coupled with the baking, took up a fair chunk of the day, and as the day wore on I settled down to watch the funeral on the television. It was not a state funeral but one designed by the consort himself and excellently executed. Due to covid restrictions less people were there but it was still a wonderful tribute to a man who has done a lot for the country. In particular, my link to him is through the Duke of Edinburgh Award which has helped so many young people, myself included.

The saddest part was seeing Her Majesty The Queen, a grandmother about to see in her 95th Birthday, saying goodbye to her husband and support for 73 years, and doing it alone due to the pandemic restrictions. She really looked frail. It did get sadder though. Whether you are a Royalist or not, slating her online is an awful act to do, and says more about you as a person than her and the Royal family. She didn’t choose that life, she was born into it, and through all the scandals, wars, and more, she has fulfilled her duty leading the country since the age of 25. She had no opportunity to live a young life like other young people, even those of her grandchildren. For me, one of the saddest online comments was somebody stating ‘thousands of others have lost family’. Yes, yes they have, but how many others have been in her position and are now having to show a strong front as every inch of their lives and the funeral are scrutinised. Not nice at any age, least of all for a senior citizen. I wouldn’t say I’m overly Royalist, but I would say I care about people, and I for one hope that she is not too badly affected mentally by this and the right support is there, and it’s not simply a case of ‘stiff upper lip, old girl’.

That’s my aside done. Let’s walk. Managed a few steps around the house but not masses. It was enough to take me past Perth Racecourse on the opposite side of the River Tay and on towards Stormontfield. Sited next to Scone Palace, a Georgian Gothic style house, it is a racing venue for the thoroughbreds to pound the ground. There’s been a big hoo-har in the news recently about horse racing as yet another horse died on a course.

I continue to follow the A9 northwards. On streetview, the road is being dug up and it turns out that there are major works taking place changing it from a single road to a dual carriageway, expected to be completed in 2025. 30 miles had already been completed, but there’s another 80 to go. The aim is to improve journey times in this part of the country as well as bring better economic growth further north.

After a rush around dinner in which I was able to clock the steps, I went for an evening walk before returning to kitchen steps. It was a really enjoyable walk this evening. We did a route that we often do, but we did it in reverse and the views were interesting. I mentioned this weeks ago when I was interviewed by Stephanie from the Oxfordshire Recovery College, but it’s a good reminder of how different the same situation can be when we shift focus and look at it from a slightly different angle. A bit like with what William said when I interviewed him. You can choose which view you want to look at and take. Do you point your life lens in a different direction to see what lies there? Could be something exciting.

I pass through the village of Bankfoot, which has a little over 1,000 people living there, with quite a large majority being of an older age bracket. Despite its small size, it has a couple of pubs, a primary school, once had a train station, and is home to the Persie Gin Distillery, who produce craft gin. Craft gin by loose definition is essentially a gin that is crafted in the way an artist crafts their work. It is likely to be produced in smaller quantities but the ‘crafter’ will take more time over it than would happen with a major distiller who can churn it out in vast quantities. The Persie Gin Distillery, at time of writing, crafts only seven gins.

I continue for a couple of more miles before pitching my tent near the River Tay as the sun sinks down behind the hills on my left, creating stunning patterns on the green and reds of the trees and hillside.

DAY 108
(18th April 2021)
Yellowhammer (c) pixabay

Woke to another glorious morning of blue sky and sun. Little bit more cloudy today but they are thin wisps and hopefully will remain as such. The tent however is wet as it has rained overnight and is expected to continue to do for the next few hours then be indecisive over rain or simply dark and dingy cloud. I’m glad I’m where I am.

Some important personal paperwork to sort this morning which took longer than expected but was good to have completed. With the weather as good as it was I decide to take a walk in the sun. It started off as a ‘let’s make it a two walk day of similar length’ and this ended up being a really long walk that took in a couple of parks, the streets in Headington, a Greggs lunch, and quite a happy feeling. The sun does make the day feel better doesn’t it? Lots of people were out exercising today, one excited Labrador decided it could carry three branches, and world seemed well. I heard a Yellowhammer.

This walk saw me head through Birnam, a village in a part of Perth known as the Big Tree County, and it’s easy to see why. There are trees wherever you look and at times it’s quite dense. They have a public garden in honour of the writer Beatrix Potter here and there are little bronze statues of each of the characters in her books dotted about. Birnam features in William Shakespeare’s play Macbeth, as does the Birnam Oak which stands on the banks of the Tay. It’s around 600 years old.

With Tay Forest Park on my left, I cross the River Tay using the Jubilee Bridge and it’s then a tree-lined route once more heading north, Tay on my left, and at that point where there’s a gap in the trees on the horizon, the emergence of hills, possibly mountains.

This afternoon, I do some script writing. I’m working on a short piece that runs for about 15 minutes. These can be harder than full length plays as you have to get into the action immediately, not waffle (which I can be good at), and complete the story that you are telling in a clean way. It means that the perfectionist part of my brain can really come into effect. I make good progress as I sit in the peace of the garden, and our regular cat visitor decides to curl up on the bench next to me. After a while I find I need to sit at the computer and type. I often reach that point in my writing. Either I’ll be able to hand write straight off and then edit or I’ll write about half, then need to type it and edit as I go and the flow of the second half falls into place. It’s rare that I plan a piece either. There’s a general feeling that you are a plotter or pantser. You either plan your work or fly by the seat. I tend to take a mix, but do like the latter option, particularly as things seem to evolve and you don’t know where they’re taking you. It can be exciting, especially for somebody who plans a lot, in detail, in every other aspect of life.

A lovely Sunday roast is complemented by my brother’s cauliflower cheese, and then we decide to take another short walk, which turns into an average length walk. We’ve certainly clocked the miles today. It’s a lovely sunny evening with a pretty sunset, and we essentially reverse the route from this morning, but cut it in half. Back at home, I’m back to the writing and sorting out the diary for this coming week with a few steps in the kitchen before I soak my weary feet and head to bed. In both Oxford and Scotland, it’s a clear night, and the stars are really sparkling in the black blanket above. The moon is still crescent in shape but is getting brighter all the time.

The road opened up for a while, and with it, more and more views of ever-imposing hills in the distance are starting to appear. Loch Ordie can’t be seen from where I am but can in the overhead shot and it’s a freshwater Loch once visited by Queen Victoria on horseback. Just past Logierait is Tynreich Nursery. It’s not open this time of night, but there’s a patch of land amongst the greenhouses where I bed down and it at least affords some shelter from the wind.

DAY 109
(19th April 2021)
Pitlochry (c) pixabay
Balmoral Castle (c) pixabay
Blair Atholl station (c) pixabay

Another clear blue sky greets me in Oxford whilst a sunny but slightly cloudy one meets my eyes in Logierait.

I strolled the park again and spent some time sitting this morning. It was peaceful and I saw about three people. It was so lovely that I didn’t even need my coat. I took a light jacket anyway in case, but all was fine.

I’m following the River Tummel now, water from which is used in a hydro-electric power scheme.

Back home and I complete some more of my training courses (I’m doing three at the moment) and I’m in the process of two new projects that actually link together, and they are really exciting. I check in with a few people for their views and the fact that they’re excited for it too really makes my heart sing. Before I know it the day has flown by.

Spent a bit of time in the garden because it was so lovely, and read my book too. It’s amazing how if you keep yourself busy there’s little time for any anxious or negative thoughts to come in. The key is getting the balance so that you’re not so busy that you feel stressed out and can’t cope. Being able to recognise this is harder than many realise.

I had every intention of doing as I did yesterday and getting lots of steps done earlier in the day, but this doesn’t happen as I find I’m then into cooking dinner, before heading to the youth club to put the very final touches in to place before we restart youth sessions in there this week. There are so many things to think of. It isn’t a case of opening the doors with open arms. There have been lots of risk assessments, cleaning to higher than usual standards, forms to fill out, emails to send, signs to put up (updated from the last lockdown easing), first aid boxes to check, and so on. All of this for two hours a week. Our hall is a hireable space so it means that in a month, if all is good at the government end of things, we’ll be able to let our hirers back in again.

I didn’t manage as many steps today as yesterday but I top up at the hob whilst I type and this certainly helps. I weighed myself today and whilst all of the walking feels like it’s burning the calories, the cakes I was baking aren’t helping, and the weight is slowly piling back on. Maybe I need to stop baking for a while. I haven’t for a couple of days. Maybe it’s a once a week treat instead.

Across the river is the Edradour Distillery. This is ‘the smallest traditional distillery in Scotland’, and can be visited between April and October, so I’ve arrived at the right time to take a nosy around. They make single malt whisky here, and despite being a small outfit boast an impressive array of tastes. The distillery sits on the edge of Pitlochry, approximately 40 miles south west of Balmoral Castle (taking a walking route).

It was at Balmoral, where the Royal family often decamp to, that Queen Victoria visited and subsequently bought in 1842. She visited the town of Pitlochry and since that point, not only has it retained its Victorian heritage and architecture, it’s become a bit of a tourist hotspot too. Not shying away from the distilleries, the Blair Atholl one is not far from the High Street, and the High Street itself has, on one side, an iron canopy running the length of it making that side of the road appear like a very long train station.

Set on a hill overlooking the River Tummel, is the Pitlochry Festival Theatre, bringing in touring productions, as well as their own shows, it’s a fairly neat 554 seater in muted tones, and is a popular attraction. Also popular is the Salmon Ladder. This clever and mighty contraption was put in to help the salmon swim back to where they needed to, their spawning groups, in order to keep them thriving. Without it, they would surely die off. Impressive engineering which at the time was believed to be just the sort of thing to kill off any visitor trade. The opposite has happened. You never know where your idea will take you. It could be the next big thing!

Crossing the river, Tay Forest Park appears directly ahead and The Enchanted Forest to my left. This isn’t any random bit of wood that’s been dubbed enchanted, it really is enchanted thanks to a spectacular audio visual display merging cutting edge technology with nature. Even their website is something to behold, and as restrictions are lifting, and it’s an outdoor space, this is one activity that I’d love to be able to go to. Quite a distance though.

On the hillside all those miles away, you’ll remember I mentioned Balmoral Castle. It’s there, somewhere, over yonder, in the Cairngorms, which rise impressively now, to the point that even the tops can’t be seen with the cloud that’s hugging the peaks at the moment. It’s strange to think that whilst there’s sun and hardly any wind here, if I climbed to the top of Ben Macdui it would be the same, but with snow. Although, perhaps not that surprising considering it’s the highest peak in the Cairngorms standing at 1309 metres and the second highest peak in Scotland after Ben Nevis. Neither is for the faint-hearted.

If you were to get caught up here however, you’re fairly fortunate because there is accommodation. It’s on the lower cairn if you can get to it, and it wouldn’t do for some. Please don’t think it’s five star room service but it’s shelter, and that’s important, especially if you’re stuck in snow and need to dry off. The Corrour Bothy is a small stone hut just six metres by three and a half, with a single room, fireplace, and a toilet on a shed out the back. Even if you cannot get the fire lit, being out of the wind would make a heck of a difference, and it’s size would allow, with a very tight squeeze, for three double beds, so a group of hikers could snuggle in there if desperate. Sounds like an adventure.

Another adventure would be using the ski centre halfway up. You don’t expect to hear about ski centres in the UK really, but there it is, on the side of a mountain in Scotland. I love the name of the next area I pass through – Killiecrankie. Not sure why. Made me smile. I notice it has a visitor centre which surprises me as it doesn’t look like a large place requiring one, but delving into it, it transpires that this is the site, in 1869, of one of the goriest battles in Scotland, which covered an expansive area.

I decide that whilst it’s clear at the moment, rain is due from the wee small hours and I don’t want another night in the tent, so I head to the Secret Bothy, a small cottage that offers five star luxury. I get a shower, a comfortable bed, and still enjoy the views in the morning of the mountains and rivers around me.

My next big achievement of course was reaching the 80% mark of the hike! Hooray. That’s four real trees I’ve now planted as a result. Thank you Eden Restoration Project. I think I deserve that bit of luxury tonight.

DAY 110
(20th April 2021)
Grampion Mountains (c) pixabay

What is happening with our weather? It’s amazing that we’re being rewarded with all of this sunshine. Let’s hope I haven’t jinxed it now.

Woke up at an oddly early hour this morning but laid and read for a bit. I’m really getting into my current book which surprises me because it’s American. I don’t bear a grudge against Americans but I often struggle with picturing where all of these locations are. I imagine it’s much the same if they read something like Inspector Morse. You end up creating in your own mind an idea of what a place looks like, which is part of the fun, but I’ve never really managed to get into books set overseas, not properly, other than one, which you’ll note in my book review of last year. I’m pleasantly surprised with the current literature choice.

Having hauled myself out of bed I take a morning stroll. I can’t afford to go far this morning as I’ve a call regarding youth club this morning. It’s the first appointment of the day and is a health scheme to support young people that they reached out to me for support with in implementing in the community. It’s interesting but it’s a detailed call that really needs concentration to ensure that if we agree to the scheme we do it properly and I need to sharpen the brain first.

I end up walking about five times round the really local park, the one that is purely an open field but two minutes from the house. This is the one that provided that much needed solace when I was trying to get back some normality in my life. Not a soul around this morning. I have it completely to myself and it was an amazing feeling.

The call went well, extremely positive, and although I’ve heard of the scheme before, I didn’t know the particulars. There are so many people doing such wonderful things in this world to support and guide our young people – how come we don’t shout about them enough?

Meeting over, I gather my thoughts again for work and try to settle down to a few tasks but nothing more than a few emails occur. At least it was still productive. I’ve a few former clients wanting support. The return to school is proving harder on our youngsters than it has before.

Having woken up and realised I’m in that beautiful cottage and not in the tent, I make breakfast in the well-stocked kitchen before heading out. The miles in the park this morning have taken me a short distance up the road, and I’m about to cross the River Garry. The train line passes next to it as I cross the river, and ahead is another large hill looming out of Tay Hill Park. I can’t see a name for it online and it reminds me of visiting the Lake District where even the small hills that don’t appear to have names have been nicknamed by the locals. Always fun how nicknames stick. A bit like when the remote control is called a thingamajig. Nicknames are a bit like a term of endearment and as long as people don’t take offence, I think it’s often quite fun to have one. I’d be disappointed if I didn’t have one (and no I’m not sharing mine).

Haven’t seen a quarry for a while so one pops up on the left as I get in the car and act as taxi service for mum to go to a personal appointment. This was one of these appointments where you can only guess at how long you’ll be sat waiting and with buildings and covid as they are, I end up sat in the car in the sun. I was well prepared and spent the time between three chapters of the book, people watching, and realising that I probably won’t actually be lucky to get this much time free to read again for a while. I’m often catching ten minutes at the moment. An hour later and mum emerges. We drive to the hairdressers (an old friend) to collect some supplies and are greeted with her youngest daughter. I feel old coming face to face with someone the same height as me who I once used to look after. She’s doing catering at college so I’ve got cake competition it seems.

Back at home and with lunch consumed I struggle today to get into my many tasks. For some reason I can’t focus and this really frustrates me. I’m usually pretty good at making my daily list and sticking fairly rigidly to it but today it’s not working and the more I think about it, the more I overthink it, and I end up doing tasks that need to be done but don’t need to be done at that moment in time. I feel annoyed with myself by late afternoon and want to start the day again. I’d intended on getting another walk in. It will just have to happen later.

It was then in to class and we struggled today. I mentioned earlier that our youngsters are finding the return to the classroom difficult, well, today was no exception. We had to close the session early. It always feels a bit sad doing that but it’s sometimes the right decision when continuing could potentially distress a client.

Dinner polished off and I’m back to work. I’m determined to knock at least one job on the head, but alas, the brain decides that it wants to do miniscule irrelevant (for that moment anyway) tasks. I could scream. As I eventually settle and decide to spend some time on me instead, emails and texts appear in relation to the youth club restarting tomorrow and they have to be dealt with to allow time to action. I can’t complain. It’s the sort of thing to be expected after a period of closure but it’s another thing that adds to the pile of ‘not doing the right thing’.

By 9.30pm I realise that I’ve basically walked nowhere today and have hardly any miles under my belt, the room looks a mess and I can’t see the desk (literally can’t see it), and I’m feeling quite low. I have a choice at this point. Go to bed with that hanging over me, feeling as though I’ve wasted a day (which in reality I haven’t, I’ve just not done the tasks I wanted), or I can do what I actually did. I reached out to a friend. An immediate reply came. She was feeling a bit low and hadn’t done her wellbeing live video on Facebook this evening and needed to go on right at that minute. Could I go on and that would help her then she’d help me? Sure.

So I watched and the phrase ‘fake it til you make it’ sprung to mind. She was feeling low herself but slapped on a smile. It ended up that none of her usual followers watched so I commented like crazy, and her wellbeing tips consequently helped me. We messaged each other to check in and I then spent 45 minutes trying to get my step count up, music playing in the background, as I tidied the room as much as I could. By 10.15pm, the room’s tidier, I can see the desk, and I feel ready to face tomorrow. The music really lifted my spirits. Never underestimate connecting with others, be that via a blog, vlog, Facebook live video which you could comment on (or not), a text, a call, anything. Just reach out. It’s been a recurring theme throughout our journey across the country.

It may seem like I’m padding now because I’ve not done many steps. Well, na-na-nah-na-na-nah! Sorry folks but I’ve just spent 75 minutes kitchen walking. During my walking period not only have I been typing this but I’ve iced a cake too – amazing what you can do at the same time. Who says I can’t multi-task?

And so, as we continue up through Scotland, there’s not a lot more I can tell you to add to yesterday because I’m passing through the middle of the Grampion Mountains at one of the lowest points, so all around me it’s the steep rises of this giants and nothing more.

As I arrive in Pitagowan, like a complete anomaly in the middle of nowhere, a shopping village sits, selling all manner of clothes. This is The House of Bruar, classed as ‘refined rural’. I quite like that phrase. This isn’t your go for hike gear. These are your Barbour jackets that could set you back £319 each. I could get myself a souvenir tartan scarf if I had a spare £70. I think I’ll let the wind chill my neck a bit longer, especially as I could a whole cashmere blanket for another £30. The cake isn’t badly priced and you know me and cake. No brainer really…

I’m not going to walk much further this evening as it is bed time and I want to go up on a high before feeling exhausted and miserable again. As I crawl a few more paces along the road, the chill is creeping in. It’s 7 degrees but this is Scotland and the ‘feels like’ forecast says -4. The Struan Inn is up ahead. It says they do rooms. I can be warm overnight. Hip hip hooray! Sadly, they haven’t got any availability, so resign myself to crawling into the thermals and crawling inside the tent. There’s a lovely campsite next door though called Calvine Holiday Park, and oh wait, what’s this? They’ve a spare holiday lodge I can borrow for the night. Well, it would be rude not to!

DAY 111
(21st April 2021)

Cloudy this morning but the sun is trying to peek out from behind the clouds. Disturbed sleep through the night but I soon get the energy levels up. Despite thinking I’d sorted everything for youth club restarting tonight, emails and texts are arriving in my inbox so I’m back on sorting things again.

Having cleared this quickly enough, it’s on to dealing with Pensions and all the fun admin that makes up a day. I jest of course but it has to be done. Really pleased to have had another client enquiry today. Always exciting to start working with another young person.

It suddenly dawns on me that we haven’t got new cleaning materials for youth club tonight and it’s too late to contact anybody else, plus I haven’t any yoghurt and I fancy some. I also need a walk, so off I trundle on a very long walk. For part of it I speak to my friend and we have a lovely chat, before she has to cut the call short. I always find when I talk to her I end up walking further as I get distracted, in a good way. The downside was a wasp flying into my face which sent the anxiety level up for the rest of the walk.

This walk means that after a comfortable night’s sleep in my cabin, I’m heading through the mountains again. Directly opposite and nestled in the hillside are the Falls of Bruar, a series of waterfalls fed from the Bruar water and referenced in a Robert Burns poem. They’ve been visited by tourists since the 18th century. If I’d have made it a little further up the road last night, I’d have ended up camping at a small pitch site by the side of the river. There’s one photo somebody has taken of the wild site and it’s quite pretty, but certainly basic.

I reach home and continue to work on a new exciting project that I’m creating. I’m really looking forward to it. As it stands, I not only have my clients and youth club restarting, but three ongoing training courses, all of my writing projects, and two new major projects as well. I know how to keep busy.

I reach a point where I hit that exhaustion wall and I know that if I’m to manage leading youth club this evening I need to take a break, so armed with some meditation music, I lay on the bed, and drift off into a land of all manner of places. It was lovely and 20 minutes later I felt re-energised. I don’t claim to be the master of meditation. It’s perhaps more being mindful and resting more than getting ‘deep’ with it, but those 20 minutes of trying to clear the mind and focus on nothing really make a huge difference. I scoffed dinner then headed off for what I anticipated to be a 45 minute journey with the traffic starting to increase on the roads again but pleasantly surprised to get there in 25 minutes tonight.

The sessions ran smoothly. We’ve got two back to back sessions with a younger group and an older group. Masks, sanitiser, and temperature checks are all in place, as well as social distancing. The young people excelled themselves and really proved that they know what they are doing, better than many adults that I encounter.

What went down especially well was the new wellbeing room we have created with a plethora of sensory equipment, fishy bubble lamps, and more. It used to be my office but no more. Far better use of the space.

I find by the end of the evening I’ve managed to walk about two and a half miles around the building, which is surprising considering how small it is but I like to be active and seen, and there’s lots of tidying in between the two groups as well. With a few kitchen steps before bed, I’ve walked 10 miles today, which has really caught me up well.

As before, there’s not a great deal that I can add about the route at this point, other than it is mountainous views as far as the eye can see. Tonight, I’m definitely in the tent as there’s no buildings for miles. I’m near the A9, also a train track which doesn’t really look like it goes anywhere, and not far from Loch Garry. Many of the online images show that snow is a frequent visitor to these high parts of the country. It’s sub-zero tonight. Very cold.

Something to warm the heart though is a new enquiry has been received for someone wanting to join youth club and a friend has received an award for her dedication to Scouting. What an amazing way to end the evening. Not only that, I’ve now less than 200 miles to go!

DAY 112
(22nd April 2021)

Another great start to the day in Oxford and I’m due out this morning to meet an old work colleague. She runs her own jewelry business now, making items out of silver. Amazingly detailed and she now has a pop-up shop in town. I take a stroll through the parks, the sun beating down and warming my body, and meet her at the shop. It’s great to see her products on display.

We decide to grab a drink now that restrictions allow us to do so outside and find a quiet spot in town where this is possible. We had a lovely time talking about work and life in general and it was really pleasant, especially with free refills.

As we head back through town, I feel the anxiety building. I was foolish not to put my mask back on and the crowds have built substantially, ridiculously so, and I’m starting to get a little nervous, not because of the crowds in general, but more because of the Covid risk still. Having parted company, I walk back home feeling very silly and quite worried with all manner of dreadful Covid related thoughts running through my mind. The thing is, yes, I’ve been jabbed but the risk is still real, and there are many people who seem to think that we do not need to socially distance anymore. I did what I could to keep apart from them as I walked back through the streets, but it was extremely difficult. I do wish other people would try as well. I started to slip into the mindset that it’s easier to be at home and never go out and nobody should feel like that.

Walking into, around, and back from town has pushed me on further along the Scottish roads. Waking from the tent by the Loch, ahead is Ben Alder, the highest mountain in the area. Those wanting to climb it will usually manage it in two days. You’re lucky if you get the good Bothy to stop in, otherwise the only other one is closed due to asbestos. Don’t stop there. The novel Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson is set here, so maybe worth a look if you’re feeling fit enough. I might stay on ground level and admire the view from here though.

The road I’m on is a long one and there’s not a lot else to see still. No attractions at this point, although there is the familiar sight of a brown ‘attraction’ sign ahead so I’m looking forward to seeing what that is when I finally get there.

Following lunch and then another successful class and a Facebook LIVE today, dinner was had before another walk was on the books to get the miles up. We travelled all over the local area and it was an enjoyable walk, around the back of the hospital once more, and we saw the sun set. I needed to do two miles back at home but that’s about 35 minutes walking now which was enough to type up today’s report. Destination kitchen hob.

As bedtime beckons, I settle down in Dalwhinnie, a tiny village in the Highlands, whose name means meeting place. Apt perhaps that the Dalwhinnie Distillery is here then where for lunch we may have a dram. It’s reportedly one of the coldest villages in the whole of the UK with average temperatures dwindling a few degrees above zero throughout the year. For those into their whisky, the tipple here is quite a heathery one, not surprising for the area I suppose. A tour of the Distillery starts at £14 and one of their most popular blends, the Talisker, can be purchased with two glasses for around £55. Anybody fancy a souvenir of our journey together? If we can keep it safe then perhaps there’s a toast for the end of the route. Either that or it will warm the cockles as we continue along through this cloudy and chilly day. The temperature may be up but it still feels colder due to being further from the equator.

Although only a small village of about fifty houses, they have their own train station which reminds me of the traditional old Victorian looking stations out in the countryside that often appear in films. Opened in 1863 the line is still going strong although just a couple of weeks ago a train derailed further down the line from where we’ve just come from, and part of the line had to be closed. Being a small station and serving a small population, there are only ten trains a day and six on Sunday.

There was two or three places I could stayed the night in Dalwhinnie, I opt to continue a little way and pitch the tent. I have to get the miles in and so, as my eyes grow weary, I end up at the very edge of a quarry. Literally. I think if I’d moved the tent pegs a little more to the left I’d have been in the water. The road next to me is called General Wade’s Military Road, and it appears that there are a few of these across Scotland.

They were constructed in the 18th century to ‘bring order to a part of the country which had risen up in the Jacobite rebellion of 1715 (Wikipedia). Many of these roads still exist and this one I am on follows closely to Wade’s original version so there are lots of straight section, however, it has lots of sharp bends, one I’ve just passed in particular is like a horseshoe, doubling back on itself, and these are highly dangerous and have been the cause of many accidents over the years. I’ll be careful as I step out of the tent in the morning and begin Week 17. Temperature tonight is a balmy 1 degree.

I’ve noticed that the further north I go the less photos I seem to be able to get anywhere online.

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