Tag Archives: nature

The “Fun” Begins

Well, this is “fun”  ……    Some side effects have kicked in, and I use that phrase advisedly.
I had great energy on Friday and Saturday with no sign at all of having had toxins pumped into me during my first chemotherapy session on Thursday, but on a wee walk on Sunday things began to change.
I am a good walker, so, even though I knew my fitness would have been compromised by the four operations in the past few weeks, I was a bit surprised at feeling depleted after about a mile and half over flat ground, but didn’t assume it meant much.

Linlithgow Loch has a circular, and flat, walk of 2.3 miles.

Linlithgow Loch has a circular, and flat, walk of 2.3 miles.

My partner, our fellow ‘Intrepid’ and I were having a good day out with plenty of laughter as per usual, and I felt confident that all was right with my world, feeding my soul on the simple beauty of the Loch . The peace of mind that comes with being outdoors and having fun with great friends is the best therapy for any malaise in my opinion.
Later in the evening I started getting weird crampy feelings in my feet which developed into lots of achy but sharp twinges in my legs as well. My first reaction to the cramping was to describe it as being like neuralgia but at the same time it still felt muscular. Perhaps ‘weird’ is the closest description – almost as though I could feel something travelling inside them.
It was making me twitch as the twinge aches got stronger, which became very disconcerting and I had a bad night sweat.
All day yesterday it was the same with occasional, additional  feelings of weakness in my legs, then in the late evening the sensations were also in my hand and occasionally my abdomen .
We read the Cancer Treatment Guidelines from the start, which have a traffic light system to advise patients.  We were carefully monitoring my temperature, ticking (or not) the descriptions of the various symptoms, and I still seemed in the ‘green column’ but, as the symptoms increased, (I started feeling shivery yet being hot to the touch despite my temperature being normal), we realised it had changed to amber, so I rang the cancer helpline as instructed.

The upshot was I was referred to St Johns Hospital, arriving just after 1am.  The assistant advised me to take things for an overnight stay, just in case – ooh, this was getting seriously ‘fun’ now.
The doctor took all the obs and gave me a thorough check-over then, when my blood test results came back okay, I was allowed home at 3am with the proviso that if there was any further concern I contact them again immediately.  Actually, to my great relief, the symptoms had died down quite a lot during that period, so it was fine by me not to be staying overnight.
The annoying sharp twinges have not returned but, when resting, my legs and feet are still aching as though I have walked 20 miles, and when I do walk there’s a really weird sensation inside them.

I loved the premise of the cartoon film ‘Inside Out’ with all the wee characters being involved with one’s emotions and memories, and  can imagine demented little Pacman type thingies running round my veins chasing white cells to destroy.  By gum, they are clumsy little buggars .   I can only hope this “fun” is temporary.

A Bit Of A MishMash

This blog is a bit of a mishmash with no proper overriding theme, but perhaps the almost-theme is little things meaning a lot.
Oct 23. I’ve been home a week now. The day after I was discharged we lost electricity.  We were offered hotel accommodation but we decided to stay home because we still had light and one socket by which we could brew up, charge phones etc.   So many little things couldn’t be done – by gum, don’t they all start meaning a lot!  We don’t realise how many things depend on electrical power until it’s not there.  A temporary fix was done the next day and a major repair will take place next week when once again we will be without power for a day.

It was a good job we stayed home because at 6.30am on the following day my nephrostomy wound started bleeding and I got the awful dread that Groundhog Day was back again. However, all was well eventually and it has been stable ever since, with just two days when there were tiny spots of blood from the wound. The drain has been working well and I’ve been peeing too, so I can be content that the left kidney is taking its share of the work. It’s funny how things like how much one pees and what colour it is, all start to matter and be worthy of remark. ( Pale amber aka ‘white wine’ is best ye ken.) Little things mean a lot.

Bodily functions dontarf gain in importance. When I was recovering from the first surgery I was in a lot of pain in my back and my abdomen became distended and hard. The former was as a result of damage to my ureter (see other blogs) and the latter because of trapped wind and toxins. Once I had a nephrostomy my kidney pain was eased and to my great joy I started farting which made such a massive difference to the rest.  Lesson from all that: never underestimate the importance of getting rid of flatulence folks – little farts mean a lot too. I reported it with great delight in texts to my partner and to the surgical team on their morning ward round – much to their amusement.

Small actions of support can be so valuable too. For instance, when I was first diagnosed, my partner immediately suggested we go for a drive to the Highlands, something which never fails to lift my spirits. When I am amongst the hills and the trees and the clouds and the water and oh! just absorbing this wonderful land of ours, my soul is fed and cares reduced.  11039845_10204965326752811_3696481917482359627_o

Feeding my soul in the Highlands.

 

 

 

 

How do I feel about the chemotherapy? Buggered if I really know. My first reaction was to be relieved that at least now I know what is ahead, the waiting was definitely the worst part. My second thought was to be very concerned about being sick – about which I was reassured – apparently nausea is not as much of an issue as it used to be, thank goodness.. I was not too worried about the idea of losing my head hair, although eyebrows and lashes could be tricky. I hope it means that my budding moustache and beard will go too and save all that pecky plucking (!).  That’ll be a little thing meaning a lot to me.  Since then have read more about the possible, and probable side effects, and it’s all very daunting, but with support from folk who have been through it themselves and others who will do their damndest to help, it should be do-able.  Allowing myself to get depressed would seem almost like letting them down, but sometimes staying strong is not easy.

One thing I am certain about is that I want to be rid of the external drain before starting the treatment. It’s a real nuisance having a bag of urine strapped to my leg (!), fitting clothes over the extra padding to protect the drain from getting knocked, and not being able to get comfortable in bed or in a chair – so I don’t want to be messing with that when I am feeling no-too-very-weel from the chemo. That may be a little thing to others but means a lot to me.

The main feeling at the moment is one of running on quarter power. It’s as though part of my umph-supply has been turned off. It’s probably a good thing because it seems to be preventing me from getting stir-crazy, but I am so very unused to not really being that bovvered about much.  Ach weel, I suppose my little things are going to have to mean enough for now.

“How are you?” “Fine Thanks”

” Hello, how are you?” say the cheery bank teller, checkout lady, bus driver and many drama bods. “Fine thanks” say I .   Well , let’s face it, one can’t very well answer “just diagnosed with Grade 3 cancer” can one, especially when the questioner is just being polite.  In any case, I AM fine.   I am actually probably physically fitter now than I have been for a good few years – the irony is not lost on me.   I am fine, honest, I’m not just ‘being brave’.

Since Monday’s diagnosis, when my wee world imploded on me, I’ve been totally fine for a few minutes every hour when I was being distracted by a Fringe show or something, but it was not long before my brain flicked back to this greedy thing inside my womb.  I can’t claim to have been worrying about it per se but my brain was going over all sorts of things,  drafting random ramblings in my head, almost as if I were blogging. (!)  It was as if there was a little engine chugging away trying to get my brain in gear.  As with a dream, despite being clear at the time, few thoughts were able to be recalled afterwards, though I know some were predicated on the fact I have good genes so expected to live another twenty-odd years, after recovering from pneumonia and getting the all-clear after breast cancer.

However, something happened yesterday – Friday.  I wasn’t aware of any reason in particular, but I suddenly felt quieter inside, as though that little whirring engine noise had switched off.  It’s as though my brain has finally processed what’s happening so is now just getting ready for whatever lies ahead.  Maybe this is all par for the course, and my state of mind-cum-emotions will fluctuate often – I don’t know.  All remains to be seen.

I’m aware of the ‘blogger mode’ thingy-wotsit in my brain is still chundling away,  but its effect is different, I don’t feel ‘boverred’ by it as I was earlier in the week.  In particular, I feel far calmer about my decision to step down temporarily from some of my drama responsibilities in order to give myself a less-stressed few months.  Luckily this is the ideal time to hand over – after the Fringe and before the organisation of the following year’s one-act festival starts – so whomever stands in for me will not be thrown in at the deep end right away.

A very supportive friend referred to cancer patients as having a war to face which consists of many smaller battles. One has to make sure one’s army is in the best possible condition for the skirmishes ahead, there being no point asking them to fight if they are undernourished and/or tired. This wee scenario of the fighting force preparing to do battle with cancer for me really appealed  because it chimed exactly with the theme of the recent film ‘Inside Out’ which had quite an effect on me. (I’m a simple wee soul really) . There’s a place for Fear and Anger but I’ll just keep them both busy with trivialities like world politics so that they don’t have time to bother me much.  I dare say Disgust will get a larger role, especially if I do have chemo which makes me sick ( I cannot stand vomit – urrrgh!).  I accept that Sadness has her role to play, but Joy will continue to be in charge at my control panel, strengthened when I go feeding my soul w11039845_10204965326752811_3696481917482359627_oith Scotland’s wonderful nature and refuelled from the support of my partner and friends.

So, I might have cancer but I’m fine really, just fine, how are you?

Wheelly, wheelly scary stuff

See that phrase “It’s like riding a bike – you never forget” ?? Huh! That is SO not true!   I never rode a bike as a child (yet another totally unnecessary  restriction imposed on me because of having epilepsy) and don’t  recall any particular trauma learning for the first time in my early 30s, but I do know my bike didn’t have gears and I never went far.

I didn’t cycle again for another decade and getting used to it that time round was horrendously traumatic.  Eventually I coped and my late husband and I went on cycle tracks all over Scotland and a couple in England.  I managed the gears OK though was never too keen on anything very steep, and could even signal (!) but very rarely went in traffic .   I loved the Sustrans tracks where there was a scupture every mile – it made the rides so enjoyable.  I have such fond memories of those journeys.  Here are some scanned images from those days – Cycle Route 75 .  I had forgotten where the foot soldiers and centurion could be found but a friend told me they are between Bridge of Weir and Kilmacolm .  The other one was taken the same day but I’m not sure exactly where.

We did a lot of the long distance tracks in all seasons.  I used to go shopping occasionally with panniers on the bike and have toured along English waterways, again with panniers and with a rucksack on my back – so I did get fairly competent.  We highered my saddle over the months until I could cope with just toes on the ground which made pedalling more physically economical.  By gum, I need my full feet firmly on the ground now and cannae even push off, I have to scoot to get going!  That is what hurt me so much when I found myself back to square one when it came to riding this last time.  Thank goodness for two albums of photos proving that I had been on these trips – otherwise it would seem like I was completely havering.  I suppose that was my biggest problem – it hit me really hard when I realised I had lost so much confidence that it belied the belief in my own history and memories.

You see I had a very nasty fall from my bike early 1999 on the Bathgate to Airdrie cycle track – out in the middle of nowhere.   Although I had to get back on my bike to cycle back to my car thence drive myself to hospital – I  hadn’t ridden since. I did not realise how severely I’d been affected by the accident until a few months ago when my partner decided to get a bike.  I knew I would need to get back in the saddle if I was to join him but when  I accompanied him to the bike shop I felt physically sick and had palpatations – just in the shop – how pathetic is that!   I tried to brazen it out and get back in control by getting my bike serviced but inside I was terrified.  Anyway, another friend told us about cycling training sessions being run for older folk by Ageing Well at Meadowbank so we registered for them and went along. (It puts a whole new perspective on ‘recycled teenagers’ ) .
The tutors understand how hard it is to get back to cycling after decades away from it and take things from absolute basics. I borrowed one of their small bikes and spent ages just scooting with it before being able to pedal but, once I did, I was proper chuffed and thoroughly enjoyed myself.  At home I enthusiastically got my bike out of the shed but I couldn’t even mount – I was completely inhibited by it.  So….I decided to buy a folding bike like my partner’s, so it’d be convenient to carry in the car and more importantly, easier for me to ride by having a smaller frame.

At Meadowbank the following week  I reverted to feeling very stressed by the effort of cycling with my new bike but I kept control of myself……just.  Walter’s bike got a puncture so he took the chance to get some snaps – here I am attempting to steer round a slalom. (that’s me on RH side in a blue top)

However, gradually my voice was becoming higher pitched again – a sure sign of stress.  I didn’t go back to squeaking but it was noticeably higher.  Then, this last week the tension built up to boiling point and I had to let go.  It might seem embarassing for a 65 year old to be in tears about riding a bike but I wasn’t fazed by that happening per se because I know now that repressing it is what does the damage. Walter was so supportive and the others all understood because they had fears of their own to tackle.  After I had ‘let go’ I did my own thing  rather than join in with the exercises.  The previous week I had so much tension in my arms and hands that it caused quite a lot of discomfort/muscle pain so I practised riding with relaxed hands and very soon I felt a whole lot better.  And low and behold my voice went lower too!

I am fairly sure that next Monday I will be able to ride far more confidently.  In any case I won’t give up – I am determined to conquer this.  It may be wheelly, wheelly scary but there’s only one way round it and that’s to push on through the fear barrier.

Trusting the book

Weds 8 August 2012  –   I had to be back in Edinburgh by 4.30pm because I was performing in a show on the Fringe, so Debbie suggested we just do a little low-level walking instead of heading for a mountain. She had come across a booklet by John Davidson giving detailed descriptions of various walks around the Linlithgow area and proposed number 23, a 5 mile route starting from and returning to the Korean Monument near Torphichen .  She was highly skeptical that the walk  could actually be ‘strenuous’ as he classed it, (well both of us were doubtful I admit),  after all, the hills were really just pimples with only a tiny amount of ascent.

I left Edinburgh earlier than initially planned thanks to an unexpected telephone call which got me out of bed, so we were able to set off from Linlithgow pretty sharpish. The route was to be Korean monument / Witches Craig / Cairnpapple / The Knock / then back to Witches Craig and the Korean monument via Wairdlaw. We decided we would trust the book and follow his route conscientiously rather than devising any shortcuts.

According to http://www.scottish-places.info/features/featurefirst10318.html the “small wooden pagoda is surrounded by 110 Korean pine trees (one for every ten Britons who died in the conflict), 1090 Birch trees (one for each of the fallen) and picnic tables along a pathway named United Nations Avenue. This avenue is surrounded by 21 trees, representing the twenty-one nations involved in the UN force in Korea. The traditional Korean pagoda contains lists of those who died in the conflict, the vast majority of whom were young National Servicemen. Maintained by the Scottish Korean War Memorial Trust, the site opened on 27th June 2000, marking the 50th anniversary of the start of the war. “

Further up the hill we came across the Witches Craig wall which is made up of rocks from all over Scotland.  Some of the rocks are lettered and details about them given on an information board.  Said board listed rocks lettered A to Q but we saw an R on the ground level.  We couldn’t see any further info though. There were three seats set into the wall but, apart from both taking a photo opportunity, we didn’t have much use for them – tough walkers like us didn’t need to sit down – hmmm!

Set into a wall nearby was the Refuge Stone  –  According to http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/post/24270/refuge_stones_of_west_lothian.html .  “ ‘Sanctuary Stones’ were at one time common in Scotland, mainly around large religious sites. Once a miscreant had entered within the bounds marked by these stones, he was considered ‘safe’ and could not be touched by civil law. It was then up to the religious experts to decide if he should be cast out! These stones were often of megalithic origin, re-used and ‘christianised’ by the incision of religious symbols. ”

From there we followed instructions which took us across a field and through a wood but then we just had to retrace our steps to Witches Cairn.  We were supposed to see something of interest but I confess I forget now what it was to have been and anyway we didn’t find it!  Duh!

We followed the crest then down through fields and woods along quite well defined paths to be stopped at the end of this section by a wire fence .

Debbie could clamber over with a large stride across it but I stood no chance with my  titchy legs .  I tried climbing it (leg over with foot lodged in mesh)  but it was too flexible to hold my weight steady while I lifted over my other leg.  Luckily Debbie spotted that further down it changed to a barbed-wire fence which had room underneath it so I was able to squeeze through there.

Across two minor roads then up a long winding road to Cairnpapple, the 4000 year old  burial mound.  There are steps cut into the side of Cairnpapple Hill to make ascent a doddle.

At the gate to the site I managed to drop the map into a cow pat – as you do.  Luckily it was only a tiny splash so it wiped off fairly easily (I just had to make certain I didn’t use that particular tissue for my nose!).

Sadly it was not open so we couldn’t visit the burial mound itself but we made full use of a bench there for eating our lunch. The site is run by Historic Scotland – http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/index/places/propertyresultsold/propertyabout.htm?PropID=PL_050&PropName=Cairnpapple Hill.

From there we rejoined the road and trundelled along to The Knock.  This road was definitely my least favourite section.

I found this wee video on YouTube – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lT40RUcqDvI –  which shows the views available.   I often make wee films myself but this time just took photos for stitching into panoramas.

I couldn’t find much information about it but according to another blogger – http://www.kimharding.net/blog/?p=330 – “Local rumour has it that this was the site of a coven of witches up until the 17th century. A little to the north you look down on a ring of stones in field which looks like an ancient henge, however it only dates back to 1998 as a birthday present to the farmer from his son.  “

It took us all of four minutes to get up the wee hump but we spent over 15 minutes at the top taking pictures and generally enjoying the views.  Three minutes to get down then off again retracing steps back to Cairnpapple then onwards to the edge of Beecraigs Country Park to Wairdlaw Path.

We saw a lovely well maintained path going in the correct direction so assumed that was it, but a gentleman farmer we met half way along assured us we were erroneously on the way to his farm.

I hadn’t registered that the instructions referred to crossing a stile at that point – double duh!    The track was a matter of inches from the farm path but not exactly that clear to see.    Following  said track we doubled sharply back on ourselves across more fields.  (That was one slightly unfortunate aspect of this route – there was quite a lot of retracing steps and doubling back rather than it being a genuinely circular route.)

We passed the old silver mines on this stretch but there wasn’t time to detour to them . Every now and then during the day Debbie enquired if I thought the route really was “strenuous” but by the time we had reached this point she had stopped asking – the answer being only too apparent!   I received a phone call so she grabbed at the chance to have ‘a wee sit doon’.   We were both  tiring by then to be honest because we had already been walking for 4 hours and were not finished by any means!  (The booklet estimates 3 hours but that is without the stops we took for photos and generally gazing aboot. )

The way was fairly level for a wee while but just as we settled into the level rhythm it changed to 45degrees (the kind of angle where you feel your feet just are not designed to bend up like that) and cruelly it took us up a short but steep stretch back up Witches Craig .   Down to the Korean Memorial and the car – phew!    Was it strenuous?  By gum –  – yes!  One doesn’t have to be scaling the heights for wee treks like this to be challenging.  Most importantly though, there are enormous rewards for making the effort.

And BTW, I did manage to get home for half four in good time to shower and get ready for my show without stressing.  Despite driving for an hour and a quarter and walking for four and a half hours I was fine – adreneline having kicked in by then.

Me as ‘Mrs Gamp’ in a short extract from ‘Martin Chuzzlewit’ in ‘All About Dickens’ with The Mercators.

Not so much a Corbett as a Caw!

Debbie and I had initially planned to go to Ben Ledi near Callander for our next Feeding The Soul trip on Wednesday 25th July and our good friend Sid reckoned he would like to join us.  It had been a long gap of two decades since Sid had done any serious walking and his interest had been aroused by hearing about our recent hill-walking adventures.  (See my other blogs).  However, Debbie was in the middle of moving house so we had to postpone Ben Ledi yet again.  Instead we decided to do a local walk but Sid was still keen to join us.  Upon learning we only going to a wee hill, another friend, Ionwen, also decided to come along with us as a wee test of her fitness while recovering from an illness.

Debbie and I  had planned to go to Cockleroy Hill near Linlithgow a few weeks ago, but as it turned out high winds had caused major tree damage at Beecraigs and many of the  paths were closed.  (See Onwards and Upwards)   We knew it was a popular local beauty spot but knew very little else about it.   This time, as we were aware of the path closures, we opted to start from Balvormie car park at the foot of the hill itself instead of walking through Beecraigs first.

Now then….as all experienced mountaineers and hillwalkers know, it is essential to prepare properly.  I made sure I had all the safety stuff such as compass, first-aid kit and the relevant maps; packed myself a lunch box, bought juices and chocolate bars, ensured I had waterproofs, boots, walking stick, towel, plastic cover, anti-midge spray – all the usual checks for safety in the hills and to cope with the vagaries of Scottish weather.   The anticipation started to rise as the packing took place – yipee,  soul-feeding awaited.

I collected Sid from Edinburgh, then Debbie from Livingston and made my way to Linlithgow.  At the car park we met Ionwen and decanted from car seats to rucsacs .

Gobsmackingly, the weather was fine for a change so I decided to leave my waterproof in the car – adventurous soul that I am!  Debbie and I opted to brave the elements and rely on after-sun if needed, but Sid and Ionwen both lathered on a good layer of sun lotion.  Mind you, he still kept on his fleece (Sid feels the cold).

The way was clearly marked from the carpark.

The path was flooded at the start and was rather muddy for a few yards but undeterred we soldiered on. 

Once out of the wee wood we started up the hill……..

I’d hardly got going again after taking the above start-off shot when I realised my companions were already half way up…….

No sooner had I caught them up than I found we were at the – ahemm – summit!   On the mountains, the Munros or Corbetts, there are often false summits …one thinks one sees the top only to find there’s yet more to climb.    This time it was the opposite – we all looked around frantically to see where the hill continued but no, this was it – this was the top, the heights, the summit, the end of the route.  Aw naw!  Not so much a Corbett as a Caw!

A fellow walker asked me to take a photo of him and his toddler girls who had come running up behind us (NB: ‘toddlers’ !) so after I had obliged, he took one of us.

There are in fact lovely views from the  – ahemm – summit of Cockleroy so I took shots of

The Forth Bridges  

The Pentlands

The iconic viaduct in West Lothian

Grangemouth

A wee ruin close by (don’t know what it is)

The views are certainly rewarding and, after admiring them, I glanced at my watch  to see that  a mere 20 minutes had elapsed since we started so we must have been ‘up’ in ten!!!!  Ten  minutes to the top!!

I stared at the others with embarassed disbelief thinking “But, but, but – I thought I was going to feed my soul……, Oh blimey,  I’ve invited the others for an adventure…….,  Oh bother, I’ve made a packed lunch ……….oh heck – we can’t go back now!” .    I knew we didn’t really have the time to drive further afield to try another ‘proper’ hill, and in any case that wouldn’t have been feasible for Ionwen, but we had to do something else.

I went to the other end of the wee ridge – ( I use ‘ridge’ for want of a better word) – to see if there was another option for us, but was informed by the chappie with the babies that the only other route down was one which annoyed a farmer, so we had no option but to retrace our steps.  Undaunted and determined to get something out of the day, I suggested we have a walk around Beecraigs and the others agreed.

The way to Beecraigs Loch was through a large play park which was packed with kids having a fabulous time on the various equipment.

To digress…. wouldn’t it be a good idea if there were play areas for adults as well?  I think it’d be great if there was equipment for us to swing on or climb up or bounce on – it’d be much better than just hingin’ aboot watching the kids having all the fun and exercise.  Recycled teenagers rock just now but we could be the oldest swingers and sliders as well.

Anyway – on with the story, such as it is – we stopped at the Beecraigs visitors centre to have our lunch – see the photo below of our joyous group revelling in the sheer excitement of the adventure!

( Seriously, this was just an odd  moment – they weren’t like that the rest of the time.   Honest!   )

I never go anywhere without a camera of some sort so at least I got some  snaps  ……….

Fishermen on Beecraigs Loch

Lovely wee flowers near the causeway crossing the loch…

Just an arty-farty shot of the overflow water rushing past……

Greylag goose from a flock feeding alongside the loch

Reflections of Beecraigs Loch…

There has been a lot of damage done to the trees and many have fallen or been chopped down….but there are many new ones being planted.

The walk around the loch is very pleasant and wee Cockleroy Hill presents a gentle introduction to the rewards of making a little effort. My problem with it was just not realising it was so very tiny.  However, when the loch circuit was included,  we had walked about 4 miles, which was a wee challenge for Ionwen and a nice wee break for Debbie, Sid and me, if not exactly demanding.  The weather was perfect for walking – bright but not hot and with a slight breeze – so I admit I was somewhat disappointed not to have gone further and higher, but we always make the best of what we have at the time.  It may not have been quite what I had hoped for but it still did feed the soul, this time with the pleasure of the company of friends.

When ye cannae tak the high road…

When ye cannae tak the high road…

27th June

Huh! Low-lying cloud-cum-fog reduced visibility to 100 yards or so as I drove to my friend Debbie’s house in Livingston but we were living in hope that the weather would be different further north, so off we set for Callander with the intention of climbing Ben Aan.

However, as we passed Loch Venachar (on the route to Loch Achray for Ben Aan), we had to accept that with the cloud base still stupidly low, we were on a hiding to nothing – there really was no point attempting to get up high. So, when ye cannae tak the high road, ye tak the low yun instead!

I had a few printouts of walks in my rucsac, including low level ones,  so we turned back to Callander to find the route listed as “Loch Venachar and the hidden lochan”.  (Yes, I know I said we were at the loch already but that wasn’t where the walking route started . )

We’d started getting eaten alive by midges in the few minutes we were in the layby so our next stop was in Callander to get insect repellent.  Tesco was sold out, but I bought a pack of Mars Bars so the visit wasn’t wasted, and we had a wee walk further into town to the chemists. They were almost sold out too but we snapped up a Jungle Formula roll on and spray and applied it liberally.

We then followed the instructions to find the start of the walk – another huh! in fact triple huh cos we (well I – seeing as it was me driving)  went the wrong way twice (to the amusement of a walker we passed) then when we were finally on the right one we met a humungous lorry coming toward us on a no-passing-places single track road!  (No probs actually – he backed up for me cos I had no room to let him pass.)

Forty-five minutes  after starting to look for the route (!) we eventually located the elusive car park and set off along the forest track.

We were half way up it before I remembered my stick so, by the time I had gone back to the car and caught up again, it was 1pm before we set off in earnest.  Time for a Mars Bar each.

There was a slight wetness in the air – not rain (yet)- more like walking through the edge of low-lying cloud (hmm!), but despite this we both removed our waterproof jackets because the temperature was still quite high and we were uncomfortably warm in them. Near the top of the path we met a young woman from Texas who lives in London and was walking the Rob Roy Way from Aberfoyle .  (Our route followed the unmarked Rob Roy Way for the first section but, as it is unmarked, we wouldn’t have known if it hadn’t been in the said printout). We enjoy talking to other walkers – ships that pass in the night and all that.

From here, according to the description of the 7km walk, there would be “excellent views across the loch to the unfamiliar southern slopes of Ben Ledi”

Hurrumph!

We didn’t mind really – no honest, we really didn’t – the most important thing was to be out in the countryside getting some exercise and just having some “me time” or in our case “her time and me time” .  No two walks are ever the same and we revel in the different weather conditions and terrain.  The path was steepish for a few hundred yards  but soon levelled out through a forest of sitka spruce and led eventually to Lochan Alt a Chip Dhuidh, described as “a secretive sheet of water so well hidden by trees”.  I can’t find a direct translation for it but  based on what little I know of Gaelic, “Allt” means “water”, “Chip” is yet another word for “hill” and “Dhuibh” is “black”.  It certainly did look black  today.   At this point  our “low lying cloud” metamorphosed into actual rain, so on went the jackets. As it happens it had got slightly cooler so we didn’t mind.

The walk through the forest is not challenging but it does have its own beauty with little waterfalls appearing amongst the trees, water-boatmen on the puddles and ducks on the loch.

 The path leads down eventually to “a grand view over Loch Venachar ahead” and joins the tarred path of the National Cycle Network 7 which extends from Carlisle to Inverness.

Now then, Debbie had the route printout at first and confidently told me there was to be a cafe along the return route.  Accordingly we held off stopping for lunch until we got to the alleged cafe.

Another Huh!  My tummy started growling like a lion with a thorn and Debbie’s energy was waning, so I checked the text and discovered it was “views across the loch………new Harbour Cafe on the far shore” . The other side of the loch!!  What on earth possessed the writer to tell us about a cafe we could only look at ?  Talk about cruel and unusual treatment!

So we had another Mars Bar each to give us an energy boost for the final quarter of an hour .  We arrived back at the car at 3pm.  I can’t tell you how chuffed I was to have done the walk in the time quoted in the printout – proving I cannae be that unfit.  And what’s more, every now and then my voice went really low – back to normal in fact.  It reverted to being high but it still proved that the normal voice is there – all it needs is for me to relax.  Once again walking provided food for the soul and worked its magic.

And finally, another view across the loch to  Ben Ledi – – – allegedly. 

We are going to ensure we always have a low level option for each of our planned hillwalks so that, like today, we can still have a great day out in the open in spite of whatever the Scottish weather throws at us.  If ye cannae tak the high road…..