Tag Archives: Scotland

A Soul-Feeding Memory

Ever since ceasing to blog about my cancer journey I have not had much to say. I had the book, ‘Lest I Forget – Blogging A Cancer Journey’, published but have not checked to see if anyone else has enquired about it.  I had contacted Maggie’s Centre about posting a link to it but, although they apologised for ignoring me initially, and promised to do something about it, they then proceeded to ignore me again (!) so now I cannae be boverred either.
My umph has gone awol despite the energy levels themselves being better, and I felt very low at Christmas, verging on being Depessed, but I’m bouncing back again slowly .

Anyway ….. a wee story about my soul being fed 45 years ago ….

On a gallivant today, as we were approaching the Clyde tunnel, a memory once again popped into my head and, as I was contemplating it I realised that what happened then probably could not occur nowadays. Or at least I think not.

What came back to me was a trip to take my car to a garage which resulted in my getting lost and experiencing wonderful hospitality from a Glesgae wifey. I don’t know exactly when it was but it must have been late 1972 or  very early 1973 because I was accompanied by a young Scottish woman also living in the house in Grangemouth where we had a furnished room/kitchen above a taxi firm, and we had moved from there by then. My 4year old daughter must have been with me too, but I do not have any recollection of that.  ( I should add, that I have a very poor memory due partially to having grand mal epilepsy from 1957 to 1990 . I was allowed to drive from 1971 as the fits were nocturnal.)

The only photo I can find showing me about 25 year old.

The only photo I can find showing me about 25 year old.

At the time I had a white Reliant Regal called Reggie.  I assume I was driving across Glasgow to this place because it was a Reliant specialist garage. They were few and far between and I know that a couple of years earlier, we drove all the way from Stockport to Tamworth because that was the only place able to replace a faulty gear.

Anyway, in those days maps did exist of course (!) but I used to just set off and hope to see road signs. I have no idea what directions, if any apart from the address, I had been given but – if there were some – they proved useless, and I found myself going through said Clyde Tunnel, then back again, and again.  It’s embedded in my head that I went through the tunnel three times before it dawned on me to try to contact my destination but logically it would need to be four times.

So, deciding enough was enough ……I drove into a council estate.  This panicked my friend, due to the ‘reputation’ these areas had in Glasgow, but I was completed unfazed (because of complete naivety, not bravery), so I parked, looked for telephone lines going to houses then knocked on a door.   Lord knows what I said to the occupant but it must have been along the lines of “I’m lost so may I use your telephone?”

We were invited indoors and while I found the number and made my call, the middle-aged-cum-elderly lady, (I was 25 so she just seemed old to me), brought in a tray with tea and freshly made scones and jam.  We were very grateful as we had been travelling fruitlessly for quite a few hours by then and I know they were delicious.    I remember the man at the other end of the phone was not too pleased with me and told me I was far too late now.  I think he gave me directions but I actually cannot recall if I went there that day, (after tea and scones of course!) or if I took Reggie another day or if my husband had time off work to do it.    All that is blank, as is everything else about the incident, but I suspect the latter to be honest.

What I DO remember as clear as anything is my friend’s complete confustication about what she thought was my arrogance and downright cheek, and her heartfelt, head-shaking comment to the lady has stayed with me ever since …..”They bloody English will get a jeely piece at anyone’s door!”   My friend’s bewildered statement comes back to me whenever I see the Clyde tunnel and, although I never knew the estate lady’s name or remembered anything else about her, I am forever in awe of the wonderful hospitality she had shown to a complete stranger.

The main point that occurred to me today was that it probably wouldn’t happen to young drivers nowadays with SatNav to guide them to their destinations, and mobile phones to make communication so much easier if they do get lost, but in a way it’s a shame .   This incident didn’t teach me anything about tackling journeys – I still used the “there’ll be road signs” method for years afterwards and got infamously lost many more times – it was only after many, many, many years that I started to put brain in gear as well.   However, it did introduce me to the kindness of strangers , and I have been very lucky to have had similar encounters quite a few times to feed my soul.

Maybe a couple of stories there too.

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.

The Devil and The Angel

This last week has been a strange one. I’ve spent the last four weeks feeling frustrated and pissed off by the waiting for my surgery,  yet a week ago at my assessment appointment everything changed when I had two of those devil/angel shoulder moments .  While still waiting to see the nurse consultant my ‘shoulder-devil’ prompted me to moan (yet again) “I still have a whole week to wait, a whole bloody week!”. Then not long afterwards when discussing the sorting/culling needing done at my flat before going into hospital my ‘shoulder angel’ elicited from me the remark “blimey, I’ve only got a week to do it”.    Honestly!

Not long afterwards the pair were at it again. The wee devil bemoaning the fact that I will be surrendering myself to the knife which will cause me pain, followed almost immediately with the realisation that I willing did precisely that when I underwent tattooing – twice!    Now come on – getting rid of cancer is a hell of a lot more justifiable reason for submitting oneself to a bit of pain than is a pretty butterfly skin decoration!
So – ever since then I have felt completely differently.   I am relaxed about the surgery and I feel calm about needing to take a back seat for a bit activity-wise.  I must add though that the tremendous support, encouragement and sheer love being shown towards me by friends has been totally overwhelming.   How could I not be inspired to overcome whatever is ahead.

12006457_10205152998484487_9828867155707189_oMy wonderful partner fed my soul by taking me to the Scottish Highlands on two consecutive weekends. I am a very lucky girl.

Don’t Stop Believing

The last ‘Feeding The Soul’ blog I wrote was two years ago.   I didn’t do any ‘real walking’ in 2013 but earlier this year my friend Debbie and I starting walking together again and the main reason for my re-starting the blog  is because one walk in particular made me start believing in myself again.  Prior to that, I had started having my doubts about my fitness, especially after the year’s break.

Anyway, in January we went along the Union Canal from Linlithgow to Philpstoun and back. Neither of us had taken sustenance as we fondly believed there was a café just under half way along.  We saw the café after about four miles but were full of vim and vigour so decided just to call on the way back.  Huh!  Like a silly so-and-so I was wearing jeans (which no sensible walker does if rain is threatened), and on that return journey the heavens opened.  This resulted in my being the wettest I had experienced for a very, very, very long time, with utterly sodden legs trailing water behind me.  We were still in good spirits though because we always make the best of whatever the weather throws at us, but we were sooo desperately needing a hot drink – only to discover the aforementioned café was closed for refurbishment!  It certainly taught us never to rely on buying food and drink on a walk ever again!   Left pic: view from the canal before the rain.    Right pic: a sight no drowned walker wants to see.










In February  we tested the newly opened John Muir Way from Bo’ness to South Queensferry, starting with the weather a bit driech but cheering up nicely .  It is a lovely walk along the coast with varied terrain and the finish at the bridges made a perfect ending as we sojourned in The Hawes Inn waiting for Debbie’s husband, Martyn, to collect us. Left pic: Debbie at Bo’ness at the start of the walk.  Right pic: Debbie at South Queensferry at the end of the walk.









April saw us tackling Kilsyth to Falkirk, a longer section of the John Muir Way.  Debbie’s husband drove us to the start and my partner, Walter and our friend, Sid, met us at the Falkirk Wheel to drive us home.  Again we had a very enjoyable walk, meeting friendly folk along the way, with a lovely ending at the Falkirk Wheel.  Mind you,  the start was a bit fraught when Martyn couldn’t find Kilsyth, and his SatNag took him off the motorway to spend 3/4 hour traversing back roads to rejoin the motorway 10 miles on – but, hey ho, it all adds to the great tapestry of life – or so I’m told.  Pic above: The start of the walk at Kilsyth marina.  Pic below: The finish of our walk at the Falkirk Wheel.


We had a few adventures/silly incidents on all our walks, which we giggled our way through.  Laughter is a great energy booster.

Now, walking along the canal was ‘safe’ for me insofar as long as I was on the flat I was fine, never having any problems with my legs, even after 15 miles.  However, I was very cautious about coping with much of an ascent because I had problems breathing deeply enough to power my body uphill – or at least that’s what it felt like to me.  However, although the low-level walks fed the soul to a certain extent, there was something missing when we were not actually in the hills, so we both knew that we had to go up again.


Anyway, in May we went up Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh. I was really struggling with my breathing – half a dozen steps…stop – half a dozen steps….stop – until we met up with Walter and Sid , who had approached from another direction.  Before meeting the boys on the plateau, Debbie and I had already been to the summit and back (albeit with me panting away and scarlet-faced), but I was so thrilled that Walter had managed to climb the hill, that there was nae problem at all going back to the summit with him and, lo and behold, all signs of difficulty breathing had vanished.  Pic: The four of us at the summit of Arthur’s Seat.

I began to accept then that my so-called breathing problems were ‘in my head’ and the crunch came when in August, Debbie and I decided to go up Scald Law, the highest hill in the Pentlands.    I parked at Flotterstone and we began by walking alongside the reservoirs – a gentle way to get the body working.  2014augPENT-1  We had a couple of false starts which added to the overall distance and amount of ascent but also greatly increased the fun. First we missed the turnoff for Scald Law and went around another mile or so before meeting another walker who told us where we had gone wrong.  We retraced our steps and set off at long last for yer ackshual ‘ills.  Left pic: Glencorse reservoir. Right pic: the correct place to turn up to Scald Law.2014augPENT-5 When we got to a bealach we went left, but half way that hill up Debbie noticed that the one on the other side of said bealach was higher – hence that had to be Scald Law.   2014augPENT-hangONSo, off we went down again – climbed up to that higher summit then back down and up the first one again, (that being Carnethy).  I can go at a fair walking speed on the flat but an experienced hillwalking friend had advised me to take it a lot steadier on any ascents – slowly, slowly catchee monkey – and it worked,  I was able to pace myself much better, albeit at half Debbie’s pace.  It was a lovely day and we eventually did all three – Scald Law, Carnethy and Turnhouse – loving every minute.  Right pic: “whoops, we should be on that one”.  First below left: Me on the summit of Scald Law.  Second below left: Me on Carnethy. Right below: Debbie with ‘walker hair’ .  Next two right pics: view across the hills and view across the town from Turnhouse.





Well, “loving every minute” until we came “the other way down” (being straight down a steep tussocky hillside, wading through a Burn and crawling under a fence – none of which is to be recommended). This meant that I used every ounce of energy my little legs possessed, which resulted in their refusing to work properly for a few days afterwards, but hey! the breathing was ok.  I was not sure exactly where we were when we finally reached the minor road leading to the reservoirs so I stood, arms akimbo, in front of an approaching car. ( I tell you – for a few seconds Debbie and I both thought he wasn’t going to brake. ) The desperado action was to make the driver stop just so I could ask directions, but the kind chap offered us a lift to the car park which we gratefully accepted.   I had to bite my tongue when he started going on about women not being any good with maps, but then his car the last place for me to deliver a lecture on feminism considering that a) we had just come down a hill the most ridiculous way  and b) I had stopped him to ask directions.  Let’s face it, I didn’t have had a leg to stand on metaphorically, morally or even literally at that moment!   After a well earned rest at Flotterstone Inn  I managed to drive Debbie home to Linlithgow, but on my own way back to Livingston, my legs finally gave up the ghost and cramped badly, meaning driving became a little scary – luckily I was on quiet back roads.  I was totally spent but happy.  2014augPENT-susSLEEPRight pic: Me the following day , my system going into ‘auto-recovery mode’  at every opportunity – this one at Knockhill car-racing course.
That walk in the Pentlands was my cathartic moment referred to at the beginning of this blog.  The distance we had walked, and the overall ascent covered on the three (and a half) hills in the Pentlands, was a “Munro’s worth” , so that made me start believing in myself again – hence the title.  Therefore, a couple of days later when Debbie asked me about taking part in doing a Munro for the Skye Whisky Challenge to raise funds for Mountain Rescue, I immediately agreed.

We chose to climb Schiehallion on 22nd September.  I completely underestimated how difficult that mountain would be.  Although I knew there was a boulder field leading to the summit, I did not realise it covered so much of the mountain.  There are umpteen false summits too.Schiehallion-002-2    There is a good stony path up the ridgeback  but it vanishes at the boulder field.  I had forgotten to take my stick out of the car and was really missing it as I walked up.  I happened to comment about this as a few people went past me going down, then to my absolute astonishment a lovely thing happened. The lady of a couple who were both using sticks said she too would be lost without hers,  then moments later she called me back and insisted I take one of theirs!  Naturally I declined because there was no way I would get back down in time to return it to them, but the man came up to me and made me take it, saying that they had more in the car and that I really would need it later.  How kind was that!   I didn’t ask their names so I will never be able to thank them.   As I said, the path is fine for a good length of the way and afterwards it is not that difficult to work out a route, but I found the later terrain to be ultra challenging.  It’s not too bad for those with long legs and good balance because they can use the big boulders like stepping stones, albeit with occasionally loose ones, but for folk like me with short legs and a dodgy sense of balance it was a laborious job of picking a way around and over the boulders.    I was so grateful for that stick!  I honestly don’t think I would have managed without it, especially on the ‘everlasting’ boulder field.




Anyway, three hours after we had started (!) and a few hundred yards from the final summit, I knew that I had to stop in order to have enough strength in my legs not only to get down the mountain but to drive the two and a half hour journey home as well.  Debbie continued by herself to bag her first Munro and photograph the Skye Whisky Challenge flag and a Yes flag at the summit cairn.   I never took any photos on the way up or down this mountain – I was too busy concentrating  hard on where to put my feet.  However, I did get a few snaps with my mobile phone while I was waiting for Debbie   – unfortunately they are not that clear but believe me the pic on the left of the summit really does have Debbie waving from the top!  The other has Debbie waving her flags on her way back to where I was waiting.

Created with Nokia Smart Cam

We  were both more than chuffed with our achievements – Debbie for bagging her first Munro and me for getting back out there again.  pic above: we celebrated with a selfie.  Despite six hours of really hard terrain and my legs beginning to shake on the descent, I was absolutely fine afterwards – no stiffness or aching.  My breathing was a bit tight at first but perfectly ok most of the time, though admittedly I was probably moving at a quarter of the pace needed for effective hill-walking.  We are planning more Munros now I have started believing in myself again – possibly Ben Ledi or Ben Venue at the end of October .  All that remains is for me to get back the voice I lost in 2010 – but that’s another story.

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.

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


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.