Monday, 26 September 2011

What a Wonderful Place......

Just realised I haven't updated this for a while. It's not for a lack of fantastic trips out onto the fells. Life's zipping by quickly living up here, enjoying this special place and watching the seasons change in front of us.

Autumn is here with a vengeance. You really notice it living in the woods. The colours started to appear several weeks ago and since then, they've changed rapidly and the whole area now has a carpet of leaves.

It's an incredibly beautiful time of year and yet, at the same time, there is some sadness. A week or so ago, the swallows, who have appeared every time I've walked Rufus part a particular field, disappeared, presumably headed for sunnier climes to the south. I'll miss their playful kamikaze flight and their cheerful song.

Similarly, the red kite are well down in numbers. It became such a familiar sight to see them soaring over the tops of the trees. We almost took them for granted. And yet I really notice now they're not there. I spotted one of the buzzards last week though. I heard its call first, and then it came in low over the trees.

The upside is that the roe deer are already more apparent, with one casually nibbling away at the grass over 100 yards from the house in broad daylight. It looked up when I made a noise, but returned to its meal unperturbed!

Running-wise, I feel like I'm getting some fitness back and we've been doing regular weekly speed sessions and plenty of hills. It's a good while since I had any speed and I'm therefore nowhere near what I used to be. But it's coming back, I'm definitely quicker than I was a couple of months ago. We even popped down to a park run on Saturday, to test ourselves over 5k. It's hard to say how it would translate to road time because it was on sodden grass and there was a headwind on the toughest part of the course, but I was under 21 minutes so that's not too bad.

Langdale is upcoming, I'm looking forward to that. I shan't be racing, just looking to pace Kirsten around in a good time. Most importantly, I'll need to keep her at a pace to get through the Esk Hause cut-off. Once past there, she'll fly on the decent descents!

We've been up and down Ben Wyvis any number of times, getting climbing in our legs. We've had wild days, nice days and, last week, the first Ben Wyvis bat run! Thoroughly enjoyable and we'll look forward to more.

Yesterday, we headed out to the gorgeous Strathconon, surely one of the most beautiful glens in the Highlands. I wanted to take Kirsten up Meallan nan Uan and Sgurr a Mhuilin, two wonderful corbetts that I'd been up a couple of months ago.

We parked the car and headed up the steep, pathless slopes to Creag Ruadh, the first summit. It's a tough climb and we both worked hard on tired legs. From there, it's a fantastic ridge to Meallan nan Uan, the slopes on the west falling away steeply for 2000ft. The wind was strong up top and a rain shower blasted in briefly, before we hit the main top and took shelter for a moment or two.

All around, we could hear the eerie sound of stags calling out from the hillsides. We're well into rutting season and their low growls provided a suitable accompaniment to our run. We spotted a herd of deer down below, at the col we were heading for. We descended quickly down the steep slopes but, as we neared the col, they were now nowhere to be seen....until I suddenly sensed movement close in front of me and the whole herd, surprised by our close presence, galloped across no more than 50 yards in front of us! What a wonderful sight.

We headed across the col and climbed the boggy slopes of the Sgurr, onto the final summit ridge to reach the cairn and then start the exciting descent down off the ridge. Once down, we headed across to the burn by the least wet route possible! We then trudged through ankle deep bog to the final drop down to the car and, 2.5 hours after starting, the sanctuary of the car.

Strathconon is so beautiful, and our imaginations were fired by finding that the small church is for sale. How beautiful would a converted church down there be?!? We may dream....or we may just do it!

Meallan nan Uan from the col

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