RAMBLE REPORTS 2015
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Christmas Lunch - 10th December 2015
Thursday 10th December, 34 of us gathered from about 12
noon onwards at the Inverness Maple Court Hotel for our annual
Christmas Lunch. Although a few who had travelled from Speyside
had driven through a little snow & slush, most of the group had seen
only bright sunshine on the journey, so everyone seemed extra
Martin welcomed us & drew our attention to the fact that Susan
Culliford was having to resign from the committee due to ill
health. For many years she had been an excellent Minutes Secretary
as well as finding and auditing many ramble routes in the Speyside
area. She would be much missed & he wished her well.
recent volunteer helper, Christine Gilmour, had agreed to be
co-opted onto the committee as minutes secretary. It was also good
to see a number of members present who had not been able to come on
recent rambles due to being unwell or in hospital, but who were now
“on the mend”.
Members were also reminded by Martin of the pressing need for the
group to find new storage premises for the 10 scooters. Despite
two articles published recently in the Courier & the P & J, no
results were forthcoming so far. In the past, word of mouth had
proved to be the best way of getting a result, so all present were
urged to get talking! The scooters have to be out of their current
home by the end of January, although we have been offered temporary
storage over the winter.
This was the third year running we had chosen this Hotel & once more
they did not disappoint us! Although the cost was fractionally up,
the choice on the menu was wider than before, and judging by the
high level of chatter & laughter, it was all very much enjoyed.
After we had all consumed our coffee or tea & warm mince pie,
attention turned to the Raffle table which was looking very
enticing, with lots of different bottles & parcels contributed by
members. Gerry Lowe did his usual good job of calling out the
numbers, and a total of £81 was raised. During all these comings &
goings, Peggie came around persuading us to buy lots of her next
intriguing quiz sheet - all in aid of HDR funds of course!
thanks go to Elspeth & the committee for organising another
Ness Islands, Inverness - November 3rd 2015
On a lovely Autumn Day we gathered at The Inverness Botanic Gardens
for our last outdoor meeting of 2015. We departed passing by the
Highland Archive and Registration Centre - this exciting facility
gives you the opportunity to search: Birth, death and marriage
records, Census records, Old parish records, Valuation rolls, Wills
and testaments, Catholic records for Scotland.
Across the bridge onto the first island which is a beautiful natural
park with many mature beech trees; the sun coming through the canopy
was beautiful. We continued along the path which crosses several
bridges (built in Victorian times) linking each island to the next,
often giving fine views down the river towards the Cathedral. We
passed the war memorial and Edith Cavell gardens before a final
suspension bridge completed the journey to the far side of the
After passing the University offices and the old Infirmary, now used
for patient recuperation, we stopped for lunch on a grassy bank and
enjoyed good views of the river and castle. Well refreshed, we
continued along Ness Walk beside the Bught Park recreation area and
on to the Whin Park children’s play area. We stopped near the
boating pond, joined by some ducks, to enjoy the last of the sun’s
After returning the scooters to the van, most of us repaired to the
Inverness Botanic Gardens for a warm up with Coffee & Cake.
Thank you to all drivers and volunteers for a nice day out.
North Kessock Ramble - 12th October
We all met up at the car park on the sea front in North Kessock on
an indifferent day, weatherwise, for a ramble. The views from North
Kessock up the firth to the mountains behind Beauly and across the
narrows to Inverness are what make this village so delightful.
Many of us remembered the North Kessock of yesteryear, before 1982,
when it was the northern landing for the Kessock ferry before the
bridge connecting Inverness to the Black Isle was opened. In those
days it was constantly awash with traffic queuing to get on and off
the boat, but now it is just a sleepy, little, dormitory village for
those who work in the city across the water.
We can guess that North Kessock has been in existence since the
first half of the fifteenth century since there is a record of a
charter being granted in 1437 to the Dominican house in Inverness to
allow them to officially operate a ferry across the Kessock narrows.
If there wasn’t a village in existence before the ferry was
formalised to the Dominicans then it’s certain that one would have
sprung up shortly thereafter. The intention of the brothers was that
the ferry would cut many miles off the journey for pilgrims to St.
Duthac’s shrine in Tain, but most pilgrims still took the long way
round the firth via Beauly in order to pray in the church of The
Blessed Virgin And Saint John The Baptist at the Valliscaulian
priory there. The ferry turned out to be of far more use to the
commercial life of the communities on both shores of the firth than
to the religious travellers and generated good profits for the
Dominican brothers for many decades.
The first part of our ramble took us eastwards along the waterfront.
We passed the modern R.N.L.I. station hard by the new bridge then
went under the bridge and along a road that originally would have
let us ramble all the way along the north shore of the outer firth
to at least as far as Kilmuir, but the right of way has been stopped
up, probably illegally, by buildings and the only way through is now
unsuitable for our scooters. Nonetheless, the bit that we did
traverse was utterly charming and wended its way along through bosky
glades with the shoreline on one side and a beautiful wooded rise on
The rise was punctuated by small fields that were devoid of
livestock on that particular day, but the hedgerows contained
brambles and wild flowers and the sun shone intermittently. Our
spirits were dampened just a little by a heavy shower, but it soon
passed and we all perked up again. The views across the firth were
wide and attractive and gave a fine and picturesque vista of the
southern shore and the hills beyond. We made our way back over the
same route to the cars passing, once again, under the new bridge
with its strange echoing noise made by the traffic passing along the
After a bite to eat, we rambled eastwards along the shoreline into
Charlestown. The sun came out and the views up the firth were
glorious. Charlestown itself is now a gentrified former fishing
village and we rambled along the quiet shore road past interesting
houses, charming cottages, delightful gardens and bushes filled with
We turned round a little way beyond Sunnyside Old Inn and retraced
our steps, so to speak. On the return journey we spotted that one of
the gardens had a model railway winding through it, but no trains
were running that day, regrettably. Being at sea level many of the
gardens still had fine floral displays to gaze on and one, in
particular, was noteworthy for its rose hedge still displaying many
virulently pink blooms. On closer inspection, however, it was
obvious that the hedge had been planted not for the colour of its
flowers but for the superb scent given off by them – even that late
in the year it really was quite delightful.
We returned to the cars by mid-afternoon and I can only say that
this ramble in two halves was a lovely way to spend an autumn day.
As usual, thanks are due to the van drivers, scooter handlers and
walking volunteers who made all this possible for us.
Strathpeffer - Friday 25th September
We arrived at our meeting point in the Square in Strathpeffer
to a shower of rain. However this soon abated and the rest of our
ramble was enjoyed in fine weather.
We went in convoy to our starting point in Blackmuir Wood, and then
on our scooters on an upward path. It was quite narrow but good
underfoot and with lovely views to our left over Strathpeffer. After
a while we came to a stop as the path ahead was blocked by fallen
trees caused by previous gales. However, no matter, we stopped in
the little clearing and had our lunch with lovely views across to
the golf course.
We retraced our steps a short distance and then Martin took us on
another upward path with even better views all around. After
stopping for a while to take it all in, we progressed downwards and
back to our starting point having had a very enjoyable ramble.
Alan & Kath
Ardersier - 2nd September
Sue and I set off on a dismal morning from Boat of Garten. Sue
reckoned that by the time we got to the coast the mist would have
lifted and it had. The sky was blue with some clouds and it was much
fresher. We had a quick look round the community garden while some
went to the toilet services being made available at Macleod
We then met with the local countryside ranger John Orr who was
leading our ramble. We were a large group but there was plenty of
space to gather round. The path was good with the sea on one side
and Fort George ahead. We didn’t go as far as that but it is a walk
to do ourselves in the future.
If we looked behind us we could see the Kessock bridge.
The ranger showed us many plants. I can’t remember all their names
or uses except the one that can be used as a laxative (it’s funny
the things that I remember). We turned right to go inland for a bit
pausing on a board walk/bridge where some took photos of all
scooters. We passed a very overgrown old bowling green and turned in
our circle back towards the village, stopping to read the
information boards about the sea levels millions of years ago.
Then we went back to Macleod Organics where they grow fruit and
vegetables and pack boxes to take out to customers. We were able to
eat our sandwiches inside their building out of the cold wind. When
we returned to the car park we had the option to go on further but
the weather made the decision for us as it started to rain. Many of
us stopped at the Connage cheese factory to buy the fresh organic
Glen Cannich - Tuesday
11th August 2015
We set off in high hopes
that this would be a good weather day for the ramble. As we started
the drive down the glen from Beauly it was sunny and everywhere
looked so lush and green. Despite living on the door step it is
many years since either of us in the car had made this journey so it
was lovely to see familiar places and to reminisce about previous
journeys here. The only blot on the landscape was the Glen Affric
Hotel in Cannich all boarded up and overgrown. A sad sight.
We then turned off to
travel the remaining 4 miles to the start of the walk up Glen
Cannich towards Loch Mullardoch. What a perfect Highland glen. We
followed the river tumbling through beautiful woodland. We saw a
couple of very new houses and speculated on how they got planning
permission for out here in the middle of nowhere, and how did they
get on with the resident neighbours from hell, the midge and the
As we neared the start of
the walk it was raining, the wind got up and when we got out of the
car it felt really cold. Being August I had been determined I would
not need my lined thermal winter trousers but was beginning to
regret this decision. On came the extra layers, waterproof
trousers, gloves, hat. However, as is often the case the weather
vastly improved in the short time it took us to start the walk. It
got better as the day went on and we had mainly sunshine and blue
We travelled up and back
down a forestry track going towards the Mullardoch dam. Sandra, the
Forestry Commission Ranger for Glen Affric and Glen Cannich came
with us. Her discussion about the creatures who live here, the
habitat, and managing the area for nature whilst also welcoming all
visitors was fascinating. She told us about the native Scots pines
(I had no idea they came in so many shapes and forms). She pointed
out some fox poo. All black and shiny due to the fox diet being
almost exclusively blaeberries at this time of year. Some of us saw
an actual fox across the river and also an adder who slithered away
when we all arrived.
Thankfully there was a
strong enough breeze to keep the midges away except when we stopped
for lunch. They lost no time in making their presence felt then.
Out came the Skin So Soft, and Peggie donned a very fetching total
immersion midge jacket which must have made eating the butties quite
On our return journey
with the weather getting better and better a red and yellow
helicopter went overhead several times back and forth, sometimes
carrying a load suspended below. Does anyone know who this was or
what they were doing?
What a lovely day out.
Perfectly rounded off with cake and a nice cup of tea at the Bog
Cotton Café in Cannich.
Boblainy Forest Ramble
Thursday 23rd July 2015
It was a chilly day, but the
sun made an effort to encourage us and the rain kept off.
Sadly Martin, who was to
lead us, had to leave once we were ready to start on our ramble, as
Maureen, his wife, was not well. We trust she will be back to
strength by the time this goes to press. Our special thanks go to
Elspeth who took the lead in Martin’s place.
About a mile to the south of
the village of Kiltarlity, on a minor road signed ‘Scottish Water’,
we parked in an open area where the road forks. We took the right
hand unsurfaced road into the forest which is a largely coniferous
plantation, most of which is owned and managed by the Forestry
Commission. When the trees opened up, we stopped to admire the
view to the north, with Ben Wyvis in the distance. It was just noon
and we decided to make this our lunch stop. A convenient heap of
gravel offered a good place for some of us to sit.
Walter had the spare scooter
and I had made sure that I could use it if needed. After lunch I
gratefully accepted the use of the spare. It was interesting to
experience being part of the disabled group.
We returned to the cars by
the same route and then took the left hand fork. This is a private
road, newly tarred, which leads to the Water Treatment Works.
Although we could see the buildings, we didn’t go that far, but
enjoyed the wide open view toward Drumnadrochit. When we had to
get off the tarmac to allow a van to pass, I discovered that three
wheeler scooters are not very stable and had visions of toppling
sideways when getting down the small drop at the edge of the tar.
Fortunately I was advised to take it straight on instead of trying
to go off sideways. Getting back up onto the road was not easy
either, as there was not much room to get a clear run straight at
the lip. As if to calm me down, we saw a couple of gorgeous,
luminous, green dragonflies.
The road was wide enough for
three scooters to travel alongside each other so that we were able
to converse. Later we were joined by Rosemary, but by then we were
nearly back where the cars were parked. It was a really good day,
but I felt quite stiff when I got off the scooter!
Beinn Eighe - Monday 6th
The Highland Disabled
Ramblers outing on 6th July 2015 was to the Beinn Eighe area by
Kinlochewe. This ramble was eagerly looked forward to because the
ramble to the same area the previous year had to be cancelled due to
This time, the weather was
glorious (between adjacent days of heavy showers and Weather
Warnings!). The drive over through Achnasheen showed off all the
mountains at their best. It was warm with only a hint of slight
showers every now and then.
The vans pulled into the
Beinn Eighe Forest Trail carpark at exactly 11am to find everybody
already there, all dressed in their summer clothes and ready for
action. The full complement of 11 scooters had been brought and
these were quickly unloaded and distributed. The party set off along
good gravel paths. Initially, the way led through trees and over an
interesting timber bridge (with a seat built into it). Further
along, the way led across open moor with waist-high heather and
ferns. There was little wind but the midges were not too bad. Some
members picked the wild bog myrtle and crushed the leaves to make a
sort of midge repellent.
The cavalcade stopped for a
while so that one volunteer could run ahead and verify if the
scooters could turn round at the marked viewpoint. Given the
all-clear, we all went up to the viewpoint to find a picnic table
and plenty of room for the scooters. This was too good a chance to
miss so a stop was called for a leisurely picnic lunch, admiring the
view of the nearby Beinn Eighe and the more distant Slioch on the
opposite side of Loch Maree. While there, Susie Fry led a round of
‘My name is …’, though I must admit I have forgotten most of the
names. Next, Roger gave another advertisement for his forthcoming
starring role in ‘Oliver!’ at the Eden Court Theatre (I will come,
Roger, I promise!).
The party set off again and
wound its way down to the road, which leads to Sheildaig, past the
Whistle Stop café and the caravan site to the main road, and headed
back towards the carpark. There was surprising little traffic
considering it was the height of summer. Soon, another path opened
up on the left so that we could get away from the highway. We passed
another picnic table: Elspeth commented that the tables were made
from recycled tyres and fashioned to look like wood.
The path wended its way back
through the trees, over the same timber bridge with the incorporated
seat, and back to the Visitor Centre, which is a sort of exhibition
cottage by the carpark, with useful toilets.
To round off the day some of
the party went to the Whistle Stop café for tea and cakes, including
the van drivers: Victor and Walter, who still faced several hours of
driving, unloading, refuelling etc. before their day was over.
Ramble along the
Dava Way near Forres - 19th June 2015
Part of the Moray Walking Festival
Where has the summer weather
We met at Dallas Dhu
Distillery just outside Forres to avail ourselves of the facilities
there. The distillery is no longer in production (having stopped
distilling whisky about 1993) and is now run by Historic Scotland as
a Visitor Attraction.
There was a very good
turnout of both scooter-users and helpers. The helpers were very
useful - as they always are - when we had to negotiate the sloping
path up the embankment of what used to be the Forres to Grantown
Railway line. The whole length of the line, some 24 miles, is now a
walking and cycling track and is well used as we saw on the ramble,
meeting quite a number of folk using it. When it was originally
built in the middle of the 19th century the whole line from Dunkeld
to Forres took two years to build - quite a feat with no earth
moving vehicles, just shovels!
Wilson Metcalfe of the
Forres Footpath Trust was our leader and he gave us a short history
of the line before we left the car park and also pointed out various
points of interest along the way. We were also lucky to have Elspeth
with us as she is expert at spotting various birds and flowers. At
some points along the line the colours of the wild flowers were
stunning and Rosemary made good use of her camera. (I wonder if she
will give us a slide show sometime?)
We left the line of the
track just before the Rafford road, crossed it and went up past
various houses, some with paddocks and horses, before rejoining the
line further up. We headed back north again, stopping for lunch at a
slightly sheltered spot with good views over the farmland and with a
seat for some of the helpers. There are a number of these seats
along the track, quite a few of them in memory of folk who loved to
We then rambled back to the
car park, taking our time at the ramp leaving the Dava Way again but
everybody negotiated it successfully.
The usual thanks are due to
all those involved in the ramble, those who reconnoitred the route,
who drove and loaded and unloaded the scooters and to the volunteers
without whom we wouldn’t be able to go out at all. Special thanks to
Wilson whose fund of knowledge added to the interest.
I started with the comment
about the weather and I’ll finish with one. We were lucky that it
didn’t rain but, boy! was that a cold wind!!
Ramble and AGM - 6th June 2015
We all assembled at the
Tourist Information car park in Drumnadrochit and made use of the
toilets there. Martin then led a convoy of cars 4 miles along the
Cannich road to Balnain from where we were to start the short
ramble. The van crew were already there with the scooters which were
Martin led us along a good
track through the forest, with views across fields to Loch Meiklie
and the hills to the north above Glen Urquhart. There were one or
two tricky manoeuvres round gates, ably directed by Graham. Martin
had worked as a forester here and told us how forest plans often
‘gang aft a-gley’ when large areas of trees are demolished by
storms. Graham, who also knows the area well, gave us a short
history of the local estate.
Too soon we had to turn
around and head to the Drum. church hall where we had our lunch.
Tea, coffee and wonderful home baking awaited us, waited on by
Martin’s Maureen and other ladies of the church. Donations
amounting to £141 were given to Mission Aviation Fellowship, a
charity supported by the church.
Then followed the AGM to
which 28 members attended. Martin gave a summary of the year’s
activities, Philip cheered us up by telling us that our accounts are
very much ‘in the black’ and Suzy updated us on memberships, which
are also healthy. Rosemary was elected as our new Treasurer, taking
over from Philip who was thanked for his accounting over the last 2
None of our rambling would
be possible without our volunteers, who were all given ‘Thank you’
certificates, this being ‘Volunteers week’. A particular ‘thank you’
to today’s van crew – Eleanor, Graham, Yvonne and Sid.
A very sociable day and a
chance to catch up with friends old and new.
ramble - 13th May 2015
When we arrived in the main
car park in central Carrbridge, the scooters were all out on display
and ready for us thanks to drivers Walter, Graham & Victor. It was
chilly but bright as we departed passing along a couple of streets
admiring the houses and gardens on our way to the Carr Plantation.
I had surveyed this area for
birds and mammals in 2013 on behalf of a well-known housing
developer and was delighted to see the trees still standing. Nice
mature forest with juniper and blaeberry understory - so many shades
of green. Nice to hear birdsong too, the usual common suspects
with tree pipit and tree creeper joining in.
On leaving the forest we had
a nice look over the open moorland and viewed the site of the old
Poorhouse - a one storey house (c1864) built to accommodate the poor
of the parish. Nearby there had been a mineral well that was of
chalybeate water (containing salts of iron) which were in great
favour in Victorian times.
Back into the woodland and
onto our lunch stop - a nice sheltered spot with ready made benches
(logs) for us to sit on.
We returned the same way,
guided through gates by Graham’s big toe ! We stopped a few times
to view the very large ant hills on the way occupied by Wood Ants
enjoying their classic habitat in northern Scotland: the sunny
patches of woodland edge in Scots pine.
Perhaps more than any other
above ground woodland invertebrate, wood ants can be considered as a
‘keystone’ species in the forest ecosystem as they have a vital
functional role. They provide habitats through their nests which
harbour a wide range of invertebrates and provide an important food
source for predators such as capercaillie.
At the end of the Ramble we
wandered down the street to The Old Bakery for afternoon tea and
cakes. Many thanks to Susan for organising the Ramble and to all
the Volunteers and Drivers.
Ramble - 14th April 2015
This, our first ramble of
the season, took place round the beautiful Tallysow Woods situated
just off the A835 on the extensive Brahan Estate (traditional home
of the Seaforths, the Chiefs of Clan MacKenzie) near Maryburgh.
Starting at the woodland
carpark some nine scooters plus a spare, set off along the woodland
track. The weather forecast was rather ominous for the day but at
least it stayed dry as we followed the track eventually returning
back to the car park some two miles from the start.
The path was a bit muddy in
places but didn’t present any problems for our group of twenty
seasoned ramblers! Clearly the path we took was very popular with
dog walkers. We enjoyed our sandwiches, beverages at a lovely
picnic stop/viewpoint looking down over Connon Bridge and beyond.
The estate is known to have an abundance of wildlife such as roe
deer, pine martin, red kite, woodpecker, owls, red squirrel amongst
others but they all seemed to somewhat shy during our visit!
It was nice to welcome two
new members to the group, Sue and John; we look forward to seeing
them again at our next ramble and also two new drivers, Graham and
Walter to whom we extend our grateful thanks for their support.