RAMBLE REPORTS 2018/2019
(click here for links to archive reports from previous years)
Talk on ETHIOPIA - 24th January 2019
24th January we had the first of our winter meetings, and
Elspeth gave us a talk and slide show covering her trip to Ethiopia
in 2008. This is a country packed full of spectacular landscapes,
fascinating wildlife and warm and welcoming people.
visited as part of a small-group tour, about 15 people, with local
guides. The tour began in the capital, Addis Ababa, a vibrant and
bustling city, a curious mix of modern development and donkey carts.
From Addis the group went north to Lake Tana, Ethiopia’s largest
lake and the source of the Blue Nile. Lake Tana has a lot of
islands, many with monasteries on them (over 60% of the population
are Christian, mostly Ethiopian Orthodox.). A fisherman was paddling
his papyrus boat, as his ancestors must have done for thousands of
years. After that they visited a beautiful cataract on the Blue Nile
itself, and walked down to its base. In the ancient city of Gondar
they saw the walled fortress and palace compound, once the seat of
Ethiopian emperors, with the immense 17th-century castle of Emperor
destination was the Simien Mountains, a wild and rugged area close
to the Eritrean border. This was bandit country, and armed guards
were much in evidence, as well as Gelada Baboons, with their
distinctive red “bleeding heart” chest patch. The baboons live in
very large groups, and seem to enjoy posing for photographs!
On to Aksum,
once the capital of the Aksumite Kingdom, and known for its
obelisks, or stelae; they range from standing stones reminiscent of
Callanish or Brodgar to huge and elaborately-carved obelisks. The
24-metre Obelisk of Axum was looted by Italy and shipped to Rome in
1937, finally being returned in 2005. The New Cathedral of St. Mary
of Zion stands next to the old one, and was built in the 1950s. The
small chapel known as the Chapel of the Tablet was built at the same
time, and is believed to house the Ark of the Covenant, brought from
Jerusalem by the son of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, whose Palace
is here. Admittance to the chapel is closed to all but its guardian
monk – even the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church isn’t allowed in!
are the breathtaking rock-hewn churches. These are carved into the
solid bedrock, their roofs level with the surrounding ground, each
with a deep “trench” carved down and the church, carefully hollowed
out, standing in the centre. They are world-famous, and rightly so,
an extraordinary feat. There are 11 churches in all, and the Church
of St George is generally considered the finest.
A final stop
in Harar, a Muslim area with an ancient walled city packed with
narrow alleyways and market stalls. Finally visiting an animal
market where cattle and camels were traded, before heading back to
All in all it
was a fascinating glimpse of a little-known country, and I think I
wasn’t the only one wondering where my passport was by the time we
returned to a chilly Inverness afternoon! Thank you, Elspeth.
HDR Christmas Lunch 2018
7th December, 37 members and friends assembled at
Lochardil Hotel, Inverness, for our annual Christmas lunch. We
missed Martin, and Juliet and her sister Hilary who had to call off
due to illness. We hope they made a speedy recovery.
dining room with 5 large tables allowed us plenty space for
wheelchair and rollators, and the toilets were easily accessible. We
had a varied menu to choose from as well as the traditional turkey
and Christmas pudding. There was lots of chatter and hilarity with
folk renewing old friendships and making new ones, and exchanging
our dessert it was time to draw the raffle, Victor having earlier
persuaded folk to buy tickets. Steve called out the numbers while
Janet helped the ticket winners choose from the wide selection of
prizes kindly donated by our members. A total of £84 was raised for
our HDR funds. (Just to add that the total raised from all our
raffles this year is £332. Thank you to everyone who has
The waiting and hotel staff had
been very efficient and helpful, so were rewarded by our round of
tips. Our thanks go to Suzanna for booking the hotel and Rosemary
for organising all the payments. All enjoyed a tasty and sociable
Fairburn Estate - 6th November 2018
ramble to Fairburn and the river Orrin was the last for this year,
and a very successful one too. Although Fairburn is noted for the
Palmate Newt with webbed rear feet, the weather was very kind to us,
grey(ish) but otherwise very acceptable. All 10 scooters were booked
but sadly Peggie could not make it as her hip was giving her
problems. We were joined by new members Donna Ross and her cousin
Fraser and friend Garry and a very good number of volunteers and
friends. How rewarding it is to have such support.
by John and Rosemary, and we thank them most sincerely. John started
by giving us a very comprehensive history and background to the
estate, 21,000 acres ... wow, that’s a lot! Obviously the estate has
been very progressive over the years with building work, hydro
electricity and lots of tree planting in the mid 19th century. We
saw some magnificent Silver Firs, one monster Douglas Fir log, and
well managed conifer and broadleaved woodland. And then the River
Orrin with its waterfalls, absolutely beautiful.
estate worker clearing leaves from the Hydro pond must have wondered
what was going on when his peace was disturbed by 10 scooter people,
and an array of the paparazzi photographing him with their mobile
phones! Fame at last!
Once again thanks to all involved in giving us
a splendid end to a very successful year’s rambling. We look forward
to the winter meetings.
Blackmuir Wood, Strathpeffer 8th October
This was an absorbing walk. Once organised in our carriages with
helpers/carers we followed on after Martin along the marked path.
Members were having a good social time as the conversations were,
perhaps, slowing the “Crocodile” down a bit! We stopped at a
clearing and could see the wonderful views across the valley to the
hills around Ben Wyvis with Castle Leod in the foreground. (Mention
was made of the time there was a fire on the hills, firemen were
flown in by helicopter, then had to stay on the hill as it became
dark, the men not knowing their way down! They were collected next
We carried on up to the geological maze, a circular labyrinth of
stones and rocks from all over the highlands. This made a number of
us smile as there was no way out, so buggies were turned around and
we came out the way we went in! Time was getting on so it was
unanimously decided to stop here for lunch. A number of the
“walkers” were able to perch on the rocks and so were relatively
comfortable. Elspeth gave a short talk on various fungi etc, which
many found of interest. When we were fed and watered we continued
up the path. We saw several trees with bracket fungi on them, quite
spectacular; a few fungi were collected by those who knew what ones
We continued on our way and soon came across a wooden chalet with
the most spectacular statues carved by chainsaw from the trees,
everything from people to forest animals. Back to the car park and
scooters put into vans we all went our separate ways. We had a good
day out made all the better as it was calm and dry! Our thanks go
to all the volunteers and carers who made this possible.
Viv & Trevor
Grantown Ramble 25th September 2018
After having postponed the ramble from the previous week because of
a forecasted storm (not something that happens to us very often!) we
gathered in Grantown on Tuesday 25th September, to discover that the
public toilets in the public car park were closed for the winter.
However we were made welcome to use the toilets in the Museum across
the road. After this promising start, we were off. We welcomed two
new members, Trevor and Viv, and two new volunteers, Fraser and
Gary, both pairs with well-behaved dogs.
set off across the golf course in blustery weather, passed notices
informing us which fairways we were allowed to ski on, and into the
shelter of the Anagach Woods. This is community woodland, gradually
being returned to native woodland. Martin told us that the local
volunteers, rather than get involved with the bureaucracy of
chainsaws (training, safety certificates and so on) had sourced
traditional two-person crosscut saws. They must be an impressive
sight in action!
It was a lovely ramble along quiet paths through the woods to the
River Spey. We had planned to take our lunch break on top of the old
Spey Bridge (now closed to traffic, obviously), but the cold wind
made this impossible. A great shame, as the view up and down the
river from the crest of the bridge was spectacular, and it would
have been a lovely spot. Instead we retreated to the Speyside
Estates estate office, where they kindly allowed to us to shelter in
the lee of the office building.
lunch we returned by the Old Military Road and back through the
woods. At one point it seemed we were going to get rained on, and
there was a flurry of activity and chaos as waterproofs were donned;
needless to say, by the time we had struggled into our wet-weather
gear, the shower had passed on.
On reaching Grantown we emerged at a different part of the town, so
we processed in state through the town square on our way back to the
car park. Some of us enjoyed a hot cuppa and were tempted to cake at
McLean’s bakery and cafe.
All in all a very successful ramble, mercifully mostly dry though a
little chilly, in a beautiful part of the country.
at Hilton of Cadboll - Friday 31 August 2018
9 scooters and a spare
met us at the car park opposite the Seaboard Memorial Hall at
Balintore on a beautiful bright, warm sunny day with clear blue
skies and a gentle breeze. Our party of about 25 guided by Tina, who
knows the area well, and her 2 collie dogs, set off through the
village towards Hilton, along a narrow street bordered on both sides
by old fisher cottages, some with beautifully kept little front
gardens, with pots of bright flowers. Buddleia bushes were
everywhere, attracting butterflies and bees on this lovely day.
We passed through
Hilton, turned slightly uphill, crossed over a cattle grid and on to
a grassy track next to the shore, below a steep hillside. Further
on, some of the party braved a narrow path up the hill to emerge at
the foot of a lovely grassy tree-lined driveway leading up to a
grass terrace just below the Glenmorangie Hotel with fabulous
panoramic views over golden stubble fields to the Moray Firth. It
was reckoned a perfect spot for lunch!
On the return journey we
all stopped to admire the replica Pictish stone at Hilton of Cadboll.
It bears the Christian cross on one side and secular carvings on the
other. The original stone can be dated to around 800AD and the upper
part of it is currently in the Museum of Scotland. We retraced our
steps to the car park where most of the party made full use of the
coffee, tea and homemade cakes available in the Memorial Hall.
It was a perfect day out
and huge thanks go to everyone who made this possible.
RSPB Ramble - 14th August 2018
Having just passed the
Corrimony Chambered Cairn which dates back 4000 years, it was
evident that the day’s weather was to be changeable with waterproof
clothing required. Martin started off by welcoming all to the ramble
with 21 persons taking part including new members Tom and Dannie
Hunt. Martin then introduced local farmer Lindsey Girvan who,
together with his wife Maimie and son David run the 3,035 hectare
grass and hill farm. The area around the farm had a chequered
history after the Battle of Culloden. Redcoat soldiers arrived and
set fire to the castle and surrounding dwellings leaving only one
building untouched because of a certain crest over its entrance. In
the meantime the rain was starting so it was time to start the
With the road being made
of crushed shale, the rain made no impression on our progress and
the scenery through the Corrimony Nature Reserve changed constantly.
One minute we saw Scots Pine then Birch then minutes later heathered
moorland. Later on into the ramble Martin gave a talk about the
structure and layout of the forest as he had helped draw up the
plans for its layout many years earlier.
Having arrived at a
suitable place for our lunch, and with the rain now having stopped,
we were joined by Simon McLaughlin who is the RSPB Ranger for the
Corrimony Nature Reserve who gave us a talk on what we were likely
to see. Spring was the time to see Black Grouse eating energy packed
leaf buds. Summer for the Common Sandpipers and Dragon Flies around
water. Autumn you could see the Scottish Crossbill looking for seed
laden cones on pine trees.
With one eye on the
clouds we set off again in search of Loch Comhnard which in the
Winter plays host to Whooper Swans arriving from the Arctic Circle.
Loch Comhnard turned out to be wind swept and with dark clouds
looming we headed back to the start. What started out overcast and
damp turned out to be a very pleasant outing.
Eighe - 26th July 2018
conditions, we rambled at Beinn Eighe National Nature Reserve. We
set off from the visitor centre at Kinlochewe along a winding path
under the trees, past stone “land art” sculptures and carved wooden
totems. We were accompanied by Jack Ward, who is deer stalker and
reserve officer at Beinn Eighe, and he proved to be an informative
and entertaining guide. He explained what was being done in terms of
returning the landscape to its original form, by taking out the
planted spruces and other forestry trees and encouraging the
regrowth of the native Scots pines, and “blurring” the straight
lines of the edge of the planted forest. This procedure also
involves managing the deer, which would otherwise eat everything in
sight, and keeping their numbers to sustainable levels.
the trees we began to climb gently through more open land, under a
clear blue sky, with breathtaking views over to Slioch in the north,
Glen Docherty to the southeast and the bare stony ridges of Beinn
Eighe itself to the southwest. Jack told us to watch out for
dragonflies (there are four types at Beinn Eighe) and Scotch Argus
butterflies. As we dipped back among trees again there was also a
profusion of delicious raspberries – although not so many after we
had munched our way along the path!
out on the hill were shimmering under the sun. There is almost
something unnatural about rambling on the west coast of Scotland
and, basically, being too hot! Certainly too hot to want to sit and
bake ourselves over our lunch, and we stopped for our picnic in a
little car park back in Kinlochewe, blissfully shaded by trees,
before plunging back onto the trails of the Nature Reserve.
All in all it
was a glorious day, and we could not have seen this wild and
beautiful area in better conditions; and the sun, and occasional
gentle breeze, kept at bay the really dangerous wildlife – the
midgies for which the area is renowned!
Beinn Eighe is
the most distant of our rambles, and in the past it has been
cancelled at the last minute because of atrocious weather; but this
time it was a perfect day and more than worth the effort.
And the raffle
raised £30.00 – well done, everybody!
Glenmore - 9th July 2018
On the ninth of July the Highland Disabled Ramblers had a pleasant
ramble along some of the tracks on the south side of Loch Morlich in
the Forestry Commission’s Glenmore Forest Park.
After comfort stops at the Glenmore Visitor Centre we parked in the
Hayfield Car Park. We had nine scooters, two as spares and for the
walkers to ride on when they needed a rest. The tracks were mostly
good and through open pine and mixed woodland, with occasional views
of the loch. After the “great heat” of the previous week it was
quite cool; there had been a little rain overnight, and mist still
lingered on the hills, so walking was in a comfortable temperature,
though maybe a little cool for those on scooters, but by afternoon
the sun had broken through and it warmed up pleasantly.
We found a seat and pleasant level ground under the trees by the
side of the loch for our picnics, and we had our raffle draw there –
we didn’t know what the prize was but Vic was the lucky winner.
There wasn’t much wildlife around, with just a few mallard on the
near side of the loch, but plenty of walkers, strollers, cyclists,
and dogs, most of whom stopped to chat with us. It was a decidedly
Some of us returned to the Glenmore Visitor Centre to indulge in tea
and cakes, and more sociability – a very pleasant ramble, if a
little further than usual. Many thanks to Nigel for leading us.
Forres - Friday 22nd June 2018
day dawned clear and dry but cloudy and was still that way when we
all met in Lidl’s car park on the edge of Forres. We were welcomed
by Martin and Wilson who then told us the plan for the day. In the
past few decades Forres has been flooded, not only by the River
Findhorn but also by the Mosset Burn. As a result of these floods we
have had two flood prevention schemes put in place and we have
previously rambled by the Mosset Burn scheme. This time we were to
ramble across the much more extensive (and expensive!) scheme for
started by going under the railway bridge to the west of Forres
where Wilson pointed out that the bridge had recently been doubled
in width. This is because Forres has had a lot of work done on its
railway line, a stretch having been doubled to facilitate trains
passing one another and we have also acquired a lovely new station.
We rambled across the ground where lots of work had been done as
part of the flood alleviation scheme admiring the many lovely wild
flowers, shrubs and trees that had been planted. Amid all this
beauty we couldn’t help noticing that there is still an awful lot of
untreated giant hogweed about and one head of flowers was so big
that everyone commented on it and many photos were taken.
duly reached the river which has changed dramatically during the
work. It used to be relatively narrow here and was spanned by a
Bailey bridge but it has been considerably widened and another three
spans have been added to the bridge. After crossing we turned west,
going along a footpath on the north bank of the river. The path
stops a few hundred yards short of the Findhorn Bridge on the A96 so
we turned back to a spot where we could see the traffic across the
river and stopped here for lunch. We were across the river from a
wooden hut from which wires stretched across the river and Wilson
explained that this was part of the flood prevention scheme. The
scientists hang instruments from the wires when the river is in
spate and can take measurements which can lead to flood warnings
being issued. Since we were there at the start of this dry spell the
river was very low and it is difficult to imagine the changes which
can take place very quickly after heavy rain up country, or more
especially, when the snow is melting in the mountains.
After lunch we rambled back to the new bridge when we then turned
north, coming out on the “new” road which has been widened and which
leads to the wonderful “Wastebusters” depot where all our recycling
goes on. From there the road took us over a new bridge over the
railway from which we got a lovely view, not only of the station but
of Forres with its various towers and spires. From there it was a
short distance along the side of the A96 to the car park.
was a lovely ramble with good crack and, as always, thanks are due
to the folk who sussed out the route, drove the vans with the
scooters, came as helpers etc and generally made the whole thing
possible. A special thanks goes to Wilson Metcalfe who was an
Ramble was part of the Moray Walking Festival.
Ramble and AGM at Drumnadrochit - Saturday, 2nd
As I parked my car at the Church of
Scotland hall I noticed that the scooters had already been unloaded
and were waiting in a tidy row near the vans. By 10:30 it was
already hot as we set off, with Martin in the lead, on our pre AGM
After a short walk along the back
roads of Drumnadrochit we passed through the gate into Urquhart Bay
Woodlands, which is managed by The Woodland Trust. This ancient
wood is a fine example of ‘wet woodland’ where alder trees and
others that thrive from floods grow well. Once in the woods we
could enjoy the cool shade of the trees and the pungent scent of
wild garlic. The bluebells were just past their best, but still
We strolled along the level path,
following the River Enrick to our left, until it comes to a stony
beach where the Enrick is joined by the smaller River Coiltie.
Huge tree trunks are brought down during the floods and a metal
suspension bridge over the Coiltie, giving access to the shores of
Loch Ness, was washed away in 2007. It is only possible to cross
the river when it is exceptionally dry.
While some of us were exploring the
beach, the scooters were turned around and we then retraced our
steps back to the Church hall in time for lunch. The tables had
been set out for us with a sumptuous array of cakes on each and a
choice of tea or coffee was served by two ladies from the Church.
We were invited to donate to the charity, Adopt a Child, which
provides children in need with nutritious meals and medical and
dental care. The raffle was drawn. The AGM was well attended and
much appreciation was shown for all the hard work and planning which
goes on, for our benefit, behind the scenes.
Brahan Ramble - Thursday 10 May 2018
I am happy to
write this report as this is one of my favourite venues on the HDR
programme. It was led by Rosemary and John.
members, with full complement of scooters, met near the offices of
the Estate in sunny but chilly weather. Most of the paths were wide
and surfaces good, but there were a few potholes. There were
lovely views of the hills throughout the walk.
The Castle was
built for the Mackenzies in the 1600s and demolished in the early
1950s and the rubble was used as foundations for the new Conon
bridge. According to Andrew Matheson, the present owner, the Castle
was demolished because “it was damp, draughty and dark with 6 feet
thick walls and small windows. It was very big and had dry rot. No
one could find a use for it.” The Castle had been used as
Headquarters for the Norwegian Army in the second World War.
travelling past the oak avenue of old, magnificent trees we made a
detour to see the grave of the last Lord Seaforth and the dog
We then went
to the lake where a swan was nesting and lunched near the Conon
river, then retracing our steps. The daffodils were past their best
and the bluebells and rhododendrons just beginning to flower. Today
the 4,000 acre estate has a farm, forest management, a small Caravan
Club site, fishing, clay pigeon shooting and a number of holiday
homes to rent.
Most of the group met for
refreshments at the Auction Mart near Dingwall, bringing to an end a
most enjoyable day.
Thanks to all who made this ramble
Dores to Aldourie Castle - Wednesday 18th
We gathered at the car park at the Dores Inn (once used as a
coaching house from the 18th century on the Inverness to
Fort Augustus road). There was a chilly breeze blowing off a choppy
Loch Ness, but a few swimmers in their wet suits were still braving
Once we set off, we were soon in the shelter of the bushes, which
lined the back of the beach, but still afforded some lovely views,
looking up the length of the loch towards Meall Fuar-mhonaidh
(Gaelic for Cold Rounded Hill). We headed along a recently improved
path towards Torr Point, where we went through a gate and entered
the woods, which were made up mainly of pine, but also mixed with
various other species of trees and broom.
The path was generally good for the mobility scooters and wound
round to Aldourie Pier, skirting the shore. At the remains of the
pier once used by the paddle steamer ‘The Gondolier’, we stopped for
a breather and a chance to take some photographs. We then continued
Aldourie Castle, an impressive Scottish Baronial mansion, where
Richard managed to acquire permission to ramble through the castle
grounds. We found a loch side spot, strewn with daffodils and as we
ate our picnic lunches, an osprey was spotted being mobbed by some
crows, which added to the interest of the ramble.
We then headed back to the car park, where we retired to the Inn for
refreshments. We were fortunate that the weather had remained dry
with sunny spells throughout a very enjoyable ramble. No sightings
of the monster were reported.
Talk on Ardersier Common by John Orr - 20th
Our last winter meeting was a talk by John Orr, Highland Council
ranger for Inverness and around with a special interest in Ardersier
Common. He spoke mainly about the birds, flowers and
butterflies to be seen there.
The ‘dingy skipper’ butterfly (a mottled brown job) with a 1 inch
wingspan, is fairly rare in the Highlands. Its caterpillars feed on
bird’s-foot-trefoil which is plentiful on the sandy shore at
Ardersier. The ‘small blue’ butterfly (seen as dark brown with a
hint of blue) is even smaller and feeds exclusively on the kidney
vetch plant also found here. There are two small colonies of these
butterflies at Ardersier and the local residents are growing and
then replanting these vetches along the shoreline to fill in the
space between the two colonies. This is to try and increase the
John showed us photos of various plants that grow on the site and
asked us to try and identify them. They included green alkanet (a
beautiful blue), burdock and teasel (both with hooked seed heads),
early purple orchid and the rarer coral root orchids.
He also showed slides of a number of birds for us to name –
chiffchaff, goldfinch, linnet and whitethroat.
The site at Ardersier is carefully managed with good paths, suitable
for wheelchairs. The area includes various habitats – seashore,
scrub, old trees and seasonal ponds.
An excellent talk, about an excellent well managed site, not far
Peggie’s Quiz - 20th February 2018
The second of
our winter meetings was Peggie’s annual quiz, and after a lunch of
soup and sandwiches we settled down to be entertained, frustrated
and humiliated in equal measure. As usual the questions were varied
and occasionally surprising, and as usual half of us realised we had
played our Jokers on the wrong round!
quizzes are always interesting and enjoyable, and this one was no
exception. So thank you, Peggie, once again; and I’m sure those of
us who had forgotten (or never knew) that Hirta is the main island
of the St Kilda group won’t forget it again!
Time to start swotting for next
year’s quiz, everyone.
John & Rosemary’s American Adventure - Tuesday 23rd
It was after a tasty soup and sandwich lunch that John and Rosemary
took us on their wonderful adventure to the United States of
They eventually reached their starting point of Salt Lake City after
suffering the trials and tribulations of International travel. That
meant arriving eight hours later than expected and their luggage a
The idea was to visit some of the National Parks, starting with
Yellowstone then Bryce Canyon, Grand Canyon, and Yosemite to mention
only the most popular ones.
whole range of wildlife vied for their attention including bald
eagles, black bears, bison, moose, deer and chipmunks. The
highlight of the trip was to view the eclipse, accompanied by the
Japanese Astronomical Club, which proved to be a wonderful
The journey through to San Francisco, their exit point, was enhanced
by a giant elk antler arch, 103 degrees F temperatures, hail storms,
thunder and lightning, wild fires and scary railroad trips. As an
aside the only reliable forms of transport on the trip were the
Staten Island ferry and their hire car!
We all enjoyed ‘our’ trip with John and Rosemary with their
wonderful pictures and entertaining commentary.