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RAMBLE REPORTS 2017
(click here for links to archive reports from previous years)

 

Contin Forest - 8th August 2017

Summer came to Contin Forest when we had a ramble there on 8 August - it didn’t rain, the sun shone, it was warm enough for shirt sleeves, and the light breeze kept the midges at bay - quite an amazing day for this erratic summer.

We followed the main wide gravel road up to the high spot above Rogie Falls, and some ramblers took the path down towards the Falls and had their picnics there, but the majority found a large parking area with plenty of tree trunks to sit upon. It was pleasantly warm and we had a leisurely lunch break, with plenty of chat.

Martin, our Chairman, who is a retired forester of the Forestry Commission, gave us a most interesting short talk about his final job before he retired. He had the remit to assess the Highland forests around Glenurquhart for both their commercial and their amenity values, a major undertaking which only somebody with his wide familiarity with the forests could have undertaken. This enabled plans to be made for the future exploitation of the forests - the plans were subsequently frequently modified, he said, as circumstances changed.

From the higher parts of the road there were lovely views towards the west, including Torachilty; the clouds were gathering on the hills but still it remained fine and mostly sunny where we were.

On the way home, some of us enjoyed tea/coffee and cakes at the Station Cafe in Strathpeffer, making a pleasant and sociable ending to a good outing. Many thanks to the organisers and drivers and carers who make these rambles possible.

                                                    Pamela

 



 

Nethy Bridge - Thursday 20 July 2017

After meeting at Nethy Bridge Visitor and Community Centre and unloading the scooters in the rain, we set off in single file along the road. Then we turned off into Dell Woods, part of Abernethy National Nature Reserve, on a new all-abilities trail. Alison, an RSPB Community Ranger, was our knowledgeable and highly entertaining guide. We passed a feeding station, set apart for birds and red squirrels to feed. Alison caught sight of a family of bull finches, but we were rather too noisy to see anything. Alison also said there were capercaillie in the NNR but we were not likely to see any of them, either. Blame the sound of the scooters rather than our good-natured chatter!

Alison explained the difference between the bilberry and the cowberry, identified by their slightly different leaves. It is not a good year this year for either of them, whereas last year was much better. She also explained the possible origin of cuckoo-spit!

We crossed over a lovely new wooden footbridge and, again, we were too noisy to hear the gentle babbling of the Duack Burn. Everyone stopped and gathered round by a corrugated iron shed to hear Alison's story of Willie Steel's Mill.

The rain began to come down even harder as we made our way back beside the River Nethy, so we were glad to be welcomed into the Visitor Centre with tea, coffee and chocolate biscuits. There were nearly thirty of us, eating our picnics, getting to know new ramblers, chatting with old friends and looking at the exhibits and displays.

Alison was taking lots of photos of us and so there might be pictures on the Visitor Centre website.

Joan K.


 

Nairn riverside and shore - Monday 3rd July 2017

It was rather windy and chilly for July as we all gathered at the Nairn harbour car park. There were 7 scooters booked but all 10 were brought on the ramble so that some volunteers could take turns at having a shot.

We headed on the excellent path beside the river, and discovered from the display boards the possible origins of the name ‘Maggot’ given to this area.  Then under the main road, and into the woods where it was more sheltered. We enjoyed the dappled shade of the trees and the woodland plants including sweet cicely, recognised by its aniseed scented leaves. We also saw lots of the tall Himalayan balsam with its pretty pink flowers. Sadly this is an introduced plant and is very invasive. After the flowers have faded, the seeds pop out and scatter very readily, often carried along rivers to reseed the banks farther down. Another ‘alien’ plant we saw which is very common along Moray riversides is the giant hogweed. The sap in its stem can burn the skin so is a danger especially to children playing by the riversides. The local authority and conservation groups are attempting to eradicate this harmful plant.

The path opened out to fields on our left where ‘contented’ brown cows with calves lay chewing the cud. The grassy verge plants, including cow parsley and red campion were admired while a blackcap flew across the path to the shelter of the trees. We had to turn around at the Firhall Bridge as the path beyond becomes too narrow for our scooters. We stopped for our picnic lunch at a pleasant clearing by the river, a tranquil spot apart from our happy chatter of voices.

Retracing our route back to the harbour, we went for a stroll along the prom as far as the ice cream café. The cold wind persuaded us to turn back and take refuge in the two cafes above the harbour, one group to Basil’s and the other to the newly refurbished Sundancer.

All agreed it was a good varied ramble. Our thanks once again to the van drivers and walking companions for making possible this lovely day.

                                                                                                              Elspeth

 

 

Dava Way Ramble - Tuesday 20th June 2017 (Part of The Moray Walking Festival)

Another lovely ramble through a beautiful part of agricultural Moray – helped immensely by lovely sunshine!  We met at Edinkillie Hall, Dunphail where once again we were allowed to use their Disabled Toilet. People are just so kind to us so thank you, Dunphail.

The last time we visited Dunphail we turned south along the Dava Way towards the Edinkillie viaduct where we learned quite a bit about the Forres to Grantown Railway – the old track being the basis for the Walkway and Cycleway to Grantown. This time we turned north and followed the track for about 2 miles. The sun shone, folk chatted and we admired the countryside in general and the many wild flowers in particular. We saw foxgloves, cuckoo flowers, speedwells and orchids to name but a few and we also saw some garden escapees such as a lovely yellow lily. We seem to have a lot of keen photographers in our company so maybe sometime we should have a slide show,

We crossed the access road to the Dallaschyle wind farm where the windmills were turning lazily in a lovely breeze – just enough to keep the midges at bay. We eventually turned back south again then took a small detour to a lovely spot for lunch overlooking the hamlet of Logie. We then made our way back to the car park at the hall from where a number of us made our way to Logie Steading – a lovely watering hole. Some of us even sat outside in the sun while we indulged in drinks and the lovely baking.

Thanks go to the willing volunteers who all make the rambles possible, especially those who deal with the scooters. Special thanks to Wilson Metcalfe who led our walk on behalf of The Moray Walking Festival. He is so knowledgeable about the Dava Way and the surrounding countryside and adds to the ramble immensely. Thanks also for strimming the grassy bit otherwise our walk would have been a bit shorter!

Peggie

 

Drumnadrochit Ramble - Saturday 3rd June 2017

We set off for our ramble from the car park in beautiful sunshine, firstly along pavements in Drumnadrochit, but were soon going along a track, up a slight but quite long incline, through community woodland where, because of the shade, many bluebells were still flowering.

In the days when James Grant owned the estate he collected and planted a number of non-native species of trees, including sequoia, which are now enormous in both height and girth. To the left there were good views of the countryside, through the trees.

Amongst the trees were a number of very large bounders, each weighing several tons. These are known as glacial erratics and date from the ice age.

We came across several small groups of local volunteers digging drainage channels at the side of our path.

Eventually we came to a new bungalow on the right, where once stood a large mansion. This fell into disrepair and was blown up by the army, but some of the stone rescued from the demolition was used to build the wall around the bungalow.

On looking to the left we could see the relatively new school in the distance. Just before we got back to the road we stopped and Graham our leader told us how much forestry had been felled on the hillside, in some cases exposing ancient hill forts.

We arrive back at the church hall where it was time for our sandwiches, and tea, coffee and delicious cakes provided by the ladies from the church. While we were eating our sandwiches we saw, through the window that it was pouring with rain. How lucky we had been with the weather once again.

Pamela Lemon, one of the church ladies, gave us a brief talk about her charity ‘Kids of Kolkata’ which is giving BoiSand water filters to many families in that area to provide them with clean drinking water. Members were happy to give donations to this worthwhile charity.

We had the AGM, after which we all set off home after another enjoyable day.

                                                                                                                        Alan & Kath

 

Uath Lochans, Inshriach forest, Kincraig - 10th May 2017

There were 15 of us rendezvoused at the Loch Insh Water Sports Centre on a cold and windy morning. After making use of their toilets we shared cars and drove to the forest entrance where I thought we’d meet the van team for the start of the ramble. Sadly I had mistaken Martin’s description of the entrance location, so no vans there. Fortunately the Forestry Commission ranger Lucy put us right and we all met up.

Once on the scooters we headed along a good track through the open pine and birch forest, noting signs of squirrel activity from nibbled cones. We spotted many wild spring flowers including wood anemones and celandine, and listened to the birds singing, the males protecting their territories from incomers.

We then continued on a narrower path, just wide enough for the scooters, to our first sight of one of the lovely Uath Lochans. These are ‘kettle holes’, formed after the Ice Age when the ice melted and had no outlet for the meltwater. Lucy told us that there is little wildlife in the lochans as they are too acidic from the surrounding peaty ground.

We stopped for our picnic lunch overlooking another of the lochans and enjoyed plenty good chat. We continued round a loop before picking up the main track back to the vans, enjoying glimpses of the Monadhliath hills still with the odd small patch of snow.

We all reconvened at the Water Sports Centre for tea/coffee and cakes. By now the weather had become warm and sunny so some of us sat on the veranda watching groups of youngsters trying their first taste of canoeing and sailing. There was lots of screaming and laughter!

Our thanks to Martin for leading the ramble, Lucy for her local knowledge and Victor, Nigel and Sid for driving the vans and distributing the scooters; also to all the volunteer ‘walkers’ without whom we couldn’t run these rambles safely.

                                                                                                                                    Elspeth

 

Beauly River Ramble - Tuesday 11th April  2017

It was great to start the rambles again after our winter break.  We had a good turnout despite the rather cold and blowy weather.  It was fine most of the time but we still had to dodge a couple of showers.  

Our route took us from Beauly Toll along a private road owned by Lovat Estates which cut across one of the large meanders in the Beauly river just before it becomes tidal at Beauly.  The road was a good surface for the scooters and apart from a few range rovers (goin’ fishing) and the postie van we had it pretty much to ourselves.

The road took us past lovely large fields which the farmers were preparing for the first crops of the year. There were also banks of gorse and roddies just coming into bud We also went past the remains of an Estate fish farm where the smolts used to be  reared to stock fish farms in the area.  Now long since closed.  We went  down to the river and  managed to go alongside the water on a track for a wee while before the track became too stony and rough and we turned back. 

At the water’s edge we came upon a wooden fishing hut.  We felt we’d stumbled on a real live Goldilocks and the 3 bears’ story.  Some of us went to investigate the hut.  Not only was it unlocked but it was still warm from the wood burning stove and had a current newspaper on the large dining table.  No bears appeared so some of us took the opportunity to warm ourselves back up before our return journey.

As always the ramble required a cup of tea and a bun to round it off so a lot of us went to Munro’s Garden Centre near Munlochy.  Very good it was too and as a bonus I was able to buy the plastic trugs in which to grow my seed potatoes which are now on their way to giving me a great crop!

                                                                           Chris



Talk and demonstration on Bellringing - Tuesday 21st March 2017

The guest speaker at our last indoor meeting this winter was Mr Michael Neale. Mike is the Tower Captain and Steeple Keeper at the cathedral in Inverness and he talked to us about bell-ringing.

He explained that the cathedral bell-tower has ten bells with heaviest, the tenor, coming in at a little over sixteen hundredweights. Bells are made of bronze and even the lightest bell at the cathedral, the treble, is over four hundredweights. The bells are hung in such a way as to make it possible to ring changes on them and that is the sound that we can hear on Sundays and on practice nights.

Ringing the changes means varying the order that the bells ring in according to a set formula. For example one can ring ‘rounds’ by ringing all ten bells in order – 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9,10 and one can also create a pattern by ringing them in ever changing sequences – rounds then 2,1,4,3,6,5,8,7,10,9 then 2,4,1,6,3,8,5,10,7,9 then 4,2,6,1,8,3,10,5,9,7 and so on.

Due to the physical limitations of the machinery that allows a ringer to make a heavy bell sound, it can only move one place in the order at a time, but it is still possible to build up highly complex patterns of bells using very simple formulae. To ring every possible variation that a formula (called a method) can allow can take some hours, and ringers find it very satisfying to achieve a faultless rendition of a method.

There are many different methods and they all have names. A ringer will have many different methods in his or her memory as they are not difficult to remember – just like the finest mathematical formulae each one elegantly expresses a simple truth.

Mike also brought along a mini-ring of bells that he assembled. These worked by activating a program on a computer to make the sound whenever anyone pulled the ropes. One or two of us tried them out.

It was an interesting talk and Mike finished by expressing the hope that the next time any of us heard the bells we would remember it and know what we were listening to.

John J.

 

Peggie’s Quiz - 21st February 2017

Unfortunately our speaker on Bell Ringing scheduled for this date had to cancel at short notice due to illness. We were delighted that Peggie was able to fill the bill by bringing forward her quiz to this date. We organised ourselves into 5 (or was it 6) teams to answer questions on topics ranging from ‘Musicals’, ‘Centuries & Decades’, ‘Sort of Science’, and ‘Castles’. Much brain searching and hilarity ensued as we tried to come up with the most likely answers. An added feature this year was a Joker card that could be played during one of the rounds, doubling the score for that round. Two teams tied for first place, having lost only a few points. Those of us who didn’t excel still enjoyed the event and learned some useful new facts.

Many thanks to Peggie for her ingenuity in thinking up a new set of questions - her knowledge knows no bounds!

                                                                                                                 Elspeth

 

"Dolphins" by Charlie Phillips - 24th January 2017

It was lovely to see everybody yesterday at the start of another year for Highland Disabled Ramblers with at least one new face joining the group. Welcome Barry.

The soup and sandwiches were tasty as always and the chat as folk caught up-to-date was noisy! Martin had good news for us on the financial front with 2016 being a good year for fundraising. Thanks go to all those involved in that fund raising. The blue “Meteor” scooter has been put out to pasture in Drumnadrochit after giving many years of service to the club and a new replacement has been purchased. Jane Bryant, for one, is sorry to see it go as she liked the controls on the Meteor!

We then went through to the Church for a wonderful slide show and commentary. Charlie Phillips has been studying the dolphins and other animals in the Moray Firth for many years and has just published a book of photos of these “charismatic” animals. The book is called “On the Rising Tide” – the answer to the question he is most frequently asked – “What is the best time to see the dolphins?”

His slides were astonishing, funny, informative and beautiful. His commentary was interesting, humorous and full of insight into the dolphins and a lot of the other animals inhabiting the inner Moray Firth and beyond. He really knows his stuff. At the end of the talk he answered many questions from the audience then signed books. Thanks to him for coming to talk to us.

                                                                                                                    Peggie