Category Archives: pictures & trips

Operation Deepdale

P1010535Next week I have to drive up to Manchester to take our daughter to University. This gives me an opportunity to snatch a couple of days in the Lake District. With limited time, I’ve decided to base my trip on camping at a beautiful place I found in Deepdale on a trip in 2010.

After a difficult summer, I’m looking forward to a stroll in the hills. I’ve got some new(ish) bits and pieces to try out as well. It’s too early to tell what the weather will be like. I’m not intending to have very long days, but it would be nice if it stays fine :-)

TGO Challenge 2014 The Statistics

TGOC 2014 statsclick to enlarge

Out of idle interest, I’ve put my Challenge on a spreadsheet to analyse distance each day, ascent and average speed. The first surprising thing is that I actually only spent an average of five and a half hours each day actually walking. This is an approximation as I didn’t religiously time how long I was taking for lunch and breaks, but I did note when I started and finished a day. If you add in somewhere between an hour and and hour and half for lunch and breaks, my average day was between six and a half and seven hours. Four days were basically half days (days, 7, 9, 11 and 14). The longest day was day 8, which was eight hours walking and nine and a half from start to finish.

My average daily distance was 19.5km and ascent of 499m. Even on a relatively low level route with only one Munro, my total ascent was nearly 7,000m. My total distance was 273.1km. It would be interesting to know what the average  distance is for all Challengers.

Average speed for the whole trip was 3.6kph with a high of 4.7kph on days 7 & 13 and a low of 2.8 on day 2. Day 2 included the very slow first section of Loch Monar, while days 7 & 13 were on tracks and roads.

What this analysis suggests to me is that my route was actually quite unambitious, even though it was very enjoyable. Much of the walking was on tracks and paths, rather than over rough ground. On any future Challenges, I think I would plan a more ambitious route with some slightly longer days.

Having said that, I would be careful in taking to account the terrain. It is sensible to factor in quite slow speeds on rough ground (2kph), while on tracks and roads, faster progress can be factored in (4kph). In future route planning I will split any day’s walk into three categories: rough (2kph), path (3kph) and  track (4kph). This should make planning times more accurate.

Although at times I felt tired, at no time did I feel fatigued. Perhaps by accident, no day was too long or over-ambitious. Also, I had a good mix of days in terms of length with some flexibility. The ability to have a late start or early finish occasionally helped to make the walk more enjoyable and appreciate the landscape more.

Weather was also a factor. The only adverse weather was on the first three days and on days 8 and 9. Clearly, wind and rain slows you down and saps your energy. While there is a limit to how much flexibility can be built into a schedule, some flexibility helps. There are times when you really don’t want to have to rush through the landscape just to keep on schedule, but to linger and savour it.

 DSC01365Loch Monar

TGO Challenge 2014 summary


This is summary page for my TGO Challenge trip diary, to make it easier to navigate through the whole trip. Click on the link for the appropriate post.

  1. The prologue (getting there)
  2. Day 1 Strathcarron to Loch Monar
  3. Day 2 Loch Monar to Allt Uchd Rodha
  4. Day 3 Allt Uchd Rodha to Cannich
  5. Day 4 Cannich to Drumnadrochit
  6. Day 5 Drumnadrochit to Glen Mazeran
  7. Day 6 Glen Mazeran to Allt an Tudair
  8. Day 7 Allt an Tudair to Coylumbridge
  9. Day 8 Coylumbridge to Faindouran Lodge
  10. Day 9 Faindouran Lodge to Loch Builg
  11. Day 10 Loch Builg to Ballater
  12. Day 11 Ballater to Glen Tanar
  13. Day 12 Glen Tanar to Tarfside
  14. Day 13 Tarfside to North Water Bridge
  15. Day 14 North Water Bridge to St Cyrus
  16. Initial reflections
  17. The statistics
  18. Complete set of photos

TGO Challenge 2014 Day 14

North Water Bridge to St Cyrus

Thursday 22nd May

Start 8:00, finish 11:00,12.7km

Day 14

The last day. How would I feel at the finish? After breakfast and packing, I had a quick chat to Ian Cotterill and then I left the camp site by a “secret” back entrance. The first obstacle was to negotiate crossing the ferocious A 90 without getting run over. In the event, it was easy as there was an immediate gap in the traffic.

DSC01937River North Esk

I was quickly on to a minor road. I overtook one Challenger. Next I met Kate Kowalska and I decided to be sociable. I slowed down a bit and we walked together to St Cyrus. One of the joys of the Challenge had been to walk with a random selection of people from all walks of life. I couldn’t have picked a better companion for the last few miles. Thanks, Kate.

DSC01940Catching Kate and Mick

The walk to St Cyrus is not very exciting, taking minor roads through agricultural land, but chatting with Kate made the miles go quickly. Just after the railway viaduct we were passed by Mick Hopkins, who looked like a man on a mission.


We bimbled along happily past fields of rape seed and barley. As we approached St Cyrus, the weather looked threatening so we put on our waterproofs. We turned into St Cyrus and quickly located the cafe and bus stop.

DSC01954St Cyrus beach

All that remained was to find the cliff path and get on to the beach. Fortunately the rain held off and we were able to take the obligatory end of Challenge photos. That was it. The end. The Challenge had been a major focus in my life over the past few months and getting to the end had been the focus of the past two weeks. Suddenly, I’d done it. There was no leaping up and down, just a few smiles.

DSC01958The end!

I experienced a mixture of a feeling of achievement and relief. Even for someone who is a relatively experienced backpacker, I still felt a sense of pride in having achieved my objective. I also had a feeling of relief. The disappointment of having to retire from the Challenge in 2012 had been expunged. All that was left was to get back to the cafe for a celebratory tea and cake, then get the bus to Montrose to sign out at Challenge Control.

TGO Challenge 2014 Day 13

Tarfside to North Water Bridge

Wednesday 21st May

Start 8:45, finish 3:30 26.0km

Day 13

Despite my best intentions, I didn’t get away until 8:45. By that time, a good number of Challengers had already left Tarfside, many to The Retreat for breakfast. I decided to take the road for a while rather than cross the river, partly to find out where The Retreat was, for future reference.

DSC01849Packing up

I was feeling fit and walking fast. I soon passed The Retreat and started reeling in Challengers who had started ahead of me. I must emphasise this was not deliberate, just a function of the way I was walking.

DSC01859North Esk

Although road walking is often dull, the scenery to Mudloch Cott was attractive enough to distract me. I stopped briefly to talk to Lindy Griffiths. I caught up with another gaggle of Challengers (including Ant and Sean) at the bridge taking me to the southern side of the River North Esk. I seemed to be flying along.

DSC01871Along the North Esk valley

It was all very pleasant until I reached a part of the track that was being used to clear logs which had been cut down as part of a forestry clearance. I would have taken a track closer to the river, but there was a large herd of cows blocking the path. For about half a mile I was hopping about between muddy ruts. Eventually I made it through. Looking back, on the fence, there was a notice that said the track was for “authorised persons only”. Whoops!

DSC01879Cows blocking the way

By now I was getting close to the new bridge that Alan Sloman had told me about. I encountered another herd of cows on the track with young calves. I was careful to go round them and not get between mothers and calves

DSC01884River North Esk

At the appointed grid reference, I found the bridge, although it was quite well hidden from the track. On the other side, foolishly, rather than follow the track to the road, I followed a track parallel to the river. This led nowhere and I had to cut up to the road, climbing a rickety barbed wire fence in the process.

DSC01892Rocks of Solitude

A little way along the road, I found the signpost to The Rocks of Solitude path. The path descended back down to the river and followed a delightful ravine with some rapids. It was the highlight of the day. Part way along I met Rob Harvey. We had a quick chat, then I moved on. Not long after, he caught me up and overtook me as I took several photos along the way.

DSC01898Rocks of Solitude path

Soon the walk was over. I didn’t realise that there was a footpath that followed the river into Edzell, so I took the main road. At least there was a pavement most of the way. I reached Edzell at about one o’clock and made my way to the Tuck Inn for lunch.

Lynsey Pooler was there with her two children. There were a couple of other Challengers but it looked as though I had made it ahead of the crowds. A few minutes later, Rob Harvey came in and joined me at my table. I pigged out on scampi and chips followed by a chocolate nut sundae. Rob left as I had a postprandial cup of tea.

DSC01916Path out of Edzell

Just after two o’clock, I thought I’d better make a move. I located the bridge (turn off by the Post Office), and followed a footpath before reaching a series of minor roads. I passed Rob having a sit down and a drink.

DSC01918Lane leading to the aerodrome road

This was a really dull section, leading to a long stretch of road past the old aerodrome. At Northgate I turned left on to another minor road, past a sawmill (horrible smell) and then onto a track. The track led past a couple of fine looking houses and then to the road that led to the North Water Bridge camp site.


There weren’t many tents when I arrived, so I selected a relatively secluded pitch at the end of the site. It was a pleasant sunny afternoon. I had a shower and chatted to Mike Knipe, Peter Dixon, Lee Taylor, Matt Holland and Ali Whitaker. As the camp site filled, I was glad I had chosen to camp at the far end as it got a bit crowded.

DSC01928Tent city at North Water Bridge

After a while I went back to my tent to have something to eat. I didn’t socialise after. I wanted to write up some notes and have some time to think. Today was the last real day of walking on the Challenge. Tomorrow was only a short walk to St Cyrus and the finish. Tomorrow it would all be over. Part of me wanted to get to the end, but part of me didn’t want to finish the walk.