Tarfside to North Water Bridge
Wednesday 21st May
Start 8:45, finish 3:30 26.0km
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.