6TH DECEMBER 2020
Peter Hill 617m
Our group of five gathered at the Finzean Sawmill just after 9 am. The Forest of Birse road was surprising icy, but soon we tuned right and crossed the old wooden bridge over the Feugh and turned up the farm track across the fields of Wester Clune where the walking became less treacherous.
We headed up to the top of Petershill at a brisk pace with only a minute halt half way up the hill, where Bill showed us how to line up a holly tree and a boulder to find the remains of an old aeroplane that crashed here in the 1960s.
On the summit of Peter hill we were greeted by a magical winter landscape. We looked down and over to our right, to the still green countryside of Glentanar and waved across to Carnferg where we knew June and her group would be. Further South we could see the snowy tops of the high Cairngorm Munros which were bathed in the low midday sun. It was cold and windy on top so we headed a couple of hundred metres down the hill to the shelter of a shooting lodge where we had our lunch.
Afterwards we retraced our steps back up the hill, over the summit and down again. On the way down we stopped briefly to admire the aerial display of two red kites close by. As we had made such good time, we all agreed on a second break and a scenic detour through the woods along the banks of the river Feugh which was very much in spate after all the recent snow and rain. There was not much wildlife to be seen, but we did spot a dipper in the river.
We were now very much in wintry Joseph Farquharson country and at times it felt like we were walking through one of his paintings, with the a watery yellow sun shining its last light through the naked birch trees and some sparse snow on the ground. Bill told us how the painter used to paint his wintry scenes in the Birse forest from the comfort of a small wooden house on wheels which his servants use to pull around for him.
We passed the Bucket mill and admired not only the ancient wheel but also the new bridge installed by Bill and his neighbour as part of ongoing improvements facilitated by the local Birse Community Trust.
Along the footpath that follows the river Feugh we were able to admire the system of sluices and dams installed many years ago to control the supply of water to the Bucket mill. When we got back to our cars Bill showed us a wooden bucket he had which had been made by the craftsmen of the Finzean bucket mill.
We all agreed it had been a very enjoyable Christmas walk.
Mortlich (OS 37 Strathdon) 381m
Our group met at the Aboyne village car park (NO 528986) at 09:45 and set off around 10:00 to tackle the circular route over Mortlich in the anti-clockwise direction. The weather was dry with high cloud, light wind and temperatures around 3 deg. C.
Our route headed E along the A93 then NNE across Aboyne Golf Course, past the semi-frozen loch where we spotted a heron, several resident ducks and swans then picked up a path leading gently uphill through open birch woodland. The path curved around the lower slopes of Queen’s Hill before heading steeply uphill to the summit of Mortlich. Our group stopped for a short break and enjoyed fine views over Deeside and the lightly snow- covered hills beyond. We were also intrigued by a large, engraved slab dedicated to the Marquis of Huntly and speculated over the purpose of a rusty iron sign post lying on the ground by the summit cairn.
We continued NW from the summit over rough ground and soon joined a track over open ground, where we had fine views across to Lochnagar, Morven and other local hills. Our route continued on a path around an enclosure, eventually joining the main track through woodland plantation and passing an attractive fishing loch near Coull House. We stopped for another break by the loch and enjoyed the tranquil surroundings with fine mist swirling over the water. From there, we headed S to join the Tarland Way then cut across parkland in front of Aboyne Castle and ‘Coos Cathedral’, a grand building constructed by Sir William Cunliffe Brooks which originally started life as a cow shed but is now used as a function venue. We returned to the car park around 14:30.
This was a fine hill and forest walk covering 13 km, 300 m of ascent and a time of 4 ½ hours.
Baudy Meg 488m
After gathering by the Boat Inn our first few steps highlighted the treacherous state of the road and we carefully kept to the safety of the footpath across the Dee bridge and on to the Fungle. Surprisingly the Fungle path was relatively free of ice apart from a few compacted stretches which could be easily avoided. After a steady ascent through the trees we reached the junction at the Guard and headed west up the forest track. Emerging from the trees the clear winter air gave the first views of the snow-covered tops of the high Cairngorms in the distance. After a brief refreshment stop by the Allt Roy burn we headed on to main objective, Baudy Meg. Speculation on the origin of the name meant some homework for the walk leader who was ill prepared on the day. (Baudy Meg is said to be a corruption of the Gaelic ‘badan magh’ meaning hill of the hares).
A short stretch of heather bashing led to the top where we met a couple of other walkers who had come up from Glen Tanar. The hill provided extensive views with Lochnagar coated in snow and the snowy tops of Morven and Mount Keen hiding in the cloud. Given the fine walking conditions we decided to include Carnferg in the circuit and headed off south east through the heather. A comment on the lack of wildlife triggered the immediate appearance of two deer from near a burn ahead (the only other wildlife on the walk were some red grouse and a pair of ravens). As we crossed flat ground before the Fungle Road we encountered a lot of standing water within the grass and heather. It was a good test for our walking boots, including a pair out for the first time that day.
A short ascent led to the cairn on Carnferg and a sheltered lunch spot which we presumed had not long been vacated by June’s Carnferg group. A short descent through heather took us down to the Fungle path with a very enjoyable section through the pine forest back to the Guard. Here we joined our outward route to return to the cars. A total of distance of 16km with 555m of ascent and timing of 5hr 30 mins.
A perfect winter walk, fine conditions and good company. An uplifting end to the 2020 walking season.
We all met up at the Boat Inn at Aboyne on an icy morning. The first challenge of the day had been successfully negotiated - the treacherous icy conditions on the A93. The road did not appear to have been gritted, making driving very hazardous. We set off on our walk, carefully walking over the icy pavements and roads before reaching the Fungle track which we found much easier. We paused to admire the fungi on a tree (or hoofs as they were referred to) and on the ground beside the track, and the stones with the inscriptions ‘Rest and be thankful’ and ‘O ye mountains, O ye waters, praise ye the Lord’. The second challenge of the day was negotiating a small burn and only one member of the party gained a wet foot while crossing! On the ascent of Carnferg there were excellent views of the snow-covered Cairngorms and Lochnagar, and of the other surrounding hills.
The cairn at the top of Carnferg (525 m) is a memorial to Joseph Robert Heaven from his ‘heartbroken widow’. He must have been the person who made ‘heaven a place on earth’ for her! There is a shelter that surrounds the trig point next to the cairn and this provided a welcome place to have lunch (observing appropriate COVID-19 precautions), giving shelter from the cold for a while. We descended through the heathery ground and the woods to rejoin the main track that led back to the Fungle and down to Aboyne. It was a fine and clear day, which almost made up for missing our Christmas lunch this year!
Saunter Craiglich 476m
This short circular walk is almost ideal for a Saunter. Its height gives a wonderful panoramic view of the Howe of Cromar, crowned for us today by a snow-covered, majestic Lochnagar illuminated by bright sunlight, at very little expense of effort since you start from so high up, and there is a relatively easy track all the way down. The path up is not so welcoming, with one small but substantial area of bog, but it’s along here that Lochnagar is first and often seen, which is sufficient compensation. We saw no-one until we reached the trig point at the top where we stopped for a break. After that we saw a number of people with children and dogs as we descended through the prickly gorse on the track back to the cars. It was a bit cold, but nevertheless a very enjoyable end to our CHC walking this difficult year
1ST NOVEMBER 2020
Ben Aigan walk report for November 1st, by Jackie
Five of us met at the Ben Aigan car park and started walking up the track through the forest towards the tall communications mast at Knock More. We left home in the rain but after a dull start the skies cleared on what was to become a fine day with plenty of sunshine. We made our way up the track to the summit of Ben Aigan (471m) with its unusual white square trig point. Despite the windy conditions at the top we had good views overlooking Rothes and its distillery, Ben Rinnes, and in the distance the coast of the Moray Firth. We then made our way down and headed towards the Speyside Way. We found a viewpoint overlooking the River Spey and the road and railway bridges at Boat o’ Brig. Thanks to forestry felling we had some more good views further along the track. Leaving the Speyside Way, we continued on the track below the north side of Knock More back to the car park
Saunter on the Culblean Circuit and the Dragonfly Walk from Burn o’ Vat November 1st
Despite the wet weather at breakfast, by the time we were driving up the valley the sky was already breaking to reveal the promise of a very pleasant day with lots of blue sky. We followed the course of the Burn o’ Vat upstream on the ridge and turned at the helpfully placed post along the track which leads west to Cambus o’ May and east down to Loch Davan. The small burn crossing towards the end of this track was no problem before we reached the Burn o’ Vat road. The same could not be said for the crossing over this stream at Bogingore which today was aptly named and it’s a miracle that none of us went home with wet feet. This area had been no problem on the recce. We enjoyed getting out into open country on the Dragonfly board walk before finishing off our route back to the Vat car park in the birch forest on a carpet of multi-coloured fallen leaves. A good choice of autumn walk.
Walk Report for Morven 8th November by Alison Paterson
After a week’s delay due to the previous weekend’s high winds, the Morven November walk went ahead on Sunday 8th. Fortunately, everyone could make the revised date, so the party included Sandra Steel, Kendall Knight, Sheila Archibald, John Wood and Moira Hamilton (guest) as well as myself as lead and not forgetting Jesse the dog. As it was my first time leading a walk it was good to have such an experienced group with me.
Everyone arrived promptly at the carpark just before Groddie, and we set off in good time up the eastern side of Morven using the well used hill path up past the old Balhenie farm buildings. We were soon enveloped in low cloud but the path up to the shoulder was obvious enough although steep and rubbly towards the crest of the shoulder. Crossing the shoulder, we continued up in the cloud to the first top and then across and up to the trig point and cairn at main top which we reached after a couple of hours of walking. For the first time the wind got up a bit although it was not too cold. We hunkered down for a quick break, splitting into 2 groups to socially distance in the shelter of the cairn and trig point.
We then agreed a slight change of route as visibility was limited and set off down the path down the south-west shoulder of Morven rather than the more d irect but pathless route straight down the hill to the south. Going was still good and we soon reached the homeward path and turned left to track round the hill back to our cars. By this time, we needed a stop for lunch, especially Jesse who had probably covered twice the ground that we had including flushing out some grouse which were virtually all the wildlife we saw during the day. Therefore, after proceeding along the track for a bit, we found an old quarry where we could all sit. With great timing it started to drizzle but nobody minded as the wind had dropped as soon as we left the summit and the underlying temperature was not cold.
Walk Report for November 8th Dog Hillock by Catherine
After a poor forecast for the Angus Glens, we postponed our walk for a week. Well, that may not have been the greatest idea, as the initially reasonable forecast began to dip alarmingly to mist all morning and heavy rain all afternoon; at least I think that’s what the new Met Office symbol meant, the nicely comprehensible raindrops have gone, replaced by thin slashes I can barely see. OK, maybe sounding like an old fogey here!
Anyway, Glen Moy was shrouded, nothing could be seen and it was a struggle having to begin proper navigation within a 100m of the cars –where had the obvious line gone? It was found after only one wrong turning, and the climb up to Dog Hillock was then straightforward, just a shame if you wanted to see more than 10m in any direction. We didn’t pause – nothing to see but a small mast looming out of the cloud – and headed off down Toardy, no problems apart from avoiding endless coils of rusty wire springing out of the heather to trip us up. The steep descent into the meltwater channel was more exciting, lots of slippery heather, followed by a quick stop in what had become uncompromising rain. We split into those with lots of experience of rain (down the track back to the cars pronto and no messing about) and those keen for more uphill action regardless of wet.
This latter group managed the offpath ascent of Auld Darkney easily before a certain amount of wandering around looking for a vanished track, a speedy crossing of 2 live electric fences (what could be better when everything is soaking!) then a relieved descent below the cloud for the first views of the day, a very damp Glen Moy. Tea and scones at Peggy Scott’s was wonderful, I even began to dry out...once home, I determinedly dug out the spare compass I should have been carrying, and the Aquapac for my phone I should have been using. And the winter headtorch has been rescued from the bottom of the cupboard, just in case. Hopefully these preparations will ensure good weather for the rest of winter! Many thanks to everyone for not minding the rain (too much) - we will have another go at this next year...
Walk Report Morrone Corriemulzie Circuit 8th November by Geoff
This walk was postponed from Sunday 1st November due to forecast 50 mph+ winds, rain and poor visibility. The forecast for Sunday 8th November indicated light cloud with possible fog on the lower slopes, light S – SE winds and temperatures up to 9 deg. C but likely to deteriorate later.
Our group of 5 met at the Braemar Duck Pond car park (NO 143911) at 9:30am. The weather at the start was clear with breaks in the cloud, chilly (4 deg. C) but very little wind. We set off at 9:45am to tackle the route in a clockwise direction and took the path to the viewpoint by the settlement of Tomintoul then up the path to the summit of Morrone (859m). We stopped for a short break and had fine views across the Cairngorms with Ben Avon, Beinn a Bhuird, Derry Cairngorm and Ben Macdui clearly visible. The wind started to pick up and the cloud drifted in from the south but not before we caught sight of a Golden Eagle circling just beyond the summit.
We continued down the vehicle track to the bend at NO 131875, continued SE on a path across a col and up a gentle rise along the ridge. Visibility became very poor with a fresh southerly wind. We had occasional glimpses across Glen Clunie and also observed 2 large birds on rocks ahead. They were difficult to identify but may have been Black Grouse (??). The ground became flat and featureless and proved a challenge for navigation but we picked up the ridge path and headed SW to Carn na Drochaide (830m). We continued W to the top at the end of the ridge (NO115861) and by this time, the cloud had cleared to give us a good view of the route down to the Corriemulzie Burn to the north.
We had another break on sheltered ground below the top, then headed downhill off path, picking up a line of well =maintained grouse butts. We then followed the burn to join the track west of Coire nam Freumh. We followed the track along the Corriemulzie Burn, stopping briefly at the Braemar Community mini hydro scheme by an attractive waterfall then into the woods. Our route headed NE opposite the disused dam above Linn of Corriemulzie and continued through forest plantation to a layby off the Linn of Dee road. We then headed back into the plantation then into the attractive Morrone Birkwood with open birch and juniper woodland before returning to the car park around 3:50pm.
This was a fine hill and ridge walk covering 16.2 km, 725 m of ascent and a time of just over 6 hours.
4TH OCTOBER 2020
Creag nam Ban by John Adams
Although the Met Office had issued a weather warning for rain for the weekend, the forecast on Sunday showed an improving trend and with no burn crossings on the route the Creag nam Ban walk proceeded as planned. Numbers were reduced due to issues not related to the weather so walkers on the day were David Soden, Archie Brock and John Adams.
Leaving Crathie in light rain we walked along the riverbank path by the River Dee which was raging beside us. We made a brief stop in Crathie churchyard to visit the grave of John Brown, Queen Victoria’s attendant, before crossing the Dee by the white footbridge.
Then the main flood related challenge came in the least expected place. It turned out that the minor road beyond the Lochnagar Distillery was "in spate". Water was flowing out of the fields as the road was an easier channel to follow. Some deft footwork along the verge and the occasional quick splash on tarmac got us through.
Some way up the landrover track we realised that the light rain had stopped and much to our surprise there was no rain for the rest of the walk. First lunch was at Bovaglie farm where we explored both the house and outbuildings before leaving the track and heading across grass and heather to Sgor an h-Iolaire and on to Creag nam Ban. At this point the cloud was lifting so we had views down to Abergeldie Castle and the Dee.
A rough descent to a forest gate and an imaginary path through the wood led us back briefly to the road. Then in sunny conditions we made our way on various tracks and paths back to the Crathie car park (16km, 500m ascent, 6 hours). The only wildlife seen on the walk were a few grouse and some deer on the horizon. Most wildlife and humans were sensibly seeking shelter. However, we had a very pleasant circuit in most unpromising conditions.
Pannanich Hill by James
After a local record-breaking 36 hours of rainfall, detailed analysis of the short term weather forecast for Sunday 4th October indicating an improvement mid-morning resulted in the go-ahead, with admittedly some trepidation and a Plan B for the walk in the Pannanich Hills from the spacious Ballater Square car park. However, despite the "improving" weather forecast there were ultimately only two members on the hike leaving the car park at 9.45 in continuous light rain with low cloud embracing all the hill tops. Plan B, the low level, clockwise, relatively short, Ballater Seven Bridges walk, was quickly agreed as our route for the day but with an early stage variation around the southern flanks of the rarely seen Glenmuick House, passing a magnificent red granite memorial to the McKenzie Clan, . This variation touched on the start/finish of the Pannanich Hills route and suddenly, through the trees and across a verdant green pasture of grazing sheep, the summit of Pannanich Hill revealed itself from below the clearing cloud and light rain. To quote John Muir "The (Pannanich) hills are calling – I must go", so the decision was made, Seven Bridge walk was too tame, retracing our steps for 200 metres, we were back on to Plan A.
A long and gradual ascent up a landrover track, with the last morning calls of rutting red deer, pushed up the body temperature and after some time a refreshment rest was called in a large borrow pit that offered some good seating, and some shelter, though in windless conditions and no precipitation, shelter was not really needed. Soon after we reached the summit ridge, passing a stalker’s hut that would have been a good spot for a break (if the walks coordinator had remembered about it!), but instead it was good shelter for pulling out head gear to combat a slight breeze at this more exposed location. The cloud came and went, never too thick to cause navigational problems and sometimes offering window views down to the flooding River Dee and Ballater village. A there-and-back excursion was taken to bag the cloudy summit of Craig Vallich (609m) before heading on to the spot summit of 601m and then the descent, breaking insignificantly through the cloud base and taking lunch with just a brief hint or tow of the sun’s presence up above
Back down towards the Dee we re-joined out outward path taking us across the main Ballater bridge, where we briefly stopped, along with many other spectators, to admire the swollen brown waters of the Dee rushing through.
A good walk, winning against the meteorological odds, with 14km distance and 500m vertical ascent.
Sunday Saunter a week late, by Della; Millstone Hill (408m)
I always think Millstone Hill is a good little hill to conquer. There are so many various ways you can go up and down it, it’s a little bit isolated, thus having a good view, and the paths aren’t bad at all. Because of the adverse weather conditions last Sunday, it was decided to postpone our ascent of Millstone Hill until 11th October when the weather might be better. The 5 of us met at the Bennachie Centre car park and set off, using part of the Gordon way. And indeed the weather was better; we had frequent showers of very light rain, interspersed with dry and sometimes sunny periods when we could dry off. But no need for waterproof trousers today.
Discussions took place along the way as to which route to take, firstly when we crossed over the burn at the bridge, and finally took the standard route up to the bench where we had our first stop. From there we traversed the Hill’s neighbour on a very narrow board walk and it wasn’t long before we were enjoying the panoramic view from the summit cairn. We then descended on the Donside path, not quite as easy as the ascent, and extended the route slightly, so that we were quite near the valley of the Don. When we met another track, we stopped for the second time and then continued, on a sometimes narrow path, back to the bridge, finishing off with a slightly different path to the cars.
We saw no identifiable wildlife but many much bespattered cyclists and some other walkers as well, together with a large number of dogs. The total length of the walk was a comfortable 7 miles.
Creag Mellon by Catherine
Creag Mellon – the limit on households can be a blessing – a foul weather forecast last Sunday meant postponement a matter of a few quick phone calls, and so we finally had a day of high clouds and shimmering sunlight, plenty of misty rainbows but virtually no rain, a much better prospect! Glen Doll carpark continues as popular as last month, almost all spaces gone by 9.30am, but few took our route along upper Glen Clova, and all were left behind when we abandoned the path and climbed thru larches to crest above the big west corrie. To the north, stags were roaring in the rut on the other side of the glen, often seen silhouetted against the skyline. As we crossed the rough ground to Creag Mellon, we disturbed a large herd of deer sheltering, and on Mellon itself, we could hear more rutting of invisible stags. Over to Cairn Broadlands for fantastic views of the steep ground plummeting 600m down to the valley floor below, then dropping to inspect an amazing rocky schism, boulders a plenty, and still more insistent roaring. Finally, further down the stalkers track, we found them – deer scattered widely over the corrie, a huge black stag dominating with his elephantine grunts, chasing the pretenders and herding his hinds. The noise was unbelievable; we were so sorry we had no binoculars to watch all the action in greater detail! A gentle zigzag descent thru the trees to the carpark ended a lovely day in the hills – nothing on any list was bagged but a great day out nonetheless. And the finishing touch was tea and scones at Clova hotel, sitting outside as the light started to drain from the glen. For the twitchers – we thought we had a close-up view of a peregrine up high – but could it have been a kestrel?
Cnapan Nathraichean (CN), Sunday 11th October 2020
A magnificent autumn day greeted the 7 of us as we set off from the Keilloch car park - thank goodness we had postponed the walk from last Sunday’s rain and the aftermath of the flooding the night before! This walk is not easy, with a few tricky river crossings and some steep off piste to tackle - attempting it post-deluge is definitely not to be recommended, but it really is worthwhile for the spectacular views afforded throughout.
Heading south and east we set off across the Wade bridge at Invercauld on track into the Ballochbuie Forest of the Balmoral Estate. The going was easy as we headed to the Garbh Alt Sheil bridge, much loved (so it says) by Queen Victoria - you can understand why she may well have loved it, standing in the sunlit forest as the water pours tumultuously beneath. Good track took us south east then north east and out of the forest to the Prince’s Stone, where the track ended. The stone is inscribed "HERE HRH THE PRINCE CONSORT SLEPT ON NIGHT OF THE 5TH OCTOBER 1857 IN A WOODEN HUT". There is no trace left of the hut, but is was a good place to stop for lunch before launching up to CN through heather on a bouldery, wet and steep climb. Lots of stops and starts to keep the intrepid group together, the summit at 824m affording us magnificent 360 degree views of Deeside and beyond.
Heading north west our descent was as perilous as the ascent, with plenty of rocks and holes ready to catch the unwary footstep. With just a few stumbles we reached the forest and some half decent track again, then headed initially north east then north west making it a circular walk to take us back through the forest. Wildlife was limited - a dead badger on the North Deeside road on our drive out, some deer spotted as we climbed out of the forest (you could hear them bellowing, but they were generally being coy), a few startled grouse and that was about it.
Six and a half hours walking, 600m ascent, 16km length. This should be a regular autumn or spring walk for the club. Thanks to Marijke for her photography and deer spotting, and to the Weighills, the Johns Wood and Fowler and Sandra for all the banter and good company.
6TH SEPTEMBER 2020
Scar Hill by John Fowler
"Where is our leader?"
"He’s going through that bracken down there, on the way to Craig Dhu."
"You can see where he is from the moving bracken. And, oh look, he’s holding his walking pole above his head to show us where he is. You can just see the end of it."
An hour later, after lunch at the top of Craig Dhu.
"Where is our leader?"
"He’s going through that long stretch of broom. You can see where he is by the moving ……."
I think you get the message. A sunny spring followed by a wet summer. The undergrowth is no longer ‘under.’ It’s way over our heads.
The Scar Hill walk, starting at the Aboyne Gliding Club car park, was going to be less than 11km. A doddle. Start at 09.30 and we’d be back in our cars for lunch.
It took us almost six hours.
We reached the top of Scar Hill within 2 hours, having been delayed by hordes of young pheasants, the sight of young swans cruising on Braeroddach Loch and by numerous Long Cairns. Then the trouble started. Over and beyond the second summit, Craig Dhu, we encountered deep bracken, thick broom, disappearing tracks (they’d vanish right before your eyes). And to cap it all an indignant house owner, not a lover of walkers.
Strangely enough everyone on the walk thought it was great. Lovely weather, great 360 degree views and adventure, with great satisfaction in actually making back to the cars instead of having to spend the night in the under-, no, over-growth. So thank you to all who took part.
Next time I’ll take a machete.
Mona Gowan by Graham Neish
After all the four walk options were fully booked in record time this month, it was decided to put together an "overspill" walk for the members who were on a waiting list. Mona Gowan was the favoured option for this outing, starting from the A939 just north of Gairnshiel Bridge. Four enthusiastic members set off at 10am on a glorious sunny morning to tackle this route in an anti-clockwise direction. The path heading east led us to our tea-break stop at the impressive Morven Lodge. We initially thought that the estate owner was fully prepared for our arrival, as picnic benches were set up in the fenced grounds, underneath a large gazebo. If it had not been for current Covid restrictions, then these amenities may have been used! Mind you, the CHC are not used to these refinements for tea-breaks. From here it was a steady pull north, taking in the lovely view of Morven on our right where we knew fellow members would be climbing from the other side. Once the impressive large cairn of Mona Gowan was reached, the 360-degree views were outstanding in the clear air and could have been enjoyed for much longer that our 15-minute lunch break. Heading west from here it was over Cairnagour Hill, Scraulac and then south on the "motorway" back to the starting point. Wildlife was unfortunately very scarce on this walk with only a few black grouse and one mountain hare being seen. All in all, it was another successful outing for members of CHC as everyone enjoyed it. Roll on next month!
Craig Mellon by John Adams
The group of six (James, Sandra, Bill, Geoff, Chris and John A) all arrived at Glendoll within minutes of each other and found parking spots within a rapidly filling car park. The change to an earlier start time had paid off. We set off at 09:25 in brilliant sunshine on the forest path along the banks of the River South Esk and out on to the track passing Mouzlie towards Bachnagairn. The track has recently been improved and we made fast time to the edge of the trees by Bachnagairn. The rocks by the river provided a good seating arrangement for a socially distanced break. Unfortunately the midges found us and didn’t adhere to the distancing rules. Heading off up the track through Bachnagairn we then turned back across rough ground to head for a burn that marked the start of the West Corrie - the main ascent of the day. It was a steady climb over heathery ground. We followed the corrie edge with great views opening up as we gained height – Broad Cairn and Lochnagar behind and Bachnagairn woods and the glen far below. The hoped for eagles did not appear and only a few grouse, meadow pipits and later a hare were the only wildlife spotted.
A direct line took us quickly to Craig Mellon where rocks perched directly above Glen Clova provided an excellent spot for lunch. Or so we thought until the midges appeared again – not a breeze to keep them away. Still a fine spot for a break. On to Cairn Broadlands where a dramatic view almost vertically down to Moulzie cottage prompted discussion on the merits of the location for base jumping. None of us having any experience or equipment it remained theoretical.
There was concern about our descent route as the slope in the direction of the car park seemed almost as steep as the potential base jumping site. Fortunately the promised stalkers path was found and we zig zagged down the slope. The well graded path is rarely used now except by deer but was still sufficiently clear to allow a surprisingly easy descent to the forest edge. A narrow track then zig zagged down through the forest and we arrived suddenly at the back of the visitor centre to the bustle of the car park. We had seen only two other walkers all day. Just short of 15km and almost six hours walking. As the timing suggests we had taken our time to enjoy the walk, the views and the chat. A memorable day out.
Sunday Saunter – Mongour, or not!
Today was a great day for a walk in the forest west of the Slug Road. Perfect temperature, not too much wind, ideal really. Brenda had very kindly offered to organise this but was called away to the far more important task of baby sitting so Dorothy, also very kindly, did the recce with Brenda and agreed to lead the walk. The only snag was that the map I had for it wasn’t for the route Brenda and Dorothy had recced, a fact which became clear as we walked. Fortunately, my map’s and their starting point were in the same place so it was a while before I realized that we weren’t following my map. This didn’t seem to nonplus the Sutherlands and we all happily followed the route Dorothy and Brenda had found, with good views, particularly of Hill of Fare, a pleasant lunch stop of epic proportions and a reception committee of people, horses, dogs and children awaiting our return at the cars. And the most exciting, and embarrassing, part of our day was a domestic incident between 2 people and a very fed up dog, where we thought the guy was going to be assassinated at any moment, and the possibility of police being called was mooted by the woman. Not much wildlife visible, but a lovely view of a big dragonfly and a number of butterflies, notably peacock. Mongour will have to wait for another day.
Lord Arthurs Hill by Catherine Lord Arthurs Hill – parking at the end of the public road, astounding how many cars the various groups managed to fit in – an unexpectedly popular choice this Sunday – we wound our way thru pasture (beware bull, beware shooting) and forest (beware new unmapped tracks) to find expansive views north across the Strath ( not glen, we decided) of the Gadie burn. Greatly enriched by the experience of numerous barbed wire and electrified fences, and defiantly ignoring the bull surrounded by his harem and offspring, we viewed with interest the solar panel farm then climbed south to finally summit on Lord Arthur. The descent was enlivened by the amazing bearded lichens on the larches and the fox moth caterpillars (do not touch). A long walk but most enjoyable, many thanks for the uncomplaining but most stimulating company!
Morven by Sue
There were no parking issues at the Groddie car park for our trip to Morven, since we were the first arrivals to the empty car park. Luckily no one was arriving via the Logie Coldstone bridge, currently closed for repair. Leader Andy, Graham, Marijke, Sue and visitor Irene set off along the road that leads through Groddie. We then took a path that had appeared perfectly clear in May but had vanished under the head height broom. The going got easier once we entered the wooded area to the north of Groddie. After a socially distanced coffee break in the lovely sunshine we proceeded on one of Morven’s many tracks, guided by Andy to the impressive eagle. This incredible statue captures the power and grace of an eagle beautifully. Have a look Marijke’s picture on facebook. We then climbed up above the eagle through short heather and then path to reach the massive summit cairn. The views over Aberdeenshire and surrounding hills were impressive. We stopped at Little Cairn on our descent, then took a path slightly to the right of the main direct route following a more southerly direction initially towards Roar Hill. This had a gentle, very comfortable gradient mostly on grassy path. We passed the lonesome pine on our route back to the cars which now appears to have tiny seedlings springing up around it. A lovely walk on Morven, avoiding the busier, steep main route. Irene and Sue happened to pass through Tarland at the same time so we tested out Angie’s café. It gets full marks producing warm cheese scones and outside seating in Tarland’s quiet main square. (Note from editor - I would heartily agree with this!)
2ND AUGUST 2020
Mortlich by Malcolm
Peter, John and I traversed Mortlich widdershins passing through the immaculate turf of the golf course, pausing while players took their shots and stopped by the loch to enjoy the view with water lilies in bloom. The path to the hill turns left up into the bracken almost disappearing in a tangle of two metre high fronds but luckily well beaten down where the path winds through the birch and stately oak trees. In due course the bracken and birch were left behind as scots pine cloak the approach to the summit but there unfortunately, the rain caught up with us and full waterproof kit was donned. Just as well as the rain was heavy, the tree canopy only softening the force of the downpour that continued as we topped out on the slippery summit cairn where we paused to enjoy the watery view. A short heathery traverse took us to track unknown to the O.S. that gave us an easy descent and on to a magnificent view of hills with Ben Avon clear in the far distance, the rain having gone off to soak other CHC walkers. This track is barred by a shiny new gate but our route went off to the left down a grassy path and eventually onto the track that carried us back to Aboyne past lochans, down a stretch of the Tarland Way and later we doffed our caps as we passed the seat of the Marquis of Huntly. The walk held its interest to the end passing through Allach Wood with its huge trees and elderberry bushes heavy with clusters of brilliant red berries. We took five hours over this very enjoyable walk.
Barmekin Hill 272m by Della
Every time I looked at the met office forecast for today, it showed me something different, but we set off in overcast but reasonably bright conditions from the gates to the Dunecht Estate. We saw a few dog walkers and golfers as we traversed the estate, the lochan looking particularly peaceful in its stillness, and before long we were bowling down the side road which leads to the Echt/Dunecht road. But this wasn't plain sailing, due to a surfeit of cyclists, one of whom appeared to think he owned the road, and the arrival of the rain cloud we had seen approaching at 11am, predicted last night by the Met Office but strangely enough, not this morning.
We turned north up the road, but not for long as we took a farm track up to the start of our climb up the hill. I was disappointed for my fellow walkers, 2 Sutherlands, Brenda and Dorothy, because I had a lovely sunny day for the recce and now it was still raining. However, miraculously, by the time we reached the top of this iron age hill-fort hill, the rain had stopped, and the sun was smiling on us benignly out of a blue sky. So, as planned, we made the most of it and enjoyed our lunch, the views and the irritation of a swarm of flies (but no midges!) on the top. We continued on the path northwards (we had also had to fight the undergrowth on our ascent) through the most attractive hardwood forest and later still with panoramic views, to re-cross the Echt/Dunecht road back on to the estate and the most dangerous corner in Aberdeenshire, eventually joining our outward route to return to the cars. The day had clouded over by this time and as I drove away from Dunecht, it started raining again. We took 4 hours over our walk.
4 Bennachie Hills by Graham
Six of us from five separate households met at the carpark on the B992, 1.5 miles north of Keig at 9.15 for the walk over four hills on the west of the Bennachie range. Once through a gate, we headed up a steep, wet grassy track to skirt Corrie Hill. Gently dropping to just NE of Quarry Croft, we joined a lovely, narrow hill path that would lead us up the side of the wood, to just short of the summit of Black Hill. Once the top of the hill was reached, it was quite cool and over jackets had to be donned for our first break of the day. Isolated showers could be seen at this point over parts of Deeside, but luckily for us, we were able to stay dry for the whole walk. From here it was over to Hermit Seat, then onto Watch Craig before reaching our final top of the day, Oxen Craig. Fine views were seen from various points, including, Mormond Hill, The Bin, Foundland Hill, Ben Rinnes, Tap O' Noth, The Buck, Lord Arthurs Hill, distant Cairngorms, Morven, Lochnagar, Mount Keen, Mount Battock, Clachnabben, to name but a few. Our return journey back to the starting point was via the Gordon Way. On our 15km walk that included 427m of ascent and descent, we saw a buzzard, an Emperor Moth Caterpillar, a Magpie Moth and a Toad. Many thanks to all for coming along and making it a very pleasant day out. As was said on a report from one of the last CHC outings "How good it is to back in the hills". Here, here. I totally agree with that!!
Peter Hill + by James
The maximum COVID compliant 5 households met at 9.30 in the Ballater Church car park, and were quickly away past the newly rebuilt railway station buildings, along the old platform that must have seen a few Royals over the years, along nice urban path to the Ballater by-pass, and after a short distance on the tarmac veered off up through the woods. With the sun doing its best to shine the steady climb through the woodlands was warm work needing a brief drink stop before heading to the radio mast and gubbins on the summit of Sgur Buidhe (unnamed on the OS 1:25000). The concrete plinths of all the humming technology offered ample COVID-19 spaced snack-time seating.
Retracing our steps a short distance we continued on the main track up to a very insignificant cairn atop Creagan Riabhach 533m where the forest on the map had long been felled, and we had glorious views south to the pyramidical shape of Mount Keen, the formidable cliffs of Lochnagar no longer showing any snow, and the skyline tors of Ben Avon. Our route descended along a track, part of the glaring evidence of grouse shooting territory. The bell heather was just past its best, but the ling was coming in to bloom so the extensive cover close by and on distant hills was impressive. A climb off track was required to reach our day's target, Peter's Hill 568m, but the ascent was eased by following one of a network of lines of strimmed heather across the grouse shooting moorland. From this summit the next hill to the north was Morven, looking big and bulky, but notable for the fact it was green with grass to the summit, no dark or purple patches of heather showing at all.
Taking a different route off Peter's Hill briefly required navigational skills to pick up the path heading in the direction of Hill of Candacraig, but not actually going to the summit. Excellent visibility aided group navigation whilst more tracks on the ground than on the map required careful analysis, but in the end our intended OS map path turned out to be a glaring track. With lunchtime approaching we found a borrow pit that gave us shelter from a pleasant but cooling breeze, shelter that allowed us to remain in short sleeve order. The track dropped us down into the lower reaches of Glen Gairn, eventually across farmland sheep pastures, and onto the North Deeside Road at Gairn Bridge. Crossing the road, we soon found the entrance to the path along the old railway bed, part of the Seven Bridges Walk, back to Ballater which appeared to be in full summer tourist season.
A thankfully dry day, a good walk of 16km, 540m ascent, with a start to finish duration of 5.5 hours.
Pressendye by Sandra
Our group of 5 and Jessie the dog met at Tillypronie estate for our walk up to Pressendye. It was a beautiful day and luckily we watched the showers passing by us on the south. We set off up the rather wet forestry track up through Tillypronie estate arriving out of the trees at Overlook Loch and the St. Kilda Wake statue. This Ronald Rae Sculpture of four Momumental portrait heads stands to the people of St. Kilda who became dispossed when they could no longer survive on their remote island. We then headed up the hill to the Trig Point on Baderonoch Hill to lovely 360 degree views. Next stop was Lazy Well and a well earned coffee stop where Bill showed photos of the projects that had been keeping him busy over lockdown. Next, was the up and down ridge walk to Pressendye with super views again all around, eventually arriving at Pressendye TP. Our route then took us over The Socach where we had a stop for lunch and then onto a much nicer grassy track over Craiglea Hill and down over the Socach Burn before eventuall rejoining the track just below Broom Hill. From here it was an easy walk back down to the woods,Tillypronie House and back to the cars. Tillypronie House has recently been bought over by an anonymous owner who has completed major refurbishment work on the house. A great walk was had by all with everyone remarking what fantastic views we had all day.
19TH JULY 2020 Post COVID-19 Celebration Walks
Clachnaben and Mount Shade
Five of us from five separate households met at the AA box, Greendams, for a prompt 9am start to tackle what for most of us was our first hill walk since March. It was a beautiful morning, and we set off on an uphill forestry track, passing ongoing forestry operations in respite for the weekend, to reach a deer fence and high stile crossing.
On the other side of the fence, the track faded in and out, though we managed to keep to this to the top of Threestanes Hill. A brief stop here to refuel with great views, before tackling Mount Shade. Descending Mount Shade, we came across our first sighting of others with several runners crossing us on their ascent. We reached the summit of Clachnaben where things were a little busier with several groups of other walkers summiting, so, with a brief stop, we descended along a less well trodden route towards Wester Burn. Much of this descent was off track through newly flowering heather with a better defined route possibly having been overgrown due to lack of recent use, and some care was needed to avoid (not always successfully!) the occasional hidden deep hole. We disturbed the occasional grouse and saw the odd hare, though otherwise all was serene. Crossing the burn, we joined a clear path shortly after which we found some conveniently socially distanced rocks to sit on for our lunch break, again with good views.
Still with glorious weather, we returned through the forest to the cars for our solitary drives back to Aberdeen and into the rain. A great walk to start the post lockdown season.
Our group of 7 met at the Aboyne car park at 9:15am and were able to find plenty of parking in front of the village shops. The weather started fine with some cloud and a slight breeze. We set off along Charleston Road, crossed the River Dee and joined the start of the Fungle Road. We then headed South on good track, passing houses and a secluded lochan before continuing steeply uphill through woodland. We stopped briefly at the Rest and Be Thankful viewpoint (the view now obscured by tall confers!) with carved stones in memory of William Cunliffe Brooks, owner of the Glen Tanar Estate in the late 19th Century. The route took us past estate cottage at The Guard, then followed the course of the Allt Dinnet.
We stopped for a break overlooking the open hillside of Duchery Beg (451m) then continued South, leaving the woodland and into open moorland where we joined the main track and had a fine view of Carnferg (525m) to the East. The route continued to a low col South West of Carnferg, then left the track and headed West across rough moorland and heather to the un-named top at 466m then North West to Bawdy Meg (488m). We had a break in a sheltered spot just below the summit with fine views across Glen Tanar towards Loch Kinord, Morven and the distant Cairngorms.
After the break, we descended from the summit following cleared sections through the heather, joined a track leading around Black Craig and into woodland towards the Water of Tanar. We continued on track towards Bridge of Ess before heading uphill across the shoulder of Craigendinnie (379m) and then joined the Fungle Road, returning to Aboyne around 3:30pm. This had been a lovely walk in fine conditions (apart from a heavy shower near the end!) and covered some 18km in approx. 6 hours.
Creag nam Ban
The eagerly anticipated first post-Covid CHC walks took place on Sunday 19th July, a gap of some 4 months since our last outing. One group of 7 met at Balmoral car park, including new member David Reid who brought along his brother as a guest, visiting home from Zurich on his 1000cc Moto Guzzi.
Weather was set fair as we headed up past Royal Lochnagar distillery, and the views of eponymous Munro as we headed south east were magnificent, crystal clear for the time being, this was not set to last… The LandRover track was rather uninteresting, and you cannot help but notice how the recently made tracks spoil the natural landscape - good for the Royals and their hunting I'm sure, not so great for the environment. It was when, after about 7 km, we reached the end of the track at Bovaglie that the whole walk became really interesting. Bovaglie is a ruined farm and steading used to house ponies (I think?); along with the stalls in the steading there is a remarkable ancient threshing machine, which looks like it has just been parked up at the end of the season. It really should be in a museum, am sure an industrial archeologist would have a field day examining it and the other ancient farm machinery there. Thanks to June for pointing us in this direction, just slightly off our track but we would have missed it if she hadn't been with us.
Then it was off piste up towards Sgor an h-Iolaire and the many cairns that are dotted along the ridge towards Creag nam Ban. Quite a climb, heather bashing at its summer best and well worth it for the simply stunning views down Deeside to Ballater and beyond, plus the views back to a now cloud shrouded Lochnagar, its more usual appearance. Of course the clouds were not exclusive to that great lump, and we found ourselves caught in just one short sharp shower at the summit of Iolaire. The climb to Creag nam Ban looked pretty easy, but as we all know looks can be deceptive and it was steep both up and down, plenty of ankle breaking opportunities, thankfully none of us took advantage! The return involved a marked path that was completely overgrown, through a dense wood with the inevitable barbed wire fence and rickety gate to negotiate. On the descent we saw an adder wriggling across our 'track', other than that wildlife as bit scarce but of course the flora was magnificent, Lady's Bedstraw providing a delightful honey aroma for a number of sections of the walk, the heather in full bloom, the occasional orchid and of course cotton flowers galore - plus plenty of other species unknown to the author making a colourful backdrop for the day.
We reached the cars exactly 6 hours after we set off, having covered some 16km. How good it is be back in the hills!
Saunter - Sluie Hill (191 metres)
We left Potarch, crossing over the river and the road and heading up towards the Warlock Stone where we had a break. (It was a Saunter after all!). From here we descended to the quarry road, past the quarry, and turned right to have our lunch in the sunshine in a big open space. The sunshine wasn't to last. At the end of the lunchbreak, we felt spots of rain and by the time we reached the top of Sluie Hill, we were in the shower we had seen approaching but there was still a good panoramic view. We then descended through the woods and crossed over to our original track. It was agreed that this was an enjoyable walk, although swimming through the bracken was a bit of a challenge for someone of my diminutive stature and I decided that, if I did this walk again, it would be even better in the spring. However, it was a good time of year to see butterflies/moths of various hues.
1ST MARCH 2020 Pannanich Hill
This was billed as ‘not an easy walk in winter conditions’ and so it transpired - short but demanding, a bit like Priti Patel…
12 hardy souls met on the South Deeside Road at Tornacraig, Mill of Bellmore, with the snow lying where we parked giving us a clue as to what awaited on the hills. We had long not set off towards the Coire of Corn Arn on a glorious sunny day when we espied a large herd of deer on the hills relatively close - certainly the largest herd the author had seen in the Deeside Valley. A few minutes later as we were looking for somewhere to grab a quick bite before setting off on the climb a magnificent stag appeared just in front of us, along with a few stragglers from the herd.
We put on spikes for the climb, and used the ‘Good King Wenceslas’ technique to get us to the top - quite a struggle through deep snow with the usual variety of depths, the exact scale only discovered when you ended up with your foot having disappeared down 3 feet or so. Thanks to John Adam and Graham Neish for taking the lead here, a very demanding part of walking in the snow. The group had a real sense of achievement when we summited Pannanich at just over 600m, where we had some good news and some bad news: the good news was the ice encountered on the recce had thankfully disappeared, making the walk down, a lot over rocks, much easier (albeit still in deep snow); the bad news was that it started snowing the moment we hit the summit and this stayed on all the way down - not too heavy thankfully. The views on the way up were stunning, though I fear that most folk were more focussed on trying not to fall than taking in the views. Those that lifted their heads were rewarded with seeing Bennachie clear and crisp in the far distance and the Deeside Valley in all its glory; the views at the top and on the way down were all of snow. So four and half hours later we all returned safely to our cars, the only other wildlife spotted were some grouse, but there were plenty of tracks in the snow to show we were definitely not alone up there! The leg muscles were all tested well on this walk, the coffee at the Ballater Bothie tasted so good!
Sunday Saunter, Tyrebagger Hill
As we drove into Kirkhill Forest car park, it seemed that the whole of Aberdeen was there. Parking was certainly at a premium and we wondered whether we’d be able to find the Smiths. Fortunately, they were right behind us and we both managed to squeeze our relatively small vehicles into some rather dubious parking spaces. Taking up a great deal of room were horse boxes and the horses to go with them, but we discovered we had actually gate crashed a greyhound walking group, as you do, However, strangely, when we were on our walk, we saw remarkably few people, mostly cyclists.
We basically followed the Kirkhill Forest white route, going west to begin with on the edge of the wood before climbing up to the top of Tyrebagger Hill (250m) from whence we enjoyed the panorama across to snowy hills in the distance, where we imagined the rest of our walking group were enjoying Pananich Hill. We took the rather muddy path off the white route due north from there down to the track which follows the edge of the wood round Hill of Marcus. Having passed the dual carriageway with its unremitting noise shattering the calm of the woodland, we had lunch underneath the trees before making our way to the easterly side of the white route, which we followed back to the car park.
A route for after lunch had been planned but for various reasons, we gave that a miss and repaired to Wynford Farm for refreshments before returning home. Sorry we didn’t see the rest of you, but we hope to do so in April when a walk through Ballochbuie Forest is planned. We also have plans to return to Tyrebagger Forest another day.
23RD FEBRUARY 2020 Hill Skills Day
The planned Winter Skills training day with Alan Crighton had to be changed at short notice due to the lack of suitable snow around Braemar and instead seven members met Alan at the Bennachie Centre Car Park for a day of Hill Skills training. The weather was bright with only a little wind at car park level, but the forecast was for strong winds at elevation with the advantage of only 5% chance of rain.
We left the car park along the main path to Mither Tap and after 15 minutes were stopped by Alan and asked where we were on the 1:50,000 map. It was not clear cut, and two lessons were soon learned, what you see on the ground (lots of paths in all directions) is not necessarily the same as what’s on the map, and sometimes the required detail is contained in the 1:25.000. At least we weren’t lost as Mither Tap was easily visible against the blue sky.
Before leaving the shelter of the forest we stopped for tea/coffee and took the opportunity of testing out a four-person emergency shelter, with no shortage of volunteers for diving in to test if it really did give shelter from the prevailing breeze and +2C temperatures. The result was a resounding approval, temperatures inside rose quickly and we were advised that the emergency shelters can be used to advantage in non-emergency situations, just to sit in and have coffee and biscuits on a wet, rainy day. The challenge on a Club walk is selecting who should go in and benefit!!
Alan opened up his day pack to reveal the contents, several pairs of gloves with silk (or non-silk) liners being a worthwhile advantage for putting the gloves on more easily, especially when wet, or to keep fingers warm when performing some fiddly job that regular gloves would not allow. Alan, in the last year, had also gone high-tech now carrying a personal location beacon (PLB), under pressure from family to do so because of his penchant for walking solo.
We also went through an overview of how to assess and treat an accident victim, the DRABC. Danger, check for any at the accident site (avalanches?), Response of the victim, are they conscious or not? Airway, is it clear? Breathing, is the victim breathing? and Circulation, is there a pulse? We learned and practised some innovative methods of moving a patent as carefully as possible over a short distance should it be necessary to do so, for instance to relocate them to a less exposed location. Various accidents scenarios were imagined and the best solution for the victim discussed.
Group management often involved people skills, convincing very slow members of the group to walk a bit faster, and persuading the fastest "young-guns to slow down a bit, alternatively, in the extreme, splitting a group into two.
Out of the forest and on steeper ground we headed off-path to sample some light scrambling over rocky, heathery terrain, the sort of terrain it is normally best to avoid if possible. We all came through with flying colours.
We stopped for lunch in a sheltered spot amongst the old fort ruins just down from the summit of Mither Tap. Although remnants of overnight snow appeared not to be melting, the spot was facing south and benefitted from the sun. Fully refreshed we headed for the not-to-be-missed summit and, in rounding a small cliff, were blasted with wind gust that we later discussed to be over 50mph, a level judged by the fact that it was almost necessary to crawl, and one member’s hat blew off his head, rose vertically up an 8 foot rock face to disappear on the summit somewhere (later to be found).
We descended by the main path stopping once more in the forest to address further some of the topics already covered, and to discuss the effects of strong winds!!!
As always it was a very informative day out with Alan, with a great deal learned. Hopefully we will be able to get our Winter Skills homed in 12 months’ time.
17TH FEBRUARY 2020 Glen Tanar
Storm Dennis – bringing floods and financial ruin to places south, we escaped by a swift change of plan, abandoning the precarious delights further west for the relative calm and shelter of Glen Tanar. A slightly ambitious 20km walk was tweaked at different points – not everyone’s 9 year old self was thrilled by crossing a raging torrent by means of a blown down tree – congratulations to those who did, while those who didn’t undertook an ambitious direct ascent of Clachan Yell. Not easy, especially nearing the summit, when the very strong winds made progress very challenging – we agreed a swift descent with wind at our backs was the sensible solution. Meanwhile the other group forged their way thru wet soft snow over Little Cock Cairn and then sensibly took a shorter route down out of the elements. For both groups, a pleasant stroll thru Tanar’s pleasing pine woodlands finished a lovely day out in the February sunshine. Many thanks to the drivers, congratulations on finding the carpark, and thank you also to everyone who came and enjoyed the day out.
2ND FEBRUARY 2020 Craig Leek
This was an A to B from Inver to Keiloch taking in the hills of Meall Gorm (617m) and Craig Leek (635m). 15 members of the club arrived at Inver at 9.30am. The first job of the day was to transfer most of the cars over to Keiloch car park, and for the driver s then to return back to Inver all in one car. As it was too chilly to stand around, an advance party led very ably by June Barclay, set off up towards Tullochcoy, where they were soon overtaken by our leader Bill and his fellow drivers. As we gradually walked up the contours, panoramic views of the Lochnagar range opened up on our left. However, ominous snow clouds seemed to be brewing over mighty Lochnagar, but we decided to ignore these for now and live in the moment. By the time we reached the settlement of Auchtavan the first snowflakes had arrived. We had morning coffee at a very civilised picnic bench and had a little nosy inside the abandoned blacksmith's house and the cottage with the 'hanging lum'
All refreshed we set off again along the track into remote Glen Fearder. By now there was snow on the road and in the sky, but as there was no wind and visibility remained good, we were unconcerned. Our party forded several streams without any mishaps and then continued the winding track uphill. We stopped at the foot of Meal Gorm for lunch and one of our party noticed on the map that the next bit of the walk was straight up straight down and straight up and straight down again. And that is exactly what we did next. We climbed steeply off path through the heather and, despite the swirling weather fronts on the tops, we were rewarded with magnificent views of the Dee valley. Straight ahead off us rose Craig Leek, our next hill. So down we went again and then up again following an incredibly long stone wall bedecked in the most lovely freshly fallen snow. We scrambled up the first craggy false summit and then very soon we were on top of Craig Leek. The descent of Craig Leek down a steep wooded hill side proved to be the most challenging half hour of the day. At the bottom of the hill we picked up the circular walk track and after a couple more kilometres, we arrived back at Keiloch car park, 16km later at around 4pm, ready for refreshments at the Bothy cafe in Ballater.
Sunday Saunter the Fog House and beyond…..
Just as the Met Office predicted, the snow started falling at 11am, the very time that we set out from Keiloch car park. We made our way at first north east before turning off the main track to Felagie and taking the very comfortably gradiented path upwards in the direction of Craig Leek. But this wasn’t to be our focus for today as we turned back on ourselves and took the lower path to the ,Fog House, where we had our first stop, comfortably seated in the dry under the heather (i.e. "fog") roof while watching the snow gently falling outside. From here we descended to take a good track again with a pleasant gradient, which leads in the direction of Carn Liath. We turned off this track to a motorway-type track, pausing for another bite to eat, sheltered by the trees from the still-falling snow, seated on some handily felled logs.
As we were eating our sandwiches, we noticed from the map an interesting track which looked very tempting descending to the valley floor along the side of the Allt Dourie, so instead of following the motorway, we turned off and started our descent. The only problem with this was that we had to cross the Allt Dourie farther down and there was no bridge. Sadly, all of us didn’t get through the ford without mishap. Soon we reached the tarmac road past Invercauld House which took us back to Keiloch. We saw 5 people on our route, a few vehicles and a number of houses with dogs who greeted us ecstatically, from their cages – their bit of excitement for the day. But the highlight of the walk had to be the bull, a lovely small fawn highland cow who we just couldn’t believe would be able to live up to its reputation on the sign on the gate of being fierce. It eyed us placidly as we went on our way.
This was a bit of an experiment to see how this walk went the opposite way round to the way we’d done it before. The initial climb gave us a marvellous view of the Felagie valley, but it wasn’t so good ending the walk on the hard tarmac surface.
20TH JANUARY 2020 Creag nam Ban
Thank you, Marijke! A brilliant idea to go for Creag nam Ban (527m), with its history of 16th witch burning: but no such horrors were evoked on this lovely steep little summit, the whole ridge glowing in crisp winter sun. The route starts easy along the Glen Girnock track to Bovaglie farm, abandoned after many centuries– there are still bruising, threshing and separating machines left after the last farmer threw away the keys in 1981 (correct technical details available from Bill!).
The easy clamber on to the ridge is rewarded by possibly the best views of Deeside. Balmoral rests in a gentle bowl of field and forest, rimmed by the scatter of lower hills, and the snowy Cairngorms provide a magnificent backdrop to the whole. Very fine indeed.
James claimed we found nine cairns altogether, including the one marked DK, and assumed to be dedicated to Queen Victoria’s mother; Creag nam Ban itself seems to have an excessive number for such a neat summit, but June spotted its most famous, sited lower down and boasting not only a dead tree trunk but the remains of flags too, possibly celebrating the 400th anniversary of the burning.
An old grassy track bordered by juniper took us back to Littlemill in the dying sun, a lovely finish to the day. Oh, and I nearly forgot the deer, two groups of barely two dozen each, sheltering in the lee of the hill, away from the stiff but almost warm breeze; the only wildlife we saw.
As always, many thanks to the drivers, and congratulations on your impressively tidy parking in the limited space!
5TH JANUARY 2020 Pressendye
Our group of 16 travelled to Tarland in shared cars and met at the village square (NJ 480045). The weather was dry with good visibility and no frost but fresh SW winds were forecast for the tops.
The walk was a clockwise circular route from Tarland and the group set off around 9:30am. We headed NW from the village on tarmac road towards East Davoch then on track to the edge of a forest plantation before turning NE uphill to a gate where we entered the woods. The wind was starting to pick up so we took advantage of shelter at the edge of the woods for our first refreshment break. From this vantage point, we had fine views of the hills around Deeside with clear tops visible on Clachnaben, Mount Battock and Mount Keen although the tops of Lochnagar and Morven were in cloud.
After the break, we continued uphill on good track through the established forest then into a vast area of newly planted trees covering the flank of Broom Hill, enclosed by a new deer ,,fence. Our route joined a track heading ENE up the ridge to the summit of Broom Hill (576m) before dropping to a saddle just south of Humphrey's Well, then ascending again to the summit of Pressendye (NJ 490090, 619m). We had our lunch break in the shelter of the summit cairn with fine panoramic views across the Deeside hills to the south and the hills to the north, including The Buck, Tap o'Noth and the Bennachie range. The cloud had lifted revealing the summit of Morven although Lochnagar remained in cloud.
The return route headed SE down a steep flank on good track and into open woodland where we took a short detour to the viewpoint cairn on Pittenderich (NJ 496079, 508m). We then returned to the main track, descending though woods then open moorland, where we were rewarded with good views back towards Pressendye and across the farmland to Morven. The route skirted the woodland above Douneside, a country house retreat in the grounds of the MacRobert Estate and finally through an avenue of tall beech trees to join the road back to Tarland and finish our walk in the village square at 2:15pm.
This had been a fine walk to start off the New Year, covering some 16km with great views across Deeside and Donside although very little wildlife was visible, apart for some buzzards and geese. Our group stopped for refreshments at the Commercial Hotel in Tarland where we were joined by 4 members from the club who had done the shorter walk to Pittenderich. A great attendance from the Club and many thanks to all the drivers for providing transport.
Sunday Saunter, January 2020, Pittenderich
As far as I remember, the last time the Club did this walk was in December for a Christmas walk and the leaflet "Walks Around Tarland" is very useful for this route since not all the paths are marked on the OS map and the route taken is a mixture of different colour-coded routes. When we parked in Tarland, it was remarkably windy and colder than at home and we wondered if we were wearing sufficient warmth. We set off up the long drive to Allastrean House, turning left off the main track to stop briefly at a pleasant viewpoint with a seat before crossing the Queen's View Road and heading upwards past Cock Forest Lochan to enter the woods and our first real respite from the wind. We therefore had lunch here and continued up to the summit of 508m from which there was a good view and the sun was beginning to shine.