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TGO Challenge 2009 - A Third Walk Across Scotland

Day 13 - Wednesday 20th May
Tarfside to Edzell (North Water Bridge campsite)
(16 miles/190 metres ascent)

TGO Challenge 2009 - Part 11

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I can no longer remember what time I woke up, but I do recall that I woke to a good morning: dry, and at least a little bit sunny. All around me people were eating breakfast and packing up, and so I put on some water for hot chocolate and began to make desultory preparations.

Quite a lot of people seemed to be heading to North Water Bridge campsite outside Edzell, and eventually I decided to head in that direction too. I was sorry to abandon my Carr Bothy plan, but a night at Charr Bothy would have left me with an extremely long walk the following day, and a very late arrival at Montrose, and I was keen to avoid both of those eventualities. I therefore decided to get my things together and set off in the direction of The Retreat, and so after finishing my hot chocolate I began to pack up.

Little Peewiglet wasn't quite so keen to get up, but he sat in the tent and studied the map while I began to pack the rucksack.

Little Peewiglet makes a route plan

I think it must have been while I was packing up that I finally ran into John Hesp. We'd met online in one of the various walking community haunts, and walked together in the Lakes the previous year. John had been deciding at that stage whether or not to apply for the Challenge, and although I knew that he'd got a place I wasn't sure whether I'd run into him before Montrose, and so it was a very sweet moment indeed to meet up again with him on the campsite. John was also aiming for The Retreat, and so I told him I'd follow on when I'd packed up.

It's not far from the camping field to The Retreat, and along the way I found Russ Manion and another Challenger, whose name I've maddeningly forgotten, making adjustments to their packs by the side of the road.

I stopped to say hello, and while I was there my demon nicotine addiction prompted me to enquire about whether or not Russ might have a spare cigarette tucked away somewhere in his pack. I'd actually dumped the evil weed several months earlier, but my resolve had failed in Braemar at the height of alcoholic excess during the Saturday night bash, and now that I was approaching 'civilisation' again the memory of smoking had returned to haunt me...

Russ smokes a pipe rather than cigarettes, so I'm not sure why I thought he might be carrying some. Whatever it was, though, Russ turned up trumps and furnished me with some cigarettes to keep me going until Edzell. Wow! I thanked him, and as I set off again towards the restaurant, with music playing through my ears, a cigarette in my hand and sunshine warming the back of my neck, I really felt that life had very little better to offer!

On arrival at the restaurant I dumped my pack outside and went in to see what was happening. I found happy groups of Challengers tucked up together at cozy tables enjoying large breakfasts accompanied by steaming cups of tea and coffee, and I soon spotted John at a table with Val. There was a space, and they kindly said that I could join them.

Val and John, breakfasting at The Retreat

There were other reprobates close to hand. I spotted Sue, Ali and David at a table nearby, and went over to say hello.

Sue, Ali and David

After that I returned to my place to consume yet another plate of egg and chips. Yum! Unfortunately my camera had started doing the 'fuzzy' thing that it had done earlier in the trip, and so the picture looks a little steamed up. The egg and chips were delicious, though.

After breakfast John and I staggered out to our packs, and set off in the direction of Edzell. Fortunately I now had a ready-made victim for Bob's wee recording device, and I was able to cross-examine John about his experience on the Challenge as a first-timer :)

As we wandered down the road we ran into Ali and Sue again, and I was able to persuade them to say a few words for posterity while John walked on with David. Even David didn't manage to escape, though, and by the time we got to the bridge near Fernybank I'd filled my complement of podcasts for the day, and we were all able to walk on together in what was increasingly glorious sunshine.

Moi, David, Sue

David, Ali, Sue, two other Challengers, John

Sue and I swapped rucksacks for a while as we walked. Sue's pack is getting on a bit, and heavy, and she was thinking of swapping to something lighter. I was keen for her to consider an Osprey, since they're so lovely and comfy, and so she tried out the Exos and rather liked it, I think. Sue's a keen runner, and as we walked we chatted about races we probably both competed in a few years ago, when I did quite a lot of running with the club back at home.

It was lovely to be walking in the sun again. Everyone was in high spirits, and an atmosphere of relaxed hilarity pervaded our happy little group. At some stage we stopped for lunch, and John took the opportunity to try out the Exos as well.

John Hesp with Little Peewiglet

Several of us were wearing Paramo trousers, and David had a pair of the new (to me) Inov8 boots; similar to my Roclite 315s, but... bootier! Naturally we felt a need to compare them.

David's boot meets my trail shoe

We passed a lovely toad, at one stage, sitting in a muddy rut in the middle of the path. I was concerned that it might be trodden on by those coming behind us, and picked it up to move it to safety, but I found that it seemed to be sitting in a pool of toad spawn, and wondered whether it had already been injured. I hope not :(

Poor wee toad :(

Eventually we decided it was time for lunch, and so we stopped to eat. We decided, for some reason, to compare wicking underwear :) Can you work out who was wearing what? *g* Answers on a postcard, to...

Eventually it was time to press on, though, and having spent so much time staring at underwear my camera was keen to take a close look at something a little prettier :)

Pretty wee flowers

The prospect of arrival at Edzell now in our sights, we pressed determinedly onwards.

Ali, John, David, Sue

We ran into others on the approach to the town, and Challengers chattered away happily about the sorts of things that normally occupy their minds when approaching civilisation.

Assorted Challengers, dreaming

It's always a relief to find oneself approaching the end of the road after a couple of hard weeks in the hills, but for some of us the challenge had been even greater than usual.

Ali's bionic knee

Finally Edzell hoved into view, and David stopped to investigate the little water fountain.

We soon continued, though, and very soon after that we were all happily established in the famous Edzell cafe, tucking into drinkies, ciggies and--for some--large plates of... scrambled eggs. Um...??? They did look good, though.

Sue and David tuck into scrambled eggs in Edzell

We still had several miles to go, though, in order to get to the North Water Bridge campsite, and so 30 or so minutes later we decamped from the cafe, hoisted up our packs and pressed on again. Some of us made a quick visit to the shop over the road along the way, to stock up with wine and other yummy things for consumption later that evening.

The day was still sunny and warm, and I enjoyed the walk along the riverbank which began with a crossing of the suspension bridge.

Crossing the suspension bridge

Lovely path near the river

There was a chance to take a window picture at one stage...

Ali and Shirl

...and a little later we passed a rather fearesome looking bull in a field behind a farmhouse.

Bull. Eek!

A little later John and I encountered a slightly less scary-looking cow...

Why can't they all be like this one? Friendly, smiling and... plastic.

...and there was a brief navigational crisis as we waited to see whether the others, who had fallen back a little, were taking the same route as us through the farmyard.

They didn't appear to be, but we pressed on regardless; John sure of his navigational skills, and me happy to rely on somebody else to make the navigational decisions :) Looking again at the map, I wonder now whether the others followed the river bank all the way to the campsite, but John and I made our way to the long, straight road near Plantingside and then turned right, following it down to North Water Bridge.

John adjusts his pack

Eventually we arrived, and after popping into the little office to pay we emerged onto the campsite to find even more tents than we'd seen the night before at Tarfside. There really did seem to be hundreds!

For once I managed to get mine up in super-quick time on a perfectly flat pitch. John was soon enjoying a hot drink...

John enjoys a drinky in his tent

...but I made up for lost wine-drinking time the night before by making rapid inroads into the wine I'd purchased in Edzell, and I spent the rest of the evening engaged in increasingly drunken happy conversation with other slightly sozzled Challengers at a number of large tables scattered helpfully around the site. And occasionally on the floor... *g*

It was late when I returned to my tent to sleep, but I felt I ought to eat before bed and so I made a large bowl of my favourite Beanfeast and Smash and scoffed it happily in bed.

Beanfeast and Smash--always delicious!

After that I changed quickly into my sleeping things, nudged Little Peewiglet onto the other side of the sleeping bag and lay down. Just minutes later I was fast asleep.

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