Ready for Winter - Lairig Ghru V11

The November visit to the Cairngorms was to see a mountain ready for winter.  

The temperatures were bubbling around 10-12 C, and there was (usually) rain falling, but the overwhelming impression was that the landscape had been through its autumn retreat and was just sitting patiently waiting for the temperatures to fall and for the rain to change to snow.

Autumn Colours - just hanging on
Ready for Winter
On a couple of deceptively still days I walked from Loch an Eilein to Piccadilly and back in darkness (my claim to know the paths so well by this stage in the project that I could do the walk blindfold was put to the test) and then again from Loch an Eilein up to the Top Tree - the last big path-side tree as you climb up into the Lairig Ghru.

Top Tree - looking south into the Lairig Ghru
At the treeline
The lack of wind meant that a few of the tougher midges were still around - surely that’s the last of them for the season!

During the weekend the cloud level wandered up and down dramatically - at times dropping right down to loch-level and just (occasionally) lifting completely to let some late afternoon sunshine light up the little castle in the middle of Loch an Eilein. 

Loch an Eilein by torchlight
Clouds at Loch level
Loch an Eilein by afternoon sunlight
Loch an Eilein Castke

Oxfordshire Artweeks - November 2015

I'm going to be open for Oxfordshire Artweeks on Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th November - if you are going to be in the Oxford area over that weekend, do come and visit.

I'll be open from midday to 6PM each day - at 34 Stile Road, Headington, Oxford, OX3 8AQ

Playing in the Park - Lairig Ghru V10

Instalment 10 of my 2015 visits to Rothiemurchus and the Lairig Ghru - and again good dry weather on both of the walking days I had in the Cairngorms National Park.

The heather that was so vibrant in September has now rolled over into muted browns of October, but my biggest surprise was how dry everything was.  In September the heather was bright and the streams and pools were over flowing with fresh water.  By October the heather was dry, and water levels in the pools were amazingly low - the fords near the top of the Lairig Ghru were easily passed and the pools were empty.

The still weather (and dry walking) made it fairly easy to complete the walk from Loch an Eilein up to the top of the Lairig Ghru.  The biggest challenge was that the still weather was almost ideal midge conditions - they weren't noticeable when walking, but they were more than plentiful enough to make sitting still very unpleasant.

I suspect that October might have been my last chance to get to top of the Lairig Ghru this year, by next month I suspect that my weather luck might have run out - and there probably isn't going to be enough light to do the full walk anyway.

But hopefully November will also bring a little bit of snow - at least at high levels - and a few hard frosts might have seen off the midges for another season

Autumn Colours in the Rothiemurchus Forest
Top of the Lairig Ghru - looking through to Deeside
Way Marking along the Lairig Ghru
Changing Colours on the Tree Line
Top Tree - looking up into the Lairig Ghru
Still Weather at Loch an Eilein
Autumn Colours - Loch an Eilein

Loch an Eilein, Changing and Unchanging

I've walked up into the Lairig Ghru at least once each month this year (so far) - each time starting from the car park at Loch an Eilein, and inevitably taking some pictures of the Loch each time with the iconic pine trees on a little head-land at its north end.

The cloud level may wander up and down, the sunshine may come and go and the state of the water (from frozen to still to windswept) may change but there is something unchanging about the scene through the year.

January 2015
February 2015
March 2015
April 2015
May 2015
June 2015
July 2015
August 2015
September 2015
October 2015

Shetland September 2015

After the September visit to the Cairngorms, there was just enough time to fit in a few days on Shetland before heading back to other activities in southern England.

But it was just long enough to have a look around the harbours in Lerwick and Scalloway.

High Tide at Hays Docks
Caribbean Princess, slightly smaller than Bressey but more people
Gemini at Scalloway
Scalloway Castle

And to wander along a few beaches.

West Voe of Sumburgh
Meal Beach
Quendale Beach

And to explore a few cliffs and headlands.

Scat Ness
Horse Holm, off the southern tip of Scat Ness
Looking north from Windy Stacks, Fitful Head

And to chat with the local livestock.

Sheep at Tingwall
Sumburgh Cattle

And to get a quick glimpse of the Northern Lights.

From the kitchen window

Fab place Shetland.

Heather and Water – Lairig Ghru V9

The most dramatic changes since the August walk were the eruption of the heather, and the return of the water.
Rothiemurchus Heather
Allt Dhruidh at Cairngorm Club Footbridge
In August the ground felt very dry, and the trees and bushes had lost their early summer vibrancy, this time Autumn had kicked in and there had clearly been a lot of rain.  The burns were full to overflowing and you needed to give a little bit of thought before striding through the fords.  And the muddy bits were properly muddy again – and had been well churned up by the mountain bikes that were still around in big numbers.

Allt Dhruidh at Sinclair Memorial
Top Ford refilled
Over a weekend I did two versions of my regular walk – once up to Top Tree (see the August blog) and on the second longer day up to the Last Ford, and yet again I got dry, mostly sunny, weather on both days.

Ever changing waymark
Lochan Deo (Sparkling Loch)
The bright clear weather also brings the morning reminder that the year is moving on – there wasn't any sign of overnight frosts but the cool morning air was a reminder that they can’t be far away.

Low clouds around Loch an Eilein
 And, mirroring the August walk, as I was heading off to Shetland a reminder that cloud levels (like stock markets) can go down as well as up at this time of year.