TGOC2012 – Day 10 – Cock Bridge to Tufty Swamp via the Forest of Dead Things

At breakfast, I found that there had been two other Challengers staying in the hotel.  They’d been doing a no-camping crossing which, in some ways, appeals to me but I think I’d prefer to keep hotels and hostels as a treat after a few days of camping.

I found the first few miles quite hard going. The old military road was easy walking through pretty scenery but I just couldn’t get my body into gear.  I looked out for the potential camping spot that I’d intended to use if I’d walked that far the day before; it will keep for another time.

The old military road running SE from Cock Bridge

I saw this trap at the side of the road.

I can’t see it being an effective form of pest control, as the pest could take another route and it would only catch one at a time, so I assume the target animal is of some value.  For fur?  Surely not for meat? Mink?

Looking back towards Cock Bridge from the A939

From the A939 I had two choices.  My original plan had been to follow tracks towards Strathdon, but I had also considered going in a straight line, cross-country, over the tops of Scraulac, Cairnagour Hill, Mona Gowan and Slacks of Glencarvie.  The weather was fine and I was feeling good, so I headed for Scraulac.

The next couple of hours were excellent.  It was mostly dwarf heather underfoot, and very dry, but with the occasional boggy bit.  I walked up and down the first three hills enjoying the excellent views and knocking a few stones off each of the cairns I passed. (It’s a habit of mine).

Scraulac, or Cairnagour Hill or possibly Mona Gowan – they were all pretty similar

At the top of each hill, I spent some time sitting in the sun and savouring just being there.  It had been a leisurely day so far, with just enough “up” to make it interesting, and my progress had been quite slow.  I decided to miss out Slacks of Glencarvie and Mullachdubh, and to follow the track that goes N from Mona Gowan.  I’d be able to rejoin my planned track in the forest in a couple of kms.

There were a number of farm tracks and buildings at the bottom of the hill and, having walked through a field full of inquisitive cows, I had no option but to wade through ankle-deep slurry – which was not very pleasant whilst wearing Inov-8 Terrocs.

The map showed that I would be able to find my track through the forest by following a path to the edge of the trees.  Realising that paths are often not visible where the maps say they should be, I switched on my GPS and started to look for a gate along the edge of the forest.  Eventually I found one in roughly the right place and with the vestiges of a track on the other side.  I climbed over and entered the forest.

There were lots of fallen trees blocking my way, so it was quite an effort to make any headway.  Many of the trees were dead with sharp, broken branches – one of which scratched a deep 4 inch gouge in my left calf.  The blood dried quickly in the heat, though.

I was expecting, at any time, to find the main track running perpendicular to the one I was on.  After a while, I checked the map and GPS (which, amazingly, still had a good signal despite the tree cover) and decided that it was worth going back to the gate and trying to make some progress in the other direction.

It was just as bad the other way and it was hard work going round, under and over all of the fallen trees whilst trying to pick my way though patches of swamp.  As well as dead trees, there was a good collection of skeletons of birds and animals and I was starting to wonder if anything ever came out of this forest alive.

Looking into the forest from the gate. It doesn’t look too bad from here!

After about half an hour of getting nowhere, I decided to cut my losses and find another way.  I went back to the gate, washed the blood off my leg and had a think.

My only option seemed to be to follow the pylons over the hill.  By now I was quite tired and I didn’t fancy having to walk over rough ground, but the pylon route turned out to be relatively easy – apart from having to crawl though a barbed wire fence.  These fences are always just a little too high for me to climb over, especially when the top two strands of wire are barbed like this one was.  Crawling on my belly through the lower two strands is far less risky!

It was good to reach the track, and then the road, after what had been a difficult couple of hours walking in quite hot sun.  I stopped at a burn and, after a drink, tried to wash the slurry out of my socks; I don’t think they’ll ever look clean again.

I’d planned to camp by White Hill but the pitch didn’t look that good from the road and I was sure I’d find something better futher on.  I very nearly knocked on a door near the bridge over Deskry Water, when I saw a lovely patch of grass in someone’s garden, but I really wanted a “wild” camp out of sight of the road, so I kept going a little further to the track that goes to Tarland via Lazy Well and managed to find a dry patch in the middle of a swamp.  By lying down on the ground, I identifed a sleeping-bag sized patch of flat, tuftless grass and pitched my tent over it.

It was tufty; it was boggy; but I was tired and it was the best I could find.

I would have slept well, had it not been for the annual bird jamboree taking place in the nearby trees.  I swear every bird in Scotland had descended on Gallows Hill and was tweeting at the top of its voice – ALL NIGHT.  By midnight, I’d resorted to earplugs and was soon well away.

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11 Responses to TGOC2012 – Day 10 – Cock Bridge to Tufty Swamp via the Forest of Dead Things

  1. Laura says:

    Well done for navigating out of that one – most of my worst walking experiences have always had something to do with forests!

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  2. Louise says:

    Another tough day and a tale well told. I love the descriptive title!

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  3. Phil Cook says:

    That trap is for killing things like stoats and weasels that like to eat grouse or pheasant eggs and chicks. Those little furry animals don’t like getting their feet wet as much as you don’t so they will take the route over the bridge to their doom. The wire over the top is to keep birds off which are supposedly protected.

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    • Judith says:

      Ah, that makes sense. The whole purpose of that track seemed to be to serve the shooting hut at the end, but I presumed they’d be shooting deer not birds. I suppose anything is fair game 😦

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    • Martin Richardson says:

      Strangely whenever I have seen one of those traps it seems to be damaged. Cannot imagine how.

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  4. Howellsey says:

    Sounds like a tough day, but enjoyed reading it and can identify with the frustrations of forest navigation. The Challenge sounds amazing and definitely something I might have to consider for the next year or two’s big project!!

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    • Judith says:

      Thanks Howellsey. Yes, it was a tough day but enjoyable and it sums up the TGO Challenge for me. Some hard work; some glorious scenery and plenty of fun. Give it a go; you know you want to!

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  5. alan.sloman says:

    That trap is called a “Fen trap” and as Phil Cook says, it’s used for stoats and weasels. It looks legal as the entrance widths are restricted to catch just small prey (ie not the nose of a fox) or a bird of prey. You can find out more about these barbaric things by visiting this very good web page: Traps in our Countryside

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  6. I am not a big fan of nasty boggy forest swamps, although there is a sense of achievment when you manage to navigate through them with no visible sign on the ground of where paths ought to be.

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