This year I’m going to write a blog post for each day of my TGO Challenge crossing and base the post on one photograph from that day. The photo won’t necessarily be the most stunning scenery but will be something that triggers memories for me.
Day 1 – Saturday 12th May 2018
In 2015, Tranmere Rovers Football Club was relegated from the football league. At the end of our first non-league season we finished just below the play-off places. In May 2017 we won our play-off semi-final and went to Wembley for the final. I wasn’t doing the TGO Challenge in 2017 so went to Wembley full of hope for a return to the League. We lost.
In 2018, finishing in 2nd place again, we won our semi-final and booked another day at Wembley …… but this time I was doing the TGO Challenge and couldn’t go to the game on the Saturday.
I looked at changing my start day to the Sunday, but our participation in the play-off final had only been confirmed on Saturday 5th May and that didn’t leave much time to alter my route and rearrange my travel.
I studied mobile phone coverage maps. If I could get up high then – even if I could not get a data connection – at least I could receive score updates via text message. But I’d deliberately planned an easy first day following the Affric Kintail Way along Gleann Lichd, and climbing Beinn Fhada / Ben Attow just for the merest hope of a phone signal would be very silly.
My only hope lay in AM radio. Maybe I could pick up BBC 5 Live while the game was on. They weren’t broadcasting the game but surely there’d be score updates? Failing that, BBC Radio 4 would surely herald the Super White Army’s return to the Football League on the six o’clock news, and I would almost certainly be able to listen on longwave.
I had a great day’s walk along the Affric Kintail Way. The weather was glorious; nothing like the gloom I’d seen from the coach window. I chatted with various walkers and cyclists; many of them from overseas. At 3pm I sat down and went up and down the radio dial trying to find a station which could let me know how the Rovers were doing. Nothing.
A bit later on I was sitting outside Camban bothy, again trying to find the football on my radio, when the Finnish woman I’d spoken to earlier arrived. She seemed to want to chat – and I did my best to be friendly – but how do you tell someone that you’re not actually ignoring them, it’s just that you’re trying to find out the score from a non-League football game? All my eggs were now in the Radio 4 basket so I kept walking towards Alltbeithe with my radio clipped to my rucksack harness and my earphones draped round my neck.
The Youth Hostel can be seen from a long way away and, as I got nearer, I realised that I’d got my timing completely wrong. I was going to arrive at the Hostel at 6pm and risked either having to be very rude to people or, even worse, not hearing the result if someone spoke to me.
Slowing my pace, I heard the bongs and the headlines and there was no mention of the football. This meant I had about 12 minutes to check into the hostel before the sports news came on.
Hannah, the very helpful warden, had put the hostellers’ names and dormitory / room number up on a board outside, so I went to my allocated dorm, picked a bed and dropped off my rucksack. I also took off my shoes and rinsed my socks through as it was good drying weather.
On stepping out of the dorm to hang up my socks, I noticed a small creature dashing through the grass. My first thought was that it was a rat but it looked browner and didn’t seem to have the right sort of tail.
I hung up my socks on the washing line and went back towards the dorm. It was now 11 or 12 minutes past 6 and I was getting nervous about Tranmere’s fate. The creature scurried past again. I stood still, earphone in left ear. The creature popped up through a hole under a rock. Hey! I think that was a weasel! Now, the sports news. I turned up the volume whilst pointing my phone camera at the hole under the rock. A voice said “It’s Judith, isn’t it?” Hm? That voice wasn’t on the radio …… Sue, another TGO Challenger had just arrived at the hostel.
“I’m sorry to be rude”, said I, “but I just need to listen to this ….. and there’s a weasel! Look, there’s a weasel!” [Radio] “Tranmere Rovers have been promoted back to the Football League despite having a man sent off after only 48 seconds” [/Radio]. Me: “Yesssss! [Jumps up and down pumping fist] Oh, thank goodness! Get in, Rovers! Oooh, there’s the weasel again!!” [Wipes tear from eye].
Anyway, sorry for the stream-of-consciousness wierdness but this was a very emotional couple of minutes. Not only had Rovers won, but I’d seen – and managed to get a photo of – a weasel (or some other sort of Mustelid) and I was having the best day ever.
Edit: After discussions on twitter I now realise I have absolutely no idea whether this furry creature was a stoat or a weasel so I’ve updated the title of this post to hedge my bets.