Sunday, 31 January 2010

Training ..

This weekend saw the Rescue Team do it's annual refresh on winter skills.  As you might imagine, it's all the usual things such as self arrest, snow and ice belays, snowpack evaluation, plus much drinking of whisky.  The table at night gave the impression that the Team was sponsored by Highland Park.  Unfortunately, we're not - it just looked like that. 

Apart from the basic skills, some snowholes were excavated.  The guys at work ...

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

There's Money In Them Thar Hills ...

The previous post made reference to the Southern Upland Way.  In it entirety it runs from Portpatrick to Cockburnspath.  212 miles.  For me, it misses out on some of the best scenery, but each to their own.  Whilst it doesn't have the popularity of the West Highland Way or the Pennine Way, there are a lot of people that walk sections of it, rather than spend about two weeks doing the whole thing.

One of the lesser known features of the SUW is that there are small kists along thw route, containing merks.

The merks themselves have been made of lead or copper, and were originally used as money in years gone by.  Although not hidden from view, they need a concentrated eye to be found. The kists and the merks are very authentic, as  the following news report may suggest :-

"walkers in the Abbey St Bathans area were stunned to find what looked like an ancient treasure chest; they immediately covered it with earth and contacted the nearest National Museum department, who reassured them that what they had found was indeed one of the Waymerks Kists!"

There are thirteen kists in total.  Some of them now contains badges as the supplies of merks has run low.

They make a change from the usual cloth badge.  It also entirely possible that in the current econmic climate, such merks might end up being worth more than the pound!

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Hearts and Heroes

The Hearts and Heroes event is a 29 mile charity walk/run along the Southern Upland Way in the Scottish Borders.  The challenge is  run in order raise funds for the rugby charity, Hearts and Balls, and for veterans charity, PoppyScotland.  The event was first run in 2009, with over 500 people participating, and the best part of quarter of a million pounds was raised. 
Last year the Rescue Team supported the Hearts and Heroes event by providing safety cover and sweep teams.  This year is it being run again on May 15th.  Further details and entries are available on their website.

To get a flavour for the event, see the video below ...

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Inspiration ...

My daytime job involves lots and lots of staring into a computer screen, with people becoming excited / agitated over inane computer systems, project plans, timesheet codes, and a whole host of other mind numbing matters.  Whilst such things can be important at times, people can lose all sense of proportion and forget what life is really all about.  But,as the saying goes, "it pays the rent", so it is endured.

As an escape valve, and at the opposite end of the spectrum, Tuesday evenings can find me at my local pool for an hour, helping some 1st/2nd year kids with some basic canoeing strokes.  I'm not a coach, and go along purely as an "adult helper".  But the feedback and fun of working with kids can cheer up the worst of days.  I daresay that there are fancy terms for it, but it's just very satisfying / rewarding / enjoyable.  Such a breath of fresh air after the trials and tribulations of the day job.

To be that age again ...

Monday, 18 January 2010

Stob Ghabhar

After an intersting drive up ( lots of black ice ) we arrived at Victoria Bridge at half nine. The plan was to go round the back of Stob Ghabhar and go up a relatively easy route called Central Couloir.   There was three of us, with the vague plan to climb as a threesome.

We passed Forest Lodge and took the path up the west side of Allt Toaig.

It was a steady climb up until we reached the saddle between Stop a Choire Odhair and Stob Ghabhar.

We then dropped down into the coire and traversed to the bottom of the route.  The snow by this time was knee deep and made for laborious progress.  The route starts up the boomerang shaped gully in the picture below.

This meant a small climb to the bottom of the route.

By this time it was apparent that it was too late to climb as a threesome, so I headed up a ramp to the left, with Chris and Mark heading up the gully. 

The weather on the top was pretty dreich and not for hanging around in.  So I headed off back to the van and waited on the other pair, who arrived some time later.  We did manage a beer in the Bridge of Orchy hotel though.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

New Year Madness ...

In a fit in New Year madness, stupidity, team building, four of us from the Rescue Team have agreed to enter into the 2010 EcoAdventure Race

"The 999 Eco Adventure is a single day multi-discipline adventure race for members of the emergency services in the UK. The 2010 race will take place on Saturday 28th August in the Lake District, Cumbria.   The 999 Eco Adventure allows emergency service personnel to come together for a fun and friendly day of adventure racing. Competitors participate in running/walking, mountain biking, canoeing, basic navigation and some mystery tasks on the way!"

I'm not quite sure why I've agreed, and the emphasis will be on participation as opposed to competing.  It's not for a wee while yet, so we'll be meeting soon to agree our training.  Over a pint or two of course.  Perhaps we are of the wrong mindset and aren't taking it seriously enough at the moment.  Training will probably start a week before the event.  If nothing else it should be "fun" !   I've ran in a couple of Lowe Alpine Mountain Marathons before.  However, I suspect this will be very different ( besides, I was a bit younger then ).

Friday, 15 January 2010

Decapitated Seals on Tyneside Beach

It's hard to understand the mentality of some people, as this  BBC news report highlights :-

A group of grey seals have been found beheaded on a beach at a Tyneside seaside resort.
The RSPCA said five seals, three of which were decapitated, were found dead at Whitley Bay on Monday morning.  A spokesman said all of the seals were juveniles, with the eldest thought to have been no more than a year old and the youngest just a few weeks.

One of the seals had been tagged as part of a study by the Sea Mammal Research Unit in St Andrews, Fife.

RSPCA acting chief inspector Mark Gent said: "This was a very upsetting thing to come across and has caused a lot of distress to the person who found them.  "These were very young animals, one of them was what is often described as a white coat, and was just a few weeks old. "Clearly they have not died of natural causes and we are very concerned.

Seals are protected under UK legislation.

Apparently this is not a new problem, as the Seal Protection Action Group highlight.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

The First ...

Tonight saw the first run of the New Year.  It was cold, dark, and a bit damp.  But in a masochistic kind of way, was glad that I had finally made the effort.  Hopefully the next time will be a bit easier.  Nothing definite to aim for, but a vague, very vague, thought of trying for the Heb 3.  I ran Stornoway a few years back, so hopefully can still do the distance.  Time will tell...

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Feed Me !

They say a picture is worth a thousand words ...

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Where's Our Water ...?

Humans aren't the only ones that have problems during the cold weather, as these mallards easily show.  They also will be more than happy once the thaw arrives.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Winter ...

It's been several years since we've had any snowfall to speak of.  This year it's different, with lots of snow and continued low temperatures.  It's now Jan 8th, and I've made it out on one day, the rest of the time I've either been snowed in ...

However, there are othe people worse off, and some of the boys from the rescue team have been providing a service to the community and assisting with hospital transfers...

And to end the day ...

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Tornadoes in the Forth ...

From the BBC News Website ...

Two mini tornados have been spotted off the coast of Fife in the Firth of Forth.

The Forth Coastguard said it monitored two water spouts measuring about 600ft high at 1230 GMT on Wednesday.

They said each mini tornado lasted about five minutes and both were travelling west towards the Isle of May. No damage was reported.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

The Bass

The Bass Rock completes the island group of the outer Forth.  A volcanic plug, it stand 107 metres high and is visible for miles around.  No surprise then that it currently houses a lighthouse, albeit one which is only visible on it's southern flank, as detailed in the chart ...

The Bass Rock has had a colourful history.  It's earliest recorded inhabitant was St.Baldred.  Not much is known about St.Baldred.  He spread the Christain word around the 6th/7th century.  It is said he lived a very simple life, lived the life of a hermit, and often retired to the Bass for contemplation. 

Over the centuries it has been used as a prison and a garrison.  A summary of it's history can be found here.  Nowadays it has a more "peaceful" existence as a bird reserve, being a home to around 50,000 pairs of gannets, reputedly the largest gannet colony on mainland Britain.

From a kayaking perspective, the main approaches to the Bass are from North Berwick, vial The Leithies

Or from Seacliff Beach ...

Seacliffe Beach is a private beach, for which two £1 coins are required for entry. 

The Eastern / North Eastern side of the Bass can usually be relied upon for a healthy dose of clapotis.  Once I manage to hold a camera in it I'll post some pictures !

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Orion's Belt ( But not as we know it )

Fidra, Lamb and Craigleith make up the North Berwick '3.  Combined with Bass Rock they make for a good paddle.  On their own, as a group of three, they are easily do-able on a summer's evening.

Fidra, the leftmost island above houses a lighthouse and can be landed on in calm weather.  There is a landing stage on the east side of the island.  However, there is also a small pebble beach on the southern side than can be used by kayaks. 

The lighthouse was completed in 1885.  It's now pretty much a bird reserve, with a webcam operated by the Scottish Seabird Centre.

The island is said to be the inspiration behind Robert Louis Stevenson's 'Treasure Island'.  It's easy to forget that Edinburgh is half an hour's drive from here !

Craigleith, seen here through the whalebones on North Berwick Law, is the first island to be reached from North Berwick.  Home to seals, and, hopefully, an increasing population of puffins.  In relatively recent years, the island has suffered from an abundance of tree mallow.  This has taken over the island and resulted in a decline in puffin numbers.  Measures are now in place for an annual purge of tree mallow in an effort to encourage other plant species to grow and provide suitable nesting sites for the puffins.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Pyramids in Scotland ...

Lamb Island is part of an archipelago of four islands near to North Berwick, the others being Fidra, Craigleith and Bass Rock.  Geologically they have their origins from volcanoes.  However, the following portrays an alternative view ...

Statement by Uri Geller

Why I Bought Lamb Island

2009-02-12 6:46

Television presenter and world-famous mystifier Uri Geller revealed today that he is the new owner of a mysterious and enigmatic island claimed to be one of the Great Pyramids of Scotland.

Lamb Island, a volcanic outcrop in the Firth of Forth north of Edinburgh, is one of three rocky outcrops which mirror the layout of the Pyramids at Giza, near Cairo in Egypt.

"I am fascinated by the connection between the pyramids and these islands," said Geller, 62, who is currently filming in Holland and Germany his reality TV show for mentalists, The Next Uri Geller.

"The connection has been known for centuries — you can read about it in a fifteenth century manuscript called the Scotichronichon, by the Abbot of Inchcolm, Walter Bower. So when I heard Lamb Island was for sale, I felt a strong instinctive urge to buy it — and the more I delved into the history and the archaeological lore which surrounds it, the more certain I became that this is one of the most significant sites in Britain."

Geller was first alerted to the existence of Lamb Island by a story in the Times on October 19, 2008, which said a Brazilian-born internet entrepreneur, Camilo AgasimPereira, who owned the title of Baron of Fulwood and Dirleton, was planning to sell the island. He had been bequeathed it in 2002, and had never set foot on it. Agasim-Pereira now lives in Florida.

"The asking price was £75,000, but after negotiations we were able to settle on a fee of just £30,000," Geller said. "This island has links not only to the pyramids, but to King Arthur, King Robert the Bruce and to the ancient Kings of Ireland too. It might seem forbidding, and it is certainly uninhabitable, but it is also one of the keystones to British mythology, and I am thrilled to be its owner."

The connections to myth can only be understood by tracing leylines, the mysterious invisible paths which dowsers claim to be able to sense as flowing lines of energy. To many dowsers, leylines are as real as streams of underground water — but unlike water, leylines follow rigid patterns and run in straight lines. They link most of the world's significant archaeological sites, such as Stonehenge, the Pyramids and the great temples of south-east Asia, as well as obscure monument and buildings connected to powerful religious societies from long ago, such as the Knights Templar.

According to research published by a historical investigator named Jeff Nisbet, in the magazine Atlantis Rising, in September 2002, there are three crucial Templar sites in the UK: the village of Temple, Rosslyn Chapel and the Isle of May. This last is believed by some Arthurian scholars to be the real location of Avalon, the island where King Arthur was laid to rest and await his return as the Once and Future King.

Lines drawn between the three points cut through a pair of islands in the Firth of Forth, called Craigleith and Fidra. And lying between these is a third outcrop: Lamb Island.

What Nisbet realised is that the three islands are arranged in precisely the same crooked line that marks the layout of the Pyramids at Giza, built by the Pharoahs 4,500 years ago.

That layout famously matches the three stars known as Orion's Belt, and Nisbet discovered that anyone standing on the battlefield of Bannockburn, where Robert the Bruce defeated the English army in 1314, on the anniversary of the battle on June 24, would see the three stars (Alnitak, Alnilam and Mintaka) rise exactly over the three islands of Craigleith, Lamb and Fidra.

And if the royal connections to Arthur and the Bruce were not enough, a line extended from the Isle of May through Lamb Island will cross Tara, the burial place of the ancient Irish kings. More improbable yet — but nevertheless true — is the name traditionally given to the stars of Orion's belt: the Three Kings.

"I am a deep believer in what Carl Jung called synchronicity, the power of connections between things which are linked by forces we don't understand," said Geller, who lives with his wife Hanna in a manor house in the Berkshire countryside, beside the Thames. "And there are many clear synchronicities that come together on Lamb Island. I have heard it said that the bloodline of the Scottish Kings — and so that of Queen Elizabeth II herself — can be traced back to the pharoahs and to the Jewish patriarch Noah, of Noah's Ark, through an ancient Prince and Princess called Gaythelos and Scota. I like to think that when they landed in Scotland, the first place they moored was in the Firth of Forth, off Lamb Island.

"I am proud to have this opportunity to preserve it, not just for its mythological and historical connections but for its conservation value — Lamb Island is part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest. I can't build there, of course, but it is home to countless seabirds, and perhaps to seals too. And before long, I hope to pay it a visit. I might need a helicopter, but I am determined to set foot on my island soon."

In April of 2002 Falkirk–born historian John Walker initiated my interest in Scotland’s history when he asked me to find the site of the Battle of Falkirk of 1298, in which Edward I defeated the Scots in revenge for Stirling Bridge the year before. Despite many theories, its location has never been verified. No artifacts have been uncovered, I believe only two bodies were unearthed.

I would love to investigate further some of the country’s historical and modern mysteries.

National Library of Scotland – Rare Books Important acquisitions – Scotichronicon – the key text of early Scottish history.

The Lamb: A metaphor for Jesus Christ used primarily in the Book of Revelation.

For further amazing information please visit

What surprised me is that The Firth contains several small islands, the more significant of which are the Bass Rock, Cramond, Craigleith, Eyebroughy, Fidra, Inchcolm, Inchgarvie, Inchkeith, Inchmickery, Lamb and, farthest out, the Isle of May which = 11 islands!

I thought that the weather on Lamb isn't sun's rain drenched for about 364 days a year. It was pointed out to me that in fact this part of Scotland is the driest and sunniest.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Snowbound ...

Snow continued to fall last night and today.  Winds have been relatively light, and, although there has been a steady drip, the net result has been an increase in depth.

It is good to see reasonable accumulations of snow after the last few relatively mild winters.  It's been lying  for about two weeks now.  However, one downside of this is that the roads this morning were not driveable by a normal two wheel drive car, and that plans to do something a bit more adventurous than shovel snow have had to be postponed.  The hills and sea will wait for another day, but it's a bit frustrating not being able to get out.