Monday, 21 September 2009

Glencoe OM Meet Trip Report

Just got back from another cracking weekend with friends from Outdoors Magic this time in Glencoe. We headed up the M6 on Friday afternoon with the usual bridge works causing havoc near Preston and Lancaster but soon got in our stride, bombing past the ever beautiful Howgills and crossing the border in good time. As we crossed the border we saw several large skeins of Geese heading towards the Solway, most likely stopping off there on their way to warmer climates for the winter. We on the other hand are more hardened and were heading north through Glasgow then up to the meteorologically unpredictable Highlands.

Binnein Beag summit cairn

We arrived at the Red Squirrel campsite at around 9pm and it was dark. Finding a bunch of lightweight outdoors fanatics isn't hard on a campsite to be honest, you just look for the main identifiers like empty beer cans and stupidly lightweight tents in close proximity. We found hidden away a Golite Hex, Golitee Shangri-La 3 and Lightwave tent and knew that only one bunch of people have such good taste! We tried to setup the tent, which a fortnight ago took us three minutes to erect, half an hour later I was still stressing! The ground was full of rocks and so damp and chalky it wouldn't take the pegs and when it did they didn't stay in despite being y pegs.

Base camp at Red Squirrel camp site in Glencoe

Eventually I gave up and used some big rocks to keep the pegs in. I'm not a huge fan of the Red Squirel campsite to be honest. I like its location but that is about it. The amount of money this site makes in a year is a huge amount, however the amount invested back into the sites facilities is simply atrocious by comparison in my opinion. The toilet doors for example are so old and decrepit that on the first morning, I had to rescue a young lad crying as he couldn't get the lock open, Sandy got quite a shock when he entered the toilets to find me leaning over the cubicle into the cubicle where a little boy was crying, the rumours started as you can imagine and were not helped by the young lads dad who thought it was funny to send me from 'Hero' to 'Zero' in one false rumour!

Myself, Sir Jimmy Saville, Polly the Parrot and Elaina

So after setting up camp we rushed down to the Clachaig Inn. Surely the world's greatest establishment! The Boots Bar at the back of the place was absolutely buzzing and cramped full of outdoors people who had spent the day on the hills. The joy of sitting listening to peoples experiences in this very bar is the reason I decided to go on my first ever mountain walk many years ago. We took Max the border collie with us and let him off his lead to run round the place making friends all night. We immediately spotted the Outdoor Magic lot and went over to say hello to friends Elaina, Steve and Sandy who introduced us to his lovely new lady Louise. After mingling we spotted a healthy looking Frank in the corner. Other people we hadn't met before like Ian, Mole, Tim and Stephen introduced themselves and we had a good chinwag with everyone.

Sandy and Sir Jimmy Saville

Half an hour after entering the pub a familiar face entered the pub much to every ones surprise, none other than the legend himself Jimmy Saville! At first I thought he was Doug Scott with the white hair and rounded glasses, though I can't imagine Doug wearing yellow Lennonesque glasses and yellow track suit tops. We had a great laugh with him and Elaina told him all about International Talk Like A Pirate Day and he agreed to photo us all with Polly the Parrot! After the pub we all took the often dodgy walk home along the dark road, one lad who was with another group and a lot more drunk than any of our party went over in a bad way and ended up in plaster cast at Fort William at the end of the night.

Heading along the Mamore Lodge track towards the mountains

Morning came and the weather wasn't too bad, the worst of the weather had been forecast for the afternoon so we all prepared for the worst. We all drove up to the Mamore Lodge car park, a handy 200m above sea level. Setting off along the track to Loch Eilde Mor the weather held up but the clouds around were lowering and distance curtains of grey showed us what to expect. By the time we reached the Loch it dawned on us as we checked the map for the first time that we had as usually missed the path we needed to take to shoulder the side of Sgor Eilde Beag.

Heading towards Binnein Beag on Coire a Bhinnein

So as the rain started pouring down we donned our waterproofs and yomped over the heather using the Allt Coire nan Laogh as a hand rail to get us to the path we should have been on. We gained the path and rounded Sgor Eilde Mor expecting to see one of the Mamores greatest sights Sgurr Eilde Mor reflected in the oddly shaped lochans at its foot, instead all we saw was rain and clag. at this point Sandy and Louise decided they would leave the rest of us and climb Sgurr Eilde Mor instead of the planned ascent of the remote munro Binnein Beag. We still do not know exactly what the young couple got up too while they were off on their own though many of us made up our own stories as you can imagine.

Ptarmigain on Binnein Beag

As we eventually reached the foot of the final ascent to Binnein Beag the rain stopped and blue skies started teasing above the ridges above us. We climbed the rocky boulder strewn ascent to reach the summit and the weather gave us a perfectly timed good weather window. Mole spotted a pair of Ptarmigan on the ascent. Fascinating and surprisingly tame birds. The views stretched far and down the full length of Glen Nevis. After photos and food we descended and decided that given the time and the ever changing weather that would be it for the day and headed back along the right path this time.

Myself on Binnein Beag summit with the Grey Corries behind

There was a moment of head shaking on the return leg when we stumbled across the blatantly obvious path and cairn we should have taken earlier! Ach well we all blamed Steve as usual! After removing much soaked clothes and watching a stunning rainbow at Mamore Lodge we set off for warmth and food and found it in Kinlochleven at the McDonald Hotel. Venison Pate, Haggis Fritters, Steak Lasagne, Stick Toffee Pudding all happily consumed. The best part of the evening was when a small child ran in the place and her feet went from underneath her, most of the hotel looking in horror as we all chuckled at the table and Sandy accused Nicky and Louise of sticking their legs out. Knackered from the days adventures we all went back to camp where some took a shower and power nap.

Camp fire at Red Squirrel camp site in Glencoe

One thing I'd learned about Red Squirrel is to take a good supply of fire wood, we took a big box with us and on Saturday night it was a delight to sit around the warm fire with friends. Sandy and myself had a play with some slow shutter settings on our cameras and played around. At 11pm the site wardens came over and threw a large bucket of water of the fire and that was the end of that! We headed home the next day as we were tired and all our gear was soaking, plan was to watch the rather important football match on the way home somewhere but in the end we just listened to Radio 5 and listened to a great match where Manchester's premier football team showed the wannabies that they have a long way to go yet!

I have uploaded the photos from the weekend here.

Route Map...

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

River Bollin Valley Dug Walk Trip Report

I lived in the leafy Cheshire village of Bowdon for the first decade of my life, not in a huge mansion neighbouring millionaire footballers but in a busy dead end terraced street. To most people the street was a dead end, but for me the adventure went on through wide meadows and hidden paths to the beautiful River Bollin Valley. Almost a million people live within a twenty mile radius and hardly any of them even know this gem of a valley exists. They may from time to time visit the National Trust's spectacular deer parks and stately homes at Dunham Park and Tatton Park but hardly any will venture along the hidden footpaths of the Bollin Valley. Bowdon was in the Domesday Book of 1086 as "Bogedone" a name derived from two old Saxon words "boga" and "dün" meaning "curved hill". When you look towards Bowdon when approaching from the south you will see why.

Max fetching a stick from the River Bollin

At the moment we are looking after my future in-laws border collie Max which is giving me a great excuse to get out of the house and go for evening walks around the local area. I had a day off last week so thought I'd go and explore the Bollin Valley I loved as a child. Streams and Rivers have always been my favourite thing. Seems ludicrous that we don't visit the valley more often as it is only a 3km walk or ten minute drive from our back door, but we rarely get time to go for short easy walks these days, which is a real shame. We parked up at a make shift car park down a small country lane in the heart of the valley by the old Bollington Mill. The dog jumped from the car and ran off towards two gentlemen, one of them had a burgundy England training top on and on closer inspection I realised it was none other than Bryan Robson! A Man who I admired as a teenager and used to chant at from the Stretford End. We said hello, I introduced myself as a fan in that sad dorky way you do when you meet a hero, and he shook my hand and wished me a good walk. You don't get much better starts to a walk than that really!

River Bollin Foot Bridge

The river was teaming with small fish as I peered in from the footbridge. Tiny fish swimming but still against the flow of the river on tiny sandy ripples below the clear waters. The river is fed by many tributaries along the way and some come from well stocked reservoirs and meres which can help the ecology and fish stocks of the river. The rivers banks were as I remembered, sandy and muddy, a true representation of the Peak District moors they are sourced from. The locals are quite excited at the moment as there have been several sightings of an Otter on one of the many tributaries of the Bollin, the location of which I won't make public.


After enjoying a good stick throwing session with Max at the large river bend where the river silt has made a fantastic beach, we continued on through woodlands at first then out onto open meadows where the thousands of thistles were performing there annual "Thistledown" a method of seed dispersal by wind. At times when the wind blew it was like it was snowing. A few of these had only just burst open and they were incredible to see. As we crossed one of the meadows I heared one of my favourite wild noises, the sharp mewing of a Buzzard. I looked up to see two circling above. See here for an example of a Buzzards call. I love that these mighty and majestic birds of prey are only two miles from my house. The wildlife in the valley is great, in just two visits in the last year I have seen Buzzards, Greater Spotted Woodpecker, Swifts, Swallows, Moorhens, Mallards, Trout, Butterflies, Bees, Insects and even a very happy and muddy Border Collie!

Max on the track back to the car park

You can make as long a walk as you like starting from many different places along the Bollin and I hope to eventually put up a few on the website in the next few months. There is now a 25 mile long trail known as the Bollin Valley Way. You can download the maps and information leaflets in PDF format for the Bollin Valley Way from here. The valley has so much to see and offers a real getaway for those who live in the hugely over populated and rat racing Greater Manchester area, check out the website at

I have uploaded the photos from the day here.

Route Map...