farm bunkhouse, highland landscapes, hillwalking, Living with Nature, Uncategorized

Cloudy Days

There are times the cloud seems to drag along the braes, catching in the birches so that I half expect fluffy white deposits like sheepswool on barbed wire.
Other times the hilltops are axed flat, bandaged in dense vapour like fabric, impenetrable and mysterious: a time to avoid walking the high tops for fear of disorientation, however familiar the terrain.
On a good day with a breeze and broken sun, the patterns of shadow pass over hillsides and pastures like fast moving geology, picking out grey rock, a flash of green upland pasture, a blaze of bracken, the gleam of water.
Today the wind has turned from the north (where the weather lurks unseen behind the dark mass of Creag Dhubh) to south east: warm but threatening the unaccustomed.

I haul the mountain bike from the pick-up and drop it over the gate to the hill-road on Catlodge. A Blue-Grey heifer is watching, head-up, ears pricked. As I wobble off down the rocky track the rest of the herd take flight and stampede down the track ahead of me, as if on a strange new steamrailway with me the monstrous locomotive. I curse under my breath, ashamed at the disruption as if a dog was running loose

Finally, the animals turn up the hill and slow, watching me pass.

When the road turns to grass, I prop the bike against the derelict fence of some forgotten environmental scheme, pull my whistlestick from the bungey holding it to my pack, and start the foot climb. I follow the half seen road used by the old peat cutters toward the green saddle that gives onto the far valley with long views to the west.

The first drops hit smartly, and turning I see cloud lowering over Drumochter Hills. Testing the wind I am forced to acknowledge the bank of rain heading for me like vengeance.
I look for the bright broken elements that presage showers, and the chance of drying off between downpours.
This I have learned to be comfortable with. but there is no relief in prospect.

I climb on-
until suddenly-
as I walk the wild-
my mind calls up an image of bedsheets left on the line.
That does it!
The Nog obediently turns with me as I head for home –
and a world of duty.

No No - I'm talking about all those black clouds!

No No – I’m talking about all those black clouds!

highland landscapes, hillwalking, Uncategorized, Uvie Farm

The Nogument

Sarah Justina’s monument disappears below the rocks forming the near horizon at my back, to be replaced by a new one, a Nogument. The dog sits neatly at the highest point, tapering from his hunkered rear to his alert ears. He waits as I play a game of my own: approaching the angled stob braced against a post set as a turner interrupting the fenceline, I step onto it ready to walk up it and over. The frost has melted but the wood holds moisture causing my boot to slip – not today then. On a good dry day I walk up the narrow bar without breaking stride, perch on the flat post-top and jump down the far side. Each time achieved is a small triumph of resolve and fluency. Unwilling to adopt an ungainly scramble over the line wire, I place my stick with my right hand, my left on the post and swing my legs over with my weight on my arms.
The Nog watches this manoeuvre impassively, as if dissociating himself from my antics: he has his own agenda. I stretch the top wires apart and call to him- once- twice, at the third call the stone dog melts and charges down the hill, suddenly recalled to vibrant life. He pauses, gathers and launches between the separated wires, turning immediately on landing to receive the expected congratulations.
Thus primed with a warming glow of joint achievement we step briskly down the hill with early stars starting out while the light wind cools from brilliant white summits.