The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Day 9 - before Banff to before Rosehearty

Sat 17 May (0700-1615)
Distance: 20.5 miles (Tot: 172)
Weather: sunny intervals and warm this morning, full cloud cover by elevenses, cool afternoon with one prolonged shower ended the walking day.

During yesterday afternoon, it occurred to me, based on what I could see around me, that the route I'd plotted for today may not be feasible.

The bit into Banff, through Banff and through Macduff was problem free, as you would expect walking pavements through towns. The bit straight after Macduff was fine too, as we walked along the manicured edge of a golf course. It was the next bit where the reality turned out to be as I'd come to realise yesterday afternoon.

It seemed that we couldn't follow the seaward side of the fences that marked the edge of the farmland, due to gorse running right up to the fence. Following the farmland side of the fence meant negotiating field boundaries, crop fields without margins and barbed wire fences, and that clearly wasn't going to work either. We weaved around the edges of a few fields to get us to a road and resigned ourselves to 3 miles along it. It wasn't as bad as expected; although a B road, it was very quiet.

Rejoining the coast west of Gardenstown, an absolute meal was made of finding a way down to where we needed to be. For the benefit of anyone reading this who may chose to go that way in future: it's quite simple! Follow one of the tracks all the way to St John's Church, walk along the south wall of its cemetary and follow the obvious path back south - even though it doesn't look like it's taking you the right way. It zig-zags and takes you down to the beach.

It was down that path that a major killer dog incident occurred. Having run at me, the only thing that stopped this border collie from sinking its teeth into my leg was that I managed to get my walking poles between me and its bared teeth. Its owner, having first said it had never done that before, then immediately decided it was my walking poles which had caused the incident, turning it around from his fault to mine. Being a jibbering wreck by this time (I have issues with killer dogs approaching me so aggressively), the owner then pointed out that I would meet other dogs on the beach if I continued the way I was going, implying that I was inviting further attacks. Had I not been a jibbering wreck I might have pointed out that of all the hundreds of dogs I've encountered over the last couple of months of walking, his has been the only one that has tried to bite me.

Still, a miss is as good as a mile, and with my leg happily intact we continued on to Gardenstown (interesting harbour-side dwellings there), where we found big red 'Danger - Coast Path Closed' signs. We duly ignored them (or at least decided to go and see what the issue was). There's a hole in the middle of one of the concrete walkway sections. It's been covered over with one of those heavy-duty metal covers used for road works, and it's been cordoned off. We walked around it and continued on our merry way.

Steeply down then steeply up (a repeated theme of today) led us, via some tracks, to our next off-path adventure. It was only half a kilometre, but it took us an absolute age to negotiate. It was the second time today we'd found ourselves backtracking in the face of impenetrable gorse barriers and having to climb over barbed wire fences (my sit mat now has many holes, having been called into action to protect us against the barbs).

We got through in the end (with perhaps slightly less difficulty and back-tracking than the pre-Gardenstown thrash), and were duly deposited back on the B road we'd left some miles earlier, although this time for less than 2 miles.

Leaving the road again, advantage was taken of a phone signal to try to arrange accommodation in Rosehearty tonight. No room was to be had at the one B&B and the price quoted by the other was above budget (and well above the price I knew it could be booked for online). We might have pitched on the closed-down campsite, if it hadn't been a Saturday night (I associate weekends with a higher chance of disturbance by bored youths or night-time drunks). Begging some water from a house we passed gave us some flexibility and we thought we would find a pitch about a mile before the village.

Returning to the coast again, we immediately came upon a fine pitch, but, as we were still a mile short of where we had earmarked, we passed it by. Five minutes later, on finding another fine pitch, we decided it was foolhardy to shun such opportunities, when stopping another mile short would still only leave us with 7 miles to go tomorrow.

Up went the tent, our scheduled call to Challenge Control was made, then Mick noticed that he had a voicemail. It was the second B&B calling back to say that, actually, on reflection, they could do us B&B for £49. Bargain! So, did we pack everything back away and walk on for a night in a comfy bed and a full-cooked in the morning? Nope. That room will no doubt remain empty tonight; we are remaining on our sea-side pitch.

(Fogot to take a photo during the day, so the snap above is of tonight's pitch.)

(Conrad: it was a council run campsite last night, but we've found the same attitude almost universally - even when we're the only people on a whole site. I'm sure that they reckon that if they give us a pitch with access to electric we'll suddenly whip a hook-up cable and microwave out of our backpacks.)

Click here for Day 10

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