East and west

Hamilton leading through the woods (in a suitably photogenic top!)

April sunshine and showers have cleared the air and brought out even more spring flowers. It was a good weekend for getting out relatively close to home with a few friends. Saturday saw four of us setting off from Milngavie along the West Highland Way towards Carbeth.

Elizabeth and Dougal with Dumgoyne in the background








On Sunday I headed over to Edinburgh and met up with friends in the Lammermuirs. The air was crystal clear with a superb view out over East Lothian towards North Berwick Law and the Bass Rock.

Where do we go next?

Ready, get set...

Go! ... always time and energy for silliness

Time out in the Arctic

It’s been quite a long time since I last posted thanks to a fantastic five weeks in the Arctic. No internet, no email, no phone – no contact with the outside world whatsoever. This was my fifth expedition with the British Schools Exploring Society and my third to the Arctic island of Spitsbergen.

Spitsbergen was discovered by the Dutch explorer Willem Barents who named the newly found island after its pointed mountains. It is the largest island in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard which lies between 74 and 81 degrees north. We travelled to Oscar II Land on the western side of Spitsbergen and climbed some of the pointed peaks Barents may well have seen from his ship in 1596. We also carried out meteorology fieldwork and investigated whether or not kite aerial photography was a suitable technology to use on BSES expeditions. Kite and camera turned out to be perfectly suitable and we managed to take some brilliant aerial shots. Of course there were also lots that weren’t quite so brilliant and had to be discarded!

Kite aerial photography on the Sefstrombreen

Since we got back at the end of last week I’ve been entering and analysing our fieldwork data as well as sorting out our photos. There’s a selection on my Flickr site .

I was rather expecting to spend quite a bit of time during the expedition thinking about my running book. To my surprise it didn’t work like that at all. Everyday expedition life was completely absorbing and it was only very occasionally that I remembered with a slight sense of shock that back in the ‘real world’ I was writing a book.

Now the expedition is over it’s time to get back into it. I’ve started running again which wasn’t quite as painful as I’d imagined it would be and very soon I’ll be finding out whether or not the research and writing comes back similarly easily!

Technical problems!

This last week hasn’t gone to plan! The original idea was to spend several days travelling north of Aberdeen investigating Speyside and the Moray Firth. This plan was scuppered when I lost the ability to take photos. First of all I ran down one battery looking at photos and popped in a spare. It failed to work, I tried a second. It too failed to work. So that was that, no camera, as obviously with two spares I had decided not to carry the charger.  I also discovered that the original working battery had begun to bulge in a rather worrying fashion… so that’s not going back into my camera!  I decided to cut short my trip and return to Glasgow on Monday evening.

To be honest, it was quite a relief to spend Tuesday and Wednesday in front of a computer screen writing up my adventures. My legs were not particularly keen on waking up and doing more running. Still, by Wednesday evening I felt that they might be willing to contemplate more than the journey from bed to kitchen to desk. The Westerlands (Westies) Cross Country running club handicap race at Chatelherault Country Park may not have been the wisest plan though!  Persuading my legs to attempt sprinting to the finish on Wednesday night wasn’t a major problem. However, persuading them to climb up Doughnot Hill near Dumbarton at 9am on Thursday morning turned out to be not nearly so much fun!

It has been quite an interesting week during which I’ve found out all sorts of new things about Glasgow. Even the parts of the city and surrounding area I thought I knew well have managed to throw up surprises. I’ve spent a significant portion of my life walking various dogs around Mugdock Country Park and knew that there had been a zoo there in the 1960s. However, I didn’t know until today that Charlie the Elephant of Craigend Zoo was so attached to his keeper that he followed him to the pub – once getting stuck in the doorway!  I’ve also discovered new routes close to familiar haunts. One example is the quarry at Auchinstarry where I’ve spent a good few summer evenings climbing and being munched by midges. By following a Westies running route starting at the quarry I ended up on Barr Hill where there are remains of a Roman fort and sections of the Antonine Wall. Although Barr Hill isn’t particularly high it gives fantastic views across the Clyde Valley and it’s quite obvious why the Romans chose to build here. The view down the valley must have been rather different in those days. Certainly no tower blocks!  I expect the Roman centurions had pretty much the same view of the Campsie Fells as I did though.  Two millenia of human occupation of the Clyde Valley have failed to make much impact on that particular skyline.

I’ve got a few evening commitments that keep me in Glasgow this next week. Despite that I’m planning to spend a day in the Pentlands and begin thinking about the east of central Scotland as well as the west. Luckily, I know the Edinburgh area quite well. Or do I? Glasgow has certainly thrown up some surprises, I’m sure that there will be more in store when I travel east.

Out and about around Glasgow

Mugdock Country Park on the north side of Glasgow has some fantastic woodland and moorland trails. Part of Mugdock’s path network forms the start of the West Highland Way, Scotland’s most famous long distance path which runs off-road all the way from Milngavie to Fort William. Lots of walkers and runners were out enjoying Mugdock on the May Bank Holiday yesterday. Spring is here with fresh new leaves unfurling on the trees. This photograph was taken as the wind stirred new beech leaves into quivering motion.

Beech leaves at Mugdock Country Park