312. Rosehearty to Banff

 

I had a really fitful night’s sleep, it had taken me 8.5hrs to do yesterday’s walk mostly over established footpaths and tracks, but today’s walk would a similar distance, I would be starting almost an hour later and it was over ground that had large amounts of ascent and descent with few footpaths. I knew I had to alter my route slightly, taking in more road walking in order that I would finish before it got dark. I examined and re-examined my public transport options. Using public transport to get to the start of the walk in Banff was a non-starter as I would be starting my walk at 11:00! The only option was to drive to Banff again and park up there. I then looked at the option of setting out straight away in the dark towards Rosehearty and getting the only bus back at 16:18, this was a bit of gamble so I opted to take two buses to get me to Rosehearty to start walking at 09:00.

I caught the 07:35 #271 to Fraserburgh, then a short journey on the 08:42 #74 to Rosehearty. I set off down the B9031 on a still, warm morning where the overnight rain had ceased and the sun was just up. I was on the B9031, which was very quiet, for only mile before I turned off down a single track road. The single track road just served the odd farm and with the odd intermittent vehicle. After 30 minutes I passed a farm and the farmer was just about to jump into his tractor and do some muck-spreading. Then what started with a simple query as to how far I was walking turned into a 20 minute conversation! He was from Bath originally and had been farming here for over 30 years. We talked about his cattle and he kindly showed me some that were in his barn. We could have chatted for an hour, but he had work to do and I needed to get going myself.

The views ahead were superb with the high cliffs of Stranhangles Point and the high ground of Troup Head dominating the view across Aberdour Bay. Although I had intended to walk along the cliff-line, I had decided to stick to the lane, which was 300 – 400m away and had more commanding views. The road descended down to the River Dour where I continued across the river and began the long steep climb up a farm track. The track led to much higher ground and after passing through Bankhead farm, it continued straight ahead as a footpath. I picked some signs indicating that this was a recognised route to Pennan, where I was heading. I had decided that although I would be staying on the roads for most of the walk, but there were three places I wanted to visit and Pennan was one of them. I followed a footpath and track past the ruins of Pennan Farm and dropped steeply into the tiny old fishing village of Pennan, famed for being the location of the film “Local Hero”. Its K6 telephone box featured in a number of the scenes of the film and is still there today. However, I later discovered that the  K6 used in the film was a prop! The actual and working K6 box is stuck behind a small building 50 metres away. I remember watching the film at the time…..crikey how the years have flown by!

The Square in Rosehearty
The view ahead with Strahangles Point (l) and Troup Head (r)
Looking back at The Doocot near Craigiefold
The intriguing name of Egypt Farm
The view ahead with Strahangles Point (c) and Troup Head (r)

The bad news about descending down to Pennan was that I had to re-ascend up from the village again, which was very steep. I re-joined the B9031 for two miles; the road was still quiet, but the weathered had begun to turn, with cloud and drizzle coming in. I took a minor lane which serviced a few isolated farms which I could see would give me access to the second and third destinations that I wanted to visit, namely Crovie and Gardenstown. I dropped down steep ground towards a ravine, which was clad in gorse. Frustratingly, the road I needed to get on was only 150m away, but there was no way I was getting down through the gorse and across the ravine. I back-tracked back up the slope and field. Some 30 minutes later I dropped down to the tiny old fishing village of Crovie. Like Pennan it sits at the base of the large sandstone and conglomerate cliffs and is hemmed in by the sea. I continued on along the beach to Gardenstown, which was just around a small headland. The good news was there was a well-established path which had steps around the headland, however the weather had closed in big time and More Head, which rose above Gardenstown, was cloaked in fog almost down to the sea, while the drizzle continued.

Descending into Pennan
Pennan
Not the actual K6 in Pennan
Descending into Crovie
Crovie
The steps around the headland to Gardenstown

I decided I needed to get a move on and I also had to climb up from the shoreline in Gardenstown back onto the main road. It was one hell of a steep climb and it took a lot out of me. Back on the main the visibility in the fog was down to 80-100m. I put my hi-vis vest and my head torch on. The road was now much busier than earlier. Fortunately, the available verges, were good, although there were a couple of tight bends where I had to scurry through. Sometimes I managed to get into the adjacent field and walk alongside the road. I must admit this was the first time I had encountered dense fog on a walk. I was on the B9031 for about 6 miles before it joined up with the A98 just on the outskirts of Macduff.  As I walked along the welcome pavements into Macduff, the light had begun to fade. I was pleased that I had managed to visit at least three places on my original intended route. I made it back to the car at 04:00, just as the fog was beginning to clear.

Even though todays walk had been slightly further than yesterdays and I had completed it in a faster time, which is not surprising as there was more road walking, but I was surprised to find that my total ascent was 955m – which is a reasonably sized Munro!

On the ascent out of Gardenstown looking down at the harbour in the rain
Small fishing vessel in for repairs in Macduff shipyard
Looking across Banff Bay to a very murky Banff
The bridge over the River Deveron

NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=24805

 

Distance today =22 miles
Total distance = 5,708 miles

 

 

 

 

 

 

311. Findochty to Banff

I could see a three day weather window that would be perfect for a trip to the NE tip of Aberdeenshire. I booked myself into Saltoun Inn in Fraserburgh. The Saltoun is actually a Weatherspoon’s hotel which I booked a large family room at a very good rate.

It was forecast to be dry for all three days of my walks, but today had the added bonus of having the stiff breeze with me as well as being a sunny day with blue skies all around. The daylight hours were still short so I needed to make an early start, this meant driving the 25 miles to Banff, where I parked up. I caught the 06:45 # 35 bus to Findochty. The bus was quite busy with most people going to work. It was still dark when I got off the bus in Findochty, although the sky to the east was quite bright.

I set off along an excellent track that was the Moray Coast Trail. The coast here is very rugged, with the rocks steeply dipping into the Moray Firth. I caught an occasional flash of the Tarbat Ness lighthouse fast receding into the distance. After 2 miles I entered another sleepy old fishing village – Portknockie. Portknockie is famous for the close proximity of the geomorphological feature called the Bow & Fiddle, which is basically a sea stack with an attached sea arch resembling a fiddler’s bow. The path dropped down from the surrounding cliffs to a shoreline and passed a number of caves, now seated above the shoreline on a raised beach. I passed Jenny’s Well, not to sure who Jenny was, but the well was spouting a nice flow of water. The sun was now up but remained low in the sky for most of my walk, which meant I could have really done with a peaked cap to shade the blinding sun. In Portknockie I had spoken to a local resident, a retired gamekeeper from England, he advised me of the footpath situation for the next couple of miles.

Early morning looking back at Findochty, the lights in the far distance are Lossiemouth
Looking down on the harbour at Portknockie
The Bow and Fiddle near Portknockie
Looking eastwards towards Troup Head in the far distance
Heading down to the shoreline near Cullen
Jenny’s Well

My next village was Cullen, famed for its Cullen Skink – a traditional Scottish soup made with Haddock, potatoes and onions. I tried it once but I was not that impressed. Although mid-morning there were few people about. The entrance to Cullen was marked by a large railway viaduct, now disused this used to carry a branch line of the Great North of Scotland line, but closed in 1968. As the excellent shore path passed out of Cullen I came across a pet cemetery on the beach, it was a very sad place to be, especially with all the names of the animals and their photos, toys leads etc..
The path rounded Logie Head and I again dropped down to the shoreline. The path was certainly becoming much fainter now and less trodden. By chance I came across a sign with information about Charlie’s Cave, I thought “here we go again, some cave that Bonnie Prince Charlie dossed down in blah…blah”. But no, this was about a Frenchman, Charles Marioni who jumped ship in Plymouth in 1904 and made his way to North East Aberdeenshire and set up a home against a small niche in the rock. His full story, written by Andrew Saunders, is contained in a photo I took.

I soon came to the ruins of Findlatter Castle, not a great deal to see as the erosion by wind and water over the centuries have left their mark. I then arrived at Sandend Bay and what a beautiful beach it was!

The Three Kings at Cullen
The Pet Cemetary at Cullen
The ups and downs of the coastal path at Logie Head
Info board for Charlies Cave (zoom in to read)
The niche where Charlie built his sea-shore shack
Climbing back up the cliffs
Looking down on the ruins of Findlatters castle
Looking back to Logie Head
Looking back to Sandend across the beautiful beach

I picked up the coast path at the far end of the beach and climbed up the cliffs again. The path continued around another promontory – Redhythe Point. I was now only a mile from another fishing village – Portsoy. Again this was a very quiet place, either the inhabitants were at work or the place was full of holiday lets. I walked past the harbour and around Links Bay. I could see handmade signs to the coastguard lookout tower. When I reached the “Coastguard Tower?” It was simply four posts knocked into the ground with some tape and a sign advising that this was the site of a former coastguard tower. I was slightly underwhelmed. The bad news was that I was virtually surrounded by thick gorse with no way of beating my way through. I managed to backtrack slightly and drop down to the beach again, where I picked up a feint path which soon fizzled out. I knew from reading other accounts that a working quarry lay ahead and that I needed to make an inland diversion to get around it as well as getting over the River Boyne.
I cut inland for about a kilometre and joined a quiet road where I crossed the River Boyne. As I passed the access road to the quarry I could see that it was still working. I soon got off the road and headed across some freshly ploughed fields back towards the coast.

Back on the coast there was little or no footpath of any sort. The ground was reasonably flat and offered a number of small sandy beaches to walk along. After a couple of miles I entered Whitehills, another small old fishing village. I rounded a headland near the harbour called the Knock. I could now see both Banff and Macduff some three miles away. I set off along the track bed of the old railway route and met a lot more people, nearly all dog walkers. By this time fatigue was beginning to set-in with my feet and legs. It seemed to take an age to cover the last mile and I was really relieved to get back to the car.

This had been a fabulous days walking, which despite the one diversion, I had been able to stick close to the coast. With beautiful scenery, good walking conditions and a bright sunny day, this had been one of the best walking days I had had for some time.

One of the harbours at Portsoy
Looking eastwards Whitehills and in the far distance Banff and Macduff
One of the many isolated beaches I passed over at Bears Head
Looking across Boyndie Bay to Banff and Macduff
Late afternoon looking across to Macduff from Banff

NB: I also publish all my Scottish Blog entries on the excellent Scottish Hills website, I use the same narrative, but larger photos and a few extra ones. They can be found here:

http://www.scottishhills.com/html/modules.php?name=Forums&file=viewtopic&t=24804

Distance today =21 miles
Total distance = 5,686 miles

 

 

310. Bradwell to Burnham-on-Crouch

I was looking forward to today’s walk mainly because it involved no road walking. I should say that I don’t mind road walking per se, walking along even busy roads with wide verges or quiet backroads can be quite appealing. The real danger is the B-roads which are generally straighter, busier,  faster and with few, if any, verge or refuge areas, particularly in this part of the country.

Today I would actually be filling a gap in my progress around the Essex coastline, or to be more precise the Dengie peninsular, which is one of three peninsula’s running east-west and bounded by rivers north and south. The Dengie peninsular has  the River Blackwater to the north and tothe south the River Crouch. At its eastern boundary is the North Sea and with the  sea wall running its entire length it is probably one of the most isolated parts of Essex.

The only real concern I had with today’s walk was getting from Burnham-on-Crouch, where I had parked, to Bradwell Waterside. The only bus service was the Dart 4, which I had issues with when I last tried to use it. My concerns were allayed when I arrived at the Clock Tower in Burnham to see two Dart minibuses waiting at the bus stop. By 09:00 I had been dropped off close to the Sea wall at Bradwell Waterside.

I set off along the sea wall walking towards the Bradwell Nuclear Power Station. Bradwell had been decommissioned back in 2002 and was now shrouded in white cladding giving the appearance of two gigantic storage barns. I was amazed at how small the site was, but dismayed to learn that a new power station was in the design stage for possible commercial operation by 2030.

Walking along the sea wall was very pleasant, with short cropped grass and little if any mud. I gradually bid goodbye to The River Blackwater and with it the view over to West Mersea on Mersea Island. I soon arrived at what appeared to be a large stone barn, which in fact, was the remnants of a monastery built in 654AD by St. Cedd. The building called St. Peters on the Wall Chapel was built on the site of a Roman fort called Othona, with most the fort had been lost to the sea over the centuries.

Bradwell Nuclear Power Station
The hulls of old boats chained together to help prevent coastal erosion off Sales Point
St Peters Chapel
Inside St. Peters Chapel
Inside St. Peters Chapel

The next 10 to 12 miles was quite an isolated stretch of the coastline, with the actual shoreline about 300 metres away over salting’s. The area was quite featureless and flat, with occasional drainage outfalls being  a key indicator of where you were on the wall.  I later came across a book online called The Essex Coastline – then and now by Matthew Faultley & James Garon, now out of print but available free to read online.

https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Hwl1Tefe1q4C&pg=PA5&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=4#v=onepage&q&f=false

I discovered reading the book that this area was used as a bombing range during the Second World War, with little evidence of that today. The book provides a tremendous amount of information on the Essex coastline. As the salting’s gave way to a proper shoreline I continued along a concreted section of the sea wall, wide enough to drive a car along. I was now near Shell Bank, which was true to its name with the shoreline made up entirely of cockle shells. By the time I reached Holliwell Point I had entered the Crouch Estuary and could look across to Foulness Island. Owned by the MOD I could see a series of red flags flying and it was not long before I heard a series of very loud explosions coming from that direction.

By this time the sun was out and the day had a lovely spring feel to it, although the low sun was blinding as I walked into it. I passed a series of Pill boxes from the Second World War that had been built into the sea wall itself. I did wander which came first, the sea wall or the pill boxes, but the “Polderisation” of this land had been going on for centuries. I also found that in true Ministry fashion the hexagon shaped pill boxes had a design classification namely – Fortification & Works (FW3/22).  One of the fortifications was a very strange construction, built on the marsh side of the wall it had to be built high enough to see over the sea wall. Jon Combe, fellow coast walker, described it as resembling a Dalek – I would not disagree.

As I approached Burnham-on-Crouch, I could make out the high rise buildings of Southend -on-Sea, a sign that the Thames estuary lay just beyond. The path also became increasingly muddy, principally from dog-walkers. I walked along the quay into Burnham, with its small collection of cosy pubs and buildings. Perhaps one of the best Essex walks to date.

Crepuscular Rays falling over the Dengie Marsh saltings
Shell Bank
On the sea wall looking out towards the North Sea
Looking south towards the high rises of Southend-on-Sea
Looking along the Crouch estuary
Exterminate!
FW3/22 Pillboxes built into the sea wall
On the quay in Burnham-on-Crouch

Distance today =18 miles
Total distance = 5,665miles

 

 

309. Battlesbridge to Canewdon

My first walk of the new decade! I wanted to make a positive start to 2020, which meant getting some days in on the Essex coast. I’ve decided I’m going to try and do 3 and 3, 3 walks in Scotland and 3 in England in each month. Because  today was a Sunday I needed to work around the public transport issues, this meant making use of my bike.

I drove to and parked in the small village of Canewdon. I took my bike from the back of the car and got all my lights working, both on the bike and on my head! It was 07:00 and still dark, but I only had a 7km to cycle to the nearby town of Rochford. After locking my bike up I took the 07:56 train to Wickford, I then had a  45 minute wait until I caught the 09:06 train to Battlesbridge. I was only on the train to Battlesbridge for 4 minutes, so it was that close!

Today’s walk involve some sea wall walking and a large inland diversion. I set off down the road to Hullbridge, but first crossing over the River Crouch, which was now but a small stream at low tide. For the next kilometre I would be walking along a busy road, even for 9’oclock on a Sunday morning. There’s just a lot people that live in this neck of the woods. Even more annoying the road did not have a verge in some places. I was glad to join the Sea wall and continue along the banks of the Crouch. I passed along the river front of Hullbridge and soon sat opposite to the slipway  at South Woodham Ferrers.

Crossing The River Crouch at Battlesbridge
The Crouch at Battlesbridge with sluice and mill visible
At Hullbridge looking across the Crouch to South Woodham Ferrers

I continued along the river, for a short distance before I began the long inland diversion. This was because about a kilometre downriver the sea wall had been breached, living the sea wall footpath high and dry with nowhere to go. So I needed to return towards the main road I had left about 40 minutes ago. However, the amount of road walking I needed to do was about 3.5km and with no verge in many places I needed to head further inland along quiet roads and footpaths. I managed this ok, but it did take me into the town of Hockley and was almost twice as long as if I had walked along the main road. After passing through the village of Ashingdon I had just a short 150 meter section of road to negotiate before I headed off across a footpath towards South Fambridge, but not before some “muppet” pipped his horn at me for god  knows what reason and as I was clinging to what verge there was! Not very pleasant at all walking along these road sections, dangerous with all the Sunday drivers out and about!!

I re-joined the River Crouch again at South Fambridge and it was nearly all sea wall walking for the rest of the walk. I passed a granite memorial to Fambridge Airfield, which no longer exists and was only up and running for less than months in 1909! It was similar memorial to the Tain  memorial I passed by last yaer. Although it was still only 14:00, it was incredibly dull and dingy, but the sea wall was predominantly dry and I made good progress. As I neared Lion Creek the sea wall turned inland a bit. Lion Creek marked roughly the boundary of Wallasea Island, which I was not setting foot on as the footpaths, I had read, are rather ‘sketchy’ and incomplete.

I was now heading back westwards towards Canewdon and to minimise the road walking I found a few footpaths which took me almost back into Canewdon. I was back at the car by 15:00 and all that remained to do was to change my footwear and head back towards Rochford to pick the bike up again.Then onto Southend and my bed for the night.

Not an enjoyable Sunday stroll.

A rare glimpse of sunshine falling on St Peter’s and St Paul’s churrch near Hockley
The Spa, now a pub, was originally built as an hotel to cater for visitors to the nearby Hockley Spa Pump Room, the Spa ceased in 1848
Fambridge Airfield memorial
Looking across the Crouch to North Fambridge
Looking across to the Marina on Wallasea island, Burnham-on-Crouch is just visible on the left
The remnants of Lion Wharf on Wallasea island

Distance today =18 miles
Total distance = 5,647 miles