In NE Scotland, schools still get 2 weeks off in October that in times past were to allow schoolchildren to help harvest potatoes from the fields, hence the name Tattie Holidays. They’re probably my favourite school holiday because Aberdeenshire bursts into colour at this time of year. So as usual we spent most of it exploring some of the woods around and about. As fellow Ambassador Jennie said in her latest post, often the best walks are the unplanned ones – most of those October days we just pulled on our wellies, grabbed a windproof raincoat, jumped in the car, and headed to one of our favourite spots.
One particularly chilly day we decided to head to Edzell to scuff around the brilliant orange leaves between the miles of woods between the village and the Rocks of Solitude. The minxes were being particularly trying, so I agreed with Angry Midi’s suggestion to brave the wibbly-wobbly Shakkin’ Brig, nip around to the stony bank of the River North Esk, and chuck stones in it to vent lots of aggression.Well, it was a plan. We’ve not been over the bridge in many months and teased each other with little wobbles and gentle shakes and pointing out broken and missing wood, actual and imagined. Then Maxi thundered across the suspension bridge in huge lolloping bounds, terrifying her sisters and me.
There’s always one, isn’t there?! Still, at least we all got to the other side pretty quickly.“I’m SO going to splash you!” roared a furious Mini at her sister. Oh boy… Angry Defcon Level 2.We skeetered down the bank to the rocks and I paused the girls for a second. I pointed out a fishing bird. I think it was a dipper about the size of a blackbird, almost black, with a brilliant white bib. It dived and bobbed a few times, before flying off. I explained to the rock-happy kids that chucking stones into the river willy-nilly would be careless because there were obviously fish there – see the diving birds? They waited and watched and planned their targets with precision.
Then just as they unleashed the second volley and were considering a salvo of stone-skimming, up bounded a big friendly owner-less collie. Mini is very skittish around dogs, and although this one didn’t jump up on her, it wanted to be her new best friend and stick to her like glue. After 10 minutes of the dog darting around the kids and Mini clinging to my knees, I gave up and decided to walk on elsewhere. Let’s go explore the flood damage!
Ah, it was more fun than it sounds. Further along the river you come to a bank full of driftwood. We’re not talking a few branches here – there are enormous full trees and trunks, all tangled up with branches and debris from some floods over the past few years. They make incredible dens and things to climb over and through and under (after checking they’re reasonably solid, still!)The problem, though, was that all the debris had created many stagnant pools. And despite the sudden cold snap over where we live, it wasn’t cold enough here by the river to kill off all the midges and other biting insects that love to hang around still water!
Anger and exasperation now directed at insects rather than each other, I suggested we beat a hasty retreat and walk back to the village for a hot chocolate. On the way, we said hello to some passers-by as usual – people are friendly round here.Chocolate fix achieved, I suggested we drive around to the start of the Blue Door walk, at Gannochy Bridge, and go poke the many puffballs and scuff through more leaves. Unfortunately, the layby was full of cars, so we drove onwards towards Glen Esk, to the small layby for the Rocks of Solitude.Out we popped into the bright orange landscape, straight towards some red squirrels. I thought they’d have hibernated by now? Still, onwards we skipped on the path down towards the river, kicking and throwing leaves around, making huge, silly steps. A pair of dogwalkers walked past us and we said hello to each other. I overheard them exclaim to each other about how well the minxes had done to walk the whole walk – “It’s miles!” they said to themselves. Ahhhhh, I realised we’d said hello back at Shakkin’ Brig, en-route to the café. They must have thought we’d walked the whole way.
As I was explaining this to the girls, a lady power-walker sped towards us. I recognised her from the first half of the walk, too. “Hello again!” I said brightly. “We took the secret shortcut” and tapped the side of my nose. She burst out laughing. The minxes rolled their eyes and whispered about how parents were just SO embarrassing.Oh girls, girls, girls – I’m only just warming up! Wait till you’re teenagers.Orange and yellow leaves covered the tracks and trails we normally follow, so we just headed uphill till we found the old, well-camouflaged folly ruin. Normally the girls like to play within its round walls while I take photos pointing to the sky, but that day they were too busy trying to make dens. They dragged logs and fallen saplings, hauling them under the own weight or sometimes combining forces under a temporary minx truce. True to competitive selves, though, they soon devised a game (Walk the Trunk) that pitted minx against minx, perfect for generating argument and torment. Or it would have been, had they not worn themselves out hauling and tossing cabers earlier. Ah, hooray for trees!
Written by Jay Greengrass on Tuesday, 13 February 2018.
Posted in Scottish Highlands and Islands