So the heatwave. Scotland and the Scots are not designed for such a prolonged period of good weather. Today was hot and I started at 0630 thankfully Lady Mary’s path along the river Earn provided considerable cool relief and shade. Definitely needed even at that time of the morning.
In my efforts to get outdoors more often I’m trying to ramp up my walking mileage, speed and to use some new kit. I have a few problems to overcome though, still overweight, plantar fasciitis and dodgy knees. The biggest issues I have with getting outdoors remains the plantar fasciitis. It is agony, I’m on the fourth or fifth insole/heel cup and whilst there has been some relief it remains sore and limiting especially after a walk. Nevertheless as much as I’m happy to rest it I need to get out and enjoy myself.
I received my new Kifaru pack last week. It’s a Kifaru 14’r (Fourteener) and it’s been great, comfortable, takes all the kit I want with ease and with it being 500D cordura lighter than my previous Kifaru packs. https://store.kifaru.net/14r-2400ci–393liters-p209.aspx. That has been a breeze with the pre-fitting done by Kifaru but I was also trying out some new walking poles from Leki https://www.outdoorgear.co.uk/Leki-Micro-Vario-Carbon-Trekking-Poles-Pair-sku81315101.asp. Added to the mix I also wanted to play with my Go Pro attached to a walking pole. I’ll do specific more detailed reviews of the kit separately.
I’ve been out and done a couple of 3 milers earlier in the week so I thought I’d do a tad longer with a bit of ascent, not much though. Today I started along Lady Mary’s walk carrying on to Trowan, beneath Black bank up Laggan Hill and back to the car. It was 5.7 miles with 150m ascent and it took me 2hr and 2mins. I’ve done it faster previously but I did stop to take a few photo’s. (Some photo’s included below were taken a few days later when the rain arrived)
It was about 18°c when I got out of the car almost chilly in comparison to most of the last month, my shorts have never had so much wear since I came north from Devon. I loaded myself up with my kit and off I went.
The Lady Mary’s walk is a really lovely walk. It starts off alongside Turret burn which flows from loch Turret a reservoir and drain from the hills to the north west of Crieff. The walk is an easy saunter with a well kept path and for most of it accessible by all capabilities. The first part of the walk is overhung with the trees, in the spring the smell of wild garlic greets you as you walk off the main road.*
About 10 mins in you reach the joining of the waters, Turret burn and River Earn. The path is narrow and uneven across some rocks and myriad of roots sandwich between the river and steep bank. As you reach the ‘Sands’, a small beach like area made up of fine sands and a haven for youth’s camping, attempts to light a fire and partake of the finest selection of cheap alcohol, the walk opens up amongst a mix of evergreen and deciduous trees. The trees almost form a tunnel with the fallen leafs providing great photographs in at the autumn and the snow in the winter. The trees are decorated by many of the relationships amongst the locals of Crieff, their love carved into the trunks of the trees. Thankfully the trees are still there I understand many of the relationships are not.
The river is home to brown trout, occasional salmon coming up from the North Sea via the river Tay. Fishing permits are available but all salmon are to be returned if caught. Buzzards are present amongst the trees and the sound of a cuckoo and woodpecker are occasionally heard in the spring. The normal crows, ‘hoodies’, are ever present from the fields adjacent to the path and river.
Wild Eurasian beavers are present in other areas of the Earn and whilst I have heard something large scramble into the river I have yet to see the more obvious work of the beaver amongst the trees at the river bank. Herons are common along the river although are shy to the camera and when a walker is seen to have stopped they quickly fly away with a warning rasping cry to alert others. A variety of ducks are prevalent year round on the river raising ducklings with little harassment from predators.
Along the path there are a series of benches installed all with a central bronze pillar with decorative motifs and the bench planks adorned with poetry. They are quite nice and tastefully fit into their surrondings.
As the walk proceeds along the windings of the river to the west the old railway line becomes more defined to the right of the path. The walk is popular with locals for dog walking, exercise and fresh air. So even during early morning walks you are likely to meet one or two other people.
The river flow is driven by the rains in the area and especially in the surroundings hills of loch Earn.
While the flow is constant it rises and falls regularly with the weather. Here in the summer of ’18 the river is at the lowest I have ever seen in the 10 years I have been here with the bedrock of the river exposed and parts of the normally 50 – 60 ft spans of the river reduced in places to 10 – 15 ft. When it is in it’s normal state it is navigable by canoe and a few hardy souls have been seen in kayaks and open canoes.
The walk along the path is a pure pleasure and it feels like you’re miles away from anywhere yet it is on the doorstep of Crieff.
Work by the council to encourage the growth of new trees is sympathetic to the surroundings and a few new trees have been planted but instead of the common plastic sheaths to protect them from grazing deer a small ‘corral’ was built with offcuts of saplings and twigs interwoven to offer protection.
As the old railway embankment rises to the right the path narrows and the river bank becomes steeper and unaccessible. Moles house is a popular stopping place for the younger visitors and the toys are regularly exchanged.
My kit for walking may seem a little weighty but I have found it to be suitable for what I want to do. For load carrying I use a set of RIBZ with first aid, compass, gps, binoculars and other bits and pieces. Then my pack with an insulation layer, appropriate to the season, Goretex outer layer, brew kit titanium mug with Evernew titanium burner. Brew kit with lunch, possibles pouch with back up for the important bits of kit. I haven’t weighed it in an age but I’ll do a fuller report at some stage in the future. My clothing is appropriate to the season and I usually wear long trousers and long sleeved merino tops. I’m a fan of ‘be bold, start cold’ adding as necessary rather than starting warm and having to take clothes off in the early stages of the walk. I’ve been suffering from Plastar Fasciitis for the last 12 – 14 months and have found my Scarpa SL boots, whilst weighty, have been kinder to my feet. I’ve recently fitted a set of Sorbothane insoles to help further.
As the path diverts away from the river you reach a junction in the path. Turning right will bring you back to Crieff along a private road. A few metres along this route another option is provided to bring you up the hill offering a higher walk along Laggan hill. Today I took the option to the left along a path sandwich between fields. There are usually cattle or sheep in the fields but it’s an excellent spot to see the local Roe deer. As you walk along the nearly sunken path Black Bank rises to the right with it’s top covered in trees. Trowan farm is at the end of this section a lovely old farmhouse with almost derelict outbuildings. This is now a holiday house providing a base to explore the area http://www.trowanfarm.co.uk The path widens to allow vehicles to get the farmhouse and as you approach the road a rail tunnel, a remnant from a local line, sits beneath you as you meet the single track road. A sharp right quickly followed by another sharp right keeps you on the path past a small sandstone house and you start to climb. The track diverges quite quickly ahead to Sir David Baird’s Monument (NN 82474 21699) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sir_David_Baird,_1st_Baronet and left to continue on my route. The path goes around the hill with the monument rising slowly, this can be a bit wet going until your under Creag na Gaoith.
There are a number of signposts along the path from here in this case I’m following the path to Crieff. Even in bright sunlight it can be quite dark when the trees are laden with leaves covering the path. There are occasional glimpses across the Carse of Trowan and Carse of Lennoch towards Comrie where the white church stands out as a landmark.
As you pass Samsons stone (NN 82513 22016) looking north you can see the Glen Turret above Loch Turret is the Munro Ben Chonzie but it’s not usually visible as it’s not that well defined. A field opens up to the right and it’s a good place to spot deer in the early morning or evening.
As the path starts to rise it is really well defined and passes along a small birch plantation before you come upon Puttocks pond (NN 83559 22393). One of the earlier diversions mentioned had you climbing the hill to take in Laggan Hill, this meets us here at a kissing gate. Again this can be a great spot to see deer at dawn and dusk. To the right a field falls away to lower pathways and to the left the fields separating us from the A85. There is a stout and high stone wall here offering you glimpses over to the upper part of the fields, again these can be great locale for spotting deer. In the spring a woodpecker is common in this area often heard alas rarely seen. Further along before the climb to Laggan hill there is another of our small benches, I was sat here one evening having a brew when I heard the most ungodly raucous wild animal noise behind me. Meg our Jack Russell was nearly in my arms at the sound . I thought it was a wild pig but it was only when I stood on top of the bench I saw a small stag barking away at his harem. The path up Laggan hill is short and sharp but falls away quicker to a small disused quarry to the left. This is duplicated further along the path with another slightly larger disused quarry lying behind a gate. As you approach a beautiful house on the right overlooking the fields the path turns to a tarmacked road and before you know it you’re on Laggan road and quickly back at the start point.
This is a great walk and theres enough hill in it to get me puffing so it must be doing me some good. In writing this it became a description of a walk rather than my experience doing the walk but I’ll let it stand and see how the remainder of my blog. I also don’t have other photo’s basically the second half of my walk. I am producing a short route video which I’ll link and put onto social media and the video page.
* This part whilst initially accessible culminates in a short rise and narrow path along the Earn. An alternative route is found along Laggan road through a signposted gate.