Our walking was somewhat disrupted through the festive season, but we are now back to normal again with our usual Wednesday afternoon outings to take pleasure in good company and our most enjoyable scenic walks. We are now very pleased to have a newly trained walk leader to join with David, Carol and myself in the Tomatin Group. Her name is Myra McLean, and she lives in Daviot, but as they do not have a group Myra is now walking with, and helping us, every other week.
Sadly, at the present time, our regular walkers are somewhat depleted owing to health problems. We are constantly thinking of you all, and sending all our best wishes for a speedy recovery. However, our outings continue, and so far this winter, have not been too limited by difficult weather. As usual we look out for features of interest on our routes: whether these be landscape features, geology, wildlife, flora or archaeology.
Today was no exception, when we returned to one of our well loved circuits at Moy on a fine, mild but breezy afternoon. As part of our archaeology investigations we visited the site of a former wolf trap, and photographed it from all angles. All that remains of this is the circular depression where the wolf was caught after venturing onto the flimsy camouflage covering the hole. This was so interesting to see, and to be reminded of the wildness of this land a couple or more centuries ago.
The days are perceptibly growing longer again now, and so we shall revert to our 2.00pm start from Strathdearn Hall on Wednesday, February 1st. Do join us if you feel you would enjoy a short but healthy walk and a good cuppa and blether afterwards. Either just come along then, or phone Kathy or David on 01808 511740 or Carol on 531220.
We continue our walks through the summer months, although of course many of our walkers do go away on holiday at some time throughout this period. It is, however, a lovely time to explore our own area as, to many people, this could well be a beautiful holiday destination in its own right. Our routes have included those to the River Findhorn from the “Motherwell Bridge”, as we call it, since it was built by a Motherwell firm of engineers; up the hill behind Corrybrough to the communication mast, and along the track to the Bucket Bridge at the entrance to The Streens. We also were delighted to find that the gate of one of the tracks from Ruthven was now unlocked, as this allows us once more to do a favourite route we have not used for a year or two.
On all of these walks we enjoy so much seeing and hearing the birds: lapwing, oystercatchers, curlews, gulls, sand martins, swallows, grouse, and many more. The wild flowers are also a joy to observe this year, and our most recent walks are revealing the bell heather, cross-leaved heath, plus the gradually opening common heather.
Whatever the route, however, one of the great pleasures is to walk with like-minded members of the community, and to share with them in a cuppa at the end. Indeed, we have just been informed that our Tomatin group is to be nominated for an award from “Paths for All” – the umbrella organisation for “Step it Up Highland”, on the basis of being a very friendly and co-operative group, where each individual helps and considers all other members. That is good to hear! So do join us if you would enjoy the exercise and the camaraderie, on Wednesday afternoons at 2.00pm at Strathdearn Hall, or by phoning Kathy and David on 01808 511740 or Carol on 531220.
As I am sure most people know by now, the main purpose of our Wednesday walks is to promote good health by walking. Step it Up is not a rambling club, but a Scottish initiative to encourage people who are not taking enough exercise to come along and meet other like-minded folk for a walk, followed by tea and coffee and a blether. It is a national organisation with many groups throughout the Highlands. Our Highland co-ordinator, Lynne Bannister, joined us on one of our outings earlier in April.
We had chosen one of our favourite routes that day: the Slochd valley circuit. This is one we traditionally do around this time of year, as it is a beautiful spring walk with a great display of wild flowers: primroses, wood sorrel, wood anemones and violas. Lynne was very impressed by the lovely and varied selection of routes we have around Tomatin, and also commented on how friendly and lively our group seemed. She took a number of photographs for use in the Step it Up Newsletter, as well as receiving some of the video footage we have ourselves taken whilst we are out.
As well as walking, we are all interested in observing the plants, wildlife, archaeological sites and landscapes as we go, which all make any physical activity much more meaningful. So, if you feel you would enjoy to join us in our friendly group, why not come along? Meet us at Strathdearn Hall at 2.00pm on a Wednesday afternoon, or phone Kathy or David beforehand on 01808 511740, or Carol on 531220 if you would like more information.
Winter is never the easiest time for walking in the countryside, and the last few months have been a little more difficult than usual, as there have been many rainy days. Over the last couple of weeks it has not rained, but it has been very cold and we have contended with snow and ice. However, the Step it Up Strathdearn group is nothing if not intrepid, and we have not let the elements put us off walking.
Indeed one could argue that winter, with the temptation to tuck up by a fire, and indulge in the remainder of the Christmas chocolates and mince pies, is just the very time we should rouse ourselves to step outside for a good healthy walk.
Once one gets outside there are many pleasures. A brisk walk helps the circulation to speed up, and the clean cold air helps you to breathe deeply and apreciate our Highland air. Even the feeling of rain on your face creates a sense of freedom and enjoyment of the elements. On our last two walks however, the snow has lain crisp and even, although not deep; the sun has shone, and the world has been a very beautiful place. Walking back along the high track above Loch Moy, the Cairngorms come into view, and the sight of these pristine white peaks floating in a translucent blue sky is every bit as wonderful as a distant view of the Alps. Even a walk by the Findhorn after heavy rain gives an adrenaline rush as it rages along in its wild and abandoned way.
Enough of the poetry! Winter walks are so good for you in all sorts of ways: not the least being able to grumble about the weather and share your thoughts and feelings with others. Do come along and join us and try it. Wednesdays at the Hail at 1.30pm (at the moment) is the time and place. You can call Kathy or David on 511740 or Carol on 531220, or just turn up.