Just Throw The ******* Stone!
One the perks of working for yourself (and I use the word working very loosely as I’m not entirely sure baking can be classed as work!) is that you can pick and choose the days you have as playing out days. I feel very fortunate that I live in East Dunbartonshire which places me within easy reach of the Campsie Fells. With today’s travel restrictions I’m probably one of the minority who can still access some wonderful scenery without breaking any COVID-19 Lockdown rules.
The Campsie Fells to the unsuspecting eye could be just a little hill that you see from Kirkintilloch and surrounding towns and villages, but nothing much to shout about. Indeed, with the summit of Leckett Hill sitting at only 547 metres, it’s by no means a massive mountain, but it is no mean feat I can tell you, especially in wet weather when you can find yourself waist high in peat bogs. Ok, waist high is a bit of an exaggeration, but you get the idea.
The walk around the Campsie Fells from Clachan of Campsie, up Cort-ma-law and across to Leckett Hill in wet weather has a similarity to one of my favourite Yorkshire Dale’s hike, Pen-y-Ghent, which stands at 694 metres. This too is not a giant of a mountain. It is, however, a serious undertaking in wet and wild weather but given right conditions, the view from the top is unbeatable.
I remember first climbing Pen-y-Ghent as part of the Yorkshire Dales 3 Peaks Challenge (A 26-mile trek up Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough) many years ago in my late teens. I was as fit as a flea, being a keen racing cyclist, but did very little hill walking in those days. Along with some other cyclists, I joined a group of keen walkers who said we could join them on the challenge. That’s when I learned the very hard lesson that being physically fit in one sport does not necessarily mean that fitness will help in another sport. Going up Pen-y-Ghent, long before the eroded path had been sorted by the National Trust, was like walking through cement. The peat bogs were at their worst, making slow, hard progress up the hill. I remember well one of the walking party falling into one of the bogs and sinking right up to the top of his thighs (and that’s not an exaggeration!). After we’d pulled him to safety, he had to spend the rest of the walk in just his waterproof trousers and wet socks! He was in some state I can tell you.
Anyway, I digress from my tale of the Campsie Fells.
As many of you know, I am trying to get myself fit again after my little heart attack thingy but things just keep getting in the way. I did manage to climb Ben Ledi last year but nothing major since. So, this year, I have decided will be my year and I will get myself back up Ben Lawers (and walk back down rather than have a helicopter ride this time). My son, Ben, is keen to come up some mountains with me this year once the border between England and Scotland is re-opened. Maybe I’ll take him up Ben Lawers with me which will stop Mr M worrying all day!
With the lock down in full swing and only being allowed to travel 5 miles from our county border, the Campsie Fells are the most extreme hill climbing I can undertake at the moment. I’ve had a couple of epic walks over the last month in the snow when it was a little bit like Narnia up there. Then we had weather warnings for rain and high winds. But this week Mr M, my chief weatherman, said Friday would be a good day to go walking as the weather was going to good.
Friday came and off we set (me and Beatrix) up the Campsies. We had our packed lunch and flask of tea but alas we needed no suntan lotion. Mind you, nor did we need our midge spray either!
Now! Beatrix is my best pal and we’ve had lots of adventures together. Most of the time she’s very obedient and will come to heel at a slight nod of the head or whistle and will do almost anything when she sees a biscuit being offered! She will sit to command and even come to me when I say, “let’s put your lead on”. But she’s a border collie and has one bad habit, which is a bit of a collie trait. She is obsessed with stones. She has been known to choose a stone at the bottom of mountain and carry it all the way to the top and back down again. I would stress here that I do not condone this behaviour and we have not encouraged her stone obsession in any shape or form. I’ve taken tennis balls up the hills with me to try to make her to forget about the stones. But to no avail.
Therefore, I simply I ignore her requests to throw the stone when she plonks it at my feet. Beatrix understands this now and in her mind she knows I’ll not throw the stone, but she still tries.
However, on the hills when there are other people about, she just can’t resist taking her beloved stone to them and dropping it at their feet as she does the collie lying down thing. Despite the chosen people declaring how cute she is and how lovely she looks; they don’t always know what they should be doing with the stone. Beatrix can’t bear this so she gets up and tells them in no uncertain terms that they should be throwing her stone. Unfortunately, I’m the only one that understands Beatrix and other people just hear her barking at them. Now Beatrix is the softest dog you could hope to come across and has no aggression in her bones at all. Sadly, she also has the deepest bark you can hear from a dog, which is very intimidating. Also, collies smile at you when they want you to do something for them. Yes really, they smile. Again sadly, this smile involves showing lots of very large, sharp teeth. So, a big dog, barking very loudly, baring teeth and running around you is what strangers see. Not a good look! This then causes lots of panicking and trying to run away from the savage dog, who continues to run around them, barking and showing sharp teeth. Her recall is zero at this point and my humiliation and frustration great!
Now as I have said, most of the Scottish hills are closed at the moment so the whole of Scotland (ok East Dunbartonshire) is climbing the Campsie Hills resulting in me and Beatrix having lots of fall outs and sharing lots of cross words. So much was my frustration that when I got home I declared I was going to go back up the Campsies the following day minus one dog.
Mr M laughed. Then he realised I was serious. Surely not. She’ll cry for you. You can’t be so cruel to her. She looks after you on the hills. “No”, I declared. “You can’t make me feel guilty. I just want a walk in peace with no barking dog upsetting the masses!” And I went to bed, only to hear Mr M talking to Beatrix saying that she had not to worry because Mum wouldn’t be able to do that to her!
Saturday morning arrived but still none of the sunshine Mr M had promised me. I took Beatrix out to do what she needed to do before breakfast and she pleaded with me to take her with me. “I’ll not bark at anyone today, honest!” I relented!
Before long we were on the hills with me clad top to toe in gortex. Yes, I know! The rest of Scotland was basking in sunshine but not the Campsies. Not to worry though. The weather will keep the folk away. Alas. The rest of East Dunbartonshire decided to climb up the Campsies again on Saturday, despite the weather. The main difference today was that the mist had descended and you could see very little, putting Beatrix on high alert. Her sight might not be the best, but her hearing is very good. She was able to hear when people were setting off from their cars when were already making our way up the hills.
I could do a bit of cut and paste here to describe the scenes as people started to appear like magic from the mist. Stones. Barking. Teeth. Screams. You get the picture!
Away from the madding crowds we found a small stile to sit at for our lunch. I had a discussion with Beatrix and reminded her what she had promised me earlier in the morning. “But Mum”, she said. “Why don’t they just throw the £*%(*^& stone then!”
I admonished her for her bad language but did laugh. So, for all the walkers that Beatrix disturbed and worried Friday and Saturday (and all the walks to come when she will do the same), I apologise on behalf of Beatrix. Perhaps I’ll make a sign to hang around Beatrix’s neck that reads, “Please Throw My Stone For Me”.
I don't have very many photos of the two walks but of course, another one of the perks of my job is that I always have cake to take with me. Friday I had Candy Road and today I had Fab Slice as my treat.
Our February Cupid Box is coming to an end tomorrow and Monday will see the start of our March Madness Box. Keep an eye out for this.
Meanwhile, if you want to read more stories, why not treat yourself to my book, The Magical Tearoom on the Hill. This could be described as a recipe book with tales and adventures or Tales and Adventures with Recipes, depending on your view point.
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And the song for this blog? It has to be I love my dog by Cat Stevens.