Loch Cuithir

Thursday 27 May: Skye’s Trotternish peninsula is firmly on the selfie trail – perhaps six miles to the north, as the golden eagle flies, there are hundreds of people milling around at the Quiraing (I’ve just driven over the road from Uig – there must have been 120-150 cars parked at the top of the pass), and three or four miles to the south, a similar number will be trying to enjoy the spectacle of the Old Man of Storr. Loch Cuithir is almost deserted – I saw just one other person in the two-and-a-half hours I was walking. He looked like a local, with a sheepdog, driving slowly in a van along the very rough track.

The bed of the loch was a rich source of diatomite, a form of silica with a honeycomb-like structure having a wide variety of industrial uses. It was worked commercially around 100 years ago – a 2-foot gauge railway was used to take the raw product to the shore at Lealt where there were processing facilities. Although long-disused, the trackbed of the old railway is still visible along most of its three mile length, and though boggy in places it is walkable (I walked most of the way along the road/track, using the last mile or so of the old railway to reach the loch. It would have been very slow going to walk it the whole way). One or two small bridges have gone – some rails remain in their vicinity, well-rusted. The loch itself lies below the spectacular peak of Sgùrr a’ Mhadaidh Ruaidh – the Peak of the Red Fox.

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Bornesketaig coastline

Tues 25 May: a good leg-stretch after yesterday’s fun – a walk through Bornesketaig to the clifftops, following them westwards to look down on the Uamh Oir (a cave of gold!), then along the shore to Camas Mòr. There’s a towering bank of cloud over Lewis and Harris, but here the skies are blue. We’ve left winter behind!

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A long journey

Monday 24 May: We’re on our way to our ‘Northern Office’, and though there will be some domestic duties to attend to, there will also be opportunities for outings – some on my own, when I can be a little more adventurous…

The weather at home has not been great recently, and as we drive through Dalwhinnie, taking the road to Spean Bridge, the car tells us it’s just 5°C outside. The steady drizzly rain, which has caused much spray on the A9, appears to be falling as wet snow on the mountaintops, which are just-about visible through the cloud and mist enveloping them. We’ll pause for a few minutes and a very short leg stretch (it’s still drizzling) where the river Pattack flows peaty-brown through a little gorge beside the road.

A little over three hours later, we’ve arrived. The rain has stopped – Skye is dry! – and the sun is gradually going down behind the Western Isles. The light catches a shower in the Minch. I stand (too much sitting today!) and gaze at the scene, glass in hand, and the long drive begins to unwind. Tomorrow will be a better day.

The muddy Severn

The Severn is always cloudy by comparison with, say, a chalk stream, or the peaty waters of a highland glen, but at present they’re muddier than usual – must be all the rain… Speaking of which, it was supposed to rain all day, but we found a likely dry spell in the forecast, and enjoyed this short walk from Bedlam furnaces (car parking) up and over the hill to Coalbrookdale, and back through Ironbridge. On the riverbank is the shed where (we remember him well) Eustace Rogers used to build his coracles. Sadly ‘Eusti’ was the last of his line, and the shed is now a tiny museum, which can only be visited by peering through the glass window. Just below the world-famous Iron Bridge, here’s another fascinating little bit of history on an altogether more human scale.

Tributes paid to coracle man BBC News 10 February 2003

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Willey and St Leonard’s

Starting from Willey (where the village hall’s new roof looks truly splendid) we’re heading up Scots Lane and down to St Leonard’s church at Linley, a quiet spot amongst the trees and bluebells. The sun’s gone behind the clouds as we return through Linley Brook, but it’s soon shining again. Raindrops land heavily minutes after we arrive home…

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The old mines

There were many small coal mines in this area in early industrial times, and many of them had associated primitive railways or wagonways. One such, of which no trace remains, was known to exist as long ago as 1605. Others have left some visible traces – a wagonway connected the long-disused Caughley colliery, where we’re heading, to wharves on the Severn. An obviously-engineered way forms part of the footpath through the mine site, and the wagonway also ran along what is now a driveable rough track. Nearby, the Caughley china  works was in operation from 1775 to 1799, when the business was transferred to the works down in the valley at Coalport. Fragments of unglazed scrap porcelain are scattered around the modern memorial.
Once again, it looked like rain; once again, it didn’t!


Showery Shirlett

We walked this way exactly a month ago, on 17 April, in fine spring weather. Today, the weather is showery (yet again!), and some of the showers could be heavy. Our jackets are waterproof, and a cap will keep me dry on top, if the worst happens. It doesn’t, fortunately, and near the top of Round Hill, feeling warm, I take it off. We’re rewarded within a minute or two by a brief light shower of soft hailstones, which stops when I put the cap back on. Must take it with me more often!

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Harton Road

We’re walking along the Harton road from Ticklerton, passing along the way the site of Harton Road station. The railway closed almost 70 years ago – but there’s the old station, just visible through the trees, looking well-maintained and well-loved. From Harton, we’ll head towards Eaton, passing early purple orchids and a pair of gobbling turkeys. Crossing under the route of the old railway again, the sky behind us is looking ominous – and then there are a couple of deep rumbles of thunder. We’re almost back at Ticklerton – will we stay dry? Yes, we made it! (One of these days we’re going to get soaked…)

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