Fear a’ Bhàta

(translation from Gaelic “The Boatman”)

Walking to the train station in Oxford, we passed the train track swing bridge that we had walked past and then cruised past on the two days before. This gave us a chance to see some information about it and see that there was work happening around. It looked like it was an attraction in progress with tables and hoardings and a good view of the rails from the road bridge over the rail and canal. A train passed as we were looking down on it and Shane suggested it was our train.

Rewley Road Rail Swing Bridge over the Thames

Our train was indeed ready to board at the station. This leg of our journey took us as far as Coventry. We had an hour there which was too long to stand in a station and too short to walk in to town and sit down for lunch and have a relaxed lunch so we just strolled into town to stretch our legs and saved eating lunch for on the train. At the centre we saw one of the Coventry guides who engaged us in conversation. I thought he might if he saw two aimless looking tourists, but he wasn’t trying to sell us anything. He just asked if we wanted anything. He had a guided tour booking of one who had not shown up so he gave us the first ten minutes of his talk (it is over two hours normally) and there was no charge as he was prepaid. We were able to see the revolving Lady Godiva and Peeping Tom on the hour. It made a fun novel train break.

Coventry Guide and Lady Godiva Clock
Flower pots between the station and Coventry centre

Back on the train we we now had a smooth journey to Edinburgh. At Birmingham (where we often change but not this time) I glanced up and saw someone entering our carriage who had just boarded. ” Isn’t that our next door neighbour?” I asked Shane and he agreed.As moved to his booked seat,the one right in front of us, Shane said “hello Simon!” Not having been in Edinburgh for much for a couple of years we hadn’t chatted for a long while and so had a good neighbourhood concerns, catching up about communal roof repairs, shared gardens, family news and the drainpipes. It was good to have the discussion but strange to meet in Birmingham to get round to it.

We got off the station before him (they are only three minutes apart). Nye met us at Haymarket and we walked back. Last time we were back, Nye was only with us for one evening before going on a camp with friends, and this time I was only there one night before heading away again the next morning with a friend, Peter, to visit Margaret and Roland in Boat of Garten. It was another split train journey to Aviemore, changing at Stirling but this time a dry short wait and it was announced that the train to change to would be on the same platform so no rush through the station, a smooth journey. I was amused I had basically gone from boat to Boat with a sleep in Edinburgh.

We were arriving on Roland’s birthday. Margaret is very organised and had planned activities for each day and pre-ordered pizza (I had made my selection a few days earlier while at the other boat). We had a woodland walk to build up our appetite round Loch Vaa and delicious cake in the summerhouse before pizza was collected by the birthday boy. Margaret and I had the bird app out regularly and appreciated the violets and other wild flowers. Roland had his first taste of wood sorrel. We heard and saw a little grebe on the loch.

I felt it a great achievement to repair a cardigan with Margaret’s help. I only recently noticed the hole and knew she has superior sewing and knitting skills. Funnily enough I completed knitting the cardigan two years ago while visiting her in Boat of Garten with Peter, so it was nice to make it good there. She then helped me wind a skein and now we are both starting another cardigan, called Rebel Rebel and she had made a start on hers. Casting on a cardigan doesn’t sound all that rebellious, but I made use of her experience, demonstration and advice to get a hasty cast on, using a new technique. Learning a new skill was quite a buzz. It looks a bit weird with two circular needles,but is working out fine.

Rebel Rebel Ready to go

Roland rounded off his birthday with a smokey whisky and I had a little taste, so we were both kippered. Peter taught us a new Scots word, skalk, meaning a whisky before breakfast.

The next morning I found an unwelcome visitor on my ankle, a tick. I have known two people close to me to suffer from Lyme’s disease following tick bites and the geographical area of incidence has spread and Peter had told me on the train that they now also carry encephalitis. Margaret was prepared with tick tweezers and had heard dousing with alcohol helped so whisky was brought out and applied with cotton wool. I hadn’t planned a whisky before breakfast. Don’t think it’s a skalk for the tick as it was already gorging on me as dinner, supper and breakfast. We didn’t use the special smokey one, a lower quality whisky saved the day and I got the tick out cleanly and wiped the “wound” with more whisky.

We had lunch at a heather centre and I bought a plant and then we did a varied terrain walk including a ford. There were stepping stones but I managed okay. I avoided the slimy looking stone. Margaret braved it and got away with dry feet. Not all of us had dry feet. Another walk feature was a packhorse bridge.

We continued to collect birds and I spotted this bright insect, a much more welcome find than the tick. Peter later found out for me that this was a green tiger beetle. The area often has red quirrels We didn’t manage to see any this visit but on the walk there was clear evidence they are to be seen there.

After an eight mile walk we felt more cake, drinks, nibbles and a good helping of chilli were very welcome indeed. A tiny portion of chilli was left over and Roland had it in a sandwich for our walk the next day where we picnicked by the Lily Loch. This loch had tadpoles in it. As we were leaving Margaret saw a wee beastie on her rucksack. I haven’t identified it as my camera focused on the fabric and not the weevil/ beetle. She wanted it to leave and I tried to encourage it off. It was not a tim’rous beastie and held on tight. As I was entreating it on to my hand, Margaret remarked that she hadn’t heard anyone call a beetle ‘darling’ before. Roland expressed concern I’d be bitten, but all was well. I spotted another beetle later that Peter’s app identified as an oil beetle. Back at the garden it was hot and we sat out and I managed to get a close up of a speckled wood butterfly. More cake and a delicious lasagne, the catering was second to none!

Lily Loch from our picnic spot

Lily Loch lilies

On our last morning, we went to the osprey centre before heading to the train station and had a view of the nest, a talk about the ospreys with video footage of a fish being brought to the nest and a good view of siskins. The Capercaillie though is endangered and disturbance is a major issue.

I arrived back to see Shane and Nye hard at work making a ramp for wheelchair access. It is all reused wood from our cellar and made from old floorboards and a pallet. Shane used the fearsome saw and Nye was putting the wood together again in the new configuration.

A ramp in progress

Shane was just finishing up when Cath and Michael arrived with home baked gingerbread. Nye finished off while we had tea and cake. Then Nye cooked dinner and David joined us. I haven’t cooked for four days and had cake every day too. Just as well I was doing plenty walking to work it off.