Friday, 28 August 2009

Loch Awe

We rode on from Bill and Alfie's up the side of Loch Awe, mainly following forest tracks along the shore. The level of the loch was very high: halfway up the alder trees which fringe it.

There is a feeling now of autumn creeping on: the bracken is starting to turn gold; the rowan berries are ripening; lots of brambles now (yum) - it seems like only a few days since we were munching on wild strawberries!

On telephone wires the swallows gathered briefly and were gone, showing no inclination to linger longer and who could blame them?

More wood ant nests along Loch Awe: I do hope for their sake the water levels don't get any higher, although water can be discharged from the barrages into the river if necessary.

Taynuilt is where we were now headed, through Glen Nant. There is a hill track via Loch Nant but by now the weather was atrocious: pouring rain and high winds so we stuck to the relative shelter of the woods.

I wanted to get in touch with my hosts Frank and Helen in Taynuilt to let them know about the hill track (they were planning to unlock a gate for me).

My mobile didn't work ( as an aside to anyone travelling in the west who is, like me, on 02 which is rubbish over here) - get yourself a cheap mobile on Vodaphone or Orange. I wished I'd had one as the service is much better. Yes, yes, I know all about 'never rely on a mobile phone.'

Instead you can rely on phone boxes (marked on OS maps). Hahaha. The one marked at Inverinan could only be accessed by crossing a deep ditch and scrambling up a bank. I tied the ponies to the village notice board while I discovered a) the box didn't take coins; b) it refused to read my credit card; c) it wanted to charge £3.90 for a reverse charge call to Taynuilt, about 12 miles away. C'mon BT, not exactly a service to be proud of, is it?

As I was encouraging the boys back down the steep bank and over the ditch (Badminton, here we come) a kind soul came past and offered me the use of her mother's phone across the road - problem solved. She even held the ponies for me.

We followed the River Nant down to Taynuilt, riding beside the boiling torrents all the way. Luckily we didn't have to cross it, but admired the swirling powerful waterfalls from a safe distance. A bit of a surprise to come across - a ballet school! Ballet West is a thriving dance training centre supported by Billy Connolly, I was told, although picturing him in a tutu made Doogs feel quite ill.

Then a pants-peeing dart across the main road (yikes) and the relative safety of a minor road to the village of Brochroy. Our timing was slightly out, ducking under the railway bridge just as a train was going over it: the sudden acceleration of the ponies down the road at least meant we didn't suffer from plodding lastmileitis, about which I have written before. Doogs and Yeoman were turned out in a silage field (mown!!) courtesy of the local farmer, while the next day ('rest' day) was spent trying to separate - and dry out - mouldy soaking items in my packs. I've never excelled at housekeeping and pack-keeping seems to be the same. I'm with American comedienne Joan Rivers: "Housework? Doncha just hate it? Make the beds , do the dishes, and six months later you've just gotta start over..."

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