Thursday, 19 June 2008

Splosh, splosh, splosh

So this morning's walk didn't go *quite* to plan.

Usually when I get to the bottom of the path down to the beach, I turn left towards the sea. Today, kitted out in my trusty wellies, I turned right, up the Allt Beag river.

Lesson one - never slide down a river bank without first checking there isn't a bramble in your path on the way down.

After I'd de-prickled my backside, I decided I didn't fancy climbing back up that way again and waded upstream to see what was there. All the crofts run down to the stream, but because the land falls away quite steeply towards the bottom, often the only visitors are sheep and I hoped there might be some exciting wildlife down there.

As I waded on, two major flaws became apparent. The first was that you shouldn't try and walk up a river the morning after it's rained all night. The second was that in my eagerness to explore I'd forgotten that my sense of balance is dodgy on land, let alone in a river full of slippery rocks and I was carrying a bag with all my camera equipment in it.

Lesson two - a stout branch is your friend, whether it's a dead one you pick up to use as a walking stick, or a live one overhanging from the bank that you manage to grab before you land on your arse in the water.

About half an hour of scrambling later it became obvious that there was going to be no easy way out. The crofts were all fenced off at the bottom and although I could get out on the bank for stretches, the way back was blocked by gorse. Nothing for it; I'd have to follow the river for the half mile or so to where it went under the main road and then I could climb out by the bridge.

Lesson three - don't jump into rivers without an exit strategy.

The only problem was that parts of the Allt Beag are quite deep and my wellies were only knee-high. I did quite well sticking to the banks until I reached a spot where two trees had grown directly opposite each other on the banks and the only way forward was in the centre. I waded out up to mid-thigh, held my camera over my head and pressed on...

Lesson four - Monsoon cord trousers don't like river water much. (Thank goodness they were £4.99 from Age Concern...double thank goodness I wasn't wearing jeans, I might have sunk with the weight!)

Past those trees I could see the road. But I could also see a barrier across the river - one of the croft owners had sheep-netted right the way over to stop his/her sheep paddling through into the neighbours. Fortunately, the sheep had decided to go anyway and forced a sheep-sized hole under one of the rails.

Lesson five - sometimes it's good to pretend to be a sheep.

Eventually I reached the bridge and was able to scramble out. After emptying my wellies out for the third time in 90 minutes, I squelched back home and jumped into the shower.

And the really annoying thing? I didn't take a single photo down there! I also lost my pedometer somewhere along the way, but at least I kept all my camera kit dry.

So to make up for the lack of pretty river pictures, here are some birds from the garden instead.

Sparrow on fencepost:

Sparrow 1

Wren - apparently they're quite rare in Scotland, it's too cold:


Greenfinch (or, to be accurate, greenfinch's bottom):


Female chaffinch:

Female chaffinch

Sparrow on wire (OK, it's not the best shot, there's too much detail missing in the black, but I love his pose):

Sparrow 2

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