We are now on the last sections of the walk and it is gloriously sunny again. It’s not a big day today. It’s about seventeen miles to our destination at the caravan & camping site at North Water Bridge and it’s all downhill from here along the River North Esk.
Breakfast at St Drostan’s called and so I strolled over to be met by an ashen faced Andy who blurted out “There’s No Bacon!” (and the capitals are important here!)
“The Bastards Have Eaten All The Bacon!”
Indeed. The Challengers had eaten their way through three dozen happy piglets in their short stay at this establishment. An entire generation of porkers had been wiped out to satisfy the bloodlust for porcine products. There was talk of pigs being put on the endangered species list. In truth, the only endangered species were the Challengers that Andy was going to catch up with today for scoffing all his bacon…
The wonderful new crew manning St Drostan’s came up with a fairly decent alternative: A couple of fried egg rolls with lashings of tomato ketchup and limitless cups of tea. After this we lounged about a lot in the sitting room, reading five day old newspapers. Nothing seemed to have changed since I had last seen a newspaper before the Challenge had started. It’s generally a bad idea to dip into the outside world when on this walk as it can only depress.
However, we could no longer put off the evil moment when rucksacks had to be hoisted and the searing sunshine faced for the stroll down the river.
Most years I visit the sand martins a few miles down the road, and last year had been pleased to see that their numbers had increased after a marked decline the previous few years. Andy wanted to cross the river straight away so we arranged to meet up just after the big bridge over the North Esk.
I sauntered along, soon catching up the stragglers who had had breakfast at the Retreat (Richard & Rosemary and David & Margaret spring to mind) and paused to watch the sand martins. There were significantly less than last year, and I wondered if their return from southern climes had ben delayed by the dreadful weather we had all experienced.
Having crossed the bridge and joined the route that Andy would be treading I sat for a while in the very hot sunshine. I had run out of water by this point and so decided to move on a bit to where I knew the side streams crossed our path and wait there.
However, after a good half an hour there was still no sign of the chap, so I mooched on a bit further, looking forward to the bird watching hut above the river as a nice spot for lunch. However, it was a sad sight; The bird watching log was gone, and the hut was in a very poor state, with broken doors and floorboards. An air of decay was about the place. I wondered about the old chap who used to keep it up. He must no longer be about. Time passes.
So I strolled back over to the track, to bump into a beaming Andy. We decided that this was as good a place as any for lunch and so we lazed about, socks off, digging in to the remains of our food bags (my food bag still weighed a ton – a common phenomena at this point every year on the Challenge; I always have too much food) in the shade of the birch trees. Roger Hoyle joined us at this point.
We were overhauled by David & Margaret, who I have to say always look immaculate whenever I bump into them. They must have an ensuite bathroom in their tent and butler on hand to wash & press their clothes.
There then followed a stroke of good fortune. Andy spotted a new bridge just out of sight after a brand new cutting sliced into the bank on our left. This was really good news as it meant that we could cross the river and follow the Blue Door Walk down the North Esk.
Phil had introduced me to this excellent stroll quite a few years earlier and last year we had passed on this delight to Andy & Shirl. Andy & I persuaded/bullied Roger to come with us to sample its charms.
This new bridge cuts out miles of unnecessary road walking and so is a real find!
Here’s a few pictures to whet your appetite:
We had a fine rest down by the river, making teas and hot chocolate.
Andy Williams (a first timer) joined us at this point. In truth, he looked knackered. He had been walking with a badly sprained ankle certainly since we had met him at Mar Lodge and he was really struggling with it. He is no quitter and he was carrying on when I am absolutely certain most would have packed up and caught the next train home.
If you’re reading this Andy, Jolly well done! Let’s hope next time you avoid a nasty injury so you really can enjoy your walk.
Here’s a picture of the famous Blue Door:
Andy & Roger nipped into Edzell and I carried on my saunter down to our campsite, collecting Bryan Waddington up on the way. Bryan was in great shape and seemed to be enjoying his first Challenge and I am sure we’ll see him back again if he can get a ‘pass’ from his young family.
North Water Bridge was very busy, crammed full of Challengers and it made a change to be able to sit outside in the evening passing flasks about, catching up with each other’s adventures.
Today’s route: 26.5km with about 350m of uppishness.
For those interested in trying out the Blue Door Walk for themselves, the green square marked on the map shows the position of the new bridge.