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13 November 2021

TGO Challenge 2021: Day 8: To Tomnamoine


I'm starting today's post with some thoughts that sprang to mind at the finish of the day, at the abandoned settlement of Tomnamoine.

To keep things manageable for the Vetters (the brilliant guys who check each and everyone's routes before they're allowed on the TGO Challenge) the only locations or features that are allowed on a route sheet are those shown on the Ordnance Survey's 1:50k maps. You won't find Tomnamoine (look up at the title of this post) on today's route map as it appears only on the O.S's 1:25k maps. 

This is a shame. As you stroll along this section of the River Dee you'll find evidence of abandoned settlements all around you. This area was first settled eight thousand years ago at the Chest of Dee (see the overview map of today's route). This was just a few thousand years after the last glaciation that I mentioned earlier in this blog of my crossing - the Loch Lomond Stadial Advance - that would have covered this glen under hundreds of metres of ice. The planet warmed very quickly (far faster than its current warming phase) which allowed people from Europe to travel via Doggerland (no sniggering at the back, please) and start a new life here, at first as hunters and then as increasingly benign conditions prevailed, farmers. It was this neolithic population that cleared the forests and with primitive  ploughs established small farming communities - like those shown on the detailed 1:25k map below. The climate back then was far warmer than present across Europe, as can be seen from widespread abandoned settlements on the uplands across Britain.

All that now remains are the ruins of the communities and the old field systems that can be seen from the air. There's discussion around why and when these settlements were abandoned; the jury's out whether it was the climate suddenly cooling in the 1780s with agriculture failing and widespread famine across Britain and Northern Europe, or the more recent political reasoning of the Clearances. It was probably both. 

Whatever the reason, as the sun sets and the air stills it's not difficult to visualise these communities as they once were.

UNUSUALLY, THE FIRST MAP OF TODAY'S POST IS OF THE FINISH

Back in the present, as I scribble down these thoughts on the laptop there's only one more day to save the planet from a fiery hell at COP26 in Glasgow. Forgive me if I stifle a yawn.

******

Let's get back to the here and now, at Ruigh Aiteachain Bothy back down in Glen Feshie, where we left everyone last night. Breakfasted and well rested we swept the place clean, put all the furniture back where we found it and donning our waterproofs headed out once again into the Great Outdoors. In fairness, the weather was 'soft' and the wind came from behind so it was not bad at all. Here's the map for today:

DAY 8: BLACK DASHED LINE - CLICK TO ENLARGE
Distance: 24 km
Ascent:  530 m

Today we're heading over the watershed that separates the River Feshie from the River Dee. To start with it's a refreshing walk through birch, alder, larch and juniper. The granny Caledonian pines are now splendidly surrounded by their flourishing offspring. With the untamed spectacularly braided Feshie alongside and a flourishing new ecosystem Glen Feshie is becoming a haven for wild life once again. 

This all came about with the purchase of the Glen Feshie Estate some fifteen years ago by a Danish billionaire, Anders Holch Povlsen, who set about a drastic cull of red deer to about two per square kilometre. This has meant that trees and shrubs have had free reign to establish themselves rather than being chewed back down to the roots. Those roots are now intertwining to create a more substantial substrate that prevents erosion and soil loss.

I first walked through Glen Feshie on the Challenge twenty five years ago. I thought it an amazing place at the time. Now it's quite simply jaw-droppingly beautiful. 

I knew there was a path that split away from the main drag up the glen that takes you up a well constructed ramp to a skinny little trod across a steep landslip about twenty metres about the Feshie that eats into the scree at the foot of the slope. I was looking out for it. Continuously. 

However, with all the dramatic new growth we were walking single file through a narrow corridor of birch, dripping wet  branches brushing either side, I missed it and was faced abruptly with the Feshie bang in front of me. To regain the correct path would either mean backtracking five hundred yards or so, or clambering up the side of the scree and scrub. I didn't fancy the climb and being a lazy bum didn't fancy retracing my steps either.

I decided that it was probably easier just to ford the Feshie a couple of times to get to the point where the landslip trod descended back to the track. Andy and Paul were in trainers, so it was no big deal for them and I never mind getting wet feet as my boots fit like well-loved slippers and are never overly bothered by being wet. 

At this point Paul - a man with steam pistons for legs - reckoned he could make the path above and so clambered up the steep scree and scrub and headed off in the direction of the landslip. It looked to be too much of an effort for me and one I didn't feel comfortable with.

I think Lindsay and Andy thought the same so before ploughing into the river I reminded them that we would be crossing the river twice. Lindsay decided to don her Crocs and keep her boots dry. 

Sometime as I was wading across the first crossing we must have been joined by Richard who had caught us up. He couldn't have heard me saying about the two crossings, because as we had regained our original bank after both wades we noticed that he had disappeared from view. Lindsay was sure he had been following her across. Had he fallen in?

The answer to our question became clear when he reappeared, dropping down to the second crossing to see us on the other side of the river. He had put his boots back on after the first wade and was now faced with taking them off again and repeating the process. 

Richard's a good man and did see the funny side of it when he rejoined us on our bank. Well, we all did.

PAUL ON THE LANDSLIP PATH

I've written before on this blog how I take my rests on a walk and how people unused to it are surprised at how early in the day I take a break. The next couple of pictures are taken from lying almost prone (it's much warmer lying down as you're out of the wind) as my companions look on, slightly perplexed.

RICHARD, LINDSAY, COLIN & ANDY

PAUL

I took very few pictures on this section as the weather was blowy and wet, but I snaffled this picture from one of Richard's public posts, of our group as we were heading towards the virtually derelict pony hut before the Eidart bridge.

RICHARD'S PICTURE OF THE CREW

After the old Pony Hut, the next landmark is the River Eidart and its bridge, positioned over a fine waterfall. The bridge deck had obviously seen better days - they were the original planks - and a few months after we crossed, the planks were replaced with lovely new ones, which will probably see me and quite a few other Challengers out. The bridge's handrails always seem to me to be on the low side, a feature I could never understand, having designed quite a few bridges in a past-life. When it's really gusting it's never a comfortable bridge to cross.

L TO R: COLIN, ANDY, LINDSAY & PAUL. EIDART BRIDGE

Then it's a fairly long trundle along a reasonable path up and over the watershed across fairly bleak open moor, with the very large hills of  Carn an Fhidlheir and An Scarsog to the south and the Cairnngorms to the north. You're usually blown along this track by the westerlies. Half a mile or so before Geldie Lodge I noticed a lonely a figure making its way down from An Scarsog and continuing down to where the track to the Lodge met our path.

It was no surprise to bump into Kirsten, a Challenger who puts in tough routes year after year. She had spent a pretty wild night up top in the very poor weather but was still in good spirits. She and Colin had walked together in the past and together they disappeared into the distance at a cracking pace. 

Before too long I decided it was time for another rest and so Paul decided he would break away as he was getting quite cold. that left Andy, Richard, Lindsay and me to plod along. I knew that Tomnamoine would offer some shelter from the quite keen wind, with a decent fairly reliable water supply and so decided to make it our home for the night.

Kirsten, Colin and Paul had obviously thought the same and were camped up when we arrived. 

TOMNAMOINE ABANDONED TOWNSHIP

Even in poor weather this walk is always deeply rewarding and the sense of space and the power of the landscape never cease to impress. I had had an absolutely brilliant day.


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4 comments:

  1. I have a two hour rest rule when I set off in the morning. It is often hopelessly overrun through lack of somewhere to sit. But I now have my little collapsible chair which can be assembled in seconds. It is quite light but would still have to be omitted for multi day backpacking. I noticed the historical script writing for "township" on the map and wondered at the derivation From what one can see it would hardly qualify for the strict definition of "hamlet." Who are these folk who give strange names to things that have not been previosly named? Are they in-a-bubble-academics?

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    1. I agree, Conrad. They look to me to be individual farms, with a main dwelling, often spotted by dressed stone at the doorways, and a room alongside for the animals. The rest of the ruined stone appears to be animal enclosures. These collections of ruins tend to be in clusters along the Dee (or equally any of the Highland Glen's) so I presume the Cartographers didn't want to have a very large script covering the group so have opted instead of naming each farm as a township.

      I like the idea of having a chair, but as you say it would be too big a carry for a long backpack. I recall that Colin Ibbotson devised his packs to have to utilising his trekking poles to support his backpack to use as a back support. I've not seen any other pack using that but it must be worth a try.

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  2. Helinox Chair Zero is under 500g and comfortable enough. I took it on my Ridgeway walk last month. Not sure if I'll take it on the Challenge or longer/harder walks, where reducing weight is a bit more critical. Bit of a luxury item, but you miss it when you want it.

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  3. I've never walked through Glen Feshie but everything I read about it tells me its a treasure to behold. I'm with you on rests, many, long and often. No point in all the effort if you can't relax and take it all in!

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