Archive for February 2010
Below is an article that I wrote about last summer’s trip to the Orkney Isles, located off the far north of the Scottish mainland. It was previously published in Canoe Kayak UK magazine. Hope it’s of interest…
‘There’s nothing greets your bloody eye
But bloody sea and bloody sky
… In bloody Orkney.’
From ‘Bloody Orkney’, composed by a soldier stationed there in WW2.
Heather and I are paddling among the Orkney Islands; it’s a part of Britain, but we are closer to Iceland than to London. Nobody knows that we are out here on the sea in this quiet corner of the archipelago on this blustery evening, and it’s not as if we can tell anybody; there is no sign of human life or habitation in any direction, and nobody has answered our VHF radio calls for days.
Halfway through the crossing, strong wind whips up. The rather stiff tidal current that we’re ferry gliding across is instantly transformed into a rather stiff white water rapid; albeit one which is five miles wide! We’ve both recently returned from paddling rivers in California, hence our skills and confidence are high enough to keep it together. We manage to keep control over our sea kayaks as we surf through the rapids, eventually breaking out behind a lonely islet in mid channel, where we both breathe a sigh of relief. Welcome entertainment is provided by a troupe of seals we watch surfing the standing waves beside the island.
Taking stock, the penny drops that we have big problems. Our route ahead is blocked by even bigger tidal races, forming huge surging breakers. We can’t go south as the headwind is too strong, we can’t go north as the tide is flowing several miles an hour faster than we can actually paddle, and we can’t retreat back west as it’s, um, too late; the sun just went down. We’re staying put on our own tiny desert island, for as many days as the weather and tide dictates.
Oops. I guess things wouldn’t be half so bad if we had remembered to bring any water with us …
The Old Man of Hoy, Orkney’s most famous landmark
Last August saw my wife Heather and I sea kayaking along and through the Orkney Islands, from John O’Groats on the Scottish mainland to the very northern tip of the islands, North Ronaldsay. The paddling was often surprisingly challenging and our route and pace was completely dictated by weather and tides, neither of which tended to be on our side. Oddly, the wet and windy catastrophe that was last August’s ‘Barbeque Summer’ (this being what the Met Office had predicted) proved to be a blessing. We spent so much time ashore waiting for the winds and seas to relent, that we actually experienced and explored far more of Orkney than we would have otherwise managed. Admittedly though, we could have done without having to repeatedly repair every pole on our expensive new mountaineering tent.
As we drove north through Caithness before the start of our adventure, the car protested at being dragged so far from home by spewing oil and smoke. As with August’s shocking weather, this again proved to be a blessing as it solved the problem of where to dump the car whilst we were paddling. Bizarrely, leaving it for repair at a Thurso garage cost less than several weeks’ parking would have done.
Packing at John O’Groats
The first challenge was actually getting to Orkney. We had decided to paddle there across the Pentland Firth from the Scottish mainland. As we sat in a cafe at John O’Groats staring at a chart, we realised the scale of what we were about to attempt. Crossing 100 square miles of tidal rapids at Spring (=strongest) flows on the first day of our trip; what could possibly go wrong? The Firth is notorious as Britain’s roughest tidal channel, with flows of over ten knots. The Admiralty Pilot book needs 12 pages of text just to describe these flows. After some feverish calculations, we came up with a direction in which to paddle, crossed our fingers and launched. We surfed across lively rapids pointing on this bearing for three and a half hours, whilst we were actually being slingshot in the opposite direction at a daunting rate. Truth is, it was actually quite pleasant and manageable and we landed on the island of Hoy with grins on our faces. It was only later in the trip that we appreciated just how lucky we had been to have a rare perfect weather day for this crossing; even a hint of swell or wind would have been simply terrifying.
Arrival on Hoy after several hours of surfing/ ferry gliding
Our journey next saw us paddling across the expanse of Scapa Flow. This central ‘lagoon’ of Orkney is famous as the site of the scuttling of the captured German High Seas Fleet in 1919. Of course you can’t see the hulking great sunken battleships from a kayak, but the dive boats nipping to and fro are a constant reminder of their presence beneath the waters. Paddling up through Scapa, we lunched at Lyness museum’s temptingly warm cafe. Lyness was a huge naval base through both world wars, and I was pleased to see that a memorial was being unveiled to the hardy sailors of the WW2 Arctic Convoys that set off from here, one of whom was my grandfather.
Stromness provided us with a few days of r’n’r whilst a storm passed overhead. The town is beautifully centred on a row of stone merchants’ houses backing right onto the inlet of Hamnavoe. The campsite is also located at the water’s edge, convenient for landing and launching. Less convenient is the fact that the hulking Thurso ferry looms right past several times daily, sounding an ear-splitting horn to announce its arrival or departure. Stromness was home to the late George Mackay Brown, one of Scotland’s greatest writers and poets. A read through any one of his novels will reveal more about Orkney’s History and culture than a library-full of guidebooks. We recommend that you begin with Beside the Ocean of Time….
Our route north along Orkney’s exposed west coasts passed some incredible cliffs, caves and stacks. Frustratingly, we viewed most of it from a distance, in short hops from bay to bay. We were usually forced to paddle offshore through the swell from the tail end of some storm or other, as we took advantage of brief gaps between the extended periods of strong wind. Between Stromness and Bay of Skaill, we sat offshore and watched in dumbstruck awe as the waves exploded halfway up the cliffs. Those cliffs are 100 metres high! Although the paddling could sometimes border on the heroic, there was regular distraction. Seals were everywhere, following your kayak close behind or dozing in large colonies wherever rocks broke the surface. Overhead, seabirds always kept the skies alive. A regular spectacle was dogfights between gannets (our largest seabird) and great skuas (not exactly small, either). The skuas would work in packs to harass gannets into dropping the fish they’d caught, and these scraps could be remarkably vicious, especially when conducted within arm’s reach directly overhead of your kayak.
Our time marooned ashore by poor weather was not wasted. We marvelled at the 5000 year old houses in the sand dunes at Skara Brae, stooped into the entrance passage of the Maes Howe prehistoric burial mound and waded across the causeway to the Viking village at Brough of Birsay. Orkney’s archaeological heritage is simply staggering; sites like these (some more, some less well known) literally litter the landscape. Likewise, a few days’ unplanned stopover on the island of Rousay found us admiring the intricacy of the stonework of Mid Howe Broch. Orkney’s numerous Brochs were built around two millennia ago; in case you’re wondering, brochs are stone towers with complex double walls and internal galleries, built for … well, no one really agrees what exactly.
As outlined at the beginning of this article, our crossing from Rousay to Orkney’s North Isles saw us blundering into phenomenally strong tides one evening, and coming perilously close to securing ourselves a slot on the evening news. Being shipwrecked on our own island was an exciting new experience, but not one we hope to repeat. The wind relented enough to let us escape the following morning, but even after proper pre-planning, the tides were still too strong for us and we ended up making landfall on a completely different island to the one we’d aimed at. At least this island had steak (provided by a kindly and generous resident who took pity on us), but we’d learned a healthy respect for the wild and open expanses of the North Isles.
Escaping from our own private island…
The most far-flung and northerly Orkney isle is North Ronaldsay. Having set our hearts on this as our final destination, we perused the weather forecasts and realised that we were only going to get one chance to reach it before another period of lousy low pressure set in. This meant an unusually long paddling day, slogging through wind and choppy seas along the length of Sanday Island. Sanday’s name comes from a series of perfect beaches, one of which we landed upon to rest. Heather was sad to come across a dead seal, floating in the kelp here. As she prodded it to determine its cause of death, the actually very much alive seal erupted back into life and she vanished in an explosion of saltwater. Once we’d stopped laughing, we had a final decision to make; was our final open crossing to North Ronaldsay good to go? Disappointingly the weather suggested ‘no’ and it looked as if, after coming so far, we’d missed our only chance. We cooked up some dinner and stretched out to sleep for an hour or two. Waking, we realised that the wind had lulled; perfect! We raced to the kayaks and sped across the Firth, faster indeed than Heather has ever paddled before. We reached North Ronaldsay at nightfall, greeted at the beach by dozens of seals and the Warden of the NR Bird Observatory, who had seen us approaching through his binoculars and thought that we were killer whales. Within minutes we were in the back of his Landrover, bumping along the track to the Observatory, where a hot meal and shower awaited. After such a long day – after such a long journey – this was an unexpected and welcome end.
Evening crossing to North Ronaldsay
The Warden of the North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory
We were trapped on North Ronaldsay for several days, waiting for the ferry to arrive and carry us and our kayaks back south. There is absolutely nothing to do on this small and sparsely populated island. Nothing whatsoever, to break up the tedium and to make the time pass by. We were forced to sit on the shore for hours on end, watching the Atlantic waves peeling, the hundreds of seals yawning and scratching, and the island’s bizarre sheep wander around eating seaweed. In the evening, the sun would melt into the ocean (yet again) and all you could get to eat and drink would be yet another home cooked meal from the Warden’s wife, followed by Orkney’s local brew. None of you would like it there. It’s just not your sort of place. Stay away. In fact, that pretty much goes for the rest of the Orkney Islands too…just be glad that we went there, so that you don’t have to.
Scenes from North Ronaldsay
Getting there and around
If you don’t want to paddle across the fearsome Pentland Firth, Northlink Ferries serve Orkney from Thurso, Aberdeen and Shetland. They are happy to carry kayaks for free (like their owners, Hebridean ferry company Caledonian Macbrayne). If you aren’t taking a car, kayaks can be carried or trollied onto the car deck.
Inter-island ferry services are run by Orkney Ferries. These boats come in all shapes and sizes, and due to lack of RoRo facilities on some islands, your kayaks may have to be craned aboard (along with cars and cattle). Services to the North Isles tend to sail only every few days.
Orkney is also notable for insanely cheap subsidised inter-island flights. For example, Kirkwall (‘capital’ of Orkney) to North Ronaldsay is £14 return. Cheaper than the ferry and more regular at three flights daily, rather than two ferries weekly! It’s even half price for kids, the son of the Bird Observatory warden was flying to school in Kirkwall every day. We’re not sure if they carry sea kayaks, though…
The Northern Isles, Orkney and Shetland Sea Kayaking by Tom Smith and Chris Jex. This guidebook from Pesda Press http://www.pesdapress.com is indispensible, describing the local coasts and surrounding waters very clearly and accurately. There is plenty of tidal data and it also gives a good ‘taste’ of what the isles are like ashore.
Admiralty Tidal Stream Atlas NP209: Orkney and Shetland Islands. Charts outlining Orkney’s powerful tidal flows.
www.orkneyharbours.com – Includes free tidal stream charts.
Admiralty Sailing Directions NP52: North Coast of Scotland Pilot. This hefty tome costs £50 (yes, £50) but the tidal stream information within it is recommended if you are going to doing many open crossings between the isles, something that the Pesda guide is less informative about. Of course, if financially embarrassed you could just get someone to photocopy the relevant chapter…
www.visitorkney.com/placestovisit - A fantastic free downloadable guide to every island. It’s also available as a free publication called ‘The Islands of Orkney’ from Tourist Information.
www.oska.org.uk – The Orkney Sea Kayak Association. They organise an annual ‘Paddle Orkney’ event.
Imray Chart C68: Cape Wrath to Wick and the Orkney Islands. Hardwearing nautical chart, so that you can look the seafaring part.
The Scottish Islands by Hamish Haswell Smith. A remarkable book that describes every last Scottish island, including of course the Orkney Isles. All sea kayakers should own this!
www.ukseakayakguidebook.co.uk – Useful general resource.
THANKING THE DARTMOOR SEARCH AND RESCUE TEAM ASHBURTON
The photo above shows my home village, Corfe Castle. I live near the foot of the castle, and several times a week since last November, I have run up the hill behind. In an obscure private joke, I call this route ‘The Two Towers’.
My runs always begin with a 300 foot climb to the first telecommunications tower on the hill; this is just visible if you follow the snowy path visible behind the castle with your eyes. I then run along the length of the ridge, climbing another 300 foot to the second tower which overlooks Swanage and the sea. Depending upon how far I’m supposed to be running, I then either double back along the ridge to Corfe, or I drop down to the left into Rempstone Forest towards the shores of Poole Harbour, or I drop down to the right onto Swanage beach before the long climb up onto the parallel ridge which leads back to Corfe via the coast around Worth Matravers. I have run the ‘Two Towers’ at dawn, at dusk, at night, in rain, snow, sunshine and fog. I have fallen on my arse in slippy ice, and I’ve struggled through deep mud. I’ve even collided in the dark with a camoflagued military outpost up there. None of this has been masochistic though, I have genuinely loved every moment.
On 21st November last year, my very good friend Chris Wheeler died in an accident on the River Dart on flood, after becoming pinned in trees. Usually, when something goes wrong in white water kayaking, it is because someone is somewhere that is inappropriate to their experience and ability, or because paddling conditions have changed unexpectedly. On this day, we were exactly where we were supposed to be and wanted to be, in exactly the conditions that we had sought out. Chris was an expert paddler, comfortably enjoying expert conditions with which he was very familiar, on his favourite section of river. His death was a shocking and brutal reminder that sometimes, accidents just happen. We battled to save Chris, however we were not successful. There is no real positive side to this accident, however I personally am glad that I was with my friend at the end.
After we had retrieved our friend from the river, two of the group went for help before night fell, whilst the remaining two of us stayed with Chris to wait for the emergency services. A helicopter from RAF Chivenor located us after a few hours, turning night into day with its searchlights. Due to the dense trees and steep valley sides, it could not however land. It was nearly six hours after the accident when three parties from Dartmoor Rescue Group (Dartmoor’s Mountain Rescue service) converged on us from different directions. We two paddlers were soon walking out of the valley and – after a short helicopter lift – were quickly reunited with our wives. The volunteers of the DRG however stayed at the location of the accident and spent most of the night retrieving Chris from the valley.
I had entered the North Dorset Village Marathon a month before Chris’s death; a marathon is simply something I’ve always wanted to try. When I told him about my entry, Chris laughed at my obvious mid-life crisis; it’s no coincidence that the race is a few weeks before my 40th birthday! However, the endless running done in training for the marathon has taken on an unforeseen significance for me; the running has given me a much needed outlet to privately think through losing Chris, to enjoy memories of my friend and to begin to grieve.
I am primarily attempting the marathon for my own enjoyment, and my only objective on the day is personal survival(!), however I am also keen to take every opportunity to thank the Dartmoor Rescue Group, especially the DSRT Ashburton, for their selfless and professional help on the night of 21st/22nd November 2009. Hence, I would be very grateful if you would consider donating to them via this link;
THANKING THE DARTMOOR SEARCH AND RESCUE TEAM ASHBURTON
Thanks for considering this,
Sifting through old work, I recently found this article that was published in 2006(?) in the now defunct ‘Paddles’ mag. On the offchance you need to know more about Scotland’s remarkable Loch Etive, here it is …
Touring Guide – Loch Etive
‘This Land of Rainbows spanning glens whose walls,
Rock-built, are hung with rainbow-coloured mists…’
William Wordsworth, ‘Composed in the Glen of Loch Etive’
Glen Etive probably needs no introduction, but on the off chance that you are the only British paddler who has never paddled or seen photographs of the River Etive, a description follows. The Glen descends steeply from Rannoch Moor, hemmed in claustrophically by numerous 3000 foot-plus ‘Munro’s. The river is famously blessed with clean and photogenic waterfalls and slides. Having enjoyed this, paddlers often paddle or drive down past the normal takeout. After several miles, the road and river terminate into open water, but the steep glaciated valley sides continue to the horizon. This is a prepossessing spot, lingering in the memory of all who have visited and gazed upwards to the mountains and outwards down the Loch. Salt water and fresh water intermingle, but do not mix. This is Loch Etive, a British fjord.
Never more than a mile wide, Loch Etive extends for nearly twenty miles between the foot of Glen Etive and the open seas of the Firth of Lorn. For most of its length, there is no road access and little habitation. It really is a fjord! The characteristic features include the classic glacial U-shaped valley profile, the deep water centre section, the shallow ‘cill’ at the mouth and the complex strata of salt and fresh water beneath the surface. The mountains that hem in the Loch are among Britain’s finest; walkers and climbers will salivate at famous names like Ben Cruachan, Ben Trilleachan and Ben Starav. Hard to believe that the name ‘Etive’ is generally interpreted as meaning ‘Little Ugly One’!
The wildness of the Loch is matched by the wildlife. There is at least one seal colony and they are encountered along the length of the Loch, often trailing kayaks for miles (what is that all about?). Otters are common and are easily spotted, swimming along or rummaging around among the inter-tidal seaweed. Ashore, herds of deer forage the mountainsides and you might well the catch a glimpse of the Monarch of the Glen himself. Less majestic but equally entrancing are the Sessile Oak woodlands which stretch along the Northern Shores of the Loch, a designated ‘Special Area of Conservation’ and a remnant of the ancient Great Caledonian Woods. High above, Golden Eagles wheel around the peaks, to be spotted only by the most keen eyed.
What does Loch Etive offer the paddler? The whole length can be traversed end to end as a day trip if wanted, albeit with a pretty daunting shuttle drive of about 65 miles each way. Spreading the trip over at least two days to camp and explore is highly recommended. Finding good quiet wild camping spots is simple enough; obviously, leave it all as you found it. Using the Loch as a base for hill walking adventures is certainly a viable option; the only problem is choosing a peak to begin with! A ‘there and back’ expedition is a worthwhile possibility, exploring a different shore in either direction. Another appealing possibility is to paddle down the Loch, and walk or mountain bike the lochside tracks back. Any kind of boat could be used, but sea kayaks will be in their element. Open boats are ideal for the upper Loch, but will need to take special care with the tidal features at the seaward end. Loch Etive sometimes provides sheltered paddling when the outside seas are raging, but the mountains are also capable of funnelling and focusing the winds to generate truly evil conditions on the water!
Glen Etive to Bonawe Narrows
In the nineteenth century, a regular steamer service from Oban would land at the head of the loch, disgorging tourists who would then travel by carriage to view Glencoe. Additionally, the south shore bore a busy road towards Taynuilt. The modern road ends at the Loch’s edge and only a ruined pier and some old shacks remain. A beach makes launching simple and there is plenty of parking space.
Paddling southwest along the Loch, you won’t fail to notice the Trilleachan Slabs, high above to your right. These are impressive overhanging expanses of smooth rock, the sort of thing that climbers get excited about. The next few miles are the narrowest stretch of the Loch and it’s pretty hard to complete them without neck ache from constantly craning your head upwards. Take time to land on the shore and wander among the oak woods. They were even more extensive up to the end of the eighteenth century, when clear-cutting took place to feed the Iron Ore Furnaces at Bonawe; during the Napoleonic Wars, the Royal Navy desperately needed ammunition for their cannons.
The Loch widens after the headland of Rubha Bharr and the paddler is faced by a choice of direction! The south shore is characterised by a series of glens stretching down from the hills, often with envy-inspiring private residences and lodges hidden among the trees. Glen Kinglass in particular feeds the Loch with a sizeable river which must be worth exploring, if any whitewater paddlers can get their heads around the logistics? The north shore is less populated (it’s all relative) and you’ll notice a series of floating mussel farms anchored in sheltered bays.
This section of the Loch ends at the Bonawe Narrows, where the Loch turns to the west. Henceforth there is road access on both shores, a car ferry operated here until the Connel Bridge was adapted for road traffic in the ‘60s. The Narrows are only a few hundred metres wide, and the tide forces water through the gap. This does not generate any impressive waves like the Connel Sound (aka the Falls of Lora), but if you are against the tide some eddy hopping along the shore may be required as the current can reach 2.5 knots.
As you approach the Narrows, the tranquillity is spoiled by the din of trucks and grading machinery. The working quarry on the north shore is thankfully Loch Etive’s only ‘blemish’. To the south is Taynuilt, where the River Awe and A85 meet the Loch. An hour devoted to wandering the streets of Taynuilt is no bad plan, it’s a pleasant place. The sizeable remains of the afore-mentioned Bonawe Iron Furnaces are close to the Loch and preserved as a museum. Up the hill, Muckairn Parish Church has glorious views along the Loch and incorporates the Thirteenth century ruins of Killespickerill, seat of the Bishop of Argyll. Taynuilt also boasts the ‘Inverawe Fisheries, Smokery, and Country Park’, which one hopes is more exciting than it sounds.
Bonawe Narrows to Connel Sound
After the Bonawe Narrows, the hills fall back and the Loch is not quite as grand as previously. However, the immense massif of Ben Cruachan continues to dominate the skyline behind, and to the west the mountains of Mull provide a new point of focus. The Loch bends and winds, so that new views open up every mile or two around headlands. One landmark on the north shore is Ardchattan, where King Robert I (‘Robert the Bruce’ to the English) reputedly held Scotland’s final Gaelic Parliament in St. Modan’s Priory. Today, the priory ruins (destroyed by Cromwell’s English forces) are preserved by Historic Scotland and only a short yomp up the hill from the Loch.
The massive steel cantilever bridge at Connel can’t be missed! It first bridged the Connel Sound in 1903, originally built for rail transport. What is lurking underneath is far more important, however…the Falls of Lora! Be careful upon approaching the bridge. The expanse of Loch Etive is all hemmed in right here, by the narrow gap and a shallow underwater cill. Depending upon the tide state, the level of the Loch can vary by several metres from the sea level. As the sea level outside rises or falls on the tide, incalculably vast amounts of water spill into or out of the Loch. The resulting conditions range from frustrating (a strong current to stop your progress) to bowel loosening (immense sea kayak back looping stoppers forming in mid stream). Play boaters gather at spring tides on the flood flow to surf this phenomenon; see the May 06 ‘Paddles’ for more details. Nautical Almanacs suggest that the flood tide begins about 3.5 hours before and that the ebb flow begins about 2 hours after HW Oban…but these timings are often wildly distorted by a range of arcane factors such as weather, air pressure, rainfall and astrology. The Falls are a law unto themselves! They can be portaged with moderate difficulty on either bank if need be.
Connel to the Firth of Lorn
Once clear of the Connel Narrows, it is only two miles to the open sea. Riding the tidal flow to Dunstaffnage Bay on the south shore is a good option, taking out near the marina. This gives the possibility of visiting the sturdy looking bulk of Dunstaffnage Castle, which presides over the point where Loch becomes ocean. The castle’s origins are swathed in myth and legend; some believe that the Stone of Destiny once resided here. King Robert was here too, seizing the castle in 1308 from the McDougalls to donate to his Campbell followers. It now belongs to the Crown, being kept by the Duke of Argyll. Historic Scotland maintains it and it is open to visitors.
What’s left? Anyone who has paddled all the way from the fresh water at the mouth of the River Etive, may well wish to venture slightly further. Squeezing through the inlet between the castle and Eilean Mor, the Firth of Lorn opens around you and the open sea presents innumerable choices. North to the Island of Lismore? West to Mull? South to Oban? Or perhaps east; back along the route you have travelled, up into the long deep quiet of the Land of Rainbows.
‘Scottish Canoe Touring: An SCA Canoe and Kayak Guide’ ed. Eddie Palmer ‘West Highlands (Pocket Mountains)’ by Nick Williams
‘The Yachtsman’s pilot to the Isle of Mull and adjacent coasts’ by Imray
Landranger Maps 49 and 50 – Ordnance Survey
C65 Crinan to Mallaig and Barra – Imray Chart
SC 5611 West Coast of Scotland – Admiralty Charts Leisure Folio
www.fallsoflora.info – useful tidal info.
www.ukriversguidebook.co.uk/lora.htm – Falls of Lora guide
www.lifesciences.napier.ac.uk/teaching/Env/Envglac3.html – how Fjords ‘work’, with reference to Loch Etive.
www.jncc.gov.uk/ProtectedSites/SACselection/sac.asp?EUCode=UK0012750 – Loch Etive Special Area of Conservation
The March edition of Canoe Kayak UK magazine features an article and photography by myself about our fantastic week on the Isles of Scilly last May. I hope that folk enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it … no, I really did. It was a truly wonderful holiday, and as it turned out, the last of many trips shared with a very good friend who is now gone from us. There must be worse ways to spend your time than writing about good times.
In other news …
I’m currently trying to flog copies of my book South West Sea Kayaking via eBay, at this link; if you were looking for a personal message* to be written in your copy, this is the way to do it. Hope that’s helpful?
Mrs R and I are off to the coast of Norfolk and Suffolk next week, partly because we’ve never been there (why not?), partly as research for Savage Shores and partly to begin work on a projected Pesda Press guidebook that will be a collaborative effort by various authors and will include this part of the world. I may or may not be paddling on this trip, the broken shoulder doesn’t seem to have healed up yet. At this rate, I may have to go see a doctor.
*True story; I once owned a copy of the guidebook White Water Nepal, which featured a personal message from the author inside the front cover. I lent it to a Kiwi friend who was heading out to Nepal, and as it happens, I’ve not run into her ever since. After several years, I decided to fill the gap on my bookshelf by bidding for a copy of the book that I spotted on eBay. I won the auction, the book arrived, I opened it … and found that it was personally dedicated to me.
The Pyranha Dart Fest event was enjoyable, and it was great to catch up with friends. Water levels in the rivers were very low due to the raw cold weather today, so (after a night of camping in -4 degrees C) we went walking. Standing on top of a granite tor amid flurries of snow, we realised that we could clearly see the Isle of Portland, a mere sixty miles away.