The road to Ben Nevis Nov 2009

The road to Ben Nevis Nov 2009
The road to Ben Nevis Nov 2009

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Thursday, 6 April 2017

'Tis the season of the Nettle! Time for Nettle Bread

One of the first herbs to appear in the spring is the common stinging nettle. Foragers everywhere start on nettle soup. But if you leave it many weeks those temping bright greens turn grey-ish and dusty, agressive looking and stinging.

This year I managed to investigate before the moment had gone - not with soup but bread.

Gather the nettles wearing gloves. Take the tender tops. They don't weigh much - the bag above has about 600gms.
Rinse in cold water and drain. Pick over discarding any tough stems.

I steamed for a minute or two to remove the sting - like spinach the volume reduces a lot. Use as little water as possible - the leaves contain quite a bit - and you want this essence to go into the bread.


Squeeze the liquid out from the leaves and conserve - I had rather too much here for my needs. Cut
the leaves reasonable small so that the nettles disperse easily when making the dough.

Make the dough. I used a ratio of around 600 grams of leaves (as picked) with one kilo of flour.

I used a sourdough starter to make a levain, but that is not essential at all. It is worth noting that the quantity of water in my levain reduced the amount of nettle liquor I could use. The levain accounted for 450gm flour and 350gm liquid from the recipe quantities below and was allowed to develop overnight at room temperature with the starter.

Total recipe quantities:-

600gm tender nettle tops 
500gm whole strong wheatflour
500 gm white strong wheatflour
650gm liquid (including nettle liquor)
12gm fresh yeast
18gm salt

The dough is a surprising green colour with a slightly grassy smell. It developed over about 2 hours at 80 deg F before shaping into 2 tins. Here the loaves were given two hours rising time before baking  at around 220 deg C for 40 mins.

You might expect some structural problems with such a large quantity of green stuff in the loaf but the crumb is fine and even and it eats well as bread or toasted.

The verdict? A dramatic looking loaf providing a good accompanyment to soups, and to jazz up the breadbasket at the dinner table. On taste? Not so dramatic considering all those extra nutrients - I shan't be in a hurry to make nettle soup. For a seasonal taste consider also a fresh herb bread - see here satuday-bread-with-greens.


Wednesday, 29 June 2016

TGOC Plockton to Redcastle Lunan Bay - #3 Feshie to the coast

"Is anyone planning to go up onto the Cairngorm plateau in the morning?" I asked the crowd gathered around the fire in the bothy. No takers.
Track looking back towards the Feshie

Just a little to the north is a track which covers a lot of ground in 8 or 9 km to over 900m high. This is easy Munro walking. The lingering snow which worried several other TGOers presented no obstacles that could not be circumnavigated, and it was an easy march over Tom Dubh to the rather featureless top of Monadh Mor.


Push and pull the map in the window below to see the route in blue.
 

The flat top of Monadh Mohr

Beyond here is the slightly more shapely Beinn Bhrotain. The path south to the top disappears, dispersed in a large mound of rocks, but once the cairn is reached the views are tempered again by the broad and flat summit.
On Beinn Bhrotain
The way to the south is pathless but pleasant and easy going in a zig-zag fashion around the subsidiary tops all the way down to Cairn Geldie. Here is a fine view up the Dee towards Devil's Point and over White Bridge towards Mar Lodge. It was with great satisfaction that I had finally traverses this corner of the Cairngorms - it has featured on my route twice before when weather or fitness has forced me to keep low.

Looking towards Devil's Point from Cairn Geldie
I joined the track beside the Dee and before long met Dave 2 again - sunbathing and talking with another challenger preparing to camp at the bridge. This was too early for me and I determined to walk on. Before long I was almost at the road and the Linn of Dee.
In the last plantation before the bridge, down by the river I found Darren Fowler and Stuart Dixon. I pitched my tent nearby, and then went on to explore the 'Linn'. This is quite a remarkable narrow gorge - the river, perhaps 20 or30 metres across is suddenly constrained as it approaches the bridge to less than a metre. I was pleased to see this for the first time on the forth trip past here!

The carpark a hundred metres along the road is useful for its toilets!

Mar Lodge used to offer rooms, meals, and camping to TGO walkers. Now it is taken over by other kinds of hospitality. The TGO is still welcome is consigned to a meeting room by the stables where a tea urn is placed. This year and last year I passed by around 9am to find the place locked up. Not one to wait around I moved on to Braemar where I knocked on doors looking for a room. Eventually I succeeded.

After stocking up with fruit, I spent the afternoon cleaning up - first me, then my clothes.
Bar with man in green
I found the two Daves were in town and we shared a table for food. As the bar became busier I headed of to St Margaret's church for a concert.


This is one of four churches in Braemar and surplus to requirements for worship so the local population are trying to establish it as a regional arts venue. A pair of pipers marched in to start off the proceedings. The host was Fiona Kennedy. She brought along Paul Anderson - said to be the Queen's favourite fiddler and probably Scotland's finest, and Beth Nielsen Chapman who was running a song writing workshop nearby. In support was Nils Elders a young Dutchman, very talented according to his wife who sat next to me in the audience, and singer Alistaire McDougal. A great variety of music in the folk idiom, some enjoyable sing-song to join in, virtuosity on the fiddle and interesting stories from Nashville; and free wine and tea and coffee included before the concert as well as in the interval. Here's a short film someone took and another.


An early Sunday breakfast and then off along the road to the golf course, which eventually leads to Callater. There's always someone in front and when I reached the road I found two or three already heading towards Lochcallater Lodge.

The shore of Loch Callater

Push and pull the map in the window below to see the route in blue.
 
The weather forecast was generally good so I was confident to head to Lochnagar on the path behind the Lodge. A cuppa and biscuit with Iain and the rest of the company there was an enjoyable break, and it was nice to hear some of the same jokes as last year!
Looking back toward Lochcallater Lodge

The path make a easy upwards traverse across the hillside, but skirts around the first Munro which requires a diversion - to follow the fence posts - to reach the twin tops of Carn an t-Sagairt Mor. The summit of Carn a' Chiore Bhoidheach is flat and less interesting than the crags of The Stuic with their view down to a Lochan.
One of the two summits on Carn an t-Sagairt Mor

Across the void are the two high points of Lochnagar Cac Carn Mor and Cac Carn Beag. To the north rain showers moved from left to right across the hills. These tops are the target of day walkers from several directions. Here were handbags and high heels, trainers and bikini tops among as well as the more serious walkers.
 
CacCarn Beag

What can I see? (from Cac Carn Bheag)
Heading down I joined John Wright from Dundee. Although a first timer this was his back yard and he had reccied the route a few weeks earlier. We had the same destination - the bothy at Shielin of Mark and with John as the guide our navigation was perfect.
Cac Carn Bheag



Before long though the distant showers we had seen earlier were upon us and we arrived at the bothy in pouring rain. 3 or 4 tents on the flatish ground next to the bothy were firmly closed up with their residents inside and the beds in the bothy were taken. The ground by the river was not so inviting in the wet. Soft and very wet; anything dryer was hummocky. After much indecision I pitched my tent and tried to dry out.
John Wright finds Sheilin of Mark bothy
 

By morning the sky was clear, the river had not flooded its bank, and I was first of the campers on the road. My route plan showed me following the Waters of Mark as I did on an earlier challenge, but on the day I followed the more direct option along Glen Lee.
Lochnagar from Muckle Cairn
Guarding Glen Lee


Arriving at Tarfside on a fine dry day was a new experience, and tea, fruit, and a bacon roll were all welcome. There were even rooms available, but I was happy to camp and after a while went down to the green with Shap McDonnell to put up my tent. Shap has the same design tent as me but in a different material.
Camp Tarfside

from Gordon Green
Dinner at St Drostans
 I took the simple evening meal on offer from the team at St Drostans of home made soup, baked potato with chilli sauce, and cake and tea. When I returned I found another similar tent parked next to mine - and there was Colin Ibbotson the designer and fabricator. Mine was the only silnylon version of this tent in the wild, and I was pleased to report I was very happy with it.

Tarfside Freemasons club
The Freemasons was open for TGO socialising as usual. A can of beer or a dram of whiskey. Or a glass of wine for those that wanted it.

Dalbrack bridge

Push and pull the map in the window below to see the route in blue.
 
From here I wanted to go south. To cross the river it is necessary to backtrack a couple of km up the valley to the bridge at Dalbrack as the nearest one is blocked; it's a significant diversion to get back to the path which heads due south from Tarfside on the map.

Estate bridge at Tillbardine
At this part of the challenge the brown hills are all very similar with landrover tracks and furnished with shooting stations. My route took my to Tillybardine where I crossed the road, then up the steep track onto the ridge heading SW to Mondurran. Then a line on the map heading for the farmland to the south.

4 young boys looking for attention
I had identified a camping spot on the 'hills of Finavon', but before I reached there a small hotel appeared. It was hard to resist, and I settled into the tiny room before joining some business travellers in the restaurant for beer and homemade steak pie.


Moving on from here to the coast it is impossible to avoid road walking. Paths through woods and on over farmland are sometimes moved or missing altogether, so off-road navigation can be frustrating.


Push and pull the map in the window below to see the route in blue.
 
After some research I'd found a campsite at Lunan which looked attractive with a friendly sounding cafe and nice facilities. As I arrived however the cafe was closing, and there was no-one on the campsite. A quiet end to a good crossing.

I pitched the tent then climbed the large sandhills to look down on the wide shore of Lunan Bay. As I did this a minibus arrived and out bundled a number of students with surfboards. It is said that this beach is rich in semi-precious stones and although I didn't find any myself the rock in the cliffs at the end looked rather unusual to me.
.. .. .. to coast

Surfer on Lunan Sands

Redcastle remains at Lunan Bay
Looking for Gemstones


When I returned to the campsite next to my tiny tent was another. Markus Petter from Austria was standing there in admiration. He must have such a tent it was wonderful!

We parted company in the morning, he heading for Montrose for breakfast while I wanted to pass by the lighthouse at Scuddie Head. This is a pleasant enough walk in good weather and took my past an unusual family cemetery on the cliff top, and the TGO monument by the lighthouse.

Cliff top cemetrary
Scudie Lighthouse
First view of Montrose with TGO monument
Opposite Montrose is Ferryden which with some interest along the shore including washing lines over the see and information about the old communal craphouse.




Ferryden washing lines

Sign-in tea and biscuits Park Hotel