Following the Falkirk show…

November 29, 2010

This weather would strike right in the middle of the busy exhibition season, with Nairnshire Modelling Supplies having four shows in almost as many weeks. The recent Tyneside show was not affected by the weather, but things looked ominous for the Falkirk show,  another important event in our calendar.  We travelled down on the Friday before without a hitch; our ten-year old Ford Focus making the journey without a slip over Slochd, driving over frozen slush on the A9. She delivered us safely to the hall, via lunch at Cafe Tabou in Perth. We must admit to visiting a dealer outside Perth to look at a new car as we are growing more concerned about the ability of our trusty Ford to keep up with the increasing pace of exhibition life.

As the weather deteriorated further over eastern Scotland during Saturday, we checked the weather forecast with care for Sunday and saw a looming disaster for us: getting stuck on snow in the Central Belt with a car full of stand and product. It was with regret that we decided to pack up on Sunday morning before the show opened to make a run for the north and home before things became too bad. It was as well that we did!

The A9 was closed between Dunblane and Perth, so we travelled north up to Kinross to join the M90, following a Tesco fuel tanker which did much to clear the road for us – a clearly skilful driver. The picture above shows the M90 Edinburgh-Perth motorway just after we joined it at Kinross. Not too bad, we thought, we can handle this! This was round 11am and the fuel tanker truck was making good progress ahead of us.

Approaching the high point of the M90 south of Bridge of Earn at Glen Farg, we realised that things were really bad on the main roads around Perth. South bound traffic was clearly in difficulty on the long hill up Kilknockie bank as can be seen in the above picture, with jack-knifed lorries and cars sliding all over the place trying to get round them. It was clear that the steep hill from Junction 10 to Broxburn to access the A9 would be chaos too, so we decided to avoid that and run over the River Tay bridge, down to Junction 11 and go through Perth itself to avoid long hills.

We thought our plans were to be snookered by the slope up to Junction 10 as cars were sliding all over the place at the point where the motorway divided. Our trusty Ford kept its grip on the road thanks to Avon Ice Touring tyres I had fitted this Autumn. We could not help noticing that the cars in most trouble were the posh, expensive Audis, BMWs and similar so-called luxury cars. If only we had four-wheel drive for this spot, we would have charged past in lane 2! However, after an hour we got over the top and down the hill into Perth. I wonder how many became stranded after we passed because the snow became steadily worse and was accompanied by thunder and lightning too, a most eerie experience.

I would like to say thank you to the organisers of the Falkirk club for their understanding and for the good luck messages from our friends on the Scottish exhibition circuit. We did get home after six hours of hard driving, safe and sound. Oh and our trusty old Ford Focus never put a foot wrong the whole time, as heavily loaded as she was! What many would like to know (including ourselves) is why the private road contractor responsible for maintaining the M90 was so tardy in getting ploughs and gritters out on the motorway when the local councils kept roads in central Perth open and the A9 north of Perth almost totally clear… We saw only one plough on the M90 and that was long after so many people had got into serious trouble south of Junction 9.


When I am not playing with model trains…

November 24, 2010

I avoided the big NEC crush to spend time up some mountains over the weekend. I went out with the Moray Mountaineering Club and tackled three Munroes in the Drumochter area (Dalnaspidal Forest) west of the A9. The picture above shows a pause for navigation on the route to the first summit, Sgairneach Mhor, at 991 metres, with its trig point. Conditions were challenging and my walking companion, Ray, is navigating at this point.

Next was Beinn Udlamain at 1011 metres where cloud and snow resulted in near white-out conditions. No guessing: out with compass and map.

From there, it was a short walk to Glas-choire, partway along the ridge (about 3.5Km) to the last of three peaks: A’ Mharconaich at 975 metres before descending the long ridge north east of the peak down to Balsporran Cottages on the A9 and a meet with the bus and everyone else. Despite the lack of views, it was a great day out and I completed the peaks in 6 hours and 30 minutes. A walk like that soon reveals where kit needs to be checked and upgraded, and I was grateful to my walking companion for his assistance in brushing up my navigation skills! Oh, and not a model train in sight!

Autumn outings.

November 1, 2010

There’s no reason to let the end of summer keep you from enjoying the great outdoors. Living on the Moray Firth, we are spoiled for choice for places to go, within two hours’ drive, including the Cairngorm National Park, exploring the rivers that empty into the Moray Firth and, of course, the Wester Ross mountains! In the last week or so, we have taken the Mini out to Gairloch and Poolewe (admittedly to attend one of those family events) and enjoyed some autumn colour along one of my favourite rivers, the Findhorn.

Admittedly, it was a bit of a West Coast day we travelled to Gairloch. Fantastic and very fresh weather.

Unfortunately, the nature of the family event prevented us from loading up walking gear and taking to some wild trails. However, compensation came in the form of coffee at the Mountain Coffee Company Hill Billy Cafe in Gairloch, a great location!

We frequently walk along the Findhorn river which flows through Logie estate, which is another must visit with its steading, Olive Tree Cafe and shops. The river path is steep in places, runs high over the river but also allows access to fishing pools and the warning sign is no exaggeration!

A beautiful river and Autumn colour this year is as stunning as ever.

The high, steep bank is prone to slipping as this temporary closure shows (above).

Several miles later, and Randolph’s leap is reached, with the river swirling through the rocks. The estate is noted for some pretty large tree species including many Wellingtonias – too big to photograph in their entirety so close up.
We turned back at Randolph’s leap to head for home and something to eat. We are fortunate that this fantastic area is only a 20 minute drive from the house!