Lots of unblogged days have elapsed. Nick and I have been rattling around at 88. I have had to spend more hours than I would have wished at my desk digitising marine mollusc records for the Conch Soc and digging out material to concoct a half-way decent Marine Recorder’s Report. Amazingly my initial pessimism is transformed when a week later (but not all spent toiling over the text!!) I have a reasonable story to tell.
We take one day out to drive to Dorchester to look at a house that might do………… but it won’t. The hunt is on though, as our prospective purchasers may be breathing down our necks very soon.
So now we are on our way north. A long way north as it happens, all the way to the Cairngorms National Park. We’ve left Surrey at 5.30 a.m. and stop for coffee and a breakfast bap north of Birmingham. We’ve also got various snacks to munch, fruit, and a flask of my frugal soup – all the bits of leek, cauliflower, broccoli which never make it to the vegetable tureen, bizzed up with potato. When it’s my turn at the steering wheel it turns out that I am driving my very favourite stretch on the northbound journey.
Some shortish distance north of Lancaster the scenery changes to the unique landscape of the southernwestern Lake District. Forged in an environment of colliding continents and vanishing oceans these soft grey flannel hills, with their curvy summits, talus slopes of shaly scree and gentle mossy green lower flanks, with fields at their feet, are the remnants of eons of rock weathering in that part of the British Isles which, for geologists, is the Iapetus Suture Zone. In geological time where landmasses meet something’s gotta give, one continent subsumes the other in the subduction process. To get some sense of this, visit the Restless Earth section at the Our Dynamic Earth Museum if you are ever in Edinburgh. The violence of these Earth movements, the volcanic eruptions and the remnants we see today are clearly described Here.
Leaving the M6 north at Gretna Green we join the Clyde Valley Tourist route and cross from the delightfully named Elvanfoot to the outer outskirts of Edinburgh. Once over the Forth Road Bridge we are into the last, ruggedly beautiful stage of our journey. Places with evocative names: Kinross, Perth, Birnam, Pitlochry, Blair Atholl, Dalwhinnie, Kingussie, Ralia.
At Ralia we leave the main road to slip down to the tearoom for a cuppa to while a bit of time before we can politely arrive at Inshriach. We have begged a concession to arrive a day ahead of our official booking, but they need time to ready it after previous visitors. The tearoom is a very cosy octagonal building, with windows and bar stools around the perimeter inside, free wireless and very deliciously filled sandwiches to have with equally good tea or coffee.
At Aviemore we turn off the A9 and, picking up bread and milk on the way, we eventually arrive at Inshriach at half past four……eleven hours then. Lucy Micklethwait is still getting rooms ready but is not too busy to stop and drink tea with us. The year since we were last here melts away, as has, sadly, the snow, and we are back into our chatty banter.
Just after 7 Nick pops down to the station to round up the Cholsey contingent who, on arrival, burst through the front door full of how long and boring their train journey was. Much later, when the children are bedded, Barns, Lukie, Nick and I eat a fiercely hot curry which even with the addition of a generous amount of coconut milk is still very warming to the palate. I must remember that one and half Scotch Bonnet chillis is too much even for a large vat of chicken curry. That dozen of the cheery red crumpled chillis, that I bought at Hackney and froze, is going to last a very long time.