Thorn’s Story

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Thorn’s Story

My name is Thorn, I’m two year’s old , and I am accompanying my pack leader, John, on a sponsored walking event in support of Ovarian cancer trials.

We have set ourselves the task of visiting the highest point of all 86 of the traditional counties of Great Britain over the next ten years, and although I may become too old to complete them all, John reckons that he can.

DSCN0271-Thorn at Thames riverside, Mucking,  Essex

It all started before I was born when my mum’s mistress, Jo, became ill with cancer. When it was discovered that a national cancer trials programme, led by Dr. A. Lamont, at Southend hospital in Essex, where Jo was being treated, needed additional funding to continue, John saw the opportunity to help, and  Summits Appeal for Ovarian Cancer Trials was established.

At first they all thought that I was too small to climb mountains, so I set about showing them that I wasn’t going to be left behind, and led John a merry dance on many of his walks until I had pestered him to let me try. After an 18 mile walk, he was tired but I had persuaded him to take me.

We started in June, to visit the highest point in Essex at Langley High Wood on another 18 mile round walk from Saffron Walden. It was a pleasant day, not too hot, and almost all on country footpaths through some beautiful rolling farmland and villages. I found a fox, but it got away, and chased some squirrels up trees. We had dinner on the edge of Langley High Wood, and I pinched some of John’s ham sandwiches, and then slept in the car on the journey home.

In July we went to Scotland on holiday, and while we were there we visited Scafell Pike in Cumberland, and Ben Nevis in Inverness-shire. I enjoyed Scafell Pike. It didn’t rain, but it wasn’t a very nice day, it was cold and windy. I tried chasing people away when we got to the top, why else had we gone there. I really wanted to chase the sheep, but John wouldn’t let me.

Ben Nevis was a long way, and hard work. I had never seen real snow before and it was fun to play in, but we couldn’t stay there. It was a warm day, and I didn’t feel very well on the way down.  John had to carry me. I didn’t like it when he soaked me in a stream half way down, but it was very refreshing and I felt alright after that. I wasn’t going near the river though when we got back down.

In September we went to Snowdonia and climbed to the top of Snowdon, (that’s Yr Wyddfa in Welsh),  in Caernarfon-shire. It was a lovely day for a walk, there were some sunny spells although it was a cloudy day, but not too hot as there was a strong wind to keep us cool. There were a lot of dogs there, and we had some games together, some of us even shared our food.

Our last walk this year was to the highest point in Middlesex. We walked 20 miles from Hyde Park to Bushey Heath, before returning home on the tube. We had a picnic on Olympic Way at Wembley, and I found a foxes den on some waste ground alongside the road on the way. A cheeky squirrel jumped down from a tree, I was trying to talk to a Bearded Collie on the other side of the road when it appeared right in front of me, I don’t know who was more surprised but I gave it a real fright before it ran up a tree. It was the day when the weather turned nasty in October. It was wet when we left Hyde Park, it was wet when we arrived at Bushey Heath and it was very windy, but it was dry most of the way in between.

So far this year we’ve raised almost £800 for the ovarian cancer trials. [/restab]

[restab title=”2001″]

2001 The Continuing Odyssey

Hi there, it’s me, Thorn again, to tell you about my continuing adventures raising funds to support ovarian cancer trials. It’s been a strange time since we had such fun last year. Just before Christmas, my mistress’s condition took a turn for the worst, and unfortunately she passed away while we were making arrangements to start our walks again this year. Before we recovered from that the foot and mouth outbreak started, not too far away from where I live and then spread all over the country, so we couldn’t start our walks until it cleared up.

When my pack leader, John, decided that we could start we went to Surrey in June, to visit Leith Hill near Dorking. We wanted to go by train, but with no buses to take us to the station we went by car. I was so disappointed because I like trains. Shortly after we started walking I got a burr in my pad, which gave John quite a scare when he thought that I’d lamed myself, but I thought it was a good wheeze to keep him on his toes. We found a waterfall, on the way back on a warm, but overcast day.

When the footpaths opened in Bedfordshire, we went to Luton and walked to Dunstable Down. I had a chat with some Westies in a park in Dunstable. We found some hang gliders on the Down. Don’t they look funny and clumsy with all that gear on? It was a lovely warm day, and we passed Whipsnade zoo, and the tree cathedral where we met two Scotties and had a long chat. We walked through a field that was badly overgrown and I got covered in seeds and could hardly walk, Ughhh!!!.  John spent a long time pulling them out. Then some golfers told us we were trespassing, but John persuaded them there really was a footpath there.

In July, it was forecast to be very hot at home, and John thought it might be cooler in Wales, but it wasn’t, it was a terribly hot day. We stayed in a castle at St. Briavels, before going on to Glamorgan. We met a lovely lady selling ice creams at the head of Cwm Dar in the Rhondda valley. She told her customers what we were doing, and everybody was nice to us. John was worried that I would be ill in the heat, and kept dunking me in all the pools we found, so I refused to go near any water, and insisted on only drinking water out of my flask. After reaching Carn Fach we beat a hasty retreat straight back to Treorchy.

In August, on our holiday, we visited Ayrshire, and Roxburghshire in Scotland. We had two lovely days in pleasant cool weather. In Ayrshire, we walked to Shalloch an Minnoch. It was a struggle through the heather in some places, but there was a big grass covered summit where I could run all over. On the way there I found some interesting smells in the heather and intrigued John while I spent a long time trying to dig them out. There was even a shower on the way back, but that couldn’t dampen our day. Then we visited some friends on a farm.

In Roxburghshire, we walked the Pennine Way from Kirk Yetholm to Auchope Cairn. There were lots of sheep and cattle in Scotland, but none across the border fence in Northumberland, that was very sad. On the way back I had a roll in the grass, but it was very steep and I rolled over and over and over. When I stopped John was laughing at my antics, but I was very indignant and barked at some sheep. They ran away and I felt much better.

In October we went to Meirioneth in Wales, to climb Aran Fawddwy. On the way there was a heavy rainstorm. After we crossed the mountains the sun came out and it looked like it would be a very nice day, but it was very windy. When I ran I looked like a bullet with the wind flattening my featherings. John found it hard work in the wind, and when we were almost there, the weather turned very threatening and it started to rain hard. I wanted to go on and thought John was a bit of a wimp to turn back when we were so close, but when he mentioned dinner I didn’t make so much fuss. It is a smashing part of the country, and we have the consolation of being able to go back another day when we will climb all the way to the top.


[restab title=”2002″]

The continuing travels of a wandering star

I’m back again. This year I’ve had my first full year of travels being sponsored to climb hills for ovarian cancer, and I’ve been all over the country from Norfolk to Meirioneth and from Devon to Kincardine, with my pack leader John. We’ve climbed 9 summits this year, not counting Ben Macdui when John bottled out at 3700 feet. We could see the top!! Only 600 feet to go!!

Last year, we were rained off Aran Fawddwy in Meirionydd when we were close to the top, but this year the weather was much kinder and we finished the job. It was a bit hazy, but even so the views were tremendous from the summit, on the edge of an 800ft crag.

We only have one more hill to visit this year, in Wiltshire, well really it’s two because there is Milk Hill and Tan Hill both at the same height, between Devizes and Avebury. I’m looking forward to visiting Wiltshire because John says that there is a lot of prehistoric burial sites, and I want to dig up some bones! It will also be bonfire night again. Last year we went for our walk in Berkshire and arrived in Hungerford just as the bonfire parties were starting. It was dark and I was frightened at first, but John kept talking to me, and when I realized that the fireworks weren’t going to hurt me I was fascinated to watch them all while we waited for our train.

The weather on all our walks this year has been good for walking, (but not so good for pictures), except for Whernside in West Yorkshire when low cloud and mist covered the hilltop all day and made it damp and dismal for both, but there were a lot of other dogs on top when we got there and we played some good games. The sun came out later in the afternoon and then we went to look at some waterfalls.

Our best day was in Kincardine in northeast Scotland when we visited Mount Battock between Glen Esk and Ballater in the Dee valley. The wind was quite stiff and I had to keep my ears down, but it was a lovely day with drifting clouds, and some sunshine while we were on the summit. We met a shooting party looking for grouse, I tried to join in, but John put me on a lead when it got exciting. I had lots of fun digging up a big rabbit warren in a sand bank on the way down though.

In Fife we were joined by Chris who lived in St. Andrews but who was English really, and were met on the top of West Lomond hill by two London firemen, and while they all yarned about Sussex, where Chris was from, and Surrey I was secretly enjoying being the only Scot there. We could see the island in Loch Leven where Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned a long time ago. The Lomond hills were once a big volcano, but it didn’t go off while we were there.

The other hills have been in Flintshire, where it was very hazy. We climbed to the top of Moel Fammau, to find Queen Victoria’s jubilee tower, and then followed part of Offa’s Dyke on the way down. In Shropshire, when we climbed to the summit of Abdon Burf on Brown Clee hill, there was a very cold wind, but with bright sunshine in a cloudless blue sky. We walked round a hill fort on the way, and found some lambs playing in a field on the way back. In Kirkcudbright, we started our walk by Bruce’s Stone at Loch Trool in a beautiful remote glen. John had been here before I was born and knew the way, but we had to walk fast because John wanted to reach the café at Stroan Bridge before they closed where they do special sandwiches that he shares with me. John’s camera broke down on the way, but he tricked it into taking a picture of me on the summit before it stopped working all together.

In Norfolk, on our first walk of the year we visited Beeston Bump near Sheringham before walking to Felbrigg Hall where we had dinner followed by a leisurely stroll along the clifftops back to Sheringham. And in Devon we met the army range warden on High Willhays, and John discovered that they came from neighbouring villages in Yorkshire! Boy! Did they have a good chat.

Altogether now we’ve climbed over 40000 ft, that’s more than all the way to the top of Everest, covering nearly 300 miles, in 20 counties, and we’ve raised over £6000 for ovarian cancer treatment trials. Next year we’re going to Northern Ireland for two weeks to visit all six counties at once, and we hope to visit seven counties on the mainland. [/restab]

[restab title=”2003″]

The further adventures of Thorn in 2003

We started this year with a sense of anticipation, with a trip to Northern Ireland to look forward to, and a visit to Huntingdonshire in March on a 19-mile walk from Grafham Water to Covington and back. The day was very pleasant and a bit warm for the time of year, with hazy sunshine all day. It became a bit of a route march back from the Three Counties House because we had to get back before the car park closed. I was relieved when John cheated by accepting a lift for the last two miles and we only just made it back in time then.

At Easter we went to Yorkshire to stay on a farm with some of my friends, and while we were there we visited Renfrewshire and Peeblesshire in Scotland. John stays in youth hostels sometimes and I like that because I can live in the car. It makes a posh kennel!

We stayed at the New Lanark youth hostel and visited the Clyde Falls before we visited the Hill of Stake.

It was hard work in Renfrew visiting the Hill of Stake. It was a warm and sultry day and a farmer would not allow me on his muir during lambing, so it was 5 miles longer than we expected. There were few footpaths and I had to bounce through the heather for 5 miles, and then John made me climb the wrong mountain, Misty Law, first. On the way back we found a shooters track that we followed all the way back to the valley, and then we found some runrig marks of an old communal clan farm in a field, but it had been such a hard day that even I threw in the towel and John had to carry me the last mile.

The next week was in Peebles and it was great! We visited the Devil’s Punchbowl where the border rievers from long ago kept their ill gained stock from cattle rustling. The weather was a bit mixed with showers and sunny spells, and there was a good footpath all the way although it was steep. We didn’t have a long walk and it was cold enough to make some effort on the 2800-foot climb to keep warm. We found a spaceship on the top. John said it was a navigation beacon, but it looked like a ‘Starwars’ set to me.. There were lots of hares about too, and they helped me keep warm. We sheltered from some showers, in a ditch on the way up, and under the trees in a forest on the way down when John gave me my dinner while we waited for it to stop.

In Wales we visited the counties of Radnor and Pembroke. John stayed in youth hostels both times. Both walks to Great Rhos and Foel Cwmcerwyn were about 10 miles long in good walking weather. We visited the ‘Water Break It’s Neck’ waterfall in Radnor and a hillfort where the Stonehenge stones came from in Pembroke. John made a mistake in Radnor when he decided to take the ‘scenic route’ back to the car from New Radnor, and almost fell into the river when the disused path we followed gave way on him. I nearly laughed until I realised that my dinner was in the car. On Foel Cwmcerwyn we could see the sea all the way from Worm’s Head near Swansea almost to Aberystwyth, and we watched the ferries at Fishguard too.

In August we went to Northern Ireland. We visited County Down, Antrim, Armagh, and Tyrone in two weeks. I was exhausted! but it was fun. I found a squirrel on top of Sliabh Domhanghairt at nearly 2900 ft, nearly fell into a bog on the way to Trostan, got chased by helicopters on Sliabh Gullion in ‘bandit country’, and found a Celtic cross on top of Sabhail. John wrote to some nice people at Ordnance Survey for Northern Ireland and they sent him some maps. When we went to thank them they showed us how they made the maps, and I had my picture taken for the newspapers, but it wasn’t used. John got his picture in the Belfast Telegraph though.

We did intend visiting two more counties, but John was ill and wasn’t able to go. When my mistress died three years ago, John was very sad, but he’s met someone else now and he’s smitten. She’s a very nice lady and gives me lots of titbits when John’s not looking. She looks after my mum too, and she wants to come with us on some of our walks next year.[/restab]

[restab title=”2004″]

Thorn and the big Scottish mountains

Hi there! Thorn calling in again to regale you with our exploits in 2004.

I’m sorry to have missed you last year, but pack leader got married again, to a lovely lady, Jan. She is kind to us and me and my mum could wind her round our paws and she gave us lots of ‘sweets’, that is until my mum died of cancer at Easter this year.

We started our walks early in 2004 with a visit to Hertfordshire in February. We found a tree on the ‘summit’ where the Ridgeway leaves Hertfordshire, before returning to Aldbury of ‘Shillingbury Tales’ fame.

Then to Gloucestershire and Cleeve Hill near Cheltenham in March. We missed the races, got caught in a hailstorm, and got spooked at Belas Knap, an Iron age burial mound. John forgot to put a film in the camera to start with, but we saw lots of views over seven counties from the top of the Cotswolds.

At Easter we went to Yorkshire. From there we visited four hills, Black Hill in Cheshire, Strawberry Bank in Nottinghamshire, Meikle Says Law in East Lothian, and the Bathgate Hills in West Lothian.

I’ve been to Black Hill, on the Pennine Way, before. I was 9 months old. It was February, covered with snow and very cold, John put me in his coat on the way back. This time it was windy but there were some good views across Longdendale in some late afternoon sunshine.

We set out early for Berwick to avoid some bad afternoon weather but it was already there when we arrived. John found a good track to the top of the Law in East Lothian. I don’t like water after my dunking on Ben Nevis, so I didn’t like the 10 fords I had to cross, and John made me wade them all. I found a sheep trapped in a tunnel, which John dug out, and had fun chasing lots of hares, they were easy to see in their white winter coats.

From Hardwick Hall in Nottinghamshire we went to find some interesting earthworks on the summit of Strawberry Bank, I was thinking ‘bones’ but it was a waterworks reservoir, big fizz!! The weather was kind most of the time but John stopped in some woods when the sky turned very dark. There was a big hailstorm and John got a picture of a spotty Scottie. The stones were big and they hurt!

Then we went to West Lothian and saw the Forth Bridge. We climbed four hills, the highest had no name. At Cairnpapple iron age burial mound I went inside hunting for bones. There was lots of egg white on the ground, that puzzled John, but we discovered that egg rolling is a good fun at Easter in West Lothian. From Cockleroy we could see the river Forth, and Linlithgow Palace which we visited, and walked round the lake before visiting the remains of the Antonine Roman wall near Bo’ ness.

In June we went to Wiltshire and the top of Milk Hill at Alton Barnes. There was a white horse there and then we visited the white horses at Pewsey, Westbury, Cherhill, Marlborough and Uffington. It was a smashing day out, but climbing onto all those white horses was hard work.

In August we went to Scotland and climbed some big hills. There was a good path to the top of Ben Macdhui in Aberdeenshire. We had our heads in the clouds above 3000 ft. John got a bit nervous when we lost the path in the mist, but we were alright when we found it again. I wasn’t scared, but when I checked the viewfinder on the summit I couldn’t see any of the views.

It was a smashing day in Glen Isla when we climbed Glas Maol in County Angus It was very windy as an old Caribbean hurricane was passing. I couldn’t walk straight and thought that John had put some local water in my bottle! I watched herds of deer crossing the opposite hillsides, but they wouldn’t come to play. The hilltop was full of hares keeping their heads down, but they ran like the wind when we disturbed them, and on the way down we sheltered from a sharp shower under some old pine trees.

Our last hill in Scotland was Ben Vorlich near Loch Lomond in Dunbartonshire. It was so steep that John hid his bag because he couldn’t carry it any more, and then had to drink out of my bottle he was so thirsty. There were lots of dark clouds broken by spells of sunshine and from our eyrie perch the shadows and sunbeams made it very atmospheric and brooding!

We ended the year visiting Blackdown hill in Sussex and walking to Devil’s Punchbowl and back in October. This is the first time that we’ve had a friend go with us on our hill walks. The weather was mild, but it was dull and overcast, and not much different from my walks near home.[/restab]

[restab title=”2005″]

Thorn a’roving in 2005

Hi once again, It’s good to have successfully completed another year of my adventures, but now to regale you with my travels in 2005.

Our first walk in March as from White Horse Hill in Oxfordshire, our longest trek yet, across the Vale of the White Horse between the Uffington Castle and Badbury hill forts and back, looking into the Kennet and Thames valleys,. crossing an old canal, watching trains whizz along the Great Western railway to Bristol, and finding a big mediaeval barn at Great Coxwell.

At Easter, after being rained off in Selkirk, we visited Ben Cleugh in Clackmannanshire. It was an amazing day out, with views across 19 counties from the Irish Sea to the Moray Firth, and from Atlantic Argyllshire to the North Sea. Then the weather turned so bad that instead of Lanarkshire we went to the Roaches in Staffordshire. We found Lud’s Church, – the scene of Sir Gawain’s exploits in the tales of King Arthur – and the Doxey Pool, – if you look for your reflection in the still water, the sprite in the bottomless pool grabs your reflection and pulls you in! – I had a drink, but kept my eyes shut! then I stood on the edge of space at the top of Hen Cloud.

In Rutland, we nearly visited Ranksborough Hill, but discovered just in time that Cold Overton Woods was higher, then we walked round Rutland Water, visiting all four of the foxy cafes. Everybody told us it was over 20 miles, but we only walked 15 and I didn’t get my feet wet taking a short cut across the reservoir!

The rivers Tees, South Tyne, and Wear all rise on Burnhope Seat in Durham. The May weather seemed uncertain but looked like it might pick up. It didn’t, and we got rain, mist, sleet, hail, and high winds, – so strong that they blew me off the O.S. pillar! – I was feeling very miserable before we had to cross the muddiest peatbog I’ve ever seen but it did give me a good laugh because John’s only got two legs!

One June morning, the weather was so bad in Monmouthshire that we retreated to Worcestershire. We had a pleasant walk over the Bredon hills in the Cotswolds before John discovered that we should have been on the Malvern Hills. On the way down I found a big thistle in full bloom and John took a picture of me beside it. I felt quite at home!

We had a fantastic day out in August on Culter Fell in Lanarkshire.dodging showers but not getting wet once. The sun shone all the time that we were on the summit, but a heavy hail shower fell behind us as we left!!. We had views over the Tweed and Clyde and could see the ‘space ship’ we’d visited on Broad Law in 2003. Then a man told us that Tinto was the biggest hill, which gave John another fright, but we were ok because Culter Fell really is the higher.

Stirlingshire, the 48th county of the 95 that we have to visit, made the top of Ben Lomond the half way point of our project. We had tremendous views of Loch Lomond, the Trossachs and the Arrochar Alps. The weather was kind to us and we had lots of company, but with no other dogs I had lots of attention!

In September we had a magic day out on the Black Hills of the Welsh Marches in Monmouthshire. We climbed Twmpa first, with tremendous views across the Wye valley, on a horseshoe walk above the village of Capel Y Ffin to Chwarel Y Fan from where we could see the Malvern and Mendip Hills. I rolled in something that really got up John’s nose, but he splashed me in a muddy cart track and then scrubbed me in the grass to get it off!

We ended the year in Dorset, starting out at Tolpuddle of the martyrs fame, then on to Cerne Abbas and its Giant, before visiting the summit and hill fort of Pilsden Pen where the Britons made the Romans pay dearly for their gall. Afterwards we went to Chesil ‘Beach’?.!!! Where did those pebbles get that name from? I stayed on the grass, and even John didn’t like walking on them. We finished a very sunny day out at Lulworth Cove watching the sun set over Durdle Door.

We’ve now walked over 600 miles, climbing over three times the height of Mount Everest and raising over £10,000 in support of ovarian cancer trials.[/restab]

[restab title=”2006″]

Thorn and a friend go to the Arctic

It’s me again and this year I’ve got a friend. He’s called Ramsey and he came from STECS. He was named after Gordon, and he makes a lot of noise!

DSCF0173 Ramsay takes a break - Scout Dyke rsvr, Penistone, Yorks (2)

We had an exciting year in 2006 and went to Orkney and Shetland. The journey there wasn’t very nice as the kennels on the ferry were right near the propellers and they made a lot of noise. It really is cruel to treat us and even CATS! that way when they have rules to look after farm animals better.

Our first trip out was to Ilmington Downs in Warwickshire. It was a pleasant day when we left Hidcote Manor, not too hot or cold, and it was the first time that Ramsey came with us. We found some sheep on a steep hillside and nearly pulled John off his feet in the mud. We visited the Rollright Stones, (where it snowed!) on the way there, and the Four Shires Stone on our way home.

Ramsey’s first big hill was in Mongomeryshire in April when we went to Moel Sych near Pystyll Rhaedr waterfall where we started from. It was another nice day as the sun shone some of the time. Ramsey got excited again when he saw some sheep so John kept him on the lead, but he’ll learn, and we had our dinner with a good view all over the Berwyn Mountains. We could even see Aran Fawddwy where we went in 2002.

Then we visited Coniston Old Man as it was once the highest point in Lancashire but it is in a funny place called Cumbria now, not really a county at all! It was a miserable day, there was drizzle and low cloud, but it brightened up a bit in the afternoon. We could see Windermere, Coniston Water, and the sea from the top.

In Lincolnshire, the hill! on top of the Wolds, does not have a name but it is near Normanby and has a big ‘golf’ ball on top. We walked in a big circle over the Wolds from Caistor to Rothwell and back. Ramsey made me laugh when he growled at a big log that looked just like a dragon. John had to drag him past as he wouldn’t go near it. The weather wasn’t nice, but it didn’t rain much and we sheltered in some woods for our dinner.

Then we went on our big adventure in August

We started in Shetland on a visit to Ronas Hill. It is the only part of the country that really is Arctic and it does feel different to anywhere else that we have been. Windswept clean of anything that is not secure, it is very rocky with lots of red granite, but there’s still a prehistoric burial mound on the top. Ramsey went looking for some bones. I remember when I used to do that sort of thing, but there have been too many of our ancestors around for any to have been left for us. It was the first time that we’ve found a visitors book on a summit, so John wrote about what we were doing there. It was cloudy again so not much to see, and John got lost in the mist on the way down and we nearly climbed the hill again before he realised where he was!

In Orkney we had to catch a ferry to Hoy Island and Ward Hill so we had an early start! It was a smashing day with clear blue skies and lots of sunshine, but nice and cool too. The top of the hill overlooked Scapa Flow where a lot of ships were once sunk and we could see Scotland and John O’Groats, we could even see Morven in Caithness the hill where we were going next, but more of that later. There were lots of rabbits about and we tried digging some of them out, and then John put us on the lead. We’d disturbed some Skuas and they were sizing us up for dinner!

Next was Caithness. Morven is a very isolated hill and John had to ask how to reach it. When he explained what we were doing he was advised not to take Ramsey and me as there were lots of adders about in the deep heather, but he told us all about it when he got back, about how he nearly stepped on an adder before he even reached the moors, and getting chased off the summit by a sharp rain squall, and then in the afternoon sunshine feeling a bit like Alan Breck yomping across Rannoch Moor with David Balfour in the book “Kidnapped”, we were quite envious.

Our last walk of the year was to Nairnshire and Creagan a Chaise in the Cromdale Hills. It was another good day out, but very very cold and windy when we got to the top. There was another visitor’s book too for John to fill in. Ramsey stayed with John behind Queen Victoria’s jubilee cairn and out of the wind, but I like the way it tickles my featherings. When we came to leave the summit I could hardly move. John thought that it was because I was getting old, but after I had time to warm up again I was alright. Then we visited another cairn to celebrate the coronation of King Edward VII before passing the Piper’s stone and Cromdale’s civil war battlefield on the way down.[/restab]

[restab title=”2007″]

Thorn and Ramsay in 2007, a year of mixed fortunes

2007 has been a funny old year, first Jan left us, so John’s been out of sorts, then he was ill, the weather hasn’t been good to us, so we’ve had to content ourselves with some lower hills, and getting wet into the bargain, and John’s been preoccupied renovating the big kennel and it looks smashing now.

At Easter, we went to Anglesey. Holyhead Mountain is not very big, and we had lots of company. We arrived behind a very big lorry that was going down the narrow streets to the docks and provided some interesting entertainment, but then we made a quick ascent to the summit. It was a bright day, with blue skies, sunny, but with a very cold, steady and strong north wind. The views overlooking the Irish Sea, Holyhead harbour, and to Snowdonia, were brill, and we saw lots of ships. When we had lunch, John looked comical trying to shelter, behind a low wall that was just right for us. With lots of time left we went to Parys Mountain. It’s the only hole in the ground we’ve seen that was called a mountain, but it had all been dug up to get some orangey coloured stuff called copper out. We walked all round it and visited an old windmill near the top of what was left.

It was our second visit to Selkirkshire next. The hill, Ettrick Pen, probably called ‘Pen’ because an Ettrick Shepherd who wrote lots of poems to while away the time, kept lots of sheep there once. Ramsay wasn’t with us the first time when the weather stopped us, but this time we climbed from near Eskdale. It was overcast, windy and cold, but clear and dry. We met quite a few people, which was a surprise in this remote glen, but they admired Ramsay and me. We had an airy walk above the Ettrick forest, and a long walk back along the Southern Upland Way. On the way home we stopped to look at some Tibetan temples that added a bit of colour to a grey day.

Mickle Fell, now in Durham, was once the highest point in all Yorkshire in the North Riding. We started from Cow Green reservoir from where we’d visited Burnhope Seat in Durham. It reminded me of my worst experience when I got blown off the Ordnance pillar while John took my photo, but today was a better day, hazy, calm, and comfortably warm. It was a long walk, but not steep onto some army ranges, but they were shooting somewhere else that day. It was very flat on top with lots of short grass so we had a good run around. John got the timing wrong and had his back to the camera on all of his photo’s. We visited Cauldron Snout waterfall on the way back which was very high. I was very tired and slept all the way home. John said he was proud of me which perked me up, but made Ramsay jealous.

On May day when we went to Worcestershire there were lots of people about. It was our second visit here too. The first timeit was our fall back county when the weather was too bad in Monmouthshire. We visted Bredon Hill then, but when we got to the top John discovered that it was the wrong hill!

“What a mistayke a to mayke!”

This time we climbed to Caractacus’ British Camp hill fort on a pleasant and warm day, but hazy and still before walking along the Malvern Hills to Worcestershire Beacon where we had our lunch. It was an open and airy walk with good views west to the Black Hills of the Welsh Marches, and East over the Cotswolds where we could see Bredon Hill. A railway came right out of the hill underneath us. I like a train ride. We didn’t see any trains, but there were lots of cows to get excited about, they worry Ramsay (and sometimes make me nervous too!)

In August, we went to Badenoch in Scotland. Last year the weather was too bad to visit some big hills. This year it was even worse! We ded visit Ben Lawers in Perthshire even though the top was in cloud all day and the views weren’t very good from the top, but it was a steady climb in comfortable conditions with lots of company on clear paths. Ben Lawers is nearly 4000 ft high, but we started from the visitor centre at 2000 ft. There was lots of good scenery and views on the way up, and it brightened up and was better on the way down.

Then in Morayshire, John left our leads behind so we got some lovely new matching tartan leads! before climbing Carn Ghlas Choire. It had been a sunny day when we left Badenoch, but it turned overcast when we started our walk and the drizzle wasn’t far behind. It was five mile to the top of the hill, was cold and gusty (with some hail) when we got there, but we were philosophical about it. The scenery was magic, the moorland was covered in a springy moss that was lovely to roll on and so comfortable to walk on that we didn’t mind being wet, and we had the satisfaction that only comes from a successful day out after all the disappointment.

I’m getting a bit long in the tooth and maybe I’ve climbed my last big hill although there are still plenty of lower ones to look forward to. Who knows what next year might bring, but it’s still something to look forward to, so ‘bye for now.[/restab]

[restab title=”2012″]

Eulogy to Thorn, the Mountain Scottie

All Scotties are special, but just occasionally one comes along who shines in a different way. Thorn was one of these.

I had not owned a dog of my own before, and was not expecting to. Scotties were my wife’s interest, but not having much time to dedicate to this, she came back to it late in our married life. Whisky, Thorn’s mum came from Cheshire, from an independent breeder, not a member of STBEA, as a pet for our young son. Thorn was a pup from Whisky’s second litter, and sired by a stud of Muriel Owen’s. Mrs Owen was impressed by Whisky’s pedigree.

Shortly before the pup’s were born, my father in law had lost his last dog, a GSP bitch, and asked if he could have one of Whisky’s pups. My wife offered him the pick of the litter. Bill’s heritage with dogs was second to few. He had been involved with dogs all his life, having experienced a broad spectrum of disciplines from war and security work to gamekeeping/shooting dogs and obedience/performing dogs for film work, (‘The Captive Heart’, and ‘The Wicked Lady’ being two of the more notable ones). I couldn’t write the flyleaf to a book that he and my wife could have written about dogs.

Bill chose Thorn at two days old but what we didn’t know was that Bill was already seriously ill with cancer. Within a year, he asked if we could find another home for Thorn as he found a young dog about the house too much for him. My wife wanted to sell him on, but I felt that if Bill had seen something special in this dog at two days old, he was worth a second look and asked if I could keep him. During this period, we had been away in Yorkshire where I had been following my hobby of hill walking. On returning to the cottage, Thorn had become excited by the smells around my shoes and trouser legs and it was suggested that I take him with me on my excursions. I had reservations that a small dog, he was only about nine months old, would have the stamina for the ambitious hill walks I undertook. It was put to me that I take him and that if he couldn’t manage it, I had only lost one day out. If he could, I would have a pal for life.

It wasn’t by intention, but my next day out would have put many a dog to the test. A cold snowy day out on the Pennine Way of the South Pennines in the North of the Peak District, to Black Hill, at 1900 feet, the highest point of the old county of Cheshire. Near the start of the walk, there is a field research centre attached to a local university at which there was some lively activity in progress as we passed and from where one comment suggested that we, a middle aged man and a little dog, would soon be back. Thorn romped the climb to the top of the valley side where we took a break in a gulley. While there, two sheep suddenly appeared in the gulley from above, and behind us. Fortunately Thorn was attached to my ankle by his lead. Two things happened fairly rapidly after the first shock. I unexpectedly assumed an ungainly posture, and two sheep took off across the moor with scant regard to the togetherness in which they had arrived, with Thorn giving a full vocal accompaniment.

The walk along the top of the valley wall was something of a stroll, if somewhat colder than usual, until the open moorland was reached. From this point the path was stone flagged and fairly easy walking alongside the brook, but the flagging soon ended although within sight of the summit about a mile away. Thorn was in his element exploring first one side then another until on one of his jaunts he disappeared from view about 20 yards away, accompanied by an almost immediate splash. As I approached the place where I had last seen him, two paws and a long nose appeared Kilroy style over the lip of the gulley, the nose straining alternately one side then the other in time to his back legs trying to gain a purchase in the boggy sludge. He was a sight! And not one that I was too keen to pick up. I put my hand behind his head, this gave his front legs some leverage and he pulled himself out. Unperturbed he immediately took off again across the moor continuing on his reconnaissance as if nothing untoward had happened.

All the time a light drafting of crystalline snow had continued to fall in a biting north westerly wind. At the summit, where I tried, rather pathetically, to shelter behind a singularly small triangulation pillar to ‘enjoy’ the rations, (called snap in Yorkshire dialect) and give Thorn his, he started to shiver. Not a good sign I thought. So, after a rudimentary rub down, he went inside my jacket, he was still small enough then, and after a short break we set off back. The early part of the route is easy to a fence corner. From there, although the path was hidden in the snow, I fully expected to find my footprints. They were gone, buried in the fresh snow. Now there was a dilemma, a minor error in navigation would drop me on the Oldham side of the ridge and about twenty miles from the car. An easy option, to a major radio transmitter would bring me to a main road, but a very busy, and narrow one with heavy and fast cross pennine traffic. The map showed me an ‘off piste’ route across open moorland that rapidly lost height and would drop me into a steep-sided side valley, its brook leading directly back to the car park, but in which there were no marked tracks. I took this option. On the descent, a path became clear following the brook, but on the opposite side of it. Climbing out of the brook, I discovered that the ‘path’ was a sheep trod and following this was an easy, and sheltered, walk. Thorn was returned to his own mode of locomotion and we made an expeditious return to civilisation As we passed the outward bound centre, the festivities noticeably subsided as the celebrants realised that the only way we could have arrived back from the side valley without being seen, was by going ‘over the tops’. With an unexpected fillip to boost my stride, I realised that I had a pal for life!


My Best Friend

My best friend closed his eyes last night
His head was in my hand.
The doctors said he was in pain
It was hard for him to stand.

The thoughts that scurried through my head
As I cradled him in my arms.
Were of his younger, youthful years,
And all his many charms.

Today, there was no gentle nudge
With an intense “I Love You” gaze;
Only a heart that’s filled with tears,
Remembering our joy-filled days.

An angel just appeared to me
He said, “You should cry no more.
God so loves our canine friends,
He’s installed a doggy door.”



When I die
There’s a price to pay
The ferryman
The Styx to cross

Ramsay, My friend
No cost to bear
There’s Rainbow Bridge
To carry him there