A visit to see the therapist at the health centre to investigate an issue I’m having with my hip and a feeling of slight numbness in my left leg did not prove conclusive. Though she did rule any problems with the hip joint itself, which is great. Meaning any fears that I might need a hip replacement were unfounded. Best guess is a trapped or damaged nerve somewhere. What she did suggest was some exercises to strengthen my lower back muscles. Which I did try, very carefully I might add, and much against my own judgement as I know my own lower back very well. The result, a very sore lower back.
And that is the main reason why I withdrew my name from the TURF Ultimate Region Fight 2023. No point trying to do my bit and end up making my back worser (is that actually a word?) than it is. Did a turfing session around Gorebridge the other day to see how I would fare but the round is very hilly and some zones require carrying the bike, which may not have helped matters. Thankfully, I can still walk reasonably comfortably, or as turfer Hodge mentioned on WhatsApp, stumble about in woods in the dark.
And that is what appearances might have suggested I was doing last night. Though stumbling in the stubble might be a more accurate description. Yes, out turfing again in the dark and mysterious woods and UFO infested stubble fields around Dalhousie Castle, Midlothian. However, I must advise that not a single stumble came my way. You tend not to stumble when you have a decent torch and mine is very decent indeed. I bought the Ledlenser MT14 back in September 2022 and would recommend it highly.
It wasn’t cheap, costing a few credits shy of 100 credits but is top quality. It comes with a run time of 192 hours on its lowest 10 lumen setting or 9 hours on the 1000 lumen setting, more than enough for my needs. Plenty of light for the duration of any turfing session and I can use the highest beam setting when scanning for wildlife. Even the lowest setting provides enough light for walking. I carry the smaller Ledlenser P4R Core torch as a backup. Someone once asked why would I need a spare torch? Well, what would you do if your main torch failed miles into a pitch-dark forest?
Anyway, back to turfing. Picked off my usual local zones, Pittendreich and Brixwold, followed with KirkCockpen at the church. No scary barn owls screeching at me tonight. I wonder where they are? Did you know that barn owls don’t hoot. They shriek, hiss or snore! And a common nickname for the barn owl is the screech owl. A short walk along the road brought me to an old entrance to Dalhousie Castle. Maps show there was once a building here called North Lodge. You can still see remains to the left of the gap in the wall. Note the concrete block used to repair the stone style. That was me late one night.
As stinging nettles and shorts don’t mix, I took to the field rather than the path, heading for my next zone, DeanWoodTurn. About half way across the field I noticed lights approaching in the distance. Lots of light. My guess was the farmer in his Ford Ranger. It had one of those cool LED light bars in the roof, producing an amazing amount of light. Now, I thinking. Here I am wandering across a field in the middle of the night. Do I want the hassle of explaining why I’m here or would it be easier to slip into the woods out of sight? I slipped into the woods out of sight. Yes, according to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code I’m doing no wrong but I just prefer not to be seen.
With DeanWoodTurn now taken, I had to change my plans. Three zones on the list were UpperDalPath, DalhousiePath and WatchTheMud, however, the nearest zones looked like a scene from Close Encounters. The noise was incredible. There was one massive combine harvester and at least three other tractors either hauling grain or baling straw. I’ve never seen so many LED lights, flashing beacons and other 4×4 vehicles all in one place. Quite a sight. Thought it best to stay clear for safety reasons and I didn’t want to be engulfed in the vast clouds of choking crop dust.
So, after wandering up stream to zone DeanWoodPath, I crossed over the old bridge and made my way towards the river. Could still visit zones MillHolm and SouthEskAside. Scanning with the torch revealed a badger at the latter, snuffling in the long damp grass for grubs and worms. After taking the zone I wondered where next? The night was still young, only around 10.00 pm, so seemed shame to head for home. Then I recalled not being able to take zone Prestonholm the other day.
However, the zone is located on the other side of the River South Esk. But all is not lost as local knowledge comes in useful sometimes. Walking downstream from SouthEskAside, you reach a dip in the path. Old maps show a ford here and it was easy enough to slip of my sandals and wade across. It was little more than ankle deep though a touch slippery and uncomfortable underfoot. A good tip when fording rivers is to use a stick as a third leg, always placing the stick upstream against the current and using it for support and to probe for safe footing. Jolly good fun as well.
Strangely, zone Prestonholm took just fine. I wonder why it didn’t the other day? I now followed the track up towards zone BlowLoun, located beside a ruined church and graveyard, then followed a path through the woods down to Dalhousie Castle and back home. Only a few zones taken but a fine evening for walk in the woods. After a cup of tea, the essential tick-check, carefully checking every nook and cranny to ensure none of the little blighters have hitched a ride. Thankfully, none found this time. I’ve also taken to keeping tweezers in my bag so I can check out in the field. Just in case. Back soon.
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