Turf Blog 14-09-21

Turf zone – Dalhousie

Sometimes events get in the way of plans, particularly turfing plans. I was keen this round to really get out there on the bike and take zones, loads of zones and do my part. However, it started with a mildly sore throat. At first I didn’t give it much thought, but after a few days I had a hacking dry cough and it was painful to swallow. You know the type? The ones that leave you gasping for breath and family members screaming COVID! COVID! while holding a crucifix in front of you and yelling UNCLEAN! UNCLEAN! Then it starts to become something more, in layman’s terms, a real pain in the oesophagus.

Next you are persuaded to get a Covid-19 test. First book the PCR test and in the meantime you have to self-isolate, as a cough is a possible early symptom of Covid-19 (and about a millions other ailments as well, I might add!) Of course, self-isolation also applies to family members. So, no golf for Cathryn at the weekend, she cannot go into work tomorrow and that meal at the Papermill we booked will also need cancelled. I was looking forward to that!

Oh, and you cannot go outside the house at all, not for a walk, not for a cycle, not even for turfing. Personally, I think a really bad hacking cough is the ideal way to keep people apart if you do go outside. I’d cross the street if someone was approaching and coughing like I’ve been doing. Anyway, walked up the test centre and completed the test at 10.00 am and by 6.00 am the next morning an email and text message arrived. Test was negative. Thank goodness for that!

“Your coronavirus PCR test (or other lab test) result is negative. It’s likely you did not have the virus when the test was done.”

As fantastic it is that I’m Covid-19 free, probably anyway, and at the moment, I still feel totally crap, any energy has been zapped from me and no-way can I manage long days on the bike taking zones. In fact, it’s been a struggle just keeping my Five-A-Day going. Just glad I don’t have to go very far. It’s either a bad cold I have or the good old flu. Looking online at the various symptoms, it could be either. Anyway, forced myself to get out this morning, for a walk around Dalhousie Castle hotel. There’s about nine zones in the area, so I should just about manage that if I can get my feet up when I get back.

My walk gave me a couple of takeovers as I headed out to Dalhousie Castle, taking zones Pittendriech and Brixwold, along with zone KirkCockpen, a revisit. These will count towards my Five-A-Day, though I’m still wary of including revisits, at least until I can confirm they do, in fact, count towards the medal. My entry to the castle grounds was at the gate where the North Lodge used to be.

If you come this way yourself, note the freshly repaired steps. I did this a week or so ago, very late one evening, after I was fairly certain no-one would use the steps and dislodge the concrete block I’d just bedded on with mortar. The old stone steps had crumbled away due to greatly increased footfall during lockdown exercise walks. So, I liberated a dense concrete block from the nearby unnamed stream, the block having been dumped there from the adjacent recycling yard, and snuck round late one evening with two buckets of mortar, a torch and a builder’s trowel. About twenty minutes’ work saw the steps repaired. It was quite pleasing to do some covert guerrilla step repairs. Wonder if I can find something else to repair? Imagine the local press, “Phantom Step Repairer Strikes Again. Police are investigating.”

First zone to fall was DeanWoodTurn, then it was a gentle walk along the path that follows the north side of the Castle Dean Burn. A “dean” is a Scots term for a deep or steep sided valley formed by a river or stream. As I approached my next zone, DeanWoodPath, I noticed a noisy commotion in the trees ahead. Dozens of magpies, jackdaws and crows where kicking up a fair rumpus, usually indicative of a bird of prey, or a predator such as a fox or stoat. Sneaking quietly closer, I spotted movement in the long grass and edged closer. Then up pops a sparrowhawk, which flies up into the tree, gives me the Evil Eye and buggers off rapidly. Then, a few seconds later, up pops a very dishevelled jay, looking much the worse from wear. Looks like the sparrowhawk had nabbed the jay and a fight was taking place. The poor jay certainly looked a bit stunned, and was hopping unsteadily from branch to branch. I might just have saved a life this morning. My good deed for the day.

The next two zones, UpperDalPath and DalhousiePath, are situated along field boundaries and were easy to access this morning. With the harvest now gathered in, only stubble remains in the field, so no need to get wet from the damp vegetation along the field margins. The next zone, WatchTheMud, is also located beside some fields, and that one completed the required minimum zones for my Five-A-Day.

The next zone, SouthEskAside, can be reached by either of two routes. The first route simply keeps following the path you are on, all the way down to the River South Esk. Today, I was passed earlier by the local farmer in a Toyota 4×4 and could hear he was working a herd of cows along that first route, so decided to stay clear and follow the alternative route. Rather than go straight ahead, turn right through the hedge as you reach the conifer plantation. Enter the plantation at the gap further down and follow the trail down and then left along the river. The zone is beside a large skeletal tree.

For the final three zones, it’s just a case of following the river. Zone MillHolm is the site of an old mill, WitchesHouse is the stone folly at the bend in the river and zone Dalhousie, a grassy area in the car park near the bird of prey centre. I must admit to finding turf-walking very relaxing and like the way it gives you time to look around and actually see things. Picked up an old hazelnut shell at MillHolm with the characteristic hole made by a wood mouse. There was also the pungent odour of a fox. You tend not to notice these things when cycling. Finally, as a result of this pesky cough, I’ve lost my voice, so need to go find it again. Back soon.

Copyright ©2021 Gary Buckham. All rights reserved.

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