400 – 401: Gin, but in Search of Water

400 –  Making and Using Everything

We awoke to news of Brexit – deal done – grrrrr from us but that’s what the UK voters want – so it’s now fixed – still a major shock – instability in the markets and uncertainty all around. It will take 2\3 years to negotiate our Grrrrexit !

Fog just cleared so we’ll Drexit (exit Dunnet Head) while it’s safe – and on to our next adventure….. and moments in time – they just keep on coming!

Mary Anne’s Cottage!  We arrived just as the staff opened – we expected to stay for half an hour or so – small building.  We stayed for over 2 hours after a hugely entertaining and historic visit – a time capsule – Mary Anne left it intact, on her explicit instructions, on her departure in 1990 at the wonderful age of 93 years young!  A chap did the our buildings and grounds, holding up implements for us to guess their purpose.   The animal medicinal horn had us – no idea.  The cottage tour was performed by Sheena who used to visit Mary Ann:  she explained Mary Ann’s reaction to new fangled devices and inventions in Scottish dialect that used lots of substitute words and verb endings.  We had to really pay attention to understand her.  She threw in some of her own recollections:  the best two being:

1. Sheena and her sister had the job of opening gates to get the cows in for milking … The cattle knew the drill and headed off for the milking parlour as soon as released from their field.  Her sister said don’t look around, we’ve a problem (-Houston, not really!).  The Queen with young Charles and Margaret were being driven in a cavalcade of Land Rovers to Castle Mey (Queen Mum) and the cattle had blocked the road!  Apparently the Queen and Anne looked on – “unamused”, Charles leaning out the window trying to stroke the beasts as the Range Rover wended its way through the beasts!  If they’d only waited 2 mins, the cattle would’ve tuned up the lane off the road!

2.  Quite young at school and the snow came down heavy.  Knock at the school house and Da arrived, but she and her 2 school age siblings did not recognise him.  All wrapped up in sou’ westers with his face not visible.  He’d come to take them home.  He explained they’d go across the fields as the road was not passable.  He lifted Shenna over a wall into a field of … snow.  She was up to her armpits and let out a wail.  He said don’t worry, I’ll move you.  He did.  But her boots remained behind in the snow.  She said she’d never been so tired or so cold in her life before or since.

Again one of those moments in time that are sheer magic.

As always, K’s excellent photos explain it all – it is typically a Scottish gem… and run by volunteers.  Our cost £3 each and so well worth it.

Once again, our overnight stay was out of this world – a secluded harbour at Castletown – all on our own – with the tides and the birds and the harbour wall sheltering us from the sort winds.  It is a derelict small hamlet with a Heritage Centre.  The info boards explained that a man called Trail, saw profit in flagstones and had several quarries in Caithness.  He created a factory to dress them and had a harbour built to export them.  Built a massive house, which burned down the 70’s.  The hamlet was gradually left to nature from about 1902 as concrete killed off the flagstone industry and is now a load of semi roofless buildings.  The atmosphere is quite romantic tinged with loss and sadness.  But eerily beautiful.

A couple of lads cycled into our harbour,  Connor and Duncan.  On being asked – they said they knew nothing about the local history!  Suddenly, non-boring Duncan gave us a half hour lecture – about? Local history !and his favourite places in Scotland!!  K had to run back to Chard to collect pen and map to take notes!  His Dad is a teacher….. and we got a lecture!  We chuckled that he said he ‘bores; Connor’s family (he was unstoppable) – we wondered if his own parents encouraged his friendship with Connor!  

A truly magic day.  One of those unplanned moments in time.


Mary Ann’s Corft left exactly as it was when she left it in 1990, aged a mere 93.  She resided for a further 6 years in a Nursing Home.  Her grandfather had built the cottage and her son and grandchildren all resided in Aberdeenshire.


The hook used to twist straw to make rope.  It was then used to tie down hay ricks.


Mary Ann with James her husband and Donald, the son, making rope.


The Iron Horse was 6hp, which replaced two horses. I think it came in about 1950, and was loaned out to neighbours.


The Gents toilet in the stables, the Ladies was the trench in the cow byre, until a toilet was installed in the 1950s.  Mary Ann refused to have a proper bathroom, as what did she need with a bath … costing all the money!? Tsh Tsh!


Until running water in the 50’s, drinking water was collected from the well, a fair walk away.  The frame prevents the buckets swinging and spillages.


Turnip drill.  The animal horn on the right was used to force feed animals their medication.


Not a wooly condom!  A scratchy string slipper.  Mary Ann, a local Women’s Institute founder, won prizes for her slippers.


View from the nearby pier looking across to the wide sandy beach and dunes at Dunnet Bay.


Our amazing home for the night.  They harbour was built in 1925 to ship flagstones worldwide.  The industry died when concrete became cheap and popular around 1902.

401 – 25th June 2016:  Distillery No. 2:  Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink

We ran for the first time in a week – flat and slow paced – exactly right for us. Stornaway black pudding – last of this lot – we will buy more, certainly…

The Rose Gin Distillery opened in 2014 and has already established itself as a runaway success!  One of their gins is 56% proof!  We tasted and we immediately appreciated the reasons for the success. 18 local botanicals.  We naughtily purchased a bottle for a small further tasting – tonight?   Our lovely neighbours, Shirley and Margaret, at the Highland Gathering had come around the NC 500 and recommended the Distillery – who are we to argue?  Only irritated moment was when the chap also on the distillery tour said he’d voted OUT, but had not expected the vote to carry.  Didn’t he read the press about how close a call it was?  How irresponsible to use your vote as a protest vote and then be shocked at what happens after!!!  Grrrr!  And what I read is that so many people voted out, not expecting it to happen!   More Grrrs!

Short on water,  we spied a campsite – they would surely let us fill up – for a price.  No H2O from this source – their well was dry to us – only kept for residents!  Not the true camping spirit here – not on our Christmas card list!   Concerned, K bought additional bottles of drinking water nearby at Lidl – so love Lidl – £1.86 for 12 litres!

En route to Douneray Nuclear Power Station, we stopped at a public toilet and filled up with 25 litres of aqua bheatha (water of life) in our large bottles and new Lidl 15ltr container – we thought briefly of returning to the ‘nowaterforsaleheremate” campsite and pouring it over them – but it’s too precious!

We could have flown into Douneray Nuclear Power Station (the first Nuclear plant to be commissioned in Scotland and now nearly as long as in operation in decommissioning) in our private jet – but they closed the runway when they saw our flying Chard… The heavily armed police flew in to ‘greet’ us – but in good humour, thankfully…  We’d missed the visitor viewing area and gone too far.  Oops – we seem to have stimulated an anti terrorist response .. certainly judging by the armaments the two Police were wearing!!!   

Across the top of Scotland there are lots of single track well-surfaced road with Passing Places every couple of hundred yards.  There is a working efficient system – you see an approaching vehicle and pull into the next passing place, unless he is nearer a  passing place,  and then you flash your opposite (car lights only!!!) to let him know you’ve pulled in.  An approaching coach driver who was yacking as he approached us – missed the protocol and almost caused us a problem…he had the grace to give us a somewhat shamefaced grin!   Other road obstacles are the odd sheep and several lambs and a stunning specimen of cockerel and two chickens.  You can’t hurry a Murray here!

Stunning scenery again:  the mists battling with the sun and rollin in from the sea across the moorland.  Lumpy bumpy bits of rock and lazy bends,  J dozed… but awoke to a drive across a causeway with vans wild camped – right turn and into our (again) perfect overnight.   We are not actually on the causeway but over looking it … K being slightly nervous that mid estuary winds my disturb our night’s repose … nothing to do with our supper!

Camped now – gin appeared magically from it’s perch on our ‘booze’ bar – flung itself into our glasses in a ‘large’ measure !  It’s an ‘optical’ transfusion!  My good lady ‘gin’ – sorry – tonic – double apology – is feeling the gin warming her – ’somegin deep inside’!  The evening has just gebun – hic!


J with the still “Elizabeth” – the Queen Mum liked a wee dram with Dubonnet – Yuk!  K remembers meeting someone who visited the Queen Mum.  Apparently she’d lean over her landing and holler downstairs to her largely gay waiting staff “Would one of you queens downstairs bring an old Queen up here another gin”!


Bottles come from Germany … Grrrexit!  Apparently the UK cannot make stone bottles of consistent weight!


The Gin is Rock Rose as the root of this plant is used.


Doureay – all looking very 1960’s.  Apparently employment for hundreds until the site is free from radioactivity.  The visitor centre, which my ancient guide book said found ‘reasons’ for local Leukaemia and radioactive materials on the beach, shut some years ago!


Our lunch stop – Borgie Forest:  a Celtic letter tree spiral walk.


Name your animal thrusting from the earth.


The view from our pitch back up the Kyle of Tongue with Melrose Cemetery 


An awful lot of MacKays buried here with a fab view of the hills.


Several of these chirrped as I walked around the cemetery – no idea what … rubbish with birds.


Oystercatcher … know this one as the info board told me so!



Wonderfully sunny this morning – could be the Caribbean.







376-381: Bristol Rugby, Exploring and National Trust in Cheshire.

376 – Wednesday 18th 2016:  Bristol Rugby v Doncaster Knights … VICTORIOUS

Doncaster in 2016 will now be famous for – giving Bristol Rugby half a leg up into the Premiership!  We met Tracey and John as arranged – and had a couple of beers before the game… the first half was inconsequential – but Brizzle opened up after half time and got clear by 15 points at the end.  These points will be carried forward to the second leg on Wednesday 25th in Bristol – we must find a pub to watch the return to top flight rugby – after 7 years of waiting…  But, many a slip betwixt cup and lips….

Before the game, we caught the 81/82 bus into the city centre.  The terminus was at the modern shopping centre; you could have been anywhere in the country!  Doncaster does not feature in any of the guidebooks, but google had revealed that there are some fine Georgian buildings, a Mansion House and a Museum.  The visit to the TIC revealed that they were all … shut today!  Ho hum.  There are the well renowned markets to see … but again, today mostly shut.  Obviously the RFU, Sky and Doncaster city did not liaise about what visitors might be able to see.


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Doncaster has been the victim or poor urban planning, but the historic markets are renowned for their fresh foods … just not fully operational today.

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The Minster was burned down in 1853 and rebuilt in gothic revival style. The architect was the prolofic George Gilbert Scott; amongst his works are Westminster Abbey and the Albert Memorial in Hyde Park.

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The Edmund Schulze organ was installed in 1862.  I KNOW we’ve seen another Schulze somewhere, but can’t for the life of me remember where and can’t find it on the web either.  

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What a nerve racking first half.  


377 – Thursday 19th May 2016:  Three Reservoir Bike Ride

Good parking near the Ladybower reservoir – and we set off with our silent bikes (we are missing the dragging hum of J’s rear brake that has followed us around Europe for a year … he’s not missing the extra effort of the constantly on brake though!)  – for an estimated 18-mile tour of the waters.  How can you have inclines, declines and reclines around flat water?  But, it was mostly flatclines to be fair.  An early stop for coffee and a cake – consumed, despite the attentions of the entire Mallard family!   Good easy cycling – and a lunch stop at the Slippery Stones – I managed a huge cheese and ham bap that was more like a cake!   Apparently they are called cobs up here.  Back at Chard, we calculated that our trip was more 20+ miles than 18 – good training…..


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Lady bower was completed during WW2, despite materials scarcity as the need for water was great.  The three reservoirs supply most of Derbyshire and Sheffield.

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The Derwent Rexevoir Dam, began in 2902.  Some was quarried in Grindleford and a specially built train line brought the stone up.

During WW2, Squadron 617 – The Dam Busters – practised low flying manoeuvres here with the bouncing bomb.

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At the head of Howden Reservoir – Slippery Stones, our lunch spot.

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378 – Friday 20th May 2016:  Hope and Castleton Walk Broken By A Pub Lunch

That good old British (and Clune family) tradition of the Pub Lunch had to feature sometime this week…..a perambulation to Castleford – and the welcoming arms – of the first pub we encountered. Wine, crab cakes, soup and cheese board (a bit steep at £43 pounds) – set us up for the return leg – across gently rolling fields – see the convenient stone steps instead of a stile. Hope village – and rest…..  Casterton though has little to recommend it.  We were ‘nicely’ accosted by some students conducting a survey: “Did we feel that Castelton’s economy relied on Tourism?”  A resounding YES.

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Clouds playing across the hills.

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This tin hut is one of the few remaining workers’ huts of which there were thousands, used to house the workers on the Reservoirs we cycled round yesterday. 

379 – Saturday 21st May 2016:  Shopping and Drive to Knutsford

I love Aldi!  A full trolley, including meat (lots) and booze (some) and the bill …. £114.  Remaining ingredients from Waitress – 1 bag …. £65.  Message to self … menu plan ONLY what can be bought at Lidl and Aldi!

We have left the rolling hills of Derbyshire and entered Cheshire.  It seems very flat and more built up.  Well, it is close to Manchester.  We are here for two nights as Kerstin and her mother are flying out of Manchester on Monday, but coming to supper with us on our CL on Sunday evening.  Our CL seemed to be on the flight path into Manchester Airport…. but it does not bother the numerous rabbits that are grazing near us.  The CL had a short fixed hose, so we could not fill our 95ltr tank.  It also had recycling bins, but no general waste.  A fellow camper told us we had to sort everything …. GRR what to do with composite materials and things that don’t quite fit into Plastic, Glass, Paper, Card or food waste?  We did what we could and resolved to find a normal bin on the morrow.


380 – Sunday 22nd May 2016:  Tatton Park

Prior to greeting Kerstin and her Mum, we thought – why not Tatton Park?  National Trust – free to us via our Italian FAI membership – and parking with the coaches.  Although owned by the NT, it is run and financed by the local council, so we had to cough up £6.00 just to enter the hallowed grounds.  More coffee and ice cream awaiting the 1:00 pm house opening time. The house is nice but not spectacular – neoclassical style.  But the gardens are quite something – Mr Joseph Paxton’s influence again…

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Minton masquerading as Sevres, with the family initials.  A lot of great porcelain on view.

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The last Baron had to build a massive hall to house all his hunting and collecting trips … animals like this right the way around the Tenants Hall.

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We preferred the gardens … wacky topiary.

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Rhododendrons and Azaleas were amazing.

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The Japanese Garden is considered one of the finest in the UK … but then it did actually have Japanese workers create it.

We had a lovely evening – with lots of stories from Scotland where Kerstin and her Mum had just been – and tales of our adventures.  They had been in Scotland in search of puffins.  The puffins had been absent, but we were able to inform them that we’d see hundreds, nay – thousands, nay – hundreds of thousands of them off the Northumberland coast near Seahouses.   

381 – Monday 23rd May 2016:  Quarry Bank Mill

We expected a nice museum with used engine bits and bobs……  What we saw – was a working mill!  Amazingly friendly staff – demonstrations of spinning and weaving taking you through from the cottagers to about 1920 machines.  Most of the machines were fully restored and about half were demonstrated for visitors today … a heating issue meant some were not running.  Really easy to see how the small children worked underneath the big machines cleaning the fallen materials and re-fixing broken threads … all in 5 seconds before the boom moved back again.  We saw the spot where one child had been crushed and were told of another who wrenched himself free, leaving behind his ear and half the skin on his face.  The workers suffered from the incredible noise of the machines, bone deformities from the constant crouching over them, throat cancer and bulbous eyes from the lint in the air.  

Yet on a tour of the Apprentice house we were told they were well cared for by their kindly employer compared to other mills.  The first factory doctor ever was employed here, they had plenty of food and only two to a bed!  Punishments were never beatings, but having to work overtime, or in severe cases isolation.  The Gregg family believed that the healthy workforce should  also be educated.  The question is … were they cynically looking after the workforce to get more labour out of them or was it true philanthropy?  We did not see it but the Channel 4 series ‘The Mill’ is loosely based on characters from here.   The working water wheel was majestic.  This is one of the best museums we have seen anywhere!  Top marks to all involved. 

After leaving here, we’ve headed back to Derbyshire.  We are on a site just south of Matlock and very near where we’ve cycled and walked before.

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There is actually a Steeplejack up on the chimney.  The heating in the mill was off so some of the machines were not running … they only like it warm.  We know two other people, who are still in layers, coats and scarves … whilst so many people have gone to T-shirts.  Is it because we did not experience the really cold British winter?

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Cottage Industry – Carding the cotton.  Usually performed by children.

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One of the multiple bobbin spinners … I think it was a spinning Jenny.

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As you walked through the mill, the industrial revolution developed and some of the machines were just huge.

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90 apprentices were indentured at any one time.  They arrived from Workhouses and were ‘enslaved’ / owned by the mill owner until they were 21.  This mantra was in the Apprentice House – my grandmother had this written into her school leaver’s book – guess it must have been from about 1920.  I’ve not seen it elsewhere and it really reminded me of Nanny.