Snowdrops in full bloom as walkers head for Backwater

ON Valentine’s Day the snowdrops were in bloom in Brechin and it snowed over the Backwater Reservoir.

In spite of the poor weather forecast, a full minibus went to the Backwater Dam, twelve miles west of Kirriemuir (OS Landranger 53 ref 251590).

We found the reservoir frozen from shore to shore.

Not safe-to-walk-on frozen but enough to prevent any ripples on water. At 10.30 am, when we arrived, banks of mist came down on both sides of the loch and met in the middle creating a ‘valley’ above the ice. Very atmospheric in more ways than one.

At the car park we split into two groups, the more energetic taking the eastern shore intending to walk anti-clockwise around the loch with a sortie into Glen Damph at the northern end.

The more leisurely group stayed on the western shore and strolled gently to the plantation woodland at the northern end where we had our lunch and were joined by the ‘speeders’ who had crossed the Glendamph Burn by the first bridge about a mile beyond the head of the loch.

That lunch spot is on OS Landranger 44 ref 250624 so you would need two OS maps to trace this walk.

With the wind and large snowflakes in our faces we marched back to the car park, noticing that the eerie mist had been blown away. The fast group had covered seven and a hlf miles and the slow coaches had enjoyed five miles.

Some readers may ask “who are these people who go walking in all weather 52 weeks of the year”? Obviously, we share a deep interest in the countryside and we are all reasonably fit (for our ages!)

We all have a good sense of humour because there is much joking and laughter. Perhaps we all see the countryside differently.

Those who were in farming can appreciate the views and vegetation without the pressure of getting the job done.

Those of us who were covering many miles in hospital corridors now enjoy covering miles in fresh air.

Those who taught in school do not have to look longingly out of the classroom window and those of us who were cooped up in offices, cars or aeroplanes enjoy the natural scenery.

To sum it up, we are a cross section of society.

Some of us have embraced the electronic age and use GPS navigators while others avoid mobile phone withdrawal symptoms by discreetly sending or receiving text messages.

Then there are the technophobes (including the Roadender) who still look for public telephone boxes and there still are a few in remote spots! I have to admit to owning a GPS navigator but only because my gadget-loving son bought it for me. I still carry a compass and, of course, an Ordnance Survey Map.

Before GPS, the most difficult part of navigation in the countryside was estimating the distance walked. One could count paces and transfer a pebble from one pocket to another every hundred steps but that could make it difficult to keep your trousers up and inevitably one lost count after the third or fourth pebble. An alternative was to assume that we walk at two miles per hour and observe the time at landmarks, if you can see a landmark. However, sometimes we walk at three miles per hour on the flat or at only one mile per hour on a steep climb. Why does it matter to know where you are ? The answer is weather and visibility. In the hills, cloud can engulf us in one minute and it is no good having only a compass if you do not know that you have walked to the edge of a corrie.

The Brechin Monday walkers are planning to go to St. Cyrus on Monday, February 21, but the Roadender will not be with them.

He hopes that they achieve their aim of observing the snowdrops in the grounds of Ecclesgreig Castle. The village of St. Cyrus was known as Ecclesgreig at one time.

The castle was built in 1840 as is an extravagant design with turrets, a portcullis and stepped gables.

It is suggested that that Bram Stoker, the author of the Story of Dracula, stayed at Ecclesgreig Castle and may have got some inspiration for his horror story from that exuberant structure.

It was partially derelict but the current owners are slowly restoring the turrets and roofs and we wish them well.

Of course, maps are not necessary on groomed trails maintained by Scottish Water but when the weather improves we will be heading higher in the hills on rough tracks or ‘heather bashing’, that is leaving the paths altogether.