The Roadender

THE weather did defeat the Brechin Monday Walkers on December 27. The pavements and paths were too treacherous even with YakTrax.

These are steel coils over a rubber frame which fit over the sole and heel of a boot or shoe with straps that go over the upper.

The manufacturers claim that one can walk or run as usual on ice or snow. In small print they add a disclaimer that YakTrax will not eliminate the inherent risks of walking or running on ice or snow.

On Monday,December 27 the Brechin Monday Walkers avoided inherent risks.

By Monday, January 3, conditions had improved, and perhaps over-indulgence in food and drink during two holidays resulted in a large turn-out.

It was too wintry for the hills, so we went to Victoria Park, Arbroath, and walked to Auchmithie and back. The last time we did this walk was at the peak of the wild flowers last June. This time, we were not distracted by flowers and we observed the spectacular rock formations that have earned this cliff-top walk the name Geodiversity Trail. The cover of Ordnance Survey Landranger Map 54 shows a photo of the “Deil’s Heid”, one of the sea stacks which we looked down on from the path.

The names of the rock formations are amusing : Needle E’e, Mermaids Kirk, The Cruisie and the “Deil’s Heid”. We passed all these and had coffee in a wooded ravine which gave protection from the wind (OS ref 666427). From there we took farm tracks direct to Auchmithie and down to the harbour.

There is a road down from the village to the harbour but as the gradient is 1 in 3, and it was covered with ice, the road was barred to vehicles. Some of us had lunch on a seat part way down and the rest went all the way to the harbour wall which gave good protection from the north wind and we had lunch there.

The rock above the harbour is conglomerate, or pudding stone, which is pebbles locked into sedimentary rock.

The leaflet published by Angus Council, prepared by the British Geological survey, explains that when the conglomerates were formed, 410 million years ago, Scotland was located south of the equator. That was before the current snow storm started and Yaktrax were unnecessary. Copies of that leaflet are available, free, from the Brechin Town House Museum.

We walked back along the cliff-top path with the wind at our backs. We were not the only people walking that day and many people have walked it over hundreds of years. A map of Angus and North Fife, dated 1794, shows the cliff top path then, when Arbroath was known as Aberbrothock.

Auchmithie was Auchmithie even then, so did Aberbrothock change its name to Arbroath to justify its claim to Smokies which are said to be originally from Auchmithie?

Aberbrothock Smokies, appellation controlee, does not trip off the lips does it?

I am not sure if the map of 1794, by John Ainslie, for the Nobility and Gentry of the County of Forfar, was the first accurate map of Angus.

The Ordnance Survey maps grew out of the Military Survey of Scotland, 1747 to 1955, made by William Roy of Lanark.

Under orders of another Scot, Colonel David Watson, Roy started his survey at Fort Augustus using a “Waywiser” or surveyor’s wheel, a chain sixty-six feet long and a circumferencor, which was a simple theodolite.

William Roy’s birthplace, near Carluke, is commemorated by a memorial in the form of a Trig Point, the tapered concrete posts which were used to mount theodolites in the days before aerial surveying and GPS. The story of David Watson, William Roy and the Ordnance Survey is told in a new book by Rachel Hewitt, called ‘Map of a Nation’ published by Granta in 2010, ISBN 978 1 84708 098 1.

The weather continued to be cold on Monday, January 10 so, while the Grampians looked beautiful, under snow, in the distance, the Walkers decided to go back to where we were on December 6, which was the beach at Montrose from the Splash to the estuary of the North Esk.

December 6 was the day that there was chaos on the roads between Edinburgh, Stirling and Glasgow, so the cold spell has been with us for five weeks!

Perhaps some people will wonder why we walk at places we know so well? Walks at the same place are never the same.

On December 6 the sky to the south was inky black while to the north it was bright sunshine.

On January 10 it was uniformly cloudy and the tide was even further out. So, instead of looking at the sky and the birds we studied the beach and the dunes.

The information board near The Splash says that the dunes are fragile environment stabilized by Marron grass, Restharrow and Lyme Grass.

These grasses are not doing much stabilizing.

At regular intervals along the beach signs warn “Keep away from the tops and bottoms of the dunes. Coastal erosion causes sudden collapses of sand”.

Brick and concrete structures stick out of the sand up to twenty metres from the bottom of the dunes. They were once at the top. These obstructions and the drift wood and wrecks cause the surface of the beach to change from walk to walk.

Hopefully the weather will improve and we can get back to the hills. So, Happy New Year.