As I write this it is Sunday evening, about half past seven. I have had no mobile reception for several days now and intend to walk back around the coast a little way tomorrow (weather permitting) to try and send this and see if anyone has been in touch.
It is odd how quickly I have settled into the rhythm and routine of being outdoors. Apart from a flotilla of kayaks today I have seen no-one at all since I left the train on Tuesday. I am camped a hundred yards or so from the shore and there is a good path along its length. Having walked along it though I have only seen deer tracks.
The area I am currently staying was requisitioned, or commandeered, by the military during the last world war. The SOE had their headquarters a little way along the coast at Arisaig House (which I passed on Tuesday evening). This part of the world is legendary amongst the armed forces as it is where the modern idea of special forces was born and honed.
My current camp is at the mouth of a small gorge. My hammock is strung between two oak trees, with a rock tumble behind me. Oak is predominant here, there are occasional birch, Scots Pine, rowan and holly too. I have seen several deer; yesterday I heard branches breaking behind me, up the slope, and about a dozen of them walked past.
I followed them, or more precisely, I headed around to cut them off. By this point they had realised I was there and the leader (I am unsure whether it was a stag or a matriarch) began barking and warning. This startled a golden eagle which had been snoozing in a tree and it flew directly over my head, about thirty feet above me. I managed to get a couple of photos of the eagle, but the deer melted into the woods.
As I write I have a bowl of mussels, winkles and limpets soaking for tomorrow’s lunch. I also collected several different seaweeds including laver, and intend to experiment with them – making Laver Bread and possibly frying the others. There are lots and lots of blackberries and also some other edible plants. Unfortunately I have yet to see any decent fungi, although I have yet to venture too far from the coast.
Apart from my mobile reception hunt, I will also put out the creels and do a little fishing tomorrow. I know there are fish because I have watched heron, cormorant and gulls catching them.
It is getting rather dark now, the bats are flittering around the mouth of the gorge, hopefully eating some of the midges that have tried to eat me. Having said that, Avon Skin So Soft does do the trick, deterring the little biters most of the time. There aren’t too many ticks either, although I have a new enemy in the form of clegs.
The whole area has recently been cleared of rhododendron, probably earlier this year. I have done my part and uprooted any of this year’s saplings when I find them. I have yet to have a big fire – I don’t really need one as I have my honey stove and keep that lit and fuelled (most of the day seems to revolve around getting driftwood, carrying it, sawing it and splitting it); the stove, and the smoke (there’s quite an art to keeping a fire smoking and not bursting into flames) keeps the midges and clegs off, and it is a good focal point for one’s thoughts.
I have done a lot of thinking since leaving Sheffield. I suppose I always was going to. I do miss you all but I mainly wish you could see this place for yourselves. I wonder if any of you will come visit me on my shoreline travels? If you do, I’ll ensure I am relatively clean (I smell of campfire and wilderness now), my beard and hair both seem to have grown rather more than I was expecting, although I didn’t have chance to trim them before I left… cue wild and fluffy Vague.
It is now too dark to see by the firelight, so head torch is on; I’ll soon go to bed, even though it is only just gone eight. The sun rules all here, daylight and the half light of dawn and dusk are when I am up. In the darkness I sleep.
My sleeping bag is incredibly comfortable, and I am also really enjoying the silk linen I bought. I can’t think of a better way to sleep outdoors than in a hammock; it is warmth and comfort in one – the inbuilt midge net is also very useful.
I had intended to write more but decided to get an early night instead, so I could fit everything I need to into today. Unfortunately, as these things often turn out, nature took a helping hand. I started making my breakfast and then discovered something had gnawed two holes in the drysack I was using to keep my food from getting damp. As it is my cheese, nuts and wholewheat pasta that have been attacked, I am guessing it was some rodent (although I think there is a mink nearby and they are renowned for eating supplies – and the holes are mink-sized).
So I’ve spent the morning repairing my bag and my condiment bag where whatever it was had chewed its way in to steal an oxo cube…
In any event, I want to get up as high as I can to try and find signal so I will leave this here. Barring my attempt (sheer idiocy) to slice my thumb off with my knife, animal-food-attack isn’t too bad a disaster I suppose – I’m hoping for a break in the rain so my solar charger can start doing its thing, but I guess when I’m out here I am at the mercy of nature. Here endeth the lesson.