Tarfside, just a few miles away, is famous for a TGO welcome with bacon rolls and cups of tea.
I scimped on my camp breakfast and started walking soon after 7. A little down the valley with sun streaming down I caught a vision of a girl standing up in the heather next to her brightly coloured tent – brushing her teeth. Like a Colgate advertisement. And I recognised one of my omissions during the camping.
This turned out to be Diane on her first TGO and a ‘good morning’ brought Dave’s head out of the tent. I’d last seen him coming down Sgurr na Ciche as I was struggling up to the bealach for that Munro on day 2.
3 hours later I was sat in the kitchen of St Drosten’s hostel at Tarfside with a bacon roll an Orange and a cuppa listening-in to the TGO gossip.
This small building with 12 beds is rented out by the TGO for the week and staffed by volunteers from the ‘over the hill club’ to provide encouragement and support and some food at cost price for the many TGOers that get funnelled through here on their way to the coast.
Many people camp nearby in the village, and few manage to rent beds in the hostel. Quite a social place for those that stay over with a community hall opened in the evening with a bar for challengers. This was the first I heard about the record number of drop-outs. Apparantly 53 of the 300 that started gave up – most defeated by the weather of the previous Saturday night and Sunday.
The path beside the river doesn’t go into the village so I missed seeing the informal campsite on the green. After a couple of hours following the tracks through the grazing lands of the lower valley I sat down by the river for a sandwich. Removing my shoes and letting my feet dangle in the freezing stream is one joy to savour, and another – an hour or so dozing in the sunshine on the grass.
As I started off again I saw two figures in front of me. This turned out to be Dave and Diane, suffering from the heat.
The first place on this side with any facilities is Edzell. Here, in the local bakery supermarket I found myself buying lots of homemade cake and oat biscuits and eccles cakes. Then I went to the Tuck Inn cafe for steak pie and chips followed by ice cream dessert.
It was after 5 o’clock and with a couple of other challengers we discussed the camping options. I’d decided to to hideout in a nearby field or woodland, but after talking through this option I changed my mind and opted for the caravan park at North Water Bridge.
The camping here didn’t look attractive on the map and in practice it seemed an extraordinary place for a campsite. With main roads on both side there is traffic noise all night. I was one of the last chalengers to arrive that Tuesday – ’20 tonight’ I was informed by the owner, but his sister who helps in the hall at Tarfside said that upto 60 might be coming through on the Wednesday.
It was possible to shower which in itself was no bad thing. And it was good to get advice from another Trailstsar user about pitching. A campsite setting like this gives a good view on a wide range of light weight tents which can stand-up to the Scottish weather. The compromises between weight and size and stability not to mention cost can demand much study.
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