Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Conquering Slieve Binnan

We slept in. That's how the day started, oh to sleep in to 11 o'clock is not great when a hiking adventure is in mind. Quickly Andrew's mind went to the negative but I (though feeling awfully depressed and anxious) was determined we would go. We had a mountain to conquer.

Andrew was instantly back on track and we hurriedly packed our rucksacks with the essentials and were on our way, leaving home at 12ish. By this stage I think our friend Gary had possibly been and gone home from an early photography session in the Mournes. Oh the shame, first for our tardiness and second, for the awful weather he had encountered.

And we were eventually at the Carrick Little car park, which by the way, was overflowing and spilling down the wee country road, car parked behind car. But ever the optimist, Andrew drove into the car park proper and there was a beautiful space just for us, right by the track. Off we went.....

The only people we met were coming towards us, all on the their way out of the mountains and off to a lovely late lunch or some such thing. Hiking people are terribly friendly, we all truly appreciate what we have here, the space, the freedom, the escape, even from your own mind. I have yet to meet a grumpy hiker.

There's a fork in the path and at this were we turned left instead of right. Turning left is a big deal, you have a mountain in front of you, a not so great path and the Mourne Wall stretching up into the clouds which you are going to follow and eventually surpass...eventually. I can admit, there was a little lump in my throat as I looked up; you couldn't even see the top.

Around 3 o'clock we had a lovely little family step to one side to let us continue up whilst they checked on their little girl who was only about 3. Now she was awesome and I high-fived her and told her as much. She'd climbed a good way up in her proper gear and it impressed me so much! :) She give me hope that this wasn't so bad :)

False summits are so very cruel. As I came to each point on the sky line that I had marked in my mind, I discovered that still there was so much more to climb. The first time I thought I might just lie down and quietly die was 15.45. We were starting to get quite high up and my blood pressure was playing up giving me the first of the fun, coloured flashing disco lights of the day. Also I had a damned runny nose. *Shakes fist* Andrew then in helping me up stood on my shoe lace and undid it = bending over to tie it on a slant with rucksack on back = blood rush to head again = thoughts of I'm definitely going to die. Plus, the sheep, the sheep there were mocking me.

Slieve Binnan - ecotherapy and allotment blog
Cocky sheep and a view of the path and all the way down to the sea
Higher and higher we went, passed by two older men just casually but quickly walking down, like you or I would tackle the stairs in our homes. I'm really not fit at all 😒. We said hello, well Andrew did, I sort of just grimaced and mumbled something I hope sounded friendly.

Not much wall left at this stage and no distinguished path at all, bog had taken over and we walked were we could get a foothold. At the final push up to the tor I became a disbeliever, doubted my sanity, doubted the sanity of any hiker, doubted that I'd make it up, along, down (way over there) and all the way back to the car. But, Andrew shook me out of all that and whilst I never wanted to be a rock climber, I found, through helpful hand pulls and shear stubbornness - I am just like a mountain goat, maybe a gazelle.

Then somehow it happened. I was at the top of a mountain! As I sat there in the dirt between strange and beautifully wind sculptured rocks, a wonderful euphoria came over me. I wobbled to my feet again, turned round and walked four of five steps and saw this view. I believe I cursed quite loudly, but wow, this was f@#king beautiful!

Slieve Binnan - ecotherapy and allotment blog
At the top and 'that' view over the back of the mountain with the Silent Valley Reservoir
I heard Andrew call, he'd found a spot with shelter for lunching in and we had celebratory little beers! Oh they tasted of sweet, sweet hoppy victory. Never has a ham and cheese bap been so rewarding, never, I tell you has Cadbury's chocolate tasted so good. We devoured it all, grinning at each other. Then Andrew reminded me we were under a large tor so, conquer it we must to claim our - First Ever Submit!

Lunch on Slieve Binnan - ecotherapy and allotment blog
'You are here' and mini beer and bap (we also drank litres of water throughout the walk!)
With the temporary courage of a beer we each packed up and set about on our way again, this time along a truly beautiful and exquisitely quiet path behind the The Back Castles and to the North Tor. Up here is is all bubble bees, little chaffinches (which sing so loud and clear) and bog, which means gorse, heather and wild primroses. Truly it was a joy to walk this route and the scenery was stunning; our wee country is truly a green and pleasant land.

Slieve Binnan - ecotherapy and allotment blog
Heading off for the Back Castles to the North Tor and a fabulous Black Castle that looks like Janus
The Back Castles and the North Tor are large stacks of rocks carved by the wind and, to me at least, they look comically like something out of The Muppets or Labyrinth - like they're going to talk to you any minute.

Slieve Binnan - ecotherapy and allotment blog
The Whale in the wall and a view of the lovely Ben Crom Reservoir 
Now we come to the nightmare part, the decent from the North Tor which is completely butt clenching as there is no path for a good bit only your strong desire to get the hell out of this mass of tumbled rocks and not break your leg. Now, I don't like to make out that I'm weak and pathetic but permanent double vision and an inability to see the right hand side does not with scrambling down a vertical mountain go. My walking pole only helped so much but when you need your hands to navigate some pretty nasty drops it can also be a real hindrance. It is thus we discovered the reason for the earlier curses and screams of another people who had climbed up this monstrosity.

Slieve Binnan - ecotherapy and allotment blog
There's a shear, rocky and torturous drop over that edge and the lovely Blue Lough
When we finally got to level ground, the clouds were starting to close in and one big beauty had formed in between the ring of summits we now walked within. We didn't stop at the Blue Lake as planned as it was getting cold, but the rest of the way was fine and dandy. I like a path not to rocky and relatively flat, though two streams have to be danced over, balancing on carefully placed rocks. Thank goodness for yoga!

We got ourselves back to our car for 8.15, almost in the dark but not quite. Houses were little specks of light now looking down towards the sea and we were done. Getting those backpacks off and setting them in the boot of the car was joy, sitting down in the car was such sweet agony.

What a day.

Love and hugs

Friday, 2 September 2016

The clock keeps ticking

It was been a week and life goes on, as of course it should and indeed, must. These past few days have been so terribly painful that I have found myself numb to feelings and confused by the utter silence I have been living in. Andrew goes off to work and I am completely alone now.

I hear her, well, I think do, every now and then and find that I still walk looking down at my feet (so we don't get entangled going back and forth), though she is not there. Her living room bed is now on top of the dining room one, I have gotten rid of all the food stuffs that were for her but the toys lie where they last fell and I can't bear to put her drink bowl and food bowl away yet.  I guess these things will simply take time.

That small collar with her name tag sits beside an old favourite black and white photo of her.

On a good note, I am more interested in the allotment now and have been there a few times since last Friday. Now it's a place of sweet Maggie flavoured memories and particularity of her last day, where she dandered about and lay in the sun before the trip to the vet.

The harvests have been prolific but the broad beans and the mangetout are now finished and some things such as the leeks and the broccoli have started to bolt. Our carrots have however been a triumph and after a few years of lament over them, we are certainly glad of success.

harvest time -

I haven't a photo but the Echlinville apple espaliers had their first harvest and a pie by Mamma G was duly made = darn good apples! There are more, so next time I'll give cooking with them a go.

courgette and garlic -

Back again on Sunday and it was incredible how small courgettes the day before had become marrows! There were so many we had to give more than half away, literally carrying them to another plot holder's car and setting them down with their own harvest. Then the garlic was cleaned and it's perfect again, as each year so far - we have been so lucky.

Tonight were having more of our own vegetables, every meal has had organic, lottie-grown produce in it this week and so in an hour or so, it will be roasted root vegetables and a little chicken - I'm hungry! My appetite came back today and I am ready for a healthy feast :)

With love and thanks for your condolences last week,
Your Carrie x