Pine Martins (Again)

We think we may have a whole family of Pine Martins visiting the garden. Gordon (one eye) paid a visit two nights ago. Last night, in torrential rain, under a sky lit by flashes of lightning and accompanied by a timpani of thunder, two other PMs called in. Or at least, we think there were two.

The one above, photographed earlier in the year, we believe to be the female. We think she was second to arrive last night. Before her came what appeared to be an even smaller PM, but it's too early in the year for young which are born in April/March. I'll have to look carefully tonight to see if it still has pale, woolier fur which the young loose in the first winter moult. Of course, we might be wrong. It might have been the female on both occasions. Rain and thunder flashes don't make for ideal viewing conditions.

New Podcast - Greenland

I didn't plan to publish any more Podcasts this year but this one turned out particularly well.

With people facing long drives to visit relatives (we're driving from Glasgow to Surrey over Thursday night!) and all the usual seasonal chaos, I decided that Doug Cooper talking about Greenland might be the perfect way to escape. Listen, subscribe free, or download at

Thanks to Dawn Horsburgh for the photo

Pine Martin

These are very rare animals, virtually wiped out in England, but we have two who visit our garden regularly and raid the bird table. Both came last night and Friday night.

Because we hadn’t seen them together, and because we were so surprised to see one, we didn’t realise there were two at first. We called the PM “Gordon”, after the wanna-be PM. We later realised he was a great hulking brute (for a PM) and had a dodgy eye, so the name seemed to stick. No sign of any clunking fist.

Both have a seriously sweet tooth. They raid the bird food; hanging fat balls disappear, fat-filled coconut shells are licked clean, but what goes down best are any left-over pieces of bread and jam. Left for birds - swiped by PMs.

At the moment the PMs are hard to spot because it’s dark so early. I have to get a battery operated security light and fix it under the bird table. They won’t mind the intrusion. Gordon happily tucked into a stale hot-cross-bun while I shot flash photos of him.

I was totally wrong about the weather, Saturday at least. I packed the kayak kit for a quick get-away, but at 7.30am decided I didn’t want to spend the day in the forecast force 6 getting soaked.

Probably wouldn’t do Liz’s cold much good. So we had along walk to the ‘Singing Sands’ near Acharacle with our friend‘s black Labrador ‘Lucy‘ who loves long walks. People leave vast quantities of littler here. While we carry out what we can, there’s always too much. So Liz has left a pot with carrier bags and bin bags and a note, urging visitors to “Please Help! Consider putting some rubbish in a bag and carry it out. Thanks, Liz”. We lugged out some baskets of our own.

Sunday is a cold bright day, perfect for a winter’s paddle, but we’ve accepted invitations to coffee and lunch with different neighbours. It’s that time of the year.

It always happens

It has finally stopped raining in Glasgow. In the first fifteen days of December we've had more rain than would normally fall on us in the entire month, and that's usually a lot. The forecast looks good. Well - not bad.

Perhaps it's the weather, perhaps it's our age. Liz, who never gets a cold, has a cold. I'm fighting off what threatens to be one. Despite this, after so long off the water it'll be difficult to resist going out paddling if the weather is good.

We've been lucky compared to many people who've lost property and other possessions in towns around Scotland. Cailean was out helping folk from 4.30pm to 4.00am the other night and then had to go straight to work - that's voluntary work.

Over the last few days when I've caught myself staring at the patterns formed by the rivulets on the window, I find myself thinking of a summer in Greenland. Comments by Pete and Douglas on the previous posting made me think even harder. I may come back to you Pete.

I've also thought I may take the unusual step of posting a third podcast this month. I'm sure many sea kayakers get a little frustrated on the dark, wet, windy days of winter. Listening to Liz's edit of Doug Cooper talking about Greenland really lifted my spirits and I suspect it might do the same for others. I'll have to check the bandwidth, but I may put that live just before Christmas. I'll stick a sprig of holly behind its ear.

In the meantime I've been working our industrial juicer, the sole concession to domesticity which Liz brought to our relationship. In front of me are three pitchers; carrot and ginger, lemond and ginger and fresh cranberry. We're hoping this will help fight off the colds.

Let battle commence.


After our conversation and interviews with Doug Cooper, Liz and I are thinking seriously about a trip to Greenland in 2008.

We're debating which is best; the simplicity of an organised trip with Glenmore Lodge where you can't pick your companions; or a (dis-organised?) sorry, self organised trip where we do all the work ourselves but go where we want with whom we want. Doug mentioned a contact in Greenland tourism, an organisation which is apparently set up to help people charter boats and helicopters and offer advice. That contact replied last night and pointed me towards this planning website. I've had only a brief look and while I couldn't see any prices, it is a place to start. And it's an appetite whetter.

Early Christmas

Photo from Valley's Website
I read Wenley will soon collect his new Nordcapp from Valley sea kayaks. I'm jealous. I wish Santa could fit one of those down my chimney....

Offending photo and text removed

Those of you looking at the Scottish Routes section of may notice I’ve removed some photos and route descriptions.

I've been contacted by someone who thinks I give out too much information about campsite locations. I don't agree, but I respect his view and this is a sensitive subject, so I've changed a couple of things.

New Podcast - North Wales

I'm delighted to say I've completed most of the update to the website and published the second December podcast.

Recorded at the Storm Gathering in October, Nick Cunliffe talks about two excellent routes in North Wales. The photo IS Nick, but NOT on one of the routes he dscribes. Instead he's playing in the Falls of Lora while being filmed, with others, for Justine Curgenven's new DVD 'This Is The Sea Three'.

Apologies to everyone who bookmarked the front page of the website and will now have to change that bookmark. The poularity of the podcasts mant I've have to restructure the site layout, and I wanted to put RSS on the front page. There's also a new Podcast Library where downloading is a doddle.

Cheeky bird

Tesco car park in Aviemore. This cheeky bird was confidently stealing food.

Changing Stars

I’ve recorded several very interesting interviews with Doug Cooper of Glenmore Lodge.

The first two I’ll edit tonight are about the changes to the 3 & 4 star awards and separately, one about the 5 star award which isn’t changing but which catches out quiet a few people. The website currently looks a little odd because I’m gradually changing the look and I’m still tinkering with how the front page will be. The first of Doug Cooper’s pod casts will go live 1st January 2007 with the second one on the 15th January. The photo was taken by Dawn Horsburgh.

We had a great night in Newtonmore with Richard and Meg Else of Triple Echo Productions who make the Adventure Show for BBC Scotland. We were joined by Cailean and Catriona to discuss a paddling / media project for next year, of which more later when it's a little clearer.

Also this blog is a bit of a first and I’ve uploaded it all via my mobile phone from a car-park in Strontian. We don’t have a phone in our cottage here, let alone broadband, and I have to drive down to the edge of Loch Sunart to get a signal on O2.

Blog Comments

It was pointed out to me by Wenley that I was asking for comments but had restricted those who could comment to registered Blogger members, an oversight on my part which I've now corrected - gracias Wenley.

Off to the Cairngorms National Park now to record a couple of podcast interviews with Doug Cooper, talking about changes to the 4 star and 5 star award schemes that are coming soon. I expect to publish both in January on the 1st and 15th or thereabouts. I'd invite questions from you but as I'm off soon and the comment are only live now I won't get them in time. next time maybe.


I suppose I should be glad that it has been so many months since I've been to the chiropractor. Back in the 1980's while ski-ing I knocked my sacroiliac joint out of place. I had several years of pain before discovering an osteopath who was also a GP. Dr Malcolm Melrose, near Corbridge in Northumberland, got me biking and hiking again. In 1991 I mountain-biked an off-road route across Spain, roughly following the pilgrim route to Santiago and then I realised I was fit again.

In 2002 Liz and I hiked the 2568 mile Pacific Crest Trail (online journal) from Mexico to Canada, carrying packs for five months with not a twinge from my back. Since then, and possibly caused by the body rotation used in Sea Kayaking, I've been having problems again.

Things were particularly bad in early 2005 as I was training quite hard for the five day adventure race, The Hebridean Challenge. During the event itself, I had to miss a day paddling after I'd twisted, dragged my boat one-handed, and aggravated the old war wound. A lovely masseur helped relieve the pain but told me she could clearly feel the joint out of place.

Because I now lived in Scotland I couldn't travel back to my old osteopath in Northumberland. I tried one in Glasgow but he charged more than fifty pounds a visit and made my problem worse. Dr Michael Roger was recommended to me and, like Dr Melrose did twenty years ago, Mike gradually knocked me back into shape. It was the first time I'd visited a chiropractor rather than an osteopath.

Liz insisted I had to do more to look after my body. She dragged me to yoga classes at Balance which I've started to enjoy. In six months of yoga I didn't need to return to the chiropractor until today, so that's worked well. I'm not sure what went wrong, but I suspect it was because I'd missed a few weeks yoga and the added stress of my trip to Spain. Whatever it is, I hope it's sorted now but suspect I might need a couple more tweaks. This is the website of the chiropractor I use, but Michael has recently bought the business so I'm not sure if the phone number is right.

Lying on the bench, being whacked in the back, made me think about how an osteopath once described the difference between the techniques of osteopathy and chiropractic. "We osteopaths use the long lever approach to manipulate a joint", he told me, "whereas chiropractors put much more direct force on the joint that's out of place." The point he was making is that osteopathy feels more gentle. "An osteopath who wants something in the next room walks over to the door, goes through it, then back to where he wants to be. A chiropractor walks through the wall...."

It was meant as a joke, but having been on couches of both, it feels a bit like that. If it works, does it matter?


The January editon of TGO-The Great Outdoors is in newsagents now. It has the second of my two articles about this years OMM (Original Mountain Marathon) the scuccessor to the KIMM

I ran it with my brother in law. In the first article I outlined the gear we'd use and in this one I explain what I got right and wrong. I'd encourage you to rush out and buy a copy of TGO which is amazingly good value and I'm sure you'll like it. However, if you just want to read the article about OMM gear you'll find it on my website here and the first article here.

However, if you'd like to HEAR about the event, the new TGO-Show podcast has me rambling on about the event. Download here.


I'm delighted to say my copy of this book has arrived - that's going to keep me busy through until Christmas while I can't get on the water. Buy here.

Paddles at Dawn

Less than a week after I posted the Sea Kayak Photography podcast it's attracting "lively" debate on the UK Sea Kayak Guidebook Forum. Instead of "lively" you might also consider it at times "rude" but I couldn't comment on that. It has certainly boosted the number of downloads! The discussion seems to centre on the issue of whether Douglas Wilcox, esteemed photographer and subject of this podcast, is correct when he suggests cropping a wide angle shot rather than using a telephoto as a technique to reduce shake with a compact camera. If any professional photographers would care to contribute to the thread they would be most welcome, but bring your (verbal) boxing gloves. My friend Cailean has rolled up his sleeves and joined in. I'm holding his coat..

One of the thread contributors is also disappointed that some of Douglas' photos are the product of Photoshop. I asked at the outset - is this cheating? In a situation where different parts of a composition have significantly different light levels, which an eye can interpret but a camera can't, Douglas will take several shots at different exposures and join them up. It seems this destroys the magic of the photo for some people, even though photographers have been using graduated neutral density filters and such like for years to (optically) do much the same. My photographic hero Galen Rowel was a master of this technique.

Still, I'm not sure about cutting up photos and putting them back together again, even if it's just to help the camera "see" better. The temptation to add a figure, a bird or a kayak is there and suddenly you're creating fiction. If you then label it as photo-montage, not photo, then perhaps it's alright - I'm still sorting my own thoughts on this matter. Fortunately I'm not good enough with Photoshop to make this an issue for me!